Saturday, March 20, 2004

Movieblogging: El Mariachi
I was talking earlier about multitasking while movieblogging? Case in point: while watching this movie, I've been writing up the ones I saw last night.

This one's a long time coming... I've passed by this movie dozens of times at Blockbuster, have had it recommended by multiple friends, and have only decided to see it now that someone has threatened to kick my ass if I don't see it before watching Once Upon a Time in Mexico. How could I be talking about anything other than El Mariachi (1992). For those unfamiliar with the movie, it was the first movie by Robert Rodriguez, best known nowadays for his Spy Kids movies. I haven't seen any of them, but am really interested in doing so. He made El Mariachi purely to learn how to make a movie, all for the sum of $7,000. And it shows. You do have to give him credit for volunteering as a medical test subject in order to fund it... I've heard that the director's commentary is great, and I'll see if I can get my hands on the DVD at some point in the future.

Most people have seen the second movie in the series, Desperado. It was a big budget extravaganza featuring the extremely attractive and talented Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. (In fact, when this came out in the theaters, a bisexual-leaning girl I knew used the sex scenes as mental fodder for a week of fervid autoeroticism, and wasn't afraid to tell anyone. Obviously that's the memory that I tie most closely to Desperado.) The third movie in the series came out last year, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which I'll probably watch soon.

El Mariachi isn't quite the classic that most make it out to be, and I'm surprised that it's as famous as it is. Maybe people were just looking for a Spanish-language film to hype up during the independent film boom? it's certainly watchable, but the writing and production values are well below an 80s TV show. Good effort, but nothing to write home about. Kudos to whoever recognized Rodriguez's talent--it definitely shows up in later work, but you'd never guess it from this. I also don't think it's that violent. It's supposed to be as ground-breaking as Pulp Fiction, but again, there's nothing really shocking--even for 1992.

Quick moment of nostalgia here... Though there's very little actual mariachi music in this movie, it reminds me of something. Back when I was in middle school, a friend of the family (originally from Mexico) had opened up a restaurant here in town. Granted, not in a great part of the city, but we'd all go there on Friday nights for delicious food and the kind of welcome and service that comes with knowing the owner. Every Friday and Saturday, they had a mariachi play live music. Just one guy with an acoustic guitar, but he had a beautiful voice and was a skilled performer. I don't really like recorded mariachi music (it always sounds cheesy, but does add something to the atmosphere of your generic Mexican restaurant), but I love it played live. Even better if you've got a full trio or band. Alas, the restaurant has been closed for years, but I've still got the memories.
Movieblogging: Monsters, Inc.
The second feature of Friday evening's festivities was Monsters, Inc. (2001), #155 on the IMDB Top 250. I had to admit that I'd never seen it, despite having lots of people highly recommend it, including my cartoonist uncle. He's a pretty mild guy, but said I was nuts for not having seen it. Mea culpa.

This was an amazing movie. From a technical perspective, flawless. But like all of the Pixar features, the story and voice work were good enough that you barely paid attention to the little details of the animation, or even cared that it was computer animated instead of hand-drawn. Really great voice work from all the actors involved, including whoever did the voice of "Boo", the little girl. She almost never uttered an actual word, but conveyed a lot of realistic emotion through non-verbal means. Looking at the actual credit, I see that they recorded the sounds of a real 2.5 year old girl. Naturellement...

Obviously I'm the last person in the world to see this, but am still noting it here out of a commitment to document all of the movies I watch. I decided to stop the bookblogging feature--mainly because for me, reading a book is an entirely separate act from working on the computer. It's nearly impossible to do both at once. (That's the main advantage to blogging about movies--I can do it while watching and fully concentrate on both activities, often a third or fourth if necessary. Thus I feel I've made productive use of my time rather than just passively watching a movie.) And I've also gotten used to reading physical books as one of my only escapes from the tech world. I read in the bathtub, read while I'm eating, or read while I'm waiting for the laundry to dry. If I come across something really odd or noteworthy, I'll make a post about it, but it just feels strange to write about the one or two books I read a week.
Movieblogging: Loony Tunes: Back in Action
The first of two movies I saw last night over at The Ringbearer's place, with La Professoressa joining us for the first time... Loony Tunes: Back in Action (2003). All in attendance were animation fans with low standards, open minds, and solid doses of alcohol in our systems. Thus it was a lot of fun.

