Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Funnies & Arts















Whew! What a great week for cartoonists! As always, click to enlarge...

Shutter Island. D: Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, Ted Levene. Much ado about very little. A famous director and a talented cast of thousands lumber through an atmospheric, overwritten thriller that lacks credibility, pacing, and -- for that matter -- much suspense. Scorsese has constructed a gaudy train of manicured hospital grounds disguising brutal prison cells and barbarous medical practices, but it's continually derailed by distracting ruminations on atrocity, medical ethics, memory and reality, and paranoia. All fit subjects for a film, but Scorsese continually halts the narrative so that characters can debate these issues: In terms of Show v. Tell, he excels at telling but winds up showing very little. The result is a disjointed film that struggles at critical points to attain the suspension of disbelief so critical to a successful thriller.

Shutter Island starts promisingly enough. In the days following World War II, federal marshals DiCaprio and Ruffalo ferry across Boston Harbor and out to sea on their way to Shutter Island, the home of a hospital for the criminally insane. Battling seasickness, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) makes his way from the head through a cabin outfitted with enough dangling handcuffs to be a set in an X-rated film about a bondage orgy. Emerging on deck, he reviews the mission with new partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo): Once at Shutter Island, they are to recapturing an escaped prisoner who drowned her three children. Why two federal marshals are dispatched to capture a escaped state prisoner on an island is not explained.

Once on the island, the pair are forced to surrender their weapons. They meet with uncooperative chief psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (a somewhat bored Kingsley) who offers little in the way of help. After some token and fruitless searching, they decide to leave Shutter Island and let someone else worry about the escapee. At that point, a hurricane -- which no one seems to have known was coming -- a hurricane strikes, stranding them on the island. With nothing better to do, they intensify the search and discover that all is not well on Shutter Island.

For one thing, who is prisoner 67? And what about the mysterious Cell Block #3, a cold, gray building peering down on the rest of the complex? When Dr. Naehring (von Sydow), an unrepentant Nazi who looks like a cartoon version of a mad scientist, hovers ominously defending the practice of lobotomizing prisoners who won't respond to other treatments, we suddenly have a good idea of who is in #3. Then, Daniels discovers evidence of the presence of a prisoner that he thought had released and slowly comes to believe that the escaped woman might not exist at all. Moreover, images of his late wife continually interrupt him. This might all be fine were it not for all of the ethical chatter and irrelevant scenes, including a concentration camp flashback that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

A word about Leonardo DiCaprio. He has emerged from the vicissitudes of promising child stardom and teeny-bopper adulation to become a fine adult actor. His turn in The Departed was brilliant, the tension written on his face was so palpable that one thought he was wired to explode like a suicide bomber. He was solid in the well-meaning Blood Diamond and fine in The Aviator (one of the weirdest, most pointless films made by a major director). But with the exception of The Departed, the adult DiCaprio is invariably better than the film he is in. Let's hope that he gets better vehicles in the future.

Well, if you didn't mind that digression, maybe you'll like Shutter Island better than I did. And the movie isn't bad: In addition to DiCaprio's performance, Clarkson, Haley, and Levine all deliver fine cameos. Scorsese creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, there are many good separate scenes, and the flashbacks with Daniel's late wife (Williams) are for the most part compelling. But no matter how well made it might be, Shutter Island can't escape its talkiness, length, narrative flaws, and the feeling that an awful lot of talent and ability has gone into the creation of a bauble. It's a beautiful train that can't get up a head of steam and winds up stopping at a ghost town...

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 631 State Street. Scroll down for more terrific NOLA snapshots...

God save the human cannonball
(1925). Extra points to anyone who get that reference!...

People are strange, and some of the strangest shop at Wal-Mart. This one must be a Seattle elementary school teacher on her way home from work, or at least would be if yesterday's letter writer had her way...

Bob Dylan sings Johnny Cash's "Train of Love" (thanks, S&C):

7 comments:

Roy said...

When I absolutely have to go into Wal-Mart for something, I hold my nose and bolt right for where I need to go in the store. Too much time in that place can warp you for life. Obviously those people in that blog spend an awful lot of time there.

Nice collection of funnies, as usual!

T. Clear said...

All things considered, the cinematography in Shutter Island was stunning. But then, I'm a big sucker for All Things Visual.

K. said...

The cinematography was good. In fact, the movie as a whole was well-made -- there was too much talent for it not to be. But it just didn't add up to much.

Anonymous said...

"God save the human cannonball" is a line from Springsteen's "Wild Billy's Circus Story". Good one.
I love the Texas Wal-Mart photo: Hand gun? Check. Gun belt? Check. Slippers? Check. Let's go shopping! I'm sure everyone in the store felt safer.

rgg

K. said...

And we have a winnah!

As for me, I am now unwilling to walk into any store unless I am packing or unless there is armed citizenry there.

Molly The Dog said...

I agree with much of what you said regarding the movie, but I need to mention it also had a very good film score.

K. said...

A score developed by music supervisor Robbie Robertson, the songwriting genius behind The Band.