Monday, July 28, 2008
Remeber Two Years Ago...
...when X3 had the biggest opening weekend ever?
Yeah, me neither.
Labels: The Dark Knight
That No Talent Ass-Clown
Will it ever be possible to see Roberto Benigni and not hate him? I found myself asking that question as I watched Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, the opening scene of which features the above "comic" "actor" alongside personal hero Steven Wright. The whole thing felt off, and I want to blame Benigni. The scene opens with him drinking coffee, and that just annoyed me. He's Roberto Benigni! He doesn't need coffee, especially with that much sugar. That instant filled me with dread. Watching Benigni fidget as he stirs in more sugar felt wrong. But I know I can't blame this on Benigni, especially with Jarmusch's awkward script. That doesn't mean that the situation was awkward, but that the awkwardness that should have arisen needed to feel more natural. Jarmusch nails the right tone in later segments, particularly "Twins" and "Renee", but here it feels as if Jarmusch saw some great talent to work with and couldn't find the right words to put in their mouths. The same thing happens in "Cousins", which features a conversation between Cate Blanchett and Cate Blanchett. "Cousins", at least, derives some humor from the visuals it presents; the normal checkered table or tablecloth is replaced by a checkered pattern on the coffee glasses and the staid room that does not allow smoking works as a better foil for Blanchett's Shelly than Blanchett's Cate.
Is it irresponsible to blame Roberto Benigni for his work in one of the worst scenes in Coffee and Cigarettes? Of course I would get away with it; after Life Is Beautiful, Benigni has been decried as a terrible actor, and one whose very presence can take down a movie. How does he look in his other collaborations with Jarmusch, the much lauded Night on Earth and Down By Law? His presence was a major bringdown to Coffee and Cigarettes. Is it possible to overlook his most famous role when watching him elsewhere?
Monday, July 21, 2008
Labels: Sundae Monday
Monday, July 14, 2008
L'Sundae Monday C'est Moi
I would be posting more, but I'm reading my annual book (73% Baby!). This year it's Paul Sherman's Big Screen Boston. I plan to give a thorough treatment once I get through it, which shouldn't be too long. It's certainly a good read. But I want to take a moment to celebrate this glorious day in French history.
Labels: Sundae Monday
Sunday, July 13, 2008
...But With Computers
Viewed 20 years out, Jumpin' Jack Flash holds up remarkably well. This primarily stems from the fact that the advanced technology of the film is instant messaging. If it were remade today, Terry Dolittle would have been contacted on her Blackberry. But if it were remade today, there would be excessive emphasis placed on the technology and super-smart hackers. Jumpin' Jack Flash remains refreshingly simple and straight-forward because it is about the human relationships here.
There are two classic films which have a significant influence on Jumpin' Jack Flash: North By Northwest and Laura. The influence of Laura can be written off as mere coincidence -- both films spend considerable time following someone falling in love with someone they might never meet -- but direct references to Hitchcock's cameo and the auction house scene beg comparisons. Now, Jumpin' Jack Flash is no North By Northwest, and Whoopie Goldberg is no Cary Grant. However, Flash has a much better handle on its comedy. Throwaway lines like "It's time for Gilligan's Gulag" pepper the film and add necessary relief to the spy action.
The suspense is generally the film's weakest point, primarily because it focuses so much on the actual plot. North By Northwest glides so easily because it knows that the plot is just an excuse to spend time with Cary Grant. Jumpin' Jack Flash actually wants us to care about the espionage and the British Consulate. Besides an enjoyably creepy performance from John Wood, the main thrust of the plot was unnecessary and deterred from where the film succeeds so well. That and the fact that the Consulate's henchman is Jim Belushi. That was just cruel.
One of the best aspects of Jumpin' Jack Flash is the way it manages to make Terry's scenes alone with the computer compelling, primarily through the use of Jonathan Pryce's voice for Jack. This device only arises after Terry goes to Jack's apartment and hears his voice, which tells us that we are distinctly seeing things from her perspective and hearing the conversations in her head. Most films don't give us such privileged access to our protagonist's minds, and this works greatly to the benefit of the film. Also, giving Whoopie Goldberg a voice to act against gives a way to show her come to care and eventually love Jack without it seeming exceedingly creepy. We all hear the sensual British voice that Terry does, and we all grow to like Jumpin' Jack Flash.