• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Animal Kingdom gives us Australian cops-and-robbers and three solid characterizations, James Frecheville as an almost catatonic callow youth (casting glances at a TV game show as paramedics administer to his unresponsive OD’d mother on the couch), Jacki Weaver, a bottle-blonde little dumpling of a woman, as the sugar-coated monstrous materfamilias of a nuclear crime family (“I’m having trouble finding a positive spin,” she crumbles slightly after a son’s death), and a mustached Guy Pearce as the gently persuasive police detective. Otherwise nothing to shout about as the dramatis personae get methodically mowed down. Instead I take the occasion to mention something that has been slowly, slowly driving me mad, building, building to this unavoidable boil-over: the consistent chopping-off of the tops of heads on the wide screen. The director here, David Michôd, cannot be branded an especially egregious offender for what has become pretty much the norm, too common to be explained as bad framing on the part of a random projectionist, actors shot from the hairline or the eyebrows down, the lack of headroom giving every conversation the appearance of taking place under an umbrella. I would only want to point out, only want to scream out, that there exist a couple of time-honored alternatives. There is, first, no law that says you have to shoot people close up on a wide screen not suited to closeups, and second, no law that says you have to shoot a film in widescreen if you insist on shooting dialogues in closeup. Once in a while for super-duper, collar-grabbing intensity, okay. But all the time? Standard operating procedure? It would be nice to be able to see the new norm as some exciting innovation or trend instead of, as I see it, directors and cinematographers not knowing anymore how to compose an image. It would be nearly as nice to be able, maybe someday, no longer to notice ­it. ■

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


monaghan Aug. 26, 2010 @ 2:27 p.m.

On the strength of Duncan Shepherd's four-star (highest rating) review of "Cairo Time," I put down $10 to go see it. But now I have to ask if the reviewer had a favorite niece working on this ridiculous and boring film which caused him to give it such an undeserved enthusiastic thumbs-up.

"In synopsis, it sounds like nothing," our Reader critic writes -- now there's a hint of truth! Lead actress Patricia Clarkson "seems a real woman" -- when in fact she seems a dead woman walking. (Those phone conversations are just not believable.) Her Egyptian male companion is not a "cornball matinee idol" like Omar Sharif -- no, he closely resembles an attractive stick. Their "situation" is ludicrous -- the all-male cafes that she enters without incident; her chess expertise, the PB-style hookah-smoking; the chaste kisses in the lobby, the uber-possessive macho husband in foreign-correspondent garb who materializes by surprise and sweeps her away.

This was a desperate summer for movie-goers, I admit, but "Cairo Time" was without a doubt the sappiest film I have seen in years. I went to see it instead of "Eat, Pray, Love," not wanting to support that kind of Upper-One-Percent fantasy.

No kidding, "The Return of Nanny McPhee"should have gotten four stars: it leaves "Cairo Time" in the dust.


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!