Monday, March 15, 2010

District 9: Bored Just Blogging About It.

Yes, I saw District 9. Yes, I gave it a 1/10. Yes, I thought it was horrible. Only reason I finished it is because it was possible to translate my desire to get out of this movie into a desire to see the alien escape it as well. I almost gave it a zero, but the image of the space ship managed to subconsciously hearken me back to Lando's cloud-city just enough to be half-pleasing for a moment.

A zero would have put it in an elite group along with one of those Harry Potter movies and The Devil Wears Prada, and made it a contender for my next list of worst movies I've ever seen.

It's funny: I had recently been wondering if I should revamp my whole film review system since I mostly give movies between a 6 and 8 out of 10. It probably works out like that because you can usually tell what you are going to like and only have yourself to blame if you watch a bad movie. I'm reminded tonight that watching a movie you don't like every once in awhile really cleanses the palate.

I don't remember who told me to watch this film. I guess I'll blame Lando. Anyway, if you want to defend this movie, this is your chance. I think you know that with me you're going to have a tough sell, so I don't blame you for not trying!

. . . Besides that, just thought I'd say hello---or "hiya" as is said in Scotland. Not sure what to blog about these days. (Ever get tired of your own voice?) So I've been tinkering instead. Hope you like the new look. Just passed my 400th post this month, so if I'm in a bit of a dry blogging spell in the next while maybe I'll go back and compile a "best of" or something. We'll see.

In the meantime, feel free to check out any of the great music my friends have made. I've spruced up their links in my sidebar.

Thanks for reading! If you haven't seen District 9 yet, don't! : )


Jon Coutts said...

I think that just may be the first happy face I've used on this blog.

Dave M said...

Watching District 9 was like sitting through the intro clip to a video game. Only there was no game at the end, and it was an hour and a half long.

Tony Tanti said...

Huh, I didn't love District 9 but I did like it a lot. I'm confused by your criticism since you don't seem to mention any specifics. Movies experiences are so subjective though. Here are the things I liked about District 9:

Visuals, it was unique and visually interesting without being visually distracting.

Story, it was a compelling (if a little obvious) metaphor and a well told story.

Acting, the main guy (his name escapes me) was great.

I was actually thinking I'd like to see it again soon.

Since you didn't say why you didn't like it I'll guess at what you may not have liked:

The creatures, CGI wasn't amazing with the aliens at least.

The mockumentary style, if it didn't work for you I could see it ruining the whole thing.

The over the top obviousness of the metaphor.

Am I close?

Colleen said...

I agree with Tony - I liked it alot for the same reasons. I did like the "mockumentary style" (nice description, btw) but I can see that if you didn't, it would be very annoying.
Just thought I'd put it out there that there are those of us who liked it! :o)

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

Saying that you liked it is one thing. Giving it a Best Picture Nomination is another.

On that note, I thought that the Oscar nominations were a lot weaker than previous years. The Oscar show itself was actually pretty entertaining than in the past, but seeing Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock and the gang nominated sure was a shock to the system.

Someone said that Bullock won her Oscar because the role she played was perfect for her and she would never play/find a better part. If that's true, then what about the "Precious" girl? People talking about her being a "rising star" and how this is "just the beginning". I mean, no offense to her, but how is there going to be a better role for her than to play an extremely overweight girl who has a lot of personal issues? What else can she do?

Avatar, District 9, and Up all nominated for Best Picture? I think they better trim it back down to 5 nominations instead of 10.

Uncle Brian said...

