...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick(ish) takes - a few films and more!

Whisky Galore! - I watched this little postwar Ealing Studios British comedy on Saturday and loved it tremendously (and wrote a brief review here).  Netflix (or Qwikster?) carries this delightful confection, though snooping is required to purchase it in the US.  CONFESSION: I drank gin while watching this movie.  For the next viewing, I'll try to find an old-school blend to match it up properly.

What's Up, Tiger Lily? - Punctuation in movie titles! - WOW has this film dated poorly.  But its constant objectification of women is spectacular.  The best part, really.

On the surface, it seems like the movie would be pretty good.  A young Woody Allen, fresh off of his screenwriting, TV, and stand-up successes was hired to direct his first film.  So he took two cheesy Japanese spy films, recut them together, and dubbed over irreverent dialogue to create comedic intrigue about the search for the world's greatest egg salad recipe.

The idea is cute and it's probably more difficult than it looks to sustain a narrative this way.  But, seriously, pick any Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode at random and you'll find more laughs in the 30 minutes of the Bots' banter than in the whole 80 minutes of Tiger Lily.  And it's not as if MST3K is contemporary either; it's twenty-two years old and still works.  Maybe Crow and Servo have spoiled us permanently.

I can't really recommend Tiger Lily as a good example of early Woody Allen.  In fact I'd recommend any other early Woody film: Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Play it Again Sam, etc.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - A terrifying film about an out-of-control narcissist who uses every creature she comes across for sex, money, attention, and fame, hurting everyone including herself in the process.  But the real horror is that Holly Golightly was ever seen by anyone as a hero or role model.

There's an entire volume of sociological studies buried within this film; a couple paragraphs in blog entry won't do it justice.

My wife correctly pointed out that self-obsessed a**holes (my term, not hers) were and are more acceptable when they're men as opposed to women (in film and elsewhere).  I have no beef with that statement.  That's one of the reasons I've never warmed up to The Western genre, which more often than not romanticizes the Arrogant American Male.  But I don't think Holly's glorification is comforting either.

In our post-film discussion, Kristen also referenced my dislike of Scarlett O'Hara, another strong but ruinously self-obsessed woman.  The thing is, I believe that Scarlett loves Rhett Butler; it's in the script and the acting.  But I do not believe that Holly can love "Fred".  There's no precedence for it in the script, nor is a sudden turnaround believable.

I'm not saying the film is bad.  It's actually a very interesting character study of a malignant narcissist running amuck in hyper-consumerist Manhattan.  I'd watch it again if I wasn't haunted by the hideous Asian stereotyped(?) character, courtesy of Andy Rooney, that Blake Edwards clearly finds uproarious.  Unless that's also part of the horror...


Ugh, just a little more space away from that image...

... ... ...

Mad Men (Season 4) and The Wire (Season 1) - To end on a positive note, I'm experiencing such writer's bliss watching these two series fully explore characters through subtle narrative progression.  Tectonic shifts happening quietly, gradually; gracefully handled by the writers, directors, and actors.  A feature film, by its nature, is a best-of scene sequence.  To establish shading and subtlety takes considerable work, luck, and brilliance when one has only 100 minutes to tell a story.  When there's 600, 800, or 1000 minutes with which to work, the creative possibilities grow exponentially.  Though it takes steady hands to not get lost amongst all of the opportunities.  And when the process works right, this viewer feels no guilt watching television.