Thursday, April 29, 2004

OPEN RANGE

The critics beat the crap out of this film. The critics beat the crap out of anything Kevin Costner does anymore. I'm not saying they're wrong to do this. Costner has made some of the stinkiest films of my lifetime. I'm just saying that critics can get stuck in ruts just as easily as any of us can. Also critics can be catty, personal and jealous. Admit it, when was the last time you saw a film critic that looked like Kevin Costner?
People liked Dances With Wolves. I didn't. But I didn't think Open Range was that bad. In fact I thought it was probably the best thing Kevin Costner has ever made. But I know I'm going to have to qualify that because people out there like to let their knees jerk freely.
I grew up watching westerns. I still watch a lot of westerns. I think it's a great form of entertainment and sometimes, like in the case of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, they can make a great work of art out of the form. But usually they're just exactly what they pretend to be. You know what you're getting into. It's good manly fun.
I saw Open Range on my parent's new big screen plasma tv when I was visiting them a few weeks back. The picture was clear, the screen was wide. One of the big criticisms I heard about this film was that it was too slow and sprawling. I actually like slow and sprawling. I like a picture that doesn't mind taking its time and doesn't assume we're all moving at MTV speed. Granted, the story of Open Range probably didn't quite warrant 3 hours of film, but I'm inclined to argue that the scenery did. It was really beautifully shot and the locations were astounding. But I kind of think that had a lot to do with the screen I was watching it on. I think if I'd have watched it on my tiny shoebox video player here I might not have reacted so positively.
One of the breakthroughs of casting was putting ER's Abraham Benrubi in it. Dude was born to be in westerns. He could be like the Hank Worden of his generation. That's one of the great things about westerns is that they are a boon to character actors. People don't mind it so much if everyone in a western looks funny or just down right butt ugly (see Walter Huston, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam and oh so many more.) There's an element of authenticity if people look grizzled and harrassed. However, the studio usually vetos the lead looking funny.
Then, once again, there's Bobby Duvall. Long time readers know I'm a big big fan of Robert Duvall. I think I'm willing to say he's the guy from The Godfather who has remained good. Or at least the only one who seems to be currently doing good work. He's had a few missteps in his career, but he's still giving us great performances. There's a scene in Open Range where Robert Duvall buys a chocolate bar and it's a good enough reason in its self to watch the film.
Another performance worth catching in here is Michael Jeter. I think this was his last film if I'm not mistaken. He really was a great character actor and we're all the poorer for him being gone.
The strangest bit of casting in this film is Michael Gambon as the bad guy. Usually a great actor too. Royal Shakespeare alum, you know. But in this film he gives one of the strangest accents I've ever heard.
The romance was tacked on. But the romance is always tacked on in a western. The only good thing I have to say about it was that they didn't make Annette Benning into a damsel in distress, which is traditional in westerns too.
Besides all that, the real reason you watch this film is for the shoot out. The shoot out in this film is one of the better ones I've seen. You get a sense of realism because it's awkward and people are reloading all the time and people are running where they shouldn't be and so on. People are getting hit with splinters and broken glass. And it doesn't go on for very long. Kind of like I'd assume a real gun fight would play out. I thought that this was the most well done part of the movie.
But over all, I wouldn't nessicarily endorse going out and watching this right away unless you're already a fan of westerns. If you're a fan of westerns I think you should by all means see what they do with the form in this one. If you're not a fan of westerns, we'll probably all be a lot happier if you skip it.


MIGHTY APHRODITE

I'm also a fan of Woody Allen films. I agree with most that his best work seems to be behind him, but that having been said, I also think that people give him too hard of a time with his most recent work. I mean, I'd rather see Bullets Over Broadway than Two Weeks Notice any day of the week. Lest we forget, Woody Allen might not be spitting out works of genius anymore but he's still better than most of the other crap that's out there. Okay, Everyone Says I Love You was terrible. But Deconstructing Harry was pretty okay. Sweet and Lowdown was probably his best work since Crimes and Misdemeanors.
But I'm reviewing Might Aphrodite here. Let's stick to the task at hand, what?
The cast was great in this. I'm not sure he's had so great a cast in a long time. And I think that's what puts this one where it is. It's about as well written and directed as all of his other recent luke warm diversions. But the cast kicks up it a notch. Mira Sorvino did a really convincing job as the comedic heroine in that strange Woody Allen universe next door reality he gets going. Woody Allen himself keeps it together and tight enough that we don't mind watching it. And you never can go wrong with F Murray Abraham, right? Okay, except maybe for that one film. You know. The one where he played the guy...
I really think Woody Allen should have been limited to having the greek chorus do one dance number. Actually that's my main criticism for this film. I liked the greek tragedy parallels, but I think he could have shown a bit of restraint with them.

Golly I'm starting to get frustrated. I feel like I'm just giving back handed compliments in my reviews today. Well, the next two are films that I really did like so that one will be more fun for me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The books are uploaded through hefty effort. So, I'll try and catch up on my film reviews tomorrow. I've got three to do and one more I'm working on. Gosh. I guess this blog is the part of my life that's taking the slack from all the stuff I have to do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I apologize that postings haven't returned to their past regularity since my trip down south. Intrepid blogskateers should have deduced by now that I've upward of 200 books to price, upload, and shelve. This will probably take me through the rest of the week.
Hope you all enjoyed your free ice cream though.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

So I've learned two new things about this room. The first is that the ceiling is not right below the roof. There's a little steeple of room between where, say, a small kitten could get stuck and scratch and scratch and keep you up all night long. I think I got the kitten out. I didn't actually see the kitten, but I went in there today and heard it meowing and then I gave it a space by which to leave and soon I didn't hear it meowing anymore and haven't since. Andi thinks that the kitten was there because of Poster. Well, she doesn't know that I call him Poster and feed him and that's the only reason I haven't told my brother about this blog. Kind of inadvertently sealed off being able to tell them about my wonderful wonderful site. Andi thinks, however, that Poster is in fact a she and recently a momma cat. And I'm feeding her. So nobody's getting fat except momma cat.
The other new thing about this room is that it gets very hot in here. It went from Darned Hot to Danged Hot today and at 9:30 at night it's still Danged Hot. I hear that in the summer it even reaches the cussing levels of hot. But the good news I hear is that we might have a milder summer this year because we actually have had a Spring this year. They say a bad summer usually comes when it goes right from rain and down comforters to blazing heat and sticking to furniture. And cussing.

Oh and I gave blood again today. I got a cool green bandage which is kind of a Packers green. Tomorrow is finally new fish day. Oh yeah, this is my first Chico posting since the trip. I forgot. Seeger and the tetra died. Now it's just a tank with Europa the snail in it. So tomorrow I'm going to ship orders, get a fish, and then put the large amounts of inventory online.

I also forgot that I also got Gary Snyder's No Nature collection for my birthday. Which is probably about as much Gary Snyder I'll ever need save for possibly his collection of interviews.

That's all.