Went to an early screening of Pixar’s Cars this morning and, aside from the really hit-or-miss A Bug’s Life, gotta say that this is the first of the company’s flicks that I just flat didn’t like. Bloated, possibly racist. . . there’s a lot to say about it, but I’ll save it for the review proper. Sufficed for now to indicate that the trailer seems accurate: it just ain’t no good. I did have the pleasure of sitting in front of some yahoo with press credentials who laughed heartily every couple of minutes whether or not there was a joke: the studio’s gotta get better at planting their ringers. Wonder if the summer of NASCAR (with Will Ferrell’s racing flick coming up in a couple of months) will leave me further out of the proverbial loop.
What’s disturbing to me is that lately I’ve had the opportunity to be more in contact with the “average” audience member and the suspicion that I’ve been harboring that I’m way out of whack in terms of the popular taste has been brought home to me in a real personal kind of way. Seems like I should wear it like a badge of honor, right, but it really just makes me feel sort of melancholy and lonesome.
Presided over a great discussion of the Slovenian film Spare Parts, released in limited fashion a couple of years ago and dealing with the ever-topical issue of illegal immigration and the smuggling of people. It reminded me in look and focus of Taxi Driver: keying in on a pair of drivers whose small lives lived in the middle of the night and on the fringes of society played poignant against the backdrop of a tiny ex-Yugoslavian town which has as its main distinguishing points a nuclear reactor and a motorcross track. The participants at the Lone Tree Library and I watched the film together for the first time that night and the freshness of that approach was a welcome relief from the hyper-prepared stuff that I do with classic cinema or films with a pedigree’d director at the helm. The fresman director, Damjan Kozole, with a documentary background in tow, demonstrates a tremendous amount of chops – scenes where our anti-heroes hide out in the forest as cops look for them in the middle of the night are lit and shadowed like an aquarium. The visual theme is “oppression” and the picture feels close and claustrophobic. Excellent stuff – non-didactic, too.
Discussion for The Big Sleep went less well as most of my comments about Hawks’ film had to do with the two versions (the 1945 pre-release and the 1946 theatrical), the much-documented salvation of Lauren Bacall’s career after her disastrous turn in Confidential Agent. The dialogue is bracing for the most part, but the racing scene written by Epstein to me seems dated and embarrassed: in stark contrast to the quicksilver of Chandler’s (and Faulkner’s and Leigh Brackett’s) dialogue. The convolution of the plot never bothered me – less so when you see the more-explicated original in all its deadening glory – but what gets me is its essential nihilism and, then, the not-quite-convincing appearance of an angel in the middle of all that Gehenna.
I was accused of not liking happy endings more than once the last couple of weeks (what with my excoriation of the last twenty minutes or so of The Fisher King, especially) – begging the question of what your favorite non-ironic happy endings are in the movies (thus knee-capping Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Soderbergh’s Solaris, and even Wilder’s Some Like it Hot and Curtiz’s Casablanca to an extent)? My difficulty coming up with titles might prove their point – begging the larger question of what a happy ending is, anyway – I mean, is the ending of Poseidon a happy one? High Noon? Dogville?
It's more than possible that the only happy endings that I like are better described as bittersweet.
Will finesse a few more DVD reviews coming up this week – but I may not get a Da Vinci Code review to Bill until middle of next week, unfortunately. The grind is just getting grindier as projects here and at FFC HQ pile up: here’s hoping for some relief (and inspiration) in the coming months.
Here’s the capture: