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Posts Tagged ‘Insomnia’

Self-professed film aficionados lead difficult lives. We spend hours dissecting films; even the really bad ones are dissected for no particular reason than for the writers to brand themselves as morose intellectuals with good taste in art, who are interesting to talk to and incredible to fuck with next to scented candles (I can’t prove it or anything but I hear that once we’ve trashed enough films, the government release nanorobots into our organs to make lovemaking more euphoric). Of course we needn’t feel bad. It isn’t our fault that films don’t understand just how incredibly complex and generally incredible our psyche is. We just need to keep pissing into the wind and find cleverer ways to make light of the blood, sweat and tears shed by people who think they understand films just because they make them.

We look down on IMDB users. We hate Catherina Zeta Jones. Every weekend we download independent films with the lowest possible budgets and then pretend to support the directors.

You want more proof that bloggers who trash films are wankers? Here’s another pretending to know a good film from a bad one.

The Last Broadcast: Finally, a low-budget horror film that I won’t try stuffing down your throats. Directors Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler have tried really hard to creep us out and as noble as their intentions were, the execution turned out sloppier than unprotected cuddling between former lovers. Botched dramatic improvisation even kills the tension the film’s first five minutes somehow manages to build. Maybe these ‘actors’ weren’t technically supposed to act in Last Broadcast considering its style of narration, but they come across as anxious pastiches of a high school art-house film crew. Stefan’s The Ghosts of Edendale and Lance’s Head Trauma still sound worth checking out because you never can be fully sure about these indie fellows.

Batman Begins: I can’t argue that it was Hollywood’s most faithful interpretation of Bob Kane’s vision, but to associate so much credibility to it is just silly. Tim Burton‘s caricaturization during the early Nineties was laughable at best while Joel Schumacher made Nicholas Cage sit through snuff porn in his next film just to reclaim his credibility with film-goers. Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was miles ahead in terms of authenticity and general aesthetics, but honestly, how difficult did you think that was? The film passed our litmus test even before it was released. From the moment we heard that the guy from Machinist was being groomed by the guy who directed Memento to replace George Clooney as our most favourite superhero in the whole wide world, I think we collectively gasped in joy without second guessing. Truth be told, Bale’s only passable as Batman and sometimes downright ridiculous as Bruce Wayne. He channels American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman without realizing that only one of them is actually a sociopath; the other only fakes it to lead a normal life. I blame it all on Lee Strasberg. Method acting, my ass.

Michael Caine’s portrayal of Alfred isn’t any better, it’s a far cry from the swank stoicism that the character was once legendary for. Seriously, which godforsaken issue has ever had him cracking bland homoerotic jokes while master Wayne battles for his life? As for Katie Holmes, she’s either Catherine Zeta Jones in disguise or the known universe is far crueler than I have thought it to be. Even Liam Neeson is an abomination; Raz Al Ghul‘s supposed to be a badass existential eco-terrorist, not the bastard fruit that fell from the loins of David Blaine, Morpheus and Al Gore.

What is all the hype about Nolan anyway? Memento was about twenty minutes too long. Insomnia had one the least likable Al Pacino performances. The Prestige was sheepishly mesmerizing at best and a Joker-less The Dark Knight would have been both propagandistic and boring. Maybe people just can’t love him enough for his debut. Now that was a good movie.

88 Minutes:As far as I’m concerned, Al Pacino has only looked comfortable playing dorky victims of dire circumstances. In films like Scarecrow or Dog Day Afternoon, he was completely believable as the average guy who has had his life turned upside down, inside out; all twitchy and restless, he had us hanging on to his character’s quirks, righteously mongering our sympathy in the process. Taylor Hackford’s The Devil’s Advocate was perhaps the first unavoidable indication that Al Pacino could really suck too. I mean, you don’t exactly have to ooze charisma when your character has such a fabled history of ironic sophistication as Satan did and yet Pacino managed to make it offensively theatrical, often dueling with Keanu Reeves to see who could make the most inappropriate sex faces during dramatic scenes.

In Jon Avnet’s 88 Minutes, he gives his character so many different dimensions that GPS-enabled rhombuses could have lost their way in there. Maybe Dr Jack Gramm had multiple personality disorder in the original script and somebody forgot to inform him about its last-minute exclusion or Pacino was desperately trying a million different things to bring back his credibility as a performer, either way it had too much of negative impact on the film for me to even bring up Alicia Witt’s blindingly horrific acting. I’m telling you, minions, watch William Friedkin’s Cruising and then Godfather I, II or III. He just isn’t the same actor. If you can’t see the difference, then we just don’t see eye-to-eye on films. Also, you are a stupid idiot of a nonsense fool and you will punished for your insolence. Hmpf.

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World’s Greatest Dad: I have never liked those wholesome family comedies or dramas. Hated Problem Child. Loathed ET. Cried during The Lion King for all the wrong reasons. Swore upon my grandma’s grave that I’d find and kill the Little Mermaid, Lassie, Flipper and those annoying 101 Dalmatians. That kind of sparked the anger I had as a teenager for Robin Williams. He starred in films such as Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Toys, Jumanji, Jack, Patch Adams, and Bicentennial Man that tried enticing us with hyperbolic chirpiness. Over time I have grown tolerant towards him and as irony would have it, this comedian looks more convincing in tragedy. Exhibit A to E, Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, House Of D and grossly underrated The Big White.

In Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, he plays Lance Clayton – failed novelist, underappreciated teacher and grieving dad of a misanthropic pervert. He is nice enough chap, but lady luck has a habit of kicking him in the side of his head. There’s a young professor who keeps outperforming him in front of his girlfriend. His neighbor is an agoraphobic pot-smoking grandma and even she ignores him. To top it off, his son embarrassingly dies from autoerotic asphyxiation.  Poor old Lance Clayton. Everything he wanted in life kept vanishing into thin air, pausing only to break wind to add to the humiliation of his existence. Needles to say, everything gets turned around once a “suicide letter” is discovered and posthumously published. Few months later, Clayton is the toast of the town. Popular, loved and respected. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?

While the film had all the ingredients of a perfectly respectable indie movie, the second half strays too far from the morbidity that had grabbed me in the first. Even the accidental (hopefully, not ripped off) nod to the final scene in Thomas McCarthy’s fantastic Station Agent doesn’t help matters towards the end. I can only thank heavens that it wasn’t Anger Management climax-level bad.

All’s not lame however. The first half is both funny and fucked up and I quite liked it. Daryl Sabara has shaken off the Little Annie-look that he had in the Spy Kids trilogy; he is quite the revelation as Clayton’s immensely dislikable son – Kyle (who could have run amok the suburban streets with Alex, Dim and the rest of the droogs). Alexie Gilmore does a neat job playing Claire – Clayton’s girlfriend; something about the slyness in her eyes makes her captivating to watch. Oh and Robin Williams just jumped ahead of Marlon Brando on the list of men the world should have never seen naked. It isn’t lame as much it is evil.

Bad Lieutenant: I say this with a heavy heart. I enjoyed Abel Ferrara’s way more than Werner Herzog’s Port Of Call: New Orleans version. The original had Harvey Keitel in one of the grittiest portrayals of a rogue cop, investigating a young nun’s rape while sinking into new levels of decadence and corruption. Herzog’s had Nicholas Cage trying his best to come across as the bad guy. He investigates the drug-related assassination of a family of African immigrants while dealing with his drug addiction. Truth be told, I don’t get Herzog’s casting decisions. I have no friggin clue why he roped in Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, and Xzibit; they were all sorts of bad, especially Val Kilmer (one would think he did more drugs than the bad lieutenant). Thankfully, some worked. Jennifer Coolidge and Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit!) were impressive as the perennially-sloshed stepmom and the nervous gambler.

On to the Herzog-Cage experiment. One of my least liked actors being led by one of my favourite directors. Well, the thing is, Cage has tried really hard (he even picks up an accent about 40 minutes into the film), so it is hard to fault him. To be honest, it is one of his best performances (Weather Man remains his truest yet), but then again, that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of Herzog’s least impressive films. Just so you know, it had nothing to do with the actors or his direction; it  is merely as petulant to expect him to ape another man’s vision as it is unfortunate  how little could have been done to make Abe’s version any better.

For me, the real surprise lies in the visual elements in the film; never has a Herzog film looked this mediocre. Cinematography had a role in making Keitel’s portrayal of the Bad Lieutenant seem more irreverant that he actually is. In this, Peter Zeitlinger’s photography is surprisingly timid as it plays second fiddle to Lt. Terence’s mental deterioration; quite the contrast to the disquieting beauty he conjured in the truly Herzogian Encounters at the End of the World and Wheel of Time.

Having said all that, you should defintely watch Bad Lieutenant, Port Of Call: New Orleans at least to see what once happened in 2009 when Werner Herzog actually directed Nicholas Cage. Two masters (one of new wave cinema, other of bad one-liners) trying to perfect a strange craft. Sort of like watching Jet Li wrestle Mike Tyson for the beach volleyball title. Awkward, vaguely intriguing and a frankly, very disturbing.

Fear Of The Black Hat: I love mockumentaries because of their silliness. Even the madcap entertainment of B-grade slasher flicks pale in comparison. From Christopher Guest’s pioneering This Is Spinal Tap to the more recent, Justin Lin-directed Finishing the Game, mockumentaries have generally thrived on satirizing popular phenomenon, be it art, religion, social fads, martial arts or whatever. Rusty Cundieff’s Fear Of The Black Hat is a hilarious take on the gangster rap culture. Focusing on the rise and fall of the controversial rappers in NWH (Niggaz With Hats), a very obvious dig at the gnarliest of west coast rap outfits NWA (Niggaz With Attitude), the mockumentary takes us on a tour in the lives and times of MCs Tasty Taste (Larry B Scott), Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff) and mix master Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence).

Larry Scott brings most of the funnies, with his character shuffling between spoofing Public Enemy’s Flavour Flav and rapper Too Short, I guess. Matter of fact, with the exception of Vanilla Sherbet (Devin Kamin), the archetypal whiteboy rapper, everything else about Fear Of The Black Hat is very funny. Props must be given to the three lead actors, who, despite the silliness of it all, have done a very commendable job. Seriously, go out of you way to see this.

CB4: The problem with Tamra DavisCell Block 4 (CB4) is that Fear Of The Black Hat was released a year later and had pretty much the same story going for it, but only funnier.  Also, at some point in the film, I think that Chris Rock (who wrote the film and starred in it) and the director started getting all serious instead of sticking to taking potshots at this genre of music and the lifestyle it demands. Charlie Murphy gets a few laughs as Gusto, but it was 1993 and he wasn’t even close to the awesomeness he brought to those skits in the Dave Chappelle Show much later. Not even a reworking of Sugar Hill’s Rapper’s Delight could save CB4. Pretty soon, the dialogues start to wear thin as inside jokes turn into semi-preachy one-liners. For instance, MC Gusto hears this from his dad a good hour into the film.

Albert Sr.: You ain’t tough. There are real some kids out there that are going to kick your narrow ass. You ain’t from the street, I’m from the street. And only somebody who wasn’t would think it was something to glorify.

Riiiight…that’s great. Thanks. Now why don’t go fight the power or something.

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