Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

And the Oscar Goes to…

So it’s my favorite night of the year and it’s coming to an end.  For me at least, for all those fools that won some big award it’s only just begun.  That’s right, on my way home from my friend’s house, I passed many men and women in fancy attire sliding glamorously out of black SUVs.  I said it last year, and I’ll say it again, it’s the weirdest thing to live in L.A. on Oscar Night.  Really it’s the weirdest thing to live in Hollywood.  

So here’s how my day went.  I got to work at like 8:30 (I traded shifts so I could get off in time to watch the ceremony).  Starting at about 8:35 the celebs started to pour into the bookstore.  John Waters, Randy Quaid, the guy nominated for best animated short, all milling around booksoup looking for books to read in the three hour limo line they have to wait in before getting out on the red carpet.  
Well, needless to say I was antsy and when 4:30 rolled around, I got my pizza and my beer and headed over to my friend Dan’s house to enjoy the festivities.  It must be said that Dan lives on Sunset and La Brea, the Oscars are on Hollywood and Highland.  Basically, he lives about three blocks away.  So as I was driving to his house I saw the good year blimp, a few dozen helicopters an lights lights lights.  
I also said this last year, but what I really love about the Academy Awards is that they remind me of why I love film so much.  This year, being the 80th Anniversary there were film clips of all the actors, actresses, directors and best pictures that came before these 80th ones.  These were my cry moments.  Watching Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Barbara Streisand, etc. in their moment of Oscar glory definitely brought more than one tear to my eye.  I thought that those video tributes were great.  
Before I go into highlights I must say that in the days leading up to Oscar I’d been talking with people about how excited I was, many of these people either work in the industry or want to work in the industry (i.e. they are writers who haven’t written anything…or anything good).  And there was one, rather appalling, trait these people had in common.  They all seem to disdain the Academy Awards.  Now this actually seems to permeate throughout many of the people I’ve met who work in and around Hollywood (not the city).  A lot of people who work in the industry seem to fucking hate movies.  Maybe they just like to put on a front, maybe they’re jealous, I don’t know, but I think that a love of film is a must for people who work in film.  Just my opinion, feel free to disagree.  Many of the people that I know hated almost every film that came out this year.  They hated No Country, they hated Juno, they hated There Will Be Blood, and I don’t care what you think of the actual story, but these are great films, they are indicative of great filmmaking.  I mean, whether or not you liked Juno, it combines excellent acting, an excellent script, and excellent direction.  Same goes for No Country For Old Men.  Same goes for Charlie Wilson’s War.  They are all great movies, it’s okay if you don’t like them.  I just never seem to get over the shock that so many people that work in or want to work in a certain industry would find such disdain for very talented people.  
Now the other thing that people were saying about the Academy Awards is that they are self-congratulatory bullshit.  Um, hello, it’s true.  But they are fun to watch.  I guess I have a problem with this too though.   I mean, this is essentially the film industry giving awards to excellence in film.  They also do this in literature, you may have heard of the Pulitzer or the Booker Prize.  So what, because it’s film it’s self-congratulatory.  Because people have more interest in seeing stars than in seeing Denis Johnson, the Oscars are not worth watching.  I’m sorry folks but that’s just the society we live in.  We all love watching the stars, we love watching them in their moment of Oscar Glory (and if you think about it there are only 4 acting awards so why are people so hot and bothered about actors patting each other on the back…actors are a small percentage of the people who vote for the Oscars).  I’m sorry, but again I have no patience.  The Oscars are a tradition, they’ve been around for 80 years now.  Just like teaching awards or world series champions, Oscar winners are (according to the Academy) the best in their profession, it just so happens that people like to watch these awards shows…and really is it surprising that the Awards show for Entertainment is Entertaining. That’s what I thought.
