Un Dia Sin Sexo

[Screenshot]Un Dia Sin Sexo is a moderately satisfactory sex-farce comedy. It feels mostly organic, delivering a fair bit of novelty in characterization and situations while remaining at core realistic. Despite all this praise, it’s also quite forgettable: I found myself with little to say for or against it in this writeup. It’s enjoyable but ephemeral, and the multitude of partners the story tries to follow makes it at times feel a bit too diffuse.

See also: IMDB.

Razor Eaters

[Screenshot]Razor Eaters seesaws between a couple of ideas. It clearly wants at time to engage concepts of righteous anger much like Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei, but it never really gels, since it can’t figure out itself whether it wants to present its eponymous gang as a vigilante group or a bunch of cut-rate thugs. Graft this incompatibility of themes onto a wholly uncompelling police-investigation story and a videography conceit which seems to have been introduced only to justify shooting on cheap film, and you get a rather muddled mess which occasionally seems like it’s reaching for something better.

See also: IMDB.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Graham Greene is an excellent writer, and one of my favorites. Somehow I managed to avoid reading The Heart of the Matter until recently, because I’d gotten the impression that it was pretty awful along the same liens as The End of the Affair.

It is in fact a not-very-good book. It starts out promisingly: a civil servent, determined to behave well and do the right thing, finds himself slipping inexorably into corruption. This could be the basis of a pretty good Greene-flavored moral story. Then it takes a left turn into crazy Catholic-theological-mechanics territory, so abotu a third of the book is navelgazing about confession and states of grace and (to an alarming degree) Communion. This worked in The Power and the Glory because the character in question was so instrumentally involved in the sacrements and so very flawed. It’s hard for a non-Catholic to care, though, when the character who is doing all the soul-searching and agonizing is so remote from the Catholic mechanisms he’s spending so much angst on.

It could actually have been a decent book, if it’d focused less on Mortal Sin and more on good old-fashioned human guilt.

See also: Wikipedia.

21

[Screenshot]After reading the book, I kind of had to watch this movie. It is OK in its blandly Hollywood way, I guess. It cuts a lot, and never feels properly intellectual (the characters in Bringing Down the House felt a lot like authentic clever college students; in 21 everyone was trying a bit too hard to be clever). It pushes together a lot of bits which push things over the edge of verisimillitude (the shadowy antagonist in Vegas and the outbreak of violence in Louisiana were both plausible in the book; conflating all of these led to a type which simply doesn’t exist.

The acting was kinda adequate, although I don’t think I’ve ever been in an advanced numerical methods class where everybody sits around stony-faced as a professor explains the Newton-Raphson method, but that’s me nitpicking at the hing here which sounds ridiculous from my specialty. Anyways, the whole thing came across as essentially another summer thriller, which is disappointing: the original story had some life and charm, and this film really didn’t.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

Bringing Down the House is a book which swept nonfiction booklists a while back, and as an MIT graduate, I found myself occasionally asked if I knew “those guys” (I didn’t; they were before my time, and in different social circles). I only had a vague idea of what those guys actually did, so I finally read the book to find out.

It is enjoyably written and a fair page-turner. It’s apparently been to a certain extent exaggerated and simplified for drama and readability, which is a bit of a pity, but it at least stays on the right side of verisimillitude. It doesn’t talk down to the audience, but does explain enoguh that we feel as clever as the folks in it (a side note: Vegas actually loved this book, because it brought in waves of rubes who figured this was easy). It’s well-written and entertaining. The MIT connection is sort of unusual, to my mind, and I’m glad to have read it for that reason alone: the circles I moved in at MIT were pretty damn clever but a lot more flamboyant about it. It seems almost mercenary, when compared to a really clever hack, to do this kind of thing. But, hey, it’s a place of many cultures and many perspectives, and I bet even many folks within my culture would disagree with my assessment.

See also: Wikipedia.

There Will Be Blood

[Screenshot]This is an unremittingly bleak film, and awfully long for one in which there’s little to keep the viewer engaged. I think much of the problem is the lack of sympathetic characters: pretty much everyone emerges early as either avaricious or straight-up psychopathic, or in Plainview’s case, both. There is much scenery-chewing. The only character one actually comes close to liking is H.W., and he emerges as an actual character far too late in the film to help much.

I think I may have been expecting something else. A lot of the summaries I saw suggested that it would have to do with the dual forces of religion and industry tearing apart the community, but the community is conspicuously absent. There’s no locals judging either Sunday or Plainview, just them sniping at each other. I think we could have done with some of the locals as major characters. If nothing else, they’d at least be sympathetic.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.