Apologies to readers for the periodic slow loadings experienced earlier this afternoon. I’ve taken measures that will alleviate the problem. The first is the loading of extra RAM tomorrow morning around 8:20 am tomorrow morning, which will result in a shutdown for about 10 minutes. The second will take effect about four or five days from now.
Swing Vote (Disney, 8.1) is, I’ve been told, “mushy” in a typically Hollywood way. Its main character is a selfish and decidedly jowly bad dad (Kevin Costner) with a sluggish red-state attitude about voting, and the film, I’m hearing, essentially embraces the old cynical saw about politicians being chameleons out for themselves, blah, blah. And that it basically treads water without swimming in this or that direction.
But there doesn’t seem to be much to support the flimsy idea that it has an anti-liberal slant because of the right-leaning views of certain cast members. Costner played golf with the elder George Bush back in the early ’90s, but his political contribution record shows he’s mostly supported liberals. Costars Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper have contributed to right-wing candidates, yes, but they’re just actors doing a job. have been mostly to liberals. (I haven’t been able to determine the political contribution records of director Joshua Michael Stern or co-screenwriter Jason Richman.)
In a piece about Swing Vote that ran a couple of months ago, Politico‘s Jeff Ressner wrote that it’s “likely to draw ire from members of the two major political parties” with “the script [playing] off of stereotypes that annoy and inflame the party faithful on both sides.”
The film “depicts Republican strategists as nasty connivers without souls, willing to change their views on gay marriage and the environment just to get elected,” Ressner noted. “Democratic campaigners are shown to be similarly hypocritical, spinelessly flip-flopping their long-held positions on abortion and immigration to win the election.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìSwing Vote revolves around a low-life trailer park drunk (Costner) who, by virtue of his young daughter’s idealism, becomes responsible for deciding the fate of a closely tied presidential election. Both the incumbent Republican commander-in-chief (Grammer) and the milquetoast liberal Democrat challenger (Hopper) descend on his small town and vie for his vote by shamelessly courting him, even going so far as to change their strongly-held beliefs to align themselves with what they mistakenly believe are his views.”
In other words, as a conservative-minded blogger commented to Ressner a few weeks back, “It’s about a red-sate dad with a blue-state daughter.”
Swing Vote, Swing Shift, Swing State, Swingtime, Sling Blade.
“The legal definition of torture has been much aired in recent years, and I take Mamma Mia! to be a useful contribution to that debate,” writes New Yorker critic Anthony Lane in a 7.28 posting.
“I thought that Pierce Brosnan had been dragged to the edge of endurance by North Korean sadists in his final Bond film, Die Another Day, but that was a quick tickle with a feather duster compared with the agony of singing Abba√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s ‘S.O.S.’ to Meryl Streep through a kitchen window.”
Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur on Crawford is/was a prop, Bush doesn’t have the first clue, “Wall Street got drunk, needs to sober up,” etc. The best part is a lecture to shitkicker voters, at the very end: Wealthy Republicans “are screwing you and having a great time doing it.”
Ben Stiller‘s Tropic Thunder (Dreamamount, 8.13) , which I saw three months ago, is an escaped-from-Bedlam, bong-hit, National Lampoon-level (the ’70s magazine, not the movies) Hollywood satire of (a) itself and (b) various Vietnam War movies we’ve all savored, particularly Platoon and Apocalypse Now. Except it’s not as low as it sounds. The tone is informed by the filmmaker characters, all of whom are clever jerks of one kind of another. Nobody’s a complete idiot.
The laughs stem from a rollicking, toking-up-with-the-guys attitude that gets sillier, wilder and more surreal by the page. And it’s a people’s comedy in that uncouth types will love it but so will those with a little education and refinement as long as they’ve gotten high at some point in the past, or have it in them to get the drug-humor thing.
That sounds like a ceiling, doesn’t it? Conventional wisdom says that satire only travels so far, and drug-humor movies never get past $60 or $70 million. Well, Tropic Thunder has something else in the engine, a kind of manic propulsion element that really hellzapops.