Now, on with the show.  Jon Stewart was amazing and hilarious and political, but not too political.  His joke about whenever a Black man or a Woman is President an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty, hilarious.  He brought up the writer’s strike, but didn’t alienate anyone, ehem producers, and welcomed everyone to enjoy Oscar night as the proverbial make up sex (though I’m sure later tonight there will be some not-so-proverbial make-up sex).  Katherine Heigel looked amazing, but shouldn’t have been there.  Amy Adams sang beautifully.  Kristen Chenoweth also sang beautifully and I love her so much, she’s so cute, but it was hard for me to watch her sing a Steven Schwartz song that wasn’t from Wicked, but oh well.  
The big upset of the night was Tilda Swinton winning Best Supporting Actress, which even I didn’t see coming.  I was pretty certain they would give it to Amy Ryan or Ruby Dee.  That being said Michael Clayton was the one movie I didn’t see this year so I can’t really talk.  In all honesty, I had the chance, I just didn’t quite care to see it.  
Some highlights of the best moments of the night.  When Marion Cotillard won I was super freaking excited, and, if you saw the looks on all the female actresses faces, they all thought she should’ve won too.  And it’s true.  I finally saw Away From Her last week.  Julie Christie was great, Marion was better.  She absolutely transformed herself.  It’s kind of crazy.  So anyway, exciting.  I loved that Dario Marianelli won for his Atonement score.  The movie is worth watching just for the score and the 5 minute plus oneshot that takes place on the beach in Dunkirk (not to mention it’s kind of good).  I loved that Helen Mirren ‘Knighted’ Daniel Day-Lewis when he won his Best Picture Oscar.  Of course I cried alot when Diablo Cody won.  And let’s take a moment for the poetry here.  The Academy is made up mainly of white men who are older than God.  Diablo Cody used to masturbate in front of people for money.  Thank you very much that’s called beauty.
Also, I love that they kept cutting to Laura Linney whenever a moving moment was happening.  What was that about?  I guess everyone else in the audience had botoxed beforehand so they didn’t have any expressions?  
I was definitely excited, but not shocked that Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis won.  Really, no one could touch them in this race, they were too good.  I also loved that the Coens were finally paid their dues.  They took home three Oscars.  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.  I’m sorry, they deserved it.  That movie was fantastic.  I also would like to add that I thought it was really cool that Cormac McCarthy was there.  If you don’t know, he’s normally a recluse.  But apparently he’s only a recluse when not going to the Oscars or the Oprah Winfrey Show, which, in a weird way, I totally respect.  
I loved that they let the lady who one for best song from Once back on the stage after they played her off.  I thought it was really classy of the Academy to let her make her little speech.  I mean, for many people you only win one so you’ve got to grab your moment. 
The most interesting moment to me was in the Best Picture category when Mr. Rudin who is generally known in Hollywood to be completely nuts came off as a really nice guy.  Apparently he’s a nice guy in his personal life, but there are stories of throwing laptops at assistants heads, leaving assistants on the side of the highway and saying you’re fired, walk home, etc. etc.  I always find it fascinating how people can have such a dual personality (this seems especially true in Hollywood).  
All in all it was a great Oscar ceremony.  My only disappointment was that Persepolis lost the Best Animated Feature category. It was amazing and so much better than Ratatouille (yes, I said it).  I loved watching the film actors try and fail to read off of a teleprompter.  I loved watching Diablo have her moment (I’d be lying if I said I always think that maybe someday I’ll have my moment up there on that stage).  Once again, I was reminded of why I love film.  It’s the moments where we truly celebrate how great this particular art can be.  So until next year remember, We’ll Always Have Paris, Good Night and Good Luck, Here’s Looking at You Kid, Hello Gorgeous, I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille, I’m Finished.  And if you didn’t like the Oscars then all I can say is Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. 
Peace, Love, and Little Naked Gold Men (who weigh a lot), 
Julia

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Music, Oprah Winfrey, Oscars, Parties | Leave a comment

Ding Dong the Strike is Done!