I'll admit that I still haven't seen Space Jam, but I'll do so before I shuffle off this mortal coil. In the clips I saw, I didn't like the integration of animation and live action. It looked... off. Not as good as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the last gasp of truly amazing purely Western traditional animation. I'm also not a basketball fan. I admire Michael Jordan for being a decent and productive human being despite his wealth and fame, but I'm not a big enough fan to make me watch it for that reason. But the combination of animated and live characters works much better in this film. Shadows, shading, interaction, sight lines, etc., are all much more professionally handled. And the subject matter was a lot more interesting (for me) this time.

Moreso than usual, I will say little or nothing about this film, because all of the cameos and surprises (both live action and animated) are a sheer joy. I will only say that, even though I'd read about it before, the scene with Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs and Daffy through the Louvre was a stunning accomplishment. They went slightly further than necessary in explaining some of the references, but it was still great. It's amazing because there were a million other subtle jokes and visual cues that only a dedicated freak would catch or understand. I'd really like to see how kids reacted to it--I can't imagine they'd pick up on more than a quarter of what was going on. Maybe that's what made the movie so much fun; it operated on multiple levels, much like the golden era of Warner Brothers animation.

Don't follow the link at top before seeing this movie, just watch it with a clean slate. You'll love looking for the cameos and staggering number of pop culture references.
40 Things A Drunkard Must Do Before He Dies
Via the indispensible Modern Drunkard Magazine, we have a list of important life goals for the dedicated drinker. To be honest, most of these strike me as stupid or irresponsible, and I fear for the fact that some college student isn't going to realize the HST-style humor involved here and use it as a roadmap all in the space of a single year. Also, I, like most rational people, really don't enjoy being full-on drunk, and it's something that should only be done once a year or so, and only in the company of good friends who can keep you from killing yourself by doing something stupid. That being said, I'll admit to my accomplishments from this list, with explanations:

4.) Dance like a fool in front of a large hooting crowd.
I won't get into too many specifics here, but I was recently at a function that required me to dance. To demonstrate to my dance partner for the evening how utterly horrible I was at the activity, I performed the Elaine "thumbs and little kicks" dance from Seinfeld, followed by a bit of the "Putting on the Ritz" dance done by Peter Boyle in Young Frakenstein. Though in my defense, no one aside from the young lady in question noticed, and she laughed. Frankly, a bunch of the middle-aged folks present were the most obnoxious, and some of the first to get forcibly expelled for being too drunk. (I left mostly sober and completely under my own power, thank you very much.)

16.) Get drunk with your father.
Not really intentional, but I've been to several heavy wine-drinking events with him. In fact, that's where I spent the night before my 21st birthday. Just the two of us sitting down and drinking through the evening would be weird, creepy, and sad.

18.) Visit the source of your favorite beer, wine or liquor.
The Guinness brewery would be awesome, but I don't really play favorites. I've been to several vineyards, wineries, distilleries, and breweries. Aside from the free samples and bragging rights, they all tend to run together after a while.

19.) Drunkenly watch the sun come up with your best boozing buddies and a bottle.
This was completely unintentional, and the only time I ever drank for a long period of time without stopping. Amazingly, the only thing I paid for all night was a cup of coffee during a little time spent sobering up before driving home. After work one Friday afternoon, a bunch of us walked over to a nearby bar & grill for a meeting. But it quickly turned into a party. For those keeping track, I took my first drink at 6:00 p.m. Four hours later, we staggered out, immensely happy that a regional VP had shown up at the last minute and covered all of our tabs. One guy and I wandered over to a nearby coffeeshop to sober up. Upon leaving, we bumped into my Dad and a friend of his walking into the bar next door (different from the first bar of the evening). So of course we were invited in for a few beers. My friend and I then hobbled back to work to hang out and sober up enough to drive back to our respective homes. I got in around one in the morning... only to discover that my roommate was feeling lonely and bored, and met me with a bottle and glasses at the door. So we stayed up all night drinking and watching movies. At 6:00 a.m. (as the sun was coming up), I remembered that I was supposed to be at work in four hours, so I finished off the final beverage of the night and crashed in bed for three hours. Amazingly, I didn't have a hangover. I took a shower, showed up at work *on time*, and suffered no ill effects. However, I've never been interested in tempting fate like that again.

