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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK= TRAFFIC


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Voted as Film of the Year in the New York Critic’s Circle in 2000, there are some terrific moments which piece together to form the docu-drama “Traffic” which is the topic of this week’s film Recommendation.
The original trailer for TRAFFIC

A formidable cast collided for the making of “Traffic”, filmed by Director Steven Soderbergh (winner of Best Director for this film in 2000), including the likes of Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro (Best Supporting actor winner), Catherine-Zeta Jones, Albert Finney, James Brolin and Dennis Quaid which headline this fantastic piece of film making.

Erica Christensen and Michael Douglas
A relevant medley of stories focusing on various areas of the drug trade (users, dealer, suppliers, buyers and the DEA) are where the film focuses. Two primary characters in the film surface –Mexican border policeman Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) protects the trafficking of drugs coming in and out of Mexico with his own partner. On the other side of the border we have United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) who has been deemed as the new “Czar” to the war against drugs. Slowly and methodically, Wakefield begins to form a partnership with the Mexican forces of Rodriguez and his team. However, with all of this going on – home lives and personal lives are in shambles. The irony begins to surface as we the audience abruptly learns of Wakefield’s daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) who is quickly becoming a victim of drug-addiction.

(right) Academy Award winner Benicio DelToro
The sense of timing as well as the editing is also quite clean. As for Cinematography, the hand-held usage a key points (not over-used which is a real plus) in the film not only add the suspense genre, but also engage the audience in the docu-drama to gain that added advantage of a closer look in the characters, sets and situations. One area in particular for those who have a chance to re-visit “Traffic” is to take-in the Cinematography, the score, the sound and the camera work that occurs when the film focuses on Mexico. To add, the colors of the film and the gels used always inform the audience as to where they are and what type of characters we are dealing with. What a sense of terror, seediness and unease – and this was perfectly engineered by the film crew.

One comparison in terms of film-making and genre you could almost make is by looking years ahead in 2005 at the intense political-film “Syriana”. That is to say without delving into a discussion about “Syriana” that if you liked one, then odds are quite good that you had a strong appreciation for the other which I obviously did as a film-goer and as a critic.
 
In sum, this is a highly mature piece of film-making by Soderbergh and his team. ‘Traffic” attacked a tough subject from all angles and made it work as a film, as a docu-drama and as an educational work of art. All three (3) of the stories intertwining the stories maintain audience interest and could have been films of their own right when it comes down to it.

Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman
Then in 2000 and even now, “Traffic” serves as a film that movie-goers either loved - or loved to hate. The film purposely makes the audience almost detest aspects of it – thus, it is not the easiest thing to fall in love with it upon first viewing. Still, the bottom line according to this critic is that all of the elements of a high-quality film are present. The writing, the performances, the editing, the camera work, the set and costume design at the very least are all operating at an extremely high level in this film. Is “Traffic” flawless? No – there are pieces of the film and tid-bits that probably needed changing or re-arranging, but keep in mind that albeit not the “perfect” film or “best” film of all-time, it is one that must be re-visited from time to time. So, although a film like “Gladiator” took home the top award in 2000, I strongly suggest a re-visitation to “Traffic” so that you might realize the details and specifics that you most likely missed out on before.

JER: Well, JC, not much to say after everything has been said...in our own personal conversations, we have discussed both the films of Soderbergh and TRAFFIC. I remember first hearing about this project when it was originally a British miniseries produced in the early 80’s called TRAFFIK. Soderbergh took the UK story line and devised the story taking place between Tijuana, Washington and La Jolla...switching out the original locales of Pakistan and Great Britain from the UK telling.

Director Steven Soderbergh with camera
Not known to be a common act by a film director, Soderbergh actually took the hand-held camera approach and did most of the principal shooting himself! The vision was to create a feeling of being an on-looker, a spectator caught in the middle of chaos. The audience may feel a little voyeurism, especially involving some of the drug-using sequences involving Caroline and most of the Tijuana story line.

One very distinctive and consistent trademark that makes a Steven Soderbergh film recognizable is the tints and hues used in various scenes. In regards to TRAFFIC, all of the Tijuana scenes bear an over-exposed style of photography, almost white-washing some of the outdoor scenes, only to be colored by rusty tans and mixtures of oranges and yellows. Mostly all of the Washington scenes, however, are marked more in blue tints... now leaving most of the La Jolla storyline to look and feel more colorful and slightly vibrant. This can only be explained as a marking of desert, rain-pouring and overly- comfortable Southern California living...all in the film and all represented uniquely but its color schemes.

Douglas, Director Steven Soderbergh and Zeta- Jones
Winner of four Academy Awards: Best Director- Steven Soderbergh, Best Supporting Actor- Benicio Del Toro, Best Adapted Screenplay and Editing...TRAFFIC still plays as a tough and exposing piece of great film making today as it did in 2000! A film that holds the test of time is the work of true craftsmanship…as a Director, as a Screenwriter and as a story.

Another foot-note that must be mentioned is that TRAFFIC is produced by one of my favorite directors, Edward Zwick. Zwick directed such films as GLORY, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, THE LAST SAMURAI and BLOOD DIAMOND. A maverick filmmaker of his own kind, Zwick added a touch of support in the raw storytelling and realistic characterizations that were needed to make TRAFFIC a memorable film!

Make sure you share your comments, thoughts or anything else you darn well please! Do it here and we will reply back! As always, tune in next week for a new topic or recommendation…SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY! ;)


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5 comments:

  1. I remembre this movie - Traffic, and it was just great. I mean, people kinda thought it was boring, but they really didn't get it. You guys are both right. This is an excelent piece of film work and should be recognized as such since it deals with such a tough subject and the performances by all the actors and actresses were excelent. Good pick this week both of you! - Krystal from Santa Ynez, CA

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  2. TRAFFIC HAD SUCH A WONDERFUL CAST - LOVED THAT MOVIE. THE PLOTS WERE ALL INTERTWINED AND IT KINDA REMINDED ME OF A LOT OF OTHER MOVIES LIKE 'SYRIANA' THAT YOU GUYS MENTIONED AND EVEN MOVIES LIKE MOMENTO AND MORE FILMS THAT CAME OUT DURING THAT DECADE. THE MOVIE WAS VERY WELL ACTED AND TOTALLY INTENSE. THANKS FOR BRINGING THE MEMORY BACK! Josefina *BUTTE, MONTANA*

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  3. Hi J/J: Like the site and everythin in it. This week's movie selection of Traffic is a good one - I remember really liked it and ill rent it again for a re-wach. Thanks u2 and keep up the goodwork!

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  4. traffic as a movie and as a film were both excellent. thanks a lot for the reminder here you guys! (Will - Sacramento CA)

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  5. Thank you ALL...so great to see you all checking out our site...hope you enjoyed Johnny Chaz' choice of TRAFFIC...my turn Wednesday!

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