t’s finally over.  It only cost the city of Los Angeles $2 Billion.  And yes, the strike is done.  Everybody is going back to work, though, due to loss of funds, I gather not everybody is going back to work yet.  Also, I gather that many shows won’t be going back to work until July or August.  The negotiations finally came to a head about a week ago and the writers got a little more money and the producers got a bit of what they wanted…it was like a real life union meeting where things get done.  Now we just have to worry about the Actors who may very well go on strike in June (though they are already in negotiations).  We shall see, but until then, my favorite day of the year is on Sunday.  Sure, awards season has been ruined for the most part, but Sunday is the Oscars.  Hollywood Blvd. is shut down between Highland and La Brea, the red carpet is being laid out as we speak, the bleachers are up already.  And I have Sunday evening off.  

Never fear, my Oscar recap will be emailed out on Monday and I’ll be shedding a tear or two for my men the Coens who are sure to finally be recognized as the ridiculously talented filmmakers they are.  
Peace, Love, and Negotiation,

Julia

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles | Leave a comment

The Future has a way of Arriving Unannouced.

So I’ve been avoiding this topic seeing as it’s all sort of up in the air right now, but it has been eating at my brain and I’ve just got to get it out.  The topic is, of course, Oscars.  Now I really don’t know what’s going on with the Oscars, as far as I’ve heard right now they are on.  I know the Academy is trying to barter with the writers to let them happen without a hitch, if this doesn’t work, the Screen Actors Guild will not attend.  That means that there will be no movie stars at the Oscars.  They will still happen and be broadcast, but the presenters will basically be studio big wigs (a.k.a. the ugly people who no one wants to see, but who are in charge of getting movies made).  That’s what I know so far and no, there is no end in sight to the strike.  

But that is not what I want to talk about.  I’ve alluded to this topic before, but really this year there’s no avoiding it.  We need to discuss the fact that the indie film has triumphed at the Oscars.  In fact, this year more than any other, the indie film has triumphed in the box office as well as at the awards ceremonies.  Scrolling through the list of Oscar Nominations, there are maybe a handful of nominations in the big categories (that would be acting, writing, directing, and best picture) that are studio movies.  There are actually four to be exact (Johnny Depp, Best Actor for Sweeney Todd, Ruby Dee, Best Supporting Actress for American Gangster, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Best Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War, and Brad Bird for Best Original Screenplay for Ratatoullie).  
The past couple years have seen a big increase on the amount of independent films that have been nominated for Academy Awards (not to mention Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Directors Guild America Awards, etc).  Last year I believe I mentioned that there were an unprecedented amount of nominated indie films, but last year also had The Departed, Dreamgirls, Blood Diamond, etc, all of which were big studio movies.  This year, the only studio movies that had a shot were Charlie Wilson’s War and American Gangster (you know Ridley Scott thought he had the Oscars won, but alas, the times they are a-changing), both of which were good (I especially loved Charlie Wilson’s) it’s just that they weren’t great.  There’s just no competing with No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood.  
The big ‘Oscar’ movie this year was supposed to be Atonement.  It’s got everything an Oscar movie is supposed to be.  Sweeping romance, tragedy, a five+ minute steadicam shot through the beaches at Dunkirk (this shot alone is worth the price of admission), and a twist ending that leaves the audience both shocked and thoroughly gut-wrenched.  Atonement was compared to Titanic (which is still tied with All About Eve with the most nominations of all time; 14 to be exact), a decade old Oscar favorite, it was touted as the best picture of the year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (they give the Golden Globes), but come Oscar nomination time it garnered no nominations for acting or directing.  Now, I personally loved Atonement an think that Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy should have been nominated, but whatever, they wouldn’t have won anyway.  What really matters is that Atonement is an independent film.  Focus Features made it.  They made other indie favorites like Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation and Monsoon Wedding.  And this movie was being touted as an Oscar favorite.  
After the Golden Globes I was pretty certain Atonement would sweep for Oscar Nominations, though I didn’t think it would win a lot of them, I was sure it would be nominated in all major categories, but it wasn’t.  That means that films like Michael Clayton and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly made a showing in the big categories.  But the fact of the matter is this is the year where quality movie making finally matters.  It really matters, there aren’t any pity nominations (you know, the we snubbed you so many times we’re going to give it to you this time…hello, Martin Scorsese last year).  There aren’t any token big blockbuster nominations (which have been the staple for pretty much the entire life of the Academy).  This year, more than ever, it’s about quality. 
I’m not arguing that it wasn’t about quality before, it was just about quality and market appeal and money and all that stuff.  But this year too, the independent movie has made a bit of a comeback at the box office.  There’s always one or two indie films that are big hits at the box office, but this year it seems like most of them are holding steady at the box office.  Sure the winner is, hands down, Juno (which has recently surpassed the $100 million mark – pretty good for a film that only took $2 million to make), but No Country, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton all made a decent amount of money at the box office.  I think it’s finally getting to the point where America, on the whole appreciates a good film.  
So I’ll digress for just a moment and say that though I’m optimistic I heart a disturbing statistic the other day that stated the average American sees 7 films a year.  I want to know who these people are.  I see 7 films in a month or so.  I’m guessing the people who see 7 a year are the same people that made ‘Night at the Museum’ a huge financial success.  
Anyway, come oscar night there will be many certainties.  Daniel Day-Lewis, Diablo Cody, The Coen Brothers, Javier Bardem will all walk away with a golden statue (or they’ll have it sent to them, depending on what happens with the strike).  Best Picture is up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Atonement wins that (and I won’t be disappointed – I don’t think it was the Best Picture of the year, but I don’t know if the Academy has changed enough to give it to No Country for Old Men).  One more certainty this year: independent films have finally received the respect they deserve.  
Peace, Love, and Independent Cinema,

