not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake
nothings

movie log

  • Excess Baggage
  • Nashville
  • Wonder Boys
  • Amelie
  • Run Lola Run
  • Less Than Zero
  • The Grifters
  • North by Northwest
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight

Excess Baggage

Romantic comedy where grotesquely-made-up Alicia Silverstone is accidentally kidnapped by Benicio del Toro. One of my many online hangouts is seemaxrun, the personal web site of the screenwriter who wrote the original screenplay for Excess Baggage. The movie preserves two crucial funny moments (the circumstances of the car theft, and the outcome of the discovery of what's in the trunk), but throws away the double meaning of "excess baggage"--the protagonist having to come to terms with the men in her life--and introduces some throwaway hoodlums simply so there's someone to take the fall at the end. (The original screenwriter had to fight to get her name on the movie, it had been rewritten so much.) Rating (-4 to 4): 0

Nashville

24 people in Nashville get up to various stuff. About the only appealing thing here is that the actors wrote and performed the music themselves. Otherwise, I just don't get it. Sure, it captures a fairly realistic tone, with people talking over each other, things that happen but are never explained--but to me, largely because of that, it lacks a story. And, lacking a story, I'm left with... huh? What? Why did I watch this? A bunch of not-that-exciting-stuff--woo look, it's Elliot Gould--woo look, this guy seduces this woman and she's clueless that she's just a notch--and... so what? Insights into the music business? No. Insights into what a real slice-of-life is? No, too over-the-top. Plus I had to fast-forward through most of the songs, since I don't really like country music--despite lots of reviews from people saying they didn't mind the songs despite not liking country music. And hey look, another Altman commentary track that frequently denigrates his collaborators. Rating (-4 to 4): -2

Wonder Boys

Michael Douglas is a writer/teacher and Tobey Maguire is a writer/student. Lo and behold, Michael Douglas doesn't try to steal Tobey's book and claim it for himself. Instead of having writer's block! There are some slighly funny bits, but a lot of things don't add up, and the ending is just too clean and simple. An anti-drug message with no apparent consistency with the story (Douglas argues that his drug usage can't be having the effect someone is worried about, convincingly; but then later caves). Yay to finally seeing Frances McDormand in a significant non-Coen Brothers role. Rating (-4 to 4): -1

Amelie

A free-spirit attempts to return some discovered toys to their rightful owner. Fun acting with a good balance in making the two leads kinda freaky but not over the top. The lawn gnome annoyed me, but I'll make a separate post about it. In-your-face directing that makes sense and really adds to the movie--reminded me of Fight Club in that, oddly enough. Rating (-4 to 4): 3

Run Lola Run

A woman has twenty minutes to find the money to save her boyfriend's life. Energetic, but the movie sags the third time around, despite the attempts to shift things. The bizarre casino sequence, and the sense that Lola is inducing miracles, seems an inappropriate change, although some of the other variations are nice. And the whole some-things-carry-over-from-cycle-to-cycle didn't work for me. When Lola at the very end is so tired and feeling put-upon, despite not having gone through anything that horrific in this cycle, it just seemed out of place to me, but the commentary track fingers that as explicitly intended to be her bearing the weight of all three cycles. Oh well. Neat idea, mostly fun execution. Rating (-4 to 4): 2

Less than Zero

Huh, how did this get on my list? Robery Downey Jr. and Andrew McCarthy do drugs and party and get off the drugs and die, just because. Rating (-4 to 4): -2

The Grifters

Angelica Huston and John Cusack are estranged mother and son, both grifters, making money from scams. Ok, for some reason Angelica Huston looked way old to me in this movie, when in practice she was in fact just about 14 years older than Cusack. Huston's initial scam is very poorly explained--after showing it to test audiences,, they added in a Scorsese monologue explaining the situation, but even that isn't really enough, and I wonder how they didn't figure this out before showing it to test audiences. Similarly, Annette Benning's initial "scam" isn't explained at all; was she going to seduce the jewelry store guy into buying the thing from her? Her later "scam" with the landlord just amounted to prostitution, plain and simple. Her character didn't really ever work for me, which is a problem when her actions become a crucial plot point. And why couldn't Huston just settle for, oh, half of the money? Well, because that's not what happened in the book, I guess. Rating (-4 to 4): 0

