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Posts tagged “Kevin Bacon

Bad-ish Movie: Schumacher’s Flatliners

I remember my aunt talking about Joel Schumacher‘s Flatliners, its characters facing the consequences of questioning God, as if the latter is the worst and most grave thing anyone can ever do.

Let me introduce you to the characters.

Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) is the ringleader and mad scientist, having a Satanic flair in convincing some of his fellow students into his racket or trying to find out what’s after death, arguing not for a religious but a scientific approach to truth and knowledge even though he’s equally about fame. Dave, (Kevin Bacon) reckless yet brilliant, reluctantly joins Nelson’s experiments only because he’s good at saving other people’s lives. Hurley (William Baldwin), despite his fiancee (Hope Davis), is the token lothario, has an effortless grasp on the human anatomy and is assigned to document the proceedings. Rachel (Julia Roberts), curious about her patients’ brushes with the afterlife and seen by the other characters as frigid because that’s what everyone thinks of driven female characters. Her femininity also makes the other students protect her from the experiment. And Oliver Platt, snarky yet poetic, exists here so that the audience already believes that most medical students aren’t hot youngsters with head shots.

I can still hear the Atlanta in Roberts’ speech. Bacon has been luckier, while Platt and Sutherland will eventually get roles that sort of echo the ones that they play here. Say what you will about Schumacher but the guy knows how to cast the movie.

Leave it up to Schumacher to create some garish images. Aided by his director of photography Jan de Bont, this movie is in the middle ground of ugly between his Batmans and his later work with Colin Farrell that I have yet to see, with his obsession with altitude as well as depicting some jumbled urban landscape. Hospital wings appropriately enough are littered with dead bodies for medical students to study but what are the red neon bars doing there? The exterior, however, is decorated with friezes depicting Medieval images of life and death flanking different sides of Hippocrates’ symbol.

Every structure is crumbling. Student housing where young kids play or abandoned buildings downtown. Nelson and Hurley’s lofts are minimally furnished where the latter videotapes his sexual experiences. There’s a church with a high ceiling surrounded by yellow tape and under renovation where the students irreverently do their experiments. And every time they enter a space or a scene begins we hear the jangle of an electric guitar or a synthesizer, making the movie’s aesthetics look way more dated than it already is.

Let’s talk about the afterlife sequences. Nelson’s seamless changes from a bucolic, all-American grassland to a forest with twined trees and other Gothic imagery like a paralyzed dog. Hurley’s is what would happen in Fritz Lang directed a Calvin Klein underwear commercial. Nelson’s afterlife blends into his real one is when Schumacher’s signature of neon pastel graffiti lights up and spooks his audience. Too bad that this kind of flashiness distracts from a truly compelling stories and set of characters, eventually loses my interest.

All Costner, All the Time.

1960’s Louisiana District Attorney Garrison (Kevin Costner) gives one of his teammates the good old American finger and talk down. In a restaurant nonetheless, talking about issues of national gravity.

Atticus has a daughter, but what if he also has a wife (Sissy Spacek) and son? Director Oliver Stone calls JFK his The Godfather but I just brought up another comparison. Also, if this was a de Palma film, I’d be rolling my fucking eyes.

Saturday nights mean that channels compete for my attention and get me away from finishing things I need done. One channel had Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, but nonetheless I chose a movie equally regarded as having a clown car of actors, JFK, which I caught at around the 25 minute mark. I’m probably not wrong in speculating about its reputation as ‘prestige Oscar bait,’ a label that seems weird for a film that gives a legitimate voice for what others consider a ‘tin foil hat’ way of thinking.

It’s one of those movies that make parts of me wish I was older, because the flourishes of colour between red and white should have only been experienced in theatres. But watching it at home is adequate I guess. I’ll probably have to watch Silence of the Lambs again, but unlike that film, this one is purely visual from start to finish. These switches symbolize Garrison’s awakening about the logical gaps within the Warren Commission’s report about the titular president’s assassination. The film uses different film stocks and resolutions, sometimes switching quickly from black and white to show when and where the different parts of the story happen. It’s like watching Bertolucci, as if light had its own weight.

He’s committing to the lion’s share of the research even if he has a growing and diverse team, discovering a plot involving Cubans, CIA agents covering as businessmen (Tommy Lee Jones arguably turns the clock back on gay people two decades at the most) and meddling generals.

The middle section holds a lot of the film’s flaws as it gives a few weak cast members their five minutes to shine and no, I’m not talking about John Candy, who acts as if he’s in a noir, which this movie arguably could be. But it breaks my heart to say that I wasn’t a big fan of Jack Lemmon here, that Kevin Bacon tries too hard in a bit part that Brad Pitt would have, pardon the tacky pun, executed effortlessly, that Donald Sutherland can’t pull off everything in his ‘Black Ops’ soliloquy or that Joe Pesci, despite on a good subtle start, seems to ruin all but one movie that he’s in with his overacting.

Despite of that, the movie has its victories despite the cynicism and nihilism that my generation’s attitudes have that goes against the Kennedys, violence and the film’s Arcadian view of 1963 America that the film mostly succeeds to push. That we have Southern characters who aren’t prejudiced against gays and other ‘minority groups.’ ‘That  Garrison and his wife reconcile after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Hey, it happens.

He has a rough start, sometimes going out-of-order. But Garrison eventually begins his arguments, showing the Zapruder tape (a chilling reenactment by and with Stone), the flaws and inaccuracies within the magic bullet theory (I’m pretty sure that, just like the rest of my generation, that I’ve seen the “Seinfeld” parody before the real thing) and Lee Harvey Oswald’s (Gary Oldman playing a regular person) time line and quoting Thoreau like demagogues do until we realize that this movie just made us listen to Kevin Costner for thirty straight minutes. I don’t mind, it’s relentless in a good way. Costner doesn’t change his tone for that half hour, only breaking down at the last few minutes. He instead lets the facts speak for themselves, thus giving a generous and altruistic performance. I’ve never loved him as an actor, but this last scene made me believe that the marquee should have his name back.