MORIARTY'S CHRISTMAS RAMPAGE Begins With O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU' And THE GIFT!!
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Ho, ho, ho, or bah humbug, depending on your disposition as this holiday season reaches fever pitch. I’m not sure how you celebrate the holidays, but for me, ‘tis the season to see movies. And it’s not just something I want to do in the coming week. It’s something I need to do.
How the hell did I get so far behind?!
I mean, I see a lot of films. It’s not like I’ve been slacking off. But somehow I just turned around and realized that there’s something like 15 movies in theaters I want to see. More than that, maybe. At any rate, I have the next six days to do nothing but cram movies in, as many as possible, and I’m counting on that WGA card to keep me from going totally bankrupt in the process. As I cavort through this next week, I’m going to try to share my impressions of the overload and filter through the crush of choices available at year’s end.
This is my favorite time of year. I’m shameless about it. Most people are planning to stuff themselves on Christmas dinners. Me, I’m bellying up to the buffet of major year-end releases, determined to keep piling them on till my whole system collapses. As it stands, I’m looking at a fairly dense list of stuff I want to work my way through:
(in no particular order) POLLOCK, FINDING FORRESTER, CAST AWAY, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, YI YI (A ONE AND A TWO), ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THIRTEEN DAYS, STATE AND MAIN, TIGERLAND, BILLY ELLIOTT, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, MALENA, CHOCOLAT, and even more mainstream fare like WHAT WOMEN WANT, PROOF OF LIFE, and THE FAMILY MAN.
At least I got DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR out of the way.
Good lord... just looking at that list makes my head hurt. I’m looking forward to these films, but daaaaaamn, that’s a lot of movies. Of course, that’s about how many films we showed in a row at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon this year, so I guess if I think about it that way, I can handle it.
I’m glad we got one of the movies on my list out of the way at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon, actually, and I’ve spent the last few weeks mulling over Sam Raimi’s groovy new thriller THE GIFT. I was surprised how mixed the reaction was at the Alamo after this one screened. Personally, I had a great time with it, and it’s grown on me as I’ve thought it over. It’s everything I wanted from this summer’s WHAT LIES BENEATH, with a sly, simple script by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, whose previous collaborations (A FAMILY THING and ONE FALSE MOVE) have both been smart and solid, if not spectacular. They continue in that tradition here with the story of Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), a small-town psychic in the modern south. Recently widowed, she’s raising several children on her own, using her particular skills to play social worker to many of her neighbors.
The film’s deceptively structured, with a gradual first act that seems to center on Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) and her abusive husband Donny (Keanu Reeves). Annie encourages Valerie to leave her husband, incurring Donnie’s wrath in the process. Swank does good work as the bruised wife, but it’s not that deep a role. Surprisingly, it’s Reeves who really shines here. He deserves much credit for his menacing work, and he manages to play Donnie with shades, not just simple one note malice. Another of Annie’s regular clients is the disturbed Buddy (Giovanni Ribisi), a mechanic with dark secrets and a childlike presence. Ribisi’s played misfits before, but it’s never really paid off like this. He does affecting work, the kind that makes you reassess an actor. He’s fiercely dedicated to Annie, and when Donnie starts to threaten her, Buddy puts himself in the middle. If you had told me that the single biggest crowd reaction out of the entire 24 hour BNAT crowd would come from a scene between Reeves and Ribisi, I wouldn’t have believed it.
The film reveals its true agenda, though, when local girl Jessica King (Katie Holmes) vanishes. Her fiance Wayne (Greg Kinnear), principal of the local elementary school, is destroyed by her disappearance, as is her father, and as a last resort, they turn to Annie for help despite the skepticism of the town’s sheriff (JK Simmons). When she gets involved, she finds it’s not something she can just dabble in. She gets pulled into the very heart of the mystery, and as the other two storylines collide, everything comes together in a delicious old-fashioned creepfest. THE GIFT doesn’t break any new ground in the suspense genre, but it succeeds at everything it tries. The whodunnit aspect of the film is handled well, and even though I’d already read and reviewed the script for the film, the guilty party did a great job of making me forget. It’s a deft sleight of hand, something many filmmakers seem to have forgotten how to do.
