Tag Archives: misogyny

89: The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

I’d been meaning to catch The Thomas Crown Affair for a long time — having seen bits of the watered-down 1999 remake on TV, I’d always assumed that the original would be stylish, sexy, and full of the same witty dialogue I’ve come to expect from a good 70s crime caper.  Well, one out of three ain’t bad.

This movie actually made me sympathize with the people who thought the remake was a good idea, since the worst thing about it is how overwhelmingly dated it feels.  I’m not even talking about the clothes, which are fun to look at, or Faye Dunaway’s bizarrely ineffectual role as an insurance adjuster who does very little adjusting (more on that later).  What I found crazily distracting was the wacky multiple split-screens and colored filters, which I’m sure seemed like the next big thing in 1968; and the incomprehensibly clipped hep-cat dialogue.  It’s as if someone took a perfectly normal, serviceable script and cut out every third word.  At one point it devolves into a list of nouns, like “Tugboat.  Jungle.  Flagpole.  Pirahna” that poor Steve McQueen has to deliver as if it means something.  I can count on one hand the scripts I’ve read that erred on the side of brevity, so it feels weird to criticize a film for not being talky enough.  But in this case I think it’s a symptom of a larger problem, namely a plot with holes you could drive a cement mixer through.  Steve McQueen is meant to be this spoiled millionaire playboy whose life is so pampered that he has to rob banks to get his thrills.  Faye Dunaway is the “special” brought in by the insurance company to investigate the robbery, even though the only thing she investigates over the course of the movie is Steve McQueen’s back pocket.  The whole movie feels like an excuse to put two beautiful, sophisticated people into beautiful, sophisticated clothes and then show them frolicking in various exotic locales.  Faye Dunaway’s storyline, if you can even call it that, is particularly insulting: despite her alleged “specialist” status, the cops she’s working with all call her “doll” and every other diminutive feminine nickname you can think of.  Worse yet, her character settles on Steve McQueen as her target based on the irrefutable evidence that he’s “cute.”  If the only skill involved in being an insurance specialist is recognizing an attractive man with criminal tendencies when you see one, I’ll hang out my shingle, paint my nails beige, and start charging $200 an hour myself.  Maybe I’m overthinking a movie that was only meant to be a bit of eye candy, but there’s not a single character I wanted to spend another minute with once the credits started rolling.  Would another remake be worth the effort?  I’d like to see someone like Will Gluck take a crack at it, since he could inject some much-needed wit into the dialogue; but I suspect the whole rich-people-being-too-sophisticated-for-your-middle-class-problems storyline has lost a lot of its appeal over the last few years, so it might have to remain a very silly product of its time.


85: Batman Returns (1992)

If, like me, you grew up with the Batman movie franchise*, you’ll understand why I have a hard time being objective about these movies.  I will go on record as having LOVED the horrible Joel Schumacher one that came out a couple of years after this one back when I was fourteen or so, and my brother and I went to see the infamous Batman and Robin in the theater (that was when I finally began to question the infallibility of the Batman storyline).  So going back and revisiting any of these movies is a dicey proposition for me — I already know it won’t live up to what I remember from my easily-entertained childhood, so why open up that can of worms?

So with that long disclaimer out of the way, I still think there’s a lot to love about Batman Returns. First of all, Michael Keaton: WHY is he such a good Batman?  Whose idea was it to cast him, and why in god’s name does it work so well?  He was never an action guy — you don’t look at him and think, “Ah yes, there’s my next strapping superhero.”  And I guess this sort of thing happens a lot nowadays (see the two Green whatevers currently in theaters), but I feel like this casting was at least as big a jump as putting Bruce Willis in Die Hard.  Bigger!  But somehow he instantly becomes studly and reassuring as soon as he dons that mask.  Yes please!

