Tag Archives: Heath Ledger

Buried Cinema — Ned Kelly

By Nathanael Griffis

Ned Kelly in home made armor. Home made armor: for the man who doesn't want to rob a museum.

Ned Kelly in home made armor. Home made armor: for the man who doesn’t want to rob a museum.

I remember back when I didn’t care that much about movies and I simply liked them, back in the time when I let other people tell me how to feel about them, back before I realized there was a whole world of weird and wonderful films to explore, back in my junior year of high school. I saw a quick news bit on the ten most anticipated upcoming films. I watched through a few and one caught my eye: Ned Kelly. It starred Orlando Bloom, hot off Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Heath Ledger, whom I’d been impressed with from The Four Feathers but everyone else knew from A Knight’s Tale  and 10 Things I Hate About You. It looked like a cool take on the Western in Australia, and the trailer had the stars staring deeply into smoky space, with plenty of gunshots cut around it, so yeah, I was in.

And then we never got it. It seemed to disappear, and my precious high-school psyche was burnt. Like a child promised a gift who is thrust a hastily purchased coffee mug after their parent comes home from a trip, I was confused. What were these films that I was supposed to be anticipating? Why wasn’t I getting the fourth most anticipated movie of the year? Suddenly my faith in television movie lists began to crumble. I became an unfortunate husk of an American with no media guidance, betrayed by the glowing rectangle that I called Teacher. I was forced to start forming my own opinions. I would have to either take an interest in movies myself and do research on what was coming out on my own, or, succumb to nature and get a life and never care about movies again.

Thankfully for you, or not if perhaps you’re annoyed because you were just hoping for a thumbs up or thumbs down review, I did not succumb to the temptation to make something of myself. Instead I am diligently wasting away my life. I just do it independently now, so it feels more… I don’t know, fancy. Either way my life of movie-watching continued uninterrupted until I was accosted by the Ned Kelly poster on Netflix. There stood my daunting disappointment, the girl on the bus you never talked to, who blew back her hair in the just-so-subtle inviting way that both intimidates and disarms you at the same moment. It took me some time to get around to watching it, because the reality is that I do have a job, friends, a house, a family, other hobbies, and a parrot; but reality is ultimately lame, and I prefer the fiction of the struggling blogger typing away praying for that one reader to comment, kindly of course, with some mention of the words “beautiful” and “prose” in the comments. Upon watching Ned Kelly, I realized why it never made its way over to my movie theaters. It sucked. It sucked so bad it couldn’t make it to Binghamton.

"Blueberries or Strawberries? I just wondered what you wanted on your pancakes in the morning."

“Blueberries or strawberries? I just wondered what you wanted on your pancakes in the morning.”

This is a thoroughly disappointing movie, much like the conversation with the pretty girl on the bus who probably is vegan to a fault — not that it’s wrong to be vegan, but it is wrong to guilt trip me into gnawing on a kale and tree bark sandwich. The movie has an impressive cast: Ledger, Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Joel Edgerton, and Naomi Watts. It squanders the talent though, with a confusing script, bewildering accents (there isn’t a hint of Australian anywhere to be found), fumbling humor, and bad acting 101 delivered to us courtesy of Orlando Bloom, who spends most of the movie as if he were on a bar stool shooting pickup lines at the audience.

There is a scene where Ned Kelly, played by Heath Ledger, if I wasn’t clear on that point, mistakenly collects a horse, which he will later be accused of stealing, and then a women magically appears on it, for little to no reason. Oh, except that it’s really important, because later in the movie she’s going to be his ten-second love interest that should make us care about him. The women in this film are unfortunately very poorly drawn. The mother is a helpless matriarch who is at a loss without her sons, but can’t seem to keep them out of trouble. Naomi Watts is wasted as a beautiful wife of a rancher who has an affair with Ned. Every other women just falls over backwards for the illustrious gang.

The history of the story is interesting, but I won’t go into it, because the film butchers the history by flopping it about in voice-overs. It tries to gloss over the stale humor with intriguing images, and the idea that Ned Kelly feels bad about the people he kills. Maybe he did, and certainly the system was against Irish immigrants at the time, but a movie should make sense. Geoffrey Rush barely has lines and fumbles about in a silly hat until at the end he asks Ned if he can have his sash, which Rush delivers as if it should be profound, but it comes off as an odd hobo adding another strain of fabric to his sash cupboard.

