Saturday, August 27, 2005

Two For One: "Suspect Zero" and "A Dirty Shame"

Suspect Zero was all right, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I found the acting to be reasonable, though I think they could have found someone a bit more effective than Aaron Eckhart for the lead--though perhaps the point was that he is so Nordic and whitebread looking. The story was decent--an interesting twist on the usual "chase the serial killer" genre--but nothing to write home about. (I did appreciate that when Suspect Zero was finally found he was an average looking guy since--contrary to people's usual thoughts--serial killers are generally not hunchbacked, drooling, crazy-eyed maniacs. Most of them, in fact, are average in the extreme. Take the BTK killer for example: if you look at him, he looks a little off, but no more off than a lot of other people you see on the street every day.) However, my main problem with this was very similar to my issue with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow--no, not Gwyneth Paltrow--a reliance on visual effects rather than a strong story. I guess I just don't like when the director of a thriller tries to place too much responsiblity for tension on effects instead of on a tight story and top notch action. I don't WANT to be scared by a red filter or visual distortion or scratchiness. I want you to crawl into my head and freak me the fuck out from the inside. Look at Alfred Hitchcock--that man could make a shot of blood swirling down a drain more terrifying than anything in Suspect Zero. He understood how to pick the right shots, the right actors, the right lines of dialogue. He didn't need to use a red filter to signal "Look! Scary stuff is happening! WhoooOOOooo!" A single look, a quiet line of dialogue, even a shot of an object in the right place was enough for Hitchcock to scare the living shit out of you. I think most contemporary thriller directors have lost that ability.

A Dirty Shame is something else entirely. First of all, I don't think I've ever seen so much dick in a non-porno film in my life. (No, I take that back, actually, The Pillow Book probably had more, but that at least had Ewan McGregor--this movie was mostly extremely ugly people's penii.) I feel like Waters had come almost the full circle, back around to the intentional disquiet of Pink Flamingoes. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what point Waters was trying to make, and that bothers me, because I know he had one. Perhaps the whole point was to make the viewer extremely uncomfortable. I mean, I feel like I'm a pretty tolerant person. I don't care what people do in their bedrooms as long as they aren't harming anyone. And while I figure I'm fairly sexually average (I'm not really into anything super kinky, but I'm aware those things are out there--mostly, actually, from watching CSI and SVU--and that there are some people who really enjoy them) there were things in this movie that made me extremely uncomfortable. Perhaps because everything was so extreme and out-of-control. And maybe that's Waters' goal--rubbing the viewer's face in it, you know, like "Hey! Look at this! Look at this! Does this make you uncomfortable? Do you think this is okay, but this is dirty? Does this upset you? Look at this!" Maybe making people look at their own views of the world, show those of us who think that we're tolerant and hip that maybe we're not as cool as we think we are. And the whole idea of a concussion bringing on sex addiction--is he trying to comment on the fact that in our society, most people think you have to have some kind of excuse to enjoy sex, particularly the kinky sort; that if you get a sexual rise out of shitting on people or rubbing up against people or acting like a giant infant that there must be something WRONG with you? And what about Johnny Knoxville's character Ray-Ray's portrayal as a sexual Christ figure, leading his disciples into the sexually liberated promised land? I can't tell you whether I'd recommend this movie, since I'm not really sure how I felt about it. I will tell you that after watching it, I literally had to go take a shower because I felt dirty. (I'm amazed that this picture got a mainstream release, frankly.) As for the acting and the directing...I didn't really notice it. I will say that I was surprisingly impressed with the performances of Chris Issak and Selma Blair--neither of them are really known for strong acting talent, but they were both great. I was also amused to see that Waters had many of his weird little regulars (Mink Stole, Patty Hearst) return. I'd say that my biggest problem with it was that Johnny Knoxville didn't get naked, ha ha (no, really. I was really hoping.) Mostly I'm frustrated by the fact that I feel like I missed out on what John Waters was trying to tell me. If any of you have seen it and have thoughts, please please tell me what YOU thought

Friday, August 19, 2005

Batman Begins

The Boyfriend and I went out to see Batman Begins. I was surprised by how much I liked the movie. I thought it was going to be your typical action super-hero movie, but it was impressively intelligent (in my humble opinion.) While I did sort of miss the whole crazily dressed villians, it was kind of nice that the bad guys had a better motive for doing what they did than "Hee hee! I'm deranged!" The idea of actually tying crime in a super-hero movie to economic factors and their effects on the city was a novel one, and made the film seem more intelligent. I thought it was particularly well-written, and appreciated the fact that the director left in important backstory and character development instead of doing what many directors do and chopping that out in order to squeeze in another explosion or unnecessary fight scene. All the characters had their own distinct personalities and motivations, and I was thrilled with the acting (except for Katie Holmes--that poor girl not only makes terrible relationship decisions, but she couldn't act her way out of a wet paper back with a flashlight and a machete. Didn't help that her character--like most female characters in Batman movies with the exception of Catwoman--was a self-righteous bitch. That was the one part I found disappointing.) Christian Bale had just the right balance of brooding mystery and charming socialite. Sir Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman--both of whom I enjoy in almost everything I've every seen them in--were spot on. Caine was particularly adept at providing comic relief while still functioning as Bruce Wayne's emotional anchor. Cillian Murphy was very pretty, and performed ably enough. Liam Neeson chewed some scenery here and there, but mostly behaved himself. I found Gary Oldman somewhat miscast as good cop Gordon. Perhaps because I'm not used to seeing him be a nice guy--usually he's evil in everything he does. Not to mention that he looked revolting. Anyway, I was pleased with the movie over-all, and highly recommend it to any of you who haven't seen it yet. I also will be looking forward with pleased anticipation for the follow-up. Christian Bale in the Batsuit--can it ever be a bad thing?