District 9 and other extremely boring films

Like all too many films we have seen recently District 9 is BORING. It starts out interestingly enough, but from the start it seems unsure if it wants to be a reasonably straight sci fi film, a political allegory or a sci fi comedy spoof. The film is set in present-day Johannesburg, which has been visited by grotesque aliens known as prawns who have emerged from a giant spaceship that hovers over the city. The prawns have been forced into squalid squatter camps but they escape.

The hapless Wikus Van Der Merwe leads the team that tries to round them up, but he has only got the job because he is the son of the head of the multi-national company in charge of the effort, so it’s no surprise that he’s pretty hopeless.It doesn’t help that he looks a bit like Alan Partridge and there’s a chorus of journalists and others who occasionally pop up to give a rather self-conscious commentary in an Office-like way.

The idea of separation and squatter camps has obvious apartheid overtones, and there are also thuggish Nigerians in the camps who deal in prawn weaponry and body parts, just as there are people from all over Africa in South Africa trying to eke out a living. The cannibalistic Nigerians are portrayed in a highly xenophobic way that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, so to speak.

But after the thematically very mixed up but reasonably interesting first half hour or so, the film becomes simply a Rambo-type action movie with vast amounts of blood and guts and an extremely limited vocabulary consisting almost entirely of the f-word. This soon becomes extremely tedious and we were bored stiff (though it may appeal to not terribly bright 15-year-old boys).

Incidentally we have seen a number of terribly dull films lately. These include Swedish horror film Let The Right One In, which got wonderful reviews, but although it’s slightly creepy and pervy as one might expect from such a film, we found it extremely flat and uninteresting,

Equally dull overall was Synecdoche, although it was excellent for the first 20 minutes when it was about illness, death and hypochondria (and quite funny!) but becomes terrifically pretentious and dull for the subsequent two hours (or whatever) when it turns into a tedious meditation on a theatre director for whom art becomes his life (or something like that). The idea of actors on a vast set in a disused factory or warehouse with lots of parallel plots in some kind of grandiose soap opera where it’s difficult to tell what is real life and what is the drama the director is directing is an interesting idea, but it’s so lengthy and lifeless it became utterly tedious. And I got awfully tired of the sight of the talented but over-exposed Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But the most mind-numbing film I have seen in my life is Bustin’ Down the Door, a documentary about middle-aged surfers reliving their glory days in Hawaii in the 1970s. It was mindblowingly uninteresting from the first few seconds (an “I’m wonderful, you’re wonderful, we’re all wonderful” surfing awards ceremony), followed by endless inane soundbites from said aging surfers plus grainy footage from the hallowed 70s. The only slightly interesting part was about a turf war involving a nasty bunch of heavies who resented the Australian and South African new arrivals, but that wasn’t really developed. And why was it shown in the large format Imax? The surfing footage was old and grainy and didn’t benefit at all from being shown on a huge screen, and the rest of it consisted merely of talking heads. An utter waste.

Incidentally I noticed that Shaun Tomson, one of the surfers featured in the film, is both executive producer and producer, which may be why he and his mates come over as a little egotistical and un-self-critical.

Which is not to say we haven’t seen some good to excellent films lately, such as Frozen River, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (Le premier jour du reste de ta vie), The Damned United and Home, and but I simply don’t understand why so many people seem to have liked the really boring films and they got such good reviews. Chacun à son goût, I suppose…

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