22.) Try at least one hundred different drinks.
I've had the classic set of cocktails, but aside from the standards, most are more for the sake of novelty than anything else. And I've had some gonzo beverages, like the cachaça, pistachio liqueur, and an amazing strawberry cordial. But where I've really racked up the numbers is in wines. In fact, I could probably score 100 separate beers, hard liquors and cocktails, with an additional hundred different wines. Go to enough wine tastings, wine parties, and your own educational consumption, and it adds up pretty quick. At the last such event, I had a glass or taste of 14 different wines, plus a port and a Scotch. That's 16 different beverages in one evening. I intentionally try to inject some variety in the routine... For that reason, I've got a nice little five year old temperanillo downstairs.

24.) Juice on the job.
OK, I'd never take alcohol to work or drink while actually on the clock. Unless it was just in my backpack because I had bought it while running errands and didn't want a homeless guy breaking into my car while at work. But I have had a few times when, pulling 12- or 14-hour shifts, I had to get away and grab a couple of beers or a margarita in order to stay sane and not beat the crap out of anyone. There was also one time--the office was closed, and I was with my boss. Breaking multiple office regulations, we drank tequila, smoked cigars, and he showed me his new (unloaded) handgun. I remarked that we represented the worst nightmare of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. A good laugh was had. But seriously kids, guns and alcohol don't mix.

30.) Go on a fishing trip with your pals.
You can't live in the South your entire life without doing this a few times... They don't mention it, but combining drinking with camping or canoeing is just as fun. Hunting, not so much. A splash of whiskey in the coffee at night is sublime, but otherwise, see the last sentence of the above paragraph.

32.) Learn at least one traditional drinking song.
I've known a few in my day, but like most folk songs, it's a dead art in the US. Really unfortunate. I have been known to break into German Christmas carols while drinking. I love foreign languages, but they become so much more fun when alcohol is involved. Once I had dinner in Italy with two Australian chicks and an Austrian woman, and the waiter was (obviously) Italian. Under the influence of gallons of delicious sangiovese, I kept switching from English to German to Italian. Of course my American girlfriend was with me at the time, so I also got to do a bit of translating when she got tired of talking to the Aussies.

40.) Go to your place of worship loaded.
Italy again, and it wasn't my place of worship. Not even my denomination. In the South, if you show up to church under the influence of the demon liquor, you're bound to end up locked in a closet somewhere in the basement and forcibly enrolled in a ten-week program of detox and exorcism. Anyway, same Italy trip as the last item, and I discovered that on Christmas Eve in Assisi, everyone hangs out in bars and restaurants (with lots of wine drinking and great food), and then at 11:30, the bells start ringing on the Basilica di San Francesco (St. Francis) at the top of the mountain. So you pay your tab, finish your drinks, and hike up the hill to attend midnight mass. A really amazing experience, and the alcohol was serving as more of a social lubricant than being used for the purpose of being a jerk or acting blasphemous in church, as I'm sure the 40th item intends. Every negative stereotype about Christianity falls apart when you have hundreds of people just chilling out and having a beautiful service in a five hundred year old church in the middle of the night.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Movieblogging: Billy Madison
Like a constant drip of water slowly eroding a stone, I'm grinding my way through the DVD collection... And so it comes to pass that I'm watching Billy Madison (1995). Though disliked by many, this is possibly my favorite Adam Sandler movie. Certainly it's the one with the hottest chick co-star, Bridgette Wilson. (Though admittedly, I can't see her now without marveling at her great comic performance in Love Stinks, perhaps the most bitter and cynical mainstream romantic comedy ever made.)

Why do I like it so much? The story arc is the closest Campbellian hero tale out of all of his movies. It also includes the perfect balance of seriousness and completely off-the-wall humor (cf. the penguin nemesis). The big musical number near the end is priceless, and the performances of the various kids are outstanding. Unlike most Sandler films, this one has a pretty weak soundtrack. The score is beautiful and fitting, but it's not loaded with the great 80s songs and rock anthems that we've come to know and love from his productions. It's also full of great moments--so even if you don't like the entire movie, there's a lot of hilarious individual scenes.

