Speaking of the fight scenes in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford has told The Australian‘s Chrissy Iley that “we didn’t shoot it like a Matrix style where if you hit somebody they end up in this big space and you didn’t feel the hurt, you don’t feel the fear. I feel you very quickly lose emotional connection with the character if it’s like that. We are more old school.”
Exactly. The thing I’ve always disliked about martial-arts fight scenes is that nobody ever gets hurt. We all realize, of course, that martial arts fights are intentionally stylized and not operating under a realistic tent. But the patience ceiling for this sort of thing is low. (For me, at least.) It is the essence of boredom to watch guys slamming each other without end. All ballet and no wincing or groaning makes Jack a dull boy. Totally ignoring the fact that the human body is vulnerable and that duke-outs always bring pain and woundings is a short route to the grotesque.
The blame for this tedium, of course, lies entirely on the shoulders of Asian martial-arts films. I remember bitching about this when I saw my first Bruce Lee film in the early ’70s, and here it is 35 years later and the form is pretty much unchanged. The worst fight scene of all time in this vein? The battle between Neo and all the Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded. And I say that having loved some of the fight scenes in the original Matrix.
The shoe has just dropped. The page has just turned. Martial-arts combat scenes have taken a bullet in the chest. They may continue, but they’ll never have the same punch from this moment on. A voice is telling me this. And we have Harrison Ford to thank for leading the charge, or at least sounding the trumpet.
This teaser for Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney, 9.26) obviously promises a spirited family entertainment. Chihuahuas are Mexican dogs, of course, and Mexico, of course, was the seat of ancient Aztec and Mayan culture many centuries ago. But what could this have to do with a present-day story about a rich Beverly Hills chihuahua named Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) getting lost during a Mexican vacation and looking for a way home? Obviously she gradually gets past being a spoiled and arrogant bitch by connecting with her ancestral roots, etc.
I’m being too literal-minded, I realize, but I really don’t get it. If little chihuahuas can make head-dresses and put them on their heads, that means director Raja Gosnell and the Disney animators have also given them all kinds of human-level abilities and skills. They can weave fabric and lay adobe bricks and throw spears and make swords so they can stage the occasional sacrifice ceremony. (Remember all those bouncing bloody heads in Mel Gibson‘s Apocalypto? And the fact that it was released by Touchstone, a Disney distributor?) Except we all know what chihuahua paws look like so how can they grip anything? See where I’m going with this? If the dogs weren’t shown wearing the Aztec-Mayan head-dresses I could deal with it.
I love that the Disney marketers felt the need to provide a pheonetical pronounciation — “chee-WOW-wa.” They’re clearly wondering if pronouncing “chihuahua” might be over the heads of the people they’re trying to sell tickets to. What does that tell us? The voices of Salma Hayek, Jamie Lee Curtis, Piper Perabo, Edward James Olmos, Andy Garcia and Cheech Marin costar.
I feel horrible about what may happen tomorrow in Indiana and North Carolina. Terrified. It could all finally start to be over (please!) if Barack Obama finishes slightly ahead of the Hildebeest among the Hoosiers and takes her, say, by eight or ten points among the tarheels. But it could go badly too, and the agony could well continue. Just ignore it, I’ve been telling myself today. Or at least don’t fret. At least until tomorrow.
Then I came across this 5.4 Kurt Andersen piece in New York (“About That Crush on Obama”) that perfectly describes everything I’ve been feeling and sensing over the last three or four weeks, and somehow this has brought some comfort. If a modest but decisive Obama triumph is not in the cards for tomorrow, there is at least solace in knowing that the relatively recent news media animus towards Obama, the never-the-twain-shall-meet attitudes that starkly separate Hillary and Barack supporters and the standard loathing I’ve been feeling for the Hillary hinterlanders for months has been well captured and understood.
Please read the whole piece — it hits it dead center — but here’s the best part:
“Yet the flip side of all this is why Clinton’s demographically determined constituencies haven’t felt the Obama magic, why for them he’s an acquired taste, like espresso. It’s not only that the people who create and run the media — and who love Obama — occupy the social and cultural upper rungs. The world depicted in ‘the media,’ broadly construed — not just straight journalism but everything we watch and read and hear — is overwhelmingly a bright, shiny, upscale, youngish world.
