July 29, 2006
Last night, the husband and I fulfilled a lonstanding date with destiny and celebrated his 24th with a viewing of this film on opening night. I say film, and I mean it, although I wasn’t expecting to. I went into the theatre hoping for a couple of eyebrow-raising chase sequences, a little male nudity, and a lot of Miami scenery. I got the third in spades, and the second, and a few of the first, but something else too, something that I can’t stop thinking about. So I’m going to let you into my brain a little bit, and try not to include any spoilers, and not worry that you’re thinking that I think about this stuff too much. It’s just a summer movie, but why leave it at that? It’s one thing to keep raving about obscure foreign flicks and indie you’ve netflixed, things that always meant to change your life, but it’s something else to wade into the fray of what happens when visions are meshed with marketing plans and the accountants have it out down and dirty with actors and look for enlightenment in the midst of mass culture. As my very first film studies teacher constantly reminded us, Hawkes and Hitchcock cared about box office. And what you lose in purity you can gain in cache–ambitious indie films gain a passionate if limited following, ambitious studio movies influence the conversation even when they fail.
Enough justification, let us to the guilty pleasure. I’ll confess I wanted to love this movie, but I will also vigorously assure you that there were many moments during the movie in which I wasn’t so sure I would be able to, but when I could consider the whole, I knew that I did. It won me over, and although I did want to be won, but the film did have to work for it.
There’s a lot about this film that is suprising. First thing, the timing. This film is very deliberately paced. Although it’s basically being sold as a model of your average action movie, it takes pains to separate itself from the very first frame on. Whether you think it works or not, I have never seen a more seamless start to a movie: without warning of any kind you’re waist deep in a South Beach club, listening to Linkin Park’s “Numb,” a little on edge but you don’t know why. Colin and Jamie are working on something, roaming the club but keeping their eyes open, and whatever that something is it goes out the window when they get a cellphone call that sends their whole purpose in life perpendicular from where it was. They then step to the roof, Miami skyline so casually highlighted in the background, and start being the badasses we paid to watch them be. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but this movie isn’t a remake, it’s an update, and it is pitch perfect 2005. From the Linkin’ Park to the mojito, this movie gets it, although it does seem to flirt, fashion wise and theme wise, with the 80s. Nice mashup. The core reason why I think of this as a film is this very deliberateness. All the while, even when it’s making what are probably mistakes, it isn’t like oops, where’d my action flick go, it’s like, I think I’m going to try this and see if you understand it. Style is everything, and it’s surprising at almost every turn.
From the rooftop to the go-fast boat (gotta love these drug running technical terms), the film proceeds to show us the uber-cool and super gritty side of life in Miami. Yet it does so while showing us the humanity that preceeds the style. Foxx and Farrell get themselves into a wide range of dangerous situations, and not once are we made to feel like it’s in the bag. There is always a very believable sense that things could go wrong, and that it could this time be a hero’s guts splashed on the wall like a Jackson Pollack. Major kudos to the actors for finding meaning in lines that could have been emtpy, and making us believe them. I even forgave the inane “Hola chica, hola chico” on the strength of the actors’ committment to the script and to each other.
YET– all the while, I felt like this movie was so close to being a movie that could make me weep, but it stayed a little aloof. This, I think, is what kept me thinking into the wee hours. Why, with so many pieces in the right place, did I not walk out sold but realizing that if I hadn’t been so hungry for a Miami-hearting artish film I wouldn’t have been totally sold? My verdict is the odd lack of homoeroticism. Again, this film is built on the archetype of the buddy movie, yet totally betrays it. Why? Because it is clear that Foxx and Farrell love their girlfriends way more than they love each other, and that just doesn’t work. Instead of a constant tension between their love for each other that grows out of constantly having to place their lives in each other’s hands and the love that society expects them to have for beautiful women, we have a cool, rational agreement that although they are devoted to each other and their work, they really do care more about their women. Time and time again Mann stokes up the heterosexuality, from the lovely buttnekkid Foxx maximizing his manliness in bed to Farrell’s soulful opthalmic stylings as he watches the drug lordess he’s wooed walk down the street. Women first, buddies later. That’s not what we expect or even really want from a buddy movie. Butch and Sundance ignore Katherine Ross all day, and that’s why we loved them. That’s why we didn’t want them to break up and we preferred their violent ends to the wedded, domesticized alternative. For this Crockett and Tubbs, friendship is business and romance is for real. I suppose in the shadow of Brokeback Mountain, it might be a more daring move to make the heroes 100% hetero, but the film pays the price. Without the guy love, it’s a little harder to care. Not that I want to see women take second place (although in this movie they routinely do in professional spheres, pounding home the point that you can get the guy or you can be a bad-ass on the job, but not both), but the buddy movie relies on there at least being a sense of regret as the heroes move away from each other toward domestic responsibility. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this was a product of our troubled, homophobic times. Also, our capitalistic times. There is no hedonistic pleasure to be found in this tropical extralegal world, it’s all business, it’s all bottom line.
