Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Recent movies - Paths of Glory, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Surf's Up

Paths of Glory (1957) - I didn't even know this was a Kubrick movie until I saw his name in the opening credits. I actually rented it just because John Kricfalusi recommended it as a study for animators in "specific acting."

Anyhow, the film: it is beautifully shot. The way Kubrick stages the scenes and moves the camera and uses his locations is really remarkable. **spoilers** The scouting scene, the assault on the Ant Hill, the courtroom scene, the final march to the firing squad. The fact that Kubrick chose to show the actual execution rather than cut away to a reaction shot really drives home the injustice of pride that cost three men their lives at the hands of their own country. **end spoilers** There is a really interesting point of contrast to be found in the relationship between Dax and the General. Both are manipulated/pressured into sending their men off to certain death, but Dax physically leads his men and assumes the same risk they are taking. You're angry at the General's arrogance in giving this order, but you find yourself supporting Dax because he actually leads his men. The General sees the men as tools, but Dax sees them as human beings of equal value to himself. Also helpful in raising sympathy for Dax is the difference in the way he was pressured into obeying the order. Dax's pride in his men is appealed to, whereas the General gives in based on the promise of further rank.

The overall message of the story doesn't seem to be a broad anti-war statement (which makes it unique), but a condemnation of military hubris and the devaluing of a soldier's life. Pride and the devaluing of life is the cause of each of the problems: the General's pride leads to him ordering a futile attack; the General's pride again prevails in ordering the execution of his own men as "an example"; the pride of the other CO prevents him from acting on Dax's accusations and saving the wrongfully condemned men.

Good movie.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind (1984) - Typical Miyazaki movie: lots of fun airborne contraptions, "man is poisoning the earth" message, plucky heroine, some goofball supporting characters, beautifully designed landscapes, and giant mechanized warriors. You can tell this one came out in the 80s because of the funky sound effects and music. I enjoyed it, though I prefer his subsequent efforts (mostly because those bugs freak me out).

Surf's Up (2007) - Pretty fun movie. Easily the best animated waves and surfing ever done. These guys actually studied what waves do and how surfers move (even if there was some ridiculous "360 aerial flip" stuff). Jeff Bridges was perfect. I didn't even recognize Jon Heder, which speaks well of his performance! Wifey-Amy loved that there was a surfer from Michigan. Overall, it could have used more laughs, but the story was pretty good and carried the movie well (which is saying a lot for a surfing movie). Very similar to North Shore story-wise (fish-out-of-water surfer gets big chance in surf contest vs. jerk), but minus most of the campiness.

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