Saturday, December 30, 2006

the execution of a dictator, the death of a human being

well, i know i might be expected to write a title like that for a post like this, but in the frenzy of bloodlust that has accompanied the execution it actually seems inadequate to recall that vengeance serves no purpose of peace. this brutal man deserved to be made responsible for his actions; his victims had reason to expect justice; and if the waste of the war is to have any redemption, something needed to be done to show that those who would oppress other human beings as saddam did will not get away with it. but the manner in which saddam was tried and his life ended, and the way that the u.s. and u.k. administrations have responded evokes memories of pre-democratic mob rule. and for the u.k. foreign secretary to welcome the death penalty by saying that 'saddam has been held to account' is about as far from liberal values as this government has fallen. justice is not served by more killing. and the last time i looked, i thought the u.k. was opposed to capital punishment.

the vatican has reacted thus:

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi

"A capital punishment is always tragic news, a reason for sadness, even if it deals with a person who was guilty of grave crimes. The position of the Church has been restated often. The killing of the guilty party is not the way to reconstruct justice and reconcile society. On the contrary there is a risk that it will feed a spirit of vendetta and sow new violence. In these dark times for the Iraqi people one can only hope that all responsible parties truly make every effort so that glimmers of reconciliation and peace can be found in such a dramatic situation."

Friday, December 29, 2006

tell them who you are

i just saw a beautiful film about fathers and sons - 'tell them who you are' - a documentary about the cinematographer haskell wexler shot by his son. it's such a thoughtful and touching piece of cinema; and the bonus is you get to hear martin sheen talking about the meaning of life: to win our freedom on every possible level. it's so good i'm going to keep the dvd instead of selling it on ebay. and in these frugal days, that's saying something.


well, the year ends in 48 hours or so, and i don't plan to see any more new movies between now and then, so i thought i'd revise my list of the films of the year - would love to hear what you think - especially if you want to add any others:

Honourable mentions:

bobby – because it tries to make a case for non-violence.

an inconvenient truth – because it is a serious attempt at changing the world, and manages to make a lecture by al gore one of the most cinematically exciting things ever filmed.

casino royale – because it did everything a bond film should, but was also entirely original at the same time; and because I was able to enjoy it without ignoring the moral questions I have about being entertained by killing.

borat – because it made me laugh more than I had expected.

superman returns – the best kind of tribute film; one made with such care and attention that it makes you feel nostalgic for your childhood.

walk the line – it feels like you imagine Johnny cash must have felt, and has the courage to end early in his career. And it was the perfect pseduo-date movie for me.

paradise now – there has never been a film about the Palestinian people that takes the injustice of their circumstances and the manipulation of some of their political masters so seriously.

Miami vice – Michael Mann still knows how to shoot blue better than anyone else; you could watch this with the sound off.

pavee lackeen the traveller girl – a terrific irish film about travelling people, made with non-professionals, and revealing the tragic underbelly of this abused people.

the science of sleep - crazy like dreams, beautiful like love, sweet like candy floss, and alive like my own heartbeat

20: United 93 – a unique kind of dread settled over the audience when I saw this docudramatic representation of what may have happened on board the one plane that did not hit its target on 9/11; and the response of the passengers elicits fear and respect rather than vengeance. It also serves as a necessary corrective to the somewhat muted acknowledgement of the horror of what actually happened that day.

19: Flags of our fathers – one of the most thoughtful and provocative films ever made about war. Like listening to an old man’s wise conversation.

18: babel – while it’s preachy in places, inarritu and arriaga’s film about the gaps in human communication shows magnificent ambition; and it’s the only place you’re likely to see Moroccan farmers outside an arthouse (or, I suppose, morocco).

17: good night, and good luck – brilliant drama, unfolding slowly in crisp black and white, and over in less than 90 minutes, but announcing a devastating critique of the current US administration and the politics of consumption.

16: the beat that my heart skipped – a starkly beautiful remake of james toback’s ‘fingers’ – a hit man who plays classical piano; there are echoes of greatness in this film.

15: the queen – a story that humanises one of the most unreachable people on the planet.

14: the departed – it’s scorsese’s greatest hits, but who doesn’t want to listen to them again?

13: the prestige – a dark story about ambition and magic, and the lengths to which people will go to conquer the competition – especially if the only reason they have to succeed is that they know there’s somebody better than them. It feels like an epic, because these themes are just about as substantial as you can get.

12: grizzly man – Werner Herzog makes a film about someone we might otherwise consider his alter ego – Timothy Treadwell, whose concern for animal welfare was confused with his thirst for fame. It’s an incredible piece of accidentail cinema.

11: stranger than fiction – what a charming film about how we narrate our own lives; every day we are granted the choice to be heroic.

The rest of the list I’ll let speak for itself – would love your feedback:

10: a scanner darkly

9: cache

8: munich

7: syriana

6: the three burials of melquiades estrada

5: junebug

4: the new world

3: the fountain

2: little miss sunshine

1: children of men

three I (still) haven’t seen that may change the make up of this list once I get around to it:
prairie home companion
little children
pan’s labyrinth

having said this, more than anything I saw at the cinema, I’ve been thrilled by watching the first two seasons of homicide on dvd – maybe the most serious and compassionate drama about murder ever made.