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Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jason Whyte, Jan 2, 2003.
The Last Samurai
7 of 10
If you ever wanted to understand the difference between an Oscar level film and a routine formula action flick posing as one just sit down and watch Dances With Wolves and then The Last Samurai. This is not a knock on TLS for being LIKE DWW in terms of premise. It just so happens that the similarity clearly shows how something can be done well or done clumsily. Samurai is clumsy formula at its worst, wasting an Oscar-level premise on an empty script that fails to follow any of its deeper paths to greatness.
While I knocked Gladiator as being non-Oscar caliber (and I still do), it certainly was much more worth of that praise than this film.
TLS constantly falls back on the very worst in direction and script cliches, for example two DIFFERENT inner monologues (just who's telling us this story anyway?) are used in some bastardization between DWW and Road Warrior, yet so sparingly that it fails to be established as a consistent convention (just think about the reporting/telegraphy station gimmick at the end of Gangs of New York for "not established).
I also didn't appreciate the use of flashbacks to explain why this already established broken, drunken warrior would be crying out for saki. I guess the director thinks none of us would get it.
The only way I can explain some of the better reviews this film is getting is that you can make up for a lot in the last act and that is one of the film's greatest strengths...very well staged battle sequences. There is nothing like seeing hundreds, maybe thousands, of real extras well choreographed. The final battle did have some staging that is reminiscent of Kurosawa (at least half a point came strictly for that alone)...but the comparisons end there.
Not a bad film but definitely a letdown as an Oscar contender. Nowhere near the same league as the film from a similar genre, Master and Commander.
It appears that you and I are on the same page with The Last Samurai, Seth, although I did not find the manipulation as blatant as in The Patriot. Speaking of false moments, how about the sudden visions of tree blossoms as katsumoto was about to... you know what.
Ok, in case anybody caught my gaffe, I've fixed the really egregious error in my datbase: I've fixed the title of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (from [/b]The Far Side of the Road[/b])...
I've heard of the phrase "It's a small world" before, but I sure as hell didn't mean it so literally!
Arman, my ratings may not reflect it but currently there are about 25 or so films that separate Master and Commander (M&C) vs The Last Samurai (TLS). That's what I meant when I said "Not even close". For me, not all films are the same even though they might get the same rating. M&C is at the top of my 3 1/2 star ratings while TLS is close to the bottom of my 3 1/4 rating. For me, TLS is one of the hardest films to rate. There is so much to like about it but at the same time, there is so much not to like about it. That's why it is better to rely on someone's worded review rather than just the simple star rating. Who knows, I might downgrade it even more the more I think about it. I'm glad that you enjoyed it though. ~Edwin
Some interesting responses to The Last Samuri I'm reading here. I'm just wondering now on what should be read into that 'advance screening' effort by Warner Brothers.
Arman, if you are still questioning whether I enjoyed TLS while at the same time saying that you know what I meant, then I think you are contradicting yourself. I enjoyed TLS more so for its technical aspects. I am able to recognize a film's strengths while at the same time comfortable talking about its many faults. To me, that is honest critiquing. ~Edwin
I was reviewing my rating for last year’s Gangs of New York in which I also gave that film 3¼ stars. I would put Samurai and Gangs along the same lines – technically beautiful and at times, wonderfully acted but very uneven in its story, intent and plotting.
At least, I’m consistent with my ratings. For a moment there, I thought I was being inconsistent.
How was the first half, Arman? It will be a while until it hits our local screen.
Matrix Revolutions, it had me for awhile as I appreciated the fact that it got rid of most of the mumbo jumbo, red herrings, and contradictions in favor of fast moving, semi-intelligent, well-executed action scenes. For something over half the movie it was a nice surprise. Then the Neo story began in earnest and the movie headed for Dudsville, wringing every ounce out of every action cliche in the book and mucking its climatic battle. C+
Caroline Link's Nowhere In Africa.
Next Up: Kukushka
Edwin, shouldn't Nowhere In Africa be considered a 2002 film since it won the Best Foreign Film Oscar? That's where I counted it anyway.
Whale Rider - another in a long line of female empowerment, "anything you can do I can do better", movies. This one works primarily because of the performance of its young lead actress and its use of Maori culture. It suffers a bit from some uneven editing; some scenes could have been tightened while in others we see brief glimpses of things that are never referred to again. But this is the kind of story that can't help but capture your emotions with the girl wanting so badly to please her tradition bound grandfather. B
No, both Nowhere In Africa and City Of God are considered 2003 films for the list (right, other Jason?) - the Academy nominating rules for Best Foreign Language Film are convoluted and archaic, basically stating that a movie must be released that "year" (which, for the purpose of this category, runs December-November) in their home country and be submitted by the country's film bureau. City Of God didn't open in the US for a regular qualifying run until January '03, and Nowhere In Africa didn't open until April '03. Nowhere In Africa, however, is disqualified from being nominated for "regular" Oscars this year because it was a FLF nomination last year, while City can be because the people who whittled down the submitted films to five last year were idiots (IMESHO).
"No, both Nowhere In Africa and City Of God are considered 2003 films for the list (right, other Jason?)"
Yeah, both films are on my list too, it works for me. "Spider" I saw at VIFF 2002 and it opened in a few theaters in Canada in December, then opened again in major cities this March.
It's good to keep continuity on the list here.