Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 6

Warming my fingers up.  Writing project is going well.  Got nearly 17000 words in, which might or might not be a lot, but it's longest I've written on one project in about four years.  Feeling good.  Managing to stay away from TV and social media (more success, I'll admit, with the former, than the latter).  I'm off a couple days in a row.  My last day off, I did 4100 words.  My goal for the next couple of days is 5500 words.  November's tough...Thanksgiving and whatnot.  Still, I want to continue to give this one an honest try.

Anyway, like I said, I'm just warming my fingers up.  Coffee and toast have been procured.  Just want to write a few words about my continuing project, which has me up to the F's now, with my writing somewhere around the C's....

Cabin Fever  (2002, D: Eli Roth)

I'm not as high on this one as I used to be.  I still like it, as a dark-as-hell comedy.  The "Pancakes" bit still mesmerizes me.  I don't know.  It's not that I don't have the stomach for gore and grossout, except that sometimes, I don't, I guess.  I don't get grossed out by it, except for the sheer quantity of it.  It's like that old Kael line about Rain Man being Dustin Hoffman humping one note on the piano.  That's a lot of the way I end up feeling about this movie.  It has a lot to offer, and it just didn't hold up for me this time.  It had been four or five years since I'd sat to watch.  It may end up being culled, the next time I make a run to Mckay's.

Caddyshack   (1980, D: Harold Ramis)

This has been one of the great turnaround movies for me.  I used to not see the appeal.  There were funny gags...the Baby Ruth in the swimming pool is still great.  But for whatever reason, it never hit the nail on the head for me.  Wandered across this one in a $3 bin at the drugstore one night, and took another chance.

It still doesn't completely get it right, but I like it.  Chevy Chase's performance still drives me nuts...I've never researched it, but the Chevy Chase/Bill Murray scene in Carl Spackler's domicile feels like nails on a chalkboard, and it makes me feel like that scene was written with somebody else in mind.  Aykroyd?  Belushi?  I can't say...I just know that Chase's scenes in with anybody but Ted Knight don't work for me.  Still--you're a tremendous slouch--those two are great together.  I can't say what the turnaround for me has been.  Maybe it's realizing that the characterizations for people in the comic setup are strong, and truer to life than I'd realized.  Maybe Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield are cartoons, but they're believable cartoons within the framework.  I'm not going to call Caddyshack the greatest comedy, or the greatest sports movie like others want to claim it.  I did enjoy it.

Captain America    (2011, D: Joe Johnston)

Another turnaround flick for me.  I didn't see this one in the theater--the Captain America character never did much for me.  I got it from Netflix when it came out, and watched it at home one night, probably after a particularly pissy day at work.  I'm thinking that, because I did not care for the movie.  Not a bit.

At the behest of a couple other folks who loved it, I watched again, cognizant of my own ability to poorly judge a movie given a bad frame of mind when I watched.

I was crazy wrong.  In the time since, of the round 1 Marvel movies, this ranks right up there with Iron Man, and I might even think a little better of it in the long run.

A small thing I've noted.  I hadn't seen Captain America on the big screen, prior to 2012, when they did a Marvel movie marathon leading up to The Avengers.  Captain America is a weird one, in that it plays better on the small screen, than the big screen.  I don't know why, but I have a theory around Rogers' personality, and Evans' understated performance....

Little things I love:  the CGI for pre-super-soldier Steve Rogers is great.  Hayley Atwell is absolutely fantastic as Agent Carter, and it pleases me to no end to know that ABC is doing an Agents of SHIELD/Agent Carter mini with her.  And Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones.  Which is fine by me.  I love Tommy Lee Jones.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier    (2014, D: Anthony & Joe Russo)

As much as I loathed the first Cap flick the first time I saw it (wrongly, may I add again), I loved this one.  Ended up going to see this one a couple times in the theater.  While the first flick was on the strength of the ensemble, I put this one more squarely on Evans.  The more I see this Cap character, the more I like his straight-forward, non conflicted view of himself.  There is a sadness there for being a man out of his time, but he refuses to be defined by that.  I especially like the notebook of things he's supposed to be catching up on.  I especially like when actual mental conflict does come into play for his character (Stark sowing the seeds of doubt for SHIELD in Avengers, when Cap realizes the Winter Soldier is Bucky...)  Evans plays those moments perfectly.

I hope that the folks will one day think a Black Widow movie would be strong enough to hold an audience.  Avengers is a fun, fun flick, and there's not much I have to gripe about, except I don't feel Whedon didn't get solid contact on the Black Widow character.  He got it mostly right, and maybe there's an idea there I'm wrong about.  Personally, of all the Phase 1 characters, I think hers is still the most mercenary.  I kept waiting, in this, one, for her to end up pulling an Ultimate Marvel move, and betraying Cap (like she did Iron Man, in the Ultimate comics line).

Cedar Rapids   (2011, D: Miguel Arteta)

I love this movie.  LOVE.  An oddly Altman feel, for atmosphere, if not dialogue.  I love the creation of a microcosm, in this insurance game get together.  I like the Big Fish, the Small Fish, the folks learning and playing their parts in this entirely created society.

This movie, by the way, makes me wish I had a window into Step Brothers/Cedar Rapids/Dr. Steve Brule John C. Reilly's Universe, that I could look into all the time.

There is a logic to silly.  I wish I could explain it better than using that phrase there.  There is a logic to silly, that a truly silly user can follow.  To the outsider, it looks like random jumps with no sense to them.  There is a flow, and a logic that can often be seen after the fact.  Some of the best silly is like a detective story, when you get to an end, and you suddenly realize where the curveballs were.  John C. Reilly is good at silly.

I really dig Ed Helms, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock, Jr, and John C. Reilly as a quartet.  I would like those four to make more movies together.

Chasing Amy   (1997, D: Kevin Smith)

I'm all about the Kevin Smith.  I know this is one of his most celebrated flicks.  It just doesn't hold up for me.  It'll survive any culls I make, just because I dig Kevin Smith's work.  It just doesn't work well for me.  On the performance level. On the writing level.  On the humor level.  On the level of truth.

Not that it's dishonest.

It's that it's inexperienced.  Naive?

I dunno.

I'd be willing to hear thoughts on this one.

I'd especially be interested to sit down and talk to Kevin Smith about his thoughts on it, 17 or 18 years later.

Chinatown    (1974, D: Roman Polanski)

I first saw this one sitting in an Intro to Motion Pictures class way back at MTSU.  I was mesmerized then, and still am.  Had to put this one on the Big TV to watch.  Great flick.  I don't have anything to add, except that when Noah Cross mispronounces Jake Gittes's name, I smile every time, since the very same professor who taught that class made a point of mispronouncing my last name ever class I took from him, not for the same reasons, mostly because he and I had a good chat about it after watching the flick....which makes me think I should get back in touch with Dr. Badger, and see what he's up to...)

A Christmas Story   (1983, D: Bob Clark)

Can we talk about Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon for a second?  And how they perfectly play the cartoon versions of Ralphie's memory of his father and mother?  How I have no doubt that in a real world version, they would be roughly 2/3 to 3/4 as loud, as grandiose in some parts, but 25% louder in others?  How somehow, they are vaudeville versions of Ralphie's parents, without being too Vaudeville about it?  Again.  There's a subtlety to being silly.  Clark, at the very least gets it enough to move Dillon and McGavin in that direction, if they don't get it themselves.  However, I suspect that they do, on some level or another.


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