HMWY Best Shot: Serenity’s Characters
It’s surprising that a “Buffy” fan like me – I’ve seen and love the movie too – wouldn’t catch “Firefly,” but I had my stupidity to blame. I wanted a “Buffy” 2.0 – so why didn’t I read “Fray?” – and it seemed too much of an outlandish concept for me. But Nathaniel, probably the only person guiding me through my schizophrenic viewing habits, chose “Firefly’s” movie adaptation for his best shot series, keeping in mind that creator/writer/director Whedon’s having a big year this year. So why not? Above is a shot of carnage fitting for the movie’s ‘space western’ genre mash-up and that although Joss Whedon isn’t on top to direct Blood Meridien but he should at least be in consideration.
This experience is making me regret that I didn’t watch the series, the logical reason should be Whedon’s sharp writing and I suppose it’s nice to see futuristic cowboys but it’s really because of the characters and casting, including Alan Tudyk, David Krumholtz and Sarah Paulson. Specifically, of Adam Baldwin of Full Metal Jacket fame. I wouldn’t say that this part of the movie’s premise is ludicrous, and that his character Jayne butts heads with the titular Serenity‘s Captain Malcolm (Nathan Fillion) a lot and wants to kill the mysterious River Tam (Summer Glau). But like come on guys, his tight, short-sleeved shirts makes me think that the show should have given him a love interest. Things would have totally been different if I was on that ‘boat.’ Looking at his iMDb “Firefly” isn’t the only show I should watch for him. Apparently he was in “Angel” too and fuck do I have to watch “Chuck” now too? What kind of fan am I?
The best lines and situations saved for Malcolm, or Mal for short (Why isn’t Fillion, this movie’s star, getting the Jeremy Renner roles? The guys look alike but he’s taller yet yes, more intentionally awkward). And there are some good shots of him being framed by the movie’s well-done mix of multicultural sci-fi punk ethos, contrasting yet perfectly complementing his character as this old school masculine gunslinger. Above is him moving a fan to see what River is up to and below is him being irreverent, mocking Buddha – one of the religions and ideals that he as a character questions – for his love interest Inara’s guilty pleasure. Kudos to the movie’s art director Daniel T. Dorrance and costume designer Ruth Carter for this awesomeness.
But the movie’s most visually compelling character is River, who only gets into and stays in the boat because she’s the younger sister of one of the newer crew members (Sean Maher) and because she’s psychic. She looks like a friend of mine here in Toronto who also blogs about movies, actually. My best shot actually involves the movie’s intricate opening sequence, a series of scenes that would get novices like me confused as to what the movie is about. There are wide shots of different planets followed by a teacher explaining ‘the verse’ in an outdoor elementary school – thank God the future has smaller class sizes, am I right or am I right? – which turns out to be a dream sequence, Matrix style. Her brother helps her escape her almost permanent comatose state, which is actually hologram-recorded by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, Javert looking at his Valjean and waify Cosette and trying to find out where they could be hiding.
But the fun of watching her doesn’t stop there. She has two kinds of entrances, one where her leg(s) and the seam of her flowing dress come into the shot and one where the camera zooms or shock cuts into her perma-startled face. She also climbs up the ceiling to hide sometimes. And the one below? Bad. Ass.
Climaxes: The Paul Haggis Crash.
After watching some hard-hitting cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival I went home to watch a great movie in Paul Haggis‘ Crash last Saturday night. Oh that’s right, I’m not supposed to like Crash, a movie I first saw as a summer film in 2005 and liked then. I started noticing the backlash in 2007, when people started questioning its premise that the anomic and diverse environments like Los Angeles, California encourages racism but also lets these characters overcome their prejudices. They’re all racist, which is pretty grim.
And I can’t necessarily divorce myself from the warped mind that guides racism. Take for instance, disgruntled Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) unloading his issues on the stereotypically named Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine), as if everything that’s happened to him and his father is automatically her fault. Like, are you fucking for real? Unpleasant topic aside, at least it’s not one of those movies or shows trying to pass racism or other people’s ignorance off as funny.
It’s also called by some bloggers as the worst during the 80th Academy Awards slide show, and this is taking into consideration that Around the World in 80 Days won the same award too. It also didn’t help that Brokeback Mountain made decade lists two or three years after and a movie that I still haven’t seen in its entirety despite being a Queer Cinema essential. Besides, what’s so wrong about a movie that has both Iron Man sidekicks and Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock, the most reviled cinema couple in recent history? And any Devine movie that isn’t a Tyler Perry movie is automatically passable.
A friend of mine has criticized the film’s premise, And I start seeing that now. Det. Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) has a girlfriend/coworker Ria (Jennifer Esposito) who snaps and tell him about stereotypes, and he says stuff back. Then another coworker, Flanagan (William Fitchner) fires off more stereotypes towards him. The movie takes place in two days and they are already saying fighting words, which is strange because Graham and Flanagan might have just met each other for the first time that day. I’m pretty sure there’s a long grace period between civil conversation and its exact opposite, right?
The first half of the of the film shows these characters – or groups of – encountering each other, race relations coming to the forefront. After the sixty-fifth minute mark, these characters will meet again. It’s pretty straightforward, but there are some variations. Character A, who might have had a clash or a crash with character B might either meet the latter again or with a character C or maybe A, B or C might meet together. I don’t know what I’m taking about.
From here on, this post will talk about these scenes in the dénouement and maybe I’ll talk about the actors in those scenes. Also, these scenes happen at the same time, which I find it difficult to believe but then I live in a big city. Weird stuff happens to me all the time. Some spoilers straight ahead.
John saving Christine Thayer’s (Thandie Newton) life makes it forgivable that he molested her the day before.
Officer Tom Hansen (Ryan Philippe) defends Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard), a ‘Uncle Tom’ character gone E.L. Doctorow. I cared about this the least because I became lukewarm towards Philippe after his post-turn of the 21st century fame. His ex-wife Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress trophy the same year, making people think that she has the advantage in that doomed marriage, but he was in the film that won Best Picture. So I guess they were even. Hansen will later let a man hitch a ride, which won’t end well.
Look at Daniel’s (Michael Pena) face! This is the film’s best climax. Pena here gives nuance to a half stereotype.
The nobly named Jean Cabot (Bullock) talks to someone over the phone on how angry she is all the time. And then she falls down the stairs because she wears socks inside.
Say what you will about the writing but I give kudos to these actors who were known for anything but drama. It affirmed the positive side on my continuing ambivalence towards Bullock. It also reintroduced Howard – who also starred in Hustle and Flow which was released in the same year – to audiences before he went crazy and introduced Pena who is one of the most underrated and versatile actors working today.
And I like how Haggis and crew shot this film, the blurred city lights at the background, the actors well framed within the screen. These visuals give the film both gravitas, warmth and hope and the rest of you can debate the legitimacy of those elements in the film.
- Director Paul Haggis wins Crash lawsuit against producer (guardian.co.uk)
I should not read too much into the moment in the Dardenne brothers‘ L’Enfant when one of Bruno’s (Jeremie Renier) contacts tell him ‘People pay to adopt, if you’re not up to it.’ The neon lights flicker from a bar across the street, as if subtly marking temptation’s introduction. The first fifteen minutes show Bruno exchanging objects for money and it doesn’t take long to attach that moral relativism towards another human being. Besides, his newborn baby can’t verbally object. Also, critics laud the film for its lack of judgement towards its unlikable protagonist. A notary agent just does his job quickly and tells them to fill their papers unlike the condescending lab technician in Juno. But talking to that with that woman is the first subtle judgment of these unfit parents and many more are coming.
I’d assume that the film isn’t sold outside the art-Cannes crowd because the premise of the movie might make a layman’s blood boil. Or maybe they’ll just be saying he’s a boy and stupid, the premise thus might be more contemptible and thus more challenging if it’s the child’s mother, Sonja (Deborah Francois) starting the bidding.
Anyway, to finish his goal, Bruno spends most of his time with his ‘mobile,’ waiting in rooms, waiting for other people or all the above. From the fourth minute mark the film is solely seen through his experience and the film sticks with that. Showing only his side and perspective of the conversation, we instead believe that money or the baby are going to show up or that his mother is on his side when the police might ask her questions about the infant. Sometimes his contacts asks for more but there’s no kind of shirking seen here. Despite being a callous liar, his trusting nature is admirable. There’s also a sense of community in the film, a shelter that extends their time to put a roof under a child, a hospital at arms when Sonja reports him to the police and Bruno in the end, through altruism, doing what’s right.