On top of which acid-tinged humor is a tonally appropriate way to go for a movie about making a movie about the U.S. of A’s first and only psychedelic war. It’s basically about a self-absorbed asshole movie star (Stiller) who’s career is downspiralling, and who has taken a role in a Vietnam movie that’s being shot in…I forget precisely but somewhere in Southeast Asia. And of course, all hell breaks loose at the end of the first act.
Speedman’s costars are Jack Black‘s “Portnoy” and Robert Downey, Jr.’s “Kirk Lazarus,” among others. The director is played by crazy Steve Coogan. The technical advisor is a flipped-out Vietnam vet played by Nick Nolte. Matthew McConaughey (great casting!) plays Speedman’s slithering, soul-less agent, and Tom Cruise — best thing he’s done in years — plays a potty-mouthed pit-bull mogul who runs the studio that’s funding the film.
Robert Downey, Jr.
The story is about what happens when the cast goes out in to the wilds of the jungle in order to feel the fear and acquire the thousand-yard stare, and real life intrudes in the form of a Golden Triangle drug-dealing gang.
Two hours after I saw Tropic Thunder last April, breathless and still charged, I called it “the most psychedelically deranged Vietnam-War-movie comedy of all time.” That still sounds like an okay way to put it. I remember saying to myself as I sat in the Sherry Lansing theatre, “I feel like I’m on something….what would this movie be like if I was?” But every inspired comedy feels like you or the actors have dropped at least a half-tab of something. That’s what Some Like It Hot feels like, for sure. Ditto A Night at the Opera, The Big Lebowski, Superbad, etc.
I wish I did still turn on (I haven’t smoked anything since the mid ’70s) because I’d love to get wasted before re-seeing Downey’s performance as a talented but pretentious actor playing a “black guy,” complete with an Isaac Hayes street accent and a special pigmentation makeover.
Stiller, who’s directed and co-written the script (with Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen), has been trying to make this film for years. Here’s a salute to not just Stiller but all tenacious filmmakers — great ideas are nothing if you don’t have the balls to keep pushing. This film is Stiller’s best work since the hey-hey days of The Ben Stiller Show, and his best idea since the Al Pacino-auditions-for-Beethoven bit.
Water bufffalo, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel.
It also feels to me like an Oscar-level thing for Downey. I know — who gives a hoot about Oscar nominations when a film is this funny? But Downey is amazing in this. This plus Iron Man — what a year for the guy. The Best Supporting Actor race is already down to Downey vs. Ledger.
One of the most successful performances by Stiller’s Speedman was a retarded Jack character, and one of Tropic Thunder‘s trippiest moments is when Stiller re-performs Jack in front of the heroin-dealing gang. I love that Speedman never “wakes up” — start to finish, he’s in a movie of one kind or another.
At least Cruise has one thing he can point to this year with pride and joy, even with Valkyrie‘s myriad issues. (I wonder, by the way, how The Hardy Men — a Stiller-Cruise comedy — is progressing?)
Is there a difference between humor that you know is funny as hell but you do’;t laugh at, and the kind that you do? I suppose, but for me, Tropic Thunder was a half-and-halfer in this regard. And that’s totally fine.
Martin Scorsese‘s Shine a Light opened only three and a half months ago. I’d convinced my significant other to come see the IMAX version with me, and she had half-convinced her daughter to come with us. But it didn’t happen and the film left the IMAX theatres and now the opportunity is gone for the rest of our lives on this planet. Next Tuesday’s arrival of the Shine a Light Blu-ray disc reminded me of that.
“Everything Is Cinema is important because it is an honest, intelligent and often eloquent treatment of a major motion picture artist [i.e., Jean-Luc Godard]. Sometimes reading it is a bit like riding a train that is chugging dutifully up a hill; at other times it’s a roller coaster of exciting ideas. Either way, like a Godard film, the journey turns out to be worth it.” — from Jeanine Basinger‘s 7.23 N.Y. Times review. Wait…the book came out two months ago (on 5.13)?
Vandamm: Let me go, Professor, and I’ll tell you a secret you’ll really want to know.
Professor: Talk first, Vandamm, and we’ll see.
Vandamm: (whispering) Leonard gave better head than Miss Kendall.
Professor: Oh, that I already knew. Take him away, boys! And don’t spare the rubber hoses!
(copied from 7.7.08 IMDB posting by Bilwick1.)