- Discuss the ways in which the film borrows from the second volume of other movie trilogies. There's one in particular I thought it hewed to quite closely (and to good effect).
- Compare and contrast--Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Malcolm Reynolds.
Saturday, July 8, 2006
So, and I'm not quite sure how to define it, but let's call this round Positive Contributions To World Civilization (1648-present), leaving aside anything culinary or literary which fit into the first two rounds.
Which has done more for the world -- the land of Marcel Duchamp, Louis Braille and Le Pétomane, or the peninsula which produced Alessandro Volta, Guglielmo Marconi, and a heck of a lot of film directors?
As for the famed Gilbert Gottfried sequence: I get it, I get it, I get it because I saw a preview of Noises Off mere weeks after 9/11 and witnessed firsthand the howling catharsis of laughing your ass off when everyone is in a lot of pain. But I do agree with a point Adam made -- I would have preferred to see that particular telling in its entirety, without all the back and forthing about how funny it was.
On a related note: we rented both The Aristocrats and The 40 Year Old Virgin at an actual Blockbuster store last night. This marked the first time in I don't know how long that I've walked into a Blockbuster and actually picked up a pile of movies (including the two we rented plus Syriana, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Good Night and Good Luck, Serenity, and a couple others that are escaping me) that I would have been happy to watch. At least a couple of times over the last few years, I've walked into Blockbuster and walked out emptyhanded for lack of interest in a single movie. I guess that when you stop going to the movies, eventually enough solid content piles up that even Hollywood's best efforts otherwise can't prevent me from wanting to see a movie.
Friday, July 7, 2006
Screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. De Souza differentiate their hero from the other macho men of the era by making McClane fallible and vulnerable while being undeniably heroic. He is prone to making mistakes, whether in his relationship with his wife—who's just as sassy as her husband—or in his various fights with bad guys. At an inopportune time, he brings up an old bone of contention with Holly; at another point, while trying to stop two terrorists from bombarding police with a rocket launcher, he drops too much plastique down an elevator shaft and causes a bigger-than-expected explosion inside the building. Through it all, the filmmakers keep reminding you of McClane's desperation: how he’s trying to save the hostages while staying alive himself. As an actor, Bruce Willis contributes by allowing his character to seem sweaty and fearful at times: when the going gets tough, not only is does his tank top shirt get dirtier, he talks to himself. All of this deepens the emotional stakes of the action sequences. In such a context, the story's violent crests aren't mere "fun." They actually seem to matter. . . .
Walking in the bootprints of cruder 1980s action spectaculars (Rambo, Commando), Die Hard didn’t need to add brains to brawn; the filmmakers could have simply bombarded the audience with a lot of noisy action scenes, and most viewers still might have felt they'd gotten their money’s worth. But this movie understands that a great action film shouldn't just deliver action, but also construct an authentic emotional framework to support the action—to make us care about what is happening onscreen rather than just setting up the next sensory assault. For all its self-mocking humor, it's a rare pyrotechnic blockbuster dares to take the characters and situations seriously— a sense of conviction rarely seen in eighteen years' worth of imitators.
Via IMDB: "Bruce Willis was the fifth choice for the main character. It originally went to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Sylvester Stallone, then Burt Reynolds, then Richard Gere before Willis got it."
Thursday, July 6, 2006
So here's your next tossup: French literature or Italian? Will it be Hugo, Flaubert and Verne or the land of Dante, Eco and Pirandello? And does spawning Derrida, Barthes and Lacan count for the French, or against?
It took me until some time in law school before I finally overcame my anti-Western (the film genre, not the big concept) bias to view the film, and I'm definitely on the pro-Searchers side of this. It's just a remarkable film about single-minded obsession, about the poison of racism, about vengeance, about the ways lonely people construct meaning for themselves through projection and other means. (John Wayne's Ethan Edwards, the protagonist of the film (I'd hardly say "hero"), is surely the cinematic grandfather of Travis Bickle.)
