Saturday, 28 June 2008

Film: Steamboy

Lowdown: A childish warning about how we unleash the power of technology.
Review:
Without really knowing it, I grew up with heavy manga doses: my favorite program as a child, Star Blazers, was Japanese manga. That said, most of the time I find manga to be too weird for me to be able to really enjoy its storytelling. Case in point: Steamboy.
Steamboy is a fairly recent (2004) manga film with a rather impressive cast dubbing its English version, including Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin as the leading boy character, the grandchild of the Steam family. His grandfather and father are both English scientists dealing with steam during the middle of the 19th century.
The father/greandfather stumble on some major technological break while experimenting in Alaska. Something goes wrong, the news of the breakthrough gets to the grandson back in England, and our hero suddenly finds himself on a quest to deliver the breakthrough to a helpful authority while being chased by a mysterious Foundation.
Quickly enough we learn of the fight taking place here, with our Steam hero being caught in the middle: it's the fight between those who want technology at all cost, no matter what human harm comes out of it, and those that wish to utilize technology only so that it would benefit humanity.
In a typical Japanese way we see there is no real good vs. evil here, as our Steam hero learns that all sides just want the power of technology in their arsenal so they can subdue the others. On the way to delivering us the movie's messages about technology and about the way we humans have implemented it, while bearing in mind that the bulk of our R&D is put on inventing new ways of killing our opponenets, Steamboy has some pretty innovative ideas of its own: technology is implemented to create some very imaginative weapons, deployed in a multitude of scenes mostly revolving the World Expo set in London's Crystal Palace. However, while enriching the film with their imaginative nature, the ensuing fighting scenes tend to be way too long, repetetive, and rather predictable.
At the end Steamboy feels like a nice attempt to deliver a worthy message that gets clogged up with its own attempt to go over the top with imaginative ideas and less imaginative fights.
Best scene: As we're introduced to the boy Steam, we see him bashing peers of his with a metal tool. I found it interesting because your average American film, especially your average American kids' film, usually refrains from exposing the darker aspects of their heroes.
Overall: I really don't know if I qualify to pass judegement on Steamboy as I fell asleep towards the end and missed what could probably be some key scenes (I've had too much of waking up in the morning to watch the Euro 2008, it seems). Still, from what I have seen I can testify for an interesting idea being badly implemented. Steamboy just makes it to 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

