Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finally got to knocking some more movies down - a pair of Richard Linklater 2006 flicks (let's see if you can guess which two!) - Fast Food Nation and A Scanner Darkly.

I was particularly interested in seeing Fast Food Nation because I read the book a few years ago, and moreso because the book is non-fiction - sort of an investigative look at the fast food industry, all the way up the supply chain, from the conditions at the restaurants themselves, to the meat packing plants, to the ranches that supply the cattle and poulty, and I was interested to see how Linklater, with collaboration, would turn that into an interesting fictional account.

The movie succeeded on the level of a political polemic - it succeeded in showing the evils of the fast food restaurants, but it was far less successful as entertainment, because pamphleteering was pretty much all it appeared to be.

There were three central storylines - one about Greg Kinnear as a marketing executive exploring claims of shit in the beef, and backing down from his willingness to challenge authority when he realizes his job might be at steak, one about some Mexican border crossers trying to make it working at a meat packing plant, and another about a high school girl working at a local "Mickey's" franchise, the fictional fast food restaurant concoted for the movie purposes. The high school girl plot pretty much involves her hearing various people tell her why fast food is bad. The most interesting plot is probably that of the immigrants, that has a real sort of tragic arc to it.

Anyway, if you're a receptive audience, you might at least like the information, and the idea is very interesting, but somewhere along the way it just doesn't quite work.

I'm going to start attempting to rate movies on a scale of 1-10 (with decimals) and I may have to adjust later when I get to tons of movies, but we'll try

6.0 for Fast Food Nation

Next, A Scanner Darkly. Based on a Philip K Dick story, A Scanner Darkly tells the convoluted story (in rotoscope animation, no less) of a man who as a cop goes undercover to try to dig up information on a dealer of a debilitating drug, "Substance D" that has overwhelmed the country. However, as the movie continues, the cop gets so addicted on the substance himself, that he separates the persona of himself as cop, wearing a "scramble suit" which doesn't allow even his own immediate superiors to realize who he is, and his persona as drug addict. It all slowly comes tumbling down as it turns out he was simply a pawn in a plan to make him a deadbeat addict enough that New Path, a company posing as rehab clinic, will take him to their fields where cops suspect Substance D is grown, and maybe that he will remember his training enough to bring back some of his sanity and find some evidence.

I found this to be a lot more interesting than the first - rotoscope actually works really well to create this sort of creepy paranoid environment where you're not quite sure what's real and what's not, and the movie, while not always making perfect sense, made enough to keep me from getting confused. In addition, a couple of scenes featuring the paranoid conversations between characters voiced by Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., and Keanu Reeves were great.

Rating: 7.3

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