Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Man and Superman

Viva Zapata: There's a good message to this film, namely, that people, especially people in revolt, are better off without leaders, as Emilio Zapata discovers that, firstly, the cult of personality revolving around him does more harm than good, and, second, that when he achieves power, it corrupts him as much as it does anyone else. Unfortunately the message is buried under far too much leaden dialogue, plus some appallingly Orientalist stereotypes of Mexicans (particularly Mexican women). Marlon Brando shambles through the story as the title character, looking embarrassed by his costume and blackface and mumbling all his lines.

Sleeper: Witty and savage satire, ostensibly about a 1970s man who wakes up 200 years later to find himself in a strange future society, but actually a polemic against contemporary bourgeois American attitudes-- selfish people lulled into compliance by their gadgetry, silly intellectuals convinced that they're changing the world by writing poetry but being terrified by the thought of actual subversion, "revolutionaries" who are no different to the rulers they propose to replace. It's just gotten worse in the past 40 years. Co-stars some very beautiful modernist architecture, and Diane Keaton.

Superman: I wasn't expecting much, but this actually surprised me by how appallingly bad it was. Inconsistent in terms of plot, characters and even what decade it's supposed to be (it couldn't seem to make up its mind whether it was the 1950s or the 1970s), establishing a group of antagonists at the start and then never actually using them, shameless abuse of CSO, equally shameless waste of a great cast... the list goes on. The only good things were, 1) occasional lovely directorial touches (mainly in the scenes of Superman's boyhood in Kansas, where the principal photographer just goes nuts over the wheatfields), and 2) the initial conceit of making Lois Lane a nasty, sadistic bitch, which seems to have been nicked from the Fleischer cartoons. Though unfortunately it all falls apart as the writers don't seem capable of reconciling her being a nasty bitch with her being Superman's main love interest (I know people say the appeal of The Godfather had more to do with the films than the book, but you'd think Mario Puzo could have managed a tiny bit of character complexity). Marlon Brando drifts through the story as Superman's father Jor-El, looking embarrassed by his white pompadour wig.

Movie count for 2011: 36