REVIEW: The White Ribbon

15 01 2013

The White RibbonI like to fancy myself somewhat adept at interpreting the meaning of movies, but sometimes, I get stumped just like everyone else.  It happened to me in “A Serious Man,” though with the proper context, some light has been shed on the directorial intent.  I was also pretty perplexed by Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” although I could sense vast levels of interpretation bubbling beneath the surface.

Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” on the other hand, has me totally bamboozled.  I have absolutely no idea what it’s really about.  Sure, ostensibly, it’s a movie following a pre-World War I German town as they are terrorized by a series of strange deaths.  But I don’t think Haneke means it to be taken at face value.  No one of that stature just makes a movie set in the past and means it to be just that.

The story, though extremely slowly revealed, is rather interesting.  I could scarcely keep track of the ten trillion villagers, much less give you any of their names, but I was always able to follow the events.  However, I was just blindsided by the ending – or lack thereof, making me doubt if I really understood what had happened in the movie’s first two hours.

I was a little angry that I left the movie with no sense of resolution, catharsis, or finality.  And perhaps that was what Haneke was trying to achieve with “The White Ribbon.”  But in a strange way, I almost feel like the film isn’t over, like I’m just missing the last chapter or something.  It’s the same way I feel about “Lost,” one of my favorite television shows of all time – even though I still haven’t watched the last season, perhaps because I don’t want it to end.

Certainly, I would like to be freed from the not-so-nagging frustration of not knowing quite what “The White Ribbon” is.  And maybe in a few years, I’ll re-enter that world of haunting visuals, intricate scripting, and deliberate direction.  Though I’m not sure if I will emerge with any sense of closure, after one rewatch or several.  B2halfstars

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What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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