About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lebanon, the Movie

Lebanon, one of two movies seen on Monday night at Landmark's Sunshine in Manhattan (aud # 5), is yet another overrated art film; Fandango has a pretty solid 83 critical score, and a typical viewer rating of no, and the viewers have the better of it. It's set in a tank during the opening day of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. It's supposed to be autobiographical for writer/director Samuel Maoz. I hope if I ever write an autobiography and it turns out my life is as cliched as his was that someone will stop me. This is the kind of movie where you have a soldier asking his CO to call mom to let her know he's alright with 2 weeks theoretically to go in his enlistment. You want to guess what happens to this short timer? The kind of movie where the tank's gunner can't bring himself to fire when circumstances first require. Can you guess what happens? And when he does fire the second time he's supposed to, will it surprise you to find out that this truck is full of chickens? When I say it's set in the tank, I do mean in the tank, set in the tank the way Das Boot is set in a submarine. We only see the outside world from the POV of the tank sight. Now, I've never looked out of a tank sight so what do I know about what it's like. I can only say it seems to me that the quality of the image we get from the tank sight seems to vary mightily based on the needs of the film, so when it needs to seem like the tank sight isn't even there, it's like the tank sight is hardly even there and more like the cameraman is outside the tank shooting the scene just like in a regular movie. And even though it's set in a tank, in the middle of a war, so many people are coming into the tank to visit. So many people. Living people, dead people (yes, dead people), Israelis and Christians and Syrians.

I will say the movie has a great coming attraction. With that and the good reviews I was really eager to see.

And it's sad the movie itself is so sucky because it is an interesting concept. Why not do for a tank what Das Boot did for a submarine. But it's a real challenge to set a movie in a setting as small as a tank, and to tell a good story with only a very small cast of characters. It would require some hard work to make it work, but it certainly can work; there are plenty of movies that have fewer than a handful of cast members in them and manage to work just fine. But nobody seems to be working very hard in the movie. If the tank is too confining, just have the commanding officer conveniently find his way to the tank whenever you need. It would probably require confidence in the audience to accept whatever they could get just from looking at a tank sight without a lot of cheating. But there isn't, and there is.

And J. Hoberman of The Voice calls this the finest first feature of the year, Corliss of Time and Scott of the NY Times and EW and lots of other people are salivating over this. How? Why? The Onion was not as impressed. Which is why The Onion is America's Finest News Source. (In fact, with the regular NY papers cutting their review hole over the years, the Onion is one of the best places to go in NYC for good film reviews.

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