Babel

The nominations:

  • Adriana Barraza – Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Rinko Kikuchi – Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Alejandro Gonzales InarrituAchievement in Directing
  • Achievement in Film Editing
  • Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Original Screenplay

The Black-and-White:

What?

I am aware of the irony that after viewing a filmed called “Babel”, I am speechless. I have no idea what to say.

My plight is not because I was shocked and awed, at least not in a good way. I just don’t have any idea what this movie was about. I don’t get it. At all.

Here’s the IMDB synopsis:

“In Gen. 11:9, the name of Babel is etymologized by association with the Hebrew verb balal, ‘to confuse or confound'” (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/babel)…”Babel”, through a series of misunderstandings, interweaves the unfortunate circumstances of a Moroccan, an American, a Mexican and a Japanese family. A Moroccan family acquires a rifle to protect their goats. An American woman, on a bus tour with her husband, is accidentally shot, which is in turn grossly exaggerated by the press who are quick to label the incident as a “terrorist attack”. The same couple’s children accompany their long-time caretaker to Mexico to attend her son’s wedding, where upon re-entering the United States face problems. A Japanese widower confronts difficulties in communicating with his deaf teenage daughter whom simply craves human contact.”

Okay. Si. Hai. Iyeh.

Peut-etre.

We watched part of the film last night, but gave up in a fog of confusion. It was all Greek to me. But I am going to watch it all again today (got it via Netflix) as I prepare the house for the Oscar party. Stand-by.

I’m back. Hope you enjoyed the interlude.

Bueno.

If you read my reservations above, I may have been wrong. Please read on.

This movie reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time, “Magnolia”. I’ll admit that I am a sucker for stories that link together seemingly unrelated lives, and people, and surprises, with the revelation that, yes, the cliche is true: we are all related by no more than five degrees of separation. Or, as in this story, even just one.

This movie was nominated in a lot of categories, so let me try and focus my remarks in a way that attempts to address what I think they deserve.

Best picture: well, my big bugaboos this year are that movies have no sympathetic characters, and that there is no character or plot development. “Babel” triumphs in both.

I actually did give a damn, and I gave a damn for everyone. It was an ensemble cast, and it was no small accomplishment that I was given enough that I wanted them all to succeed. From the little boys who shot Cate Blanchett; to their father; to the illegal immigrant who cared for her children; to the man who unwittingly set the plot in motion by giving his rifle to a hunting guide in Morocco; to his daughter, deaf, mute, and tormented by the suicide of her mother, and her own isolation, adolecence, frustration, anger and desire for some sort of human contact that breaks down the invisible barriers that separate her from the world of the hearing, and the world of the not-yet-emotionally-scarred.

And these characters evolved. They started somewhere, and they went somewhere else. In any other year, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But after “The Departed”, “Little Children”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Queen”, “Venus”, “Blood Diamond” (and the list goes on), this movie is remarkable in that all of its myriad of characters start somewhere, and end somewhere else. And we fracking care about the journey.

Is this the Best Picture of 2006? Well, I don’t think so, because my vote is still with “Little Miss Sunshine”.

But it is very, very, good.

An Oscar for Directing? Hmmm. Interesting. Perhaps. I don’t think it will win, because I think either Martin Scorcese will win (which he shouldn’t), or Clint Eastwood will (and I think he probably should). However, it wouldn’t be a travesty if Alejandro González Iñárritu did. He pulled together multiple stories, seemingly unrelated, and did so in an enlightening way. Maybe, just maybe…

Achievement in editing? Well my own personal opinion is that no movie that runs over 2 hours should win for best editing. However, perhaps this criterion could be relaxed for a movie with such a complex story. And if so …. then maybe. I liked the way the stories were cut together. Indeed I did. So maybe…

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

Count ’em: two actresses from this film received nods in this category.

I really, really dug Adriana Barraza – she was sympathetic, believable, and totally immersed in her character. If she wins, I would totally support it. Her performance was sooo more complete than most of the other actor/actress nominees this year.

Similarly, Rinku Kikuchi was good. The Academy loves performances that portray a physical or mental disability (vis “Rain Man”, “Ray”, “My Left Foot”, etc) so she may have a leg-up, so to speak, in this category. I don’t know the actress, but I doubt she is deaf/mute, and yet she seemed to convey a person in that situation in a believable way. But more importantly to the arc of the story, her character was a lost soul (and this is an important point – her character was not defined by her disability; rather it was a part of the character that she was). Alone, isolated, frustrated, devastated, and adolescent in her reaction to all of the cacaphony of the story, she … continued her journey, and discovered herself, in an inspiring fashion. True, this could have been the credit of the screenplay, but still, it worked.

My one complaint is that her evolution all occured in her last scene. Could have been the fault of the screenplay.

Probably Jennifer Hudson will win in this category (and that’s a reasonable choice), but Rinku was good. We’ll see if she has more than angst, and an ability to take off her clothes, in the years ahead…

And finally …

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score): Maybe. I’m not really musical but I will say that this film blended together very well Mexican, Moroccan and honky music. Given the other nominees, this picture should probably win in this category.

The last word: my suspicion is that those who like this film like it, in the first case, for the story. It was a wonderfully interwoven adventure and insight into both the unforeseen and the unknown. Yet it was not nominated for any writing nominations.

I don’t dig that.

Finally …

A strange and languishing reservation:

  • In the film, the characters who survive are “white”.
  • The people who die are “people of color”.

Hmmmm.

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One Response to Babel

  1. […] Not to dwell on the past, but, UG, the last couple of years have been tough. Watching  Best Picture nominees has been harder  than enduring a Tom Cruise attempt at an Irish accent (and thots sayin sumptin.) You remember the spry comedy of “No Country for Old Men“, the joyous romp through  “There Will Be Blood“, the romance of “The Departed“, the whimsical drama of “Babel“? […]

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