Julia

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies, Oscars | Leave a comment

Los Angeles Caucus

Ah, it’s election time again.  Time for the ceaseless advertisements in newspapers, on television, on huge billboards all over the city.  That’s right folks, it’s election time in L.A.
Oh wait, you thought I was talking politics.  No no, we don’t really like politics in L.A.  Sure we pretend to care.  We go out and buy hybrid Lexus SUVs when Al Gore tells us to.  We love what excellent stories are coming out of the cocked up Bush Administration (wait until he’s gone, there will be 8 trillion movies about what a fucking disaster that was).  But really, here in L.A., we could give a fuck about politics.  We don’t care about Iowa or New Hampshire because right now we’re having our own election coverage.  It’s awards season and it’s time to vote.  Now, it’s been a year since my last golden globe/oscar recaps and I still have yet to be allowed into the vote…patience dear friends, patience.  However, living in L.A. means I’m inundated with advertisements telling me how fucking fantastic every single film that is out right now is.  I’m pretty sure Juno, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Sweeney Todd are all the best movies of the year, as stated by every movie reviewer that has ever lived.

I never quite got how reviewers call every movie the best movie of the year.  Do you just not have discerning taste because I can pick which one I liked the best and I’ve seen all of them?  Is it the campaign funds?  Are the studios paying the critics (they’re certainly not paying the writers) to call every movie the best movie of the year (even the ones that are unbearable)?  What is up with that?

In my opinion there was only one best movie of the year and it was Juno, but I also know how people in Hollywood feel about comedies (the same way people in Washington feel about Hilary): How nice that it’s there, now we’re going to give this award to something that’s a little different (read: No Country for Old Men and Barack).

