Merry Christmas - I saw this French (I think?) film in Hong Kong right before I left for Chicago. It is based on a true story during WWI in 1914. It's basically about how three sides of the battlefield (Germans against the French and Irish) refused to go to battle on Christmas Eve and how the sides found it difficult to continue the battle. I found the movie simple yet profound. The entire movie really just spans a week max. The message was also quite simple: men as single units are mostly anti-war; it is only a problem when you put them in armies. Well... do I even want to start on this topic?
Unfortunately, this movie may not even make it to the US. There's no macho hero, no real villain, no real tear jerking moment... just men on a battlefield, "working" for different govenments, fighting for nothing they really believe.
Recommedation? Yes, go see it. It's light hearted and carries a good message.
Memiors of a Geisha - I hear it's a really good book. I found the movie lacking depth and in general weak. Unlike Merry Christmas, this movie is driven by the characters, starring Zhang Ziyi (章子怡），Gong Li (鞏俐），and Michelle Yeoh (楊 紫瓊). The movie starts off strong with nice sceneries of Japan and strong performances from the little girl and the adults she had to deal with. Gong Li, in particular, was really good. Then it starts going downhill. Except for Gong Li and the Japanese lady who played owner of the Geishas, the other characters really were just floating around with not much development. Zhang Ziyi, in particular, disappoints me. Personally, I think it's more of a casting problem. By any measure, she is not that stunning. She's beautiful, yes. Taking the breather of the who's who in Japanese upper class, no.
Unfortunately, the movie never develops into anything significant. The last part of the movie, when all the older ladies leave and the Geisha is trying to reestablish herself with her former "men," in particular, is painful to watch. Men use the Geisha as a product or gift for their own purposes. The Geisha views herself as the perfect gift. There ought to be some depth in these exchanges. Yet what ends up on the screen are chessy dialouge followed by predictable scripts. And then some more chessy scenes. My question after watching the movie: why did Steven Spielberg not direct this himself? I hate him when he is executive director.
Recommendation: read the book. I hear it's really good. Oh, and definitely buy the CD. When disinterested in the movie, I listened to the music and it was magnificent.