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Archive for December, 2009

One thought to heap on the pile of end-of-the-decade musings:

I came of age (film-wise) in the 1990s.  Having not come of age in any other decade, I am convinced that this was a perfectly acceptable time to come of age.  It was the decade that gave us Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Spike Jonez, Sophia Coppola, Peter Jackson, even Michael Bay.  The quality of their films is not at issue here, but the fact that each of their films is clearly a (fill in director’s name here) film.

For example, the second you see the black helicopter chopping through the haze on the horizon, you know you are watching a Michael Bay movie.  The point being that, time was a visionary could get funding to put his vision on celluloid and I wonder if that time has past.

Take a look at the last decade (2000-2009), where are the auteurs?  Christopher Nolan?  Yes, granted.  He made “The Following” that gave him the clout to make “Memento” and then become what he is today.  But besides Mr. Nolan was there another auteur who came of age in the past ten years.

I’m sure there are a few names that people will throw out but if you look at the list in the first paragraph you will notice a pattern: each of them made more than one film in that decade.  Almost to a man (and Sophia) they made a smaller film initially which was used as a springboard to larger things and (closer to, if not) into the mainstream.

QT:  Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction

Coppola: Virgin Suicides to Lost in Translation 

PTA: Hard Eight to Boogie Nights

Smith: Clerks to Mallrats

Again, your opinion of these films is irrelevant to the fact that up until the turn of the millinium, auteurs had an upwardly mobile career path.  Now, however, it seems as if there is no room for them in the industry.

Obviously, I will concede that (as I get older), I don’t see as many movies now as I did in my twenties.  And obviously, I am overlooking a few examples (Rian Johnson made Brick in ’05 and then made “Brother’s Bloom” this year) but in terms of names that came from a decade, Christopher Nolan seems to stand alone in the aughts.

One is left to wonder as to whether film is becoming (like TV) a producer’s medium.  Is it so much more about product packaging than quality product now than it was merely ten years ago?  Is the threatened writer’s strike of ’99 the line of demarcation when the studios decided that it’s not about challenging film audiences but placating them with tight blouses and fart jokes?

And I’m not saying there isn’t a place for those things (who am I to criticize tight blouses and fart jokes?).  I’m merely saying that the ’70s gave us Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese et al.  The ’80s gave us Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, James Cameron, Soderberg  etc.  And the ’90s gave us the list above.  

How will history view the last ten years?

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Scrubs: You’re Breaking My Heart

I tried to have an open mind. I really did.  Honestly, despite earlier misgivings (https://twynne105.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/scrubs-its-time-to-let-go/), I was actually looking forward to watching the newly revamped Scrubs.  After all, I can always do with more Turk and J.D. in my life, so how bad could it be?

Answer: it’s pretty bad.  Or maybe it’s just sad. It’s sad to watch Zach Braff and Donald Faison play these characters who, at this point, just seem stunted and strange. They’ve taken the bromance thing as far as they can and it’s just not that funny anymore.  Watching John C. McGinley as Dr. Cox is not as fun as it used to be either – his character seems to have regressed emotionally to where he was a few years ago.   The fact that the hospital set is similar but not quite the same just seems off, and I hate the glaring omission of Carla, Elliott and the Janitor. 

Of course, the absence of these old series favorites should be made up for by the new characters, who are the med students.  Unfortunately, they’re not really cutting it.  The lead student, Lucy, is an insecure young girl, searching for answers in much the same way that J.D. always was on seasons past. Of course, they made sure we recognized the parallel by focusing an episode on Lucy’s search for a mentor and finding it in J.D.  Thanks for spelling it out, guys.  James Franco’s brother is kind of fun to watch sometimes, but can’t hold a whole episode together.  I’m curious about the hot Australian girl – is she supposed to be a featured character? She hasn’t had many lines to date, and I agree with Dr. Cox’s assessment of her from the first episode – she’s far too hot to be taken seriously as a doctor.  Denise and Drew are the best new characters (although Denise did make her debut last season as one of the interns), but even they can’t make up for a lack of chemistry among the cast as whole.  Or for the fact that my worst fears are being realized in that they are dragging this show on past its shelf life. 

If they release Scrubs as a complete series on DVD, they should leave this season out of it.  It is not on the same plane as the Scrubs I knew and loved.

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Author note:  I’ve noticed that a lot of people find this blog entry because they are searching for the name of Vera Ellen’s dance partner from White Christmas. Personally, I hate when I’m searching for random things and end up all over the internet with no more information that what I started with. In the spirit of making this inane blog somewhat useful, I wanted to let those people searching know that the lead male dancer in White Christmas is named John Brascia.  Looks like he was an accomplished dancer in his time, even working with Vera Ellen on multiple films.  I hope that bit of information made your click to this page worth your time.

