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Movie Reviews: 2 ’04 Oscar Winners

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Over the past couple of weeks I have gotten to see a pair of films which won Best Picture Oscars at 2004 ceremonies. One was the Best Documentary (Feature Length) winner, Born into Brothels, which I saw the night before the big show and the other was the Best Foreign Language film, The Sea Inside. I figured I would take a quick look at them, at least one of them.

I think I will get the bad out of the way first. The Sea Inside is not a bad movie, but I was unable to watch it objectively, and for that reason I won’t be spending much time on it. For those who are not familiar with it, it is based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro. He was a Spaniard who suffered a tragic accident which left him a quadriplegic, he then spent the next nearly thirty years of his life attempting to get the legal ability to end his own life. I don’t wish to get into the moral implications of such a story, and I tried to put them aside while viewing the film. The problem was that all I saw was the tale of a man who was selfish and gave up on life, he claimed that he had no dignity being in his condition, yet it doesn’t appear as if he even tried to truly adapt to what happened to him. The film puts forth an agenda that assisted suicide is a good thing, and anyone who opposes that is a religious zealot, or has no idea what they’re talking about. There was no true even handedness in the way it was told. Aside from that,the film looks great, director Alejandro Amenabar, who also directed The Others, gives the film a nice leisurely pace that works to the films advantage. Javier Bardem, who portrays the bedridden Ramon, does a fine job of giving us a character who does not move for the vast majority of the film. It is worth a rental for the curious. I would have given this award to House of Flying Daggers, Bad Education, or I’m No Scared over this one.

Born into Brothels would have been my number 2 pick behind the wonderful Super Size Me, but don’t let my humble opinion have any effect to keep you away from this movie. This movie was both inspiring and depressing. Co-director Zara Briskie also plays a major onscreen role and is a catalyst for much of what happens. She had been living off and on in Calcutta for a number of years studying the woman who live and work in the Red Light district, and by doing so came to be very close with the children. It is rather depressing listening to these kids talk about what their life is like, especially for the girls who are just waiting to be put on “the line.” The kids know that they have little chance to escape what they were born into and are mature and cynical well beyond their years. Zara Briskie started to teach the kids photography, the kids would take the cameras out into the streets and shoot whatever they wanted to and then go over the photos and give reasons why they were good or bad. We get to see many of these pictures, and I have to say, they have very good eyes, there are some wonderful pictures and compositions. Zara leverages these photos into attempts to help save these kids from a bleak future. The attempts work to varying degrees. It is definitely an interesting look into the lives of these kids, it makes one even more thankful for what we take for granted everyday. The film doesn’t look like a Hollywood film, it was clearly a low budget production, but what counts here is the content. I urge all of you to check this film out.

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