- 2 Wheels Good in Cannes Entry ‘Kid With a Bike’ (abcnews.go.com)
Thinking About These Two Movies…
Saw Jean-Marc Vallee‘s C.R.A.Z.Y. during Canada Day/Pride week. It was fun and by fun I mean trailer trash, which I liked because there’s often something authentic in trailer trash. In one scene, Gervais (Michel Cote) asks his son Zac (Marc-Andre Grodin) how Zac has become a sexually confused problem child since the former never beat his children. It’d be easy to say, ‘Well, you’re still a shitty father,’ but how do parents discipline his children in a changing world without being labeled an abusive father? Head to YourKloset for a few more words about the movie.
Andrew Rossi‘s Page One: Inside the New York Times is about the Media Department of the NYT facing its headless enemies – the first is the front page that Media is trying to get to, the second are the market forces trying to put an end to the paper industry and the NYT itself. After the screening there was a Q&A with NYT Media Editor Bruce Headlam. Appearing in the documentary along with his columnists, Headlam self-effacingly describes the movie as showing a bunch of white dudes answering phones. Noticeably these people, notably Bruce, have a lot of red spots on their faces, possibly from scratching, possibly from stress. However, I couldn’t write that on my review for Anomalous Material, it’s too unclassy for that website. Head over there and give me your thoughts.
Speaking of white people, Susan G. Cole‘s review of the film negatively pointed out that the NYT workplace depicted in the documentary is whiter than Obama’s dance moves. The rest of this paragraph will show my weird expectations about the film and the institution, the expectations being that it’s all ‘liberal’ elite kind of white. However, they do show it’s Iraq-war pushing history or David Carr looking like the kind of guys that hung out where I would shoot pool when I was in high school. I don’t mind white as long as it’s not vanilla.
- Here’s Why There Are (Almost) No Women In The Big NYT ‘Page One’ Documentary (thenewspundit.com)
The Lovers “The New World”
Mother, where do you live? In the sky, the clouds, the sea. Give me a sign.
We rise, we rise. I’m afraid of myself. A god he seems to me.
What else is life but being near you? Do they suspect? Oh, to be given to you into me.
I will be faithful to you. True. Two no more. One. One. I am. I am.
Cold Hot: Constant Gardener
He says Gloria’s fine then asks Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) about Tessa (Rachel Weisz), which means he’s nervous but we won’t find that out why yet.
‘That’s bullshit. That’s bullshit. You have to take responsibility. You are being paid to apologise for this pathetic country of Britain, and he can explain to us why we burned our diplomatic credentials and why, why we’re killing, you know, thousands of innocent people…just for-just for some barrels of oil…and a photo opportunity on the White House lawn. Why?’ And more journalists walk out.
Not to take away from Weisz’ Oscar winning performance, but if this was the audition piece, Kate Winslet would have gotten a closer chance in becoming Tessa. I also wanna find out how her campaign went, seeing that one of Weisz’ competitors is Michelle Williams for Brokeback Mountain, another Focus Features release. Yes I’m the last gay person to see the latter film so of course I can’t compare the two performances, but I wonder if Focus went full engine on Brokeback or if they focused on getting acting wins in their other movies while paying more attention to getting picture and directing wins for Ang Lee.
And no matter, Tessa and Justin will make up eventually.
I love you.
Every other movie reminds me of every other movie. Like how Fernando Meirelles‘ The Constant Gardener differentiates some of the Britain scenes and the African scenes by showing the former with a grayish blue tint and the latter with yellow, just like Traffic did. But this movie does it better, more crisp, despite the shaky cam. And it doesn’t do the colours too often.
Or how the paid assassins riding into the village like apocalyptic horsemen, like the raid scene in The Searchers, but this time the focus is on the victims and not the horsemen. Like the John Ford film, white characters are mixed in with the natives but this time it’s paid African militia men killing their own kind, hoping to get Justin with them.