During the Christmas season, as has been the case for the past twenty-five years or so, I will watch the movie White Christmas at least once.  This is the holiday classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.  There is something very comforting and traditional about watching it, and after all these years, it still brings me an unexpected amount of joy.  However, I’ve started to scrutinize it and perhaps think about it a little bit more than it was intended to be thought about, as is bound to happen when you watch the same movie 30+ times.  Here are some things that I will always love – and other things that will always bug me about – Irving Berlin’s White Christmas:

* I never really considered the implausibility of the opening scene before; but last night, I thought about these men putting on a Christmas show – complete with painted backdrop!! – in the middle of WWII-torn Europe.  After having watched Band of Brothers, this now seems especially absurd. Also, wouldn’t this have taken place at roughly the same time as the Battle of the Bulge, when the soldiers as depicted in Band of Brothers were surrounded in the woods in Belgium in the miserable, freezing cold and risked getting blown to smithereens every time they poked their heads out of their foxholes?  Where was this supposed to have been?  And no matter that the scene ended with a battle and fake wall fakely falling and narrowly missing Bing Crosby’s Bob Wallace – by today’s grittier filmmaking standards, this doesn’t really hold up.  Granted, you have to suspend a serious amount of disbelief anytime you are watching a musical where people earnestly sing to each other, but this still crosses the line to just plain silly.

* I love the montage after the war has ended that helps explain how Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have taken the entertainment world by storm – and the mash up of those classic standards such as “Blue Skies” and “Heat Wave” is fabulous.  I’d go see them perform it tomorrow if they weren’t dead.

* Even though it’s slightly creepy – almost like watching my grandpa undress – I love the scene with Crosby and Kaye in the dressing room as they discuss Bob Wallace’s love life (or lack thereof) because it gives us two of my favorite lines: 1) “Go to Smith?!  She couldn’t even spell it!” and 2) “How can a guy that ugly have the nerve to have sisters?”

* Crosby and Kaye performing the “Sisters” song with their pants rolled up and dancing around with enormous turquoise feather fans never fails to make me laugh, especially towards the end when they themselves can’t even keep it together.

* Vera Ellen!!  From the first time I saw this movie, I have been fascinated by watching her dance. Her legs go on forever!  That tap thing she does with her toes at the beginning of the “Choreography” number is insane!  And I don’t even know what it’s called (UPDATE: It’s called “Abraham”), but I love the routine in which she dances with the lead male dancer to that jazz number (in the lime green dress). Amazing!!  Most of all, the routine with her and Danny Kaye outside the club in Florida will always be one of my favorite Hollywood musical dance sequences ever. She practically floats.

* Vera Ellen.  She is a horrible role model for young girls. Every time I see that movie, I think, how can I get my legs to look like that?  Well, it seems that the answer would be: 1) a lifetime of dance and 2) starvation.  She was anorexic, which caused her to age prematurely, which is why she wore a turtleneck in every single scene. Apparently she had nasty grandma turkey neck.

* I would like to go back in time and bitch slap the housekeeper, then Betty, then the housekeeper again for the ridiculous misunderstanding that is the central plot point and “obstacle” for our main characters to overcome in order to be together.  First, the housekeeper: she listens to half a conversation, gets herself in a tizzy and starts spreading rumors about something that isn’t even true!  Then Betty, who up until that point seemed like a fairly normal and reasonable individual, gets the Passive Aggressive Wacko of All Time award for being mad at Bob about something that didn’t concern her and wasn’t true…and then she doesn’t even tell him why she’s pissed! What?!  Further baffling is the fact that, after Betty leaves for NYC because she can’t bear to be around Bob and his supposedly self-promoting ways, the housekeeper is happily in cahoots with the rest of the gang for the same plan that had earlier horrified her and caused her to blab to Betty this fabricated and slanderous story.  The nerve! The kicker is that when Betty finally returns, what does she do when she sees the housekeeper? She gives her a hug!! Wouldn’t a normal person at least say something like, “You bitch!! What the hell is wrong with you?!”  The housekeeper deserved some type of comeuppance for that stunt.

* Is it really even remotely possible that hundreds of people would show up in Vermont on Christmas Eve – having only heard about this reunion event for the General the night before?  Again, I should suspend disbelief….but I can’t quite jive with that.  Also, just how big is the Pine Tree Inn?  If the cast and crew of the musical sensation “Playing Around” have been staying there to practice for this big show, how many rooms can possibly be left?

* Poor Captain Joe.  When we first meet him, he is essentially General Waverly’s bitch.  Ten years later at the reunion for the 151st Division, he doesn’t even get to sit down and watch the show or have dinner – he’s apparently outside waiting for it to start to snow so he can come in and tell the General about it.  Isn’t that not his job anymore?  After ten years, doesn’t the poor guy deserve to sit down and enjoy a meal with everyone else?

As I pick on these points of this film, it is still with a huge amount of affection since it will always be my favorite holiday film of all time.  And, apologies for the dissertation.  Normally I keep it shorter than this, but I haven’t written for a while. So consider this your holiday present from me!  It’s better than a lump of coal, right?

Happy Holidays!

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