Children of Men

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David Ehrenstein
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#51 Post by David Ehrenstein » Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:16 am

It wil get nominations in several categories but the film isn't "ennobling" enough for the Academy.

That the now famous long takes involve CGI effects and the like is no surprise. But what really marks them (particularly the attack on the road scene) is how they pull you into the action. I stoped thinking about the take and started thinking about the characters and what was happening to them almost immediately. Really accomplished stuff here -- not mere grandstanding.

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Jeff
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#52 Post by Jeff » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:49 pm

THX1378 wrote:Does anyone know if it's got a chance at getting nomed for best picture at all? I keep hearing from people that have seen the film at screenings that it's one of the top five films of the year, and I know Jeffery Wells is backing it as his pick for best picture. I'd like to think that between this film and/or Pan's Labyrinth would be a dark horse come oscar time over Dreamgirls or Little Miss Sunshine *shudders*.


As David said, it has absolutely no chance at best picture. Jeff Welles always puts his favorites in his "Oscar Balloon," in the vain hope that some industry folk will stumble through his site and decide to change their vote. He's got The Lives of Others there as well, and it has no chance outside of the foreign language category. The best picture lineup will almost certainly be The Departed, Dreamgirls, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen, and one of the following: Little Miss Sunshine, Babel, or United 93.

Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro have very, very small outside shots at nabbing the "lone director" slot in the best director category. Beyond that, Pan will probably be limited to foreign language. Children of Men has a pretty good shot at a nomination for cinematography, and I suppose Guillermo Navarro's work on Pan could possibly get noticed too. We could possibly see those two in the art direction category as well, but I think that there will be a lot of competition this year.

I'm not sure why I enjoy the competition so much. I've no expectations that the best films of the year will be nominated, let alone win. I think I just enjoy hooting at the Academy's poor taste.

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Galen Young
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#53 Post by Galen Young » Thu Dec 28, 2006 1:24 am

David Ehrenstein wrote:That the now famous long takes involve CGI effects and the like is no surprise. But what really marks them (particularly the attack on the road scene) is how they pull you into the action. I stoped thinking about the take and started thinking about the characters and what was happening to them almost immediately. Really accomplished stuff here -- not mere grandstanding.
I agree those scenes are very accomplished in can't-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen kind of way that is simply beautiful. Loved it even more after seeing it a second time today, but I still think the bit where --
SpoilerShow
(not sure if this a really a spoiler anymore, but) -- the bit where the blood splashes the lens --
-- seeing this the first time pulled me right out of the scene, making me wonder -- was it planned? Or was it an accident? Then moments later, when it magically vanishes, it just makes me more aware of all the mechanics involved... Still a breath-taking sequence.

Alfonso Cuarón talks about his long take influences in this interview -- he goes from Miklós Jancsó to Brian De Palma to end up with Andrei Tarkovsky.

And I just came across one of those 'for you consideration' ads in THR -- this is the image they should have put on the fucking one sheet instead of that stupid embryo crap. Great image from the film, kills me every time -- totally shocked that marketing got it right for this ad:

Image

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Kirkinson
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#54 Post by Kirkinson » Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:04 am

Galen Young wrote:Loved it even more after seeing it a second time today, but I still think the bit where --
SpoilerShow
(not sure if this a really a spoiler anymore, but) -- the bit where the blood splashes the lens --
-- seeing this the first time pulled me right out of the scene, making me wonder -- was it planned? Or was it an accident? Then moments later, when it magically vanishes, it just makes me more aware of all the mechanics involved... Still a breath-taking sequence.
I can totally understand this point of view, and I can imagine that many other viewers will have the same reaction. However, my response to this event was entirely different. Counterintuitively, it actually drew me deeper into the scene because I suddenly felt as though I was no longer an observer but a real participant in that universe, as though I was actually following behind Theo and there was a danger that I myself could be injured. It was as if that event gave me a sudden surge of adrenaline. This also meant that I was so involved in what was going on that I didn't even notice when it "magically vanished." I'll be interested to see how this plays when I have a second look.

Thanks for that link to the Greencine interview. That was a great read.

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colinr0380
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#55 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Dec 28, 2006 12:34 pm

The Greencine interview was great. I never thought I'd hear anyone talk about the film ZPG (Zero Population Growth) as an (anti-)influence! I think the last time it was on British television was at 3 in the morning way back in 1995, and I'm still kicking myself that I didn't keep the copy of it that I had recorded (especially now that ITV is running all night call-in gameshows instead of strange and exciting, if not completely successful, films!)

