Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Wild Boy of the Veldt

Six movies, each recently viewed and each worth writing about.

[ Barton Fink ]
Before I saw it, my only prior reference to this Coen Brothers movie was a joke on “The Simpsons.” Milhouse and some of Bart’s other friends are going to sneak into an R-rated movie. They chose “Barton Fink,” the joke being that despite its mature themes, this movie does not have the boob and blood that a bunch of ten-year-old boys would expect from the rating. Nonetheless, the movie is good, mostly. It’s set in 1940s Hollywood and shares some thematic ties with “Mulholland Drive.” John Turturro stars, and now I can finally match a memorable role with his name and face. And John Goodman manages his role better than anybody else could. Is the Earle actually hell? Can life successfully imitate art? Is this movie about the Holocaust? Gosh, so many wonderfully unanswered questions.
[ Audition ]
First half: a slow-paced but light-hearted Hugh Granty romance about a man who holds an audition for a fictional movie in order to find a wife. Third quarter: unnerving suspense as the investigation into one character’s past becomes a little scary. Final quarter: one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen – no exaggeration. I can’t believe we sat through this. Overall, this movie is praised as one of the most jarring in the J-Horror genre. The director claims it’s not a commentary on Japanese misogyny, but without that reading, I’d have to disregard this as a repellant snuff piece and a waste of my time. Disturbing stuff, though.
[ Wall Street ]
Decent enough morality tale of a young guy being enveloped by the shady world of 80s investment tycoons. Daryl Hannah looks like some kind of mannish monument to garish style of the 80s. Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gekko, the epitome of greed. Also, this movie mentions more animals in casual conversation than any movie I’ve ever seen, and not just “bull” and “bear” and stuff you’d expect in an movie about the stock market. Worth seeing.
[ Policewomen ]
Easily the best movie I’ve rented in months and definitely one that got a lot of play in Quentin Tarantino’s VCR a few years back. This details Lacy Bond, a tough-as-nails policewoman on the trail of some tough-as-nails lady smugglers. They’re tough, see? But that doesn’t mean they don’t spend in an inordinate amount of time wearing bathing suits. Despite how I might make the plot sound, it’s a lot more coherent than most 70s exploitation pics. The roommate keenly observed that the dialogue sounds like that in “Kill Bill” – and not just the words but the very way the actors speak it. One of the supporting actresses, playing the requisite streetwise black chick, is named Jeannie Bell, which was the name Vernita Green takes after she goes into hiding. Oh, and Sondra Currie, the main character, looks just like Brie. Groin-grabbingly transcendent filmmaking. And regardless of what IMDb says, it's "Lacy Bond," not "Lucy." I heard it. I say so.
[ Out of Sight ]
Sanam was right; this is a good movie. Steven Soderbergh directed this before “The Limey,” but you can really see the influence this movie had on “Traffic.” I’d call it a quasi-prequel if the script wasn’t based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Don’t let the fact that Jennifer Lopez stars in it deter you, either. If I had seen this when it hit theaters in 1998, I would have guessed that J-Lo was destined for great things. She makes the role of a federal marshal who falls in love with a bank robber seem plausible. She even looks more beautiful in this movie – and in a natural way that isn’t buried beneath so much glitz. Technically, this movie shares realty in the Tarantino universe. Michael Keaton shows up in one scene as Ray Nicolette, an FBI agent. The same character, also played by Michael Keaton, appears more centrally in “Jackie Brown,” as the agent who busts Pam Grier’s character.
[ The Gift ]
The least of these six, but still not a waste of time. Cate Blanchett does a good job, even if Keanu Reeves and Hillary Swank don’t. Gary Cole fares better. Katie Holmes shows her breasts. Sam Raimi seems to have been ramping up for “Spider-Man” while he directed this. A few major characters from “Spider-Man,” like Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson even show up playing small roles smaller than the ones in “Spider-Man” but similar in mannerisms. Creepy in a “Twin Peaks” kind of way, and I like that.
Apparently, I now only watch movies that feature crime as a central plot device. And seriously, if you don’t already have Netflix, you quality of life is clearly substandard.

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