With A SIMPLE PLAN, Sam Raimi made a thriller with a darker than average heart, and the result was genuinely unsettling. I thought Thornton’s performance in that film was wrenching, and it stuck with me. The closest we come to seeing something that powerful in this film is the work that Ribisi does, particularly when he finally figures out why he has "bad thoughts" when he looks into a blue diamond. It’s a brutal scene, shocking because of the sudden way it sneaks up on us. This isn’t a deep film, though, and there will be people who aren’t able to make the leap of faith and accept the supernatural side of the story. That’s a shame, too, because there’s a number of joys along the way that they’ll miss, like Christopher Young’s subtle, elegant score, or a creepy cameo by Danny Elfman, or the appearance of Ash’s car from the EVIL DEAD films, or the great supporting work by Katie Holmes and JK Simmons. In fact, as I reflect on it, I realize just how much I enjoyed the picture. It may not redefine the genre, but it certainly represents it with grace and style. For me, it worked well, and although I’d call this Raimi in a minor key, it’s still an important and entertaining step in his development as an artist.
Raimi’s old housemates Joel and Ethan Coen are, as I’ve stated on many occasions, my very favorite working filmmakers. There’s no one else whose work gives me the same damn fool ear-to-ear smile each and every time I see it. I still remember sitting down in a theater in 1986, no idea who Joel and Ethan Coen were, only to get punched full force in the face by RAISING ARIZONA. It wasn’t like any comedy I’d seen at the time. There was real beauty in the way it was shot, a vigorous, fluid shooting style that grabbed me by the ears and forced me to watch, afraid to blink for fear I’d miss something. And the dialogue... dear god, the things that came out of these characters. The rhythms and cadences of the speech. "TURN to the RIGHT!" "You’re a flower, ya are." "And when there was no crawdad, we et sand." "You et sand?" "We et sand." "Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase." All of that before the opening title is even shown. I was dizzy from the impact of the movie. Over the next few days, I remember being evangelical about the Coen Brothers, trying to explain them to people, and I remember being met with the same blank stare every time.
I wish I could say things have changed, but I still find myself frustrated when I try and describe their work to someone who hasn’t been converted. Sure, they’ve flirted with the acceptance of major awards and commercial success (BARTON FINK, FARGO) and they’ve achieved cult godhood (THE BIG LEBOWSKI), but their work is so resolutely idiosyncratic that real mainstream success continues to elude them. Whenever I meet someone who’s as enamored with them as I am, it’s like stumbling across someone with a shared secret. There’s a sort of religious fervor that takes people over as they list their favorite moments from films like BLOOD SIMPLE or LEBOWSKI or MILLER’S CROSSING. Each of their films has a rabid following, and I’m amazed at how people have almost chemical reactions to the movies. There’s nothing like that first viewing of a Coen Bros. movie. That’s definitely true with their brilliant new oddball combination of comedy and music, the delirious O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
There were laughs in the theater when the credit "Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the poem THE ODYSSEY by Homer" came up. I think people have the Coens pegged as wise-guys, smart alecks, and they took this as a joke of some sort. After the movie, some of the guys I went with were busy trying to decode what symbols and images from the movie actually were from Homer’s work, what was included as reference to the Preston Sturges classic SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, and what all of it meant. In any case, it’s a lot of baggage to try and juggle when watching the movie, and it ultimately doesn’t matter if you’re picking up on references or allusions. The film is a great big wedge of entertainment, almost embarrassingly good. When you see something that’s crafted with this much skill and care, it reminds you that "comedy" doesn’t equal cheap or poorly shot. They never phone it in. They never make a film with anything less than total abandon, and all of the layers of O BROTHER only suggest rewarding reviewings to come.
On the surface, this is a relatively simple film. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) escape from a chain gang in the south during the Depression with the intent of finding a treasure that Everett buried before he was sentenced. There are some references to the ODYSSEY that jump right out. There's a cyclops (John Goodman), Lotus Eaters, sirens, and a long-lost wife named Penelope (Holly Hunter). But the Coens aren’t held captive by their conceit. They feel free to texture in characters and stops along the way that are uniquely American like an obvious Robert Johnson reference or a trigger happy bank robber named George "Baby Face" Nelson. These things aren’t used in any literal sense. History means nothing. But the texture of how they’re used is accurate, and they give the film its own unique soul. The other masterstroke is the use of authentic bluegrass or folk music in the film. I have trouble deciding exactly how to classify the score, since it’s what I would call country music in the strictest sense of things. It’s not the Shania Twain and Dixie Chicks style music of today, though. This is real roots music, and the selection of material used is astounding. It’s not chosen as a joke, but as a sonic wallpaper that pulls us back in time. Actually, considering the world the film takes place in, maybe it would be more accurate to say that it pulls us sideways in time, to a place that only exists in the fertile imaginations of these brothers.
If there is a Writer’s Heaven, there is a special place set aside for Joel and Ethan, if only because of the dialogue they give their actors to enjoy. George Clooney has spent the last few years turning in smart, controlled work, but this is the first time he’s been turned loose in a manic comedy, and he is a revelation. Looking like a seedier Clark Gable from IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, he tackles every problem they encounter with a landslide of language, rich and eccentric and hysterical. His vanity about his hair, his fierce loyalty to Dapper Dan pomade, his joy at the sight of his daughters, his utter lack of alarm when Big Dan Teague (Goodman) goes nuts... these details all add up to a performance that can only be seen as defining. This is the kind of risk we always say we want our major movie stars to take, and Clooney seems fearless here. He’s not afraid to seem completely insane, relentlessly goofy, but he’s also able to be deeply sincere when the moment calls for it. That sort of control illustrates just how far he’s come as an actor, and just how far he’s willing to go. As much as I’m looking forward to the flawless cool of OCEAN’S ELEVEN, I sincerely hope CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND makes it through the development process with Clooney playing the CIA agent who recruits Chuck Barris. After seeing him here, I think he’s capable of anything.
Although Clooney is the obvious star of the film, he’s given incredible support across the board by everyone. John Turturro has been one of their best collaborators over the years, and it’s because he’s never the same twice. Pete Hogwallop is nothing like Jesus Quintana, the lascivious pederast bowler from LEBOWSKI, and neither of them could be mistaken for Bernie from MILLER’S CROSSING or Barton Fink himself. Turturro manages to rise to each new challenge the Coens throw down for him, and there’s a feral, barely controlled rage to the character he plays here that is both delightful and slightly terrifying. Tim Blake Nelson is a great find as Delmar, the dimmest bulb of the bunch. There are at least a half-dozen places in the film where a simple cut to the look on his face made me laugh out loud. John Goodman, Stephen Root, Charles Durning, and Michael Badalucco all do fine work in the picture, filling out this eccentric canvass with finely detailed work. There’s all sorts of moments of comic invention that leap off the screen at us, burning themselves into our memory as soon as we see them unfold. There’s a musical number involving the Klan that serves as a sort of bizarre bookend to the "Goin’ To Heaven On A Mule" number from WONDER BAR that I saw at BNAT. Now that I’ve seen blackface Heaven and the Klan doing choreographed dancing on a massive scale, I think it’s safe to say that nothing can shock or surprise me.
It’s a beautiful world these characters inhabit, too. This is the first scope film by Joel and Ethan, and Roger Deakins has worked with them to give the film a burnished, golden hue, like something remembered, like faded photographs in an album found in a forgotten corner in some antique store. I could literally turn the sound down and just look at this film, just watch it go by, and enjoy it purely on that level. That’s just gravy, of course. If the film didn’t deliver on all other fronts, all the polish in the world wouldn’t mean a thing. Having taken a little while to reflect on the movie, playing the soundtrack over and over in the process, I think I know what I took from the picture. To me, it’s a film about how the little things get us through. As Everett and the boys drift through this landscape of seemingly random circumstance and boundless sorrow, each of them holds on to certain images, certain dreams. For Everett, it’s the wife and daughters he left behind. For Pete, it’s the dream of a restaurant he owns, where the elite come to eat, where he’s the maitre’d and always has his meals for free. For Delmar, it’s the family farm. For the country at large, it’s the music they hear that gives them hope, that keeps them going even in the face of the Depression. Like Stanley Kubrick, the Coens have been accused of making cold films, but it’s not true. This film should finally silence those claims. There’s sun-dappled warmth to each and every frame of the thing, and it only seems to grow in my memory as I look back on it. Seek this one out when it opens wider in January. It’s as original and entertaining a film as you’ll see in a theater this or next year.
It’s just occurred me as I wrap this up that both Raimi and the Coens are veterans of the ‘80s indie explosion, all of them now firmly entrenched in the mainstream. It’s interesting to see how Raimi has folded his style into more conventional forms, while the Coen Bros. continue to create personal works of art that are like nothing else. That’s not to say that Raimi isn’t still vital and interesting; he is. He just seems to be courting a different level of acceptance than anything the Coens have ever attempted, and with Raimi now gearing up on SPIDER-MAN, he may be stepping up to a whole different level of success.
