Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Best Movies of 2007: Across the Universe

Because the month of January sucked at running, I boycotted the sport, and placed my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. With the Oscars now almost upon us, I must complete my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for Sunday's awards...

Ah, the official Love It or Hate It movie of 2007. No, I'm not talking about Southland Tales - that's the Love-Yourself-In-All-Your-Pseudo-Intellectual-Glory or Hate It movie of this past year. We're talking Across the Universe, directed by Julie Taymor, of Disney's "Lion King" on Broadway fame. My love (or my hate) for this film, after the jump...

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, dir. Julie Taymor

So promising... the Beatles songbook + an appealing and talented young cast. And a cameo by Bono!

Alas, this movie is a mess, trying to alternate between traditional plot development, and a more experiential movie painting the changing moods and mindsets of its characters -- stand-ins for their generation -- with the music. The "I Am the Walrus" and "Benefit of Mr. Kite" sequences -- which abut each other -- are downright uncomfortable to watch, and kickoff a painfully boring stretch of film.

Julie Taymor shows an exceptional amount of imagination in her conception of many of the song-sequences; "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" are wonderful scenes and even "Mr. Kite" employs some pretty great visual effects. In fact, Taymor displays some of the mad genius I think may be necessary to fully pull off a contemporary movie musical. But, at least ostensibly, there are few visual motifs to draw a thematic thread through the film. And we're stuck watching 90 minutes of oft-forced-feeling MTV.

That said, Jim Sturgess could well end up a star, and the arrangements and orchestrations of these iconic songs are downright wonderful in spots -- both in the imagination and the execution. In fact, I strongly suggest just buying the soundtrack. After all, the music is what you came for anyway, right?

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