Lost City & Lost Spirit, Zed Renamed Z

DATELINE:  No Bomba Here

 Zed

An old-fashioned epic journey was once the purview of great films and studios. Think David Lean or John Huston. To tackle a grand mystery, the disappearance of an explorer and his son in the 1920s seems to be the stuff of legendary movies.

Lost cities and their discovery also play in the ballpark of great historical drama.

Yet, something may have become lost in translation when it comes to The Lost City of Z.

Without a doubt, many facets of the Percival Fawcett saga are well-produced, well-acted, and directed with an old-style elan by James Gray.

So, where did the audience become lost? Nowadays, your viewership is weaned on cartoonish plot-holes with noisy special effects, but this film resists the urge for going that way. It paid the price with quality unappreciated. This is not your father’s Indiana Jones.

The film is an adventure in the classic Royal Geographic Society tradition, perhaps better suited to a miniseries from BBC.

Fawcett’s most significant discovery was that the RGS was filled with racial prejudice against ancient tribal societies in 1910. Imagine that! Prejudice that South American natives might not produce a classic civilization thousands of years ago!

Brad Pitt originally planned to play the obsessed British explorer, but wiser heads moved on to Charlie Hunnam, who certainly has come a long way since the days of the British Queer as Folk cast. He is quite perfect in the role, even aging with subtlety from 1906 to the 1926 when Fawcett ostensibly disappeared in the jungle.

Perhaps the understated, stiff upper-lip manner is truly anachronistic and misunderstood, leaving audiences cold.

The best part of the film for us was the role of Robert Pattinson, lately taking secondary co-star parts, sidekick to the hero. He is a delight.

Here he may come across as the next Gabby Hayes, or Ralph Bellamy, but Pattinson’s transition from cute vampire to character actor may have just given his career a new, untold longevity.

By the wayside, snippets of familiar classical music are tossed around like rose petals, which may be the truly greatest criticism we can muster.

 

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Another Shot at James Dean Sixty Years Later

DATELINE:  James Dean as Backseat Driver

LIFE is unfair. Not life in general, but the 1950s magazine. It is the title of the latest attempt to depict James Dean, based on a couple of icon photos.

When you have a couple of offbeat artists like James Dean and Dennis Stock, played by Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson, it’s hard to tell where life begins and the movie ends.

If you were expected the fictionalized tale of Dennis Stock’s friendship with Jimmy Dean, you will be about as blindsided as Jack Warner’s friendship with James Dean. Warner is truly unlikeable in this movie—and so Ben Kingsley shines here.

There is no friendship between the photographer and the movie star. Each had mercenary and power trip reasons to team up for a few pictures at the Indiana farm and in the noir of Times Square.

The film is a calculated slice of 1950s Americana, and for that reason it is not likely to appeal to people interested in sex scandals (the latest involve Dean and Brando). This movie is surprisingly heterosexual in its chasteness.

It likely is not a movie to win devotees and repeat viewers. It is well done, but lacks a certain element to make it special as art. Depicting two alienated and calculating artists (Dean and Stock) does not make them likeable.

Director Anton Corbijn provides us with verisimilitude in a manner of speaking. DeHaan does not look much like Dean, being too soft and too doughy. Dean was wiry, but DeHaan has caught the slouching and mumbling better than anyone else, except Dean himself.

Pattinson again gives himself a thankless role as an ambitious man. But the two actors might as well be in separate movies. Therein is the the secret of the movie.  Dean was always in his own world, and so is this film. Yes, we recommend this for being unlike all the other Dean biographical movies.

 

Mad Max Meets Lenny & George

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 

Boys Will be Boys

Australian director David Michod joins up with Robert Pattinson as a slow-minded young man named Rey in The Rover, their second movie together after Animal Kingdom.

Pattinson now has the power to do the movies of his choice, and he is choosing to become a fascinating actor.

It’s ten years after the collapse of civilization and, once again, we find ourselves in the desert with dusty cars and dirty dogs. Guy Pearce is another actor who seems to blend into the chameleon required of roles. They are futuristic Of Mice and Men.

Bad guys steal Pearce’s car, and worse, they leave their brother for dead. Pattinson is slow to grasp the fate of being abandoned when the two men become lost foundlings.

The world is homoerotic in this apocalypse for no reason that is discernible. All the men have paired off as if the ark of survival has inverted the score. So, Pattinson and Pearce also bond as they pursue the car thieves.

You might wonder why a man would be obsessed with his car when he is left a Range Rover in its stead. You might be justified in wondering because you’ve been had by a clever writer and director. As in his Animal Kingdom, Michod knows how to play simple but effective cinema on his audience.

We were hooked on this movie from its opening shot of a near-catatonic Guy Pearce and a near-overly sensitive Robert Pattinson. They don’t make buddy movies like this anymore.

It is all so simple and direct that you realize the effort is called hopelessness. We love movies that use metaphor and setting to wring out philosophic depths to a coat of dust.