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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral at IMDB

This is a Frank Oz movie about a funeral where just about everything that can go wrong does. The only thing that could have been worse would have been the deceased not being dead. The mourning starts off on the wrong foot when the mortuary brings the wrong corpse, and things don't improve.

There's an obnoxious old man, a blackmail subplot, a case of some mistaken drug consumption, repeated "problems" in/with the coffin (the wrong body is the first), rude relatives, sibling rivalry, the guy who just came to hit on one of the women, nudity on the roof, some toilet troubles, a near riot, and a desparate hope that people will have forgotten that Peter Dinklage (if you don't know: who stands out in any group, as he is four-foot-five) showed up.

Five caskets out of five.

Final thought: Sandra: Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Based on a book of the same title by Roald Dahl, this is a story of theiving fox battling with some unsavory farmers. Dahl wrote many stories that have been adapted into movies (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda) or shows ("Man from the South", "Skin"). A common theme is fun, or at least interesting, unsavory characters.

The story in the movie is an expanded version of the book, and is adapted in a Wes Anderson style. (Anderson's previous films include The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Darjeeling Limited, and Royal Tenenbaums.) The stop-motion animation is a first for Anderson, though. I particularly enjoyed the look of the film, but I've heard others call it "creepy".

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were none the less equally mean.

Bean is the brains behind the farmers and the only one given much of a role. He is a crack shot, an alcoholic, and a brewer of hard cider. (The cider in the film is clear gold, which is pretty, but probably not what Dahl would have imagined.) Mr Fox is a charming thief whose self-worth comes from impressing his follow animals. When he attracts the ire of the farmers, all of the burrowing animals suffer and know that it is Mr Fox's fault, putting him in a bit of squeeze. And from there it's Bean and Fox to the end.

Four bottles of liquid gold out of five.

Fantastic Mr. Fox at IMDB

The Darjeeling Limited at IMDB

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at IMDB

The Royal Tenenbaums at IMDB

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at IMDB

Matilda at IMDB

James and the Giant Peach at IMDB

Man from the South at IMDB

Skin at IMDB

Final thought: although rated PG, the audience was largely adult

Redacted (2007)

Redacted (2007) at IMDB

Redacted is a loose retelling of the Mahmudiyah rape and murders (see, eg Mahmudiyah killings at wikipeda ). It uses an interesting narrative style were all shots come from identified cameras. There's the footage purportedly from the soldier in the group. There's the footage from insurgents. There's the vlog of a wife of a solider. There are the "youtube" released video clips. There's a French language documentary on Iraq checkpoints. And to fill in, there are military base security cameras (which include with camera id and timestamp).

The first half of the film establishes characters and environment. This clearly establishes the film as political without getting into the gruesome situation that develops. Included is a read aloud of the Somerset Maugham introduction to the novel Appointment in Samarra:

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Shortly, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant's horse, he flees at top speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km), where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture. She replies, "That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
(That bit is quoted from a website, not the exact words in the movie.) The point being that death is inevitable and the little story taking place in Iraq makes death in Iraq inevitable in the minds of the characters.

If you can put the slant aside, and that may not be possible depending on where you stand on the current Iraq situation, it's interesting film if only for the form. It pretty much comes across as realistic, but openly admits that "Truth is the first causality of war". All of the characters do some wrong, and truth is openly rejected by some of them.

Political warning:

The DVD included a trailer for Terror's Advocate, a documentary on the infamous defense lawyer Jacques Vergè. The trailer has him saying "People ask me if I'd defend Hitler. I'd even defend Bush, but only if he agrees to plead guilty."

Final thought: might be a good tie-in for that Bush for Murder movie mentioned here recently

Red Headed Woman (1932)

Red Headed Woman at IMDB

This is a "pre-code" Hollywood film that would probably get a PG rating if made today.

One of the first scenes:

"Red" (Lillian) trying on a dress in a store: Can you see through this? Clerk (off camera): I'm afraid you can. "Red" (Lillian): I'll take it.

Lillian has decided that she's going to "cross the railroad tracks" and the best way to pull herself across (and up) is insinuate herself into her boss' life. Bill Legendre Jr's existing wife is not a moral dilemma for Lillian, but a lever to help Lillian manipulate him.

Jean Harlow plays Lillian as a stalker / gold-digger just shy of restraining order territory. Everyone else comes across as slightly inept in dealing with her. Bill (Jr)'s butler is unable to stop her from barging into the house. Bill (Sr) is unable to fire her. Irene Legendre is all to quick to play the unreasoning jealous wife.

Three garter belts out of four.

Final thought: got this as part of a "Forbidden Hollywood" DVD set from his library