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[Movies] Hotel Rwanda (with Houston Rockets spin)

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by Rasselas, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. Rasselas

    Rasselas Contributing Member

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    Sorry this is a little old, but I didn't want it to get lost in the best picture shuffle. It's a crime that "Hotel Rwanda" didn't get nominated.

    Anyways, when I'm not watching the Rockets I'm a film critic, so I thought I'd share my review of "Rwanda," especially since I begin the review, weirdly, with the Rockets.

    It's a film that I never would have bothered to see if I didn't have to, but I'm glad I did. I've been urging my friends to check it out.

    Here's the review (and link).

    _______________

    I’m a big fan of basketball. Specifically, I love the Houston Rockets. So when I think about the year 1994, I think about the Rockets winning their first NBA Championship. That was a great team. I can name the entire roster, from Hakeem Olajuwon to Scotty Brooks. I can rattle off trivia, like how they began the season with a 15-0 record. I can name every playoff opponent: the Blazers, Suns, Jazz, and Knicks. 1994 was a great year.

    Those things seemed important.

    What I can’t do, though, is tell you a single thing about Rwanda. The Rockets were winning, and that’s all that mattered.

    This is all preamble for the highest possible compliment I can give a filmmaker: Terry George, who directed the remarkable true story of Hotel Rwanda, has made me rethink the Rockets’ place in the universe.

    In 1994, while Olajuwon blocked shots and spun to the baseline, and while I yelled at the refs and studied the box-scores, almost a million people in Rwanda were persecuted, hunted, and butchered. As Rwanda suffered a genocide, the rest of the world ignored it, and I watched basketball.

    The brilliance of George, though, is that he doesn’t focus on the larger tragedy. He doesn’t dwell on the one million people, and he doesn’t sermonize with a Michael Moore-esque diatribe against the United States. That’s too vague. “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic,” or so Stalin said, and Terry George listened.

    Instead of getting lost in the big picture, George sticks to the true-life story of one man, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle, in a surefire Oscar performance), who attempts to shelter a thousand refugees from the genocide. Hotel Rwanda is not about politics; it’s not about foreign policy, and it’s not even about the genocide. Not really. Hotel Rwanda is an old-fashioned romance, a story of adventure and courage, a tale of heroes against villains.

    As the movie begins, we’re introduced to Paul Rusesabagina as the cool-headed manager of a four-star hotel. Rusesabagina is competent, smooth-talking, and concerned with himself and his family, but not so much about the rest of Rwanda. The hotel is surrounded with hints of danger and the threat of civil war, but the flimsy presence of the United Nations—personified by UN agent Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte)—holds a tenuous peace.

    Rusesabagina is crafty and resourceful. Given the looming violence, he knows that there might come a time when his family is not safe. So he uses his hotel connections to make friends with higher powers—Col. Oliver, Rwanda generals, foreign ambassadors and the like. Wearing a stylish suit and flaunting expensive cigars, Rusesabagina shakes hands and doles out bribes, saving up favors for a rainy day.

    Gradually, and without any awkward exposition, we learn about the explosive friction in Rwanda. There are two rival ethnic groups: the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi. A visiting reporter, played by Joaquin Phoenix, remarks that two women in a bar, one Hutu and one Tutsi, “could be sisters.” But just hours later, a single act of violence—the murder of the president of Rwanda, a Hutu—incites panic, chaos, and then a barbaric hunt for any Tutsis. A hissing, hate-mongering radio station urges the Hutu to “kill the cockroaches.”

    Rusesabagina, a Hutu, is friends with many Tutsis, and reluctantly he shelters several in the hotel. He wants to help, but he doesn’t want to compromise his own family’s chances for survival. Soon more Tutsis arrive at the hotel, and then still more. Eventually, Rusesabagina struggles to maintain appearances at the hotel, keep his family safe, and make sure that his high-powered connections are still buttered up.