North by Northwest

Cary Grant is misidentified by villains as a spy, and his attempts to discover the truth lead him to Eva Marie Saint. This is a weird mix: manipulative screenplay machinations which feel likes cliches (but maybe this is where they came from), like pulling the knife out, like the fact that the misidentification is never double-checked ("how do you guys know it was him?" "we paged Kaplan, and he raised his hand" "I didn't raise my hand because I was Kaplan, I raised my hand to ask to send a telegram. Go ask the bellboy!"), fun set pieces, sexual banter that doesn't quite work, even accounting for the era, some great one liners ("...and two bartenders"). Worse yet, there was a horrible plot hole that made absolutely no sense to me, which through me totally out of the movie, and I sat there going, "but this is Hitchcock, he wouldn't screw up something like this". And after the movie was over I talked it over with ifmud's resident movie-know-it-all, and we worked it through, and it turns out that, given a twist that comes later in the movie, the plot "hole" isn't a plot hole at all: it's easy to explained what must have happened off-camera for it to work. (Or not even off-camera--on-camera, but off-microphone.) But without knowing the twist, it really just seems like a plot hole [details below].) Rating (-4 to 4): 2

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Geena Davis is an eight-year-amnesiac super-spy who thinks she's a schoolteacher and a mom; Samuel Jackson is the crooked PI who helps her investigate her past. Together, they fight crime! I had wondered what ever happened to Shane Black, screenwriter of the Lethal Weapon movies; well, here it is. It shows all the signs of having been written: Samuel Jackson has several quirks which never really matter ("put the keys in my left pocket; put the gun in my right" to the tune of "Bad to the Bone"; going out of his way to check out breasts; etc.); there are some cute set pieces--the thin ice, the telephone company hold-up, the water torture, even the food chopping scene. But it also feels cliched and by the numbers--the excessive body count, the way Samuel gets blown through a sign and into some trees without breaking any bones, the way he survives close-up gunfire to live to fight another day, the way Geena is put on ice instead of being outright killed so that, meta-fictionally, she has a chance to escape (an attempt at fictional justification is made, but since they're just going to shoot Samuel, and the two of them are linked, it doesn't make any sense)... And the denouement is just too simple. Rating (-4 to 4): 1

semi-spoiler for North by Northwest

The bad guys think Thornhill is Kaplan. They want to lure him into a trap. Thornhill claims he's not Kaplan, and claims he needs to talk to Kaplan. Eva Marie Saint says she'll handle calling Kaplan and setting things up for Thornhill, and she comes back saying that Kaplan said to meet him at the cropdusting scene. Now, looking at things from the point of view of the bad guys, as represented by Eva Marie Saint: there's this guy who claims he's not Kaplan, but we know he's Kaplan. He claims to want to meet Kaplan; so we'll set up a fake meeting and tell him Kaplan said to meet him there. BUT, if we, the bad guys, think he's Kaplan, we should expect him to be rather suspicious of a message from Kaplan! In fact, we would never expect Kaplan to fall for a trap whose premise is "Kaplan asked you to come meet him". But that's what they seem to do. However, given the true nature of whom the mole in Vandamm's organization is, it is plausible that the mole--who knows Thornhill isn't Kaplan--can manage to tell Thornhill that Kaplan wants to meet him, while telling the rest of the bad guys that Kaplan is going to, oh, meet some other contact. But the mole has to be in exactly the right place at the right time. So if I had been really on the ball--if I had assumed "this can't possibly be a plot hole, there must be an explanation", I might have been able to figure out who the mole was in that scene.

end semi-spoiler

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