|The Summit in Cloud Atlas|
Underwhelmed by the book, I was not particularly interested in shelling out good money to see "Cloud Atlas" in the theaters. Now that it is available "On Demand" with our HBO subscription, I finally got around to it.
I had another reason for watching the movie. When I was serving on the homeowner association board, we were contacted by the movie production company requesting permission to use an external "set up" shot of the building in the movie. We thought the request a bit odd, as anyone can photograph a building from the outside. Regardless, after reviewing the cast, we requested a direct negotiation with Halle Berry. Alas it was not to be. We agreed to the shot and they paid the association a little money which we contributed to the Wounded Warrior project.
So... About 14 1/2 minutes into the movie our building makes a brief cameo appearance. I watched on the PC so I could do a screen capture and post it here (see top of page). The title on the screen is "San Francisco, 1973". For locals of a certain age, there is an obvious mistake in the shot. Yes, the Summit building was here (completed in '65), and yes the Transamerica building was here (completed in in '72). However, the Bay Bridge suspension cable lights featured in the shot were not installed until the bridge's 50 year anniversary in 1986. There are surely more mistakes, I suspect the Embarcadero Freeway would have been visible in this shot in 1973.
Am I being overly picky for a 3 second shot in a 3 hour movie? Perhaps. For me, that shot was the highlight of the movie. As for the movie itself... well... here is the bloated, overlong, overwrought six minute trailer which, as it turns out, was a pretty good proxy for the bloated, overlong, overwrought movie itself:
The two words most frequently associated with this pretentious piece of crap during its theatrical release was "Oscar bait". At least, for once, the Academy did not take the bait.
The funny thing is I like every actor in the movie. I mean - Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant. What's not to like? And I like almost everything the Wachowski's have ever done. And I enjoy epic science fiction with time/space bending narratives. So what went wrong? Two things.
First - Tom Hanks. Look. I hope Tom Hanks wins an Oscar for "Captain Phillips". In that flick, the actor disappeared into the role. A great, believable performance. But in "Cloud Atlas" all I could see is Tom Hanks in bad makeup with laughably phony ridiculous accents. He was a continuous distraction.
Second - The book. Nothing can get past the source material here. The new age-ish, "we are all connected" , "reincarnation until you get it right" karmic mysticism was hard to swallow. This is a movie and book that demands you appreciate that it has something VERY IMPORTANT to say about the HUMAN CONDITION, LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, and EVERYTHING. If instead it comes across as a load of pretentious horseshit, well - the movie is just not going to work for you. It didn't work for me.
On a positive note, the Wachowskis came through with a visually sumptuous CGI ride. And that, at least, gives the movie one unique distinction. It is the rare movie that is better than the book it is based on. The movie is bad. The book is worse.