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14 January 2005



i'll respond in further detail soon, but can we all just marvel for a moment at what an amazing year Dustin Hoffman has had in small roles: the moptopped philosopher/detective in Huckabees, the canny theatrical producer in Finding Neverland, the wild and woolly dad in Meet the Fockers, and the voice of a Shetland pony in Racing Stripes? Wherever I've seen him lately, I've been impressed by his self-effacement and wry wit.


Don't forget, Hoffman was in A Series Of Unfortunate Events as well, briefly reprising (or so it seemed) his character from Neverland and haircut from Huckabees.

And speaking of both the Lemony Snicket, perhaps it would have made a better double feature with The Life Aquatic than House Of Flying Daggers did -- at least, that's what Anthony Lane suggested in his review. I'd personally recommend watching Anderson's film on a double bill with itself, since subsequent viewings have only increased its stature in my eyes. It's a vastly imperfect film, but it implies a potential not present in Anderson's previous films, and actually succeeds in breaking through the 'diorama' style that he's so fond of.

I personally don't understand the fervor over Flying Daggers; too much CGI, too many laughable last minute plot twists, and, coming so soon after the far more engaging Hero, photography that is rather ordinary in comparison to Chris Doyle's. At least Hero told a different sort of story -- this is simply a Crouching Tiger wannabe.


Hero only just did it for me and I think the same will eventually be said of Daggers. There's nothing much there other than beauty. Everything else seems relatively melodramatic and hollow to me. Though I could watch Maggie Cheung read the phonebook. In Cantonese.

Of course, I disagree with you about Huckabees, Cinetrix. I think Russell's choices were right on par with what the film's really about, which is not existentialist questions, but how to live one's life in a post-9/11 [or, as Vivian puts it, "that big September thing"] world. The absurdity -- of Huckabees-brand Capitalism; of everyone's desperate soul searching; of the opposing beliefs of the Jaffes and Caterine [which I think represents the idealogical split in America] -- needs to be highlighted. The only way such a political [and optimistic!] film could get made was -- oddly enough -- to pose as an "existential comedy". That's why many bona fide intellectuals [of which I am not one] find the actual ideas in the film to be rather simplistic.


I would agree with the Cinetrix. Both Huckabees and Life Aquatic bring up issues/concepts that they are unprepared or unwilling or unable to properly confront, tease out, make real... so in that sense they fail at being brilliant cinema. However, I loved both films, because they were fun, entertaining, and had great performances from fun actors.


I haven't seen The Life Aquatic yet, but I maintain that Huckabees isn't actually about the concepts it raises -- it's about raising them in the first place and trying to live your life better by doing so -- about questioning yourself instead of questioning [and going to war with] others. Am I alone in my reading of the film as offering an alternative to religious fanaticism, extreme politics [Left- and Right-leaning both] and hate-fuelled isolationism?

And think that I thought were were all connected.


I think it's about raising these concepts, yes -- and then (I think) thinking outside of them as well. At least that's how I read the scene with Mark Whalberg rescuing Naomi Watts from the fire, and I'll delve further into this notion, and where I think David O. Russell might have ever so slightly sold himself short (not that I still didn't heartily embrace the film) once someone can help me out where my memory is hazy: in the very last scene, do Mark Whalberg and Jason Schwartzman resume hitting each other with the rubber ball, or do they just sit there?


They hit each other. So, in other words, you think he sold out...!


Yes (especially since my memory is correct). Let me quote the final lines of the script, which I happen to have in front of me at this very moment.

"They sit and stare at meadow peacefully as camera returns to the blurry green that began the film. Fade out.'


Who's to say that, just because they'd decided to find a healthy mid-ground between the two extremes, they couldn't still practice aspects of each? Huh?

[I'm listening to the Brion scores for Huckabees and Eternal Sunshine right now. Add Punch-Drunk Love and you've got a fine trifecta. I hope he wins something. Or at least gets nominated.]


Oops, didn't meant to post that so soon without qualifiying my argument. Obviously, I think David O. Russell knew how to end the movie correctly (or at least the way I would have ended it), but didn't. After all this rubric and theorizing of such a madcap nature, I think it's telling that the most powerful moment in the script is a simple, wordless embrace between two people; this is the solution to the absurdity you spoke of, the desperation, the soul searching. But Russell backs down at the end, pushing the characters (most grievously Mark Whalberg's) back towards not only the philosophical swamp they were previously entangled in, but Vauban's nihilistic idealogy -- a step back, don't you think? Perhaps this was part of Russell's point, and certainly it's a small enough detail that it doesn't detract from what I generally love about what the film accomplishes; but nonetheless, it did strike a false note with me.


And by the wordless embrace, I was referring to Vivian and Tommy.

(And if Brion didn't get nominated for Magnolia, he probably never will. I've got all of his scores mixed up on iTunes and listen to them constantly.)


Matt, you are obviously my brother from Down Under. My entire argument about Huckabees, whenever I discuss it, has been that agreeing with or understanding these theories isn't the point of the film (which is why I don't read it as pretentious drivel). But many people aren't even open to having the discussion. I think Russell brilliantly balances these two contradictory existensial theories specifically to not say one or the other is ultimate truth. I completely agree that the film is about the very same thing we're doing here: having a discussion, not providing know-it-all answers. (Unless of course, you're wrong.)


Thinking further on the subject (look what you guys are making me do) I think the ending, in the film, is thematically correct: of course, no one will ever remain squarely on the middle ground! It's ridiculous to expect that, and on that level, my problem is null and void. But I think what Russell did was, in the scene with the fire, change his movie from a story about idealogies to a story about characters, and goddamnit, that hooked me. He continued thus by letting Jude Law break down; Brad ends the film in a state similar to where Tommy Corn might have been before the film started (and Vivian's a little bit ahead of him). And if Brad progresses, I want Albert and Tommy to continue likewise. I wanted those two characters to triumph (and suddenly I see shades of another argument of Filmbrain's from a previous post coming in here and wonder if I'm in way over my head) over the idealogy. But instead they show signs of regression, and one could intuit that they could travel back down from whence they came and run into Brad as he moves on to what they've already discovered and the whole mess begins again and -- well, the idea exhausts me somewhat, just as my already belabored point is at this point exhausted. I'm guilty of my own charges. Regardless, I Heart Huckabees is a wonderful film.


Sings: "One of the year's be-est!"


i'm late on the scene but i'm completely with matt on this. it's my favorite film of the year but its ideas are not sophisticated at all, they're philosophy 101. but the film is not about those ideas. they are like props.


After another viewing last night, I've decided that it's my favourite film of the year as well -- in fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's the best and most idealogically important American film of the decade thus far. I'm going to have to blog a "List v. 2.0" in a couple of weeks, I think.

And I think I'm going have to write a lengthy essay/collection of notes on Huckabees as well.

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