Creation *

12 01 2010

Last night a good college friend asked me to accompany him to the movies to catch an early screening of Creation, the Charles Darwin biopic starring real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. He had apparently gotten the tickets from the Secular Humanism Society, of which he is a member. I would give those tickets back if I could. What an unbelievably god-awful movie (pun intended). It was jaw-droppingly awful. Awful awful awful with a big ass awful on top. Needless to say the theater was jam packed with atheists who for the most part couldn’t hold back the knee-slapping whenever Charles Darwin popped a squat on Christianity with a little zinger here, a little zinger there. My agnosticism, or the deliberate dichotomy I was expected to be continually slapped with throughout the movie were not the main, propelling reasons why I was initially interested in watching the film. It was Darwin himself that interested me. This is Charles Darwin we’re talking about. He led a very exciting life, right? He was a hardcore iconoclast; the Galileo Galilee of the 19th century, the Indiana Jones of Great Britain, the man that supposedly presented the world with the most revolutionary “idea in the history of thought” as the film unabashedly states in its proem. Well, you’d never guess it from watching this lifeless, curmudgeony muck that deigns to call itself a motion picture. There’s a moment in the very beginning of the film, when a photographer pleads with Anne Darwin, Charles’ precocious daughter to sit still so that he can perfectly capture her daguerreotype. Well, that’s pretty much what this film should call itself. A daguerreotype – not a motion picture. It is torpid hell. Immediately after the movie finished (well, first I ran out of the theater, then I had a thought) I figured that the producers of this film are some dusty, rich atheists who backed this picture up for themselves and their friends; something they can all watch in their English country home lounge over a glass of gin and a game of bridge. That’s the only possible audience for this movie right? But then I realized – it wasn’t the atheists who made this movie, it was The Church! This was their revenge! It’s the ultimate way of smearing the Darwinian name! It really is the only thing that makes sense.

The film centers on Darwin’s near completion of On the Origin of Species, which he had been working on for the better part of 20 years. In all honesty, who gives a rat’s ass about the marital trials Darwin faced as he was completing his magnum opus? I want to see him skedaddle in the Galapagos! I want to see all the great adventures he’s always telling his children about in this movie. That’s as close as the audience ever gets to some action. Paul Bettany, sitting around a campfire with his film-children, telling them about all these great adventures that WE, the audience, want to see for ourselves! If I want to see Jennifer Connelly go mad alongside her brilliant husband then I’ll just watch A Beautiful Mind (I’m sorry A Beautiful Mind. Didn’t mean to compare you to Creation. That was a low blow. My bad dawg). Also, his precocious little daughter who thinks she’s Anna Paquin in The Piano ends up croaking, which then in turn strains Charles’ relationship to his religious wife even further. He’s already going mad trying to complete his book and then he starts imagining that he sees his daughter alive, standing like a prototypical creepy child, just waiting to be chased by her father down curvy streets. I for one am so over the whole “let’s chase the phantom girl that we know is dead down the street” bit. Well, Creation feels like slapping you across the face with this flaccid cock of a trope not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES!

The film was directed by Jon Amiel, who once upon a time made a film I still greatly admire, Copycat. It’s a shame to see a director miss the mark in such an embarrassing manner; moreso than Michael Bay did with Armageddon (seriously). Towards the end of the movie, Charles feels like taking over for his wife by reading to his remaining three children from a book of stories. They tell him to not read, but to tell them something real, like he used to do for their dead sister Anne. He asks them if he’s already told them the story of how his ship was struck by St. Elmo’s Fire, or about earthquakes here and savages there. They had apparently heard it all. That’s great kids, but maybe the audience wants to hear about it, because like logical human beings, we’d expect the director or the screenwriter or ANYONE in this production, to have him blab about his adventures so that maybe, possibly, we can have just a fragment of a flashback to these exciting adventures. Nada.

In the row in front of me there was this one man that just could not stop yawning. Eventually he had to leave the theater because he couldn’t take it anymore. I hear you brother. I only wish you could’ve taken me with you. The walk down the stairs would’ve been more exciting than watching this shit.


A Single Man * * * *

12 01 2010

“It’s not as good as the book.” We all know what this sentence means – we’ve all said it before when comparing a movie to its original book form. When A Single Man, Tom Ford’s directorial debut, first premiered a few months ago, I read a scathing review that dismissed the film almost entirely on the liberties that Mr. Ford took with the material. This comparison is useless I’ve learned. If you read Watchmen before seeing the movie, you’ll know what I mean. Not that it wasn’t true to the graphic novel. On the contrary. It was too loyal to the material. That whole book was on the screen and it bordered on unbearable. We’ve got to realize that these are two separate mediums and an artist has to make the material all his own. I for one am doing my best to be done with this fruitless “ugh! It sucked! They totally changed the ending! So not cool” mumbo jumbo. Tom Ford has made one hell of a beautiful picture – not just on an aesthetic plane, but in his way of understanding what it means to truly love someone, and even more so, what it feels like to grieve.

The movie takes place on November 30, 1962 – the day that Colin Firth, a college English professor, decides to end his life after deciding he can no longer handle grieving over the loss of his lover of 16 years, Jim (Matthew Goode). The film guides us through his unfaltering resolution to kill himself. He buys bullets for his gun, which he carries around with him all day in his perfect suitcase, he takes out his trust and insurance policies out of his safety deposit box, writes a goodbye letter to the one friend he has left in the world, and even leaves a wad of cash for his housekeeper. It seems there’s no doubt that he’s actually going to go through with it. He’s presented with so much love and so much life throughout the whole day and yet, he doesn’t flinch – not after dinner and drinks with his best friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore) or when his stunningly beautiful student Kenny (Nicholaus Hoult) reaches out to him because he looks like he needs a friend, or even when both he and the audience witness a beautiful Spanish male prostitute experiences love at first sight at the look of him. But the movie is not without levity. There’s definitely some humor sprinkled throughout; moments that make you smile, but mainly it’s moments of wonder and just awe at how beautiful this film is. It’s not boring for a minute, but I wouldn’t say the pace is infectious. Actually, Mr. Ford gets just a little teeny tiny bit carried away with his poetic license. At times, it really is a little bit of a self-suck extravaganza, but you forgive him for it because at least the man is consistent. The art direction is…well, artsy artsy artsy, the music is heartbreaking and Colin Firth’s performance, at least to me, is the best male performance of 2009. It hurts to take the title away from The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner, but there’s just no denying that the man knocked it out of the park.

Ford was obviously influenced by the 1970s Italian adaptation of Death in Venice – the music even sounds like Gustav Mahler’s 4th Movement: Adagietto which plays throughout Death in Venice. But mostly, it reminded me of one of my all time favorite movies, The Hours, another movie that wraps its arms around itself in its depression. So I like sad movies. Sue me. Not going to lie: you’re going to walk out of the theater feeling as if you yourself have just gone through the grieving process itself. It’s a rhapsodic experience through and through, but it leaves you feeling emotionally exhausted. I can’t wait to see it again.