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Movies: Hold Matt Damon's Hands, Speak to Your Departed Loved Ones

 Haley Joel Osment finally gets some company.


Guestblogger trailers through fingers (too many spoilers) and waits impatiently for the feature. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Clint Eastwood, now in his 8th decade of life, has never been more regular. Somewhere between the months of October and December each year, comes a new Eastwood picture for your consideration... or "For Your Consideration" if you're a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In some years, like 2006 (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima) or 2008 (Changeling and Gran Torino), we get two movies. This year we get three; they're all called HEREAFTER. 

Tsunami The first movie begins in 2004 with Thailand's awful tsunami which killed thousands of people. It's a gripping horrific sequence that's well filmed though it risks easy ridicule with an extended shot of a teddy bear floating in the water. The terrifying waves sweep up Marie (Cecile de France), who happens to be a famous French journalist on the last day of her vacation. She dies momentarily but other quick thinking tourists revive her. Soon Marie is adrift in her own life, unable to focus on anything but her near-death experience. Her new "what happens when we die?" obsession begins to eat away at her professional reputation, her fame and her love life. If you're the type of moviegoer that objects to tragic global events repurposed to dramatize the problems of Pretty Rich White People, you're going to be wishing the film a quick death before we get to movie #2.

Meanwhile in America, we meet George (Matt Damon) who wants nothing to do with the afterlife. He used to be a medium, a very gifted one, but he's had quite enough of speaking with the dead. If you so much brush his hands with yours, he's got your dearly departed treating him like fleshy voice mail.


George prefers to be left alone.

Movie #3 involves twin boys Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) who live in England with their drug addict mom and cover for her with visiting social workers. Tragedy will strike them too.

 Despite three separate chances to offer up an involving story or characters, the movie is strangely stiff and repetitive. The opening sequence is practically the only one that barrels forward with a vivid pulse though a subplot involving George and a cooking class adds some unexpected color and welcome humor. Hereafter does have touching moments (the subject matter all but guarantees it) and if you can excuse the tsunami insensitivity, it's exceptionally well meaning; there will be no  holier than thou sermonizing about living a certain kind of life to deserve a pleasant hereafter, no denominational wedges to separate you from your neighbors. But Hereafter is also maudlin to a fault. (Eastwood really must stop writing his own musical scores.) Eventually, as you've already surmised, the three movies will become one. But that happens much much later and they'll still feel like three, as the characters stiffly pace around each other waiting for something to happen or perhaps for the end credits to roll.

Taqwacore ALSO OPENING: Should you be seeing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 this weekend, good luck. (You know the odds with horror sequels.)

In limited release there's one queer interest film. Strand Releasing, a theatrical distribution company that's been good to the gay community for twenty years now, is offering the Islam Punk scene drama TAQWACORE (pictured left). The film promises a full range of Muslim characters you won't ever see from a Hollywood film: straight edgers, riot grrrls in burkas and openly queer punks all intermingling in the apartment of a college boy in Buffalo, New York that's a mosque by day and a live club at night.

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  1. "Clint Eastwood, now in his 8th decade of life"

    A minor point but Clint Eastwood is 80. Which means he's in hif 9th decade of life.

    I have the same birthday as him - May 31st, dontcha know.

    Posted by: SteveC | Oct 21, 2010 6:33:43 PM

  2. I will pay money to see Matt Damon in almost anything but there is no way I would pay a cent for this "Paranormal Crap 2"

    Posted by: jaragon | Oct 21, 2010 6:45:28 PM

  3. "If you're the type of moviegoer that objects to tragic global events repurposed to dramatize the problems of Pretty Rich White People..."

    That was all I needed to know. NEXT!

    Posted by: RW | Oct 21, 2010 8:19:05 PM

  4. Having just seen Hereafter, I will add only that as someone who has experienced loss and tragedy akin to the characters in the movie, I found Eastwood's direction sensitive and true - not at all maudlin. And the weaving of the three stories in the final act was actually believable and quite moving. But then I guess snarky critiques garner more readers in the blogosphere than delving into real human experiences with any depth. IMHO Mr Eastwood's annual contributions to film are worthy of a great deal more than just our consideration for Oscars. He speaks to a side of our humanity that Hollywood has long since abandoned.

    Posted by: bluedogJ | Oct 21, 2010 8:22:22 PM

  5. Hereafter looks like ass. Eastwood needs to do another western before he dies (direct and write, if not star due to his age), as unforgiven is arguably the best western ever made...lonesome dove is up there, too. And if you didn't enjoy the good, the bad and the ugly, you have a vagina, slick. No, it's not a film; it's a movie; and as such, it's goddamn entertaining.

