14 02 2016

Trash“Slumdog Millionaire” meets “All The President’s Men” in Stephen Daldry’s “Trash,” a tale of three Brazilian dumpster-dwelling children who uncover a plot of serious political intrigue from an inadvertently disposed wallet. The film provides a gritty look at their reality, though that comes more from the photography or the set design than anything in the story. Daldry uneasily balances the improbable conspiracy with the poverty expose, cobbling together a bland movie that satisfies neither aspect of its premise.

The bright spots are few and far between, though I suppose we all ought to be glad that Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara’s characters do not fulfill the “great white savior” tropes that plague movies of this sort. He serves as a priest, and she works for an NGO, but neither can protect or save the teenagers from the corruption and brutality of local law enforcement. Any small victories they achieve come from their street-smarts and intuitions.

But given the improbable journey set in motion by their discovery, “Trash” ought to feel more thrilling, entertaining – or at least illuminating about Brazilian society. Given the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the subject might once again prove of interest to audiences worldwide. Hopefully they choose to watch something authentic like “City of God,” not “Trash,” which feels obviously made by an outsider. C2stars

REVIEW: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

27 03 2012

I absolutely love the Oscars, and despite the cries of many naysayers, I believe they are overall a very good thing for film artistry and industry.  As tone-setters and taste arbiters, they have enormous influence over how and when movies get made.  This ability is not without a downside, though.  It may have scored a Best Picture nomination, but Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as a piece of art is a victim of the Academy process.

The framework is there for the cinematic adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s incredible novel to be equally as compelling and emotionally moving.  But Daldry, who was still shooting a new scene for the movie on December 1 (yes, just weeks before the movie opened!), leaves us with merely a glimpse of what could have been.  He shows us how much potential the movie has, yet we are constantly left seeing the rough edges that should have been ironed out in post-production.  Tonally, it has some very rough swings, too.  If he had taken a few more months, really wrestled with the material, and released it in 2012, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” would have been a deserving Best Picture nominee – and dare I say it, a formidable threat to be a winner.

At a certain point, though, I have to stop mourning a movie that doesn’t exist.  Daldry made the movie that he made, and it does have some remarkable moments sprinkled sporadically throughout that really hit home.  He gets fine performances out of Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow; Thomas Horn has flashes of brilliance every now and then, but his precociousness often errs towards the side of a grating whine.  Nevertheless, there were a number of scenes that just don’t work as well as they should, and knowing the source novel, I would periodically cringe.

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