Sorry, Jon. I liked this movie also. There was something about this underdog protagonist that was so very different from the regular Hollywood fare. I loved the line which I think went, "I think I may have crapped in my pants" just before the lights come on for his surprise birthday party. Just one example, of many, of things you just don't see everyday in a movie script. I thought it was unique and completely different and would give it an 8.2

It was one of those movies that I picked as I stood in Blockbuster saying to myself, "what movie do I know Melody wouldn't want to see." (which ended up being a good call because there was much more swearing in it than she normally tolerates). She just got back to Canada last night from her week in Laos, researching the latest project for the National Women's Ministry. Your mom and dad were here earlier today dropping off stuff for Angie's parents to bring over. They helped me put together a kitchen island from IKEA; it was quite the bonding experience. I mentioned that I had a bone to pick with you over your comments about the book The Shack. You mentioned that you had not read the book all the way through. If I might digress, Geddy Lee once commented in an interview that he thought God was doing a crappy job of running the universe and my thought was, how can you say that when you haven't read the story all the way to the end; when you haven't seen the final product. I suppose my initial reaction to your critique was much the same. Personally, my first reaction upon finishing the book was to thank God for how much He loved me. The book made me feel loved by God in a whole new way. And it made me think more deeply about the example of relationship that the trinity gives us to follow in our own relationships, with God and with others. Was it a great book? I don't know. All I know is I couldn't put it down and it was not predicable and that's what I like in a book and a movie.

So those are some of my random thoughts and observations (some of which have been brewing in my mind longer than others). Hope it was alright to post them here as opposed to a personal email. Say hi to the boys and Angie from Uncle Brian.

Jon Coutts said...

Wow, I didn't expect a barnstorm of disagreement! But that's good to see. It does my heart good to know that you will disagree with me on my blog. If that ever stops happening I should probably shut 'er down.

First off, Dave McG nailed it, except this is a video game I would not want to play.

To get more specific, going with Tanti's breakdown:

Visuals, Unique? I don't think it was that unique. I feel like I've seen this a thousand times in one form or another. Not visually distracting? I suppose it managed to get you used to what you were seeing, but frankly, if a movie splashes blood, and if said blood hits the screen, well, its lost me and is going to have to work very hard to get me back.

Story: Compelling? I guess I was sort of interested at first. But they lost me pretty early on. I thought the metaphor failed miserably. Human/insectish alien doesn't draw analogies with human/human colour and class clashes. There were so many things that were impossible to believe about this story. Everything I can think of that it might have accomplished has already been done better by someone else. Signs, for example.

Acting: Yeah, the main guy really wasn't bad. I could be persuaded to up my review on that basis, perhaps. Certainly this film was better than Transformers, which I also gave a one.

I hated the CGI. At first the mocumentary was working but it got old and I didn't find it believable after a while.

This genre of CGI-based alien adventure is a hard sell for me though, I must admit. I loved Cloverfield though. I don't know why I thought this movie would have substance.

Brett, re: the Oscars: Up was a great movie. How Pixar hasn't won a best picture yet is beyond me. That District 9 and Avatar were nominated is just hurtful to me.

Uncle Brian: I appreciate your feedback. I'll respond to your Shack comments a little later when I have time, for sure.

I too was watching District 9 while my wife was out. A VERY good decision. Although if she'd been with me we'd have turned it off and maybe that would have been best.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen the movie, but I love the new layout.

Jon Coutts said...

Uncle Brian:

First off, it is because I never finished the book and also because people I respect (such as yourself) found the book beneficial that I made tentative statements about the actual theological content of the book. Even my criticism of the book needs to be seen firstly as a criticism of the "evangelical ethos" of which I thought the Shack was the iceberg-tip. And even this was left as an open question, at least as it concerns the book. Thus I said:

"Christian communion is not meant as an evasion of personal responsibility. So I suppose there is a place for some shacks in the church. Sometimes maybe the thing we need is for someone to kick us into a room, lock the door, and force us to grow up and ask ourselves some hard questions for awhile. But I'm still going to go ahead and say that the individualism and privatization of which The Shack is just the tip of the iceberg are a very negative trajectory in the evangelic ethos.

Now, I know many people I respect read The Shack and benefited from it in some way. That's fine. I'm happy to hear it. I don't mean to take away from some of its benefits. And I didn't finish it, so I'm open to the possibility that the book offered its own self-corrective in this regard? I hope so. But if it does have a long term benefit, it will be because the retreat and withdrawal which it implicitly engendered were a failure."

