Jun 21, 2007

Anticipation in Disguise

I flipped off a poster of Optimus Prime the other day, and Rob wondered why. "Protect." "Destroy." I'm not sure the world is so binary. This comes from the Persians, you know. Ahura Mazda. Angra Mainyu. The Benevolent One. The Malevolent One. What about the other versions of the universe where bad guys and good guys coexist and are neither all good nor all evil. Where bad guys are sometimes good and good guys are sometimes bad, and there isn't one place that everyone of one kind goes. Like the Hindu gods. Or the Scandinavian gods. Or the Greeks and the Romans. The gods are just powerful. And sometimes they are reasonable. And sometimes they are right pricks. And sometimes they are playfully wicked. And sometimes they are deceptive and self-serving and cruel. Just like the rest of us. They just have the ability to appear to us as a bird and impregnate us if they want to.

This is one of the things that has often been unsatisfactory to me about comic book fiction and Star Wars and all of that. And maybe that's why most comic book heroes end up having an issue or two where they go bad. Maybe I'm not the only one who has trouble buying that the good guys are good because they have to be and therefore they can be nothing else. And maybe this is part of the reason I don't know whether I would be an Autobot or a Decepticon.

I haven't really been looking much forward to the new Transformers movie. I don't expect it to be any good, because of Michael Bay. And, also, I was never that much into Transformers, mostly because I was (and am) a girl. And I only really cared about a robot when at least part of it was being captained by a girl or -- even better -- a small child and when the girl or child and the robot all spoke Japanese. And even then, I only liked those shows because I lived in the Philippines, and we only got one English-speaking television station, and I would watch ANY cartoon that came on. Even Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

So I haven't been counting down the days till transformation. Although, back in April, I was about to have dinner at Magnolia, and I took this picture of a Christo-esque wrap job promoting the Transformers movie on a building on Sunset.

And then, a day or two later, when it was windier than Los Angeles has any right to be, the entire business was in shreds, as documented by Rob's phone.

Special commendation for having a windshield that clean, Rob. My mom would be proud of you.

Anyway, I was in the gymnasium today, and I saw a commercial for the new Transformers movie, and I have to admit, a tiny, bitter, reluctant, unyielding part of me is mortified that I'm about to tell you that the commercial looked cool. But it did. And I am hopeful that it will be fun to look at it when I can hear people talking in the movie, too. Although I'm almost certain that will be the ruination part. Exciting visual effects shouldn't be enough to get people out of their houses. That shit is run of the mill at this point. You can see fabulous CGI in commercials for soft drinks these days. And wanting to recapture a piece of your youth shouldn't be reason enough, either. Because to be perfectly honest, with very few exceptions I prefer the cartoons I loved as cartoons. Even feature-length animated versions of those stories with the exact same character design and voice acting usually disappointed me. Can't we just love what we loved as it was and stop trying to put it on Burger King cups of the future?

That being said, I am about to embark on an attempt to adapt a novel (or two) from my adolescence into screen fodder. I never said I wasn't a hypocrite. I just said I don't like Michael Bay. And I stand by that.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 7:50 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     May 10, 2007

"This is some gay shit right here." A response to Spider-Man 3

Jessie and I went to see Spider-Man 3 on a whim. I was fully prepared to not like it. I'm not a big fan of the franchise in the first place. I don't care for Kirsten Dunst at all. My sister Sarah makes a face if you mention her and says, "You can tell she smells bad." I guess that sums it up. I do, however, like the music in all three movies, if that counts for anything.

So, I wasn't expecting to love the movie, but I was also not expecting it to be so inexcusably bad. Sam Raimi's at the helm, and it's the most expensive movie ever made. Shouldn't it not suck? Well, clearly, there's no science to these things. Because it suh-ucked. And the places where Sam Raimi might have been attempting to make it funny seemed absurd. And the places where he wanted us to listen to Kirsten Dunst sing were like being made to pay for crimes against humanity we didn't commit. When we see her singing for the third time at the end of the film, I muttered, "Oh, great. Bonus." And I didn't mean that I thought it was a bonus. In addition, nearly every time an older person spoke, the acting was so poor, I wondered if Sam Raimi was just trying to get SAG cards for every one of his relatives. Stan Lee falls outside this theory, but his acting was no less notably bad.

And then Tobey Maguire started dancing.

This film's take on the legacy of Venom is that it is the mysterious alien substance that turned Garth Brooks into Chris Gaines. Flubber pops out of meteorite whose arrival has been noticed by no one and attaches itself to motor scooter, later to give Peter Parker an emo hairdo and black eyeliner. Also, when one's darkside is being stoked, disco takes a hold of you and you can't not dance. And the ladies love you, because you are in the city and you are dancing. Ladies always love that. Some of them even faint, don't they? But this causes any potentially suspended disbelief you are experiencing to snap right back. Because Tobey Maguire is not hot. Not in the face anyway. Boyish? Okay. Homely? For sure. But not hot. And no amount of hair product will change that.