Mutton Chops sealing the deal once again.

Mutton Chops sealing the deal once again.

The whole thing is wrapped up in a tired bow of false realism with Ledger saying in voice-over, “Such is life.” I suppose it’s hinting at life being unfair for minorities, and that we should stand up for ourselves, but even if we do the powerful majority will stomp us down, shoot our camels and monkeys (did I mention the circus?), and then hang us. Overall I learned that Orlando Bloom is certainly not a good actor. His character needs a certain humorous charm that speaks of a mysterious danger. Instead Bloom comes off as psychotic. And, despite all the interesting history and cast, everyone needs a good script and a good director if you want a good movie.

—–

About the author:

Nate was once a silent film star whose song-and-dance skills helped him make an effective transition to talkies. Now he won’t shut up and frequently breaks into song on our podcast. Nate is self-described as a personally professional person. He loves meditative films and is crossing his fingers for Nature Scene Screen Saver: The Movie. (One could argue that Terrence Malick already made this film, and called it The Tree of Life.) Nate’s favorite films include A History of Violence, A Beautiful Mind, Wall-E, The Graduate, and 127 Hours.

Dear Steven: A response to “The Dark Knight: Gravel and Gadgets”

By Nathanael Griffis

[A few days ago Steven wrote an open letter to me in an attempt to denigrate the greatest superhero film ever made. I will now respond to his attempt at an argument.]

 

Dear Steven,

As The Dark Knight Rises approached, I considered the implications. Full disclosure: I anticipate nothing. I don’t prepare for, or experience life, as most people do. I merely let life experience me. What does that mean? This is the question Steven is probably asking himself, and will continue asking. Upon not being able to discover the answer he’ll probably make some silly quip about my hair being too curly, or my eyes too captivating. It’s understandable; I avoid mirrors so I don’t embarrassingly hit on myself in public.

Moving on, Steven brings up some interesting points. You know, like how a teenage girl might point that Twilight is a good movie because a lot of people relate to it. It’s interesting, in that it’s fun to watch a tween pout and try to have an adult conversation, but really they’re just playing around with words. Steven aptly points out that the Joker is a brilliant character, and Heath Ledger’s performance is legendary and transcends acting. After which follows a sentence describing how tomatoes are red.

Next in our journey down Steven’s hair-salon-conversation-level argument, we get “Michael Keaton is the best Batman ever.” This “my Dad is stronger than your Dad” presentation further proves that Steven needs to spend more time considering what he’s writing rather than watching Big Time Rush. He fails to recognize Tim Burton’s own admission that “the whole movie is mainly boring to me. It’s OK, but it was more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie,” a quote made three years after the film. This is a film that pays little heed to the idea of being loyal to the Batman mythology, going so far as to make the Joker the killer of Batman’s parents and Alfred a pushover who allows Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

Michael Keaton may play Batman seriously, but the film, while dark, still has a Burton silliness to it, which is why Keaton is so out of place as Bruce Wayne. Burton doesn’t know what to do with Bruce Wayne. The film seems more eager to get back to the Joker and Batman. Bale and Nolan see Bruce Wayne as a chance to play off another mask. Bruce Wayne becomes another image that the man behind Batman is not. He is forced out of bed to attend parties and throw fundraisers, by Alfred, who’s shockingly a relevant character.

You see, Steven (consider this an internet pat on the head), when Bale seems to switch so quick and put on an air of acting, Christian Bale did exactly what you said he does: acts like Bruce Wayne is acting. The only flaw in your argument is that you forget this is what Bruce Wayne is supposed to be doing; it is something a man who spent time training in the ninjitsu art of deception would be thoroughly capable of.

Now, a kind ideological father would hand you a virtual cookie, which you may delete later under internet options in your favorite browser, IE, and let you continue on your way up the stairs satisfied and happy to know the world is safe with such a mind as mine on the prowl. But, as the puppy I ate for breakfast can attest to, I am not kind, and so we continue. If you need to take a break to cry or punch a pillow I understand, but I don’t empathize since I make pillows punch each other.