- Rachel Weisz in Talks to Join THE BOURNE LEGACY (geektyrant.com)
The Brothers Grimm
The titular Brothers Grimm (Heath Ledger, Matt Damon) are quack exorcists, redundant as that is, who, by order of a conquering French military official (Jonathan Pryce), have to face a real enchanted forest and risk their lives in the process.
Sure, there are references to the Limbourg Brothers and the pre-Raphaelite movement, but The Brothers Grimm just has too much CGI and there’s nothing real and/or astounding about the film. Sure, that might be too much to ask for in a fantasy film, but director Terry Gilliam usually uses something concrete. Remember when Parnassus has painted cardboard or plywood trees, but even that was awesome? Actual sets in this film are unfortunately given some weird post-production finish. Even the gold lighting doesn’t help. Auteur hunter Damon and Gilliam regular Ledger do great work, settling for a ‘theatrical’ British accent, even if the plot takes them nowhere. And it’s kind of nice to see Gilliam regular Pryce combine his roles in The Age of Innocence and the Pirates series in one movie. Now if only he can do half-Brazil, half Peron. What is he up to, by the way?
I remember this film being advertised as a horror film, taking the Gilliam-esque comedy out of the trailer. It’s not like the comedy worked too well anyway. The most fascinating thing about this film is the strange surge of German nationalism in a Hollywood film. When was the last time that happened? It focuses the country’s folkloric history. The British or cockney-accented Germans are the good guys and the French-accented French are the bad guys. The film risks labeling Germans as hicks, but they’re not hicks if the tales they believe in are true. And the Red Riding Hood sequence was more haunting than the one in the Amanda Seyfried-Catherine Hardwicke movie that I will probably never see. But unfortunately, those are the film’s only redeeming values.
Good Night and Good Luck
Clooney’s directorial piece Good Night and Good Luck begins, the stars of this film as glamorous as they would be on an awards show in reality, the saxophone playing in the background. A man introduces 1950’s television news anchor Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn). He makes a speech towards his colleagues and people who work in the television industry, but when the camera cuts to them, it doesn’t look like he’s preaching to the choir. But that’s not such a bad thing.
And fine, while we’re at it, I’ll admit that my first encounter of the film is through the “Simpsons” parody, Kent Brockman becoming our century’s Murrow as Lisa eggs him on. This is probably how we first experienced other movies, knowingly or otherwise.
ph. Warner Independent Pictures
Did you know that the real Edward Murrow looks less Strathairn, and more like Harry Dean Stanton. Murrow would have been a perfect role for Stanton in the 70’s. But surprisingly, I don’t remember any anti-McCarthyism in films, not even with Hollywood class president and lefty extraordinaire Warren Beatty making controversial films like Reds.
The double threat taking Beatty’s place is George Clooney, and don’t worry guys, I’m heading somewhere with this tangent/segue. There was this CINNSU/ Bloor Cinema alum who once told me that Clooney wanted to direct a remake of Network. The word ‘remake’ seems like a pariah even to people who aren’t film geeks, but as the alum said something like, ‘Paddy Chayefsky’s like Shakespeare, why not?’ I wish the rules of cinema bent like that too. I suppose the closest we can come to seeing a remake of Network is Good Night and Good Luck, the story of Murrow combating McCarthyism and its abuses through televised journalism. And we’re back!
There are many differences between this film and its predecessor. The man in front of the camera is sane even if the world or the institution controlling it isn’t. Howard Beale is a deluded puppet while Murrow is a leader who still writes his pieces. Strathairn, in his best role yet, delivers perfectly, mastering the elocution that the real Murrow and gentlemen of his time might have had. Here, the fictional Murrow goes head-to-head against the real Joseph McCarthy, the menacing figure on the upper left side of the screen, the latter’s own words and pictures used to defame him. He gets criticized by some newspapers as ‘selective,’ but Murrow’s integrity stands strong.
In this scene, both Murrow and McCarthy quote “Julius Caesar” like many do with the Bible, choosing lines to further their cause. The Shakespearean play is about an unnatural shift in power, deceit and constancy, that latter quality being something that McCarthy doesn’t have.
CBS begins an investigation piece on the firing of US Air Force Officer Milo Radulovic – who is Irish, apparently – because of his father’s suspected Communist affiliations. The film uses authentic newsreels of the accuser and the accused, this one being rough looking but eloquent. Murrow, then, and CBS seems to have chickened out by doing celebrity profiles. An insipid few minutes with Liberace becomes subversive once we remember that ‘he doesn’t intend to marry soon.’
But don’t worry, the Air Force will retain Radulovic.
‘I’ve got my eyes on you/I’ll set my spies on you/Keep your eyes on me.’ As if she’s agitating the enemy, whispering sweet aggression to his ear.
The racial politics in Good Night and Good Luck are muted, the black woman doing her numbers in between the skirmishes where the white men fight for her constitutional rights. The actors doing the fighting, however, seem to be suppressing the outrage they would normally have if their names and the names of their friends are stained by Cold War paranoia. This film’s tone is less bombastic and more quiet. No dramatic music, no hammy speeches, nothing. But instead of a breathtaking experience that most great films should give its audience, its tone is its own, feeling like a last slow dance in the middle of the night.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong
Should I save my erudition for the time that the original King Kong and I will intersect again? Will the things I’ll be talking about here redundant with what I’ll be writing about in the original film? Should I be totally snarky for this post? Do you want to see Adrien Brody body check a dinosaur? To all those things, maybe. Every economical moment in the independently produced (an indie film before Cassavetes? I know, right) original film is expanded in Peter Jackson’s remake, whether that’s a good thing or not.
A fanatical 1930’s film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) and his film crew sail towards the South Pacific without telling all his crew that they’re looking for Skull Island, bearing a name that no Draper Daniels advertising should attract. Skull Island is exoticism manifested in cinema in the most stereotypical yet self-aware ways. When they actually get there they check off Stefon’s list – savages with ‘tribal’ body make up (there’s no way that their skin color is natural. It’s like the white native kid in “Giligan’s Island.”), King Kong (Andy Serkis), dinosaurs and giant insects. There are a lot of forested valleys sheltering at least the animals in this film, making me wonder why a place with this many inhabitants is as small as an island and hasn’t been officially mapped yet. But then I’m not a geographer. And of course, the two boat crew who will gather footage/rescue Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) will go through a process of elimination, the bit players eventually getting killed off.
I might also save my veneration of Watts for my inevitable by undrafted post on Mulholland Drive, so I’ll keep to talking about her presence in the film. I’ve seen this movie at least twice now, and her story is the one I remember instead of Fay Wray’s rendition of the same role. Unlike the modelesque or Manic Pixie Dream Girls today, he slightly button nose and small but thick lips make her look like a 1930’s beauty, elastic both to that decade’s glamour and poverty. Despite looking like a Ziegfeld/Busby girl, her more refined voice mixing in with her vaudeville colleagues make me think of what Katharine Hepburn’s character in Stage Door would have been like had the film shown her story for a longer time period.
One of the points of this film is to watch if she can scream like Fay Wray, but there’s a physical aspect to her role. Ann’s first steps towards the ship on the Big Apple’s docks look very much like a brave decision, being the first of many daring jumps she makes when she traverses through Skull Island’s dangerous terrain. She instinctively entertains Kong through the same flips and juggles that she performs on the New York the-a-ters. Who knew that vaudeville had practical uses? Running out of tricks, she eventually tells him ‘no,’ a simple word that she layers with defiance, crying out for Kong’s respect.
Most of the mythology within the original King Kong deal with ‘humanizing’ the eponymous animal. Yes, the first close-up we see of Kong shows a wound on the right side of his face, showing his vulnerability, but this remake enhances his ‘humanity’ as he learns it from Ann. He lets her live. He gets captured and chained, allegory of America’s history within Atlantic slavery, overreading of Kong’s provenance from the South Pacific as locus of post World War I American imperialism, yadda yadda yadda.
As he terrorizes New York, he grabs any blonde he sees as if obsessed by it but is able to differentiate between those paler examples to Ann than with the real thing. And since I’m running low on my word count, I’ll overread that the platonic union is Ann the oppressed woman and Kong, oppressed because he’s ‘different.’ She also teaches him another word, ‘beautiful,’ referring among things to her, to Skull Island, to the sunrise. Teaching Kong ‘humanity’ isn’t just about boundaries between persons as it is teaching him to appreciate what one experiences with others.