I am notoriously nitpicky about things that don't matter to anyone but me, but I also made a note about it when James Franco's butter starts burning, and then he just throws the eggs in and makes a pretty yellow omelet. No way. That omelet would have been brown. Period. And did you notice that whenever a piano player was accompanying a singer and someone walked in, requiring a melodramatic cessation of the song, the piano player stopped playing before the singer stopped singing? Who knew the band was full of psychics and/or drama queens. When my hair caught fire in the orchestra pit for Guys and Dolls, we all kept playing, and the singers kept singing. I put out the flames, brushed the fried crumbs of my once-lovely hair from the body of my violin and went right back to it. You don't halt that manhole dance just because someone put a citronella candle where they shouldn't.

And the action looked about as convincing as a video game. Did they really spend the most money ever spent on a movie just to make a "live action" film that looks like a cartoon? I melodramatically checked my ticket to see if I hadn't actually come to see Shrek.

I am very tired of that trademark carousel shot, too.

So the black gunk turns Tobey Maguire into Chris Gaines and it turns Topher Grace into Adam Carolla. Weird. And I used to think Thomas Haden Church was cute. What a fish mouth he's turned into.

And if you're going to spend THAT MUCH money, shouldn't the scar on James Franco's face look like it wasn't made with Sculpy?

I really did still enjoy the score, though. Really.

And at the gym, I saw the local news covering the fires in Los Feliz and doing a little human interest piece on gas masks for pets. Apparently, you can just stick the gas masks on dogs, and they're cool with it. But cats -- being mistrustful and ungrateful -- have to be immobilized in a little cat duffel bag and then thrown in the river. Oh, wait. I mean and then fitted with a gas mask and carried lovingly to safety.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 11:02 AM | Back to Monoblog

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     Nov 18, 2006

I don't have it in me to write this with the flair I would wish.

I went to see Stranger than Fiction last night. Here are the things that occurred to me to write down in my little Moleskine notebook, presented in a less than fully fleshed-out manner.

"Wednesday" has a "d" in it.

If Amélie had been an American film, it might have sounded a lot like this film at first. I loved Amélie. So this observation makes me angry.

There's that Fractured Fairy Tales sort of vector animation again.

And there's that guy from the Sonic commercials.

By simply not getting any more or less attractive, Linda Hunt has now surpassed Tom Hulce in attractiveness. Which is thoroughly dismaying.

The fat people sitting to my right laugh at all the most obvious and disappointing places. I'm sure they go to Ren Faire. I'm sure of it.

They cast Will Ferrell to play alongside every short actor in Hollywood, it seems.

"It's been a very revealing ten seconds."

Who would sit on the buckle of the bus?

Spoon soundtrack. Yay!

"Aren't you relieved to know you aren't a golem?"

Smoking in the rain gives the appearance of ruling.

Hey, look. A Moleskine notebook.

"Who in their right mind, when given a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?" Me, probably.

And then it went and got life-affirming. I hate that.

The apple on the ground reminded me of The Great Orange Adventure.

Why does my dad love Queen Latifah? I hate her.

Sue Grafton in plastic.

What would have killed me is reading that manuscript on a moving bus.

Heart-shaped cookie provokes "awwwww" from Ren Faire folk. *Shakes fist.*

What do you want to bet this ending was a compromise?

"Even if you avoid this death, another will find you...It's the nature of all tragedies."

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posted by Mary Forrest at 7:56 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Jan 20, 2006

So dirty. So handsome.

James Franco was absolutely the right guy to play a pre-dead James Dean. He's so pretty. And can make his eyes look weepy for an entire movie. These two things are capitalized upon in Tristan & Isolde, which I went to see with my friend Kevin Tavolaro on Wednesday night. And aside from my thinking his sweater was ridiculous when Isolde saves him on the Irish shore, I didn't have a huge number of complaints about the film for the first half or so. Some of the boyhood stuff seemed implausible. And I always cringe a little at how bad I'm sure everyone in that time must have smelled. And the whole thing smacked of Braveheart. But I let all that go and just wanted to see the two lovers meet and fall for each other and be star-crossed. Because I like crying at the movies, as long as it's not because someone has hurt my feelings.

I remember learning the story of Tristan and Isolde (actually Tristram and Iseult) in a mythology class I took in college. It was told in the cycle of Arthurian legends, and I vaguely remembered it as a possible archetypal progenitor of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere and their betrayal of Arthur, but in looking back on my notes, I don't know if that was what I was actually taught, as Tristan was apparently once part of the Arthurian legends and was considered one of the two most important knights until later in history when it stopped being him. My notes say that the Celtic story of Dierdre and the Sons of Uisnach (The Third Sorrow of Storytelling) was the inspiration for the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle. But the Tristan and Isolde story seems to fold in, too. That wouldn't be readily apparent from watching the movie, though, because the other thing that came of reviewing my notes was my learning the movie wasn't really very true to the legend, and that always brings me down. Until I had cross-checked my references, I wasn't really so offended by that. I just got so frustrated and disappointed when we got to the third act and it turned out to be a festival of crappy cliché, happenstance, and bad wigs. Such a let down.

Why can't Hollywood master the third act? This seems to be the true sorrow of storytelling. I can't count the number of movies that fail in the homestretch like this. And I don't really know why it is. It doesn't make sense that the process gets rushed in the end or something, because films aren't shot in order like that. I don't think it's just because of studio executives liking their ideas best. I wish I knew and could squash the reason, because it's what makes me think I should start watching movies until the two-thirds point and then just duck out.

