I made Checklist a few years back and submitted it to South By Southwest, but did not make the cut, so it's been sitting on the shelf ever since. When I found out that Bay Arts Alliance was going to be hosting a short film series, I thought I might as well give it a shot.
So, my film finally gets to have its premiere!
Here's a little summary of the film:
"Tom is a happily-married father of a beautiful three-year-old daughter. At the end of his year off from teaching school, he discovers a mysterious note penned by a familiar hand. He fears the note could mean serious danger for a former student. His investigation takes an unexpected turn that will change his life forever."
Checklist Written, Directed and Edited by Ford Seeuws Cinematography by Jim Stanek Sound Recording by Scott Mercer Starring Ford Seeuws and Satya Seeuws
The screening will be at the Marina Civic Center (8 Harrison Ave.) in Panama City from 6:30-10:30.
The Hurt Locker is topping critics' lists this year, and it is a good film, to be sure. It had inspired me to write a rather long-winded and self-important essay concerning the problem with wars like the one in Iraq, but, as is usually the case, a bit of research quelled my zealous aims (maybe sleeping on it helped too), so I'll just write a review instead.
Let me get the grievances out of the way. I wish the distributors would have had the good sense to push this film with the same confident misdirection that characterized the marketing of District 9. Rob Woodrum pointed out that D9 is really a genre action film through and through, but what kept it from being predictable was a genius bit of casting (by using an unknown as the protagonist) and by making trailers that caused you to think that he was not the protagonist.
The Hurt Locker also benefits from a great bit of counter-intuitive casting, but the trailer gives away the game by revealing the protagonist and key dialogue scenes that feature him, so you know what is going to happen in the first scene when an A-list actor shows up as the would-be protagonist, and later you know the film's real main character cannot die in scenes that would otherwise be up-in-the-air because he still hasn't spoken certain lines of dialogue. When will filmmakers realize the creative potential trailers pose? Why not shoot scenes for a 2 minute short that could suffice as an awesome teaser to the film without giving away the game?
Second problem: while the film shows a good deal of restraint politically, the filmmakers just can't help themselves with a couple jabs that kind of took me out of the picture for just a minute or two. David Morse shows up as a Colonel who cartoonishly tells a soldier to let a wounded Iraqi die. It's not that such a comment is out of the realms of possibility, but it is not earned and feels very much like a forced political comment. And then there's Colonel Cambridge. What would a war movie be without the pencil-pushing commander who sits behind a desk and never sees action? Uh...a lot less predictable. As soon as his counselee Specialist Owen Eldridge tells him that he should join them in the action to see what it's like, well...you know what comes next. But even worse, they have Colonel Cambridge telling the local people to leave a dangerous area, but with this absurdly caricatured mispronunciation of Imshi: “Ishmi!” “Ishmi!” he exclaims. Okay, we get it, he doesn't know what he's doing. He's an ugly American.
These are very picky critiques, I know, but it is because the film is so effective elsewhere that it should render such blatant commentary unnecessary. And to be fair, as many critics have already pointed out, this film is perhaps the first Iraq film that has succeeded in keeping ideology out of the limelight. Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips probably said it best, “Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, … have made the first fictional feature about American soldiers in Iraq that doesn't fall apart, or preach to a choir, or turn into a position paper. 'The Hurt Locker' plays it right down the middle politically, staying remarkably free of cant or polemical blather, focusing -- as any good procedural should -- on the incremental details of one person's line of work.”
My only other qualm with the film is that, once again, the nefarious influence of the anti-tripod coalition have convinced the director that shaky is always better at communicating agitation and tension. And while there are scenes that work in this way, there are others that just feel like the director is trying too hard to make you feel “like you're there.”
Taking these criticisms into consideration, is The Hurt Locker as good as everyone is making it out to be, or are critics just so hungry for a good Iraq film after being subjected to the last ten years of cinematic gruel that they would latch onto anything with an ounce of merit?
