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Aggressives, The

The film shows these women in a brutally honest way, not trying to portray them in a kinder light. Some of them deal drugs, one is in prison for part of her scenes, and most of them have disdainful attitudes toward other women (especially their girlfriends).

They all vehemently protest that they don’t act and dress like men because they want to be men; they do it because that’s what they want to do, what is most comfortable for them. You dress like a man, you talk like a man, you walk like a man; you’re a duck.

Five of the six women are black, while the other is a Chinese woman who prefers to be with black women. The U.S. Department of Justice has issued figures that black men are six times more likely than white men to enter prison during their lives. Other similar statistics are just as bleak. You’d think there’d be enough black men selling drugs and going to prison, they don’t need women to dress up like men and do it too.

Come on ladies, you can do better.

Okay, I’ve got to curb myself before I get into a personal criticism of their lives, instead of the film. While the film focuses on these aggressive women, it doesn’t ignore the other women people in their lives; their mothers and girlfriends. Both mothers interviewed reluctantly accept their daughters’ lifestyles, but hope that it’s just a phase they’ll grow out of. Did Anne Heche really give parents everywhere this fleeting hoper I mean, people grow out of a hairstyle, out of a pair of jeans, out of peeing their bed; not so much their sexual orientation.

The only truly inspiring woman in this film is Kisha, a lovely Latina who works as a messenger when she’s not trying to succeed as a model. Kisha emanates strength and attitude, but isn’t afraid to also show her feminine side. While all the other women say they’re just being themselves, Kisha is the only one I actually believed. The others all seemed to be imitating men. You don’t need to pass for a man to be the one in control of the relationship, to be the one wearing the pants. Hell, I wear the pants in my relationship in a cute skirt and heels.

While “The Aggressives” is a unique film that documents a part of the lesbian culture most people are unaware of, it isn’t much more than that. Peddle doesn’t try to push any agendas, he presents these women for who they are, and lets them speak for themselves.

Rating: C+

Nine Lives

As I mentioned, the movie tells 9 stories that range from somewhat decent to nauseatingly boring. One tells the story of a woman convict who gets pissed when she can’t talk to her daughter. Another tells the story of a pregnant woman who runs into her ex at a grocery store. There wasn’t one single story I was interested in. During each one I found myself counting down the minutes until it was over.

To illustrate, we’ll take the story of “Samantha.” Played by Amanda Seyfried, (Woot! Lilly Kane in the house!) Samantha is the composed daughter of Sissy Spacek and some gimpy dude in a wheelchair. (Seriously. They don’t even tell you what he’s got. I’m guessing it’s degenerative, but come on, I’m not a doctor). Her scene consists of her talking to her dad, then getting called in to talk to her mom in another room. Mom wants to know what dad said. She tries to do her homework, then dad calls her to ask what mom said. And it keeps going back and forth and back and forth, and they go on and on about “oh you’re so wonderful for staying here instead of going away for school” and “oh you hold the family together” and Sissy keeps telling her how much she loves her. It felt so forced and phony I had to stop myself from gagging. Poor Lilly.

And don’t get me started on “Lorna.” Played by Amy Brenneman, the woman goes to the funeral services of her deaf ex-husband’s wife, and then screws the guy in the other room. “Holly,” played by Lisa Gay Hamilton, returns home after a falling out with her father, and then freaks out and goes off the deep end. You’d think the dad had raped her or killed her mom or smacked her around a bit, rightr All I remember is her complaining that her dad had slept with another woman. You’re gonna kill yourself or your dad over thatr Holly Hunter is wasted as “Sonia,” who has a dick of a boyfriend.

The only character I cared an ounce about was “Camille,” played by Kathy Baker. Camille is in the hospital about to get a boob lopped off, and she’s pissed off. She shows emotions. She gets mad. She curses out her poor put-upon husband. She’s the only character who felt real; who felt honest.

