Live From 5 Minutes Ago

Saturday, October 11, 2003

I saw two VERY different films this weekend, and feel compelled to write a little something about both of them.

The first, last night, was the new movie from Joel and Ethan Coen, Intolerable Cruelty. Like their prior effort, The Hudsucker Proxy, it's basically an attempt to recapture the spirit of a Hepburn/Tracy screwball comedy. Unlike Hudsucker, Intolerable Cruelty tries to update the era of the film to the modern era. What's really surprising is that it works, wonderfully, most of the time. The trailer leads audiences to believe that they're in for a standard studio romantic comedy. Yes, Clooney does deliver a speech that concludes that "Love is...good!" to a hostile audience, but that's not the end of the film. The film continues for another 30 minutes. Yes, there's a happy ending, but not until there's a lot of acid and vinegar kicking around. Nice comic work from the entire cast, especially Cedric the Entertainer as a sleazy private eye who wants nothing more than to "nail yo' ass!," and Edward Hermann, reversing his work on Gilmore Girls, playing an unrepetant cad. Heck, even the names are silly ("Rex Rexroth," "Miles Massie"). A good time will be had by all, except those who are expecting Fargo 2.

Tonight's feature was Kill Bill, which proudly announces itself as "The Fourth Film From Quentin Tarantino." I am decidedly not a Tarantino-ite. I found Pulp Fiction to be an overly contrived film that was far too full of itself. To boot, when I saw Once Upon A Time In Mexico a few weeks ago, I fell asleep, finding it impossible to follow what little plot existed. Yet Kill Bill actually worked for me--pretty darn well, in fact. Three things have drawn a lot of press about Bill and I want to address all of them.

1. The violence. There's a lot of it. Limbs are severed. Blood flies. Geysers of blood spurt all over the damn place. QT's defense to this is that it's "cartoonish." However, to me, that makes it even more dangerous. It makes violence and death look silly and trivial. In QT's world, people manage to drag themselves out of a building despite having their arms and legs severed and gushing blood. I'm no medical expert, but I think that severing an arm is typically going to cause enough loss of blood that they're not going to be running around quickly. I also don't think that when you cut someone's head off, the result is a geyser of blood shooting a couple of feet into the air. Anyone with medical expertise is invited to comment.

2. The lack of story. Yeah, there's not much of it. Uma is angry. She used to work with some people. These people tried to kill her. She was in a coma. She's going to kill them. I'll take that over Once Upon A Time in Mexico's convoluted mess of a plot. Yep, it's simple, and really, not a lot happens in two hours. Heck, the movie leaves you with more questions than answers about the past of the characters. But to me, that's preferable to convoluted nonsense.

3. The decision to split the film into two "volumes." The break at the end of the movie comes on a substantial cliffhanger (in particular, a doozy of a final line, which changes an assumption we've had throughout the entire film), but it's at an organic point in the story. Two of the names on Uma's hit list are finished, and three remain to be "eliminated." It's certainly a far more organic break than the one we got at the end of Matrix Reloaded.

Bottom line: It's not a particularly GOOD film, but it's certainly an entertaining one. It'll be interesting to see how Tarantino ties up all the loose ends that remain in "Volume Two." I know I'll be there, and I expect most people who make it through "Volume One" will be as well.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A co-worker of mine today noted that he can't wait for the episode of "The Simpsons" where Rainier Wolfcastle runs for mayor against "Diamond" Joe Quimby. Now realizing that it's inevitable, I'm certainly looking forward to it myself. Far more fun than other work today, which consisted of being told that "We've always asserted X. It sure looks like X. But, if it's X, we lose. Find a way it's not X."

Welcome to those of you who may be finding your way over from Throwing Things, which has graciously perma-linked me. Hope you find the contents amusing and/or entertaining. However, there will be no metaphors about how things are like a young child eating rice cereal for the first time.

It's official! Florida no longer has the world's most screwed-up electoral system. That prize now goes to California. Yes, you've just elected a body-builder and not-particularly-good-actor to be your governor. "Hi, I killed killer robots and aliens in the movies! Now, I'll solve your state's gaping fiscal crisis!"

Monday, October 06, 2003

This just in: Bob Graham drops out of Democratic presidential race. Now, he was certainly an interesting candidate, who brought strong credentials on national security to the table, but because that was his earmark, he really got smacked around by Wes Clark's entry into the race and Howard Dean's surprising surge. But let's be honest here--that "journaling" thing (7:41: Got off treadmill. 7:45: Ate bowl of Post Toasty O's)--is more than a little creepy. Now, he can run for VP in peace. Bets on the next to go? Kucinch may go soon, but my bet is on Lieberman, who's managed to get NO traction, and who, let's be honest here, makes Al Gore look like a cyclone of charisma.

Movie trailers are rapidly becoming a lost art in an era of all too many sequels and star-name vehicles that it's rare to find one that really works on all four cylinders--when you do, the experience is priceless. The last one I remember was the first full trailer for Chicago, which I saw for the first time with One Hour Photo around this time last year. It almost seemed as though the audience was going to break into applause at the end of the trailer. However, it's hit again with the brilliant trailer for Love Actually. It's rare you see a film being sold on its screenwriter, but the trailer does it effectively, and manages to nail several laugh-out-loud jokes (especially Hugh Grant talking to a portrait of Margaret Thatcher and calling her a "saucy minx"). Add to this an extraordinary cast, and you've got what's GOT to be one of the must-see's of the fall season. The truly amazing thing--I STILL don't know what the film is really about. I do suspect we're seeing the pay-off of at least one of the stories in the trailer, but it's still looking like a lot of fun.

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