I don't quote myself to be argumentative, but because I do try to be careful how I say things and I'm not sure I can improve on how I originally said it. Was I wrong about the book's individualist trajectory?

(In the comments afterwards I did acknowledge that The Shack itself was a societal phenomenon, and so reading it tended not to be an isolated experience. I suppose that's good. But I still think that my own "bunker down and sort this out on my own before I re-emerge in Christian community" mindset is wrong and would not have been helped away from its wrongness by the Shack. Am I wrong about that?)

Now, that said, I fully appreciate that your reaction to the book "was to thank God for how much He loved [you]." Hopefully my criticism of the book doesn't take away from the way God used it in your life. Hopefully criticism and appreciation can co-exist. I am glad that "it made [you] think more deeply about the example of relationship that the trinity gives us to follow in our own relationships, with God and with others."

I guess what I'm pushing for is for us to take that a step further and let the relationality of the triune God push us into the relationality for which we were created and the specific redemptive relationality that the church itself is meant to hope for and be characterized by. If I misunderstood the trajectory of The Shack then I wait to stand corrected, but I think that when it comes to thinking about how we hear from God it still kind of drives us into our shacks rather than into the very community in which the triune God wishes to be known and experienced.

I was not riveted by the book, but I've had other books do for me what I think it may have done for you. So I don't want to diminish but to share in that, while also thinking further about it, and sharing a bit of the conversation about where one goes from there.

Thanks for your comment. By all means take me on in the blog rather than email! I'm glad you have.

Jon Coutts said...

As for the Geddy Lee illustration, I hear you. One thing I appreciate about what Geddy Lee is saying is that it hits on the real core issue of faith, and that is the question of suffering and evil. For me that has always been the most problematic question, and I have wrestled with it many times. That Lee feels free to express it is fine with me. That he feels he has to be outside the faith to express it is troublesome to me though.

And if I was to talk to him personally I too would want to explore further the possibility that God is not finished yet, and has in fact already dealt the decisive blow to death, evil, and suffering without actually obliterating the freedom of persons and the continuance of history. But I have empathy for his objection.

What I appreciate about your Geddy Lee comment is that I know it comes from a deep love for Geddy Lee (and for God) and a desire to see them reconciled to one another. Your interest in the issue is not theoretical but deeply personal.

As you know, I do not share your love for Rush, but I do appreciate it, even while poking fun at it in person. Perhaps we can proceed in the same way with The Shack (as regards our enjoyment of it), and discuss the ideas it promotes or does not promote from there, in common cause with one another not merely out of respect, and not merely because we are family (though that helps), but more solidly because we are are claimed by and seeking the same Lord.

Jon Coutts said...

Thanks Jon.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

Back to films...

I just watched The Hurt Locker and I have to say that its a "dime-a-dozen" type of war movie. Maybe I'm missing something but everyone in the room watching it had a hard time staying to the end.

If anyone could mention something unique about this movie I would be glad to hear it, besides the fact that a woman directed it.

Best Picture? Nope.

Uncle Brian said...

Hey I really liked Cloverfield too (for some strange reason)(another of those "watch without Melody movies).

I hear what you're saying about the individualistic trajectory of the Shack. Beulah just finished the 8 week course called Life's Healing Choice, developed by Rick Warren's Saddleback Church (although I'm sure there are many other comparable/similar programs out there). Based on the beautitudes, after I realize that I am not God and am powerless to change on my own, after being willing to acknowledge the existence of God, and after being willing to let go and put Him in charge, the next step is to confess to another PERSON and get into community. "If you want forgiveness talk to God, if you want healing, talk to someone else." Boy, can I identify with that one. I confessed to God and ask for forgiveness for over 2 years. Didn't do much for my habitual sinning though. The difference came with confession and repentance. So, you're right, solitude and communion with God are important but so is doing life within community. Isolation bad, doing life together good.