I think your reaction to this film will depend on who you are. If you’re the kind of person who can sit still and stare at the wall and be entertained for 2 hours, have fun with this one. I need stimulation. I need great dialogue. I need a story, damnit. I mean, even if you can’t provide all that, you can at least provide cute guys.

Rating: D+

Born into Brothels

The real stars of this film are, of course, the children who live in the brothels. These aren’t perfect children, and the filmmakers don’t attempt to paint them as saints. They have faults, they have weaknesses, and they are each unique in their own ways. Each of them wants a better life. It’s as simple as that.

There isn’t a lot that I can say about the film that hasn’t already been said by people much more articulate than me. It’s uplifting, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s moving.

While it appears like there are a lot of special features, they’re pretty brief. There is a small segment, “Reconnecting,” which meets up with the kids 3 years later. Much too short, maybe only 5 minutes. There are 7 sets of deleted scenes, including one entire kid that they mostly cut from the film. These were good cuts, the scenes were not necessary, and some just reiterated what had already been presented in the film.

There are about 19 behind the scenes photos by Zana, Ross, and some of the kids. Notably missing are the children’s actual photographs. I thought that would be a no-brainer, but apparently not. There’s a small blurb about Kids with Cameras, and also the Academy Award acceptance clip. A brief interview with Charlie Rose after the Oscar win, the trailer, and a few other trailers.

I saved the best for last. The two commentaries I had to wait a while to watch them; you can only watch the same movie so many times in one day. The director’s commentary with Zana and Ross was fairly run-of-the-mill, with some nice insight on things you already know or guessed. You can really see how much they loved Kochi though, and you can’t watch the film without falling in love with the little sweetheart. Their honest remarks about the children show that they really do care about them, and embrace their shortcomings.

The second commentary is video footage of the children watching select scenes from the film several years later. For most of it, they tease each other playfully, but when a serious scene comes on, they instantly become quiet, and remind each other that it’s all in the past, they’re so much better now. They way these children interact with each other is like that of a close-knit family; they’ve seen each other at their worst, and their best. These kids that have been given the fuzzy end of the lollypop in life, they show us that nobody should ever give up, that no situation is so dire that there is no escape from it.

Rating: B+

Oliver Twist

The cast is one of the main problems. While Barney Clark is a cute little kid, he isn’t Oliver Twist. Oliver’s a frail, sweetly innocent little fair-haired boy, while Barney Clark looks like the runner up in the Artful Dodger audition. I’d be willing to overlook the appearance if the kid had given a great performance, but he didn’t; he was just a kid. And during a few scenes he had this malevolent expression on his face that scared me more than Bill Sykes did. Jamie Forman, who played Sykes, had a simple objective with his character: terrify you. He didn’t. He couldn’t menace a feeble old woman.

I’m still conflicted about Ben Kingsley’s performance as Fagin. On one hand, I know he can’t compare to Alec Guiness in the same role in Lean’s version. On the other, just on its own, it wasn’t anything special. The same could be said for most of the cast; they all seem to be sleepwalking through their roles.

Getting to the actual story, this is where I had the biggest issue with this film. The beauty of a Dickens story is the complexity of the plot, the many characters that intertwine with each other and the fact that nothing happens by coincidence. This was nothing like a Dickens story. And yes, I understand that you can’t keep EVERYTHING in, otherwise the bloody movie would be over 10 hours. But there is such a thing as cutting out too much. Oliver’s backstory and the history of his parentage is completely cut; there isn’t even a hint of it. I kept waiting for them to get around to it, thinking they were just holding off until the end to discover it; nope. Another sad loss is Fagin’s speech to Bill, when he is leading up to what he’s discovered about Nancy. In the book (and previous films) it’s a great bit of dialogue, explaining that no one is expendable, used by Fagin to manipulate Bill.

