2010 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Changing Reels Episode 22 – Step Up 3D and Take the Lead

Time to put on your best footwear as we hit the floor, and the streets, with a dance filled doubled feature. Skipping the short film segment this week, don’t worry it will return in our next episode, we dive into the worlds of Step Up 3D and Take the Lead. While both films did not receive love from the critics, their choreography and diverse casting connected with audiences. We explore the pros and cons of each film and discuss why critics should not be so quick to dismiss modern dance films.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes!  If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email (Changing.Reels.AC@gmail.com).  You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

Filed under: 2000's, 2010, Podcasts No Comments

Changing Reels Episode 10 – Sita Sings the Blues

It is often said that nothing in life comes for free.  Well in the case of artist Nina Paley, that is not entirely true. Paley decided to give her animated film Sita Sings the Blues to the masses free of charge.  Using the epic Hindu poem as a catalyst for exploring the crumbling nature of her marriage, the film is both a jaunty musical and a historical tale on downside of unconditional love.  Featuring various animation styles, songs by jazz artist Annette Hanshaw and witty narrating shadow puppets, Sita Sings the Blue is a treat for the senses.  Before diving into the film, we take a moment to discuss our short films picks of the week: Fetch! and Dernier Acte.

Show Notes:

  • 4:36 – Fetch! by Nina Paley
  • 12:50 – Dernier Acte by Daphné Chabrier, Laura Hottot, and Cécile Peyron
  • 20:41 – Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes!  If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC) or by email (Changing.Reels.AC@gmail.com).  You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

Filed under: 2010, Podcasts No Comments

If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise (2010)

Returning to New Orleans years after the levees broke, Spike Lee revisits familiar faces and introduces new facts as he focuses on the reconstruction efforts in If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise.

Still not helping usIt's not unusual for an artist to pick back up with their creations and see where they would be in their lives.  Directors do this too, usually to diminishing results.  I think of Godfather 3, a gorgeous if not altogether worthy sequel to the previous two installments, or of The Barbarian Invasions, which shared the structure and characters of The Decline of the American Empire if not necessarily the same spirit.  Rarely do the follow-up efforts match the originals, even Prometheus, which I feel is just as worth as Alien, will inspire intense debate on whether it is or isn't worthy.

Spike Lee's follow-up to When the Levees Broke, If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise, is not only a worthy follow-up, I think it was absolutely essential.  I wish he would be able to return to New Orleans every few years and catch up with the people he focused on in the first film, because the two movies combined have become an essential sociological and economic document of the United States.  More history is introduced which is crucial to understanding how the resident's of New Orleans were in the prime position to get screwed, and this history goes right back to the darker consequences of the progressive legislation of F.D.R.'s New Deal.  Spike even goes right up to criticizing Obama's cautious approach to domestic issues where race is a factor, with many of the talking heads discussing how his efforts and statements were certainly appreciated, but need to be stronger.

Now five years after and it's disappointingly clear Obama will not present that strength, and in this was If God Is Willing continues along the path of When the Levees Broke in how thoroughly the system fails its lower class people.  Part of what's so impressive as a follow-up is the way Spike continues to keep his approach balanced so they aren't "seen as whining".  I think of an ironic juxtaposition between the drum solo which sounded the arrival of a helpful General in When the Levees Broke being reused for the cowardly "I just want my life back" CEO of Tony Hayward.  I also like the symmetry of the celebration of life after the Saints won the Superbowl with their marches in this film and the citizens walking down the dead neighborhoods in the last.

Much like When the Levees Broke, I don't know if we'll be able to really scratch at everything If God Is Willing has to offer, but let's give it our level-best shot.‏


Spike Lee: Kobe Doin’ Work (2009)

Kobe Bryant, partnering with Spike Lee, let cameras on the floor and in the gym to capture a day of leadership and basketball.  This is Kobe Doin' Work.

