Sunday, October 28, 2012

Honor thy consumer.

I'm a teacher. At an under performing school. We meet about test scores all the time. Then, we meet again. And again. Slowly but surely, we've stopped beating around the bush and openly admit we are teaching to the test. And while sitting in a meeting Friday afternoon, I thought to myself why do we bother teaching history? Now, I realize that this is one of the dumbest questions to ask, but when the test concerns itself with only reading and math (and eventually science), at some point I wonder when they'll eliminate history class altogether. We could use that time to teach more reading. And math. And eventually science.

Hours later I found myself at Cloud Atlas, marveling at its greatness. And while my earlier question about the validity of learning about the past was more of a joke about the present, this film proves over and over again the importance and relevance of history. The tagline, Everything Is Connected, doesn't even begin to describe the intricately overlapping nature of The Wachowski's latest. If you consider yourself a fan of film, I think you owe it to yourself to experience this movie.

As briefly as I can summarize it, Cloud Atlas tells six stories simultaneously. Each take place during a different time period, yet all share an infinite number of themes and experiences. Love, grace, honor and bravery exist in each story, as do fear, greed, prejudice and cowardice. Additionally, the motivations and desires of certain characters can be traced back to those who came before them. It may sound convoluted and heavy-handed, but in the hands of capable directors and actors, it is a fascinating watch. Our post-movie conversation was as spirited as any recap I've ever been apart of. Flem was damn near shouting. Trust me, that's a good thing.

I tried to go in as blindly as possible for this one, but was very curious as to what the overall vibe was. For the cast and crew behind this one, the marketing push seemed alarmingly minimal. The few reviews I skimmed seemed to suggest it was bloated and hollow. I read an article on Forbes that seemed to suggest this movie was going to bomb because it was complicated. Now, I swear I'm not an uppity prick (look at 90% of the shit I watch), but this is going to be one of those movies that I will use as a barometer for others. You don't have to love it, that's fine, but if your reason for hating it is because it was boring or worse, it looked boring, then you might come down a peg or two. Or ten.

On that note, let's flash-forward to 2144, where the Yays and Boos have become soulless objects that everyone underestimated. As opposed to the whip-smart old timers they were in 2012, that everyone underestimated.

  • The whole cast is solid, but I want to single out a man I've loved forever, Zidler himself, Jim Broadbent. His performance provided much of the laughs in a rather serious film. Bonus points for looking like a strung out version of my grandfather.
  • I'm pretty sure being stuck in an elevator with Halle Berry is on par with winning the f--king lottery.
  • I think my favorite story was the one set in Neo Seoul in 2144. The future, though grim, was fascinating to look at. Hopefully my great-great grandson lives near a Papa Song's.
  • One of the best scenes? Has to be Tom Hanks vs. literary critic. Especially Broadbent's reaction.
  • Though I'd make a case for the standoff during the broadcast scene, too. Toned down, but badass nonetheless.
  • Official cause of accident: Pussy.
  • Soylent Green is people! Indeed.
  • Two words: Hugo F--king Weaving.
  • Though it seems like a precursor to the dreaded Gungan dialect, I loved the language used by the villagers in the last story. True true.
  • And finally (and seriously), I was simply awed by the seemingly endless amounts of connections and relationships that effortlessly flowed from one story to another. I'm sure I missed dozens, but what I did manage left me inspired. As a movie-goer, I was overjoyed with the experience.
  • Though it completely works for the most part, using the same cast in each story has some drawbacks. Major characters look unnecessarily weird. Turns out, only Japanese people should play Japanese people. Same goes for southern belles, Mexican Ladies and old people. Hugh Grant basically plays Albert Brooks.
  • Thanks for making me feel stupid, for say...the first forty-five minutes, or so. Okay, fine. Two hours and forty-five minutes.
  • And finally, me. I was literally yelled at for having my phone out at one point. My bad, but yelling? Chill out, man. We're on the same team. Trust me.
A few years back, another movie came out that was universally hated by critics and audiences alike. I, however had a blast with it, and enjoyed myself immensely. Again, I broke out the ol' barometer. And oddly enough, without knowing each other at the time, many of my friends felt the same way, though each was hesitant to admit it at first. That movie? Here's a hint: It too, was directed by The Wachowski's.

Don't stay away from this one too because the critics said so. Go see Cloud Atlas for yourself. Make up your own mind. Because...

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  Who said that one? Was it George Santayana, or Racer X? I always get those two confused.


  1. Nice review M. It’s a great movie, but not perfect. There was barely any emotional-connection I had with this movie and I don’t know why that was, but it just did not work out so perfectly for me in the end.

    1. You know Dan, I agree with you here. My brain was fully invested, but my heart not as much. I assume that was intentional, though.

  2. I am really looking forward to this movie, and I loved the point you made about history and interconnected stories. That is dead-on -- that's exactly why our kids have to learn history.

    I skimmed most of your review, because I want to come back and read/comment after I've seen the movie. :-)

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Stephanie. I certainly did.

      An old friend of mine went based on my recommendation and didn't like it at all. So, let me know what you thought - I'm curious.

  3. Darn... you've finally seen a movie before I did! I'm actually glad that there's minimal marketing for this. I know very little at the moment about the film, which is kinda rare nowadays. I saw the long trailer for it and still have know idea about it.

    1. m.brown 1
      asrap 97

      Well, I'm glad I've finally reached the win column. Means a lot.

      As for the movie, I hope I'm not overselling it. I really, really liked it, but I went in thinking it was going to be terrible (based on early word). Now, I might be setting people up for disappointment.

  4. Nice review! I must say this really doesn't look like my type of movie - I don't like unnecessary make up, connected stories in large quantities and extensive ensamble cast. I'm probably going to catch it on DVD, I really like Jim Broadbent.

    1. Yeah, that's three HUGE strikes against this one, definitely. Don't know how this will fare on the small screen, as I think the spectacle was part of the enjoyment.