REVIEW: Life Above All

24 07 2011

It’s entirely possible to agree with a movie’s message but not like the movie itself.  Case in point, “Life Above All.”  A South African export, the film tells the story of a young girl’s struggle to keep her family together in the face of her young sister’s death and mother’s diagnosis of AIDS, knowing that the prejudices of her village would tear them apart if she fails.  It’s a journey of courage, but director Oliver Schmitz find countless ways to devalue it for us by surrounding her journey with average, boring filmmaking.

Had it moved at a quicker pace, not spent so much time on expository details, introduced the characters in a more coherent manner, or put some emotion into the first two acts, the movie could have been a tour de force.  Although the AIDS pandemic has begun to die down in the United States, it is still ravaging an Africa where myths about the medical condition still abound.  The present day setting of “Life Above All” makes the community’s attitudes, which resemble ’80s televangelists who claimed AIDS was a plague from God, all the more frightening.  However, Schmitz never gives the movie the searing universality it needs, instead concentrating too much on the minutiae of South African society.

But alas, I was given so little reason to care that I don’t think the movie deserves my speculation on its could have beens.  The story is utterly lacking in the pathos it needs to convey the power of the narrative, and by the end, the worthiness of the effort to read the entire movie in subtitles was dubious.  While I can see the value in the protagonist’s crusade for normalcy amidst crisis and the expose of misplaced South African views of AIDS, I sat through the duration of “Life Above All” feeling incredibly nonplussed – and I think impassioned and inspired was what Schmitz was aiming for.  C+ / 

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WTLFT: July 2011

8 06 2011

Yeah, I shortened the name.  It’s a lot more palatable.  This post will tell you What To Look Forward To in the month of July.  We have transformers, captains, teen stars, teen wizards, sex friends, zoo friends, hellish bosses, honey bears, and smurfs – just to name a few.  Here they all are; you can make up your mind if any of these actually appeal to you.

July 1

Cheating- “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” actually comes out on June 29, and, if you want to get really technical, June 28 at 9:00 in IMAX 3D and RealD 3D.  So while you curse me for my horrific crimes against nature, humanity, and blogging, watch the trailer and decide for yourself whether or not you want to subject yourself to Shia LaBeouf and a lot of loud noises orchestrated by Michael Bay.

On the quieter side of things, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts plan to use their star power to fill seats at “Larry Crowne,” which looks like perfectly middle-of-the-road rom-com territory.  On the louder side of things again – and by louder, I mean girlish screams and constantly ringing cell phones – “Monte Carlo” gives young girls what they need during the summer.  A nice helping of Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, and Leighton Meester should have the tweeners saying “OMG!” until the next season of “Wizards of Waverly Place” hits the small screen. (There’s also a creepy thriller called “The Perfect Host” starring David Hyde Pierce, which I feel obliged to mention since it’s the only indie offering amidst these studio genre pics.)

July 8

Fingers crossed that “Horrible Bosses” will be funny!  I remember reading a piece on a blog for The Los Angeles Times well before the movie started production that praised it, so hopefully it stuck to the script.  If it’s a hit, I motion for Jennifer Aniston to stop doing horrible rom-com fare and stick to raunchy comedy; I chuckle every time I watch the trailer and hear her say, “Shabbat shalom; someone’s circumcised!”

As for “Zookeeper” … well, I hope the kids enjoy it.

I’ve definitely been going through a documentary phase ever since last year’s “Inside Job” rocked my world, and Michael Rappaport’s “Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” could feed my obsession quite well.  It follows the titular hip-hop group (known as A Tribe Called Quest if you are as clueless as I was) from formation to fame.  Best case scenario it provides a fascinating expose of the craft of rapping much like “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” did for standup comedy last summer.  Worst case scenario I get to see some of my favorite artists talking about a group I’ve never heard of before.

Another interesting documentary (that I can only PRAY makes it to Houston sometime before I leave for college) is “Project Nim,” the story of a chimpanzee experiment.  I’ve always been interested in stories where lines and boundaries we once thought clear are exposed and shown to be more porous and relative than we thought, and this looks to deliver on a big scale.

July 15

Some tiny little series ends on screen.  It’s no big deal, it’s not like these movies define my youth.  It’s not like it’s a worldwide phenomenon.  But in all seriousness, I’m not going to cry.  “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” – BRING IT ON!

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