Also: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman = AWESOME.  They don’t give her much to do other than look hot and cause mayhem, but do you really need more than that from your Catwoman?  The scenes of her brush with death and subsequent mental unraveling are some of my favorite in the movie — I still found them genuinely creepy.  I also like her weird ambiguous double-agent role, though I wish they’d bothered to give her something resembling a motivation for being anything but an ally to Batman.  They have a common enemy, Max Shreck, and the added bonus of having their alter egos fall in love, so why exactly are they trying to kill each other?  Why not join forces against the myriad other bad guys?

Oh yeah: there’s about seventy-five villains running amok in this movie.  Not that any of them are badly cast or deliver bad performances — Christopher Walken was born to play a comic-book bad guy with a pompadour and sinister black gloves, and Danny Devito is obviously having a blast playing the Penguin.  But none of them is anything more than an adopted persona with lots of cartoony quirks to distinguish him or her from all the other villains cluttering up the joint.  I know this is hard to do in a movie adaptation of a comic book, where the line between good and evil is always a mile thick, but I need bad guys who actually have something driving their bad behavior.  They can be as sane or as unhinged as the director wants, just so long as we know the character is doing what he or she thinks is best under the circumstances.  But these bad guys and girls, for the most part, are just bad for the sake of being bad.  Yawn.

Oh, don’t get your panties in a twist.  I still liked it!  Like all Tim Burton movies, it’s fun to look at, and Keaton and Pfeiffer have great chemistry.  I just wish the story gave all these heavyweight actors a little more to do.

*I’m disregarding the Adam West silliness.  Have you seen it?  That’s right, you haven’t.


Carlos (2010)

Hey!  Check out my review of Carlos on Basicacts.com.

Do eet!


75: Waterworld (1995)

Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but I watched this one because they’re supposed to talk about it on Film Sack soon, and I wanted to air my thoughts about it while I’m still relatively unbiased.

So here’s what I liked about the much-maligned Waterworld:

  • The concept is actually a pretty cool one.  What would happen if all the polar ice caps melted and most of the world as we know it was submerged in water?
  • The sets are just amazing.  The boats range in size from little two-person catamarans to floating cities the size of aircraft carriers, and everything really does look as if it was built from salvaged bits of cars, buildings, and everything else we’d leave behind if most of the human race was wiped out right now.  The costumes are also pretty good, especially Jeanne Tripplehorn’s bangin’ fishnet-leather-bustier getup and Kevin Costner’s cool gauntlets and stripey pantaloons.
  • Dennis Hopper just doing his Dennis Hopper thang.  He has the only funny lines in the movie and he delivers them with as much creepy gusto as he does in Blue Velvet.  And the part where they try to replace his eye is priceless.

 

Here’s what I didn’t like:

  • Stupid, stupid dialogue.  It’s not just badly written (though it’s definitely that), it’s about the wrong things.  I’ll get to what they should’ve been talking about in a minute, but all the bickering between Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn gets really tiresome.  And I was literally cringing during poor Tina Majorino’s (Deb from Napoleon Dynamite!) monologue where she enumerates all Kevin Costner’s fearsome qualities (“He doesn’t have a name so Death can’t find him!”).
  • I don’t mind that Kevin Costner’s character is a complete a-hole who makes a dramatic turnaround two-thirds of the way in, but I do mind that Jeanne Tripplehorn’s character is totally useless.  The only function she serves in the story is to look hot and to protect Enola (Tina Majorino) from being dumped overboard by Costner, who terrorizes both of them until he decides he wants to bang Jeanne Tripplehorn.  Then he bangs her, terrorizes her somewhat less, dumps them both off on dry land, and heads back for the high sea.  Ah, true love!
  • My main beef with this movie is that they create this crazy interesting new post-apocalyptic world — and then do almost nothing with it.  We don’t know what year it is, how the survivors survived, why their descendants are so dumb they don’t even realize there’s land at the bottom of the ocean (this is the movie’s big reveal), etc.  Tina Majorino plays a little girl who may or may not be psychic — she’s constantly drawing pictures of trees and birds and other life forms she can’t possibly have seen and she has a mysterious tattoo on her back that turns out to be a map to dry land, but we never find out where she came from or what exactly her role is in all this (Costner makes the big connection that she’s drawing stuff from dry land and informs Jeanne Tripplehorn that “she’s been to dry land.  She’s seen it,” whatever that means).  Supposedly a lot of these inconsistencies are cleared up in the director’s cut, but I don’t care: if you can’t explain all that in 135 minutes (the length of the standard version), maybe you should start trimming one of the many many long-ass battle sequences.