Now, like our Presidential races, we in Hollywood are having some set backs and some uncharted territory.  You might be aware that there’s a writers strike going on.  In fact, you might be aware that your favorite television shows are done, if not they’ve only got one or two episodes left.  I know, I know, you’re devastated that you won’t see what’s happening on House for the rest of the year…that’s right, they’re not coming back until next season and even then, we might be behind.  But what you may not know is that this is going to affect the awards shows.  I’m completely heartbroken.  Basically, the WGA agreed not to picket the Golden Globes if NBC didn’t air it on National Television.  NBC said that it has the right to film the Golden Globes and if they go on, they will film it and put it on T.V.  As of right now, the Golden Globes are set to go on.  What the hell does this mean?  It means that there will be a bunch of nobodies at the Golden Globes (I’m expecting my invitation any day…this might be the only year I get to go).  All the actors, who are in sympathy with the writers, will not be attending.  Plus, they can’t write anything for the Globes because they can’t use WGA writers.  So basically it will go something like this.  The nominees for best picture drama are __________________.    And the Globe goes to ____________________.   How thrilling.  The oscars will be the same way.  I’m trying to make it through this hard time but it hurts me deeply.

So yes, it could be that there is no Christmas for Julia this year.  No speeches that make me cry.  No watching Diablo Cody say something awesome about being a stripper in Minnesota (cold, don’t try it is what I gather) and winning an Academy Award (pretty sure she’ll be the first in history).  But perhaps the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will make some sort of deal with the WGA and be able to show the Oscars.  If Letterman did it, then the Academy should be able to, right?  I’m grasping for straws.  Shit.

Okay, well, I guess I’ll get to it.  Julia’s 2007 Award predictions:

Best Original Screenplay:
Diablo Cody for Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men

Best Director:
Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men, or
Tim Burton for Sweeny Todd
(neither of these folks has an Oscar or a Globe for this so I’m thinking it’s one or the others year)

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men, though I could see an upset as
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (he was absolutely amazing in it).

Best Supporting Actress
There aren’t many stellar performances this year.  I could see it going to
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement but I could also see it going to a big hitter like
Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There or
Julia Roberts for Charlie Wilson’s War

Best Actor
It’s a toss up between
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (he’s so good, it’s unreal), but it could be the year that the Academy finally pulls it’s head out of it’s ass and gives it to
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd…they do love giving awards to musicals (hello Catherine Zeta-Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Hudson, etc)

Best Actress
This is actually one of the hardest to call.  In my opinion they should throw it at
Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose.  No words can describe how good she is.  However, I could see the Academy giving it to
Kiera Knightly for Atonement to try and solidify her as a true leading lady (too bad she can’t seem to shake the period pieces).  I could also see them throwing it to
Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart because America has forgotten that she already has a fucking award and she sure as hell doesn’t deserve one for this movie, but it’s a political thing…who says we don’t care about politics?  Oh wait, me 😛  I could also see
Ellen Page for Juno upsetting this race.  I personally would be happy but Marion deserves it by far.  It’s just I don’t know if the Academy is going to give it to a French lady in a foreign movie (that’s only happened like two times, Roberto Benigni and someone else).

And last but not least,
Best Picture
This is hard to call.  Personally I think it will be
No Country for Old Men, but I could see
There Will Be Blood taking it.
I could see Juno upsetting, but I doubt it.  Also, I could see
Sweeney Todd upsetting, but I doubt it.
This race is down to No Country and There Will be Blood.
Personally I think No Country was the better of the two, but I could see either one taking it.

Alright kids, well, until next time, Barack the Vote.

Peace, Love, and Happy Campaigning,
Julia

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies, Musicals, Oscars, Politics | Leave a comment

No Country for Bad Taste.

So I saw No Country for Old Men last night for the second time.  As before, it was fantastic, but this time I saw it with a bunch of people.  Now, I get that people have different tastes in film, in art, etc, but I respect some of those differences and (if we’re going to be honest) I judge for some of those differences.  That’s right.  Now I don’t judge on the big things, but I’ll tell you the truth.  If someone thinks a film like American Beauty is a piece of crap, I lose some respect.  There are very few things that are like this, but recently I’ve found a new one.  It’s No Country for Old Men.I get that it’s not a typical film.  But that’s really what makes it so awesome.  It’s really not a typical Coen Brothers film, and even though I love the Coen Brothers, that’s another thing that makes the movie so awesome.

