Monday, December 19, 2005

Movies: I <3 Huckabees and Syriana

I got I <3 Huckabees from the Netflix queue, and gave it a spin. I have to say it was almost unwatchable, but something about it made me stick around because I felt compelled to see the end. I'm kind of glad I did, but I still feel a little shortchanged.

The movie basically centers around one guy and a whole lot of others thinking and considering one basic existential concept: that all things are in some way connected. In the end, he kind of realizes this because he's been railroaded into discerning meaning by two "existential detectives," who set him up on this little chase to begin with.

On one level, I have to applaud a film that calls itself existential and then buries its meaning - or rather offeres no concrete conclusions immediately. But when the action in the film itself almost contradicts that, where the main character is almost quite literally dragged kicking and screaming Fight Club-style to his moment of existential awareness, I have to wonder if the filmmakers themselves really believe what they're saying, or if they're doing it to be cool (or because they know they'll be able to sell a lot of tickets to philosophy undergrads).

At any rate, I liked Syriana a lot better. If I were forced to summarize this movie into two words, those two words would be not easy. It's not terribly easy to follow, and it offers no easy answers or analysis of what's going on, either. It's almost a fake documentary (there's a lot of handheld camerawork), and it takes a very cold and distant look at the facts. It's neither anti-oil or pro-oil (hell, it's not really pro or anti anything), and ultimately this is what makes it a successful movie. The plotline involving the poor Arab oilworker was the least developed and least successful, but added an interesting subtext to the rest of the film in the way it showed the "trickle-down" effect of the other actions.

I didn't have that "holy shit!" moment coming out of the theater like I did when I saw The Aviator last year, but I'll almost certainly pick this one up on DVD later for another run-through or three.

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