Our friend Andrew Kendall of Encore’s World… has painstakingly planned and vetted 64 of the greatest performances of the 1990’s out of a possible 200, this difficult task eventually proving fruitful, presenting us with a showdown where you can vote for the better performance out of two that are paired. Thirty-two performances begin this showdown, but there can only be one winner.
FULL BRACKET HERE
Andrew has chosen me as one of his henchmen, the others being Jose Solis of Movies Kick Ass and Nick Prigge of Cinema Romantico. I pretty much tried to rig and troll the list while the three of them brought the bracket some quality. Other bloggers suggested their bests, like Amir Soltani of Amiresque, Courtney Small of Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, Craig Bloomfield of Dark Eye Socket, Ruth Maramis of FlixChatter and Ryan McNeil of The Matinee, Alex of Film Forager, Andy from The Film Emporium, and Jessica of The Velvet Café.
Andreas Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grr, Michael Cusumano of Serious Film and Yojimbo of Let’s Not Talk About Movies have also stepped in to do what I’ll be doing every other day or so – talk about two of the performances that are pitted against each other.
I already submitted some of my write-ups, the first one between the surprisingly restrained Nicolas Cage and the classical touches of Irene Jacob, both performances being in the moment, the actors enveloping each moment with intense emotion. I’m trying not to be biased between the two. You have until Tuesday to vote between the two of them, since every showdown is given three days to fight against each other. The clue to the next showdown that I’ll be moderating is in the picture below. Which one is it? I’ll link you when it’s up.
Now go to Andrew’s site and vote! And comment!
Ugh I hate having to write about movies that I can’t prove with words but that’s David Lynch for you and besides, I’ve been procrastinating writing about Mulholland Drive ever since I saw it (and rewatched the ending after my ongoing depress-athon). Here’s what I have to say, as I have originally typed on Ryan McNeil‘s blog:
a) I told you this in person but I’ll do it again because I’ll probably never end up writing about it in my space. Despite the incoherent fuctory that is Wild At Heart it’s probably the only movie of his – or any movie ever – that simultaneously conveys all emotions of funnysexyscary, mostly thanks to Laura Dern’s performance. Even in his better work, he can only manage to convey one of those three tones, or compartmentalizes them from one scene to another.
Don’t worry, this post will get slightly smarter.
I feel it juvenile that I hate to compare Dern’s Lula Fortune to other actors with more well-known movie quotables, and nothing beats those originals but we have seen de Niro’s bravado or Judy’s childlike demeanour through multiple imitations. And I suppose Dern also gets it easy with some of the one liners that we first hear on the trailer, like ‘You make me hotter than Georgia asphalt.’ We can do that as an inside joke, add a head or shoulder roll or two, remembering Lynch’s innately referential nature as he pays perpetual homage to post-war camp Americana. Slick greaser hair and jackets and antisocial behaviour are particularly more present here than in Lynch’s other movies, given a contemporary flavour through Sailor’s affinity to epilepsy-inducing metal music. Her love-making non sequiturs and narratives astound – ‘And I swear, baby, you got the sweetest cock. It’s like it’s talking to me when you’re inside. ],’ ‘You [Nicolas Cage’s character Sailor] remind me of my daddy. (I shouldn’t judge),’ ‘One time, [my aunt] found [my uncle] Dell putting one big cockroach on his anus.’ She says those lines with the borderline childishness that some girls put on in front of their boyfriends. They say that the portrayal of gravitas lessens over time and yes we can laugh at these lines but there’s this timeless earnestness in Dern and Lynch’s delivery of lust that I simply cannot negate. Who knew that the gaunt actress only needed her blond locks and a silver tongue to be sexy? Can she do it again?
And as Lula and her Sailor elopement gets bumpier and more crime-ridden, Dern’s performance gets its equal rocky footing. There’s also a scene where she find herself alone with Willem Dafoe’s grilled character – that’s never turned well in 99% of that actor’s movies. He sexually intimidates her and tells her to tell him to to ‘Fuck me.’ At first she resists but she does it, putting fear into a mix that cannot be duplicated. She’s Lynch’s instrument for better or worse and I don’t even see anything wrong with her bravery and vulnerability, while most of the leading actresses Lynch hires only has either. I wonder how her dad was like as an actor, if he could produce such a great here.
There are also Wizard of Oz references for some reason, Lula’s mother (Diane Ladd), the venomous woman from whom they;re running away, conjured through hallucinations as the Wicked Witch. Lula clicks her heels like Dorothy but Sailor doesn’t seem like any of Dorothy’s companions. Scarecrow maybe, for participating in failed bank robberies? Anyway, both the stunted feminine and masculine body politic is within the escapist Lula and she solves it by…marrying a dude? This is a man’s perspective of a romanticized female pathos, after all. And I keep talking about this movie as if I’m bored with Cage’s histrionics but Sailor does have death threats to avoid. And I just don’t want to see him as sexy with all the implications of that title, which this movie insists and almost succeeds on doing.