I’d like to close today by wishing each and every visitor to Ain’t It Cool News a happy holiday. I wake up each day thankful for the odd and amazing way my life has played out over the past three years, and you all have been part of that. I want to wish Harry and Jay Knowles a Merry Christmas and thank them for their friendship over these past few years. Roland, David, Paul, you guys are great partners, and there’s no one with whom I’d rather face 2001. I want to thank Scott for 15 years of creative collaboration, a mere drop in the bucket compared to what we’re going to accomplish. I want to thank Aaron and Sean for their continued support and tireless efforts. I want to thank Todd K. and Bryan M. for the time and the confidence they’ve invested into our joint creative ventures this year, and my Christmas gift to you is my vow that this year will reward those efforts in every possible way. All of my friends in my daily life are a blessing, and there’s too many of them to name here without leaving someone out. I won’t try, but instead will wish you all a thousand times the good fortune I’ve had since meeting you. Even at the advanced age of 230, I am fortunate enough to still have both parents, and although I’m not able to get back to the motherland for a visit, I know they visit me here, and I want to share this holiday with them. To all the filmmakers and publicists and actors and producers and animators and film technicians of every stripe that I’ve had the good fortune to deal with, you’ve all set a sterling example that will have to be lived up to by all those I deal with in the future, and I wish you peace in these final days of the year. To other webmasters like Garth Franklin, Nick Nunziata, Glen Oliver, and Den Shewman, you have all made me feel welcome in this still developing community of ours, and I thank you for that. To every person who’s sent me information or thoughts or just greetings over the past year, you have given me a remarkable gift, and there are hardly words enough to thank you. You are appreciated. I don’t consider what I do here to be my right or to be a job. I consider it a privilege. For this one day, for this one moment each year, I set aside all my nefarious doings, all my evil ways, and I genuinely wish nothing but well for anyone who has invested their time reading my words this year. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and without you, there wouldn’t be half the joy I’ve felt this season. I hope I can repay it in some small fashion. Right now, I'm out the door to go see CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON again, then try and find two or even three more movies for the afternoon and evening. I'll be back with those reviews in the morning. Until then...
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Dec. 25, 2000, 12:46 p.m. CST
It wasnt as bad as Ew said it was , but I expected a lot more. It is nothing compared to Fargo or Blood Simple.
Dec. 25, 2000, 1:33 p.m. CST
I too was introduced to the Coens with Raising Arizona and to this day it's still my fav! I laughed so hard the first time I watched it I almost shit my pants! Even now when I watch it and it reduces me to tears from laughing so hard. I've waited so long praying the coens would do another wacked out comedy! The Big Lebowski was great but this looks even funnier! I've watched the trailer 100 times and I love it. I plan to see it as soon as it shows up in Toledo.
Dec. 25, 2000, 2:09 p.m. CST
by The guy
I saw it recently. Easily the worst movie I've seen all year. Makes Dude Where's My Car, seem intelligent. I remember getting up 8 times during the film, and I never do that. I'm beginning to think Fargo, Blood Simple, and Raising Arizona were a fluke.
Dec. 25, 2000, 2:22 p.m. CST
I was vey surprised by this one. Even though some scenes felt rushed, it was one of the better theater going days for me this year.
Dec. 25, 2000, 3:01 p.m. CST
the coens will go down in history, and this one will be one of their top movies. miller's crossing was the best, with fargo, o brother, lebowski, blood simple behind it. awesome, awesome movies. when are they gonna get goin on DVD's? GravyLeggedAkira doesn't have a attention span.
Dec. 25, 2000, 3:29 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Moriarty, you rule! Keep writing, and stop keeping us in suspense for the rest of your "Best of 90s" articles.
Dec. 25, 2000, 3:37 p.m. CST
by movie prose
First off, let me state that I'm a big Raimi fan. But the Gift was a major letdown. The movie (among other things) is a mystery thriller with a supernatural edge. But as a whodunnit, it's a total failure. I made the killer within the first few minutes of the film. I like to think of myself as a bit of a pro at this genre as I have sold at least one whodunnit to a major studio (scheduled for production in early 2001)and have another one in development with an A-list director. The first red flag to me as to the killer's identity happened before I even knew where the plot was going. Why did this happen? Bad casting. Raimi decided to cast the character a little off-center and when you put this particular actor/actress in a certain environment, it just reeks fake -- and rubs you the wrong way. Moriarty suggests great sleight of hand. Well, I seriously beg to differ. The whole way through the film, I was telling myself this has to be a really smart red herring. I wanted to be wrong. I even had figured out who would be the perfect killer for the piece, and was convinced that's where they were headed all along. But, no, they took the cliched road. All other red herrings in the film are WAY to obvious. The set-up is weak. And when you look at MOTIVE, there is only one character who has any real motive to be the killer -- and guess what? IT IS HIM/HER!!!! Most of the fault lies with Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson's lazy screenplay. I can't really knock the performances, except to say that they were in service of flatlined material. There was nothing ORIGINAL or inspired about this film -- nothing to elevate the genre. If you want to see a great whodunnit that delivers on the killer's identity, then rent SEA OF LOVE (by Richard Price). The way Price camouflages the real killer in that film is sheer brilliance. Kudos to Harold Becker's direction as well. You might all come at me with the suggestion that "The Gift" was a lot more than a whodunnit, and even if that was the intent, the filmmakers failed. I cannot understand why the studio thought this would be a viable, even commercial prospect. Even if "The Gift" does do great box office (which I doubt), it's just a weak entry in a tired (mainly) 80's straight to video genre of psychic murder mysteries. Even "The Eyes of Laura Mars" did it better. And, as a Raimi fan, he's superb cinematic style is missing from this film. I'm not just talking about his kinetic camera moves, but even the elegance of composition he displayed in "A Simple Plan." Save your money and wait for video or cable.
Dec. 25, 2000, 5:53 p.m. CST
And no Keanu Bashing?!?!?! The critic's and geek's favorite whipping boy attempts a serious, dramtic role under the helm of yet another highly respected director and manages to emerge unscathed from the jowls of Moriarty's literary chomping? Whoa...
Dec. 25, 2000, 9:37 p.m. CST
What this woman wanted was for that movie to end with Mel Gibson getting shot in the head. I'm usually pretty forgiving of movies but that one didn't just suck, it was so bad it made me angry! I can't even get into describing what made it so bad right now because I don't want to devote any more of my time to that festering pile of crap. Maybe later. Just let me warn you -- steer clear.
Dec. 26, 2000, 1:06 a.m. CST
for the love of all that is holy....please make every piece you write exactly like this one. and by that i mean, leave out all the mongo and henchmen and faux-quirky fantasy bit that absolutely destroys every other piece you do. this is the first time i've read a review of yours that didn't make me think you're a self-indulgent half-wit still hooked on D&D. do yourself (and this site) a huge favor, and ditch the bullshit.
Dec. 26, 2000, 1:15 a.m. CST
by The Founder
The gift looks intresting, and I agree on one aspect of a poorly done film is when you can figure out the killer before you even make it to the half way point of the movie.Well that sort of thing never really bothered me if the movie is entertaining, and hell some films have even been pretty good even though you managed to put together the ending, and who the killer is. Dracula 2000 was very entertaining ( well to me at least)and although none of the movie wasn't anything we all haven't seen before it was worth the price of admission. I take a tiny bit of that back,their was one aspect of Dracula's orgin that was new, but it's nothing that's going to shock you or make you hmmmm. Oh I almost forgot to mention that the guy playing Dracula was pretty good hell none of the acting was bad, everyone did a fine job.
Dec. 26, 2000, 1:27 a.m. CST
by The Founder
and I know this doesn't have anthing to do with the topic, but check out "Finding Forrester" this was one of the best I've seen this year, and with all the movies that come and gone in 2000 it ain't been that many.Well I will say that if you're in to action then this film isn't for you. It's pure drama nothing more, but it's pretty damn good. All of the cast gave good performances(even the actors with small parts did a good job with what they had to work with, and yes even Busta Rymes did good).
Dec. 26, 2000, 2:19 a.m. CST
by Zombie Vig
Just a passing thought,the Coen Brothers should do the 'Preacher' movie. It will rock.
Dec. 26, 2000, 3:41 a.m. CST
KATIE HOLMES TOPLESS. That in and of itself should be enough to at least give this one a shot. Add in supposedly fine performances by Cate and Swank, and this one could be good. Sorry to go to the "Celebrity Nudity" card, but we're all friends here, right?
Dec. 26, 2000, 5:19 a.m. CST
Dec. 26, 2000, 7:59 a.m. CST
by Smilin'Jack Ruby
Dracula 2000 was a great genre party. I had a blast at that fuckin' piece and I really can't wait for Dimension to start cranking out straight-to-video sequels. This is the best franchise starter since "Prophecy" even though there are those of you who will laugh and say, "so?" As for "The Gift," there are going to be a lot of people who just hate that flick. Gotta side with Mori on this one, though - I dug "The Gift" a lot and think it had a lot to offer. The other holiday fare, "Cast Away," "The Family Man," and others, well, "The Gift" was better.
