Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am the SON OF RAMBOW! Movie Review, plus: multiple RANTS OF DOOM

Okay, I shall start off this entry with some random rants, er, thoughts:

- Hillary: get out of the race already. Unless you can show a scenario in which you can mathematically win the delegate count, it's time to call it quits. And now we have Bill talking about a conspiracy to prematurely annoint Obama as the Democratic nominee? What is this, vast right-wing conspiracy redux? There is a time to fight and a time to show grace and poise and teamsmanship. If Hillary wants to be a class act, she should step up to the plate and endorse Obama and urge her supporters to back him. And you know what? I've been an Obama supporter from the start, but I'd say the exact same thing to Obama if the situation were reversed. The most important thing is getting a Democrat in the White House, and at some point there has to be thought given to how best make that happen. Now it looks like Clinton seems intent on proving just how close to Obama she can get, as Michigan and Florida delegates are now looking like they'll be counted in some form. Again - why the insistence on reversing the original decision? I mean, does the delegate system need some reexamination? Sure. Is not the time to do it? Most definitely not. All I know is, dragging out the primary to its bitter end is not the way to weaken McCain and build momentum for the Democrats come November.

- Now, it sickens me when these polls come in and there's still a block of voters who say race is a factor in their vote. I mean, you know what? Many, including myself, throw a lot of criticisms towards Gen Y (and I'll do just that in a moment ...). But one thing you have to give us some credit for - we have essentially moved past the ridiculous idea that because someone's skin is a different shade that makes them in any way different. Obviously, we can and should appreciate cultural differences. But really - who ARE these people who wouldn't vote for someone based on their race, and WHAT exactly is their reasoning? I'd love to hear it, honestly.

- Like 90% of all men, I can't stand the popularity of Sex and the City. I realize that us guys are often into all kinds of stupid crap that women cringe at the thought of. But the worst part of Sex and the City is that girls actually want to be like and try to be like the show's vapid, self-absorbed characters. It's no wonder that so many women of my generation know more about shoes than they do about politics. I know, this is a crass generalization. Apologies. But, why can't women aspire to be more like, say, Veronica Mars - you know, smart, helps people, witty, selfless, and less like the materialistic women of SATC?

- But here's one more thing about SATC that pisses me off, and in this case I'll actually be slamming the show's detractors. I personally find it really obnoxious and disgusting when guys in magazines, on the radio, etc extend their dislike of the show to the realm of personal attacks. No, I don't like the show, but I have absolutely nothing against Sarah Jessica Parker. And I think it's ridiculous when loudmouth idiots go off about how she is supposedly ugly or whatever. This is funny since most of the time the people saying this are themselves fat ugly slobs. It's also just absurd - even if she isn't one's ideal woman, whatever, obviously a quick walk down the street will show that such criticisms of her looks are a bit overstated. But finally, I hate to say it but all the talk of her looks to me smacks of latent antisemitism. Anyone who knows a lot of Jews knows that SJP's look is a pretty typical look, and I say that as a card-carrying member of the Jew Crew. I just cringe every time I hear people rudely talke about her features because to me it really does sound like they're by extension calling typically Jewish features ugly. And worst of all, all of these loudmouth chauvanists quick to spew so much venom on a woman just because of their snap judgement on her looks, well, they basically serve to undermine all of us regular guys who simply wish to make well-reasoned arguments critiquing SATC's merits as a show. Meanwhile, anyone who takes such joy in labeling someone else as ugly needs to take a long look in the mirror.

- Okay, tonight is a big one for the CELTICS. This is it, baby, no more fooling around. But I have to say, I'm a bit worried about Boston's chances. Thus far, it seems like they've won in the playoffs with a combination of sheer talent and a bit of luck. Rarely has a Celtics playoff win this year made anyone stand up and say "wow, they really played a great overall game." It's part of the reason that the team has been so up and down - they've been winning, more often than not, thanks to one or two standout individual performances that have carried the load. But where the Celtics have been lacking is in gameplan, and it's something that Doc Rivers needs to think about. Where is the running game, the great offensive sets, the team game? Detroit's defense is too solid to depend on a 45 point game from Paul Pierce to save the day, and it doesn't allow Ray Allen to camp out on the three point line. Sure, the Celtics do have a few matchups they can exploit, but I think they are going to have to not only hope for big games from the big three, but also really gel as a team in a way that we haven't seen from them in a while. That being said: go Celtics!

- And by the way, normally with the teams I root for, I have the NBA conspiracy-theory thing going against me. But not this time. If the Lakers make the finals, then a matchup with Detroit or Boston would be an 80's nostalgia-fest and likely a ratings boon, but really, a Celtics-Lakers finals, unthinkable only a year ago, would be THE big money matchup, and you can be sure that David Stern is chomping at the bit to see it happen. It's amazing how two possible outcomes of the conference finals are: a.) Celtics vs. Lakers - aka one of the most intriguing and epic matchups the NBA will have seen in a while, or b.) Pistons vs. Spurs - aka a matchup that feels like it's been done to death, between two of the most skilled, albeit boring teams in the NBA.

- Luckily, it's a short week this week thanks to the recent good ol' fashioned three-day weekend. I had a fun, mostly relaxing weekend, necessary in order to recover from the craziness of last week's east coast adventures. Some highlights included: Indiana Jones (see my previous post for the authoratative review), Dan K's Rock Band party in NoHo, an excellent dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with Abby W, and then, as I'm about to write a lot more about, a trup to the Arclight on Monday to see ...