DVD: Bridge to Terabithia

Lowdown: Kids look for acceptance in an imaginary world.
Review:
Prior to watching it, Bridge to Terabithia (BtT) intrigued me. On one hand, it was produced by Walden Media, a Christian evangelical group that peps up its films with good old Christian values as per their most famous creation so far, Narnia. BTW, it is interesting to note that the major studio collaborating with Walden in the production of the film is Disney: guess it takes a devil to cooperate with another. All this devil talk certainly made me curious!
BtT also got favorable reviews by the ABC’s David & Margaret. They said it was a nice adventure story and had a bit of a problem with its monsters, but if memory serves me right they gave the film three stars – again, that’s enough to make me interested in what seemed like a fantasy story (not it doesn't really matter what they said; it's what I remember them to say that matters). Who knows, maybe it would be a Christian version of Stardust? I was even more curious!
I’ll cut to the chase: I was gravely disappointed by BtT, mostly because it is not a fantasy tale at all but rather a film of a completely different nature that includes a bit of fantasy. I will warn you now that the following paragraphs include a major spoiler, so for the benefit of those who won’t read the rest I will add that not only is BtT not a fantasy tale, it is also very badly made.
Still here? OK.
So what genre does BtT fall into then, if it’s not a fantasy tale? The simple answer to the question is that it’s a film about outsiders. To narrow it down even more, it’s a film aimed at children that discusses outsider children and their attempts to survive and maybe even prosper in a hostile environment (that is, an environment made mostly of conformist kids). Thing is, given its target audience – kids having a hard time and looking for help – BtT packs a rather violent twist that makes me warn every parent out there not to show it to their kids.
BtT tells the story of a young teenager boy (as in, a teenager who only recently hit double digits) living somewhere in rural USA, where, as it seems, most people would fall under the definition of simple god fearing folk. He is good at drawing but he doesn’t get much acknowledgement on that: like all good god fearing families, his mother is mostly busy in the kitchen taking care of his three sisters while his father (Robert Patrick, the only familiar face in the film) is a hard working man that just provides for the family and is mostly interested in how well his only son has performed his house chores.
The boy is not only an outsider at home but also an outsider at school. The only person who would relate to him on the school bus is his little sister, while all the rest are pretty mean.
That, however, changes when a new girl comes to town. That girl is something else: she is not particularly Jesus oriented by her own admission, she is very literate (her parents are writers), and she can even outrun the boys in running competitions. This very imaginative girl finds her way into our boy’s class and, as is quite obvious, they quickly find shelter in each other’s unconventional company. Their differences unites them.
The Terabithia part of the story is the story of the two kids’ escape route: they find this abandoned neck of the woods and in their imagination they create a world of monsters and heroes where they just happen to be the rulers. They have some imaginative adventures there and they utilize some super powers to fend off some evil monsters (that, by the way, have a long way to climb up the ladder of evil before any other film would regard them as a proper baddie).
As I said, the imaginary bit of the film is quite short and is far from being center stage. The bulk of the film is to do with the children’s struggle to find their own identity amidst the surrounding atmosphere of alienation, manifested through older kids bullying the younger ones, sisters only interested in watching the crap on TV, parents who are not there, and lack of appreciation for our kids’ talents.
BtT takes a major turn at the end of is second act (that is, two thirds across this hour and a half long film). And here is the major spoiler: That girl that changed the scene for our boy dies; the rest of the film then becomes the story of coping with this death.
And that’s where my main problem with BtT lies: First and foremost, this death makes this supposedly PG rated film pretty much unwatchable for kids. While death is often portrayed in kids’ films, I can hardly recall a case where (a) it takes such a central role, (b) it is to do with a girl that is a child herself (as opposed to the more regular scene of a older relative dying), (c) it is to do with a main character as opposed to a supporting role, and (d) it consumes the viewer’s attention as much. Sure, teaching kids about death is important, but why so bluntly? If this is Walden’s idea of instilling good values, I would say they need a brain implant.
Thus BtT ends up a mishmash of sorts: a tale of kids trying to find their place, a tale of fantasy, and a tale of coping with death. None of the components really work that well with one another, the attempts at synergy are badly executed with suspension of disbelief overly stretched and the kids’ poor acting kills it all.
You finish watching the film and you ask yourself what it was all about and what was it that the film tried to tell you. The problem is, it’s hard to say: does it imply you need to escape to an imaginary world in order to cope with your problems here on earth? In my opinion the issues raised by the film are issues well worth discussing, it’s just that the handling is bad and the proposed solutions would make things even worse.
Memorable fact: The film’s church will not take females wearing pants in. I wonder if that is the general case with churches? I don’t recall the bible having much to say about pants, especially in the context of women. Still, it’s probably much better than the treatment women get at synagogues.
Technical assessment: As I had said on previous occasions – Disney knows how to produce a DVD.
Overall: A badly made projection of a weird mind that is quite disturbing. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