Dec. 26, 2000, 9:01 a.m. CST
Saw two returns to allegory in storytelling this weekend. Can our heroes escape the oppression of materialism in a world filled with greed and inequlity, and find the true meaning of love? O Brother is a classic, a gem, a jewel in the rough, a wonderful film all around inspired by the traditional Irish- and African-American music that fills it. Just relax and let it wash over you. Mamet's new comedy, State and Main is also a good film, if more spartan by design, a must for fans of self-aware insider's takes on what bastards filmakers are, mixed with Mamet's snappy deconstructive subtext. Rebecca Pidgeon does her thing too, deceptively subdued but somehow smoldering, and radiant in her small-town schtick.
Dec. 26, 2000, 10:55 a.m. CST
Hi everyone; long-time reader, first-time writer. The problem with Coen films for me is my expectations are usually too high going in. Lebowski, at first, was a disappointment (after several viewings on cable, however, it has grown significantly on me). O Brother surpassed everything, mainly because I had very little idea what to expect (a key, I believe, to enjoying the Coens to the fullest). George Clooney, however, seemed out of place. Up until this point, the Coens had either cast perfectly, or adjusted their actors to fit the film. Clooney, I feel, missed the mark, and stuck out. While not having an accent may fly in Perfect Storm, he should have given it a shot here. As for his performance, the fighting scene in Woolworth's was the one time he seemed to fit in the style of the film. Otherwise, brilliantly written, shot and scored. I'll hang up now and listen to your response.
Dec. 26, 2000, 11:19 a.m. CST
by GEEKBASHER 3.0
I did not care for any of the actors or charecters, although I do admit, it could have been allot worse, but still, I felt like it could have been DIRECT TO VIDEO and I probably would have enjoyed it allot more, with all the movies out, sitting in Dracula 2000 felt like a Waste of Time, Jennifer Episito did make a kick ass Fierce Vampire Chick, other then that, It was Tripe material with awful acting and lame charecters.........Haven't seen Cast Away yet, does it suck or is it really as good as everyone says it is? P>S THE TRAILER FOR SOLE SURVIOVERS IS THE WORST PIECE OF SHIT TRAILER...WHY?? WHY??? WHY???
Dec. 26, 2000, 11:26 a.m. CST
by Toe Jam
This is like the fifth or sixth time I've had to bitch about this! In the immortal words of Ralph Wiggum: "Me fail English? That's unpossible!"
Dec. 26, 2000, 12:28 p.m. CST
But that's just me, I guess.
Dec. 26, 2000, 2:28 p.m. CST
i could agree more. it is hard to compare the coen brother's films to others. they operate on another level. i enjoy being one of the few in on the secret.
Dec. 26, 2000, 2:31 p.m. CST
i couldn't agree more. it is hard to compare the coen brother's films to others. they operate on another level. i enjoy being one of the few in on the secret.
Dec. 26, 2000, 3:27 p.m. CST
Of course it is not "Country" nor "Roots of Country" It is officially called "Bluegrass", and besides myself I know of dozens of others that listen to it on a regular basis other than rock, classical, whatever. I cannot wait to see "O Brother Where Art Thou". Even if I have not been very impressed with any other Coen projects, this one was made for me. By the way...did anyone else know that Cannibal The Musical is also based off Homer's The Odyssey as this film was?
Dec. 26, 2000, 3:57 p.m. CST
Actually, 0007, bluegrass as a term did not exist until Bill Monroe came along and invented it with the song Mule Skinner Blues in 1938, which didn't become popular until 1940 or so. No, the real question is whether the Soggy Bottom Boys are based at all on an existing group. I mean, "Tommy" Johnson is in the film. Also, Moriarty mentioned there being an allusion to the Lotus Eaters from the Odyssey in Oh Brother, but I couldn't figure that one out. I was stretching to connect the two "smokeout" scenes to Scylla and Charybdis, but I don't really think they're related. So... where's the Lotus Eaters?
Dec. 26, 2000, 5:30 p.m. CST
by Mr Glass
what was Brother about? it's about hicks! Hicks talking funny! I think it deserves an oscar for best rednecks. This movie was dumb. Fargo and Raising Arizona were infinitely better than this piece of drab crap. OOHHH george clooney playing george clooney with an alabaman accent. this movie blew. and so did Big Lebowski and come to think of it so did Hudsucker proxy. More FARGO! PLEASE!