Still, this one got under my skin. Visually, emotionally, philosophically. In the end, this is an existential flick following the classic hero’s tale. You’ve gotta be pretty disillusioned to be a drug runner or risk your life on behalf of something as theoretical as US law enforcement. The reason I loved this story was because it represented the compromised state I have come to believe that most adult life is conducted in. The last time a movie grabbed me this way was, I think, the first time, and the movie was The English Patient. And in all of my obsessive post-viewing research, I found a review somewhere that said something like this: to feel the earth move under this movie, you have to have outlived a few dreams. Well, to steal shamelessly from this writer I don’t even know the name of, ditto. This movie doesn’t hold up perfect people and tell us to emulate them. It holds up people that have found a niche, by intention or by accident, and who live in that niche for all it’s worth. They make choices on the margin of society, and their choices affect almost no one but themselves, but for them, every choice is of ultimate consequence. It’s a world where every minute might be too late but you might not know it yet, where there’s backdrops you can’t argue with like money and heat, where you are under a thumb and the best you can do is squirm with attitude. Maybe you have to be a little tropicalized to get this one. Maybe you have to look at the grainy skyline crowded with points of distilled light, unblinking in the face of tragedy and joy, and see it as a reality you’ve lived. Even if you’ve never touched a gun or broken a law in your life, you can still relate to a story that tells each choice in terms of life, passion, and death.
Since Big Hollywood Director (henceforth BHD) shared a little of his glam job reading material with me this week, I thought I would pass on the love with a little peek inside the world of a library intern in technical services, the part of the library that handles everything to do with the books before they get to the shelves. You never see us. We work in basements wearing jeans and t-shirts.
So yesterday, I was packing up a new shipment of books to be “outsourced” which means “sent to Ohio to be cataloged.” This particular shipment was full of gift books, books that have been sitting on our back shelves for months to years because someone gave them to us and someone accepted them for the collection but alas they have no cataloging info printed inside. They are sent to Ohio in groups of a hundred, and there’s always a good thousand waiting in the queue.
These books are generally, in a word, bad. And just for you, I typed up a sample of some of yesterday’s best. Without further ado, I bring you the kookiest books we are paying to add to the shelves of a university library:
The Miler, by Hap Cawood
(please G&B, can you put a character named Hap in that novel you are editing?)
This is directly off the back: “A Kentucky mountain boy pursues the dream of a distance run that takes him further than he thought he could go—in an era when James Dean left the scene, Elvis came into it, life was simpler, love was the same, and few people ran the roads.” Because nothing begs for a cliche like a story set in Kentucky.
That, shockingly, is not the worst part of the blurb. Consider, “With a driving thrust beyound the bounds of the ordinary, the runner holds his will steady and his motion smooth in the fury.” I had a strong urge to wash my hands.
The Intuitive Observations of a Lowly House Painter: The Social Commentary, Political Humor, and Philosophical Reflections of a Common Man, by Marc Sanz
I think the title of this one pretty much says it all, but it is definitely rounded out by the cover art: a picture of said housepainter sitting on a ladder naked (except for his painter’s hat) in the pose of The Thinker with a paintbrush where the fig leaf should have been.
Chin up, Mom by Suzanne Douglass
The author of this book is under the misguided impression that she was writing poetry. In any case, the “verse” collected within is divided into four sections mirroring the stages of motherhood: Pregnant, The Early Period, The PTA Period, Reflections on Family Life.
A couple of choice excerpts:
“Eggs-actly” (yes, that is the title of the “poem”)
As I stand here coloring Easter eggs…
That’s all I’m including from this poem, but I’ll hazard a guess that the author’s allusion to Tillie Olsen’s clasic short story “I Stand Here Ironing,” was unintentional, while it could have been joining in Olsen’s critique of motherhood’s domestic servitude as self-actualizing bliss, it probably wasn’t, as evidenced by this next one.