Everyone's seen this a million times, so I won't comment much on the plot... Suffice it to say that I'll watch damned near anything starring Norm MacDonald, Darren McGavin, Chris Farley, or the great Adam Sandler.
Movieblogging: Mona Lisa Smile
So in an attempt to understand what's going on in the minds of broads these days, I'm watching Mona Lisa Smile (2003). Yeah, I've poured myself a glass of weak-ass chardonnay and strapped on a pair of fake ovaries. In an attempt to get in touch with the Earth Goddess I tried to naturally commune with one of the dogs, but he bit the fuck out of my hand....

Sorry about that... I've actually been curious about this movie for quite some time, for two distinct reasons. One, it's supposed to be a decent female response to Dead Poets Society, and two, because it's supposed to represent a climactic showdown between Kirsten Dunst, Julia Styles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal in regards to who gets the La Prima actress status from Julia Roberts. (For my money, why should I be forced to choose? Let all the ladies in.)

I've got mixed feelings towards same-sex education... My inherent libertarian impulses, combined with my own solid experience in co-ed education, lean against the idea. However, I know lots of people who have been involved in the institution from all angles, and I see the benefits. Female students, in the absence of men, tend to excel in the areas of science and math; male students in the absence of women tend to do far fewer stupid things*, while excelling in the arts and literature. I'm happy to let the situation stand as is.

Anyway, this is a pretty damned good movie. I had reservations going in, but it's very enjoyable. Granted, I don't know what it's like to be an upper class white bitch in 1950s New England, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. (Had I been alive at the time, I would have been a cotton farmer in West Tennessee, a cotton farmer in Southeast Missouri, or some wastrel at any point along the nation's major highways or the world's major waterways.)

There is an absolutely phenomenal moment at roughly the 46:40 point, in which three actresses look at a Jackson Pollock painting. I have a deep love and appreciation for some modern art, yet find most of it completely bogus, and I've never manged to develop an affection for Pollock. But anyway, the three actresses are all standing a few shoulder-widths apart, and within a minute the depth of focus changes from one to the second to the third. It's an incredible shot, and really hard to pull off using traditional film.

*Though I've heard, from Catholic schoolboys all over the country, that one of the odd joys of such an education is that you can fart in class without repercussion. Not that I find such antics amusing, but from a biological perspective, it's better just to let it out. And in an all-male environment, no one tends to notice it or get freaked out. One of the many derogatory terms for a westerner in Kenya roughly translates to "person who wears clothes so tight that he can't pass gas".

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Movieblogging: Poltergeist
Ok, so I'm one of the last people on the planet who hasn't seen Poltergeist (1982). Bite me. As I've mentioned before, I was brought up to dismiss horror movies as pure nonsense--a strategy that sort of backfired, as my parents didn't realize that they were encouraging a future skeptic who would for many of the same reasons renounce a lot of religion by the age of 10. The only way I can enjoy a horror flick is if it's combined with humor or science fiction, it's a purely psychological terror, or is an old and established classic. At some 22 years old, I think Poltergeist qualifies as a classic.

I'm amazed that this is rated PG--I know it freaked out a bunch of kids I went to school with, and the early scenes of the parents smoking pot would have merited it an automatic R in today's world. (Hell, there's groups trying to get an automatic R rating for any instance of cigarette smoking in a movie.) And it's a Spielberg film--written and directed by The Man himself. I think I knew that at one point, but it had completely escaped my mind.

The first impression I get upon watching this is that any kid born in the last 10 years who sees this today is going to be completely confused by the opening shot as the TV station goes off the air and the "Star Spangled Banner" plays amid shots of the flag. I can't remember the last time I saw that on TV.

OK, I will admit that the little bucktoothed boy with blood all over his face, sitting in front of the TV and gazing wide-eyed in horror was a little creepy.

The scenes with the clown doll make me wonder if this movie, combined with possible exposure to Stephen King's It and the story of John Wayne Gacy a few years later, helped cement a massive fear of clowns in my generation? I actually kind of like clowns--I've known a couple of guys who went into the business, and had a deep love for the art form. I tend to think about the paintings of Red Skelton. Or about how if something goes wrong during a circus performance, half of the clowns are going to distract the crowd while the other half fixes the problem--often in the dark. (If a performer gets hurt, they'll drop the lights down, focus the spotlights on the clowns on the other end of the tent, and the show goes on.) A handy tip: if you're at the circus and the band starts playing "Stars and Stripes Forever", get you and your family out of the tent fast. It means that there's a fire, someone has been killed, or there's a dangerous animal loose. It's the signal for every circus employee to go on full alert. Orderly evacuations of the big top are quite difficult and often unnecessary, but in the rare occasion that the shit does hit the fan, you'd be well-advised to get out early. Hang around outside until things sound normal again, and ask the oldest, crustiest carnie on duty if it's safe to go back in yet. Don't make a scene, keep cool, and if the old goat says no, get your ass home.

