26 March 2006

In Cold Breakfast at Tiffany's

Movie night last night was "Capote." Phillip Seymour Hoffman? A+. The movie itself? I give it a C. I thought it a little slow and plodding, though perhaps that was by design. (Could be the film was made to mirror the personality of its subject. Or maybe not.)

It was nicely made and had a real feel for its time and places. There are few things more distracting to me than period pieces that have no flavor for their period. (See "Grease"-- set in the fifties, but absolutely screams late seventies.)

Hoffman is magnificent. I found his affectations a little annoying the first few minutes (and in fact we turned the closed captions on just so we could figure out what he was saying!), but in no time at all it was clear he was the very embodiment of Truman Capote. We believe he's Capote because he believes it. Can you imagine his processes for getting into this character? The first rehearsals must have been scary. He must have questioned his ability to sustain the character for a whole movie. If he did, it sure as hell does not show up in the finished product.

A couple other laments: How did the guy playing Perry, one of the killers, escape all the media attention? He was really good in this. Just the right mix of menacing and sympathetic. I wanted to know more about him. And Catherine Keener, who is one of my favorites, was wasted. She certainly made the most of her scant screen time. How about a Harper Lee biopic starring her now?

24 March 2006

Time for a new joke

A tourist wanders into a back-alley antique shop in San Francisco's Chinatown. Picking through the objects on display he discovers a detailed, life- sized bronze sculpture of a rat. The sculpture is so interesting and unique that he picks it up and asks the shop owner what it costs.

"Twelve dollars for the rat, sir," says the shop owner, "and a thousand dollars more for the story behind it."

"You can keep the story, old man," he replies, "but I'll take the rat."

The transaction complete, the tourist leaves the store with the bronze rat under his arm. As he crosses the street in front of the store, two live rats emerge from a sewer drain and fall into step behind him. Nervously looking over his shoulder, he begins to walk faster, but every time he passes another sewer drain, more rats come out and follow him. By the time he's walked two blocks, at least a hundred rats are at his heels, and people begin to point and shout.

He walks even faster, and soon breaks into a trot as multitudes of rats swarm from sewers, basements, vacant lots, and abandoned cars. Rats by the thousands are at his heels, and as he sees the waterfront at the bottom of the hill, he panics and starts to run full tilt. No matter how fast he runs, the rats keep up, squealing hideously, now not just thousands but millions, so that by the time he comes rushing up to the water's edge a trail of rats twelve city blocks long is behind him.

Making a mighty leap, he jumps up onto a light post, grasping it with one arm while he hurls the bronze rat into San Francisco Bay with the other, as far as he can heave it. Pulling his legs up and clinging to the light post, he watches in amazement as the seething tide of rats surges over the breakwater into the sea, where they drown. Shaken and mumbling, he makes his way back to the antique shop.

"Ah, so you've come back for the rest of the story," says the owner.

"No," says the tourist, "I was wondering if you have a bronze Republican."

Shamelessly lifted from here.

12 March 2006

Because You're Mine...

We watched "Walk the Line" last night. I had been looking forward to it ever since I first heard about it. I'm not much into country music, but have become quite interested in Johnny Cash's life and career-- especially later in his life. It all started the first time I saw his video for "Hurt." That little piece of film caught my attention immediately, and after it was over I said to the wife, "He's saying goodbye." Best music video ever.

The movie was just OK. I found it to be a bit glossy. For someone with a seedy past, everything had a sort of sanitized sheen to it. For example, much of it focused on Cash's addiction to "pills." But they never mention exactly what the drugs were. There were many scenes of him ingesting pills, but what were they? Uppers? Downers? Goofballs? Or were they just plain, generic Movie Pills? Also, there was a noticeable lack of swearing and nudity. Not that I necessarily think these elements are a must in a film about a performer's rise and fall. I just think the movie could have been a little grittier.

The other thing that bothered me was the casting. Try as I might, I just didn't buy the leads in their parts. They both delivered great performances, but they just didn't seem like they were Johnny and June. For me, it would have played better if it was a thinly-veiled work of fiction.

What did I like about it? Well, again, the performances were great, both acting and musical. I really liked Reese Witherspoon's singing. That was a pleasant surprise.

My favorite scene was during Johnny's audition for Sam Phillips. I don't know who the actor playing Phillips was, but he certainly made the most of it. The dialogue was sharply written, and you could sense Johnny soaking up Phillips' list of what he was doing wrong and how to make it better.

So I guess I liked it. It's one of those movies that will appear on TV in a couple years and I'll look forward to seeing it.

10 March 2006

Bush: Collapse of port deal sends bad message

Agreed. But it's nothing that can't be cured by his resignation, accompanied by an apology for making the United States an international embarassment.

05 March 2006

Oscar night

It's Oscar night again, and as a big movie fan, I can't help but get caught up in it just a little. It's a guilty pleasure as I find art as competition an absurd concept. But the event celebrates film as art and I can get behind that idea. Plus I like ogling the women in their finery.

We haven't seen most of the major "contenders" yet. I don't like seeing movies in the theater, so am always six to twelve months behind what's current. We did see "Junebug" last night. I found it a bit of a bore-- except for Amy Adams. She is wonderful in it. It's quite a feat to pull off dim but lively, but she does it very well here. I didn't even know she was nominated until after I saw this movie, so I guess others noticed her great performance as well.

The only other one we have seen is "Crash." That was several months ago and it didn't leave much of an impression on me other than big ensemble cast and decent writing and acting.

Earlier today I saw a conservative talk radio host bitching that none of the movies being celebrated tonight represent "mainstream American values." He spoke as if there is some big Hollywood conspiracy to undermine the country or something, which is of course, a load of crap. Time for a little lesson in "Americanism." Most movies (mainstream Hollywood ones anyway) get made with one thought in mind: box office dollars (and yen and rubles and pesos, etc.). The more money a film makes, the greater the chances others will attempt to copy its success. What's more American than that? The ones that don't succeed in putting butts in the seats quickly become distant memories. If rightwing nutjobs are so sure movies are causing a great decline in the American way of life, they should finance and make ones that espouse their point of view. So why don't they? Because no one wants to see them! It's called capitalism, baby! (Just ask those asshats on the religious network that used to be called PTL. They have made a couple movies based on that "Left Behind" nonsense-- all died quick deaths at the box office.)

OK, OK, switching rant mode off for now.