So here’s the real deal.  A bunch of the people I saw the movie with said ‘what’s the point?’  No Country doesn’t really make it’s point like most movies do.  I mean, the underlying theme of the film is really truly underlying.  And everyone sort of zones out during Tommy Lee Jones’ final speech because they don’t know it’s his final speech, but that is where the whole point of the movie is.  I mean, it’s a movie about how an older generation becomes obsolete.  Yeah, it’s not happy.  Yeah, it’s almost taboo.  But you know what, like American Beauty, it’s a film that outlines an inherent truth, that at a certain point (this was even more true for Vietnam Vets in the ’80s) the older ways of functioning within a particular area of society out grow the older members of that same social demographic.

I think why I take such offense to people who don’t like the film is that, much like the book, which was also amazingly brilliant, the point is not splayed out, not spoon fed.  You don’t know much about the characters, just that they’re interesting, and you want to know more.  You don’t know who the real villains are, just that they are omnipresent.  I love that you have to work for the film to make sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fun movie.  I mean, you all know that my favorite movie is Clueless.  On the other hand, I also like when I have to work a little bit for a movie.  You know, like when art actually makes you think…I mean, isn’t that kind of the point?

I have to say the other reason I get really peeved is that many of the people that hated this movie are the ones that say they don’t want movies that are too realistic.  I mean, why do you need to see real life on screen, isn’t real life depressing enough?  I don’t know, I really don’t know what to think about that.  I really don’t know how to react to that kind of logic.  I mean, that’s like saying that the Mona Lisa should have never been painted, the statue of David never been made because we all know what real people look like.  And I’m sorry that’s just not a good argument.  I get that there are times for the realistic movies and times for the fantasy.  And as I have said before I’m a big fan of romantic comedies, which are complete fantasy.  I also see the importance of art being honest and real.

So here’s the deal.  See the movie, like, don’t like, just don’t tell me there’s not a point to it.  And do me a favor.  Read the book and see what an amazing adaptation the film is.  Then watch as the Coen Brothers win Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture…and watch Javier Bardem win Best Actor.

Peace, Love, and Chigurh,

Julia

December 9, 2007 Posted by | Awards Shows, Books, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Politics | 2 Comments

Ballad of Clarence and Alabama

Okay,
So a while ago I started the big countdown of my favorite movies, and,
in true Julia fashion, I managed to get sidetracked. So here goes,
this is my third favorite movie of all time, and yes they are in
order. And just in case you forgot, as I often do, number five was
Reality Bites, number four was Say Anything, and number three is True
Romance. So I know I’ve talked about this one before, so again, I’ll
try not to be too repetitive, and this one will be short and sweet
because really the top 2.5 are the real juicy ones that I have lots
and lots to talk about.

Alrighty then, so True Romance, here we go. Like I said before, it’s
the best Tarantino movie there is, specifically for the reason that
it’s directed by Tony Scott (Ridley Scott’s brother). When Tarantino
wrote the original script it was truly Tarantinoesque. It was all
non-linear and Christian Slater died at the end. I mean, I’m sure it
would have worked but not as well…it would have been a completely
different movie. And one that I may or may not have wanted to see.

Now, something that I don’t know that I’ve ever explicitly said
outright is that a great movie is all about great casting. Most
people don’t really realize how much casting really makes a film.
Think of ‘When Harry met Sally’ without Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
Now think about it without Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher (the
supporting cast). It’s not just about the leads. I mean, let’s learn
something from Girl, Interrupted (a.k.a. the movie Angelina Jolie
stole from Winona Ryder). What good is Scarlett O’Hara without Rhett
Butler, Ashley, Melanie, Mammy, and the rest of them. I mean, the
supporting cast is just as important, if not more so than the leading
men and leading ladies.

