Hey folks, Harry here... I'm in the process of writing up my own take on SNATCH, having seen it 3 times now in totally different situations each time, but I'll address one thing here. Alexandra DuPont draws a parallel that SNATCH is to LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELLS as CASINO is to GOODFELLAS.... And ya know, that's quite apt. GOODFELLAS is for me a brilliant film, but CASINO is the more entertaining for me. Which I am nearly positive isn't her take, as quite a few people hate CASINO like they do a reformed pedophile in a public park on Easter Sunday. I'll go into it deeper in my own review... as for A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, if you have never seen the film, then you have never experienced the brilliance of Richard Lester and THE BEATLES... An amazing film... the long lonely walks of Ringo in the film, sad and melancholy reflections upon the loss of anonymity and the respect of one's friends.... This film is HISTORY that you enjoy the hell out of. Hasn't aged a moment for me. Now, here's Alexandra DuPont...
Oh, how I loathe the holidays; it's perfectly potty to be back after a brief absence. Here are a couple of quick, capsulized reviews to help me "shake the rust out" or "blow the carbs," as it were. I also have some rather exciting personal news at the end of this dispatch.
WHY IT MATTERS: The success or failure of this provocatively titled Guy Ritchie film will prove if the ersatz-Tarantino-Brit caper-movie genre has any legs. (It should: "Snatch" packs a wallop.)
PLAYS LIKE: Ritchie's earlier, marvelous ersatz-Tarantino-Brit caper movie "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" -- only sleeker and quite a bit more ambitious structurally.
THE STORY: Remember the farcical structure of "Lock, Stock"? You know -- multiple criminal gangs with overlapping agendas pursue a bag of money, with everything tying together at the end as if you'd just watched an episode of "Seinfeld" directed by Sam Peckinpah? Well, take that basic plot frame; expand the geography; add a fist-sized diamond and rigged boxing matches in place of a money bag and a gambling debt; season generously with some exceptionally clever structural and editing tricks; remove some of the zest of seeing this sort of film for the first time; and you're starting to get the idea. All in all, not a bad night at the movies. Not bad at all.
FUN FACT: There's a Madonna reference, natch: "Lucky Star" plays on a car radio at one point. (Maybe that isn't such a "fun fact," actually. The info on Vinnie Jones' football career, listed below, is probably quite a bit more fun.)
THE UPSHOT: Worthy of its advance buzz. If "Lock, Stock" was Ritchie's "Reservoir Dogs," this is his "Pulp Fiction."
WHAT'S GOOD: I get into a few of my favorite scenes below, but I think my favoritest thing about "Snatch" was the rich, playful texture of its storytelling -- the utter confidence with which it plays with film language. Scenes are cut out of order and still make perfect sense; 20-odd characters are juggled with minimal confusion (though some variation in the buzz haircuts would have been nice); scenes are interrupted with footnote-like visual illustrations.... I should note that this movie also has one of my favorite depictions of semi-unconsciousness of all time; look for it during a climactic boxing match.
The performances are numerous and skillful; I'll name a few favorites. Brad Pitt takes supporting-role billing as a "pikey" (read: gypsy) boxer with a damn-near indecipherable Irish (?) accent. It's as if Tyler Durden had joined the cast of "Riverdance," and it's great fun. As nasty crime boss Brick Top, Alan Ford comes off like Jack Palance clad in bug-eye glasses, crossed with Albert Finney, and then morphed slightly in Photoshop. (You'll see what I mean.) Dennis Farina doesn't act; he behaves. And of course there's soccer star Vinnie Jones, a notorious member of Wimbledon's "Crazy Gang" and a "hard man" for other footy clubs, a man known in real life for his crunching tackles and vicious grabbing of Paul Gascoigne's nethers: As in "Lock, Stock," Jones plays a fearsome, charismatic enforcer -- only this time around, there no urchin sidekick.
Seriously. I could go on and on. It's a true ensemble film, solid from nave to chaps.
FAVORITE SCENE: Hard to narrow down. There are funny and/or tense scenes at the gypsy camp; there's an extraordinary, temporally rearranged sequence involving discarded milk, a hooded man getting creamed by a car, and multiple auto crashes; there's a boxing match that, editing-wise, gives "Raging Bull" a respectable run for its money; there's Vinnie Jones comparing weaponry with a pack of poseurs; there's that bit with the squeaking dog; there's a botched robbery at a bookie den; there's the rollicking "dramatis personae" montage in the first few minutes.... You get the idea. Suffice to say, the movie's a dense collage of excellence -- a real meal.
FAVORITE LINE: Also hard to narrow down. Probably something unintelligible muttered by Brad Pitt in his "pikey" dialect.
WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD: Were this an SAT simile test, I'd argue that "Snatch" is to "Lock, Stock" as "Casino" is to "Goodfellas." Scorcese got an unfair amount of mixed reviews for "Casino" because it explored the inner lives of hoods using many of the same "Goodfellas" actors in similar roles -- and so was the Master accused of repeating himself. That charge has already been leveled against "Snatch" -- and it probably sticks better in Ritchie's case -- but, as with "Casino," "Snatch" is provocative, well-crafted entertainment when taken on its own merits. (Also, I won't hesitate to point out, "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" is essentially a remake of "Evil Dead." There IS a precedent for this being not such a terrible thing.) That said, to hijack a friend's post-film wisecrack, Ritchie had better adapt "Mansfield Park" or something next -- otherwise, he's going to be accused of being in the most intricately constructed rut in film history.