I guess ending a story is the hardest part. I know how that is. But maybe it's the desire to wrap everything up so neatly that ruins it. That was what German cinema cursed Hollywood for. And maybe they were a smidge right. And yet with a story like this one, the story is already written. The events are foretold. We know how it ends. So how hard could it be to make those things happen without it feeling like we're playing a pretend detective game on the playground after school. Come to that, I'm pretty sure my friend Sharon Prieto and I used to come up with much better plot wrap-ups when we were making those stories up in fourth grade. And we nearly never got lice in the process.

While I am beginning to think that Gene Siskel's untimely death is what sealed Hollywood's awful fate -- Ebert and Roeper are jerks whose opinions embarrass me in their toadyingness -- I will honor him with the downturned thumb I have to give Tristan & Isolde. Rufus Sewell looks like one of his eyes is made of glass, but he was good. And James Franco is pretty and weepy-eyed and heroic. But the guy who plays Wictred is awful. Wearing a terrible wig and looking like a cross between Andy Garcia and Stanley Tucci and not managing to seem cunning or sly for a necessary instant. And the guy who plays the King of Ireland is pretty good at being brutish and unfeeling and scary until the very end, when he becomes ridiculous and suddenly his crown reminds you of watching the movie Xanadu.

So thumb down. But much applause for the experience of going to the movie. I was a bit tipsy before I even got there, from having had drinks early with my other friend Kevin. And then Kevin Tavolaro and I had cocktails at the Arclight bar, and I snuck a flask of whiskey into the movie, as well. And whether because of the movie or all the spirits, we laughed and laughed. And that was a good time.


posted by Mary Forrest at 6:44 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Dec 31, 2005

A lady actually yelled, "Aaaaaaah!"

Kevin Tavolaro and I went to see Munich tonight. An 11:05 show at a holiday-bedecked and festive The Grove. So holiday-filled was it that every parking level said "FULL" when I approached the garage. I parked with the valet, and then, while I was waiting for Kevin, I bought enough stuff to entitle me to free parking. So that worked out.

We had a drink at The Whisper Lounge before going to the movie. When we were leaving, two fellows who had sat down near us seemed disappointed we were leaving. I told them we had a movie to catch. They asked which one. I guess people always do that. And I have never been caught having to confess to going to some embarrassing or scandalous movie. I've never had to say, "It's a porno. You wouldn't know it." Thankfully. I told them we were going to see Munich, and they perked right up. One of them -- the one who gave us candies from Maggiano's that we did not eat -- assured us we would enjoy it. "It's about my country, you know. Israel." I thanked him and told him we were looking forward to it.

Then out in the walk, we ran into my friend Michael Blieden. I told him we were on our way to see Munich. He was just coming from having seen Syriana, talking on the phone with his wife (and also my friend) Erin, and he said he felt so politically fired up he wanted to go right in and see Munich. What a little journey we had. Everyone with their little Munich puzzle piece. It felt almost scripted. If a camera crew had been following us, we would have had a perfect little commercial. Ending in us buying too much popcorn.

The film had its share of quintessentially Spielbergian moments. Predictable foreshadowing. Reaction-provoking deception. The crucial moment when Spielberg proves to us that all of us in the world -- no matter our differences -- can agree on one thing: Al Green. A lady even said, "Aaaaaah!" at one point when nothing of any import happened. I guess she's never been to a Spielberg movie before. Seasoned veterans like Kevin and me know better. There were some bits of typical unnecessary narrative. I suppose that's why Spielberg is so appealing to the masses. He makes it easy for them. And maybe that's what good filmmaking is. I don't know. I spent too much time watching and studying German impressionist cinema. I prefer being made to work for it. And I don't mind leaving a theater with a question mark floating above my head. I especially loved such things when I could retire to some cozy place with a smart compatriot and take the whole thing apart with words and questions and cajoling. I do love a good parlor discussion.

The theater was filled with people who apparently have to bring an interpreter along in order to be able to follow what's happening. "You're going to meet my father." "He's what? What's happening?" "He's taking him to meet his father. Louis is. It's Louis's father. They're going to see Louis's father." "Oh." Or they just need to talk things through. Leaning over to their seatmate to say things like, "Oh. See?" or "That's that one guy." I was dismayed to see a Muslim lady with a baby carriage in the row in front of us. We both, I'm ashamed to admit, suspected it had a bomb in it. But I was even more dismayed to learn that it had a fussy infant in it. Who takes an infant to a movie that starts at 11:05 P.M. and has lots of gunfire and explosions in it? Who? Furthermore, who shows up to a new release at The Grove and walks into the theater ten minutes after the show is scheduled to begin and expects to be able to find six seats together and a decent distance from the screen. There were a couple of guys who ended up sitting on the steps next to us. That's something I can't really imagine doing. Not for $12.50 a ticket.

There was a healthy amount of upsetting and stomach-turning portrayal of the grotesque gruesomeness of violent death. And the haphazard way it's dealt out in politically-charged scenarios. Transforming a father, a husband, a brother, into a lump of meat, bullet-riddled and messy. Beginning to smell. And yet you can just ignore it. You've got a job to do. I think the movie pretty heavy-handedly made that point -- that both sides of the terrorist equation think they are crusading in a just war, fighting for the thing that matters most to them, whatever the cost, even if victory won't be seen for generations to come. I got that. And of course that's true. And of course rational and reasonable people know this. Don't they? How can killing people ever be the answer? I tell my mom I don't believe in or support the death penalty, and she never hears what I'm saying. I could stack up all of the factual arguments, but what is this -- Michael Moore's blog? I'm writing about a movie, aren't I?