“Uneducated white people, residents of the so-called C and D counties, and the elderly — in other words, Hillary Clinton voters — are seldom allowed into the mass-media foreground, and when they appear it’s usually as bathetic figures, victims or losers. (And working-class black pop culture is considered part of the sexy mainstream in a way that working-class white pop culture is not.) The shocking eclipse of Hillary (an eight-figure net worth, maybe, but at least she’s got a normal American name and a Wal-Mart shopper’s bad hair and big bum) by this fashionable (black!) media darling is one more slap in the face for the people chronically excluded from the pretty mediascape version of America, one more damn new thing that they don’t really get. It makes them…bitter, and the bitterness makes them cling to the Clintons.
“The media didn’t see this coming. Back in February, when the new prince was gliding thrillingly up and up toward nomination, a part of the thrill for the media was their happy astonishment that they were no longer cosmopolitan outliers but finally (unlike in 1984 with Gary Hart) in sync with America: Regular folks, white people in Iowa and Virginia and Wisconsin, were actually voting for Obama!
“That was then. With the ten-point loss in Pennsylvania, the latest Reverend Wright eruption, and the shrinkage of Obama’s leads in the polls, the media are feeling lousy, and not just because their guy is taking a beating. If Obama is deemed to be an effete, out-of-touch yuppie, then the effete-yuppie media Establishment that’s embraced him must be equally oblivious and/or indifferent to the sentiments of the common folk.
“Uh-oh. As the cratering of newspaper circulations accelerates (thousands a week are now abandoning the Times) and network-news audiences continue to shrink, for big-time mainstream journalists to seem even more out of touch makes some of them panic. And…so…it’s all…his fault, that highfalutin Obama! Certain journalistic stars these last few weeks (hello, George Stephanopoulos!), instead of copping to the ‘elitist’ sensibilities they obviously share with him (and the Clintons and McCain) — we travel abroad and read books, we have healthy bank accounts and drink wine; so shoot us — reacted by parroting the Clinton campaign’s faux-populist talking points about Obama’s condescension toward the yokel class.
“But pandering to the yokels, pretending to share their tastes and POV? That goes pretty much unchallenged. If the wellborn New England Wasp George W. Bush (Andover ’64, Yale ’68, Harvard ’75) could be successfully refashioned as a down-home rustic, why shouldn’t Hillary Clinton (Wellesley ’69, Yale ’73) be talkin’ guns and drinkin’ Crown Royal shots and droppin’ all the g’s from her gerunds whenever she speaks extemporaneously these days? Naked disingenuousness apparently isn’t as off-putting as, say, failing to pin a tiny metal American flag to one’s lapel.
“For all I know, the Clinton voters find Obama’s spazzy bowling and Jay-Z referencing just as irritating. Like I said, the Democratic race has become for many of us an intense playoff simulacrum, and fans love their team and curse the opponents blindly and faithfully. I can’t quite believe that I have been driven to baseball-geek analogies…but here I find myself nevertheless, feverishly hoping that the story ends not in the fashion of last year’s awful, amazing Mets, but like the Yankees in 2000, when they nearly blew their big lead in the season’s final weeks before straightening up and winning the World Series.”
One and a half tablets of Tylenol PM resulted in four hours of sleep on a totally crammed 767 that left LAX last night around 11:50 pm. Groggily took the E train out of Jamaica, forgetting that I should have taken the A or the C which would have stopped at Broadway Junction, where you get the L train. A slow hellish ride ensued, the train poking along at an average of 12 mph through endless dark tunnels under Queens.
Caught a G train connection down to Lorimer and then three stops on the L line to Montrose. It takes a little practice to get back into the eye-contact avoidance that is required behavior on all New York subways. And then finally the ordeal of lugging three bags that felt heavier than sand up two steep staircases.
But all was right after a shower and a change of clothes. Now there’s only the immense peace that comes with an excellent wireless connection and a clean, clutter-free apartment. Blue skies and much sunlight and the warmth of a friendly neighborhood are just outside. Had a perfect slice of pizza with green onions and goat cheese, and a can of cold orange soda. (A strange urge to not eat healthily always overtakes me when I’m here.) I haven’t been in this neighborhood for over a year but the dry cleaning guy remembered my last name. That’s New York for you.
Oprah Winfrey aired a Tom Cruise interview last Friday, and today she’s running a tribute show about his 25 years of stardom. Cruise’s big career kick-off, of course, was Risky Business, which opened in August 1983. It strikes me as odd, as it has to Roger Freidman, that neither Cruise nor Winfrey thought to invite the film’s director-writer, Paul Brickman, to take part in the show. By any fair standard this seems like ingratitude and bad manners.
