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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

10 years of Flick Filosopher: Oscar grubbing

Pretty, pretty pictures and pretty, pretty movies stars who think they’re Important: is there anything more risible? From my review of The Last Samurai:

Behold the Prestige Picture(TM), the moviegoing experience that lets people who don’t want to be surprised at the movies feel like they’re seeing an Important Film about important things like Honor and Respect and Love and War and Poetry and History. So of course there’s nothing in the least bit challenging or unexpected in The Last Samurai. Like all Prestige Pictures, it’s Important-Lite, all beautiful, vapid visuals and entirely predictable emotional sweep and a movie star getting down in the mud and Acting. The Last Samurai is a starving-artist painting to hang in the living room of your mind because it matches the sofa there and doesn’t clash with your status quo and never demands anything of you except that you tell it once in a while how pretty it is while it reinforces everything you already think you know. The film is so innocuous that it’s barely even there, blending into the beige walls of inoffensive mediocrity.

review of The Last Samurai, posted 12.05.03

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  • MBI

    In my opinion, this is the single finest review on this Web site, and the reason I still keep coming here. I am amazed at how many people fell for this bullshit. But more importantly, I am amazed that of the many critics I read regularly, including some of the most vicious and “ruthless” critics on the Web, there was only this site (an avid promoter of prestige pics like Gladiator and Troy, no less) that was willing to take a chainsaw to this bullshit movie for being such worthless, condescending pabulum. There are times when I think there’s no movie in the universe that makes me angrier than The Last Samurai. As often as I disagree with the reviews on this website, I am eternally grateful for this particular little piece of movie criticism.

    They were talking a possible Oscar nod for Cruise at the time, you remember that bullshit?

  • MBI

    I mean, Christ, it’s about a FEUDAL WARLORD who wants to bring a sword to a gunfight! He gets martyrdom why??

  • Fuckin’ A. This review exemplifies “nailed it”.

  • MaryAnn

    there was only this site (an avid promoter of prestige pics like Gladiator and Troy, no less)

    Well, in my defense, if I may be allowed to defend myself without being accused of being “defensive,” I mostly appreciated Troy on the level of “geek appreciating B movie.”

    But the difference between my appreciation of Gladiator and my lack of appreciation of The Last Samurai is the difference between The Last Samurai as it actually exists and The Last Samurai as it might have been had Tony Goldwyn played the lead, as I suggested in my review. Russell Crowe makes Gladiator work on whole other levels beyond the merely cheesy “prestigeness,” as Goldwyn probably would have made The Last Samurai actually, genuinely intriguing. Crowe can actually act, as can Goldwyn — really, truly earn your sympathy for their characters. Cruise knows only how to play himself, for the most part.

  • MBI

    “But the difference between my appreciation of Gladiator and my lack of appreciation of The Last Samurai is the difference between The Last Samurai as it actually exists and The Last Samurai as it might have been had Tony Goldwyn played the lead, as I suggested in my review.”

    That’s certainly a valid point — Cruise really is just awful in that movie — but the part I really liked about your review was where you pointed out that it reduced “honor” and “respect” into meaningless buzzwords. I have no idea what Cruise’s character was actually fighting for in that movie. “Vapid” was exactly the right word here.

  • The Last Samurai also falls into the “foreign culture as seen by the white man” trap, where the central dilemma — namely, the extinction of Watanabe’s world and way of life — only attains validity after it has been absorbed and appropriated by Cruise’s character. Regardless of their flaws, neither Galdiator nor Troy succumb to that.

    Also, Russell Crowe is taller than Cruise. And scarier.

  • Doa766

    I remember going to an advanced premiere of matrix revolutions where the trailer for this movie played, everyone was booing and laughing at it, then the trailer for the return of the king played and everyone was cheering

    to what it was said I would like to add that this movie also belongs to that group of films where even before the screen was written it was decided that it was gonna end with a big battle(tm) but they forgot to establish any reason or motivations for one

    that group also includes king arthur, pirates 3, matrix 3 and many more

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