…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Ned Beatty

Confessions, Deliverance


ph. Warner

1. What was Burt Reynolds‘ mustache doing in Jon Voight‘s face?

This unobstructed view of young Reynolds showed that he was pretty hot and he reminds me of Marlon Brando. The facial structure, the raw masculinity. Him with a bow and arrow is sexuality in cinema. Lewis is also probably Reynolds at his most subtle.

Bringing me to the alternate universes I was conjuring while watching Deliverance, which some people might consider as Reynolds’ silver medal instead of getting to star in The Godfather, Brando refusing to work with him because he was then a TV star. Which is funny because Brando, Reynolds and Voight relatively share the same facial structure while the Corleone brothers we have today, although arguably the greatest young cast of that time, look nothing like each other. But it seems more fitting to see him in out in the country than wearing 1950’s suits.

2. They put that in the middle?

This film seems revolutionary even in contrast to films after it, where the first two acts of the latter would be fillers when the main characters bicker or whatnot – and yes that does happen, Lewis telling Ed (Voight) tells him something foreshadowing – and the trauma happens in be the last one. Ed keeps noticing someone hiding behind the woods, he and Bobby (Ned Beatty) meeting them before the 40-minute mark, way earlier than I expected.

I want to talk about the urban-rural binary now. Bobby talks about the ‘hicks’ whereas I can imagine someone from Cape Cod using that term towards the road buddies. It’s also weird that out of the four of them, Beatty is the one cast as the urban elitist, and that the one who despises the backwoods the most is the one who’s arguably on the wrong end of this class war. I think of Beatty as the guy with the great soliloquy in Network while my friend Sarah sees him in this more notorious scene, film presences we can’t erase for another despite of his long CV.

The strangers intimidate them for more than five minutes, making me wonder what’s going to happen for the rest of the film? The rape scene is a big part of this film’s reputation, but instead of sadism it’s as if it’s more important for these characters to survive the journey.

3. Michael Barrett said ‘ in 1972…there was…garbage… [in] theatres between The Godfather and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.’ Correct, but this movie is one of two exceptions.

4. Deliverance is pretty. Yes, the film dips into the Gothic grotesque, like the mountain man biting a small tree trunk, the toothless man’s body hanging at the end of a cliff, Drew’s dislocated arm. Or the hand slowly rising up from the river, a staple from many horror films. But there are some scenes where the travelers are microscopic compared to the trees almost obscuring the view, just like it should in a place like that. Or the aftermath of the rape scene where small tree trunks cross the frame like intricate vines. Or a big rock formation looming as they become more defenseless against the strong rapids, reminding me of Hokusai. This movie is just so lush and green. Again, this movie has its reputation, but it’s also visually poetic, and I see it as a thing of beauty.


Rango


An unnamed chameleon (Johnny Depp) finds fifteen minutes in a film to go from an emptied aquarium inside a car traveling a highway to a small town called Dirt, inhabited by other animals. Trying to blend in with these Westerners, the chameleon comes up with the persona of a mean, bar fighting man from somewhere more west and christens himself as Rango, getting his name from an alcohol bottle from Durango. He finds a love interest in Beans (Isla Fisher), the daughter of a dead bean farmer who’s had better days. Her provenance and femininity means that she’s both strong-willed and scrappy. She’d occasionally roll her eyes at Rango but she’s sometimes vulnerable and needs him.

Rango is about the visuals. We know that our hero is the perpetually domesticated one, unable to change his green coat no matter how many times he sheds his skin, which is ironic since he is a chameleon. We also know that the gamut of cowboys, gunslingers, ranch hands and Southern gentlemen of Dirt are anachronistically Western since they’re mostly grey and furry, their period clothing coated with the sand that might occasionally blow their way. The work in Rango’s scales of the scales of the other reptiles aren’t as intense like the work in How to Train your Dragon. The mammals sometimes look scarily realistic – you can feel the hair in their faces and all.

There are the other visual antics in the film’s mise-en-scene, lights, shadows, arid desert haze, textural rocks on the desert, a gigantic eye overlooking Rango’s posse as they cross through a system of underground burrows, infernal sunset light, Rango drawing on the sky (easily my favourite image of the film). The latter images aren’t oversold, but they are often references to other westerns/neo-westerns/movies set on deserts, the lack of originality is slightly frustrating. I also felt conflicted while watching the film, kicking myself for not seeing it in 3D but also thinking that the animation in itself effectively suggests dimension and depth.