This is the genius of movies like the Big Lebowski and True Romance.
Sure, in True Romance the movie rests on the chemistry between
Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater. I mean, without us, the
audience, buying them as a couple, and buying them falling in love as
fast as they do, the whole movie doesn’t work. But
True Romance wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is without the
supporting cast. Just starting with Val Kilmer as Elvis, who we never
really see, he’s always sort of in the background, in the distance, as
Clarence’s conscious. Then, of course, and I promise not to wax too
poetic about him, there’s Gary Oldman as Drexl, the white guy who
thinks he’s a black guy pimp.

Then there’s Dennis Hopper as Clarence’s dad. And Christopher Walken
as the Mafioso who’s after Clarence. The two of them engage in one of
the best tense conversation moments…in a scene of true Tarantino
genius Denis Hopper tells Christopher Walken about how Sicilians are
descended from black people (he uses a different word, that I’m not
comfortable with). What is amazing about the scene is how difficult
it is to tear your eyes away from the screen. The two of them are
laughing as the story is told, but there’s just so much going on
underneath, and you know that Christopher Walken is going to do
something violent because of this story, and you can see it coming,
but you can see that they truly respect each other. It’s great.

Then of course there’s Balki, yes, that’s right, Bronson Pinchot from
perfect strangers as the assistant to producer Lee Donowitz. He plays
a perfect assistant, just pretentious enough. He’s not as good as
Adam Brody in Thank You For Smoking (that’s what career assistants are
really like), but he’s pretty rad.

Of course the true real greatness, and stand out supporting actor is
Brad Pitt. I still maintain that this is his best role, even though
he’s not in it very much. He plays Michael Rapaport’s stoner
roommate. I just don’t know if words can describe the brilliance of
Brad Pitt’s performance as Floyd. The best line is when James
Gandolfini walks in and asks about Clarence’s whereabouts. When he
leaves Brad Pitt, in his stoner voice says, ‘don’t condensend me man.
I’ll fucking kill you.’ It’s brilliant, and I assure you, there are
no spelling errors in that quote.

This brings me to the man, James Gandolfini, who, surprise surprise,
plays a mobster…in training for Tony Soprano perhaps. Anyway, he is
a badass in this movie, as he was in the Sopranos. And it’s all
realized in the scene between him and Patricia Arquette…the infamous
fight scene with the infamous corkscrew. Usually I’m not one for
watching male female physical fights. I mean, I don’t really like
watching men and women beat each other up, but I have to say, it’s
supremely satisfying in True Romance…probably due to the outcome of
the fight.
Still, the corkscrew is priceless.

Now, this movie does come with a disclaimer since I have heard from
some people that you are actually watching these movies…which
couldn’t make me happier. But this is a Quentin Tarantino movie and
you know what that means…violence and STRONG language, and this is
me talking. So just a warning.

There are other things that make True Romance my third favorite movie,
but I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them so go back and look at your old
emails if you need some more persuasion. And until next time…

Peace, Love, and Alabama Whirley,
Julia

October 5, 2007 Posted by | Coen Brothers, Movie Reviews, Movies, Quentin Tarantino, The Big Lebowski | Leave a comment

I’m The Dude…So That’s What You Call Me.

Ok, so I promised a three part series on my favorite T.V. shows and
don’t worry they’re coming.  But I just finished watching Fargo for
the first time since it came to Video (yes, Video) and I just have to
talk about the Cohen Brothers, and what fucking genius’ they are.

Now, when it comes to film I’m not a snob.  I, much like Roger Ebert,
judge films on what they are.  I’m never going to compare Legally
Blonde to Taxi Driver.  Apples and Oranges people.  You just have take
films for what they are and what they are trying to achieve.  Legally
Blonde is a great movie (I can hear my mother groaning from 400 miles
away) and Taxi Driver is a great movie.  Sure, one of them is Oscar
worthy, but they are both awesome movies.  And you know what?  I don’t
always want to watch an oscar-worthy film.  I don’t always want to
watch Taxi Driver.

