02 October 2010

Weekend Updatery

  • Germany celebrates twenty years since reunification on Sunday. Equally important — if less celebrated — the First World War will finally be over... as Germany makes the last of the reparations payments required by the Treaty of Versailles (the treaty that enabled the rise of the politician depicted — sort of — in the embedded video). Worse, the Treaty of Versailles converted an "armistice" into a "cease fire," as it guaranteed that a not-much-later German government would take things out on France.
  • More media idiocy: A CNN anchor is fired for comments implying bigotry and that the media is controlled by Jews. What makes this worse is that he's an experienced anchor, who should know something about ensuring that soundbites are close to their context if he didn't really mean to be expressing bigotry (or about hiding things if he did)... and that the fired anchor is Hispanic, meaning that the entire incident is going to be taken as proof of various bigoted assumptions by others. Further, it wasn't even about a true "news" figure — just about the most-trusted news broadcaster in America (who happens to be a comedian).
  • A short film review on a matter of some controversy: Don't waste your money on going to the cinema to see Let Me In, the Hollywood remake by J.J. Abrams-protege, Cloverfield-directing Matt Reeves; stick, instead, to the Swedish-language Let the Right One In. Both films deserve a much more intimate showing than a movie theater anyway — they're best viewed in a darkened room on a DVD. The Hollywood version does have better visual production values (big surprise, considering the difference in budgets... and totally irrelevant to the type of film it is) and better acting by the children. The Swedish version is superior in every other way.

    I have two peeves in particular with the Hollywood version. First, the soundtrack really, really sucked. Although I appreciated the use of appropriate BÖC songs on occasion, the rest of the music was trite, hackneyed, and too loud; clichéd "atmospheric" sound effects dominated over the visual, while simultaneously failing to portray any background at all (for example, every time Owen is in the locker room, there's no sound from anyone else in that locker room off camera... indicating that Matt Reeves has, perhaps, never been in a US-public-school locker room); and there was never any sense of place in the sound quality, such as the slight echo one expects in the locker room or the faint equipment background noises in the hospital. Second, and more damagingly, the Hollywood version forgets about the adults after the first twenty minutes in favor of playing up a misinterpretation of R&J (which, in the end, is about the adults and their constraints and expectations — not about Romeo, or Juliet, or the relationship between the two), and misses more opportunities for either remaining faithful to the novel or expanding upon it than I can count conveniently. For example, the Hollywood version forgets completely about Abby's origin, not providing even the two-seconds-of-screen-time hint that the Swedish film does of a major theme in the novel... preferring, instead, to focus on what subconsciously pedophilic S&M dorks in H'wood think will sell.

    Let Me In isn't precisely a bad film as much as it is a horrifying disappointment. It's a lot better than any other horror-oriented film out of H'wood thus far this year, but that's an awfully low standard. It will probably help Chloe Moretz's career in the long run, as she does not give in to the obvious temptation to play her part broadly, and demonstrates that she can act with body parts other than her face and hands. It might convince people to go rent Let the Right One In on DVD, or read the book (which, admittedly, is not a very stylistically graceful translation). But the H'wood version was not worth doing on its own... and particularly not with the number of small cultural errors it makes that demonstrate that this was a rather sterile reenvisioning of 1983 by someone who has only a child's recall at best.