Monday, January 30, 2006

Some Random Filmic Thoughts

I can't believe that both Underworld and Transporter made enough money not only to warrant sequels, but also apparantly have directors with very deep pockets because they managed to attract back their original stars. And, while Kate Beckinsale and Jason Statham aren't really A-list stars, they're not exactly giant pieces of crap either. I mean, they're not exactly...I don't know Paris Hilton and Vin Diesel. Anyway, who went to see these movies? And who in Europe is so desparate that they're willing to go see them? I mean, don't they have better movies in Europe? Hollywood economics sometimes baffle me, I'll admit.

Old movies. To be specific, Auntie Mame. Now, Auntie Mame is one of my absolute favorite films of all time. I first saw it in elementary school, and I immediately wanted my own Auntie Mame. And I wanted to grow up to be Auntie Mame. she was my role model. Mame was the poster child for "Be yourself and awesomeness will follow." She was, of course, fabulously wealthy. But that was really incidental to her person. I love how she flitters about, absolutely sure that everything will work out exactly as she intended, until she runs up against the reality that is the Knickerbocker Bank and her nephew's trustee. She continually battles against what "society" wants her to be in order to fully become herself. It was a powerful message for me, to see that it was okay to be yourself and not what everyone else wants you to be. Of course, I can never live up to Mame's standard of living (she redecorated ever six months, it seems, whatever her latest obsession was), or the extent of her travels, but I can try a little to live up to her motto: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!"

New movies. To be specific, Match Point. It's nice to see Woody Allen return to form, in a way. He's so hit or miss, and and his later films have not been as enjoyable. I think I saw my first Woody Allen film when i was about twelve. I'm fairly sure it was Sleeper, which remains one of my favorite of his films. I also saw Take the Money and Run at around the same time, which I also enjoyed, giant bananas or robots, you know? Plus I like that he posited a world where hot fudge sundaes were good for you. Annie Hall, of course, because I thought that Diane Keaton as Annie Hall was very much who I envisioned myself being, she was so cool. I loved her clothes, that whole Annie Hall look that really only Keaton could pull off. And, I don't know how Ms. Keaton would feel about this, but I still imagine her as Annie Hall. I didn't really understand the film the first few times I saw it (hey, when your thirteen you don't exactly have a nuanced experience of relationships), but now...well, now I do. But even that movie retained some measure of Allen's slapstick sensebilities. Hannah and her Sisters was a high point, I recall, as was Crimes and Misdemeanors, the film that introduced me to the great, great Jerry Orbach. But a disturbing premise, that film. The Sweet and Lowdown, which was the film that made me completely re-evaluate Sean Penn, so completely did he inhabit Emmet Ray and make me believe that he was, indeed, the second best jass guitarist in the world (after Django Reinhardt, of course). And now Match Point, which, while not a departure in some ways, is a radical departure in others. I think that the central emotions of the film are not unfamiliar territory for Allen. The questions of desire versus obligation, what we others and what we owe ourselves, how far are we willing to go to protect or get something we want. All ground previously covered by Allen over the last thirty years in various combinations and genres. Where Match Point is a departure is in its setting (London), it's casting (Jonathan Rhys-Davies instead of an aging Woody Allen), and it's soundtrack (opera). It's a fairly interesting examination, without being obvious or irritating or judgemental about it, of class in the UK, and how an outsider tries to fit himself into a life he was not born to, and didn't really realize he aspired to. For I do believe that Rhys-Meyers does not particularly have designs on the Hewett family, he's not a grifter or a con artist. He never represents himself as anything other than what he is, which is a poor Irish boy who was good enough at tennis to play professionally for a while. He's not loath to be attached to the family so he lets himself be carried along without really thinking about what he's walking into. The Hewetts are wildly wealthy, but also very generous and kind people who want nothing more than for their children to be happy. And then there's Scarlett Johanssen, who is so much more of a bombshell than I ever imagined she would be when I first noticed her in Ghost World. I'm not sure how Woody Allen manages to get such good performances out of his actors, since it would have been easy to reduce all of these characters to two dimensional stock characters, and each person managed to turn in a nicely nuanced performance.

The conclusion. Go see Match Point, it's an excellent film, and has much more to it than it might initially seem. Rent Auntie Mame because it's a fabulous and funny movie, and any world that doesn't have Rosalind Russell crying, "Ah, Patrick, my little love!" isn't a world I'd want to live in. And...ponder the weirdness that are sequels to bad action/fantasy movies and wonder how they could possibly justify it.


Blogger indi said...

How dare you compare Vin Diesels acting abilities to those of Paris Hilton! While it's true Vin is no Sidney Poitier or Edward Norton, Jr., (yet) he's not a bad actor. His craft will continue to develope and mature as his choices in vehicles in which to display those talents, get better. Vin's no air-head who's acting abilities are one dimensional. Check out his performances in Saving Private Ryan, Strays and Multi-Facial. His body may be muscular, but he doesn't fail to flex those brain muscles either. Try reading some of his interviews and enlighten yourself. He's not relying on gimmicks to get him to where he wants to be and I have no doubt that while Paris Hilton is twirling her hair and holding her latest pet prop years from now, Vin Diesel will be a respected actor, writer, producer and director in the eyes of his peers and fans!

12:54 AM  
Blogger CultureMaven said...

indi - Okay, spirited defense of the Diesel. Everyone makes really bad movies, and I've only heard of one of the three you mention (I'm surprised you didn't mention Boiler Room, as that actually did earn him good reviews), but I'll accept that there's talent there to be brought out by the right director and the right vehicle. Please suggest a male replacement for him, in that case.

7:15 AM  
Blogger stalebREAD said...

Hmm, who knew Vin Diesel was such a divisive character? Methinks he does have potential, so while he may not provide a direct comparison to Paris, he's roughly two to three steps above perhaps. I especially like the muscular body/brain metaphor.

8:49 AM  
Blogger mickey said...

yikes! lmao, i never would have thought vin diesel would draw such rave reviews and such adamant defense. soooooooooooooooooooo funny.

11:17 PM  
Blogger stalebREAD said...

Yes, this is quite an awesome strand, though I can't help but wonder whether a tongue met a cheek in some of these postings...

6:37 PM  

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