That being said, The Cohen Brothers appeal to each one of these
sensibilities.  When I need a serious film I, from now on, can turn to
Fargo.  Fargo is just one of those movies where everthing is perfect.
I mean the script (oscar winning I may add) is amazing, but really the
actors are what brings this movie up to what it is.  I watched the
special features on this movie and one of the actors says that it’s
just a movie about ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives.  And
Bill Macy is just brilliant at this.  He’s just trying to make money
for his family and trying to deal with his ass of a father-in-law.  He
makes some bad decisions along the way, but when it comes down to it
he’s just an ordinary man trying to live and ordinary life.

The best performance is by Frances MacDormand.  She’s just doing her
job.  She’s good at her job, but she’s just figuring out this crime.
When it’s over, she’ll move to the next one.

The supporting cast, headed by Steve Buscemi among others, fill out
the texture of the story fabulously.

It’s just a great film.

The Cohen Brothers fill out the sort of quirky, wacky comedy through
two different films.  Raising Arizona was the first.  Nick Cage and
Holly Hunter are just hilarious.  I mean, they want to be parents so
they steal a baby.  Nick’s wacky friends played by Steve Buscemi and
John Goodman are excellent comic relief and overall the film is one
that you can watch over and over.

But the Piece de la Resistance is by far The Big Lebowski (where the
subject title is from).  Okay, so I’m a little biased because my
father is The Dude.  I can just imagine him shopping for milk (for his
white russians) in a bathrobe.  The Big Lebowski is Film Noir turned
on its head.  It’s a mystery, missing person hunt, you don’t know who
works for whom, who’s good, who’s bad, but instead of Philip Marlowe
or Sam Spade we have Jeff Bridges’ The Dude and John Goodman’s Walter.
 They’re the best onscreen duo, onscreen married couple in the history
of movies.

The Big Lebowski, if you are unaware, is somewhat of a cult hit.  If
you have kids or friends in college, or know people in college, ask
them how many times a week they think that movie is played in the
dorms.  I’m sure if you went room to room you could find at least one
person watching it every night.  It’s the kind of movie that only gets
funnier and funnier every time you watch it.  There’s a million little
things Jeff does that are just hilarious.

Also, in what I think is a true stroke of Genius, the narrator (who,
in regular film noir is usually the protagonist), is Sam Elliot (go
look him up on imdb.com), who is somewhat reminiscent of the Marlboro
Man.

The Big Lebowski is the Cohen Brothers Legally Blonde, while Fargo is
their Taxi Driver.

I’ll mention briefly of course that O Brother Where Art Thou?  is a
great adaptation of the Odyssey, but I think that this comparison
rates an entire email rant.

And there are a few that I haven’t seen: Barton Fink and Blood Simple
to name a few.

But I must build anticipation for what, in my opinion, should be the
next great Cohen Brothers film.  They are in the middle of shooting
(for Paramount Pictures) a movie based on the book by Cormac
MacCarthy, No Country for Old Men.  It’s a great book and I must say
that I can’t think of anyone more perfect for this movie than the
Cohen Brothers.

Not only does it have the kind of Fargo feel where ordinary people are
trying to live ordinary lives, but it involves quite a manhunt in a
very Big Lebowski type scenario.  I can think of nothing more perfect
than the Cohen Brothers making a movie that will, hopefully, combine
the best elements of two of their best movies.

Also, this film, like all the Cohen Brothers movies, has excellent
casting choices.  In fact, I’m going to make a bold statement and say
that casting is where the Cohen Brothers excel the most.  Sure, they
write amazing scripts, and the composition of thier frames is
stunningly beautiful (especially in Fargo), but where the Cohen
Brothers succeed in every single one of their films is in the fact
that they cast the right people.  They cast actors who know a role and
are comfortable in their ability to act so they all fully fill out
thier roles.

So here’s to you Joel and Ethan Cohen.  Thank you for redefining the
genres we already know so well, and here’s to creating new ones.

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Movies, Oscars, The Big Lebowski | Leave a comment