Monthly Archives: September 2007

Everybody Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief

The impending expiry of the WGA contract at the end of October is threatening production of the Justice League of America movie intended to be directed by George Miller of Happy Feet fame/notoriety. Admittedly he also directed the Mad Max trilogy so he might not have been completely inept, but the last news we heard was that Jessica Biel was in, then out, as Wonder Woman.

I actually think she wouldn’t be such a bad choice for the role, but I still think the movie is just a bad idea in general before Singer’s second Superman film or Nolan’s (hopeful) third if last Batman picture. Even though Superman and Batman would most likely not be played by Brandon Routh and Christian Bale in a Justice League movie — which I think is a good idea whether it were made next year or after the conclusions of the individual franchises — I think it makes most sense not to have the characters appear concurrently in separate continuities.

Let Nolan and Bale finish their trilogy, then reinvent Batman as a character that would be compatible with superpowered partners for a Justice League adventure. Let Singer and Routh have another try at a movie worthy of Action Comics, then recast Superman with an actor that would be more credible as the leader of a team of superheroes.

One Minute Movies

In Academy, R. Luke DuBois has compressed the images and sounds of every year’s Best Picture (through 2003) into a single minute.  The results are fascinating. A few online excerpts of Academy:

Wings in 60 seconds

Gone with the Wind in 60 seconds

From Here to Eternity in 60 seconds

West Side Story in 60 seconds

The French Connection in 60 seconds

Amadeus in 60 seconds

Titanic in 60 seconds

I’m also very intrigued by DuBois’ recent project, Fashionably Late for the Relationship, a 72-hour performance by Lian Amaris Sifuentes on a traffic island outside Union Station, accelerated into a 72-minute film. I haven’t seen it but I presume the actress’ movements were about 1/60th normal speed so that in the final product they look normal while city life speeds by around her.

Troy: Director’s Cut at the ArcLight Tonight

Tonight the ArcLight in Hollywood is showing the new director’s cut of Troy, with a Q&A with Wolfgang Peterson at 7:00 PM before the movie starts. I won’t be able to make it, obviously, but if anyone reading this attends I’d love to hear a first-hand report.

I had heard about this project but had totally forgotten about it until Ryan directed me to this review of the DVD, which also comes out today. I’m glad to hear it’s not just a few scenes incongruously inserted into the pre-existing cut, but more like a re-editing of the whole film.

It’s no secret I already liked the theatrical version well enough (as I always say, if you think it’s bad just wait till you see WB’s 1956 version) but it sounds like this is film as it ought to be, so it’s going to the top of my list of reimagined guity pleasures along with Payback: Straight Up.

I still wish it had included Gabriel Yared’s complete score as an alternate audio track, just as a novelty, but it sounds like the music in this is actually improved, not just lengthened.

As much as I love Sean Bean I didn’t really buy him as Odysseus, in part because I’ve always imagined Liam Neeson as the O-man, and partly because I disliked Bean’s Bon Jovi mullet. So I’m glad to hear this cut has more backstory on Odysseus since in the movie they distilled his wiliness into a single sentence of self-conscious shorthand in which he says “You have your swords. I have my tricks. We play with the toys the gods give us.” But we never saw him do anything very tricky besides stroking his chin, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed this cut shows the story of Agamemnon recruiting him.

BADLANDS (1973)

I never would have thought a movie about serial killers could be so delightful, and I mean that without any irony. I spent the first act trying to remember my “favorite bits” so far, but they soon became too frequent for me to bother. One might expect such a story to forfeit its initially carefree tone once it takes the inevitable dark turn, but Malick doesn’t abide such banalities and I increasingly enjoyed the movie for its consistently light, even breezy tone rather than for vignettes. Its absence of moral judgment is not merely unproblematic but entirely irrelevant since it maintains the deadly duet’s point of view throughout. (I can’t believe I just typed “deadly duet”—has Joe Siegel’s restless soul found its new host?)

Since Badlands is an example of the Killing Spree Romance species of the Outlaws on the Run subgenus, it belongs by definition to the genre of American Road Movie but with a profound exception: there are very few roads in it. Instead of the classic shot (or moribund convention) of the dotted yellow line endlessly whizzing by, Malick films the offroad prairies as they pass before the Cadillac’s headlights. The film is great enough as it is, but the musical appointments raise it to another level. The score’s theme, with choral embellishments, is particularly memorable, while the pop selections are inspired, from Mickey and Sylvia’s Love Is Strange playing while Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek dance in the woods, to Nat King Cole serenading their dance in the headlights.

