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Archive for September, 2009

TheClassA fascinating look at the struggle between a french teacher and his class of inner-city students, The Class is the story of teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau and is based on some of his real experiences in the classroom.  In this film he plays a version of himself as he negotiates an entire school year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.  Having been at one a time a high school teacher, I was surprised to see how much is the same in American.  These students in France, like in the United States, think they know everything and the teacher has to be on his toes constantly in order to gain any respect from the students.  It is a balancing act between letting the students be themselves and giving them tools that will further them in the world and in the specific case of this film, possibly even give them the opportunity to have different lives as adults (i.e. get out of their neighborhoods).  As a teacher, François cannot lose his cool (or take anything personally) for it will put in jeopardy any progress that he has made with his students.  Being a teacher is in many ways being like a tight rope walker; it’s a balancing act.

What I found fascinating and different from my experiences as a teacher versus those of François is the structure and discipline that was enforced in the french school.  The principal demands total respect from the students (you stand up when an adult enters a room, you don’t sit down unless an adult asks you too), yet has student representatives attend almost all of the meetings between himself and the staff.  At these meetings the principal contradicts himself by doing very little to reprimand the girl representatives who are not showing any respect to the staff.  The scene is interesting because it then creates tension between Francois and the girls once he is back in the classroom.  We empathise for Francois throughout the course of the film, applauding and cringing at his many daily decisions meant to keep his head and those of his students above water.  A fascinating look at a different side of french culture that we as Americans rarely see.  And a film that may bring educators from different countries closer together.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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The Informant! (2009)

The Informant

I have to start out this review by stealing one from my husband (not the first time) – go into this film thinking about the character of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) as the male Sarah Palin.  It will make the film that much more enjoyable.  Semi-charming in the business world, but completely ridiculous working with the big dogs.  And there’s corn!  Mark works in upper-management for ADM, a lysine developing company (you know, corn-syrup, the additive that is in all types of processed food), but finds himself being an at first un-willing informant for the FBI.  As time goes on, he starts to believe that he is a true secret spy, yes like 007, but better!  0014, that’s how good he thinks he is and you as an audience member can’t help but wonder what the heck is going on.  Slow at the beginning, The Informant! finds its footing about a quarter of the way through the film and once it does you try to sit back and enjoy the idiocy.  One often feels kinship with the FBI agent assigned to this case, befuddlement and confusion is part of that feeling of camaraderie.  3 and 1/2 out of 5 monkeys.

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Cold Souls (2009)

Cold-Souls__1250189912_4024

Thought provoking and reminiscent of one of my favorite films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Cold Souls is the fictional story of Paul Giamatii doing a parody of himself as an actor who is overwhelmed by the day-to-day emotions that he carries (brilliantly put forth in the first scene in which he is doing a monologue of angst ridden goodness) that he decides reluctantly to have his soul removed. What we get once the extraction is complete is a bad actor and a man who is only aroused by images and thoughts related to the opposite sex (they do tests right after the extraction to insure that sexual feelings are not hindered in any way, but bunny rabbit cuteness is taken away).  Paul realizes (with the help of his director) that his career will be ruined without a soul and so begins his journey of new souls, old souls and Russian Mules.  If nothing else, I believe that you as an audience member will go away from this film glad that your soul is intact and maybe appreciating your emotional side a bit more.  This is something that I enjoyed experiencing, but then again the idea of becoming an emotionless robot makes me think of Wall Street scoundrels and I just can’t go there.  3 and a 1/2 out of 5 monkeys.

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In the Loop (2009)

in-the-loop-pic-sm-777953528Smart and funny, In the Loop is the best political comedy I have seen in recent years.  With an improv-type feel that works well with the often foul-mouthed characters, this film will have you sprinting to keep up with everything that is going on, leaving no room for boredom.  My favorite character by far was Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the aggressive communications chief for the British Prime Minister, who makes everyone in the room feel like a small child.  His complete lack of respect for others around him is insanely amusing.  In order to continue with my commentary on more of the stellar characters in this film, here is a plot summary courtesy of Loop Film Productions Ltd:

“The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war. But not everyone agrees that war is a good thing. The US General Miller doesn’t think so and neither does the British Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster. But, after Simon accidentally backs military action on TV, he suddenly has a lot of friends in Washington, DC. If Simon can get in with the right DC people, if his entourage of one can sleep with the right intern, and if they can both stop the Prime Minister’s chief spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker rigging the vote at the UN, they can halt the war. If they don’t… well, they can always sack their Director of Communications Judy, who they never liked anyway and who’s back home dealing with voters with blocked drains and a man whose angry about a collapsing wall.”

Every time the character of Simon Foster (played by the always wonderful Tom Hollander) was on screen, I couldn’t help but cringe with the pain of his idiocy.  Gina McKee as July Molloy was also entertaining as she tried to play with the big boys while bleeding profusely out of her mouth.  Honestly, I don’t think there was a bad character in the film.  A must see, worth watching more than once though to get all of the jokes.  Layers of comedy to be had.  5 out of 5 monkeys

InTheLoop

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