Monday, September 20, 2010

interesting film?

Instead of going out to see movies, I often find myself merely watching their previews over at I'd say that, for every twenty previews I see, only one might catch my eye, perhaps because I'm becoming older and crankier. This time around, the film that got my attention was "Today's Special," which at first looked like yet another annoying Bollywood comedy, but on second glance seemed to be more substantive. The film's blurb on says it's based on a stage play; plays are often far better scripted than movies, and movies based on plays generally strike me as more intelligent than the average Hollywood boilerplate (this may also explain why I'm a fan of films scripted by playwright David Mamet).

"Today's Special" looks to be a film about the conflict and harmony of human values, and also about the rejection or acceptance of one's own ethnic heritage. That, plus the fact that it appeals to my Food Network-skewed sensibilities, is undoubtedly part of the reason why I'm interested in the film.

In a related vein, it occurred to me a few days ago that this is why I also enjoyed "Rambo," Stallone's latest entry in the Rambo franchise: for a goofy action movie, it contains a stark and primal conflict of worldviews. The conflict isn't where you'd expect it to be, either: it isn't between Rambo and the Burmese junta. Instead, it's between Rambo and the American pastor who gets taken hostage with his flock-- between a cynical notion of eternal return and a more optimistic notion of linear, progressive history. In the end, which worldview comes out on top? Rambo's "conversion" seems to come when he decides that the hostages and their cause are worth fighting for ("Live for nothing, or die for something"); the pastor, meanwhile, comes to realize that you can't be absolutistic about violence. His bashing of the skull of that Burmese soldier was shorthand for his tacit recognition that the world can be an ugly place, and violence is sometimes the best answer to that ugliness. Among the Rambo films, this one stands out for actually taking the time to flesh out such a debate in both words and imagery. No one will ever mistake "Rambo" for an Oscar-worthy work, but like the very first Rambo film, "First Blood," it treats a serious issue seriously. (The same can't be said for the middle two Rambo films.)

It may seem strange to segue so abruptly from cooking to warfare, but what unites these movies, "Today's Special" and "Rambo," is the static arising from the intersection of deeply held values.


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