In the very early scenes, when death first makes its appearance, the Hatikvah was playing. The Zionist anthem. The song that the resistance fighters would sing in movies about the Warsaw uprising when they were being lined up for the firing squad. The last track on side B of this record my dad has. I believe the record is called Spirit of a People. I used to listen to it in his study when I was reading the dictionary in preparation for the National Spelling Bee, and I would think about all that I had read about the Holocaust. I used to listen to that song and to Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (the second-to-last track on side B), and I would look out the window in Guam, and sometimes I would cry. And I think I loved it. I think I loved being able to mourn for these strangers. I studied the Holocaust passionately when I was a young girl. I saw the mini-series of Gerald Green's novel Holocaust when we lived in the Philippines, and it toggled a switch in me. I was fascinated and horrified by it. Especially when I realized that my grandmother had emigrated from Russia at the turn of the century and that it was very likely that some of my relatives had died in the camps or in the countryside. And I was filled with the same empathy that made me wish I had been a slave on the Underground Railroad. Seriously. I always empathized with the persecuted. And a part of me wished I could have suffered with them. Died with them. I don't really know why. This was long before I became an angst-ridden adolescent. This was not about wanting attention or feeling alone in the world. I never told anyone I felt that way. I just read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies and documentaries and simultaneously found a chord that resonated between me and my father. My father, a Jew who had spent a few years of his Depression-era boyhood in a Hebrew orphanage in Germantown, Pennsylvania, when his mother was unable to care for him and his brother. He did not do a lot of Jewish things in my lifetime. He became a Christian the year before I was born. I have never been to a seder. We have never lit a menorah. I don't know what people really do for Purim. But my dad still treasured that heritage, as did I, and he would talk to me about his memories of his early life, and I would never want him to stop, even when I noticed the hour getting late. I never wanted to get caught looking at the clock lest he worry for my sleep and shuttle me off to bed. Maybe we only demonstrably celebrated it by going to delicatessens and eating chopped liver and cabbage rolls and hot pastrami and kugel. But it was something we could have together, and in many ways it was just for him and me. At least the lengthy talking part. My mom learned to make gefilte fish and matzo balls and latkes, and my sisters also know to occasionally buy him halvah or pickled herring. And we all buy him whatever documentary or film is out, which may seem morose, but I suppose it's a way we measure and cherish being alive. And it's part of the remembering that is necessary and good. And today, it makes it all the more poignant when my mom says a guy looks like "a typical Jewish."

Driving home, I passed the quiet, lonely display of Christmas decorations around the signage of The Farmer's Market. I wished I had my Lomo, but I knew I wouldn't stop to photograph it. Not at this hour. Not with my throat beginning to show the telltale signs of the cold I just know will set in as soon as my New Year's Eve merrymaking has run its course. It's cold out, and I wasn't wearing enough tonight. The same held true when I caught a glimpse of a lonely Ronald McDonald, sitting in the dim half-light of a closed McDonald's restaurant by my house. He's the kind that sits on a bench seat with his arm around the space that someone will fill for a photo opportunity or perhaps to fend off the loneliness of the season or a disappointing birthday party. But he was sitting there all alone. His arm around an emptiness. Waiting. I thought I would like to set up a camera on a tripod and take a time-lapse series of photographs of that Ronald throughout the course of a day. But I can assure you I won't do it. It's one of many things that I will never do.

Another thing I will apparently never do is get to sleep at a decent hour. Tell my mom I took my vitamins.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 4:07 AM | Back to Monoblog

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     Oct 2, 2005

Lady Labor

A commercial told me that critics are saying of North Country that it is a film in the tradition of Silkwood, Norma Rae, and Erin Brockovich. No duh. It is those three films. All rolled up into one. I guess we have to have one of these every decade or so. To remind us how much prettier certain actresses look when they're not punching a make-believe time clock.

Wait. Why did those other movies all win Oscars? Hollywood sure is nursing its guilt over the inequitable treatment of working women with bad haircuts.


posted by Mary Forrest at 10:34 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Jul 7, 2005

The War to End All Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg Collaborations

Spoiler alert: This movie is no good.

I saw War of the Worlds for the second time last night. Don't think that means I liked it. I didn't. I hated it the first time I saw it, but I wondered if it might just be that seeing it in a theater in Burbank where the common folk were so audibly annoying might have slanted my take. But alas, no. Last night, I confirmed my first impression. Incontrovertibly.