I know I can get quite defensive about things I like and have never responded well to criticism. It's that pride thing rearing its ugly head. If I like it and you don't have the same high opinion of it, then I must be wrong or stupid or you must be wrong or stupid. I'm just saying those are sometimes my impulsive reactions (and the impulsive reactions of other humans) not necessarily the right reactions. And I know you weren't saying that the Shack was a piece of crap, you were just saying that it didn't resonate with you. We can't all like/hate the same things. Life would be pretty boring, wouldn't it? I guess my other point was you hadn't actually read the whole book and therefore I read you making a judgement based on partial information. I'll admit now that even if you had read the entire book, your criticisms and reasons for not being totally enamored with the novel probably wouldn't have been any different. And I have heard you when you have said that you don't begrudge anyone who has been helped by the reading. So, enough said on that subject already.

Finally, on the subject of the greatest Canadian heavy rock band in history (in my humble opinion LOL) you wrote:
"What I appreciate about your Geddy Lee comment is that I know it comes from a deep love for Geddy Lee (and for God) and a desire to see them reconciled to one another. Your interest in the issue is not theoretical but deeply personal." Bang On. I just think it's so easy for people to say life is unfair therefore there is no God and consider that some form of infallible logic. There last album entitled Snakes and Arrows had several songs that questioned faith and religion. It's not the questioning that bothers me, it's the sentiment that says God doesn't exist but if He does, he's doing a crappy job of running things, and then passing that off to the masses as if they know the truth. Because the unsaved masses are out there ready to eat that stuff up. I know because I was once one of them. When the album was released, and because of its "spiritual" themes, all 3 members of the band were asked, point blank, about there own beliefs and each made it plain that they do not believe in God and certainly not in Jesus. And I was saddened because I remember when I thought the same way. And I was sad because, frankly, I would rather spend eternity with them than without them.

I know that you do not share my love of the band. If it's any concellation (sp), not many of your 34 albums to live by would be on my list either. But I do respect you and your opinions and your love of the Lord and family and friends. Thanks for your kind words and your understanding and I hope to be able to continue our dialogue on other subjects as they come up on your blog site.

Have a great day.

Uncle Brian said...

P.S. I just read the comments from Brett Gee and I couldn't agree more. I thought the Hurt Locker was, at best, an ordinary movie and not worthy of Best Picture.

I also re-read my post and noticed twice I wrote "there" when I should have used "their". Proof-read, Brian, proof-read.

Jon Coutts said...

Brett: I don't know about the Hurt Locker, but the Oscars have disappointed me the last while. I love the Oscars, but they've been making questionable decisions lately.
I blame Oprah.

Brian: I appreciate what you've said. When it comes to the "life together" that God has for his people, it sounds like in your experience you just may understand what I'm saying better than I do.

As regards the Geddy Lee conversation: I think it is the self-certainty of the claims against God that I find bothersome as well. But I suppose it is to be a somewhat expected posture taken as a counter to the self-certainty of claims about God.

On another note: I have to say, for all the respect I have for the community you have around you at your church, and for the life of Christ that is active there, I am somewhat taken aback by the sounds of that Saddleback course. I think at the center of its intent it is probably good, but way too much of the curriculum coming out of these mega-church corporations is geared to sell as self-help, and even if your principles are meant to guide you away from self-help toward trust in God, by their very nature as "steps" and "principles" they do keep the steering wheel in the person's hands. You can see this evidenced in the course title: " Life's Healing Choice". It sounds like the power is in the choice. For all that it has to say about God, and for all that God likely will do with it, the end-theology of it is that we are thrown back on our will power. I have concerns about that. Big ones. BUT, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and perhaps should just take this one up with you in email. Hopefully I'm wrong about my concerns and it is just a beef over semantics in advertising.

Even then, however, I have a major axe to grind with Christian semantics in advertising. I wish the powerful Christian corporations would be more theologically responsible with their soundbytes and sloganeering. Maybe I need to blog about Jesus' Temple clearing sometime soon.

No offense to the Beulah community. I know that there is a vibrancy of life there that has been really important. My beef has more to do with the implicitly misleading sounds of the curriculum.

