Saturday, June 5, 2010

Top and Bottom of the Aughts - #3

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
The year is 1805. The HMS Surprise under Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is ordered to track down the French ship Acheron and capture or sink her. What follows is a thrilling cat and mouse game bookended by two electrifying sea battles. But it is more than just a story of high adventure as we are immersed in the day-to-day life aboard a British war ship, from the captain all the way down to the lowliest cabin boy. We see how deadly the ocean can be, both during a terrible storm as well as a dead calm. It is also very much a character drama as Aubrey gets both support and blunt criticism from his old friend the ship’s doctor (Paul Bettany). The film even spends a few moments as a nature documentary. When I first watched the film, I spent most of my time concentrating on the interactions between Captain Aubrey and the doctor, with most of the other characters fading into the exquisite background. But on subsequent viewings I started picking up on more characters and the story arcs they have throughout the film, resulting in almost a dozen characters, each with his own little story inside the big one, waiting to be discovered by the attentive viewer.

Happy Feet (2006)
How on earth could a film this lame and implausible win the Oscar for best animated feature? I felt like I was watching a 100 minute Coke commercial, without the morbid potential of the polar bears actually eating the penguins. The comedy fell flat, the musical numbers were dull, and watching an animated creature with no legs tap dancing just does not have the same appeal (nor is as impressive) as a real person doing all the moves. Robin Williams was way over the top in his dual roles, doing broad racial voice stereotypes. There was very little to distinguish the penguins from each other and of course the villains in the film were the religious conservatives, doing their part to keep our hero from being his unique self. And then there is the completely implausible joke of an ending, where humanity decides to stop fishing because they saw a bunch of penguins tap dancing. Do they actually think humanity would be that benevolently minded towards this subspecies? (Or that stupid?) I think what would really happen is Ringling Bros. would snap up as many of the penguins as possible and put their tap dancing in the center ring. Of course, what should you expect from a film with a moronic title like Happy Feet?

Coming up next: an incredible movie and an uncredible one.

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