Random Monday Afternoon Film Notes

Just some quick notes on a couple of New York Times film articles. First, in “Revisiting Rwanda’s Horrors With an Ex-National Security Adviser,” John Darnton writes about watching the upcoming Terry George film, Hotel Rwanda (IMDB), with Clinton administration national securtiy advisor, Anthony Lake, who provides an overview of the Rwanda genocide crisis, and offers a fairly chilling reflection on how the UN failed the Tutsis and moderate Hutus (it’s estimated that extremist Hutus murdered over 800,000 people). Also noteworthy: Darnton interviews Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero and hotel clerk whose story the film depicts. But what I find most compelling about Lake’s viewing of the film is his observation that the current situations in Sudan and eastern Congo are echoes of what happened in Rwanda, and while the film almost certainly began production long before the crises in Sudan and Congo became public knowledge, Hotel Rwanda looks to have the potential to spark discussion about the US and UN response to what’s happening.

The Times also has an interesting article about the disappointing domestic box office for 2004, citing estimates that cinema attendance declined a little over 2% this year. The article features the usual hand-wringing about bloated budgets for bad scripts (Troy, Catwoman, Hidalgo), with one critic noting that if it weren’t for Mel Gibson and Michael Moore, 2004 might have been a very bad year at the box office, though I think their effect on ticket sales is probably slightly overrated.

Finally, while watching On the Waterfront, I saw a preview for Rodney Eavns’ Brother to Brother, which looks fairly promising (IMDB), a feature film about the Harlem Renaissance (check out Manohla Dargis’s generally positive review). Also caught a preview for the re-release of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and I can’t wait to see the film (the preview itself was worth the cost of my movie ticket).

As I mentioned earlier, I had mixed feelings about watching Waterfront, but it is a very pretty film with its black-and-white cinematography. The lighting transforms Brando’s Terry Milloy into a virtual saint for testifying against the corrupt crime boss, Johnny Friendly (a great performance by the underrated Lee J. Cobb). But it’s hard to shake my ambivalence about Kazan’s politics. Still very glad I was able to catch it on the big screen.

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