Time for lighter fare. There are some really good movies out there…
Warning: A few minor spoilers ahead.
First up, of course, is The Dark Knight. Superhero movies just keep getting better and better, but this one is going to be hard to top. It’s two and a half hours long, but I wanted to go on for another two and a half.
Heath Ledger is surely going to get a posthumous Oscar for this. If you’ve ever wondered what it means to commit to a part, this is it. But even more than his performance, the writing for the character was really first-rate. There are so many scenes that do a really excellent job of defining the who the Joker is and what he is all about, andhis character is consistent throughout the movie. That scene with the pencil, of course (you know the one I’m talking about.) The scene where’s he’s standing in front of a mountain of cash money and just burns it to the ground. The scene where he’s in the hospital taunting Harvey Dent (“I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I ever caught one!”) They’ve been playing over and over in my head ever since seeing the film, along with several others I won’t bother to name.
The movie does have its faults. I don’t recommend thinking through the logistics of the various plots the Joker sets in motion. Suffice it to say he must be able to get around the city really fast. But that’s the sort of implausibility you simply accept in going to a film like this. In addition to the magnificent action sequences (never has a semi flipping over vertically been so beautifully captured on film), the thinly-veiled political commentary about fighting terrorism was well-done and fit perfectly within the story.
Incredibly, P.Z. Myers was unimpressed:
You know nothing is sacred around here. Well, I saw The Dark Knight last night and … didn’t care for it. It was OK as an action movie, but the story was a mess. The plot wandered all over, and the movie seemed less interested in telling a story well than in throwing up moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas which, instead of actually pursuing with any depth, it would resolve with a punch from Batman’s fist or an explosion.
I’m he sure meant to say superawesome explosions.
On the other hand, John Wilkins overdoes it a bit:
Wow. Just… wow.
This is not the best superhero film I have seen. This is perhaps the best film I have seen for over a decade. It is replete with moral problems, Greek tragedy, farce, some serious character development, and it moves from being a crime film to a war film at some unspecified point. And it has the best film explosion I have ever seen, because it was not CGI and it actually does what it purports to do.
If grim and depressing is not your thing, then I suggest Mama Mia! What The Dark Knight did for superhero movies, Mama Mia just did for movie musicals. This is another one I wished would never end.
There’s little one can say that hasn’t already been said about Meryl Streep. See above, re: committing to a part. She is sooooooo good. You’d have to be made of stone not to be in tears by the time she finishes belting out “The Winner Takes it All”:
The Gods may throw the dice, their minds as cold as ice,
And someone way down here, loses someone dear.
The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall.
It’s simple and its plain, why should I complain?
Gets me every time.
That scene notwithstanding, this is one of the happiest films ever made. If you’re feeling down after the relentless bleakitude of The Dark Knight, this one will cheer you up. I’m still smiling about the “Dancing Queen” sequence …
I also caught Wall-E. Sorry for the redundnacy, but this one is really, really good. Pixar does an excellent job of developing deep characters out of very simple materials. Wall-E the robot only says about three words in the whole movie, but you understand everything about his character. He is one of the most courageous and inspiring characters I’ve seen in quite some time.
And it’s anti-commercialization message is also well-done. Daniel Engber over at Slate, however, did not agree:
But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They’re weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that’s how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.
It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the “obese lifestyle” is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there’s only so much that can be done about it.
See the original for links.
I’m afraid this is simply ridiculous. I’ll believe that your genes define certain tendencies or proclivities, so that some people will just find it harder than others to keep their wieght down for reasons having nothing to do with will power. I’ll go along with the idea that an attempt to define some sort of ideal weight that is a function solely of your age and height is ultimately an exercise in arbitrariness. But the fact remains that when you see some three hundred pound man-mountain at the mall, shovelling Chicken McNuggets and french fries down his throat, there’s more going on there than bad genes.
If you exercise regularly, stay away from pasta, bread and sugar, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables, you are going to lose weight. Diets often don’t work, but that is because they usually involve behaving in very unnatural ways that are effectively impossible to maintain (and often impair your health in other ways). There is such a thing as a healthy lifestyle and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The various links Engber provides to back up his claims are very unconvincing. I’ve simply known too many formerly obese people who shed huge amounts of weight by making very simple changes to their lifestyle. Recently I ran into a once morbidly obese friend of mine who I had not seen in several years. I almost didn’t recognize him now that he was at a healthy weight. I asked him how he did it. “Did you follow Atkins? South Beach?” “No,” he replied, “I just stopped eating cookies and doughnuts.”
Wall-E‘s critique of the American lifestyle was exaggerated of course, like all good satire. But it’s basically right on the money.
As for cupcakes-in-a-cup, you can be sure that if Pillsbury or Duncan Hines figures out how to market them they will go flying off the shelves. Or as George Carlin memorably put it:
Millions of semiconscious Americans day after day shuffling through the malls, shopping and eating. Especially eating. Americans love to eat. They are fatally attracted to the slow death of fast food. Hot dogs, corn dogs, triple bacon cheeseburgers, deep fried butter dipped in pork fat and cheez whiz, mayonnaise soaked barbecued mozarella pattie melts — Americans will eat anything. Anything. Anything! If you were selling sauteed racoon’s assholes on a stick, Americans would buy them and eat them. Especially if you dipped them in butter and put a little salsa on them.