Flight of the Phoenix / Alexander

As previously noted, my girlfriend and I have been seeing a lot of movies, both in the theater and on DVD. From the past couple days:

I enjoyed Flight of the Phoenix -- it's exactly what it promised to be: an adventurous tale of a motley group of underachievers who have to band together and overcome great obstacles in order to survive. The over-confident pilot (Dennis Quaid) miscalculates and crashes his plane in the desert near Mongolia, forcing the passengers (the crew from an oil drilling site that's been disbanded by the corporate headquarters) to figure out what to do. The geeky guy (a platinum blonded Giovanni Ribisi, who is on my short list of quirky favorites) saves the day by being smart, which always makes me want to cheer. Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, and Sticky Fingaz spend lots of screen time with their shirts off, so it did make us want to run to the gym and lift weights, which probably isn't a bad side effect at this time of year. In short, if you have a couple of hours and a desire to go hit a matinee during the holidays, this one isn't bad.

Today we finally went to see Alexander -- we'd been putting it off until we could go to an early matinee, because we'd heard so many whiny complaints about its length (which is close to 3 hours). If you have any interest in the topic, and you don't already hate Oliver Stone, it's well worth seeing on the large screen for pure spectacle value. I was totally hooked into it, and didn't even notice the length, except for the fact that I had to leave to pee in the middle. Classical history and myth has everything a filmmaker could wish for: jealousy, pride, passion, revenge, murder, incest, the randomness of fate... I'm not a specialist in the area, so I can't make any comments on how the film is or is not "historically accurate." I don't really think that's only way to evaluate it. Visually it appealed to my historical sense enough to be credible for the 3 hours I was watching. (As well as beautiful/staggering in places.) The relationship between Alexander (Colin Farrell) and Hephaistion (Jared Leto) is really powerful and touching -- and I liked the film's casual acceptance of male homosexuality within ancient Greek culture -- Alexander's interest in men is shown as both part of that culture and also sometimes exceeding the expected roles or bounds. (For instance, his public acknowledgement of the boy dancer Bagoas causes friction within the ranks because it raises issues about Alexander's cross-cultural conquests and political goals.) Stone, or somebody, seems to have been reading up in Said's Orientalism -- I suspect for many nonacademic viewers his points about the conflicts between the West and the East will be either lost entirely or perplexing, since most Americans tend to think of "the East" as the "far East" -- China, Japan, etc, rather than what is now called the Middle East. Anyway, there's plenty to think about, but also plenty to just enjoy: Angelina Jolie gives a fabulously over-the-top performance as Alexander's snake-covered witchy mother Olympias; Anthony Hopkins sneaks in as Ptolemy; huge panoramic battles, and great campy splendorific scenes of Greek soldiers in short togas. Great fun.