TROUBLE CITY

CHUD'S 50 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS, DAY 16

Movie NewsNick NunziataComment


Welcome to the next CHUD List.

We've tackled our essentials list and the continued revelation of our Kills List from 2003, and now that we've begun the beguine, we must continue. Behold:

The CHUD.com Top 50 Disappointments.

A quick word on the criteria. We could very easily have spent this whole article discussing sequels and prequels and adaptations of television shows and called it a day. Instead, we tried to go a different route. Also, from a master list of over 100, the involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and myself) all killed off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we'll run a big list at the end of this of the 'ones that got away'. So, here is day one of many where we chronicle the 50 Biggest Disappointments. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no particular order:

#20 - The Good German (2006, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

 Next time I see Stephen Soderberg I might ask him not to make another movie in black and white. He did it fifteen years ago with Kafka, which despite an interesting premise and diligent execution remains one of his most 'work for hire' moments, a thin pastiche on creativity, European paranoia and beaurocracy *. Last year he did it again in The Good German, and oddly enough produced much the same result. That, despite the fact that this was much more a Soderbergh film -- his people, his camerawork, his tricks.

The Good German is many things. An homage to Casablanca and comment upon the roads our moral pathways have taken. A minor technical tour de force, with location, studio and archival footage all graded and matched to one another. And a collection of talent that is now so typical of Soderbergh's ever-widening band of favored actors. Soderbergh has constantly proven his facility with all these tasks before and this should have been a slam dunk.

But while The Good German is all those things, it is not a particularly effective, mesmerizing or entertaining movie.

Instead of a crystalline narrative frought with intrigue, the film's narrative is a muddled example of how not to marry the past and present. The story deals with political whitewashing and the manipulation of evidence for propaganda, but it takes such a vague and winding route to the finish line that it never builds any momentum or power.

Clooney's war correspondant is an unexpectedly lame guide through the story, and all the characters feel as flattened as the post-war landscape around them. Only Tobey Maguire really sells himself, as a driver with a thing for playing the black market and hitting women, but even his performance stutters and veers into unintentional comedy.

I'll admit that my own disappointment in the film was intensified by the fact that knowledge of German history and an obsessive reading of Gravity's Rainbow meant one of the central mysteries -- the identity of 'Dora' -- was no mystery at all. But I'll defend that highly subjective attack with another: the film's plotting is meant to draw us deeper into the lives of transparently thin characters, to the point where the entire tale feels like a big dead end.

* Fortunately Soderbergh's further collaboration with Kafka writer Lem Dobbs bore spectacular, if underrated fruit eight years later with The Limey. - Russ

Travesty Scale (1-10): 5 out of 10

http://chud.com/nextraimages/rosewoodpost.jpg#19 - Rosewood (1997. dir. John Singleton)

With great power comes great responsibility, right? That's Spider-Man's mantra, but Spidey ain't a talented black filmmaker. While there's no shortage of those kind of folks, the pipeline the machine's willing to open for them is so small only a couple at a time are allowed to pass through. Technically, the pipeline will allow two black filmmakers and Tony Cox, but who'd notice him?


John Singleton was IN. Boyz in the Hood, despite its poor spelling, did for Singleton everything it needed to in order to secure his spot next to Spike Lee in the pantheon of two allowed brothers (P.T.A.B.) in Hollywood at a given time. He had been granted great, if not limited power to take it to the next level. Poetic Justice was a curiosity which made decent bank, but is remembered more for Janet Jackson than it is for Singleton and Higher Learning is at best akin to a college freshman attempting a Raymond Carver flick. The next choice would be a big'un. He was going to use responsibility with his dab o' power.


His next choice was Rosewood. It had by far the biggest budget for a Singleton movie. It had the most esteemed cast. It was based on a true story that had been swept under the rug for decades only to surface and reveal one of the more telling and shameful racial crimes in our country's storied history of racial injustice. Everything was in place. It had the potential to be a firecracker of an event but it fizzled and probably got a few crackers fired. Though some critics gave it a pass, Rosewood is a seriously flawed and heavy-handed movie. Earnest is expected in something like Rob Reiner's Ghosts of Mississippi, a dab of white guilt spread over two hours of movie-of-the-week pap, but Singleton was a powderkeg waiting to blow. Intelligent. talented. BLACK. Typically you'd not see the tools of the trade in hands like his. Spike Lee, for all of his considerable gifts, you see coming from across town. Singleton had the gift of the sneak, but somehow his film also sagged under the weight of earnestness.


I have to wonder who Rosewood is for. Is it meant to be a teaching aid of a horrible event in history, because it doesn't really work as a piece of historical non-fiction. Is it an art film, because it seems too heavy-handed to be so. Is it a revenge flick? Whatever it is, it doesn't have enough resonance to be anything but a misfire.


The best things to come out of Rosewood make its existence worthwhile: an amazing Bruce McGill performance and the fact it seemingly forced Singleton into the mainstream where he cut his teeth with stuff that truly was beneath him. read: Shaft.


Now it seems like John Singleton's on point. He's got an incredible eye for talent and material as a producer, his chops have been tightened, and he's savvy. His best work is most certainly ahead of him. It's a shame I had to endure Rosewood to get to here but c'est la vie.


- Nick

Travesty Scale (1-10): 4 out of 10

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