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Rating the holiday releases

"Rating the holiday releases" Continued...

Issue: "Tsunami," Jan. 15, 2005

Despite these flaws, The Aviator is as forceful as anything on screen this year. One wonders, though, when Hollywood stopped making movies about heroes worth admiring and emulating. Although sometimes instructive, one can only gain so much from continued examinations of men (a favorite Scorsese theme) ruled by their lusts.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

While The Aviator is firmly rooted in historical detail, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (rated R for bad language, some drug use, violence, and partial nudity) comes from somewhere else entirely. Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) continues to carve out a unique niche, creating films with a voice and visual style all their own. Aquatic, about a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer in the twilight of his career, would seem to take Mr. Anderson into the realm of more traditional storytelling.

It is, however, the least grounded in reality of any of his films.

Aquatic is a film to be enjoyed solely on the basis of its architecture. Every scene is intricately designed, framed, scored, and choreographed. Those who appreciate Mr. Anderson's peculiar sensibility won't be disappointed. But there's no emotional, and, more importantly, no moral, center to the film. Mr. Anderson is so averse to melodrama that the audience isn't equipped to "feel" anything when one of the main characters dies toward the end. No one in the film is in possession of significant redeeming qualities, although there's a sort of off-kilter message on the importance of family that eventually develops. This is definitely no seafaring adventure for kids: The dialogue is regularly spiced with bad language, there's some brief incidental nudity, regular drug use, and most of the main characters engage in affairs of one sort or another.

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