On yet another note: As much as I have always deeply disliked Rush, I do have more appreciation for them since having talked to you and seen what you love about them. I imagine if we sat down over one of my 34 albums it might be the same.

Thanks for commenting Brian. You really know how to get me going.

Back to movies: What should have won best picture last year? I haven't seen much.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

I've seen Up in the Air, Hurt Locker, District 9 and An Education. Up in the Air was by for the best of the bunch. though I hear that Crazy Heart is full of great acting, the story itself is supposed to be pretty weak. An Education is worth watching.

Oh, and Avatar is entertaining and visually brilliant, but of course it's story is taken from the Disney cookie-cutter mold.

Uncle Brian said...

I haven't seen many of the movies that were up for Best Picture so I'm not the best person to make that call. I did see Avatar in 3D and it was entertaining. Nowhere near best picture but it wasn't terrible. I'd like to see Blind Side and I have a curiosity concerning Precious. But I'm a simple man and easily amused.

I don't know that you know this; your Grandmother Lois has been praying for Geddy and his bandmates Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson for several years now. She saw a newspaper article once and was quite excited that she knew who they were. As you know, she's quite the prayer warrior so I have this hope...

And on the subject of Life's Healing Choices (sorry, I dropped the "s" in my original post), it is very biblically based and NOT in any way about "self help". Week One is about realizing that you are NOT God and are powerless to change on your own. If you want to change, if you want to deal once and for all with your hurts, habits, and hang ups, you need to surrender to God and plug into His power source. I won't go into any more detail but you can check it out for yourself if you are interested in doing your own critique at

So thanks for the discussion which began with what again? Oh right, District 9 (LOL). Keep on blogging and we'll keep on reading. And maybe you'll get a chance to turn me on to some of your favorite music when we come to Scotland for a visit. We have a fund started and are trying to be faithful to contribute 10% of our income (after tithing) to the Scotland Holiday Fund. Shooting for May 2011. Talk to ya later.

Jon Coutts said...

Uncle Brian: Wow, a Scotland Holiday Fund! That is AWESOME!

That's good to hear about the series at your church.

Grandma praying for Geddy Lee. Never thought I'd ever hear that sentence!

"I'm a simple man and easily amused." I laughed out loud when I read that.

I too would like to see Precious.

Brett: Oooh, I saw Up in the Air and was a little underwhelmed. Not bad, just not as good as I expected.

Jeff said...

Oh my, I can't believe I just noticed this post now! I HATED this movie. Boring, boring, boring. Oh, and Avatar too. Waste of my time. How it won 'Best Cinematography' is something I may never understand.

Jon Coutts said...

Oh I hadn't noticed your comment Jeff. Yup. I hadn't heard much about Avatar, except people loving the visuals. I doubt I'll ever see it, suspicious it won't live up. You've confirmed my suspicions.

Trev addressed my "pitiful" and "silly" 1/10 on a later post and wondered why I'd rate District 9 less than The Happening:

Fair point about the Happening, but District 9 was pitiful and silly in my books, and if I haven't explained enough above Trev, let me know. As for the Happening, I won't pretend that my film review list is perfectly consistent, and I may amend it a bit one day to bring 6 years of random movie watching into tighter synchronicity, but by and large I've got everything I've seen in its ball park.

And admittedly for The Happening I think my prior love for M Night made me enjoy the scenes with the old lady in her house. I thought they retained M Night's solid abilities, kind of like an oasis of mediocre in a pool of sludge.

As for District 9, the only thing I could think of to give it a generous 1 for was the brief images of the spaceship over the city, which I thought looked kind of cool. The rest was just hurting me to watch. Literally. I was having trouble finishing it out of a mix of boredom and disdain.

And the more I thought about the racial metaphor, which was the thing that I'd heard about which made me willing to give this otherwise avoidable genre (bloody CGI alien-fests are not my thing at all), the more I think it failed, and strikes me even as offensive. I'm trying to just ignore that part because I don't feel like getting into a debate about it, but I'm trying to convey just how much almost every single aspect of this film was, yes, pitiful.

But hey, plenty of friends above have disagreed with me already so your in fine company if you disagree with me as well.

Trev said...

Ok Jon, so I finally read your review on the movie and all pertaining comments.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you rate your movies based on what level they meet your personal taste. Other than a scene reminicent of star wars, there was nothing in this movie that met your taste.

This is why I was confused by the "1/10" rating.

I take a fairly objective stance when watching films. Jeff and I were talking about this a while back. We were debating over Fargo. He loved it, but me...I could go the rest of my life happily without ever seeing that movie again. YET, I will readily give the movie a 6/10 because there are aspect of the movie that I can concede as being well done despite it not being to my personal taste.

I didn't LOVE district 9, so this isn't me trying to defend it. I was just stunned by your rating.

How you could think the CGI was bleh, is beyond me. I agree with Tanti, it blended into the shots well and were not in the least bit distracting...unlike Ferngully 3D (avatar) where they attempted to convince you that the real-life Sigourny Weaver and the shitty CGI version were the same person.

Jon Coutts said...

Trev: Yeah, I admit subjectivity, as all should, and embrace it somewhat a little more than if this were a full-scale movie review blog, but at the same time I do try to take a certain level of objectivity in mind. In the sense that I should be willing and able to stand by and defend my ratings. I don't know if that makes any sense at all.

I don't know man. I can see that the CGI here may be a lot better than Avatar. It certainly was not cartoonish. But an overload of CGI is already not working for me to begin with. I wish I could explain this better. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but for me if there is too much CGI I am just too aware of it and so the effect is lost on me. The believability is all gone for me if I am aware of the CGI.

District 9's CGI may or may not have been good. But it was painfully obvious at every moment to me. Whereas in Cloverfield and Signs it was not.

I can understand (sort of) how some of you (actually, apparently most of the movie going world) like CGI. But, does my explanation make my view of (and frequent disdain for) CGI at least understandable? If not, I suppose I can try again.

If I am going to do film ratings, and do so to some degree subjectively, I do want to be fairly clear where I am coming from, so you know what you are getting.

If I were being totally objective I'd probably give District 9 a 3 or maybe a 4/10 (on the merits of its main character being kind of a believably normal guy and mercifully ignoring the whole clumsy attempt at an apartheid metaphor).

The annoyance I felt at it personally certainly sent it plummeting into the abyss of my lowest possible rating. I wasn't quite prepared to relegate it to Harry Potter or Devil Wears Prada status, but close. I won't pretend it isn't perhaps better than some of the stuff I've rated slightly higher, but what fun would such a running list be if I didn't personalize it somewhat as well? Thanks for engaging though. That's half the fun, and that's why I'll continue to rate everything with a view to being willing to defend it!

Trev said...

I'm cool with that man. I think you were clear about the CGI thing. An over use of it can get under my skin as well. But with a movie such as this ("alien dwelling among us" scenario), I see no option other than to use CGI. I mean, honestly, Jim Hensen's puppets couldn't pull it off on such a massive scale without looking goofy right?

And yes, the metaphor WAS annoyingly obvious, yet the average movie-goer (from my experience) STILL DIDN'T GET IT! Yikes!

So I'm going to go ahead and state the obvious here, as conceded as it may sound: intelligent and informed people will always have a hard time with hollywood flicks as they are meant to pander to a broad audience.

It was a shame that D9 had to add in the classic "level 10 boss" scene with the mech warrior human-turned-god bad guy, and it was a shame that the plot itself couldn't have been a little more intricate and enriched, but like Jeff says, I guess I've just come to expect that kind of shit from hollywood.


Jon Coutts said...

level 10 boss. ha!
yeah i hate video games like this, so i was bound to hate the movie. oh well.

Dave M said...

I think it is ridiculous that they had 10 middle of the road movies up for Best Picture and not one foreign nod. With films like The White Ribbon and A Prophet giving you something to really talk about.