It's sad that this is true, but Steven Spielberg, who I used to consider to be fairly deft at playing at the human melodrama -- is apparently just as out of touch with the reality of human interaction as George Lucas. Beyond the admittedly very good visual effects, this movie just proves that some writers and some directors really just have no idea at all how people behave or how they talk to each other or -- and this is the most unbearable part -- what children do and say. If you ask me, Dakota Fanning is what's wrong with children in film and television. I mean, maybe it isn't her fault. She's a little kid who can play an emotion and memorize a line and hit her marks. And that's all right. But if you've ever seen her interviewed, it's just the scariest thing imaginable. She spends one portion of the chat showing you that she's about to lose a baby tooth and the rest going on and on about how a-MAZ-ing it was to work with so-and-so and how BRILL-iant this such-and-such is, and all in the emphatic, cocktail-party elocution of a queeny creative type in the heyday of Truman Capote. She's not just too old for her age. I would find this kind of person insufferable as an adult, too. Seeing it in a child is just too much. Maybe Spielberg was trying to recapture the charm he found in a young Drew Barrymore or that Heather whatshername who died. He does seem to have a penchant for casting pale little girls with stringy blonde hair. But Dakota Fanning has none of the naivete of a young Drew Barrymore. And god help us if she grows up to be any worse an actress than an adult Drew Barrymore.

I was listening to Paul Feig on Fresh Air with Terry Gross last week, and I just caught the very end of his interview, when he was being asked about what shows he liked growing up, what shows influenced him. And he made such a good point about how shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Brady Bunch were good because they featured children speaking the way children actually speak. Whereas shows today constantly portray children speaking in the way that their adult writers wish perhaps they could have spoken in their own tortured childhoods. The Jonathan Taylor-Thomas syndrome, in my mind. One of the trailers I saw before my first screening of War of the Worlds was for this new remake of The Bad News Bears. And it isn't just because I love Walter Matthau or because I hate Billy Bob Thornton or because I hate Billy Bob Thornton's embarrassing hair plugs that I despise the very idea of this film. There is a clip where a girl shows the taunting boys that she can pitch, and one little four-eyes says, "I think I just entered puberty." And I just wanted to crush something in my angry fists.

One of the things that rubbed me the wrong way when I was in the Burbank theater was how, to much of America, everything is apparently a comedy these days. This happened when I went to see Revenge of the Sith, too. Now, I'll grant you that Yoda is kind of funny-looking, and maybe seeing him wielding a light saber with angry resolve is a little ridiculous, but not if you are allowing yourself to believe that he is in fact a Jedi master and that some serious shit is going down, and I'm assuming you're allowing yourself to do that, as you just paid twelve dollars to see a movie called Star Wars. And yet every time Yoda was on screen, I heard swells of laughter. The same was true in War of the Worlds. Even in cases of graphic carnage or (intended) gravitas. People kept laughing. And I kept wondering what was wrong with them. Maybe it's because of movies like Blade 3, where the seriousness and humorlessness of the Blade character is inexplicably "spruced up" by the addition of Ryan Reynolds' wise-cracking, steroid-pumped, shit-talking sidekick. The Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2 syndrome, if you will. To be fair, so many of the moments of high drama in War of the Worlds are so implausible and ridiculous that it makes sense that you might laugh at them. But not for amusement's sake. But I don't think this was wry laughter. This was the same disappointing laughter I heard when Kevin James dances in the trailer for Hitch. Shame on you, America. But then, maybe it isn't America's fault. Maybe America has just seen so many of these insufferable mood-lighteners and assumes that every uncomfortable moment is intended to tickle a little bit. Maybe it's the result of generation after generation of cinematic "bad touch." Maybe we're all going to end up strippers.

Oh, I have so many issues with this movie. The first fifteen minutes? Totally unnecessary. That sandwich shuffling scene? Waste of time. Morgan Freeman's opening and closing narratives? Largely uninformative. What did those aliens envy so much? What did they want with our planet? What was the value of the blood? And if it was so valuable, why vaporize so many people instead of sucking them dry? And while we're on that topic, the annihilation methods employed by these guys were hardly the portrait of good process flow. We have droves of more effective tools for mass murder. And certainly they could look to the Nazis for some lessons on efficiency in this area. Which brings me to another point, Schindler's List was only one of the many of his own films I saw Spielberg cribbing from this time around. Also on the list were Minority Report, E.T., Poltergeist, and -- if only in the sense that Robbie looked so much like Karen Allen -- Raiders of the Lost Ark. On the list of other people's films he cribbed from are Titanic, The Abyss, and Signs. And I should further note that I wrote the following in my notebook when I was about an hour into my first viewing: "Worse than Signs." If that is even possible.

This movie is a pastiche of convenient exit strategies in scenarios that have been painted to be impossible. It is also a multiple offender of a rule I learned in improv: If you introduce something, it had better pay off. If Tom Cruise picks up a piece of freezing cold asphalt and puts it in his pocket, that has to pay off later. Did it? No. If Dakota Fanning is shown to be a claustrophobic, that has to come into play at some point. Did it? No. Even when she was in a number of cramped spaces, including a basket filled with strangers freaking out and being sucked one by one into a big red rectum. She screams for no reason many times throughout the movie. She screams. Then stops. Then screams some more. There is no halo to the panic. It is both succinct and distinct. And therefore unnatural. But when she's actually in a small, suffocating area -- utter silence.

Even the music was evocative of Schindler's List in places. Especially when you're seeing a mass exodus of sad, trudging, hope-bereft people who have lost everything and have nowhere to run. But it was in one of those scenes that I wrote in my notebook, "No one would have minded if they were only here to kill the Jews."

