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In America is one of the very finest films of 2003

 
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The Third M?n
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Joined: 09 Sep 2003
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 01.10.2004 8:29 pm    Post subject: In America is one of the very finest films of 2003 Reply with quote

Who here has seen In America? Rate and discuss [and click on the link for my review].
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Danny Baldwin
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 01.10.2004 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


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The Third M?n
Studio Exec


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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 01.11.2004 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I have, and, really, the only reason I like it as much as I do is because it's told in the eyes of the children. That method was genius.



Genius? I consider it to be rather logical, given that the film is Sheridan's most auto-biographical, and lots of the events that are portrayed in the film did actually occur to him and his family [even though some of them may have been a little exaggerated.] He was a child when he migrated to America, so I guess that's the reason why he does it. Still, he proves to be "a natural born storyteller", like I said in my review, and yes, narrating it from the eyes of the children is very effective. The film is a fable more than anything, really.
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The Third M?n
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You said in your review, "But, instead, it?s an uplifting one." Bingo. One of the things I most loved about the film was the near Capraesque optimism that constantly lurked within it. Also, I agree with you; Honsou's performance as Mateo was terrific.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, here's a question: would it be so uplifting and optimistic if it were in the eyes of the parents?
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 01.11.2004 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Third M?n wrote:
Yes, narrating it from the eyes of the children is very effective. The film is a fable more than anything, really.


I agree the film wonderfully mingles kitchen-sink realism with lyricism. But I disagree that the film takes the POV of the children. Many of the most powerful scenes are never even witnessed by the children--such as the father's soul-baring scene with Mateo--and others are clearly told from the parents' view, such as the border crossing near the beginning. To me, the POV is the family entire, to the exclusion of the outside world. As a title In America might be a misnomer, since America doesn't really play a specific role. Instead, the setting remains steadfastly within an emotional, nearly fairy tale realm.

Eric
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The Third M?n
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
The Third M?n wrote:
Yes, narrating it from the eyes of the children is very effective. The film is a fable more than anything, really.


I agree the film wonderfully mingles kitchen-sink realism with lyricism. But I disagree that the film takes the POV of the children. Many of the most powerful scenes are never even witnessed by the children--such as the father's soul-baring scene with Mateo--and others are clearly told from the parents' view, such as the border crossing near the beginning. To me, the POV is the family entire, to the exclusion of the outside world. As a title In America might be a misnomer, since America doesn't really play a specific role. Instead, the setting remains steadfastly within an emotional, nearly fairy tale realm.

Eric


Then again, there is a very visible symbolism for what I said - one of the daughters often has the camcorder with her, with which she films some of the stuff we see. Thus the fact that we can say it's life seen through the eyes of a child.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.11.2004 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Third M?n wrote:
Then again, there is a very visible symbolism for what I said - one of the daughters often has the camcorder with her, with which she films some of the stuff we see. Thus the fact that we can say it's life seen through the eyes of a child.


Or life seen through the eyes of a machine.

I'd argue that the camcorder conceit deepens the film's sense of unreality, especially in the scenes that incorporate the grainy footage. But to argue that the entire film is from the sisters' POV is to disregard other clear visual evidence to the contrary, especially the many scenes that the girls never witness. We are given information they, themselves, are not privy to, which must deny them POV ownership.

We can't will a POV into being based on minor evidence that only partially represents what Sheridan is doing.

Eric
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The Third M?n
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, I've heard many people say that Mateo is by far the weakest link of the film. But why? I thought Honsou portrayed him to near perfection and the subplot with him was marvellous, what with the moments with him and the two sisters -- besides, his philosophy on life, which has a big impact on the family, is a very good one. And at the end, it is he who helps the family, is it not? What did you think of him?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that the Mateo subplot is the weakest portion of the film, especially since he is first presented as a Dangerous Black Man, and then, in a total (and instantaneous) reversal, a Black Savior. I'm not willing to call it casual racism, but the attempt to have it both ways certainly struck me as suspect. Plus, his aid at the very end smelled a bit too much like deus ex machina for my tastes. Still, I don't want to sound like a disliked the character or his use; my reservations might be related to the fact that Mateo represents the film's fairy tale qualities, and I preferred Sheridan's street-level realism.

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the fairy tales work best, representing the world in the adventurous and unafraid eyes of the girls. Mateo is a mere myth to them at the beginning, a delightful piece of exploration to chew on. When he later is developed, and him being near death is spoken of, it does contrast and doesn't work as well as it could've, but Hounsou's work prevails, and the role becomes, what I think is, the most important of the film, tying it together in a wondrous fashion.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 01.13.2004 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny, I can certainly go with all of that, although I personally preferred the realism more. I don't want to overstate my preference, though--I really admired the mix of realism and fairy tale. I also personally responded much more deeply to the father than to Mateo--I felt that the pivotal performance belonged to Paddy Considine, not Djimon Hounsou. I felt that his work was extremely believable, especially in terms of relaying complex, contradictory emotions. Without diminishing Hounsou's contribution, it's Considine who I can't erase from memory.

Eric
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Fred C. Dobbs
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Joined: 11 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: 03.12.2004 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw this film in Janurary, and this is one of the only films to ever leave me in tears. By the end of the film, I had my face in my hands, and I was still crying. Embarassed

The film left such an impact on me, I added it to my top 20 list. I'm very upset the academy didn't recognize this film for Best Picture. The Bolger sisters may be the best child actresses i've ever seen! One of the best scenes is when Paddy Considine is trying to get the E.T. doll for the girls. Very suspensful, and a great example that you don't need explosions or CG-enhanced effects in order to build great suspensful atmosphere. Needless to say, I give the film five stars, although I can understand why some people didn't like it.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 03.12.2004 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad you talked about the suspense in that scene at the circus: I also was on the edge of my seat at that moment, especially since we realize how much emotional baggage rides on the winning of this doll. (We get the feeling that if he doesn't get it, the girls' happiness will disappear, and the father will feel unworthy. Of course, it will also be more than $100 down the flusher.) Sheridan switches between moods many times in the film with extraordinary ease.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 03.12.2004 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
I'm glad you talked about the suspense in that scene at the circus


That's the scene my wife and I haven't stopped talking about. Very powerful, very intense, for the reasons listed by Matt.

Interesting comment about the child performances, Fred. Have you ever seen Ponette?

Eric
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