Also: I'd like to have seen more of the gloriously weird Benicio Del Toro. I didn't even get a chance to figure out his accent.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Enthusiastic; solid word-of-mouth predicted, though UK accents may be a bit thick for Joe Sixpack at the Kansas City Multiplex.. Film-snob friends in attendance said "Lock, Stock" was better, or at least nearly identical in structure and tone. They're not entirely wrong, but my dear relative the retired federal agent -- who hadn't seen "Lock, Stock" -- found "Snatch" incredibly entertaining. As did I.
WHY YOU, THE YOUNGISH AICN READER, SHOULD SEE THIS: Oh, you shouldn't: It's bloody and laced with profanity and makes criminals seem sympathetic.... oh, never mind.
II: A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (remastered)
WHY IT MATTERS: Because this digitally restored print -- making the rounds of small theaters before it heads to DVD courtesy of Miramax -- is arguably the most important pop-music film ever made. Also, it's charming and funny and odd and merits study.
PLAYS LIKE: One of those silly camcorder movies you used to make with your friends in high school, only with a killer soundtrack and tight jump-cut editing and lovely black-and-white cinematography and a multi-million-dollar budget and with The Beatles as your friends.
THE STORY: Story? Well, um, The Beatles (playing themselves in a sort of Surrealist alternate reality) are making their way to a TV appearance. Most likely because the filmmakers weren't confident The Beatles could act, the Fab Four are accompanied everywhere by good cop/bad cop managers (Norman Rossington, John Junkin) and Paul's grandfather, a "right mixer," liar and all-around nasty rascal played to bared-teeth perfection by Wilfrid Brambell. En route to the TV appearance, the lads flirt with girls, get chased by fans and bobbies, spar cleverly with authority figures and play several songs you've heard a million times already, only in remastered digital stereo.
FUN FACT: Brambell played the patriarch in "Steptoe and Son," the British-TV predecessor of "Sanford and Son."
THE UPSHOT: "A Hard Day's Night," crafted 37 years ago by director Richard Lester ("Superman II" and, alas, "III") is considered a landmark rock film -- and justifiably so -- but looking at it in the post-MTV era is both unnerving and instructive. Music-video-weaned brats will no doubt consider the movie a complete shambles: The "plot" is meandering at best; the comedy bits are often labored and anticlimactic; really, the whole thing's just damned silly -- particularly today, in an era when rock stars are more obsessed with looking "authentic" and cool than they are with looking funny and smart.
But I've seen this twice in the past six months, once on a now-defunct DVD release, and I have to say: Even though I respect The Beatles more than I actually like them, I simply can't withstand their mechanized charm assault. By the end of "Hard Day's Night," when the lads finally get on TV after chasing a glum Ringo around London, I just had a big, stupid grin on my face. Also, afterward, I began listening obsessively to that "Beatles 1" CD, damn it.
WHAT'S GOOD: The Beatles themselves, who are, to a lad, just appallingly clever and well-dressed and charming and sort of ugly-sexy (well except for Paul, who's pretty-sexy). Paul McCartney always looks like he's having fun; John Lennon gets all the best lines; Ringo can actually act; and George, though he looks like he's on a hunger strike, has my favorite scene (see below). I mean, really -- could you see U2 pulling this movie off? They'd stop in mid-chase and lecture their gasping teenage fans about the abuses of the Pinochet regime, then declare themselves political prisoners when the bobbies caught them.
Props also to Richard Lester for moving things at such a giddy clip, employing jump-cuts, marvy compositions and weird angles to great effect. "A Hard Day's Night," for all its minor flaws, is a lot like "Airplane!" in that its effect is cumulative: It quickly moves to the next diversion, surprising you all the while and building a sort of gleeful momentum; in the process, Lester's film captures the springtime joy of youth, friendship and early rock and roll.
FAVORITE SCENE: George Harrison wandering into the offices of a middle-aged marketing executive who thinks he's got his finger on the pulse of "what all the kids are talking about." Harrison's calm dismissal of the white-bread celebrities and clothes this yobbo promotes is priceless -- and timeless.
FAVORITE LINE: Reporter: "So, how do you find America?" John Lennon: "Turn left at Greenland."
WHAT'S NOT-SO-GOOD: Some clunker gags; the seemingly umpteenth time you've heard "She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah)" (particularly the "Yeah Yeah Yeah" part).
AUDIENCE RESPONSE: Warm, sustained applause at the end. The Fab Four can still claim their victims.
WHY YOU, THE YOUNGISH AND PROBABLY UNINTERESTED AICN READER, SHOULD SEE THIS: Because you'll finally know what they were ripping off in the opening credits of "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery."
III. FUN LINK(S) AND SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: I'M A PUBLISHED
Still reading? God bless you. I've a rare personal anecdote.
The most profound advice I've received in the past year undoubtedly came from my bio-dad. We were chatting in his Spartan dwelling, a converted convenience store; on the table before him was (a) a piece of work from my "day job" and (b) a few pages from an aborted comic-book story I was showing to people in lieu of actually finishing it.
He put his hand on the corporate work. "You know," he said, "if you didn't do this, someone else would step in and do it instead." Then he put his hand on the aborted comic-book story: "But NO ONE's going to do this if you don't." A pause. "So THIS" -- the comic -- "is what you should be doing."
Too true. To that end, I am returning to my first love, cartooning, and have already scored my first gig: a five-page story in the back of the snazzy ODDJOB #6, to be published in a couple of months by Slave Labor Graphics. (If you want to learn more about ODDJOB, visit the comic's Web site at www.spiral-city.com.) Anyway, my tale's titled "The End of Oddity," and features the ODDJOB cast, only aged 20 years (and occasionally massacred). You can check out six preview images from the strip by visiting this address:
An image or three may (or may not) be pasted below, as well.
Your humble and abiding servant,