As far as the commonly complained about gravel-throated speech of Bale’s Batman, I say, lay off. If you understand the purpose, which is for him to hide his identity, why are you complaining? It simply comes down to a sense of taste. Steven, you simply don’t like it when people talk all deep and manly, but one day your body will start to change and your voice will get deeper, hair might sprout in places you’ve rarely been concerned with, and you’ll start to smell funny. There’s a video you can watch if you’re curious to know more.

Now, gadgets seem to cause you trouble. I understand. You don’t like physical things. You’d prefer a Batman who simply downloads an app that defeats the Joker. What’s he doing with all these silly gadgets? What is a gadget? I know the idea of an ancient weapon like a boomerang frightens someone when they start to consider the possibilities that a well placed projectile can in fact demolish one’s non-physical media. It’s probably a terrifying thing to think that you’re non-physical structures are in fact vulnerable to physical ones. But wait, wouldn’t that mean that they’re physical too? (I’ll wait until you screw your head back on. If you need to wait till they invent digital screws, screws with LED lights in them made to placate your self-inflicted madness, that’s fine as well. All good? Okay.)

You also fail to realize that nowhere in The Dark Knight does Batman use a bat-a-rang; that was Burton and Schumacher’s Batman. Granted, he does use one once in Batman Begins, but that was a different movie. He also never uses a zip-line or a glider. A zip-line is a taught rope between two points that one rides along. The Joker’s thugs use one at the beginning of the film, but you were probably up getting coffee at this time or grooming your pet chihuahua so you missed that. His cape is capable of gliding, but also functions as a fashionable, well, cape. A glider, strictly speaking, is a singular object for a singular purpose. I don’t remember Batman ever renting a glider and dashing off cliffs with his frat buddies, but maybe I was too busy holding my rare exotic bird and missed that. (I’ll let you determine who gets the point for coolest pet, that way the shame will simmer deeper into your psyche.)

You seem to have gotten you’re mythology of Batman confused with Nolan’s pristine revision of the Batman story. Here are the few select tools he uses: his cape, his Batmobile/Batcycle, his grenade launcher, and his fists, which were on loan from Chuck Norris. In a word, you’re wrong.

If this all seems like too much for you Steve, you’ll understand when you’re older.

-Nate

 

P.S. I also found this picture of you.

This is a true, extra-real historical document.

 

 

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

The Dark Knight: Gravel and Gadgets

By Steven Moore

[In trying to write an article on The Dark Knight and its flaws, I decided to write it in the form of an open letter to my fellow podcaster, and Rant Pad contributor, Nate Griffis, to finally put down his gleeful exuberance and appalling joy whenever this film is casually mentioned in conversation. It’s a flawed film, and here’s why:]

 

Dear Nate,

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises, I’m going to try to explain why The Dark Knight isn’t the flawless masterpiece you think it is, in hopes of tempering some of your enthusiasm for the last installment (as well as my own). I have tried to make this case many times, but you are always too busy writing articles on obscure Korean cinema to listen. I realize that deep down, you probably avoid the obvious flaws in The Dark Knight because you feel guilty about your self-absorbed billionaire playboy lifestyle and 16-pack-a-day cigarette habit. There was also that incident where you accidentally picked me up from work, and your girlfriend got blown up. Whatever the actual reason, you and many other  misguided people seem to think that The Dark Knight is one of the greatest movies ever made.

I must admit up front, The Dark Knight is easily in the top five superhero movies. The problems I have with the film are small flaws that only become more glaring because they detract from Christopher Nolan’s otherwise immaculate look at the hero’s sacrifice in the face of pure evil. In fact, all my problems with the film are directed solely at Nolan’s portrayal of Batman, and Christian Bale’s execution of him as a character. I think we can both agree that Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is not just brilliant, but enlightening. No villain has ever encapsulated evil for evil’s sake like the Joker, and Heath Ledger embodied that sensibility. Often we uphold artists who have died young above their actual accomplishments. I don’t know that Ledger would have gone on to do anything as amazing as this role, but I cannot overstate the quality of his performance in this particular case.