DVD: Sixty Six

Lowdown: Everything coming in the way of a boy and his Bar Mitzvah.
Review:
I used to think that I was aware of most contemporary films concerning football but obviously I was wrong: Sixty Six managed to completely pass under my radar up until it was recommended by a friend from work. I consider myself lucky to have received this recommendation, because Sixty Six is one good English comedy.
The year is 1966 and the location is London. A pretty useless but nice Jewish boy, the son of a pretty useless but nice father and the brother of a terrorizing older brother, is about to have his Bar Mitzvah. He's dreaming about it for ages and plans all the little celebration details, including the dreaded seating arrangements and the invitations, the nemesis of all celebrators.
Alas, during 1966 England was hosting the football world cup, and as it turns out the tournament's final falls exactly on the date of the Bar Mitzvah. The boy ends up being the only one in England who barracks against his national team in the hope it won't reach the final so he could have a decent Bar Mitzvah with plenty of worthy guests and nice gifts, but as England progresses up the tournament his hopes shatter one by one. It's not only the football, but through the nature of his father his family's financial situation deteriorates and his dream Bar Mitzvah looks as promising as contemporary the English national football team's prospects are (for the record, England failed to qualify to the current Euro 2008).
Besides the main line of the Bar Mitzvah falling on the cup final day, Sixty Six is fulll of Jewish folklore jokes. To be honest, I doubt you need much of an understanding in the way of the Jew to get the jokes; they are pretty much the cliche Jewish jokes we are used to, from hiding money up the roof to the weirdo rabbi that packs some worthy insight up his sleeve.
The thing about Sixty Six is that it works. The jokes are funny, for a start; I mean, the idea of building a comedy around the collision between a national event and a personal event is brilliant to begin with and has the potential to supply tons of easy jokes. Ultimately, though, Sixty Six is about the son and the father connecting with one another through the event that is the Bar Mitzvah, so comedy aside you do end up with a rather personal and touching story.
Watching Sixty Six certainly brought up lots of personal Bar Mitzvah memories. For a start, like the movie's hero my own Bar Mizvah was a rather minor affair that paled in the shadow of my older brother's elaborate celebrations. Unlike the movie, though, I was happy with the lower key celebration as I couldn't care less about the Bar Mitzvah and just did it for the lure of the gifts. Yet just like in the movie the gifts were crap... But while the movie's Bar Mitzvah was a tool to get a father and son together, my own Bar Mitzvah didn't bring me any closer to my father; we just went through the required motions together in a rather mechanical way (I'm really ashamed to say I did study my bible passages rather tediously). That is actually one of my major problems with those who practice religion: with most of them, religion starts and ends with the rituals, without much in the way of understanding what these are supposed to represent and the thinking behind them. Not that I endorse religion in any way - for a start, putting grown up responsibilities on the shoulders of a 13 year old qualifies as either crime or idiocy in my book - but at least the movie's Bar Mitzvah managed to unite a family.
I guess that is the nature of most movies, though: they take you into a world of fantasy.
Best scene: The father drives the son to Wembley stadium during the film's climax. Uncharacteristically, he speeds and he crosses a red light; when he's stopped by the police he appeals to the policeman's national pride for mercy, only to discover the guy's a Scot.
To be honest, there's a multitude of similarly funny scenes in Sixty Six; the thing about this one is how well it fits the climax. It's a timing thing.
Overall: Innocently charming worth 3.5 stars out of 5, but much more enjoyable than its star rating might lead you to think. A comedy that is really worth watching.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

DVD: Atonement

Lowdown: A child's mistake (?) ruins the lives of those around her, as well as hers.
Review:
Keira Knightley and the team that brought us Pride and Prejudice are back with a vengeance in Atonement.
Keira belongs to a high class English family living in a mansion with servants and all just a few years before the breaking of the Second World War. We're told she went to Cambridge together with a similarly aged servant boy, whose studies were financed by Knightley's father. The two do not seem to be getting along, though.
Keira also has a young teenage sister who's a bit on the jealous side yet routinely fails to attract the adult attention she craves. One day, this younger sister - who, by the way, is actually the lead role in the film despite all the Knightley publicity - sees a strange incident involving the two Cambridge graduates. She immediately assigns sexual interpretations to what she saw, and at first the movie pushes us to think so too; a few minutes later the movie takes us back Rashomon style to show us the way things looked like from Knightley and the servant's point of view, and we see how wrong the initial interpretation was.
One mistake follows another. The servant writes a letter of apology to Knightley but ends up sending the wrong letter; then the little girl sees someone raping a girl and accuses the servant, just as we learn that Knightley and said servant are lovers; and the combination of it all, plus the class difference which just invites the servant to be the eternal victim, ends up sending him to jail for a crime he did not commit.
By now I have covered roughly half of this boringly slow event called Atonement. The next thing we know, war has already broken, the servant is fighting his way to Dunkirk, Keira has disengaged from her family to become a nurse, and the question that looms in the air is whether the two will manage to fight through the hurdles and live as lovers. Plus whether the little girl can compensate for her mistake. Plus whether the mistake was intentional or not.
There is much that is wrong with Atonement. For a start, the plot doesn't really hold itself up: it is rather tedious, and the chain of events that lead to the lovers' tragic separation is rather thin; one does not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to smell the fishiness of the incrimination that took place. The focus on Dunkirk is also weird; other than an opportunity to provide the viewer with some lavish war scenes, there is nothing particularly unique about Dunkirk in the context of the film.
The worst thing about Atonement, though, is that it tries to hide the above mentioned deficiencies with a stupidly artificially thick layer of sophistication. I have already mentioned the showing of a key scene from several perspectives; it doesn't happen once but rather several times during the film, and in some of the cases we are shown very different things to what we've seen before (as in, showing us that what we have seen before was a figment of a character's imagination, or wishful thinking). It's overused, it calls out "look at me, I'm so sophisticated I can make a film with multiple angles", and it feels as if the director is trying way too hard to cheat us and show us how superior he is to us because he knows how the story ends.
Add cinematography and editing that calls too much attention for itself, again mostly for pure show off purposes, and you end up with a film you could have done without.
Best & worst scene: A lengthy sweep across the beach at Dunkirk calls way too much attention to itself but also shows some intensive vistas such as the shooting of horses so they won't fall to German hands.
Overall: If one was looking for a fine example of the corruptive way in which films are over-hyped in order to promote box office sales, one does not need to look any further than Atonement. For a film that was described as a film made for an Academy Award, Atonement is made of awfully mediocre material.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