“By an ironing board”
I think that I shall never cease
To wonder as I sprinkle
Why cloth that will not hold a crease
Holds every wrinkle
(Please give me back Alice Munro please! At the very least Carol Shields!)
But this last one beats them all. Imagine the following lines printed across the page, in block caps, in the concrete form your eighth grade English teacher warned you about taking the shape of a woman’s silhouette, complete with breasts and baby bump, and you will have some idea of what I will never be able to wipe off my retinas:
“It didn’t come from high heeled shoes, this posture that you see; although my spine’s not on a line the fault rests not with me. It was caused back in my teenage by the books I had to carry and I thought it would correct itself when I left school to marry. But now that I’m a matron there’s an even greater dip; I simply traded text books for a baby on my hip.”
Heartbreakingly, as I opened the back cover to stick a card pocket on, an unattached book plate slipped out informing me that the book had been donated in the memory of someone’s mother. I hope they have martinis in heaven, because she is going to need one if she ever finds out.
And a final fine addition to the university collection:
Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation
Bills itself as “the most comprehensive and easy to understand explanation of reincarnation ever published” next to a pic of a towheaded tot in Osh Kosh B’Gosh. Thankfully, I noted that that this book had not been donated in the memory of anyone’s mother.
July 27, 2006
G&B said it best: dude is a loon. Further lunacy here. Or maybe just unprincipled capitalism–after all the crapalicious flicks he’s foisted onto us high-minded liberals, he’s probably desperate to tap a whole audience full of people who’ve never seen one of his movies before. He can now proceed to direct Iraq: Mission Accomplished or Bush, parts one and two.
July 26, 2006
As much as I love Mr. Cage, watching his overanguished face contort in the commercial for this newest Oliver Stone flick was enough to steer me clear, but here’s an even better reason: apparently the Fox newsies love it! Todays edition of Salon’s The Fix reports: Stone’s “World Trade Center” has already come in for a lot of conservative love: “It is one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-male, flag-waving, God Bless America films you will ever see,” writes Fox News’ Cal Thomas, who can’t believe his eyes. “What? Oliver Stone, who indulges in conspiracy theories and is a dues-paying member of the Hollywood left?” Thomas asked. “Yes, THAT Oliver Stone.” ” Ugg.
My enemy’s good movie is a bad movie, right?
July 25, 2006
I swear, I’ve never watched an entire episode of TRL before in my life, but as I was doing my pre-workout channel flip, I happened to catch it right at the beginning and as soon as they mentioned a world premiere of Justin Timberlake’s latest video, that dial was not moving. I think I’ve heard the song a couple of times on the radio already, but it didn’t really grab me, but I knew a video would allow me focus my attention. A girl can hardly be faulted for indulging in a little MTV as she sweats away on a treadmill, and besides, they promised me Mr. JT. Well, they delivered, and if you are one of the few non-Mac people who frequents this blog, they claim you can watch the video at MTV Overdrive on demand. (Mac injustice police: they claim their platform can’t work with us! Psshaw!)
So, this is just a snap judgment based on a single viewing, but I think the song will catch on, and I feel it to be especially appropriate for clubs and as a getting ready to go out background song. The video has an interesting Euro-spy storyline, but there appear to be two Justins in it and it’s hard to tell exactly what they are up to. I like the clearly plotted, heart-felt perversion of the Cry Me A River video. Also, neither of the Justins dance, which is just a waste .
So the album is apparently not coming out until September (for real), but we do know that the title is Future Sex Love Sounds. The Web 2.0 geek in me is thinking, that sounds just like a tag cluster on del.icio.us. Sad really. Good thing the video showed a greater sense of promise than my sense of cool.
July 24, 2006
Okay, now that I have actually opened up the enticing USPS thick envelope package that arrived for me and D today, I realize that my last post was way lame. This a lot more than “yeah!” people:
This is like the coolest thing that’s happened to me since T-Fap (aka SB) got off the plane on June 30th! This is like reaching my hand into the goody bag again and again and again and never coming up empty! Wow! This is so cool! And it’s hard to see on this pic, but every mix CD has its own cover of thumbnail album covers, preserved in all of their polychromatic artistic glory. If you could get a close up look at these little masterpieces, you would trust the future of print media to this lady too. Shall we all raise a toast to friends with good taste? Let’s shall!
Hugs and laughter are hereby mentally and electronically sent in your direction.
July 24, 2006
G&B’s care package of mix CDs has arrived!!! Can’t wait to dig in.