The movie’s fictional world also shows theatre, film and freak show as interchangeable, that there are no hierarchies between the three. The first sequence shows stages with diverse of stage acts in a city that is discovering ways to entertain itself. The film also shows these acts constantly change and the actors leaving one job for another only to find that next opportunity closed, just as what happens to Ann. New York’s players and playwrights have to move from one thing to another to survive. We’ve already seen Ann’s transformation, but playwright Carl practically kidnaps Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and both have to go along and keep writing and creating along the ride.
Later in the film, Carl’s blockbuster show plays blocks away from Jack’s replaceable comedy which is down the street from Ann’s dance revue. The more strange part about Carl’s show is the audience, paying an admission ticket only to be repulsed, decked out in furs as if watching Eugene O’Neill or a Balanchine. I shouldn’t have underestimated Skull Island earlier, since Manhattan Island itself has a lot to offer. And yes, the dangers within both islands are like oranges and stolen apples.
Gotham does have its advantage. Robert Osborne remarks that Kong’s size changes throughout the original. I can never train my eyes to detect those discrepancies, but I’m sure that Jackson makes his size more consistent in his remake. Being the big man on Skull Island, he’s dwarfed by the Empire State Building, a mammoth he has to climb and will unfortunately get him cornered.
Rewatching Cache, eerie as ever
This film was part of the Cinematheque Ontario’s Best of the Decade, a series that started last year, a list that I believe no longer appears on the actual Cinematheque website and I can’t remember exactly when the eff I saw it, but for narrative’s sake, we’ll pretend I rewatched it exactly a year after seeing it for the first time. And since I already saw it, I’m not gonna give it a real review, not that I’ve ever done that ever.
Parts of Cache include surveillance tapes capturing George Laurent’s (Daniel Auteuil) Parisian house or long takes showing car rides to his mother’s (Annie Girardot) estate or his adopted brother Majid’s (Maurice Bénichou) apartment building, and then I remembered this is the probably the first movie I liked that partially uses digital cameras, a technical filmmaking method that’s widespread now with at least four Best Picture nominees partially or fully using digital. Despite being printed in 35, the rest of the film feels like it has a digital finish when watched on television, especially with its white and gray colour palette. Cache doesn’t feel like a manicured film, through its form scarier as it captures lives of ordinary people just like those watching it.
Speaking of ordinary people, I understand the de-glam that comes with the ‘art of cinema,’ but this is the dumpiest Juliette Binoche ever looked. Of the two Haneke Paris film’s I’ve seen, he de-glams and modernizes the city. The most ‘Parisian’ thing about it is the salad with red wine, and I’m pretty sure white wine is better for salad. Anyway, I already talked about the colour palette. There’s also the contemporary architecture and interior design.
Thank God for close-ups though, when Binoche’s character Anne gets angry or teary eyed at Georges for hiding Majid from her. In revealing his dark childhood secrets, they share a secret, and she surprisingly doesn’t condemn him.
But Haneke is, and if you’re his kind of audience, you are too. At first I couldn’t buy it because of its in-your-face metaphors. Why are Majid and his son (Walid Afkir) so passive? Why doesn’t Majid think of his son in his last act in disturbing Georges’ conscience? However, Georges becomes such an unsympathetic figure because of his meanness towards Majid and his indifference towards the latter’s son’s declarations. His carelessness in telling lies about Majid is the first and most effective way to ruin the latter’s life.
Think about a scene in the middle of the film during his visit to his mother. He has a terrible dream, his childhood accusations against Majid becoming true, he wakes up and is haunted. Would some of us in the audience be satisfied to see that in the end instead of a jaded Georges sleeping as if nothing has happened? Majid’s son wants to see a man haunted by the latter’s decisions, and we still see that. Rest assured, Georges will be haunted from time to time. And as his mother warns, those dreams will be more frequent as he ages.