Even with my qualms, I'll go ahead ad get my ticket punched to ride on the bandwagon because unlike District 9 (which I really liked) this film does not follow genre conventions. This film is not just an action movie; it's not just a war movie or buddy movie. It is all of those things, but it is more.
I wanted the film to give me a climactic battle scene here, honestly. It had earned the right to do so, but the film stayed honest with the subject matter. The Iraq war does not allow for such romanticism. There is no Hitler pulling the strings of these insurgents. There is no absolute evil that can be identified easily and hunted down.
This war is waged against faceless enemies, a war in which the suicide bomber may be an unwilling weapon, not a nefarious villain bent on destruction.
So the film stays honest and refuses to use the Iraq War as a springboard to Hollywood endings. The heroes do not have the luxury of storming the gates of hell to stop more bombs from being produced. They must simply deal with the task at hand and disarm a seemingly endless supply of impersonal killers: Improvised Explosive Eevices (IED's-also known as Roadside bombs). In doing research for this piece, I found this chart depicting the number of IED's that have been deployed in Iraq since 2004, and I was surprised to discover that the numbers in 2009 are the lowest they have been in five years (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2009/05/090508-d-6570c-002.jpg).
The Hurt Locker meticulously details how this came about: tireless, determined, and, in this particular case, obsessive attention to a job that is both thankless and deadly.
The film does not give any easy answers. It applauds the hard work these men are willing to do, but explores the limits of heroism and reminds us that even the best intentions can yield unintended casualties.
The Hurt Locker is not the feel good movie of the year, and thus should serve as a good pendulum swing from last year's endearing flight of fancy Slumdog Millionaire. Judging from the competition, the film seems to be the heir-apparent to this year's best pic Oscar, and judging from the limited amount of films I have seen so far this year, I would have no qualms with that.
Okay, so I am not one to plug MTV much, if at all, but having seen Radiohead's video about child slavery/child labor, which was part of MTV's new Exit Campaign, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more.
The Exit Campaign's Website states that the program was designed to, "raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking in Europe and Asia. Since the campaign launched in 2004, MTV EXIT has created various programs and activities that informed and empowered millions of young people both from source and destination countries about the issue and take actions within their communities."
These words sound nice and genuine, but sometimes these programs end up being sounding boards that just make us feel good that we're at least thinking about doing something even if we're not really doing anything.
Nonetheless, I was convinced to link them after watching the Killers' music video they have posted on the front page. Not meant for younger viewers, but seriously, you need to watch this thing to the end. Very powerful.
You may not be a fan of Jonah Goldberg, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on his argument here. This point is one that is often overlooked or hush-hushed by the pro-choice camp, and I think it really needs to be addressed. Sanger was no stranger to tying birth control to eugenics, and that is a serious ethical issue that should not be taken lightly.
I humbly request that you allow us to suffer. I am a citizen who has not contributed to the current financial crisis: I have not taken out risky loans or made bets on others' risky loans.
Nonetheless I believe that we all share some blame for the current situation. I am to blame for not being more vocal about responsibility. I am to blame for not raising a clarion call to rouse Americans from our current comatose state in which we have mistaken privileges for rights and luxuries for necessities.
I did not approve of these bailout measures when President Bush advocated them for the same reason I do not now: they legislate irresponsibility. The old adage that money does not grow on trees can now be rebutted with a new one, "but we can always print extra."
I know there is a high probability for dire consequences if your policies are not enacted. A depression could be the result. But I say better the loss of homes, valuables and comfort over the loss of our integrity as a nation.
America was meant to be a nation composed of citizens who were not defined by the size of their houses, the price of their cars, or the number of their televisions, but by the content of their character. I believe that in refusing to allow people to suffer the consequences for their actions, we are undermining that very principle that defines us.
Allowing this recession to run its course may hurt many, but as one who stands to take a blow from this recession, I want to go on record and say, "Let it come." I fear the consequences of these attempts to legislate ourselves out of harm's way more than I fear the consequences of the financial harm itself.
"Television is altering the meaning of "being informed" by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing." - Neil Postman