Dec. 26, 2000, 6:10 p.m. CST
I haven't seen "O Brother" yet, but I can't wait until it finally shows up in our backwoods theaters. A little "O Brother" FYI: Dan Tyminski did Clooney's singing for the film. He's a member of Alison Krauss's band Union Station, and he released his first solo album last year called, I think, "Carry Me Cross the Mountain." It's a kickass album, as far as bluegrass goes. So if you like "George's" singing in "O Brother," go check out Dan Tyminski's album. --firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 26, 2000, 7:24 p.m. CST
by Chad Piercewell
You can't expect every Coen brothers film to be some spectacular wow film like miller's crossing or fargo. Sometimes they can be of simpler pleasures, like O Brother. Deal with it.
Dec. 26, 2000, 11:45 p.m. CST
Thanks for giving us a REAL review of The Gift, one not done by some horny virgin fanboy. You are officially cooler than harry(not hard to do)
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:48 a.m. CST
by Studio Snitch
Why the fuck doesn't anyone ever mention "The Hudsucker Proxy"? I just don't get it. Sure, "Fargo" was a nice drama with goofy characters, "Raising Arizona" is piss your pants funny, but "Hudsucker" is absolutely flawless. It's just one of those films where it all comes together, and is a great satire of corporate America. I know it didn't really get released, but then again most of the Coen brothers films haven't exactly been b.o. champions even though they're great films. Anyways, "Hudsucker", I feel, really stands out amongst the Coen boys' work, and deserves a second look, or in most cases, a first. It has well rounded characters, plenty of long term pay-offs (as while as a lot of in the moment kind of jokes), great production design and vlaue, magnificently manipulative cinematography, and one of the best supporting casts ever put on screen. Plus, Jennifer Jason Leigh is the leading lady.
Dec. 27, 2000, 4:51 a.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
Studio Snitch, I like THE HUDSUCKER PROXY quite a bit. It's a film I got tired of having the fight about with people, though. I saw the film at a test screening originally, and I'll admit... it made a difference. I went into it cold, no poster with Tim Robbins brandishing a Hula Hoop dancing in my head. No, when I saw it, I had no idea what he meant each time he held up his circle and said, "You know... for kids!" It was a great joke, and the final revelation of the Hula Hoop brought the house down. The audience went berserk for it. If you'd been at that test screening (and Robbins and JJLeigh and the Coens and Joel Silver all were), you would have thought they had the year's biggest film on their hands. These weren't rabid Coen fans, like at the opening night of one of their movies, either. This was the same kind of random crowd of demographic faces that get pulled for every test screening. That film worked, and the only thing that changed was one joke -- one beautiful, achingly funny joke -- got cut because it shocked the audience. During the montage of people using the Hula Hoop with the cheesy narrator voice, there was one additional cut. Right after they show Mom using the Hula Hoop while she does housework, there was a cut to an obvious soundstage jungle, a few plants and a rented lion standing behind men in blackface and bad b-movie costuming. "Even in darkest Africa, our friend the Negro has discovered the joys of the Hula Hoop!" Absolute silence from the audience after the joke. But how many test screenings have you seen where there was literally only one cosmetic snip between that film and the finished picture? I blame Warner Bros. for killing the movie by not knowing how to sell it. I definitely still adore the film and all its absurdity and beauty. Glad to see you enjoy it, as well.
Dec. 28, 2000, 6:49 a.m. CST
by half vader
Jee-zuss, man! "He's"??? You call yourself a writer who's sold a script? You can call yourself a BIT of a pro when you learn to check your own work. Then again, maybe you are fairly respectable as scriptwriters go these days, considering that patronising garbage like Godzilla and Armageddon can get to the screen and earn over 100 million domestic.;) ________________Here's my vote for Hudsucker. Although Bridges' lethargic performance was so complete it seemed to slow the pace of the film itself, I loved HP from start to finish. Raising Arizona is a work of genius, and as time passes it only goes to prove that Sonnenfeld stole everything he (half-)learned from the Coens. Some cinematographers should just be put down when they get the 'DP bug".
Dec. 28, 2000, 1:54 p.m. CST
by movie prose
Excuse me for failing to proofread a few, hastily fired off lines to Talk Back. I guess I'll just turn in my WGA card at the front desk. Guys like you get a real hard-on when you can point out a few typos in a public forum, as if to suggest the writer "can't write" -- especially when he's declared himself to be a pro. I've read Academy Award winning screenplays with the same typos or stumbles in grammar. They are not intentional; the writer obviously knows better... and guess what? We're fucking human, okay? Get over yourself.