Another admission in the spirit of full disclosure: I believe Michael Keaton to have been the best-cast Batman in the history of the character. If you need a moment to cool down, perhaps punch a pillow, I understand. One of the reasons Keaton was so great, and Christain Bale is not, is that Keaton never seemed at ease in the playboy role. He played Bruce Wayne as someone who doesn’t quite fit into the life he was handed. Keaton doesn’t quite look the part, and his attempts at nonchalance have a brusque edge. Bale is such an amazing actor that he forgets that Bruce Wayne is not also an actor. His switch from narcissistic philanderer to altruistic hero is too polished. It’s as though he has truly become a different person, something a trained actor is accustomed to, but not someone who has spent his life studying martial arts and technology.

 

Well, that's because... you know... I'm Batman.

 

The common complaint against the movie is Bale’s deep gravelly Batman voice. While I find it distracting, I understand the intention. Unfortunately, Nolan has set a high bar for himself, and if I am considering intent instead of story and character while watching the movie, that’s a flaw in the film. I understand how you, Nate, as someone who also uses technology to enhance your voice, might appreciate the time and energy Nolan took to convey an idea with Batman’s voice, but art should never come before entertainment. (Trivia: Nate actually sounds like a 87-year-old woman who has smoked cigars all her life. He alters his voice with filters for the podcast.)

My final complaint about the film is the sheer number of gadgets Batman has available to him at any given moment. Nolan is careful not to have the Deus Ex Machina utility belt, giving us a more gritty, vulnerable look at Batman and Gotham City. The gadget-laden Batman of previous films and television doesn’t fit the new vision of Gotham where the Joker is more than just a supervillian foil. Here he is the personification of a brilliant mind gone off the rails. The face of chaos attacked by a projectile shaped like a bat is weak, if only because it reminds me that this is a comic book movie where things are silly sometimes. Bat-zip lines and gliders feel out of place in this world. A Batman who relies instead on his training and perhaps a few select tools seems a more appropriate Batman for the tone of the world Nolan has built for us.

Again, The Dark Knight is an amazing film, and I’m sure Rises will be equally amazing. But I’m slightly nervous that the trailers seem to display more of the gadgety-ness and not one, but two over-wrought character voices. We’ll see if Nolan is able to make it less conspicuous in the context of this movie. I’m sure you’ll love every minute of it, and I will love about 89.5% of it, which incidentally is also roughly the score I would give X-Men: First Class.

The Dark Knight is an amazing supervillain movie, not an amazing superhero movie. It’s not me, it’s you. I hope we can still be friends.

–Steve

 

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

Why I’m worried about “The Dark Knight Rises”

By Tom Kapr

 

Like any good movie nerd, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises since Batman escaped into hiding during the final scene of The Dark Knight in 2008. That’s four years ago. In this day and age, that’s almost an eternity to wait for the next chapter in whatever epic saga one is currently into. And Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (as it is now known) is the epitome of the modern epic saga. In fact, this is a first for the comic book superhero genre. Bryan Singer is the only other filmmaker to approach this success, in artistic terms, with the first two X-Men movies. Unfortunately, he decided to forgo directing the third one in favor of helming Superman Returns, leaving X-Men 3 in the hands of Brett Ratner. (Wow. I think I actually felt you shudder.)

This actually brings me to my first point in why I’m worried about The Dark Knight Rises. Traditionally, if the first two films in a series are great, the third will tend toward a huge drop-off in quality. This is especially true in the superhero genre. I’ve already mentioned X-Men: The Last Stand, which was frustratingly close to good, but only because it had a handful of great scenes surrounded by some truly dreadful ones. Spider-Man 3 was nowhere near the quality of Sam Raimi’s first two, which is a pity since everyone was really looking forward to Spider-Man fighting his great arch-nemesis Venom. Superman III doesn’t belong in the same category as Superman and Superman II. And when it comes back around to Batman, while I am no fan of the excessively unpleasant Batman Returns, it almost looks like a masterpiece compared to the cartoonish Batman Forever. I’m even going to throw Return of the Jedi into this, because while it will forever be a childhood favorite, if I look at it objectively, it’s not nearly as good as its predecessors.

 

This is actually the LEAST of my problems with JEDI.