PsychoAU
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#56 Post by PsychoAU » Thu Dec 28, 2006 5:44 pm

Kirkinson wrote:I can totally understand this point of view, and I can imagine that many other viewers will have the same reaction. However, my response to this event was entirely different. Counterintuitively, it actually drew me deeper into the scene because I suddenly felt as though I was no longer an observer but a real participant in that universe, as though I was actually following behind Theo and there was a danger that I myself could be injured. It was as if that event gave me a sudden surge of adrenaline. This also meant that I was so involved in what was going on that I didn't even notice when it "magically vanished." I'll be interested to see how this plays when I have a second look.
I completely agree. It worked to draw me deeper into the scene. I thought it was great how the camera caused us viewers to feel like we were running for our lives right along side Theo.

Overall, I think the film was amazing visually. I had alot of problems with the weak script and the actrees they chose to play Kee. Her acting, coupled with her thick accent, made it very difficult for me to care for her. I think the same could be said for all of the supporting characters. I never felt any of them were particularly convincing. From Michael Caine to Julianne Moore, I just think they were weak. It could have been just the lack of strong writing for them, or it could be their weak acting in this one.

Yeah, I think the major thing that hurt this movie was the writing. None of the dialogue quite hit the mark with the urgency of the world's situation. It was only through Clive Owen's reactions and such that I even cared about what was going on at all. I never really felt what they wanted us to feel with every person knowing this is the last generation of humans. That despair and dread should have been much more intense than it was portrayed. I would have liked the movie to have been more Sci-Fi and less survivalist. Meaning, that I think they should have integrated the characters into the world more instead of pushing the context into the background. For example, love it or hate it, Minority Report did a great job at having Tom Cruise's "man on the run" thing integrate into the world around him by having the technology be an vital role to not only why he was running, but also how he could keep from getting caught.

I think without that kind of context, Children of Men just felt like people running with no real motivation and no real purpose. Yeah, they "say" why they are running, but we never really feel it.

Direction was great. Cinematography was excellent. Acting was rather weak (with the exception of Owen) and writing was atrocious. It was fun while watching, but nothing to remember after it is over.

Plus, the obvious reference to Pink Floyd was too strong of a wink to the audience. Without setting that scene within context, it just seemed horribly out of place. They were a bit too hip for their own good there.

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Barmy
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#57 Post by Barmy » Mon Jan 01, 2007 12:17 am

Thanks, Psycho, for a clear-eyed take.

Observations:

1. The notion that Cuaron is entitled to a presumption of genius because he has directed precisely one great film previously is laughable. And let's not mention "Solo", one of the worst films ever made.

2. To describe the script as utterly bereft of ideas is to damn it with faint praise.

3. The long takes were brill. Patently CGI, but whatever. That said, any comparison to Tarkovsky or Jancso seems extremely inappropriate.

4. Fundamentally, this is a rollercoaster movie for eggheads.

5. This is the sort of film so-called geniuses like Aronovsky should be making instead of filming closeted Australians floating in piss. The age of the philosopher-director is over.

B+

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miless
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#58 Post by miless » Mon Jan 01, 2007 12:22 am

Barmy wrote:And let's not mention "Solo", one of the worst films ever made.
I disagree with your assessment


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a.khan
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#60 Post by a.khan » Mon Jan 01, 2007 1:50 pm

Saw it today, and can agree with others about Cuaron's masterful direction and Lubezki's astonishing cinematography. Building on narrative subtlety, mood and credible performances from a blue-ribbon cast, what Cuarón has accomplished in “Children of Menâ€

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Oedipax
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#61 Post by Oedipax » Mon Jan 01, 2007 3:39 pm

a.khan wrote:Was anyone else here distracted when the Radiohead track was making the dialogue between Caine and Owen during the "I was going to tell you a joke" scene virtually impossible to hear? (By the way, I love Radiohead, so may be that explains it.)
It took me out of the movie a little bit I guess, since you don't hear Radihoead's music used in movies as often. Not nearly as distracting/embarrassing as the "What do you want to listen to? Barcelona? Radiohead?" scene in Vanilla Sky, though.

A similar thing happened for me a few minutes later when Michael Caine shows off the noise music - it was Aphex Twin mixed with something else, and I was left wondering about that for a moment.

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Galen Young
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#62 Post by Galen Young » Mon Jan 01, 2007 4:21 pm

I suppose this might not be that surprising to hear, but after finishing the P.D. James novel last night I am pretty shocked to say that thank god I didn't read the book first -- I'd probably have ended up hating the film! By comparison, Cuarón has turned it into a generic war film, albeit a very exciting one.

