FROM THE FAVELAS TO NAIROBI: Fernando Meirelles and The Constant Gardener

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Near the end of the closing credits to The Constant Gardener, the following dedication appears on screen: “to Yvette Pierpaoli and all other aid workers who lived and died giving a damn.” Pierpaoli, a friend of the novelist John le Carré, was working on behalf of Refugees International when she was killed in Albania in 1999. So moved by Pierpaoli’s rigorous commitment to helping the poor obtain food, money, and shelter, le Carré took from her example several qualities in fashioning Tessa Quayle, the martyred heroine of his 2001 novel. The setting becomes Kenya, and Tessa, an idealistic young Englishwoman devoted to improving healthcare for impoverished Africans, gets in the way of a pharmaceutical company that brandishes the Orwellian-sounding motto, “The world is our clinic.”

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Lemony Snicket/Bad Education

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The most pleasant surprise of the holiday movie season turns out to be Brad Silberling’s film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I laughed almost throughout the entire movie, and (as my readers know) that isn’t a claim I can often make. Silberling, who was all thumbs in his previous work Moonlight Mile, here shifts tones–fanciful, comic, tragic–masterfully. A Series of Unfortunate Events may be fakery and manipulation, but what fakery and manipulation! After sitting through advance screenings of such inept “serious” films as The Aviator, The Woodsman, and yes, even The Life Aquatic (none of which will be reviewed here), encountering Jim Carrey as the ruthless, murderous Count Olaf amidst Rick Heinrich’s predominantly black and gray production design (with costumes to match by the flawless Colleen Atwood) gave me the same euphoric consumerist high as walking into a mall and hearing Andy Williams bellow “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the jingle bell’d Muzak.

The movie begins with an affectionate parody of Continue reading Lemony Snicket/Bad Education