DVD: Bobby

Lowdown: Every American was affected by the killing of Bobby Kennedy.
Review:
First there was Magnolia. A film that is made of a collection of unrelated stories joined in their climax by some relatively low level commonality. I liked Magnolia; in its year (1999), I thought it was the best of the crop.
Magnolia copycats started popping up like mushrooms after the rain. The most notable of the imitations was Crash, which went on to win the Oscars because its year (2004) failed to offer it stiff competition.
And now comes Bobby.
Bobby's entire plot takes place inside the hotel in which Bobby Kennedy was shot during the last few days before he was shot. It follows a multitude of stories telling us about a variety of Americans visiting/working at the hotel and their lives while emphasizing how these lives were affected by the Kennedy promise and later how their hopes were shattered with Kennedy's death.
In no particular order, the stories include the tale of a young black supporter of the Kennedy campaign for presidential election; two other supporters who focus on taking drugs instead of supporting the campaign; a female singer at the end of her career who refuses to acknowledge the end is coming; the hotel's doorman and his chess adventures; the hotel manager, his wife and his love affair; a young couple about to get married only so the guy won't be sent to Vietnam; an older couple where the wife needs to shop in order to feel vital; a Mexican hotel kitchen employee forced to work a second shift despite having extra curricular plans; and many many more. It is unclear how authentic the stories are; the end credits say some was real and some was not but adds that the doorman was real.
Just as the Bobby's stories are numerous so is the cast, featuring such a lengthy list of first class Hollywood stars I will name but a few: Uncle Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt, William Macy, Martin Sheen, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, and Sharon Stone.
The problem with the Magnolia formula, the way it is implemented in Bobby, is that it's all too predictable. Since you know the story of Bobby Kennedy you can see through the film and sort of smell where it would take you. That said, the formula works and you never feel like Bobby is boring. What you do feel, after watching Bobby, is contempt towards the stupid Americans that managed to squander the excellent chance offered by Kennedy and instead ended up with the likes of Bush. It is pretty clear that in the eyes of Emilio Estevez, the unlikely director of Bobby, Bush represents the alter ego of Kennedy, and it is also clear which of the two he would have preferred to see. Just as it is obvious where Estevez would have liked to be it is also obvious what his lengthy list of stars want, otherwise one cannot explain this lineup wasted on a film that, while good, is not exactly stellar.
The interesting question is just how f*cked up Americans are. How bad do you need to be to ignore the plight of the environment, the poor and the minorities? The sad answer is that all countries are messed up to one extent or another and that the USA is far from being unique in this department. However, there are a few qualities to the USA that render it a standout amongst the undistinguished crowd: First, its gun laws mean that way too many idiots can put their hands on guns; and second, while other countries fell victim to pathetic leaders, none fell so low as Bush from as high as the USA once stood.
Memorable scene: The climax involving the shooting which ties up the various stories. It's the sort of scene that, given all the buildup, leaves you breathless.
Technical assessment: The sound is nothing special and the picture is way to red in yet another attempt to give a film that good old sixties look. The music soundtrack is good, though.
Overall: A fine effort but not a particularly memorable one. 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Film: Flatland