Looking at the choices the five screenwriters made for the film are quite bizarre, especially since the book is quite explicit about its politics and operates on a such a small human scale that it almost seems tailor-made for Cuarón's style. The book has a beautiful symmetry of character and plot right down to an amazing ending that is as devasting as Orwell's 1984. The film's ending by comparison has been, I hate to say it -- "Spielbergized".

This article in the Times touches the tip of the iceberg in the differences, but I have to wonder if Cuarón himself has gotten a bit of that "intoxication of power" in becoming a Hollywood director and inexplicably felt the need to blow up this intimate human story into a grand spectacle of war.

Has anyone heard what P.D. James thinks of the film? I'd love to know!

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Kirkinson
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#63 Post by Kirkinson » Mon Jan 01, 2007 10:23 pm

The first question I would ask (and I don't think I've read the answer anywhere) is whether Cuarón read the book at all. I know he never read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban but worked instead entirely from the script. I was under the impression Children of Men came to him after it had already gone through a few writers (and indeed the Times article mentions it was in "gestation" for nine years) so without one of those drafts in front of us there's no telling what was there and what wasn't when he saw it, unless he did go back to the book and start from scratch. I would be very interested to find out.

I have the novel sitting on my shelf. I had planned to read it months ago, but held off when early word started trickling in that the film was going to be as significantly different as it apparently turned out to be. I'll try to get to it sooner rather than later.

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Barmy
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#64 Post by Barmy » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:25 pm

How is this film a criticism of Bush? It appears that every country except Britain is totally f*cked. Life in Britain may be a bit dodgy, but at least it isn't a nuclear wasteland, and the Fugees seem desperate to stay. All thanks to the UK government's Bushy policies. Yay.

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John Cope
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#65 Post by John Cope » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:38 pm

Ha ha. Good one, Barmy. For some enlightenment here's what we've all been waiting for.

I found this comment particularly amusing as it seems designed purely to get a reaction (and it will):
Children of Men is only deep on its surface. Cuarón cannot edit scenes for rhythm or real feeling, which is what separates his eschatological set pieces from the wit of Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Minority Report or Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers—films that treated the experience of social collapse as personal, rather than a game.
Still haven't seen this yet but I like the idea (implicit in some critiques) that the infertility epidemic is just one more devastation, hence the emphasis on the absolute hopelessness. This feels like a much more bold and convincing argument than simply to posit that social ruin came about as a direct result of the mass infertility, a premise I find hard to accept. As a film of multi-layered reflections of kinds of despair the metaphor is more powerful and, in my mind, legitimate.

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Barmy
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#66 Post by Barmy » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:52 pm

Well, I agree that it is only deep on its surface. NTTAWWT. But for Armey to diss it as "maudlin" is hilarious. The ending is very Spielbergian (and lame).

PsychoAU
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#67 Post by PsychoAU » Wed Jan 03, 2007 6:35 pm

Barmy wrote:The ending is very Spielbergian (and lame).
Yep, if I didn't know any better, I would have thought this was just a dirtier A.I. :)

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jbeall
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#68 Post by jbeall » Sat Jan 06, 2007 12:21 am

Still haven't seen this yet but I like the idea (implicit in some critiques) that the infertility epidemic is just one more devastation, hence the emphasis on the absolute hopelessness. This feels like a much more bold and convincing argument than simply to posit that social ruin came about as a direct result of the mass infertility, a premise I find hard to accept. As a film of multi-layered reflections of kinds of despair the metaphor is more powerful and, in my mind, legitimate.[/quote]

I have to say, I didn't care for that review at all. Pretentious garbage from a 'holier and cooler than thou' alterna-mag.

Some of my faves:

"Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski does long Steadicam takes through bombed-out neighborhoods and on motorway shoot-outs that resemble the surreally distanced, uninterrupted viewpoint of a videogame. But these show-offy sequences come 16 years after Scorsese and De Palma pioneered them in GoodFellas and Bonfire of the Vanities. They're done to impress, yet are so slow and stagey that they're portentous."

---Uh, no, they're not slow and stagey. Nor are they particularly portentious--maybe the reviewer need a new thesaurus. And who cares if they come after Scorsese and De Palma? The long take in the car is phenomenal and gripping.

"His dystopia evokes the zombie film 28 Days Later,"
--utter bullshit.

