Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 August 2009

Two New Ones

If you care about movies, and you do, you know you do, you need to see District 9, the new film from South African director Neill Blomkamp.

It is, of course, important to remember that District 9 is kind of gross. In fact, it's actually pretty disgusting. I went with my roommates and both of them thought they would need to get up and leave the theatre at different parts of the film. District 9 is not for the weak-stomached.

But man is it good! Blomkamp's film follows a man who is working for a governmental coalition who is trying to move a group of aliens who have settled in a slum in Johannesburg. The movie begins by following this guy (who's kind of a loser) on his errands through the alien slum. Then, weird stuff starts to happen. I am not going to spoil this for any of you who haven't seen it, but for my money District 9 is the most intriguing, visually compelling, consistently inventive science fiction film since Danny Boyle's Sunshine.

Now, I have heard a lot of talk about how District 9 is a social commentary about (variably) racism, the third world, poverty, and government corruption. For me the film doesn't have much to say, really, about any of these topics. The aliens in District 9 are fundamentally (by which I mean essentially) different from the humans in the movie. They do not share DNA patterns. In this way, of course, the differences between aliens and humans cannot be likened to differences between humans of different races. I mean, white people are not biologically different from people of color. I guess for me District 9 doesn't need to be "about" anything. It is just a kick-ass film, filled with suspense and tension, interesting characters, loads of surprises, and an inventive plot.

I also saw the new Miyazaki film, Ponyo and was underwhelmed. Comparing Ponyo to Miyazaki's previous work is, I realize, setting the movie to a very high standard, but Ponyo just doesn't hold up. It is, of course, visually stunning, but the plot of the new film is basically Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. It differs here and there, but not by much, and I just never really dropped into it.