Lowdown: A flat and narrow visioned world goes through quite a turmoil.
Review:
As a teenager, I read the science fiction book Flatland twice. It's not like I really liked the book; at the time I have found it boring. The first time I've read it was because of reviews saying it's a very important book, the second time was peer pressure. While I wasn't in love with it, I will admit this: Flatland is an important book; it's quite an eyeopener. Thus when I had learnt that Flatland - the film based on the book - is out, I sought to watch it.
If memory serves me right, this recently released (2007) animation film is pretty loyal to the book. It tells the story of a flat 2D world, called - surprise surprise - Flatland. It's a very class oriented world populated by living geometric shapes where the more sides your shape has, the more upper class you are (bear in mind the book was written in Victorian England). Thus, a pentagon is superior to a square and the square is superior to the triangle, while the circles represent the elite. Soldiers are dumb brutes represented by sharpish triangles that can pierce others with their sharp edge, but it is women who are the most lethal (as well as the dumbest): they are but a thick line, so potentially dangerous to others with the sharp edge of their line they have to issue siren like warnings to prevent others from colliding with them.
Our story follows a rather humanist square who finds himself trapped by circumstances. The circumstances are a war mongered by the heartless circles against a perceived enemy from the north that threatens the class system by changing their colors (thus preventing easy identification of the number of their shapes' sides) and also by avoiding the fixing of birth defects (which result in asymmetrical shapes).
Our hero is about to get killed when all hell breaks loose and the war is raging when, suddenly, he finds himself saved by a god like creature: a being from the third dimension, a sphere. He takes a tour of the 3D world and finds illumination, but all's not so well in that world either.
Flatland works on three different grounds that cooperate in synergy. For a start, you have yourself a parody about the class system: you have the subdued females, the supposedly inferior/superior beings - determined as such by virtue of birth alone, and a ruling class that will not stop at anything to preserve its power.
Then you got the mathematical theme of geometry. Like people of the past, you start on a 2D world (don't forget that for most of its history, humanity thought the world was flat). Flatland then exposes you to a 1D world for a bit and even to a 0D world, and then throws you to the 3D world. The side effect of this effort is that your apprehension of geometry and such is magnified to a much higher degree than school could have ever achieved, simply because of the presentation.
The third layer is the illumination: The passage from 0D to 1D to 2D to 3D (which happens to be the way we look at the world) demonstrates just how ignorant and narrow visioned those lower D's could be. Then again, if they are so ignorant, maybe we are just as ignorant ourselves in the eyes of 4D beings? Maybe we should open our eyes and think outside the square (pun intended)?
Sounds good so far, but there are problems in Flatland. The main one is that just like the book, I have found it all to be on the boring side of things. Some of the subplots are irrelevant (like the affection 2D beings have to glowing stuff, for example), and in general things progress rather slowly.
Worse, progression of the plot is achieved mainly through captions thrown in between scenes as well as in the middle of scenes, which try to tell you / guide you on what is happening / what is about to happen. I didn't like the voice-over in the cinematic version of Blade Runner but I have to say it's nothing compared to these captions: they're way too frequent, they try to be smart (as in using Shrek like language), and they just end up feeling like a pain in the @ss.
You can say some positive stuff about the design of the worlds and the computer animation used to make the film. It's all cleverly done, but the way it looks could also drive you crazy; Flatland's look reminded me of the old Atari 2600 style graphics.
Best scenes: I liked the presentation of the 0D world the most, a point size world whose resident think he's the king of the world and that there's no one else in the world but him. Strangely enough, this line of thinking applies to many people I know (including yours truly, and way too often).
Overall: Nice idea, but a bit of a boring and tedious execution. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Book: Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