- Amidst this summer's many blockbusters, here is a small movie that nonetheless captures the imagination. Son of Rambow is the type of film you don't see a lot of anymore. It's a movie about kids, and it's a movie that I think would actually be not only appropriate for kids but a real favorite for any kids lucky enough to see it. But this is a kid's movie with bite. It doesn't pull punches. It has real sadness and despair in its plot, coupled with real friendships and relationships. It's a movie that will make even the toughest of us a bit misty-eyed, because it's a movie that really earns its sentimentality. But most of all, this is the kind of movie that takes you back to the days of childhood - it shows the roughness, the harshness of childhood, sure - but it also makes you remember the simple joys of letting one's imagination run wild, of creating.

I mean, who doesn't fondly remember being a kid and seeing some then-monumental TV show or movie, and just being totally possessed by it? That feeling of seeing an action movie and wanting to jump around and go pretend to be a spy or a commando. The feeling of then going on to create your OWN stories, your own fictionalized adventures. As a kid I would sit and create my own stories, my own comic books, my own films, and that excitement over the feeling of creative creation has never left. But when you're a kid, that feeling is even more heightened, the rush of inspiration and creation even more instense. And that feeling is what's captured so brilliantly in Son of Rambow.

The film is set in 1980's England, and centers around two young boy, probably around 10 years old or so, who form an uneasy friendship at first but soon bond over their shared project. First, there's Will Proudfoot. He's a shy, quiet, and slightly weird kid, but we gradually come to understand why that is. His father died from an aneurism while mowing the lawn. His mother then devoted herself to a group a religious sect known as The Bretheren, a very strict group whose beliefs prohibit Will from watching any TV or movies. This means that whenever Will's teacher shows the class a video, Will has to dutifully pack up his things and leave the classroom. But that doesn't stop Will's imagination from working - his books are filled with drawings and doodles, and that at least helps him to deal with his somewhat lonely ten year old existence. Then, there's Lee Carter. Basically, Lee is THAT kid. You know the one - that kid in elementary school who never did his homework, was always getting in trouble with the teachers, and who was generally looked down upon by pretty much everyone, even if the fact is that no one ever really gave him a chance. Kind of a real life Bart Simpson, of sorts. Except Lee has more going on than meets the eye. Like Will, he's a lonely kid. His father left him, and his mother took up with a wealthy Spaniard, leaving Lee with just his fast-living teen brother to look after him in their big empty house. But one thing Lee has is his love of film. Okay, so maybe he doesn't LOVE film, yet, but he spends his weekends at the local theater, making bootleg tapes of new movies that he then sells off to the local kids.

So Will and Lee come together in a bit of brilliant happenstance - Will is sitting outside his class while the other kids watch a documentary. Lee is sent outside after being scolded by his teacher. At first, Lee bullies Will into hanging out with him, and their forced friendship consists mostly of Lee ordering Will around. But then, something happens. Lee leaves Will alone as his pirated copy of First Blood is playing on the TV. For Will, this is, I think, literally the first movie he's ever actually seen. And as you can imagine, he is freaking BLOWN AWAY. As Colonel Trautman gruffly warns Rambo's pursuers that they are dealing with a man who could fight off 200 men, who was born and bred to be a one-man army, you can see the wheels in Will's head turning, the synapses firing. It's that moment, when he virtually had no other choice but to take that formative experience of RAMBO and make it his own.

Enter Lee Carter - an amateur ten year old filmmaker of the highest order, he's already been planning on making a movie to enter into a local young filmmaker's contest. But now Will is struck with the bug too. And so the two go off and begin their epic creation, a work that could only be known as Son of Rambow.

The scenes of Will and Lee beginning to film their epic are just totally joyful and hilarious. Seeing the repressed Will show up at Lee's door ready to film, donned in tank top and red bandanna, is simply priceless. And what we bgin to see is that Will as the Son of Rambow and Lee as his faithful mentor Trautman - well, they begin to take on the characteristics of their characters, and they begin to form a real friendship that for each of them is the first time they've found a real friend, a real companion, a real brother.

Like I said, it's sweet and sentimental, but handled with so much humor and imagination that it really works. The two leads are both really excellent, two of the best and most natural kid actors I've seen on screen in a while. And the best part is, and maybe this is some of the British sensibility coming into play, they feel like real kids, not robot-like Hollywood pod people.

Director Garth Jennings has a a great sensibility here as well. He keeps things mostly grounded, down to earth. He really captures the time and place, with all kinds of little details keeping things firmly entrenched in the 1980's setting. But he also has little scenes that go inside of Will's imagination, showing the power and force of his daydreams of the stories beginning to formulate inside his head.

At times, the movie can get a little distracted. There's a kind of subplot about a French exchange student that is fun but at times a little meandering. But in the end, it does a nice job of tying into the movie's larger them of defying other's expectations and finding one's true self through creative expression. But mostly, despite some slow sections here and there, the film really works. It's a feel-good, celebratory film, but at the same time its surprisingly harsh, gritty, and uncompromising. It doesn't feel watered down - some of the aspects of these characters' lives are genuinely rough around the edges, and some of the things that happen to them throughout the course of the movie are raw and painful. But in the end this is one that will bring a smile to your face. Just like Rambo did to Will and Lee Carter, Son of Rambow may do to you - it may give you the sudden urge to grab some buddies, don a bandana, and go out and make a pseudo-action-movie-sequel of your own.

I give Son of Rambow a hearty recommendation, and I'd urge anyone to check it out. It may be a small film, but don't let size fool you. The movie packs a Stallone-sized wallop, and it's up there with the best of 2008 thus far.

My Grade: A -

- Alright, that's it for now. Really skill, as the kids in Son of Rambow say.

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