 

Hey, Batman Forever is a stupid name for a movie, isn’t it? Superhero movies, and blockbuster sequels in general, tend to generate some stupid movie titles, usually because, rather than just slapping a sequential number on the title, they’re trying to go for something that stands out a little more. I could launch into a long tirade about stupid movie titles, but let’s stick with Batman. While it may not be as dumb as Batman Forever, The Dark Knight Rises is a stupid title. The Dark Knight Returns might have been a more fitting one, but then it would be the same title as Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel, which, while clearly having inspired Nolan’s vision of his trilogy, tells a much different story (involving Two-Face, Green Arrow, Selina Kyle as the madame of an escort service, a metaphorically castrated Superman, a female 13-year-old Robin, and the Joker going so far as to — SPOILER ALERT — chemically annihilate a Boy Scout troop). But hey, Batman Begins is an even worse title, and that was a great movie, so I’m just splitting hairs here.

I think the thing that worries me the most is that this follows The Dark Knight, which is possibly the greatest superhero movie ever made. (I personally think The Avengers beats it, but I have to at least put Dark Knight in a Top 3 of all time with that and X-Men 2.) And while it has some flaws, The Dark Knight isn’t just a phenomenally superior superhero movie — it’s one of the best thrillers ever made, period. It will rival any great crime thriller or psychological thriller you can put up against it. And this is largely due to the presence of the Joker. The Joker, as written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, and as performed by the late Heath Ledger, is the best depiction of this iconic villain ever put on the screen. Not only is this one of the greatest and most memorable characters in the history of film, I would argue that Heath Ledger gave one of the all-time greatest performances of any genre, ever. That’s a lot of superlatives, I know. But while The Dark Knight is a good movie, it’s really the Joker, more than any other ingredient, that makes it great.

 

 

How can Nolan follow that? This isn’t necessarily a matter of topping oneself, but he has to at least be up to the standard that he himself created. While I can envision Rises being of the same general quality as The Dark Knight, what I can not envision is anything coming anywhere near the performance and the overall presence of Heath Ledger’s Joker. No disrespect to Tom Hardy, an actor I admire, nor to Bane, the formidable villain he portrays in Rises, nor even to the writing and directing talents of Nolan, who’s probably the greatest director of complex epic thrillers of the past decade. But just, how could he possibly live up to his own quality?

 

Then there's this. Whatever this exactly means for Batman, it indicates some degree of tragedy, and it is extremely difficult to make tragedy dramatically satisfying.

 

I guess I just have to hope for the best. And as I said, that is what Nolan is — the best. He has a better track record over his career than any other director I can think of. Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, the underrated Insomnia, and including of course Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – the man has never made anything less than a good movie. And with the exception of his much quieter and more difficult-to-love first film Following, he has never made a film that has been anything less than awe-inspiring.

I have to put my faith in Nolan’s abilities. I know that if I go in expecting another Joker, I’m going to be disappointed, so I have to limit myself to expecting, at least, another engaging villain and another engaging plot. I do have enough faith to know that Nolan will not re-tread what he has already done in the first two films. Every film he makes is its own film, and engages me in unique ways, so that is what I will be expecting from Rises. Take into account the established pillars that are Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, as well as the considerable talents of Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and what you have is a cast at least as formidable as that of either of the first two films. (If you subtract Heath Ledger, of course.)

 

I also have this to look forward to.

 

At the very least I expect nothing less, but nothing more, from Christian Bale, who I sometimes forget is even in these movies.

Adaptations: Updating a classic: 10 Things I Hate About You vs. Clueless

By Nathanael Griffis

Ahh, what says classic English writing more than West Coast high school life? Not the seemingly most obvious place to shift the works of Austen and Shakespeare, but sure, why not? Updating a classic is a tough task, because you have to justify not doing the simple period piece. You have to answer the question: Why set the story in 1990’s Beverly Hills? The easiest answer is to show that the themes of the story are timeless and the plot relatable to today’s audiences. Well sure, that makes sense, but you still have to make a good movie. Updating a novel or a play can, like anything, be a success or a failure, so here’s one success and one failure.

