+ Yes: Despite our fears that many critics would think it was just hilarious to review Sally Potter‘s film in the rhyming iambic pentameter in which its written, only one ventures that far. And it’s Anthony Lane, of course:
You may get off on this enthralling stuff,
But after half an hour Iâ€™d had enough.
He actually does quite a good job of it, and seems to thoroughly enjoy pretending he’s the love child of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde (now there’s a grand romantic pairing for you). Anyway, he doesn’t buy the verse gimmick, finds the film padded, and while he admires Joan Allen and the ambition behind the film, he ultimately finds it lacking. So does A. O. Scott: ""Yes" is not just a movie…it’s a poem. A bad poem."
He has many issues with the film, particularly with Potter’s high-minded attempts at commentary on the state of the post-9/11 world: "’Yes’ offers a case study in the moral complacency of the creative class, and its verbal cleverness cannot disguise the vacuous self-affirmation summed up in the title."
We suspect our personal preferences are seeping through here, so for the record, we do not care for the films of Ms. Potter. Perhaps we go so far as to loathe them and find them insufferably dull, humorless and agonizingly self-important. That being said, many did care for "Yes." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon finds that the film works despite itself, and is particularly impressed by Joan Allen’s apparently smokingly hot performance, though he finds the film falls apart at the end. Holly Willis at the LA Weekly is impressed by Potter’s use of verse to represent the social structures that prevent her characters from connecting:
He and She may quarrel, but their inchoate rage must find expression in verse. The result is at once frustrating and striking. We desperately
want them to connect, but they canâ€™t step outside the codes that at once enable and debilitate them.
Laura Sinagra at the Village Voice finds "Yes" cautiously refreshing, and the week’s indieWIRE/Reverse Shot crew like it/love it, Jeannette Catsoulis with the lead review in particular finding Potter’s wide-ranging embedded political commentary impressive.
+ "Land of the Dead": All hail the return of the zombie king. George A. Romero’s newest addition to the undead canon to which all aspire is getting praise all ’round (at least from the critics we care about).
Perhaps Sally Potter should take a leaf from Romero’s book (of the dead! bwahaha!). His film seems to offer more complex politically commentary than her overtly messagey one. La Manohla points out that:
With "Revenge of the Sith" and "Batman Begins," "Land of the Dead" makes the third studio release of the summer season to present an allegory, either naked or not, of our contemporary political landscape… One of the enormous pleasures of genre filmmaking is watching great directors push against form and predictability, as Mr. Romero does brilliantly in "Land of the Dead."
She notes that as Romero’s films have progressed, the dead seems to become more human, while the living seem less and less in touch with their humanity.
David Edelstein finds "Land" "more formulaic than its predecessors"; nevertheless, "The zombie with the flip-top noggin is an instant classic. And the sociopolitical subtext is good, too." Edelstein heralds each of Romero’s previous "Dead" films as classics in their own way, though the greatest remains, of course, 1968’s "Night of the Living Dead": "I saw it at age 12, and it didn’t just scare the living crap out of me, it turned my world inside out."
Roger Ebert attempts to understand the mechanisms of Romero’s world:
The most intriguing single shot…is a commercial for Fiddler’s Green, showing tanned and smiling residents,
dressed in elegant leisurewear, living the good life. The shot is intriguing for two reasons: (1) Why does
Fiddler’s Green need to advertise, when it is full and people are literally dying to get in? and (2) What is going through the minds of its residents, as they relax in luxury, sip drinks, shop in designer stores and live the good life? Don’t they know the world outside is one of unremitting conflict and misery?
Of course, that’s Romero’s point.
+ "Bewitched": Roger Ebert‘s the only one unfamiliar with Nora Ephron‘s source material, which is perhaps why he liked it the best ("tolerably entertaining", two and a half stars). We’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of the original show ourselves, so we were mildly surprised to see it declared and defended from various sides as a subversive somethingerother, though perhaps it looks better in comparison to this "reimagining." Anthony Lane, on the earlier televised incarnation, claims "You could read Samanthaâ€™s gifts as subversion in deep disguise or as a smiling gesture to the radicalâ€”just enough to leave the status quo refreshed," while Armond White sites the "legitimate antecedents" of the "witch longing for a normal life" genre.
Because the ethereally beautiful Ms. Kidman no longer resembles a real person, having been buffed to almost supernatural perfection in the way of most modern stars, casting her as a witch was inspired.
For David Edelstein, though, "she’s playing Meg Ryanâ€”and even Meg Ryan has moved beyond playing Meg Ryan." He says the movie is at least not as bad as Ephron’s last few, while reminding us that he’s "grading on a curve that dips, at its lowest point, into the abyss." He is particularly put out by the use of R.E.M.’s anti-suicide song "Everybody Hurts" over a montage of Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, um, hurting, but it’s Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice who should get final say on the musical montages here:
As always a fool for wealth porn, Ephron also jams her scenes with swatches and memorabilia from the old showâ€”postmod!â€”and virtually every sequence change is an occasion for a song interlude. "Witchy Woman," "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," Sinatra on "Witchcraft," the Police’s "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." I’m dying!
We’d twitch our nose and make it better if we could, darling.