The reason for the blow-off, I’m presuming, is because Brickman didn’t become a powerhouse director in the wake of Risky Business‘s huge success and therefore isn’t flash enough to share the limelight with Cruise admirers like Will Smith, Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hofman, etc. But Cruise owes Brickman big-time. Risky Business was the springboard that led to everything else. Without it Cruise probably wouldn’t have been cast in Top Gun, which in turn led to The Color of Money, Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July — the three late ’80s films that firmed his rep as a serious actor as well as a hot-ticket movie star. If I were Cruise I would have insisted on Brickman being included. Right is right.
I’m also recalling how Brickman’s film was actually the vehicle in which Cruise gave his second stand-out performance, the first being Curtis Hanson‘s Losin’ It. Shot in late ’81 for $7 million and released four months before Risky Business, it was treated as a minor thing by audiences and (as I recall) most critics. It may have seemed like just another wild-weekend-in-Tijuana teen comedy, but I remember deciding early on that Losin’ It (which had a tender emotional element in Shelley Long‘s performance as a housewife on the brink of a divorce) was a cut or two above. I remember telling myself that Hanson was a director to watch. It costarred John Stockwell and Jackie Earl Haley.
I gather that the Winfrey-Cruise tribute is ignoring Losin’ It as well. To be honest I haven’t seen it since my first and only viewing 25 years ago, but writing this has sparked interest in the DVD. I wonder if it still plays. I’m presuming that it does.
Taking advantage of last weekend’s first-anywhere screenings of Sex and the City (New Line/HBO, 5.30) for junket press here in Manhattan, N.Y. Daily News feature writer Colin Bertram blew off the embargo and ran a spoiler-free valentine review in today’s edition.
I talked this morning to a journalist who saw it here also, and if you merge his reactions with Bertram’s I’m getting the sense that it’s not too bad. Lacking the constitution of a stand-alone movie, perhaps, but enjoyable enough on its own terms.
The dividing line (no surprise) is that fans of the HBO series are liking it more than non-fans. A quick read-through of Bertram’s piece tells you he’s definitely among the former. But if you read it twice and pick it apart line by line, he really doesn’t say very much.
He concedes that the film suffers from “initial awkwardness” but this “quickly disappears” as director-writer Michael Patrick King and his leading ladies — Sara Jessica Parker‘s Carrie Bradshaw, Kim Cattrall‘s Samantha Jones, Cynthia Nixon‘s Miranda Hobbes and Kristin Davis‘s Charlotte York Goldenblatt — “hit their stiletto-shod strides.”
“The four women turn in sensitive, solid performances,” he writes, although Parker and Nixon “shine particularly bright.” Shouldn’t that be “brightly”?
The real joy of SATC: The Movie “lies in the return of all those things that mass television syndication has stripped from the series in the intervening years,” Bertram declares. “The ‘Oh, my God, they did not just do that!’ moments, the nudity, the swearing, the unabashed love of human frailty and downright wackiness. Snappy, verbal sparring punctuates the laughs and more than a few shed-a-tear moments.”
My source’s comments were put more plainly. “No one dies…that rumor about Mr. Big or someone else dying in it is bunk,” he says. The movie “is basically the same as the show. It’s like four episodes squished into one thing. It kind of works if you liked the show, but I was never a real fan of it.” Women journalists at the junket “liked it,” he allows, “and…you know, people who like the show are pretty okay with the movie.”
I asked if there was any thematic deepening or movie-ish story tension or a sense of completeness — anything that makes it feel less like a continuation of the series and more like a sturdy enterprise with its own bones. My friend hesitated. “Uhmm…I don’t know,” he finally said. “It’s very up and down. It doesn’t really resolve things [in the way that strong films do]. There’s lots of funny material. It basically undoes a lot of stuff, and then puts it all back together. Clearly they had a lot of ideas and [the film shows] they could have gone back and done another season of the show.”
What about nudity? “There’s lots of that, but not from Sara Jessica Parker. Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon do most of the nudity. Nixon has a Lust Caution moment.”
Fox 411’s Roger Freidman saw the film the night before last, and says in today’s column that “it’s going to be a very, very big hit. Women wept, cheered. It’s the Neiman Marcus catalog on steroids.”
“Is it really possible to revisit the past?,” Bertram begins, paraphrasing the movie’s voice-over. “And will old friends and situations still be as dear to our hearts? Thankfully, the answer to that Carrie-esque musing when applied to the big-screen version of Sex and the City is a resounding yes.”
In short, the Sex characters and that robust top-of-the-world vibe they carry around is still warming Bertram’s heart. Great…but what does that mean for the rest of us? What could it mean? The answer is provided between the lines, but the general drift I’m getting is that the film not particularly painful for non-invested types.