10 Things I Hate About You

Shakespeare’s plays were almost adaptations themselves; people had been doing Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet stories for a long time before William came along. So his plays tend to translate well to modern times, but you have to be careful. His comedies fit in brilliantly in the cliquey, silly, dramatic, and strangely idyllic setting of high school. His tragedies, not so much; for an example, see O–or don’t. What is amazing about 10 Things I Hate About You is how respectful of the source material it is, while still maintaining relevance and keeping a clear 90’s sensibility about it.

With 90’s punk and grunge rock for a soundtrack, and up-and-coming stars Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and Alex Mack–I’m sorry, Larisa Oleynik–it seemed like a simple romantic comedy that stole the basic plot of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. What we’re treated to instead is a genuinely thoughtful adaptation. Lines of Shakespeare are integrated directly, few characters are left out, they modified the story to be made relevant, and it’s pumped full of sexually charged clever humor that would make Shakespeare giggle with pride. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the play–I think it’s up there with Romeo and Juliet as easy to read and understand, good poetry, great moments describing love, but a little shallow. What 10 Things I Hate About You reminded me was that the simple act of loving a person isn’t shallow or lacking. While it may not have the complex, interweaving themes of King Lear or lyrical perfection of Hamlet, it is worth it.

Gil Junger somehow hit this one film out of the park after a long career in sitcoms, and then subsequently returned to sitcoms and stayed there, pretty much. He manages to give us the classic romantic comedy that pushes beyond the typical realms of the genre. He smartly cuts Shakespeare’s framing device, and somehow gives credence to the oft-debated misogynistic themes of the play. Kat’s feminist ideas and fight-the-establishment mentality, which is what has to be tamed out of her in the play, are presented as a logical defense mechanism to the loss of her mother and the scars of an impulsive sexual experience. This brilliant moment of screenwriting may actually be an improvement on the original play, which seems to be little more than a ridiculous comedic romp. (Also, Shakespeare just may not have had that high an opinion of women.) Karen McCullah Lutz would reattempt this feat of screenwriting with the Amanda Bynes film She’s the Man, an adaptation of Twelth Night, with decent results.

It’s amazing how loyal to the play and the romantic-high-school-comedy genre this film is able to be. We have the party scene, the teary-eyed poetry-reading ending, a father who is afraid to let her daughters go, a nerdy new kid who falls head over heels for an un-gettable girl, and yet it’s Shakespeare; somehow it all works. Oh, and also we get to hear Heath Ledger singing and deliver lines like: “What is it with this girl? Does she have beer-flavored nipples or something?”

Clueless

Now, I understand this film has a cult following and is pretty funny at times. I also have to remove my personal bias towards it because of an incident involving this film on our Buried Cinema podcast, so I rewatched it a few days ago to test my theory that it is a bad adaptation, and I have to say that it’s also a weak movie. The comedy hasn’t aged well. In middle school, it was funny to watch spunky Cher (Alicia Silverstone) make mistake after mistake, but it doesn’t add up and as far as adaptations go, well….

Jane Austen’s Emma was a milestone for her writing for several reasons. Emma was one of the first truly unlikeable protagonists; she has several redeeming qualities, but her vain and selfish lifestyle is really pretty revolting, and what is astounding is to watch Emma grow and recognize that there is inside her both vulnerability and a desire to be loved. She’s also unique in that she’s the only protagonist of Austen’s who is financially free and does not require a man to satisfy her in that sense. It was a fascinating chance for Austen to stretch her writing a little, and for ages the text has befuddled critics because it’s not traditional Austen. Several initial reviews wrote that there was very little substance, that it was basically a forward-moving plot with some funny moments. This could unfortunately be said of Clueless.

The film takes the plot of Emma and loyally adapts it, but then it doesn’t seem to know what to do with the story other than make Cher date a gay guy, hook up the wrong people, fall for her step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd), have a spiritual shopping spree, and then–hey, why not–give everyone a boyfriend in the end. Austen saw Emma’s material wealth as a unique problem that had rarely been considered in literature. She is frequently showing us in her novels that women can still posses strength without the man’s financial protection, but here we see the reverse of that which hints at the idea that there is something inherent in the relationship between a man and a woman that is good and necessary.