    And when is the dirty harry series going to be revived (without eastwood, obviously)? That has a lot of potential. Harry Callahan can't die out in the eighties. Fuck...movies are over.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 21, 2010 8:56:50 PM

  6. Clint can do whatever he wants. And he will. I'm with BludogJ on this one. I didn't think I was going to like it, but by the end I did. Not everything works in it, but it was all well worth the effort. Clint is a gentleman in an industry of thugs.

    Having met him I can also report he's incredibly nice in a very casual way. He's more like an actula person than a star -- even though he is a star and incredibly tall.

    For some time now an Eastwood film was an assurance your intelligence wouldn't be insulted. This was real on-the-job training. he started out as a director doing genre exercises like his masters Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. But he has graown and we're all the richer for it.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 21, 2010 9:49:41 PM

  7. "The film promises a full range of Muslim characters you won't ever see from a Hollywood film: straight edgers, riot grrrls in burkas and openly queer punks all intermingling in the apartment of a college boy in Buffalo, New York that's a mosque by day and a live club at night." Yeah, a range of characters you won't see in real fucking life either. What laughable propaganda. What's the bet the fools who made that end up with a fatwah on their heads.

    Posted by: Chunks | Oct 22, 2010 2:49:28 AM

  8. What I love about Clint Eastwood is that he makes movies as if the '80s and '90s never happened. By which I mean he doesn't pander to an audience or rely on suburban focus groups, he just makes movies. Sometimes they don't work (I wasn't a huge fan of The Changeling), and sometimes they shouldn't work (I was totally taken in by Gran Torino) but you have to give the guy props for trying to be something different in this age of Michael Bay and James Cameron. I too was skeptical about Hereafter but I completely bought into the characters and their stories. I urge you to give it a try.

    Posted by: jamesintoronto | Oct 22, 2010 8:26:08 AM

  9. Sounds like if you like deepak chopra you will like hereafter. Similar themes of rejecting lifes flow when it comes to spiritual phenomena...? I'm going to check it out because #1 I don't mind seeing how rich white people think because they run our media anyway and I see it as my lifes research work and #2 some of us men have vaginas, as tank believes, and we love dramatic stories about our innate connection with others.

    Posted by: Bong | Oct 22, 2010 8:43:27 AM

  10. I love this movie & highly recommend it. Slow and meditative, but deeply moving, with an amazing opening sequence that's like nothing Eastwood has ever done. As for your objection to tragic global events re-purposed to dramatize the problems of Pretty Rich White People, that is insulting and just plain dumb. You're like a Fox News blowhard railing against a mosque on sacred territory near the WTC. Is the privileged west somehow obligated and restricted to telling stories ONLY of the poor & dispossessed developing and third world when it comes to the 2004 tsunami? The tsunami didn't discriminate. Poor and rich, white and brown and black, women and men were all caught up in its fury, including "rich white" Americans whom I knew.

    Posted by: SBGUY | Oct 22, 2010 1:23:36 PM

  11. WARNING: I just saw HEREAFTER tonight.. It was Horrible. Stay away in droves. It was bad on just about every account. A lifeless film indeed. Flat. dull story line. too slow. and should have been edited much better . I know none of you will believe me about this and you will go.. Hell is has Matt Damon in it and it's an Eastwood film ...right ? Someone really dropped the ball on this one. ALL the best scenes are seen in the rushes.. Remember that I told you so !!!

    Posted by: MarkBoston | Oct 25, 2010 2:58:50 AM

  12. This is a great movie! This film is brilliantly made. Great casting and very interesting story.

    Posted by: Elgart | Nov 5, 2010 11:38:23 PM

  13. I loved "Hereafter." I didn't find the film maudlin, perhaps emotionally manipulative ... but I guess those two are the same thing? I was into the film the whole time. And perhaps two parts (or one?) of the movie deal with privileged white persons (one part certainly doesn't).

    I don't care for Bryce Dallas Howard, but she is starting to grow on me. I liked her as Gwen Stacy. And I believe her choices in this film were spot on, especially when we find out what she's all about.

    I highly recommend the film, but it all depends if you're Tank or you're somebody who enjoys "Terms of Endearment."

    Anyway, this review certainly generated more posts than usual!

    (I didn't find your comments snarky. Not sure how one can.)

    Posted by: Vince in WeHo | Nov 20, 2010 9:00:09 PM

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