Lord, do I have issues with this movie. Why did that marine decide to save Tom Cruise when he was getting sucked up into the thing and not the other guy that got sucked up into it only moments earlier? How did Tom Cruise know that there would be a grenade belt in that overturned vehicle? How did the pins for the grenade get into his mouth when he was hanging onto that marine the whole time? Why did that soldier at the end provide the narrative exposition about the erratic behavior of one of the tripods before hustling Tom and Dakota along as if he didn't have time to explain everything to a pair of meaningless strangers? Why did everything stop working when the electromagnetic pulse hit -- everything except digital cameras and camcorders? Why would an adolescent boy with a huge chip on his shoulder be able to convince his father to abandon him to certain doom by quietly insisting, "I need to see this. You have to let me go?" Why did everyone suddenly want to be on that ferry when the tripods showed up? What was so much safer about being corraled on a slow-moving boat than being on the shore? How many times did Tom Cruise escape death by mere millimeters? How did he get all that man ash off his leather jacket? Was that soldier at the end really able to say "Clear!" with any conviction when that alien's gelatinous hand went limp? Is he a space doctor all of a sudden? Was that TV news crew in the van even human? Come on.

Another thing that REALLY got on my nerves was the number of times characters in the film would speak to someone who would not respond, requiring them to just say the same thing over and over again. It was almost as infuriating as watching Tom Cruise say Matt Lauer's name to him over and over again in that ridiculous interview. "Dad. Dad. Dad." "Mike. Mike. Mike." "Robbie. Robbie. Robbie." "Ray. Ray. Ray." "Get in the car. Get in the car. Get in the car." "Get out of the car. Get out of the car. Get out of the car." Are these lines actually in the screenplay? Could it have been an accidental cut-and-paste glitch?

Oh, and that scene with the tripods scouring the scurrying masses with their searchlights could just as easily have been a Moonlight Madness event at Best Buy.

Speaking of the tripods, I know it's from the book and all, but these are as lamely unwieldy as the AT-ATs in Empire. You'd think they'd have vehicles that could like...fly or something.

I am so tired of the sameness of everything that is being churned out today. The few beacons of hope on the horizon are so very few as to be lost in the gaping black maw of everything else. Batman Begins was great, for instance (although I should write about that under separate cover and explain why it solidifies my misogynistic feelings toward nearly every ingenue in the superhero/action-adventure genre). But when trying to pick something to see last night, there were just so few titles out that were not guaranteed to actually hurt. I was left nearly no other option but to see this movie again. That's an algorithm the box office trackers probably don't factor in. Come on. Rebound? I'd rather be bitten by snakes. So I ended up seeing this movie twice. And no one is sorrier for it than I am. Although I have to say there is a certain sweet vindication in knowing that my first takeaway was not wrong. To my friends whose opinions I respect and who told me this movie was badass -- especially to the one among you who saw it twice and announced that it "holds up" -- I just have to shake my head, knowing that you and I probably want different things from a film. We can still be friends. And we can still play video games together and drink booze and stuff. But I can't really allow you to bandy your film recommendations so recklessly. Let's just get high and watch movies we already know are going to be bad. It's better for the friendship.

P.S. I think I like Christian Bale better emaciated. There is something wrong with me.

Trailer Watch

Stealth. Boo. I have managed to see this trailer on the big screen at least three times now, and it never ceases to cause me to make that face. First of all, are we really meant to believe that the three top pilots in America are a white dude, a black dude, and a chick? At least Top Gun was a little more honest about this. Face it. It would be three white dudes. Three white dudes with haircuts and ego trips and a tendency towards gum-chewing. Why do we have to be so beholden to diversity in our storytelling? If this was a movie where the world's top basketball players had to stop an unmanned fighter jet that had "gone rogue," they would be three black dudes. Period. Maybe one white dude. But really, probably not. I just love the way trailers these days give you every single important beat in the story right up front. We see the plane get hit by lightning. We hear them pronounce it sentient. We see that girl's ass. The only reason to go watch this movie would be to see if Jamie Foxx and that white guy accidentally touch each other's naughty parts in the mandatory three-way scene.

Narnia. I was excited at first. But it's already all wrong. What a shame. Every book from my childhood will be plundered before the end of it all. Who's slated to make the film version of Ferdinand the Bull? Probably Michael Bay. Fuck.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This may be the worst trailer in film history. It totally makes me not want to see the movie. It's possible the movie won't be horrible (although I'm leaning in the opposite direction), but the trailer is just this halting string of close-ups of Johnny Depp where the music cuts out just in time for him to utter an unamusing one-liner. And I don't think it's playing to his strengths to have him look so much like a girl.

Bad News Bears. I already aired my laundry on this one.

King Kong. The people on the island look like those freaks in The Thirteenth Warrior. And, although I want to see this movie, again I wonder at the logic of having the trailer expose every single plot point. Maybe Hollywood is just too used to promoting remakes. It's custom now to take it for granted that the audience might not know how the story goes. If The Crying Game were being promoted today, I'm sure the trailer would show Jaye Davidson peeing standing up. Not that that scene ever occurs in the movie. And, by the way, I hope I didn't just ruin the big surprise for you.

Elizabethtown. Cameron Crowe movies are really just soundtracks at this point.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 10:27 AM | Back to Monoblog

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     Nov 16, 2004

Nobody knows the wreck of the soul the way you do.

