Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

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

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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