What is kind of disturbing about Clueless is just how much it lives up to its name. It’s trying to be satire, but it seems unwilling to fully satirize the materialistic person it’s portraying. It’s a shopping spree montage that makes Cher feel good about herself and gives her the confidence to open up to Josh. On a side note, I had thought that maybe they were being loyal to the text by making Josh her step-brother, because weird relationships with close family was more usual in Austen’s time than in the 90’s, but nope. Emma falls for the brother of her sister’s husband, which would have been a lot easier to do. I mean, why isn’t Josh just some kid at school that doesn’t fall for her crap, who has a brother, cousin, or friend who dates Cher’s friend or sister? No, I guess step-brother makes more sense.

The humor is also not as endearing. It lacks the clever bite of 10 Things I Hate About You, and Cher has little charm. Good intentions don’t stop you from being impossibly annoying. They’re clearly pointing out that materialism and selfishness are annoying, but it’s still okay to be yourself. The only problem is that unlike Austen’s novel, where Emma sees her selfishness in her jealous reaction to Harriet’s professed love to Mr. Knightley, so in the movie this would be Cher getting mad at Tai (Brittany Murphy) because she and Josh just aren’t a good fit. Cher learns nothing, she just loves who she loves. Her personality changes little and her materialism is not seen as a character flaw. Emma, in the novel, is approaching Mr. Knightley, humbly expecting that her selfishness has left her ruined and hoping to find good news for Harriet, but is given redemption in Mr. Knightley’s confession of his love for her. In Clueless, Paul Rudd kisses his sister on a staircase and all is well?

The film just doesn’t add up to much more than a feel-good message about helping people, finding a boyfriend, buying clothes, getting teachers to be nice, and making out with your siblings.

Next, I’ll talk about the ever popular reboot, where Hollywood pretentiously takes their own self-described classics and reintroduces them to the populace by looking at Cape Fear and Star Wars. Yep, Star Wars.

A Year of Movies

6. The Patriot (2000)

Cast: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tchéky Karyo, Rene Auberjonois, Lisa Brenner, Tom Wilkinson, Donal Logue, Leon Rippy, Adam Baldwin, Jay Arlen Jones, Joey D. Vieira, Gregory Smith, Mika Boorem, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Trevor Morgan, Bryan Chafin, Logan Lerman, Mary Jo Deschanel. Written by Roger Rodat. Directed by Roland Emmerich.

Tuesday, January 11.

To be fair, I started watching The Patriot part-way through, but I was listening to a lot more of it from another room. My grandpa was watching it on TNT. I hate watching movies on TV, but I won’t go off on a rant about the state of commercialization, blah blah blah. We all know television largely sucks, especially if you want to watch a movie. (TCM, you still rock.) Anyway, I kept getting distracted, stopping my work, going into the other room to watch this scene or that. I’ve seen The Patriot a few times over the past decade, so I know the parts I want to see. Soon enough, after my immediate website-editing task was finished, I figured I’d go watch the rest of the movie. But the only reason I would have done this is because I own the DVD, which I put on, picking up at the point where TNT had left off. I always liked this movie, but always thought it had a lot of flaws, and the more times I’d seen it, the lower it fell in my estimation. It’s overly sentimental, it lays the patriotic rhetoric on thick at points, and it plays fast and loose with history. But it’s also thrilling in its spectacle and affecting in its quieter moments. For a big Hollywood war film, it’s at its best during the intimate moments–between father and son, father and daughter, young people in love, a racist and a slave fighting side by side, a tête-à-tête between opposing commanders, etc. For all its problems–the excruciatingly gratuitous slow-motion; the overly dramatic speeches with John Williams’ less-than-subtle music swelling in the background (this is not one of his best film scores); the idea that Mel Gibson is the least-racist white landholder in America–it’s still a good film. Rodat’s screenplay shows a true and optimistic love of liberty in all its forms, and though that keeps it from being historically accurate, I’m okay with it, because it makes me feel more optimistic about myself as an American and the potential of my country to still be the land of the free. And it is by far Roland Emmerich’s best directorial effort, and not just because it’s the only one that isn’t super-cheesy sci-fi. Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. IMDb rating: 8/10. Flickchart rank: 521/2198 (Top 1000). Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/

–Tom Kapr