I'm all for quiet days and for nights in. Especially in this latest speck of life-time. It's been a murderous few days of work stress and time pressures and still making time to be fond and out there and hopefully stringing together the sentences in a less than ordinary way. But it feels as if it has been more than a few days. I've been in the aging chamber. For now, the pressures have eased. My bid has been submitted, and I'm in a state of benignly optimistic relief. Especially because my client did not yell at me for getting it in so late.

I worked last night until it was today. Some time well after midnight, I could be found driving to Koreatown to deliver a DVD of images to Josh. I had Audrey on my lap, and every 7-11 I passed looked like Mecca to me. When I came home, I took Audrey for our usual spin around the block, and there was a scary, loud fellow yelling obscenities, mad at the world, as he mopped off his windshield with a t-shirt and made ready to drive away. He was excitable enough that I got my keys out and had my cell phone at the ready. Maybe my mind was dulled by overuse, but I began having morbid fantasies of my assault and ensuing death. It never came to pass, but it was good in terms of waking me up and getting my blood going so I could go back home and work the rest of the night. Which I did.

Today, I worked all day. From the moment I tumbled out of bed. I had a catalog deadline to meet and a bid to submit, and that amounts to a lot of PDF-making. I make so many of them these days. And yet I can recall a time when there was no such thing. Just as I can recall a time when there had never yet been a psychotic postal worker showing up to blow away his supervisor at the depot, so the phrase "going postal" made no sense at all. And as if I wasn't already feeling a bit on the old side, I went to Amazon.com with the intention of shopping for an Xbox so I can play Halo 2 with Steve and Chris, and my page was headed by a promo for the Phillips Heart Start Home Defibrillator. I'm totally putting that on my wish list. Not the Xbox. I'll buy that myself, because you can't be counted on to get me what I want on my schedule. But the person who buys me my own defibrillator will go down in history as a total freak. And one with $1500 to spare apparently. Good for you, future freak. You must have managed your spending properly. My mom would really like you and tell me to watch you carefully so I might learn something.

They died in the drink.

The other night, the ants were out again. I left a glass of water on my bedside table, and they had found their way into it. And drowned there. I did not pity them. I went and got my can of Raid and made sure to take care of as many of them as I could see. When the climate changes or when the exterminator visits or in certain other non-scientific scenarios, they come into my bedroom, and I wake up feeling one or two crawling on my arm or on my face, and it gives me the willies. My grandmother died of a stroke when I was just a child, and when the tale was retold to me, I remember my mom saying that, before she died, her mother was complaining that she felt as if there were ants crawling on her forehead. That has stuck with me.

And maybe because of the proximity of my bed to the windows in my bedroom, I always seem to find out I have ants by finding them on me, and I hate that. I have been thinking of redecorating. For some time now. Maybe I will face my bed the other way. The Chinese believe it's bad luck to have the foot of your bed facing the door anyway. Apparently, Death can come in at night and snatch you away by your feet. Apparently, Death isn't one for snatching people away by the head, arms, or shoulders.

Ironically, as much as I knit my hands together and laugh with glee when I exterminate entire races of ants, please, HBO, please please PLEASE stop showing documentaries and investigative reports about dogs being treated cruelly or disposed of or abandoned. I simply cannot bear it. My little sister and I cried our eyes out when we watched Shelter Dogs. And now, there are promos for an episode of Real Sports about what happens to greyhounds after they are done with their racing careers. And I know better than to watch it, if I want to keep my mascara intact. Horrible horrible. My little Audrey, curled up on my lap right now, came from a rescue, and -- although she has her share of behavioral problems -- I can't bear to think of what would have happened to her if she hadn't found a home. With me or elsewhere. She's my sweet little angel. You couldn't help but love her. Even though she will try to bite your face off when she first meets you. And every time she sees you after that. No matter how many treats you give her. Her tiny little skull is so smooth and round, you just want to bite it in two.

How could you believe me when I said I love you when you know I've been a liar all my life?

Jane Powell sings so pretty. I'm watching her in Holiday in Mexico, and I'm remembering that great number she did with Fred Astaire in Royal Family. And thinking of Fred Astaire makes me think of The Barkleys of Broadway and that splendid dress Ginger Rogers wears -- the one I once said I would like my wedding dress to emulate. And watching That's Entertainment! on television with my dad and having him play docent to the golden age of cinema. Movies were such an offshoot of Vaudeville back then. Jose Iturbi got to be in all those movies just because he was a piano virtuoso. Good old Vaudeville. I miss movies with big musical numbers in the middle of them. I miss men in funny pants. I miss slapstick.

But I also wish I could live in deep space. On a space station. Where the light was always sort of blue and the buildings always sounded as if they were breathing. I'm always in the wrong time. Now. Then. Yet to come. I'm the girl on the train platform and you're the boy on the opposite side of the tracks. And we run down the stairs to meet each other and end up on opposite platforms again, laughing like fools. But -- unlike in Cousins and whatever other list of movies that happens in -- we never end up on the same side. You give up and get on the train going one way, and I get on the train going the other. And we both find newspapers that someone is finished reading, and we get lost in current events and department store extravaganzas. And before we know it, none of it ever happened. Do you ever get that feeling?