At first I can’t help but think that the Cageists inflates their idol and the god-awful scenes from terrible movies in which he’s starred. This is especially the case in Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man. Okay, so the awkward babysitting sessions with a female partner in his character Edward Malus’ police force after a traumatizing case and the beautiful calligraphy within a letter from a former girlfriend are ridiculous. But are they the unintentionally funniest moments ever captured on camera? Not really. It’s not Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
From Edward’s rural, arid California post to a strange island off the coast of Washington State where his paramour now lives, the letter summons him to rescue her – or their – daughter, who is missing and presumably dead because ofan evil neighbor. This insular place is called Summer’s Isle, which produces organic produce and stuff like that. After a nightmare/flashback-filled ferry trip he gets into the island after a pilot reluctantly smuggles him in. Even from the first time he meets the handful of townspeople in the isle, he senses that they’re xenophobic and ritualistically homicidal and he has inadvertently put himself and the pilot as these people’s targets.
Speaking of The Room, early reviews for this movie – that is, before it got its cultish acceptance – have criticized its sexism. Summer’s Isle happens to be the namesake of a matriarch (Ellen Burstyn, who probably did this and W to fund those annual indie love labours she stars in every year). She’s descended from the Wiccans of Salem and this sanctuary in this opposite coast is where her ancestors and her emasculate their men into breeders and young daughters into sacrificial lambs. This commune is an alternative to Edward’s badge-pushing patriarchy. That could also mean that women are equally capable of the subjugation that men give women but that still puts Edward in the right.
Cage’s signature freakouts come in spurts, like when he calls little girls liars, flings a woman (LeeLee Sobieski) across the room or punches another. Like these little seizures, maybe this is one piece within a larger puzzle, and I’ll take as many laughs as this film deserves. He approaches Edward’s paranoia, as well as the script’s – also written by LaBute – with admirable earnestness but it’s this same quality that hinders me from fully enjoying this.
Ugh, why do I bother? Neveldine-Taylor’s Ghost Rider 2: The Spirit of Vengeance recounts the back story of the comic book because no one bothered to watch the first Ghost Rider movie. This second installment begins in ‘Eastern Europe’ just in case the powers that be who birthed this movie thought that their audience was stupid enough to use their phones to look up where Romania was in the map. Think about that while they set the ending in a specific place in Turkey, which is apparently the furthest place from heaven. Like what did Turkey ever do to deserve that? It’s a movie of locales, stopping by an American diner in between the kinetic 3D highlighting the majestic rock formations and structures of Europe and ‘Europe.’ If you count Turkey as part of the European continent and union but anyway….
And speaking of 3D, there’s some nice fetishistic shoe and sequins closeups that are nice and all. Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze goes crazy only and disappointingly once as he gets a deal from a French rogue priest (Idris Elba, with a questionable accent) to rescue a boy from being anointed as the Devil’s (Ciaran Hinds) son. Blaze and a younger woman, who is the child’s mother, go from point a to point b to carry out this mission and Blaze doesn’t even hit on her. Neveldine-Taylor combines biker Gothic pathos with infantile subculture humour but we just really want the campy version of the latter and we don’t get enough of that. In essence, we’re talking about the first boring Nicholas Cage movie, which is a shame. Anthony Head of Buffy fame cameos as a monk who dies way too soon. 1/5
Fighting words from possibly fictional Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage, looking like what Jonah Hill might look like in 20 years) to fictional Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) in “Adaptation.” Those words are more effective than anything Kevin Kline ever says “Sophie’s Choice,” because Charlie’s coming from pain, from a connection and a relationship finally consummated in its own strange way with a woman he’s never physically met until this time. In that scene, both lose important men in their lives. Charlie loses his fictional brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) in an out-of-nowhere car crash, while Susan loses John Laroche (Chris Cooper) to a croc. Their confrontation is both hilarious and sad. The two deceased characters have been Charlie and Susan’s crutches, alter egos, dumber, more oblivious versions of themselves with delusions of grandeur. Charlie unlearns the Susan who’s been both myth and sexual fantasy and sees her just like him, a writer stuck after letting go of an obsession. And now that that part of them is gone, they can fictionalize this part of their lives and move of to other projects.
I also think this is the first movie I’ve seen where Tilda Swinton looks normal. She’s always been a beauty from another world, but as Valerie Thomas in a light sweater she refreshingly looks more conventionally pretty. There’s also the warmth in her, that as much as Charlie’s repulsed by himself, beautiful women don’t just tolerate but actually accommodate him. Her ‘breathing down his agent’s neck’ only happens off screen.
I kinda wanna talk about Amelia (Cara Seymour) and Donald’s girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal) too. These two women, as well as Valerie and her doppelganger Alice the Waitress (Judy Greer) don’t seem to be repulsed by Charlie, but that’s only because the romantic barrier hasn’t been broken. That only gets broken with Alice, who isn’t as accommodating by then.
I’m not sure if I totally love the movie, but it’s not as jolting in its surrealism as “Eternal Sunshine” or “Synecdoche,” as much as I like those movies. A part of it is probably due to listening to the characters’ voices or seeing what cars they drive before actually seeing them. The characters here are humans instead of aesthetic elements filling up the mise-en-scene.
FACT! Meryl Streep’s other movie in 2002, “The Hours,” partners her with Alison Janney, the latter coincidentally plays Chris Cooper’s wife in “American Beauty” three years before. Sluts.
FACT! Meryl Streep stoned and her calling people fat are longer traditions than previously thought.
FACT! Nicholas Cage was once good.