The third conflict in my head, which quickly and surprisingly went away, started when I was seeing the featurettes for the film. The film is shot through ’emotional capturing,’ which is basically the cast in a studio acting the scenes out and there’s a camera involved or something. I always thought that I’d rather watch the actors on set than to see the animated product, a la Dogville. But then I liked watching the valleys where Rango and his posse are being chased. Or watching Depp personify this childlike, imaginative and naive protagonist, a role that would have been a bit old for him. Reminds me of Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox, where both can be goofier and funnier than their real, physical human bodies can allow. And hey, I’m actually liking a Depp performance. When was the last time that happened?

Rango meets a few enemies, his bravado looks laughable. His feeble body also means that he’s agile. His earlier, circumstantial tests of bravery eventually gets him to meet the town’s reclusive mayor (Ned Beatty, playing an animated villain again). They mayor appoints him as the town’s sheriff. His main duty as sheriff is to protect the scarce amount of water in Dirt, a commodity also used as currency. Here we have the biggest flaw of the film, the plot. The town eventually gets disillusioned from Rango, town gets disillusioned from mayor, Rango tries to win town back by finding out how the mayor controls the water and taking that control away from him. The formulaic storyline makes me care less about the outcome, the visuals mostly seeming like window dressing. 3/5.


Toy Story 3


ph. Pixar

Before the main feature, the theatre played a Pixar short called ‘Day and Night,’ written and directed by Teddy Newton. Two dogs, Day and Night, have a non-verbal debate on who is better by showing what happens through their day or night bodies. There’s an NPR-like Deus-ex-machina that helps them through. This deus-ex-machina, as a young adult, is where I start looking at the most banal thing and think ‘Is this appropriate/comprehensible to children?’ And are kids supposed to know that Vegas exists? But those little twerps have ears and do understand the ‘moral’ of the story. Plus there’s Vegas and arm square-dancing and stuff. Oh, and night.

In this installment of the Toy Story series, the toys haven’t been played with in a while since their owner, Andy, is 17 and 17-year-olds don’t play with toys anymore. A mix-up gets the toys to a daycare called Sunnyside. Woody (Tom Hanks) escapes during recess, the rest realize that Sunnyside is the exact opposite of perfect.

Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the best part of the film. Spoilers. Woody’s escape makes Buzz the de-facto leader. The latter gets caught by the Sunnyside toy cabal led by Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton) and is manually switched to the dark side. As a villain’s henchman, he helps to get the film into a Cool Hand Luke reference. When the toys try to switch him back, they accidentally tap into his Spanish mode. The film’s one or two detractors would call that a gimmick, but I can BS and say that the Spanish gag is about hidden talents and imagination. But I’m a sucker for physical comedy like Buzz dancing circles around Jessie. And you know, there’s gotta be a way to herd the ‘Dora the Explorer’ fans into the multiplexes.

Kristen Schaal’s in this film, playing a naughty dinosaur.

It’s kinda distracting knowing that Jessie is voiced by Joan Cusack.

Up, then Toy Story 3, then Wall-E. I have no memory of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and I don’t even think I’ve seen the latter. I have never seen Cars, but no matter how terrible it might be, it gets a conditional pass because it’s Paul Newman’s last film. Put A Bug’s Life under Toy Story 3 by a hair. If you wanna drag 1995 into this, Pocahonats is above Wall-E, and The Lion King trumps all.

Then there’s Andy, who calls the toys ‘junk,’ slightly appropriate for objects kept in the chest while Andy’s skateboarding or on his laptop. What the other toys, especially Mrs. Potatohead, hears is ‘junk,’ fueling their desire to get away from Andy in the first place. Real people of Andy’s age aren’t into ‘being a kid again’ as I imagine other people might think, and in the beginning of the film, his relationship to these inanimate objects  are way apart. I also imagine that his fictional world doesn’t think ‘novelty’ when thinking about toys popular in the mid-90’s. A part of the demographic of this film are 17-year-old kids or older, like people my age who were children when the first movie came out. The story is mostly about the toys yearning for Andy’s touch, successfully getting our sympathies when they’re pretending to be inanimate. Yet it’s also about wondering whether Andy will tap into a childhood nostalgia or not, the same way our memories come back to us even if we can never fully relive them.