Metcalf essentially criticizes the film for being all subtext and -ism fodder, and not being entertaining or pleasurable enough. Well, to be sure, it's not a fun movie. But it's a gripping character study of a tragic figure, and it really is essential viewing. You've seen it, right?
The good nominations: South Park's "Trapped in the Closet", Rome and Big Love's title sequences, the President and First Lady for 24, Yang and Bailey and Christina Ricci for Grey's, and Housewives shut out of the major noms.
Also file under "great": our friend Shonda Rhimes, for Best Writing for a Dramatic Series, for "It’s the End Of The World, As We Know It (Part 1 & 2)".
But, generally, yuck.
edited to add: Sepinwall insta-reacts: "There was a sprinkling of fresh blood -- "The Office," Denis Leary, the First Couple from "24" -- but overall this is a fiasco. Not that "Desperate Housewives" was good this year, but the fact that neither of last year's comedy or drama series winners were even nominated this year makes me think that the Academy is going to do an about-face on the new system in, oh, two or three days."
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Not sure if I'll stick with it all summer, but I know this much: Dilana scares me. Unreal intensity on the Nirvana song.
edited to add: Sepinwall has more. On Dilana: "Okay, wtf was that? I have no idea if she's any good or not, but I was mesmerized by the whole thing, from the decision to stand rock still at the mic for the song's first two thirds to the complete spaz-out at the end. (Though she should've pulled the hood off at that point.) Very weird voice, sort of Laurie Anderson-ish at points. Definitely someone I want to see and hear more of."
So, instead, an opening toss-up question: French cooking versus Italian -- who ya got?
(And, yes, I'm reading Bill Buford's Heat right now, so I'm hardly in a position to be objective about this.)
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
I do have to note, though, the unbelievably rich irony of Jason Alexander's just having sung a reworking of "Run Freedom Run" entitled "Come Freedom Come" as the introductory number of A Capitol Fourth. It's a gloriously magnificent song -- the best Urinetown has to offer -- but with just the slightest inkling of context, oh, it's just really really rich.
I see fireworks!
I see the pageant and pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans -- all Americans -- free forever more!
The MPAA -- never a terribly forthcoming entity -- is a bit all over the place as to the explanation behind the rating. (Religion? Football violence? Depression? Infertility?) I haven't seen the movie, but according to Terry Mattingly, the director of something called the the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, "overt Christian messages are woven throughout" the movie, including "waves of answered prayers, a medical miracle, a mysterious silver-haired mystic who delivers a message from God and a bench-warmer who kicks a 51-yard field goal to win the big game when his handicapped father pulls himself out of a wheelchair and stands under the goal post to inspire his son's faith. There's a prayer-driven gust of wind in there, too."
But Mattingly identifies a discussion between the coach and one of his players as the likely culprit for the PG rating. That conversation ends with the following statement by the coach: "Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it'll change your life. You'll never be the same."
Let's set aside the actual content of the film, as (1) it hasn't been released yet and (2) for some reason I can't get sound on the preview. But if you assume for the sake of argument that it's the evangelical Christian themes that won the film its rating, what do you think of the idea of religious content moving a film from "G" land into the realm of "PG"?
Of course, today's anniversary also means it's twenty years to the day that Yakov Smirnoff has been a U.S. citizen.
Believe me, if there's one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5 1/2 years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us -- America's past of which we're so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country -- these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans. Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.
My fellow Americans, we're known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there's much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it's good to talk about serious things, it's just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let's have some fun -- let the celebration begin!
There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right.
But this service isn't going to go through the internet and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.
Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?
I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?
Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially. . . .
[T]he internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. . . .
Yes, this is the Internet. It does not look like this.
Monday, July 3, 2006
The industry-sponsored ATV Safety Institute's first Golden Rule is to "Always wear a helmet and other protective gear." So, please, let's not have the Phanatic join Mariner Moose in the ICU.
Sunday, July 2, 2006
That said, expect Oscar nominations for Frances De La Tour (if her part isn't cut back too much in the film adaptation), Samuel Barnett (as the "Boy" with the most dramatic plot arc), and Richard Griffiths (though he may wind up running as a supporting actor depending on how the film works).