What seems to be a common consolation in films lately, the set design, costumes and cinematography are all dreary and perfect for the film. The scenes of London really make you feel as if you are there and that this is exactly how it looked. As well as this was done, it cannot make up for the film’s other faults. And it cannot be allowed to. (Normal) People do not go to a movie to check out the costumes – they go to be entertained.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great one. Another director may be able to get away with putting out a movie like this and people could consider it good, but Roman Polanski’s got a higher standard to meet. As the little kid in front of me said as we were exiting the theater: “I didn’t like it.”

Rating: C-


The first story takes place in present day (back in 1916, anyway) and deals with the overzealous social reformers, who often inflicted pain and suffering through their “uplifting.” The second story deals with the massacre on St. Bartholomew’s eve, in France, and the clash between the Catholics and the Huguenots. The third story has Jesus. Of course it has Jesus. How can a film about intolerance NOT have Jesusr (More on that later.) And last, the last days of Babylon, where the people are torn between worshipping two different gods.

This last story, of Babylon, is a real triumph to watch. It could make a great movie itself, without all the other stories. Whyr Two words, yo. Mountain Girl. That’s right. Most of the characters don’t have names, and she’s one of them. A wild girl, who doesn’t want to get married, she ends up getting put up on a marriage auction by her brother who doesn’t want to deal with her anymore. She objects (to put it lightly) and is rewarded by the King (passing by) with his sign that she can choose to marry or not marry if she wants. That’s not the best part about Mountain Girl. She’s a Slayer! That’s right! She may not be fighting demons or vampires, but that girl is damned tough. When faced with insurmountable odds and imminent doom, she laughs and keeps firing more arrows at the enemy in defiance. Damn she was great. Joss Whedon would be proud of her.

Also, the Babylon sets are breathtaking. Sure, you’ve seen big sets and lots of people in scenes before. But you gotta remember, Griffith didn’t have CG and computers. All that you see on the screen in Babylon – it’s all real (for the most part). Thousands of extras, the walls of Babylon themselves, the battle scenes; he didn’t have the option to point and click his way through it.

The Jesus stuff was okay. It was kinda funny though. The way it was presented, all you see is Jesus giving this newlywed couple some free booze. Yeah! I could fall in line with a guy like that! And then they want to kill him because he gave away free booze. This could also encourage young adults to get into Jesus. Think about it. At a big kegger at the frat house, all the drunks could cheer “This one’s for Jesus!”

The Huguenots vs. Catholics bit was the weakest part of the film. Very little time is spent on this story, except to show that the King of France was a wimpy little dumbass who let his mommy railroad him into slaughtering a lot of people.

The “present day” story was also good. It showed how a group of women go after everything they deem bad, in order to “uplift” society. Griffith is very pointed here, saying that the only reason they do this is because they’re ugly bitches and no men like them (they show immense satisfaction when they have a lot of pretty young hookers arrested). But the stars of this story are the Dear One, a sweet young girl and The Boy, a boy. Because of the meddling of the “uplifters,” they lose their jobs, have to move to a crappy apartment, The Boy joins a gang (only to be saved and redeemed by the sweetness of the Dear One), they get married, he gets sent to jail, she has a baby, the “uplifters” take the baby away, and all sorts of grime happens.

I should also note that Griffith staple Lillian Gish is also in here, in between scenes, just rocking a cradle. No lines, you never see her, and nothing ever happens. That’s the kind of job I could do. “Lily, darlin’, all you have to do is come down for an hour, and rock a cradle.”

Now, to be serious for a moment, I get intolerance sucks. It’s bad, and it’s mean, and it’s low down and dirty. But did Griffith have to waste three of the stories on religious intolerancer Yeah, it’s killed a lot of people and caused a hell of a lot of problems in this world, (which is one of the reasons why I’m against any form of organized religion) but the film could have been a lot better if he cut out the Huguenots and put in something else. If someone were to remake it today, I think they could use a lot of what the Bush administration has done to us (and the world) as the plots to a few of the stories. Love each other, folks. It’s the only way to overcome intolerance. Just my two cents. And while it’s a little preachy, it’s definitely something you should see once.

Rating: B+