Of course it’s axiomatic that Malick is a brilliant director, visual stylist, etc., etc., but what I hadn’t realized (having seen only The New World) is what an exceptional writer he is. The dialogue is some of the funniest I’ve heard without ever demanding aloud guffaws. Credit to both Sheen and Spacek for their natural, seemingly oblivious delivery of them, but their conversations, with each other as well as whomever they encounter, are priceless. Scene after scene ends with a conversational non sequitor that acts like a punchline. Sheen’s folk philosophizing and Spacek’s narration has all the charm of Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona, but without the attention seeking (promiscuous?) vocabulary that makes the Coen brothers’ screenplay feel by comparison like an overdone Tarantino script.

I can’t believe I’d ever consider Spacek attractive but she’s undeniably cute here, thanks primarily to her short shorts. Martin Sheen too was made for the role, and I can see where Charlie got his natural charm from (he must have stolen Emilio’s share as well). Our sympathy for this killer stems, far from charismatic rebellion, vicarious wish-fulfillment, or underdog empowerment (cf. Thelma and Louise, Thelma and Louise, and Thelma and Louise), but simply because he’s so dispassionate toward his victims. They’re not his enemies, just unlucky. He harbors against them no ill will, so to speak, as his murders are accompanied by not hate but indifference. His nonchalance is initially shocking, but it is so convincing that he quickly makes us forget what he’s just done. (When his personality later has the same effect on the authorities, their friendly reactions appear revolting until we recognize he’s been doing the same to us for the past hour.) His pathological detachment, and that of the audience, is further enabled by the lack of blood which makes these crimes resemble bee stings more than shootings.

Understatement is the governing principle of the film that connects the lack of violent outbursts, deficit of emotional functions, and absence of raised voices. It is such a pleasant contrast to the usual fare that comparable films I otherwise enjoy, like Wild at Heart, seem positively vulgar by contrast. (But then Wild at Heart might be considered vulgar by any standard.) In any case I think Badlands might be in my personal Top 50 now.

Countdown to Friday

I admit to being very excited by Chris Faris declaring 3:10 to Yuma one of his “top 5 of all time.” From any other source I would still be skeptical but, like me, he rated Children of Men “easily the best” of 2006.

But even I can’t believe any movie could possibly live up to a poster as awesome as this:

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Or its billboard variation:

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Don’t know why the US got this uninspiring mock-up instead:

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But this one at least looks cool:

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In any case this coming weekend is potentially the best of the Fall here with Disturbia, Shoot Em Up, Superbad, and 3:10 all coming out on Friday.

I’m assuming Shoot Em Up will be hideous but I can’t help seeing any movie that has people shooting after they’ve jumped out of an airplane. I guess the question is whether its gratuity will be for the sake of self-conscious genre satire (Crank) as a cartoon without apparent irony (Death Sentence). I just can’t believe Clive Owen would consent to a movie without anything to recommend it.

Heroes Update: Homecoming

After a great start, I felt Heroes started losing momentum in the fifth episode, but I looked forward to getting past the six-episode mark which is when commenter Phillip Johnston said it starts taking off. Aside from a few cool moments, like Hiro pausing an explosion, it seems like not much has happened since then, but Episode 8 reached a new level of boring.

Most of the reason is just that I’m really, really (really) tired of Mohinder, not to mention his faux-thoughtful narrations of non sequitors that begin and end each episode (another thing Phillip noted). Hopefully the second season won’t follow suit on that point. But more than half of Episode 8 was Mo chasing around his little soccer spirit guide and whinging about whatever. I appreciate the need to have more substantial scenes with a few characters even if it cuts out others, but there’s no doubt that such focus sacrifices the excitement generated early in the season by showing every character in each episode.

Fortunately I was able to see Episode 9 immediately afterwards over on BBC3 which finally made up for the last few episodes by showing the scene of the Cheerleader running up the steps that we’ve been staring at for two months via Tim Sale’s painting (I still don’t remember the name of the painting character).  Now that we’ve gotten past this threshold I look forward to seeing some fresh developments as Act II gets underway.