revisiting the 9s: hotel rwanda (terry george, 2004)

[This is the eleventh in a series that will probably be VERY intermittent, if I remember to post at all. I've long known that while I have given my share of 10-out-of-10 ratings for movies over the years, in almost every case, those movies are fairly old. So I got this idea to go back and revisit movies of relatively recent vintage that I gave a rating of 9, to see if time and perspective convinced me to bump that rating up to 10. Of course, it's always possible I'll drop the rating, but time will tell.]

I saw Hotel Rwanda back in 2006, liked it so much I gave it a rating of 9, but never wrote about it for some reason. Watching it again after all these years, it's clear why I was impressed. The based-on-fact heart wrenching story of the Rwandan genocide is effectively presented ... we hate the people behind the slaughter, and we root for Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who protects some thousand refugees while deflecting the efforts of those committing genocide. It's all fairly straightforward ... Rusesabagina does not ask to be a hero, but he rises to the crisis.

Cheadle's brilliant performance further embeds his character into the hearts of the audience. If that was all there was to Hotel Rwanda, it would be easy to say "9/10". But there has been controversy over the film's presentation of Rusesabagina, with some claiming he wasn't as selfless as the movie suggests. For me, this doesn't detract from the power of the film, but it does give pause when evaluating the movie after the fact.

The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Cheadle for Best Actor (he lost to Jamie Foxx for Ray). #696 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 8/10.


film fatales #100 and #101: two documentaries from 2020

Totally Under Control (Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger, 2020). Alex Gibney has dozens of credits as a director, including Enron, Going Clear, and Magic Trip. For Totally Under Control, an expose of the U.S. inadequate response to COVID-19, he called in two co-directors, because he wanted it to be finished before the 2020 election. Indeed, the film was finished just as Donald Trump tested positive for the virus, which was noted in the credits. The film makers had to deal with making a film during a pandemic, and one of their solutions was a complicated camera setup that allowed for interviews without fear of contagion. Totally Under Control is in the ripped-from-the-headlines school of documentaries, and it is impossible for it to tell the whole story, when that story isn't finished unfolding. Thus, the film, with its detailed timeline of events, will likely be more useful for historians looking to examine the period, than it is for us, who are living through it. Still, the movie is infuriating, as is intended.

Geezer Cinema: My Octopus Teacher (Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed, 2020). My Octopus Teacher tells the story of a man, Craig Foster, adrift in his own life who discovers new meaning in the waters off the coast of South Africa. It is a joy to watch, with beautiful underwater cinematography. Often I wondered how certain shots were achieved ... Foster is presented as a loner who swims alone, but clearly someone else has taken at least some of the photography. If you are like me, with limited knowledge of the world beneath the surface, just seeing the various animals is amazing. And I learned that some octopuses (most? all?) are rather small. This threw me off at times, because I assumed the star octopus was as huge as an alien monster, only to realize that it was much smaller than Foster. Foster falls in love with a particular octopus (there's no other way to put it), and in the process, learns about his life (hence, the film's title). Sometimes the film gives the impression that the octopus was only put on earth to illuminate the life of Craig Foster ... he does a lot of ruminating during the movie. But that's a bit unfair. The movie is properly titled "My Octopus Teacher" and not "Craig Foster Learns About Life", and Foster doesn't come across nearly as self-absorbed as I'm describing. In fact, he went on to co-found a project to protect marine life.