Writer-director Joss Whedon, the creator of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, saves the world from destruction yet again in the first of the summer blockbusters, Marvel’s The Avengers. The adventure is moderately enjoyable but rather exhausting.
Whenever people complain to me about the lack of “realistic” movies out there, I point them to tiny gems such as Ann Hui’s A Simple Life, Hong Kong’s entry for last year’s Oscar for best foreign language film.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by British director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), is a “hands across the water” movie flavored with large doses of “there’ll always be an England” pluck. It culminates in a warm and thoughtful look at our innate ability to rediscover unexplored strengths within ourselves even on the last few miles of life’s journey.
Movies about education are seldom convincing; their depiction of what goes on in the classroom hardly ever tallies with our own experiences. So the sweet and poignant Quebecois film Monsieur Lazhar is a rare pleasure.
Lee Hirsch’s documentary Bully rings false from beginning to end. The film wants to sound alarm bells about the prevalence of bullying in public schools, which is certainly a very real problem. But like the recently completed trilogy of TV documentaries about the child murders at Robin Hood Hills and the young men who were evidently scapegoated for the crime, the movie has a tawdry, voyeuristic quality that keeps distracting you from its alleged agenda.
We practiced at “The Decontam”— clumsy name for an ugly place—bare concrete rooms buried beneath a protective pyramid mound of soil, turf, and God knows what, designated sanctuary nonetheless for any unlucky enough “in the event of nuclear attack” to survive the initial blast and burn to reach this subterranean space of hollow refuge. The Station Decontamination Centre—to rhyme the place in full, an—as yet—unfrequented location (praises be . . .) where, Tuesday nights, an ill-assorted crew of horns and woodwinds—sackbuts, cornets, clarinets, even the occasional bassoon—would fumble-stumble along through “Colonel Bogey,” “The RAF March Past,” old favorites from Gilbert and Sullivan, “Chu Chin Chow,” and Noel Coward, rehearsing for the CO’s garden party, full-dress dinner evenings at the Mess. They echoed so, those naked rooms and sounding corridors, as if our music might drown out—yes, decontaminate—the cold, blind fury cradled tight beneath the wings of our sleek avenging bombers; full squadrons perched above in laden readiness, paying no heed to our hapless melodies and marches.