So yeah, not as bad as everyone says, but still not good, strictly speaking.


70: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Stop making fun of the title and just see it already.

Wow, this one hits you right in the solar plexus.  If they gave out an award for Most Harrowing Movie of the Year, this would win with both hands tied behind its back.  The story is deceptively simple: Ree is a 17-year-old girl in the Ozarks who takes care of her younger siblings and her out-to-lunch mom, and when her meth-cooking dad gets arrested, he puts their house up for bail.  But then he misses his court date and the family is in danger of losing the house in the middle of winter unless Ree can find her dad, dead or alive.  The movie is astounding for its meticulous authenticity alone — these people are so convincing as hill folk that it almost feels like a documentary in some parts.  But what’s really been sticking with me in the day and a half since I saw it is Ree as a character.  Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is blisteringly intense and yet restrained — she does something all too rare that I love, which is to create the illusion of a strong inner life for her character.  I also like the Die Hard-esque convention of tracking your protagonist’s progress by the extent of his or her injuries, if that tells you anything about how truly scary this movie is.  I have no idea how popular it’ll end up being, but for my money, “perfect” isn’t too strong a word.


54: The Snapper (1993)

Oh dear.  Clearly I’ve been letting work interfere with my blogging,  which will never do.  My apologies, dearest readers.

I actually wasn’t overly impressed with this one, which was a bummer because I loved The Commitments and I had high hopes that The Snapper would be just as good.

So 20-year-old Sharon, a grocery store employee who lives with her parents and about twelve brothers and sisters, gets pregnant out of wedlock, and no one really bats an eye.  Her dad takes her out for a beer the same night she breaks the news to him, and she still goes out carousing with her friends on a regular basis.  The only problem is that she won’t tell anyone who the father is.  Eventually we find out this is because it’s the dad of one of her best friends, who basically raped her when she was drunk off her ass.  The whole town starts suspecting this but she denies it.  Her dad gets bent out of shape about this for a while, but he gets over it in time for the baby to be born.

To me, the real flaw in this movie is that it actually adheres too closely to the novel (which I read just before seeing it).  Roddy Doyle writes fabulous dialogue, but that doesn’t mean you can simply dump it into a screenwriting software program and call it a script.  The Commitments, in novel form, isn’t any more plot-driven than The Snapper, but it becomes a perfectly respectable, structured movie in Alan Parker’s hands.  That should’ve been a lesson to Stephen Frears that it’s OK to take a bit of artistic license when adapting a novel for the screen.


Day 27: Up (2009)

Not on my Netflix queue, obviously, but a movie nonetheless.  If you’re thinking about seeing it, I urge you to catch it in the theater.  3-D movies are way too much fun; and a friend of mine and I came to the conclusion that Pixar movies just don’t pack the same punch on the small screen.

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This particular one rivals Wall*E for imaginative-ness of storyline and sheer cuteness.  You’ll probably find parts of it either wonderfully moving or unbearably schmaltzy, depending on your tolerance level; for my part, the only tears I cried were ones of hilarity (I won’t spoil it for you, but there are talking dogs).  The fabulous m.snowe addresses the movie’s almost complete absence of lady characters much more eloquently than I could, so I’ll add only that I would’ve found this absence much less troubling if it was an isolated incident in the Pixar canon.  But it’s such a common theme by now that you have to wonder (or at least I do) why the Pixar dudes apparently find it so easy to imagine women inspiring men on to greatness and adventure, but so difficult to imagine women having adventures of their own.

OK, OK, I had to get my two feminist cents in.  Other than that, it’s hard to find a flaw in Up, except maybe for the trailer preceding it for that gawdawful-looking hamster movie.  Really?  Hamsters?  Give me a large break.