Planning the attackI'm not a big sports fan, so Kobe Doin' Work didn't hold any immediate appeal for me. I'd be curious to hear what someone who is really into basketball thinks, because what I found to be the most interesting parts are probably pretty obvious and self-evident to someone who knows how the game works at a professional level. This isn't really a documentary about Kobe Bryant so much as what it means to be a leading player on a professional basketball team—and not “what it means” in a sappy how-can-we-use-this-athlete-to-evoke-personal-myths-of-success sort of way (the way sports is typically made to function), but literally what that work looks like before, during, and after games.

That was pretty interesting to me—to see the type of constant strategy and communication that goes into this level of play.  Spike Lee gets dialogue and sound between the player on-court while the game is going, and this works to demystify the way sports (and great players) are often presented as just possessing great intuitive abilities. The point is obviously to show Bryant as not just a player of enormous talent, but also as a leader and decision maker on the court having just as much say and influence as coach Phil Jackson.

There are some other mildly interesting things going on here formally, but this is primarily Spike's attempt to deconstruct what makes a basketball player one of “the greats.” While his approach is an effective one, I'm always going to be a biased audience here. It's engaging for a time to learn what really goes into playing a game at a professional level, but more engaging would be a look at how those expectations of greatness form and translate off the court. We see a few representations of Bryant as a cultural and media symbol—and one quick scene of him seeing himself in that way on a TV broadcast before the game—but Spike isn't interested in following that idea any further. (And doing so would necessarily complicate the image of Bryant as simply “one of the most driven, passionate athletes playing today.”) On one hand, I can't fault Spike for not wanting to make a totally different movie, but on the other, the movie he chose to make tops out at a lower level.‏


Oliver Stone: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Oliver Stone returns to the economic battleground of Wall Street in Money Never Sleeps, the 2010 sequel which takes place during the crash of 2008.  Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan star opposite a returning Michael Douglas to see if greed is still good.Spelling it outAndrewCommentaryBannerWhen we were first starting out in this partnership with Akira Kurosawa you and I tried to place his movies into historical context where appropriate.  There's no avoiding it with Oliver Stone's movies because what he creates is so tied with what is going on in America at that time.  Keeping this in mind, releasing a sequel to Wall Street right after the horrific '08 collapse seems like he's playing an Ace he's had hidden for years and considering the way our action films evolved into schizophrenic paranoia with their editing he could have slipped into JFK mode along the way and might have had another cultural touchstone.

Instead, that same historical context morphs the film from one that is pleasing if dull to one that earns my hatred.  If you divorce this film from American history and Stone's filmography it is a well acted tale about how elder's put up a false front to protect the innocent and those that don't know any better.  Gordon Gekko, once again played by the commanding Michael Douglas, becomes someone who teaches these youngin's a lesson in hubris and how quickly all that money can go away.  Carey Mulligan continues to charm and Shia LaBeouf gets through the film without taking any embarrassing pratfalls.

But the film plays as an optimistic distraction in light of Stone's career and the hardships under the recession makes it intolerably naïve.  Instead of writing the screenplay himself the task was given to Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, responsible for such hard-hitting films like So Undercover and The Switch, and they completely defang Gordon Gekko.  He's a caricature now, a once prominent businessman who squeaks out "Buy my book" and someone willing to abandon his pregnant daughter the next.  Loeb and Schiff completely abandon the consistent menace of the "Greed is good" Gekko and write him with no consistency to offer blunt emotional impact depending on what each scene needs.  Mulligan and LaBeouf's characters are entirely dependent on Gekko to move from A to B so whatever they bring to the table is negligible.

The worst part is that there is almost none of Stone's signature style to this film outside of what he, expectantly, lifts from his earlier film.  Visually the setting starts in opulence and stays that way so we don't even get the story of progress seen in the background of Sheen's tale.  There's nothing as outrageous and sudden as the big success makeover and most of the film takes place in what feels like the same room with the same characters whispering about money under dim lighting conditions.  I suppose there's a meta point that could be made where a film about greed is also about the same old horrible people making the same decisions leading us to the same conclusion, but that would need more acknowledgement of history than Gekko showing up and reminding us how great Douglas is.

Considering this is a man who had recently been making a lot of documentaries, Stone really should have known better.