Saturday, January 27, 2007

Good Title

It looks like Babel is becoming the front runner for Best Picture Oscar, but somehow, I still have more regard for the Motion Picture Academy than to believe that those voters will roll over for this particular Critics' Darling. The picture does have a few good moments--none of them involving Brad Pitt or Cate Blanchett--but not enough good moments to override the restless twistings in my seat.

I suggested that the other Guillermo represented at the Academy this year had a dark vision but did not seem to be a cynic, but this Guillermo is not merely a cynic, he is a flat out nihilisitc neurotic. After he puts his characters through some preposterous and idiotically motivated behavior in order to punish them for being human, he signs off his film with a dedication to his children who-- Bring a bright light into the darkness of this world. Gimmeafuckin' break!

As with their previous films, Arriaga and his writer continue to use a story structure that involves cutting back and forth between different plot lines; the better to keep the skimpiness of their ideas from being too easily evident. Of course, each of these characters has some tenuous connection with the others, but these connections, introduced to imply some cosmic significance to the irrelevant little stories, are totally incidental and gratuitous and have absolutely no bearing on the fates of each other.

So much of the movie is merely incidental that I can't be bothered with specifics. Except maybe one. This entire nightmare is kicked off when a couple of innocent, young North African brothers take mindless pot shots from a hillside at a tour bus on the road below. I mean, what kind of idiots are these? Then the real kicker comes when the rifle sharpshooter takes aim at the bus when it is about a mile and half away. Now the shooter is several hundred yards up a hill on the RIGHT side and in FRONT of the bus when he shoots. When the big bus gradually comes to a stop, it is reasonable to assume that the engine of the driver has been hit. But we learn nothing at that time. Instead, we cut to one of the other stories for a while. Eventually, we return to the bus, but now we are inside it, apparently before the shooting as it is just cruising along and the tourists are engaged in their regular behaviors. Cate Blanchett rests her weary head on the the bus window in the middle and on the LEFT side of the bus. Shortly, a bullet enters cleanly through her window and into her neck area. This means that the bullet from the hillside traveled over a mile at about a 45º angle down toward the front of the bus, overshot the bus, then circled back and slammed into the left mid side of the bus at a 180º angle. This kind of shoddy filming and editing is usually the result of inadequate pre-planning. It can also be the result of indifference and disrespect of the audience, which is what the majority of this movie suggests to me: a false trajectory of story telling through time and space.


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