Dukes of Hazzard
This is the only movie I’ve seen in LA back in 2005. Mark McGrath was in the audience, or I assumed he was unless he was smart enough to watch something else. Don’t denigrate this movie too much, however. The film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard has the misfortune of the cast being too manicured to look believable Southern ‘yokels’ as the cast of the TV series would have looked like three years ago. It’s also the first and only movie I’ll probably watch with Jessica Simpson, here the iconic Daisy Duke and she’s actually passable in here, as well as the two leads Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott.
Read some more. The film’s also made and set in 2005, and although America’s pretty divided then, the movie’s premise that again, Southern ‘yokels’ can also be environmentalists, actually work here. The Dukes’ enemy is a famous race car driver from Hazzard County, Georgia, who’s kept his accent yet is indifferent the county’s environmental ruin. He’s not an elitist, and that someone is trying to destroy his home and relegate the words ‘shit hole’ to it kind of hurts, actually. This film instead goes back to earlier Southern attitudes of loving their land and sticking through it in either its best or worst. And Southerners who have no qualms on pretending to be Japanese?
Speaking of America’s (re)division is the contentious rebel flag on the roof of the Duke mobile, or whatever they call it. The brothers go to Atlanta to find the results of the soil sample tests, they meet a traffic jam, people heckle them for not being in the 21st century. There are different kinds of Americans who still use the rebel flag, those who know what it means now and uses it to hurt others and those who stick to the flag for its past and are oblivious and/or indifferent to what it means now. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m not fully outraged for the second set of reasons.
Talking about this movie is probably a bad place to bring up the discussion above, and probably the worst to bring up what I’m discussing in the next paragraph. As a tacky gag to show how different and insular the Dukes of Hazzard are to the rest of the world, they reach a university Atlanta and get information about Japan and Australia wrong. They mess with the labs, get coal on their face and end up in a predominantly black neighborhood. Why did the two girls at the back seats they nothing? Is it because for some reason they’re dumb even if they’re going to college? I have this weird fascination with blackface and yellow face and yeah, it’s wrong and I don’t know why on both counts neither. The black people in the neighborhood have been brought up through generations and have their own spins to their culture, and these two white boys show up like that and think they can get away with it? The same goes with the theatrical tradition that is alive today – I’m looking at you, Angelina Jolie! This movie doesn’t answer my questions in all, even if for two seconds I thought it did.
Also, I slightly dislike Burt Reynolds.
After this movie and Mamma Mia, I’m thinking of having a guilty pleasure tag. I’m not cruel nor hypocritical enough to call this movie bad.
That’s an image from a good, colourful montage, close-ups of objects that the partygoers in Waiting… use to party. Or a more condoning montage than that in Requiem for a Dream. They’re just as colourful as the decorations and wallpaper in the restaurant where all these partygoers all work.
There’s two major story arcs. The first is with Monty (Ryan Reynolds), the restaurant’s token studs, who has to train a younger kid named Mitch (John Francis Daley). He lets Mitch in on a game where the men show each other their genitals and call the loser a fag, which surprisingly isn’t offensive. He also shows Mitch different types of customers, women who love male waiter and will give them good tips, pervert frat boys and a bitchy lady (that’s the character’s name on the credits) who has a Pavlovian masochism to keep going to a restaurant with ‘terrible food.’ How small is this town? Typically, the movie almost made me not wanna eat in a restaurant, with all the terrible things they do to the food. But the crew’s gonna be there all day and night so that’s a Pyrrhic victory.
The second is Dean (Justin Long), a guy who had all the good grades in high school but is a member of the lost generation and hasn’t finished his diploma or degree yet. His mother tells him about Chett Miller, another guy he has gone to high school who has finished a degree in electrical engineering, and Dean’s still working his job as a waiter. And I can so relate to this stuff. This new ruins Dean’s day – this is the unique way he’s emasculated even if every other guy in the restaurant get emasculated if he hasn’t been already. There’s good news. Manager Dan (David Koechner) offers him to become an assistant manager – with that he’s ambivalent about. But then Chett Miller is Chekov’s gun within a movie that portrays a 24 hour span and will show everything that can happen to someone in a dead-end job.