Back to the movie... Perusing the IMDB info reveals that the little blonde girl in the film died in 1988 of a weird intestinal disorder, and the girl who played the older sister was killed in 1982 by a deranged boyfriend. Both girls were buried in the same cemetery in Los Angeles.

There's a bunch of other interesting stuff here, and this really is a great movie, but the most lasting impression for me will be that several of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes make a lot more sense now.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Movieblogging: Ginger Snaps
This is a movie that I've been wanting to see for a while now... Ginger Snaps (2000). It's on the movie channels all the time, but I've just never gotten around to it. Actually, I did start to watch it once, but fell asleep after the first five minutes. That was probably a bad idea, as I had weird dreams about Manitoba for the rest of the night. I'm not sure exactly where the movie is set, but it is considered one of the bigger Canadian films of recent times, managing to combine the always enjoyable elements of teenage girls, angst, and the werewolf mythos.

To those who eschew Canadian movies, I say, "Take off, hoser!" Canada, for whatever faults it may have, is still part of the Anglosphere, and is probably the closest relative to the US that we've got. And geographically, even from my position in the Mid-South, I'm closer to Toronto and Montre´┐Żl than I am to any location in California. A lot of geeks, nerds, and affiliated outcasts develop an affinity for British/Irish entertainment at some point in their lives; I think it's equally important, if not as popular, to keep up to date on Canadian and Australian/New Zealand culture (and don't forget the contributions of Hong Kong, India, and Anglophone Africa).

It's a little hard to describe this movie... Take a little bit of An American Werewolf in London, mix it with some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but make it as serious as Ghost World. It's not particularly scary, but it is engrossing. There's also an interesting--albeit odd--connection made between lycanthropy and menstruation.

The two girls who play the main characters are fantastic, though I haven't seen them in anything else. The younger sister is just awesome--most of the time she's playing detached sarcastic goth chick, but for several important scenes, she has a look of authentic terror on her face. Their mom is played by the always gorgeous Mimi Rogers (Tom Cruise's first wife), though she's the only actor/actress in the film that any American would recognize. A few of the others are vaguely familiar as minor characters in other Canadian flicks, but nothing worth looking up.

I won't say anything else about the plot... I find that I really don't like writing about the plots of movies. Mainly I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I generally find the other elements to be more important for my own jottings.
Movieblogging: Singles
Let's here it for spur-of-the-moment purchases from Blockbuster... Not only do they have a lot of reasonably priced used DVDs, but they've got a lot of under-$10 new discs as well. Most of the latter are crap, but it's definitely in your best interest to root around for hidden gems. I picked up two for $8 each--the first is the classic Singles (1992). I've always considered this to be the first--and perhaps the greatest--90s movie made. Set in Seattle right at the beginning of the grunge era, it follows a group of twenty-somethings who are all... single. In the 80s, a lot of such folks were ultimately pursuing marriage, but by the 90s, it was socially acceptable to remain single and frivolous until your thirties.

The movie is best known and remembered for its killer soundtrack. It's a Cameron Crowe movie (writer and director), and of course, he knows more about music than most musicians. Putting together the soundtrack for this movie was a major accomplishment, because music was changing quite a bit at the time. He managed to put together a set of songs that were well-regarded at the time, and more importantly, still sound great today, all without using a single song by Nirvana. Wow, that's like writing a book without using the letter e, and still having the book become a bestseller. There are only a couple that got any radio play, so the majority of the songs evoke the feel of that era, but you don't necessarily have any specific feelings or memories attached to them. In fact, the soundtrack was so good that I think it was far more successful than the movie, which was still a reasonably big hit in its day.

Of course, at the time, I was a junior in high school. I was also, in many ways, a reclusive weird monk. For some stupid reason, I listened to nothing but jazz and classical from around 1986 to 1995. Anything else I heard was purely by accident--either playing in the background, on the radio of a car I wasn't driving, in movies or commercials, etc... It was only through dedicated study later that I pieced together that missing decade. And it wasn't until around 1996 that I saw Singles that being the first year I had a TV and VCR of my own, and got to catch up on all of the dramas and foreign films of the previous three decades. Yes, I was a philistine.

