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PCR # 346  (Vol. 7, No. 45)  This edition is for the week of November 6--12, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

La Floridiana Lite  by Will Moriaty
"Babel"  by Mike Smith
The 2006 Holiday Preview  by Mike Smith
Get Miff'd!....Concert Review: THE CULT  by Andy Lalino
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Part Two  by Drew Reiber
Happy Birthday....Bond Is Back....And There Was Much Rejoicing....In Texas, "Doing A Great Job" Means "You're Fired!"....I H8 You!...What??...But Can He Bite The Head Off A Bat?...Passing On....My Favorite Films, Part 45: "All That Jazz"  by Mike Smith
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Paramount Vantage     
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 22 mins

Have you ever been driving and, when faced with which way to go, knowing either one takes you to your destination, choosing one over the other, not really knowing why? Have you ever encountered a problem on that road (stopped by the police, hit a deer, flat tire) and then cursed your decision, reasoning that if you'd gone the other way your trip would have been uneventful? One moment leads to another and another our entire lives. This life progression is the story told in "Babel."

In Morocco, a goat-herder buys a rifle. He gives it to his young sons who guard his flock, instructing them to shoot at any jackals that threaten the goats. Curious as to how far a bullet will travel, the younger son sites in on a tour bus and fires. Nothing.

On the bus, Richard (Pitt) and Susan (Blanchett) are sitting quietly, using this vacation as a way to erase the pain of a recent tragedy. Suddenly a bullet crashes through the window, striking Susan. Within minutes, the story is flashed around the world that an American tourist has been shot by terrorists.

In California, a nanny (Barrazza) is hoping the parents of her charges return home quickly. Her son is being married in Mexico the next day and she simply cannot miss the ceremony.

In Japan, a deaf girl (Kikuchi) joins her team in a game of volleyball. Soon she is out of the game, given the boot for arguing a bad call with the referee. Strange as it may seem, these adventures are all connected by one tiny thing. Like a smooth lake with a surface like glass, once it is hit by a rock the ripples begin, progression unstoppable. Again, it is the small decision that you didn't even think of that soon becomes the most important one you've ever made.

A great film filled with great performances, "Babel" unfurls in a series of interlocking scenes. From Morocco to Tokyo to Mexico, the film jumps from scene to scene, with each one shedding more light on the story. Director Inarritu, whose last film, "21 Grams," also dealt with the power of decisions, is an outstanding storyteller. His script, written by himself and his longtime collaborator, Guillermo Arriaga, consists of real people dealing with real situations with real emotions. Pitt is the angry American, barking orders at all around him trying to get help for Blanchett. The young Moroccan boy, amazed and frightened by the consequences his family must deal with because of his actions. The young girl, dealing with a distant father and the death of her mother by exploring her young sexuality. And the nanny, with no one to watch the children, making the tragic decision to take her charges over the border into Mexico, not knowing the consequences of her actions. As the story progresses, you begin to identify with the characters. You're angry, frightened, saddened and terrified all at once.

The cast is exceptional, with Pitt giving one of his best performances ever. His hair gray and his face wrinkled, once again Pitt has cast aside the exterior to bring out the character inside. A scene where he breaks down and sobs while talking to his son is heartbreaking. Blanchett, who spends most of the film laying on a floor waiting for help, has limited scenes but makes the best of them. The rest of the cast is equally outstanding, with Kikuchi standing out among the supporting players. Not being able to speak she communicates through writing notes, letting all of her emotions show on her face.

Like "Traffic" and "Pulp Fiction" before it, the film jumps from locale to locale, slowly forming a story from its many parts. It is a story that grips you and doesn't let go. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Babel"  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Babel" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.