Lowdown: The architecture around us affects us, so let’s ensure the effect is positive.
Review:
I first heard of Alain de Botton a few years ago when he was interviewed about his then new book, Status Anxiety. His comments established themselves on my radar, so when ABC put Status Anxiety the TV series on air during Sunday night’s Compass I watched it. Indeed, I have found Status Anxiety extremely interesting, and eventually even read the book (a rare feat nowadays).
Things went along similar lines with Architecture of Happiness. I saw the book in the stores, but as architecture is not really a turn on for me I ignored it. Things changed when a few months ago we watched the TV documentary that followed the book, entitled The Perfect Home. We didn’t expect much of it, but instead we found ourselves glued to the TV and galloping the documentary’s three episode with much anxiety; it was the farthest thing ever to your average “Better Homes and Gardens” or “Location Location Location”. It was so interesting that I went and got the book, putting it along with the very respectful pile of books in my bookshelf’s “to do” list. It didn’t stay there long, though, because recently we have decided to embark on an architectural adventure of our own so I thought the book might enlighten me more than its peers.
I guess with such a build-up I just had to find the book disappointing. Indeed, I have; unlike the TV documentary of which I was hoping to see more, the book felt like a big waste of time. Architecture of Happiness attempts to explore the philosophical aspects of architecture, and indeed it does so, but it’s way too long for its own good, much too pompous in its prose, and overall quite wishy-washy with its arguments.
The ideas promoted by the book are pretty much common sense, when you think about them. For a start, when trying to explain the importance of architecture, it claims that one needs to have suffered a bit in order to appreciate good architecture. It then goes on to explain its views on the merits of architecture, the things we are trying to express through architecture (e.g., aspirations, memories), and the values that are expressed through architecture. On the way there it discusses what beautiful architecture is and how we can determine whether a certain building is beautiful or not, especially given the large variety of styles and the way modernism claims to escape from absolute values of beauty. Architecture, de Botton claims, is a mirror of ourselves. Architecture of Happiness finishes off with a call to arms for all of its readers not to settle for mediocrity when buying or building a house.
As I have said, I have had numerous problems with AoH. First, I quickly grew tired of its style, where every paragraph contains a pretty clear and concise claim that is then followed by lengthy and repeating descriptions that bore you to death by the time you get to paragraph's end. I'm talking things along the lines of “the house was tall [objective fact], high as a swan can reach when it's got black spots and it tries to catch some rays of early sun in mid September at its South African reservoir [endless and rather meaningless statements]”. I mean, de Botton's lengthy descriptions were worse than mine in my blogs; I noticed that I just stopped reading the ends of sentences because they didn't contribute to anything but wasting my time.
Then I had a problem with the techniques de Botton uses in order to advance his arguments. As I have said before, most of what he's saying in AoH makes sense and doesn't really require proof. However, as someone who has established his reputation writing books on philosophers, de Botton builds up his arguments by quoting from philosophers as he goes along. To me, someone who grew up on scientific principles – that is, arguments verified through repeatable experimentation – founding one's claim on others' claims does not seem to be that foolproof a concept. Some of the AoH's arguments are even based on rather stretchy claims from the field of psychoanalysis, which for some reason de Botton thinks we should happily accept. Often enough one can even detect some contradictions between arguments, such as when on one hand de Botton claims we design stuff to show the beauty of our society's values whereas on the other hand he claims we design stuff to symbolize values that we are missing in our society. Both arguments are correct in their context, but when building towers of arguments one on top of the other this way one could easily end up finding they can argue in favor of anything and everything. Perhaps I have been over spoilt by the likes of Sagan and Dawkins, but I really hate these ambiguities.
However, the biggest problem with de Botton's arguments in favor of architecture are to do with him failing to define the borders and the limits of architecture. Yes, architecture is important, and yes, as someone who leaved in a dreary apartment because I couldn't afford much more I can attest to how a crap looking place can negatively affect the resident. However, if we follow de Botton's line, then the implication is that we should spend the whole of our lives dedicating ourselves to architecture. And why stop with architecture? Why not dedicate ourselves to the clothes we wear, our furniture, our car, and our garden? They all have an effect on us, don't they? de Botton seems to be missing an appreciation for the concept of declining marginal utility, not to mention him ignoring way too politely the fact that most of us little people cannot afford to engage in the luxuries of architecture. Call me cynical, call me dull, but I would still place functionality long before style in my list of priorities; de Botton will argue that functionality is just another style anyway, and I agree with him, but the point is that he fails to offer guidelines concerning priorities. Those missing guidelines render his arguments rather hard to implement, simply because they're too arbitrary.
Overall, and in contrast to its TV partner The Perfect Home, Architecture of Happiness lacks a significant hold in reality. It's main contribution is in alerting people to the importance of the world around them; perhaps if enough people realize that we would get the big companies to build decent looking homes instead of their McMansions. Perhaps we might even have ourselves a nice world to live in, for a change.
Overall: The concept and the idea is good, the execution not so. 2.5 out of 5 stars.