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posted by Mary Forrest at 1:25 AM | Back to Monoblog

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     Sep 13, 2004

Liminal Programming

So, now it's The Hudsucker Proxy that's playing all the livelong day. A few weeks ago (and perhaps still) it was The Muppets Take Manhattan; now, it's The Hudsucker Proxy. Yet another film I will nearly invariably watch if it's on. I love the way it's written. I love the way it looks. I even love Jennifer Jason Leigh, whom I hate. That grey, snow-spattered, deco-inspired world is welcoming to me. And I also like to speak at a fast clip. There used to be a time when certain movies would only come on television at certain times of the year. The Wizard of Oz, for instance, would be aired on network television -- WITH commercial interruptions -- once each year and always at the same time. They would advertise it to pieces, and I would look forward to watching it with my family. We would even go out for some sort of fast food to eat in front of it some of the time. It was an event. But these days, every movie is playing everywhere all the time. It gets my sentimental clock all discombobulated. If I'm watching the same thing all the year long, how ever will I know how it made me feel? I need demarcation. I need calendar spaces. I need to know if it was a Monday. And if it was raining.

It is a Monday. And it isn't raining. But I don't think I will remember that the next time I need to. All these Mondays seem to run together these days. Every day of the week is like every other day of the week. I could sleep for weeks if I wanted to. Or stay awake. I could move to France.

Maybe I will.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 1:36 PM | Back to Monoblog

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     Aug 11, 2002

Warning: This movie will try to restore your faith in god.

Okay. So, I went to see the new M. Night Shyamalan flick. And more than anything, I was impressed by the number of people seated around me -- in V.I.P., pay-more-for-your-seat, you'd-think-people-would-be-quiet territory, no less -- who couldn't stop talking. Truly. And these weren't just talkers. These were belligerent chatterboxes who made mimicking huffing noises and elevated their volume and word count when they realized they were disturbing the people around them.

The movie would have you believe that there are two types of people, classified by their faith or lack thereof. I would submit to you that there ARE two types of people, but they are separated by their convictions on the topic of keeping quiet while the reel is spinning. I think in the near future, the ritzy cinemas will actually begin creating seating with individual sound systems, much like the little eggs you sit in at the Haunted Mansion or the newly renovated Space Mountain, able to pipe in your own personal portion of electric guitars and ominous announcements. If that system had been in place tonight, then I wouldn't have learned that the woman seated behind me and to the right has an ex-husband who doesn't believe in coincidences. You see, when that topic came up in the film, she really felt it was necessary to tell her date that this was the case. And I guess I can see how that would be. How could she resist? Her date was the reliable voice of the line, "Uh oh," every time a suspense-filled moment occurred. And they were both burdened with the task of voicing all of the facts that the film was revealing as they occurred. Like my own personal Greek chorus, telling me the thoughts that were already in my head.

At one point during the film's climax, two couples to my right had a near-scuffle as one guy wanted the other guy and his girlfriend to put a lid on it. And the talking guy yelled loudly, "Don't you tell me to shut the fuck up." During the credits, these two men exchanged menacing words. And the chatty girlfriend rolled her eyes and laughed, the way the girlfriends of these guys are required to do, it would seem. They always do it. I've been keeping track. But the vehement talkers were really just all talk. The guy said menacing things and flung back depressingly unwitty retorts like, "Get a life," as he and his gal made their way to the aisle to leave. No punches were exchanged. Nor apologies, to be sure.

And I realized, from the comments of those around me, that the two classes of people are also separated by which side their favor falls on in situations such as these. As loud and confrontational as the objecting non-talking guy was, I supported him fully and would have expressed my spirit of camaraderie, if I thought it would have mattered. I'm always on that person's side. Maybe because I often am that person. Apologetically and quietly requesting that people keep their voices down, only to be met with rolling of the eyes or sneers or laughter and the word, "Whatever." Some people will undoubtedly find someone like me to be a curious brand of zealot, but I'm okay with that. I try not to get frustrated with people. I'm patently non-confrontational. I really like to have a good time. But there are times when I feel the need to just dump my popcorn on someone. I don't know if it's a crime, so I don't do it. But I sure am tempted.

Last night, after the Weezer concert and in the melee of exodus that occurred in the parking lot, a girl rear-ended me. And when I got out of my car to exchange information, she looked irritated and said, "Well, is there a scratch?" And I said, "I can't tell. Your bumper is still touching mine." I asked her to get out of the car, and she said, "Well, I'm not going anywhere." As if I should just wait and trust that she would look for me when we all made it out to the open road. Maybe it was because she had her homegirls in the car with her and wanted to appear lioness-like. Maybe they all really thought I was being a jerk and were quietly rooting her on in her obstinance. But I thought to myself that a simple, "Oops. I'm really sorry," would have made the world a better place right at that moment. Instead, the world lived out the night unimproved. And when I got home, adding insult to injury, there were two gross, unknown band bumper stickers on the bumper of my car. I peeled them off carefully and lamented the fact that there is no justice in the world and nearly as much decency. And Weezer only did one two-song encore, ending with an extended barrage of intensely painful noise. And I'm not just talking like an old person. I promise.

People don't smile much in this picture. But that's no reason why you shouldn't. Have a great day, American moviegoing audience! -- you've earned it.


I don't think it came across in my original writing of this entry, but I did actually have a pretty definitive opinion about the movie. I would later come to a place where, when told that a movie was terrible, I would respond, "Worse than Signs?" If that gives you any idea.

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posted by Mary Forrest at 1:09 AM | Back to Monoblog

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