Finally: never ever trust someone who uses the phrase "eschatological set pieces".

I thought the film was excellent, and if some of the dystopic plot elements were a little cliched, the manner of presentation (i.e. Cuaron's directing) was fantastic. I was really impressed by some of the shots.

I haven't processed the film completely yet, but I've thought about it enough to disagree vehemently with the New York Press review.

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tavernier
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#69 Post by tavernier » Sat Jan 06, 2007 3:51 pm

That's the only reason Armond exists....so you can disagree vehemently.

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Highway 61
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#70 Post by Highway 61 » Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:50 pm

Art is useless? Maybe I just want to disagree because that's such a disheartening idea. Has anyone considered the reappearance of Guernica in the sewer at the very end of the film? Portions of the painting have been graffitied on the wall, a very blink and you'll miss it detail. While Huston may have collected masterpieces just for kicks, clearly Picasso's work means something to the poor and oppressed who painted it on the sewer walls. And what about Theo's mother keeping a replica of David in her bathroom? I'm pitifully uneducated about art, but clearly David and Guernica were deliberate choices. Clive Owen's character is named God and he lives with a statue of King David in his house. For those of you with a knowledge of art history, am I wrong in saying that Michaelangelo's statue represents (at least partly) fertility?

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miless
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#71 Post by miless » Sat Jan 06, 2007 8:37 pm

I disagree, extremely, with the notion that this film is Spielbergian in any way.
sure it has "that moment"... it's a little sappy... but then bam, you're back in the shit.
Spielberg would have added at least ten minutes to the ending (I'm thinking of Minority Report's terribly sappy ending here, and not AI, although that, too, is applicable) where everyone is happy and world peace is achieved.

I think that this was one of the best films of its kind, up there with Haneke's Time of the Wolf.

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toiletduck!
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#72 Post by toiletduck! » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:35 pm

Highway 61 wrote:Has anyone considered the reappearance of Guernica in the sewer at the very end of the film? Portions of the painting have been graffitied on the wall, a very blink and you'll miss it detail.
Fascinating! I took strong notice of the graffiti, but I associated it with cave paintings, a sign of society reinventing itself. I didn't see that it was Guernica -- thanks for that!

-Toilet Dcuk

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Saarijas
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#73 Post by Saarijas » Sun Jan 07, 2007 1:13 pm

Highway 61 wrote:Art is useless? Maybe I just want to disagree because that's such a disheartening idea. Has anyone considered the reappearance of Guernica in the sewer at the very end of the film? Portions of the painting have been graffitied on the wall, a very blink and you'll miss it detail. While Huston may have collected masterpieces just for kicks, clearly Picasso's work means something to the poor and oppressed who painted it on the sewer walls. And what about Theo's mother keeping a replica of David in her bathroom? I'm pitifully uneducated about art, but clearly David and Guernica were deliberate choices. Clive Owen's character is named God and he lives with a statue of King David in his house. For those of you with a knowledge of art history, am I wrong in saying that Michaelangelo's statue represents (at least partly) fertility?
Although I wouldn't consider myself any sort of deffinative source on art, David was original made to represent independence of the italian city states durring the italian renaissance. That David stood up to the much more power Goliath in the same way Michaelangelo felt the city states must stand up to the larger powers at be to keep there independence. And the Guernica was made in rememberence of the attrocious Nazi bombing of a Spannish town durring the Spannish Revolution. It is also inside the UN building in NYas a memorance of the horrors of war. So although I can see the point that David could represent fertility I think it was much more strongly pointed at war and violence. Which fits in with all the anti-bush memorabilia laying about and such.

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miless
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#74 Post by miless » Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:33 pm

Highway 61 wrote:Art is useless? Maybe I just want to disagree because that's such a disheartening idea. Has anyone considered the reappearance of Guernica in the sewer at the very end of the film? Portions of the painting have been graffitied on the wall, a very blink and you'll miss it detail. While Huston may have collected masterpieces just for kicks, clearly Picasso's work means something to the poor and oppressed who painted it on the sewer walls.
Picasso also makes another appearance in the bombed out building that Theo goes into (I believe it's on the second story by the stairs)

Guernica itself is about civil strife and oppression (The Spanish Civil War), so its inclusion, of course, is important.

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Polybius
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#75 Post by Polybius » Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:33 am

jbeall wrote:Finally: never ever trust someone who uses the phrase "eschatological set pieces".
Especially when they do it in praise of Paul Verhoven.

(Not that I want to open up that can of worms again...)

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