I'm pretty sure everyone has seen this movie--and I'm sure that most of it didn't confuse it in memory with Reality Bites like I did. It's yet another great Crowe film: amazing cast, writing, directing, music, everything... It's particularly nice to see Campbell Scott in a major role. You don't see him in too many movies, but he's a good actor. Luck for us, he's going to be in five movies this year. And who can't watch Bridget Fonda and Kyra Segwick without smiling? Matt Dillon rounds out the rest of the big guns, but there are a lot of good second-tier actors in this: Bill Pullman, Eric Stoltz (of course), Jeremy Piven, and of course, the classic cameo by Tim Burton.

The Cameron Crowe-directed movies and the films starring John Cusack pretty much cover all of the important life moments for those of us born in "Generation X". I've always hated that term, but at least there's a group younger and stupider than that for us to kick around. At least we went out and made something of ourselves--screw Al Gore, we made the Internet explode in the 90s. And it was our generation's programmers that did the heavy lifting to make sure that the Y2K bug fizzled and died. Generation X completely shook up the worlds of music, movies, and literature. Can you imagine a bunch of independent films sweeping the Oscars during any year in the 80s? Granted, the 90s and beyond are known for a bunch of stupid and self-indulgent crap, but let's face it, everyone had access to more choices in all forms of culture in that decade than in any period before, and it was precisely a collective wave of eclectic tastes that drove that trend. A lot of it had to do with popular forms of communication moving from a push/broadcast mentality to a decentralized pull mentality. People went out and looked for stuff they wanted, and for the first time were able to find it. In abundance. And share it with friends. And have overlapping social networks that led to a lot of interesting memetic transmission.

Ahem... Er, yes... most of this post has been done as a parody of the worst of navel-gazing 90s entertainment. Sure, that's the ticket. Certainly I didn't get caught up in a wave of alternative-era nostalgia.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Movieblogging: Mr. Deeds
Another review from the DVD collection... Mr. Deeds (2002). This didn't fit with the previous movie at all, but after a short break, my viewing companion chose it, and a good time was had by all.

Adam Sandler movies can be broken down into two categories: screwball comedies with a minor love interest, and romantic comedies with a few well-placed zany elements. The former group is comprised of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Little Nicky; the latter, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, and the new one, 50 First Dates. The first group is for teenage boys and guys with a juvenile sense of humor, and the latter group can actually be enjoyed by women as well.

Out of all of his movies, this is probably the sweetest one. It's a remake of an old classic, and while there are a few off-color jokes or moments of surreal comedy, it remains surprisingly tame and gentle. There's not that many movies made these days that are sweet and still watchable. A movie doesn't have to be racy and violent, but a lot of the movies that attempt the gentler path are either geared towards little kids, old people, or religious TV channels. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is another example of a recent movie that got it right.

The plot is well known by all, and easily predictable, but it's still fun. My favorite parts of the movie are the scenes starring John Turturro as the butler and Steve Buscemi as "Crazy Eyes". Turturro especially makes the movie, and utters the most quotable lines in a goofy Spanish accent.
Movieblogging: Whale Rider
Belated posting on this and the next review. I saw these yesterday, but didn't get around to writing them up. The first feature of the evening was Whale Rider (2002), #208 on the IMDB Top 250. It's the story of a young Maori girl who will either save or destroy her culture. That sounds like a lot, but it's a complex movie. There are a lot of themes involved, and it's a story that's repeated all over the world as various tribes or societies have to choose whether to live in the past, fully embrace the future, or find some precarious compromise. I don't want to say too much about it--it's an amazing experience to watch the story unfold.

The movie was filmed entirely in New Zealand, but it's a completely different region from what you saw in the Lord of the Rings movies. These are the tropical coastal regions that look more like Polynesian islands. It received a lot of critical acclaim--and the lead actress, young Keisha Castle-Hughes, was nominated for Best Actress. It won the Audience Award at Sundance last year. It's one of those rare films where every element comes together perfectly: the setting, the casting, the music, the writing, the pacing, the cinematography. While watching it you'll feel as if you're really there. I highly recommend it, and I wish I had seen it earlier.

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