Dec. 28, 2000, 4:03 p.m. CST
It seems almost laughable that someone who touts themselves as a successful screenwriter tells someone else to get over themselves. Are you so insecure that you need to state your qualifications before you express an opinion? I'm not going to give you too hard a time, but, just so you know, your tooting of your own horn seems a bit of a turnoff. I personally am looking forward to the Gift greatly. Its Raimi's first chance to make a Raimi movie since a Simple Plan. For Love of the Game obviously confined him (and I didn't think it was that bad, feel free to flame me). I'm also no someone who disects a whodunnit while watching it trying to find out who is the perpatrator. Movies that have to many forced twists and turns (Wild Things, Reindeer Games) are horrid. I'd rather see a slightly sly take on it rather than a forced barrage of twists and turns. Raimi is a God, and if the Gift dissapoints me, I'll eat my words, but until that time...(And MProse, how do you see a movie thats not due out for several weeks? Sneak Preview?)
Dec. 28, 2000, 4:50 p.m. CST
by half vader
You were a bit hasty again, Prose. If you'll notice at the end of my little rant, there's a little "nudge nudge wink wink" fella.
Dec. 28, 2000, 6:40 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Just felt like pointing that out.
Dec. 28, 2000, 8:17 p.m. CST
by movie prose
Not to make too big a deal of this whole thing -- but the only reason I offered up my "credentials," was to give Talk Back readers a sense of where I was coming from. If that is perceived as arrogance, or a "turn-off," then so be it. I'm very picky when it comes to this genre, because it's been (no pun intended) done to death. And not too many writers and directors have the skills to camouflage the killer(s) in these pieces. It calls for very subtle writing and directing. The slightest anomaly in character and casting just plain simply calls attention to itself. Red herrings can't be too red and the real killer(s) can't be too obvious. A successful script of this nature is far more difficult to construct than most people give credit for. It's a constant tightrope walk to fake out the viewer. And, yes, part of the fun of watching these films is to figure out who the killer is before the info is given to you. If the film outsmarts you, then you respect it. If you figure it out too early, then it's a little transparent, don't you think? Just because it's a Sam Raimi film or a Wes Craven film, or whoever, doesn't mean that it's a home run. There are people on this Talk Back bitching about Zemeckis' "What Lies Beneath." He's a very well regarded director, but he's not infallible when it comes to directing within a new genre. If I'm going to dissect a whodunnit plot -- unfavorably -- I'd like people to understand that I'm somewhat experienced in doing so, because I have walked in the writer's shoes. I've also read and seen most of the films in this genre, and I think I have some perspective on what works and what doesn't. But, at the end of the day, it's just MY opinion. Also, if I really wanted to name drop and blow my horn, I'd offer up some credits and names of people I'm presently working with. By the way, I never claimed to be "successful," but rather a professional -- meaning someone who has been paid for his work in this field. To answer your question, being a WGA member, I have access to early voting screenings of most films vying for Academy and guild attention. I actually enjoyed Raimi's "For Love of the Game" and rate it a better movie than "The Gift." We'll just have to wait and see what your reaction is to the film.
Jan. 1, 2001, 3:44 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
I fuckin' love that movie. By far the most atmospheric of all the Coen Bros. movies. I saw it as a study, and before it we watched scenes from early screwball comedies so we could get an idea of what the movie was going for. And the guy who mentioned the "blackface" joke...I can see how that would have been taken out. But then again...it was an atmospheric movie, and I would've liked to see that scene.
Jan. 1, 2001, 3:45 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
I may be missing something big, but I didn't notice any reference to the Lotus Eaters while watching the movie.
Jan. 19, 2001, 10:44 p.m. CST
What Moriarty, along with every other reviewer of this movie has made the mistake of doing is assuming that the Tommy Johnson character is actually a reference to Robert Johnson. This is not necessarily the case. Robert Johnson is famous for having said he sold his soul to the devil, but he was not by any means the only blues singer to have claimed it. There was a real bluesman named Tommy Johnson, no relation to Robert Johnson, who said this: "If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and your go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there be sure to get there just a little before 12 that night so you know you'll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself. A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it. And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. That's the way I learned to play anything I want." So, there is a very high probability that the Coens had Tommy Johnson in mind, not Robert. Although, there is a shot in the movie, when Tommy is playing the guitar, when he crosses one leg over the other and looks very much like the only existing photo of Robert Johnson. So, most likely, that much is an homage.
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