    George expertly ratchets up the tension. Violence, which is first only seen at the edges, creeps closer and closer to the hotel’s walls, infusing the film with a real sense of panic. Instead of giving a panoramic view of the genocide—instead of long shots—George keeps the camera squarely on our heroes in the hotel, watching Rusesabagina as he charms, bribes, and out-maneuvers first the Hutu military, then the savage militia, and then the enemies from within.

    It’s a refreshing bit of old-fashioned storytelling. There are no gimmicks. No tricks with the camera or warping of the timeline. The movie could have been made in the 40’s. Once the Tutsis are bunkered in the hotel, for ninety minutes, George takes us on a high-stakes roller-coaster that leaves us breathless. And he does this without showing hard violence, nudity, or even language. The threat is implied, never shown, which makes the danger all the more frightening.

    Superb acting abounds. Cheadle, of course, is magnificent. Sophie Okonedo, who plays Rusesabagina’s wife, is painfully sympathetic. And in less than ten minutes of screen time, Joaquin Phoenix personifies the embarrassment and shame of America. His journalist watches, open-mouthed, horrified, at the atrocities committed just several hundred yards from the hotel. When he is forced to evacuate, he is deeply ashamed, a sentiment shared by the rest of Western Civilization.

    Hotel Rwanda is a political movie for people who don’t like political movies. George makes us care about Rusesabagina, and therefore the Tutsi, and then, surprisingly—cutting through the Houston Rockets, and the daily noise of our lives—he even makes us realize what was really important in 1994.


    Movie Grade: A+


    Link:

    review of Hotel Rwanda
     
  2. Rivaldo2181

    Rivaldo2181 Contributing Member

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    I saw this film in a sneak peak before it came out and wow I came out with a heavy heart. I posted a thread here trying to get the word out back in early January but not many people seemed interested. Peace.
     
  3. The_Yoyo

    The_Yoyo Contributing Member

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    this movie is simply amazing I was able to watch it at a screening at school and Rusesabagina was there too to take questions afterwards. When the movie ended everyone gave it a standing ovation for 10 minutes. It was one of the few times I went to a screening at school and I am glad.

    If you havent seen this movie get off your butt and go see it right away!
     
  4. Rasselas

    Rasselas Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I was lucky enough to interview both Don Cheadle and Paul Rusesabagina. Paul's amazing. Soft-spoken and charming, just like in the movie. And Cheadle NAILS his accent and mannerisms.

    Everyone's been talking about how well Foxx did with Ray (and I agree), but Cheadle's work is just as true to life.
     
  5. movement

    movement Contributing Member

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    bump for a great movie.
     
  6. SwoLy-D

    SwoLy-D Contributing Member

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    Who's got the illegal copy? Hand it over... moestavern, where did you see it? I wanted those free passes from the CHRON
     
  7. Aceshigh7

    Aceshigh7 Contributing Member

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    What happened was a tragedy but it wasn't our fault, and I don't feel that America deserves any tag of "shame". If you want to blame the U.S for not going in and stopping it then you must blame the rest of the world as well. And why didn't the U.N do more. It's really their place to go in there and not that of the U.S. They delight in chastizing our every move but then when there is a situation like this which is pretty much what the U.N was created for, they do very little.
     
    #7 Aceshigh7, Feb 27, 2005
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2005
  8. Vengeance

    Vengeance Contributing Member

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    It's totally worth paying to see. I've seen it twice so far. I didn't really know anything about the conflict before seeing the movie, but afterwards I spent about five hours reading about it. After learning so much about Rwanda, the movie was even more significant the second time. I was only 13 when it happened, and we'd just moved back to the US a few months earlier, so I wasn't too focused on world events. Now, I just feel awfully for the whole thing -- it is one of the darkest events that the world has ever seen, and it is so tremendously sad that the international community did so little. I think it's a movie everyone should see becuase it leaves you with such a sense of social responsibility.
     
  9. Rasselas

    Rasselas Contributing Member

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    I do.
     

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