★★ / ★★★★
I thought the best part of this critically acclaimed film was the way it set up the behind-the-cameras drama among Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall. I had major problems with this film’s pacing because once it passed the one-hour mark, each storyline began to slow the picture’s momentum. This could’ve easily been a ninety-minute feature and it would’ve been leaner and meaner. I understand that the story is supposed to be satirical. That’s why each of the main character is yelling pretty much all the time, trying to express his frustrations because his avarice is often at odds against another. But I found the scenes when particular characters would get angry to be extremely repetitive because the topic that they address are the same: the current times are bad and people must take an almost anarchist approach to solve their discontent. I think this would’ve been so much stronger if there was only one or two of those over-the-top scenes and the rest were subtle. In fact, to me, this film truly shined when a particular character would sit in a corner and think about what his or her next move should be in order to outsmart the others. Those moments are so small yet they managed to make me think more than the over-the-top scenes when a character would lecture another (and since this is a satire, those lectures are also directed toward the audiences). I get that this film was released back in 1976 and it predicted today’s trashy reality shows and “news” programs that claim to report the “facts.” But I can’t quite recommend this one because I lost my interest about half-way through. But the one to see here is Dunaway because she has the knack for being a complete monster who cannot get any lower from one minute and be almost human and relatable the next. I liked its ideas but the execution was too weak and all over the place for me.
★★★★ / ★★★★
This is one of those films that I will never forget because of how daring it was (still is) especially back at the time of its release. Lindsay Anderson was able to helm a counterculture film that fuses reality with surrealism and dark fantasy, all the while embracing its satirical nature. This was Malcolm McDowell’s first feature film and it was easy to tell that he was a star. He played his character with such domineering sneer and swagger, it was almost as if he was preparing to star in “A Clockwork Orange” directed by the great Stanley Kubrick. The way McDowell’s character and his friends (David Wood and Richard Warwick) were constantly pushed toward the edge by the faculty was fascinating to watch. Each scene has an implication and a certain bite to the point where I found myself referring back to the earlier scenes and realized that foreshadowing is one of its strongest elements. The final scene involving a bloody student uprising against the school system was done in such a provocative way; I didn’t know whether to laugh or take it seriously. Another element that I found to be interesting was the romance between McDowell and a waitress (Christine Noonan). That one “animalistic” scene was so out of the blue but it was exemplary because it’s as if it symbolizes every student’s frustration in that public school. Lastly, the romance between Warwick and one of the younger boys (Rupert Webster) provided a much-needed sensitivity to the picture. Even though they may not have many scenes where they conversed, when they finally did, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. This may have been really controversial back in the late 1960s but I think it’s more relevant today. School shootings have now become far too common because of the way students feel about their teachers, peers and the school’s atmosphere. (On the other hand, one can argue that school shootings happen for no reason at all rather than to inflict pain and violence.) This film does a tremendous job avoiding expected rationalizations for the students’ future actions whenever it could. If one is craving for something different in style and perspective, this is the one to see.
Hamlet 2 (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
I’m not a big fan of slapstick comedy and it’s dispersed throughout this movie, but Steve Coogan’s enthusiastic performance as a drama teacher who wants to inspire his students prevented me from becoming completely bored by it. The presence of familiar faces such as Elisabeth Shue, Catherine Keener, Melonie Diaz, David Arquette, and Amy Poehler made it that much better because their sometimes subtle performances contrast to the all-too-obvious elements of the picture. Not to mention that “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” song is not only satirical and catchy but just plain hilarious if one is not too sensitive when it comes to making fun of religion (Christianity in this case). I think I would’ve liked this film more if the slapstick that plagued the beginning were completely removed. Not only were they not funny, they also slowed the story down. Instead, the filmmakers should’ve dealt with race relations in the classroom; they tried to move in that direction but I got the feeling that the writers were afraid that the movie would get too serious. What is a comedy without a little bit of dramatic gravity? Despite my coming from a high school with a diverse group of ethnicities, self-segregation is not uncommon; it would’ve been nice if that was explored because I could relate to it and I think it’s still an important issue. I also liked the fact that the story of “Hamlet” was not just randomly chosen to make a play. Coogan’s character can relate to it, in his own strange way, so we get that sense of purpose. I don’t necessarily recommend this movie to just about anyone because it is targeted toward people with a specific sense of humor. If one is a fan of “Napoleon Dynamite” (which I hated with a passion), he or she might enjoy “Hamlet 2.” For me, this film is offensive (in a good way), satirical, and had heart but it could’ve been more insightful and moving if they had toned down the slapstick.