The film has an impressive supporting cast that includes Dane Cook, Anna Faris and Wendie Malick who are typecast but their work is subtle for a sexually explicit script. The actors who play waiters are typically good-looking, Anna Faris’ ironically named Serena having to wear trashy blue eyeliner so that the audience can distinguish her as Amy’s (Kaitlin Doubleday) spunkier version. In general I call it redeemable and good enough for a ‘bad’ movie night.
- Take Three: Anna Faris (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Scenes: The 40 Year Old…
I wanna start this post with a little farewell.
Aquaman, with gloves on. I’ll send you on a farm, with lots of land so you and other Aquamen can run around. Play in the aquafields.
For some reason, I thought of that line as Steve Carrell making fun of his character, Andy.
And before I start talking about the scene, I just wanna air our a ‘style guide’ item. Do not call a woman or a female character shrill even if. Ever. It’s like calling a black person or character articulate.
But here I am sort of breaking my rules by talking about a scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin, where we’re a few generations after free love but we still have problems. Fine, the scene isn’t directed in a way that I would think a well-directed scene would be. How did Trish (Catherine Keener) even find out that her daughter Marla (Kat Dennings) wants to have sex? How are they still yelling at each other in between Andy’s bike ride to her house? How near does she live from the store? However, this is a comedy, and I don’t know the rules for that yet. And you know what, I like Catherine Keener here. She bellows at her daughter, believably softens a little to Andy and to figure out what Marla is saying and gradually brings her volume back up for Marla. Watching them go at each other makes my throat hurt.
I love the exchange here.”Oh, mistake. Okay, so I was a mistake then?” “Oh, you’re not a mistake. Your sister was the mistake!” Or “Oh my God, are you kidding? We never have sex! Do we ever have sex?” “No we don’t.” “Ah-ha!” “What?! You do, you’re such a liar! Why are you lying to me! Why?” And Marla says something about boyfriend and go. They realistically show their emotions on top of their lines. Some fights don’t have high and low volume times, they’re just fights. And one of the greatest ones I’ve seen under 90 seconds.
She shows she has a life outside and before her boyfriend. It’s arguable that she is or isn’t a perfect mother but she’s protective and has good intentions. Trish is comfortable enough to introduce Andy to her ‘real family,’ opening up to her flaws. She asks “Oh God, you wanna run away, don’t you?” and like a gentleman, Andy doesn’t. Because Andy has his own flaws and secrets too.
- Interview: Steve Carrell (guardian.co.uk)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
ph. Warner Home Video
There’s little to say intellectually about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang except that it has a lot of great banter between the characters. And as much as Robert Downey Jr. is great at being twitchy here, I’d appreciate it if he didn’t do it in every film and TV guest appearance after this. I prefer Colin Farrell’s twitchiness. I’m also worried about the self-aware narration and how that would age, because that’s stating to annoy me a bit now.
I really like the shot above. Just the mix of the greens, blues and the yellows, the latter diagonally popping in the lower left hand side of the screen. Here’s the same colour scheme before that.
And way before that. Are they trying to make people think that fall exists in Los Angeles or are yellow streetlights dominant there? I don’t remember yellow street lights.
And landscapes with diagonal divisions after that. Kudos to DP Michael Barrett for adding gloss, style and colour to the film. He also worked on Takers, snob sigh.
Hey, model/actress/mom Angela Lindvall as Flicka, the first girl to reject Harry (Downey Jr.), eventually making him generalize LA girls. She’s in the same generation of models as Gisele Bunchen, and arguably Angela’s prettier.
Also, Michelle Monaghan as Harmony is a great crier, enduring a memorable walk of shame in film history. Until she finds something in her pocket, that is.
I also put this movie n the ‘Nighthawks’ club, because it’s always on after midnight at least twice a year, or more often than that. Another movie in said club is The Third Man, the latter of which I can never finish because it’s always on so late. When I click ‘Info’ on my remote, it always gives the movie two stars, showing the divisive reception of a movie that garnered applause at Cannes. This movie should be regarded as a Christmas movie like Die Hard. I also just found out that Downey Jr. and Monaghan are reuniting in Due Date. Excited!
- 5 reviews of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (rateitall.com)
- November 5 Is Robert Downey Jr.’s Due Date (blogcritics.org)