Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Holiday Movie Viewing

Black Snake Moan (and some unsolicited advice for young men)

I think that one (unspoken?) truth of blogdom is that everyone who blogs feels they have a novel lurking inside them somewhere. Or a script.

Too bad that the story lodged inside of the writer/director of Black Snake Moan broke loose and made it to the screen.

I watched the movie before discovering eventually what was under the surface. I already thought it was silly (fun silly, though), and then I listened to some of the director's commentary.

Well, before I go there, let me tell you the one scene I truly enjoyed.

The premise is that Christina Ricci (Rae) is a nympho; Samuel Jackson's wife has just left him for his brother; Ricci - after screwing half the town the day her fiance leaves for basic training - is beaten and dumped for dead by the fiance's best friend, right outside Jackson's house. Jackson finds her the next day and, while fixing her up, uncovers her reputation. So he chains her to his radiator to cure her of her <cartoonish southern drawl>sickness</cartoonish southern drawl>. (Let us pause to snicker.)

Here's the scene I enjoyed: A teenage boy comes by to take some produce that Jackson has said he could have, and Ricci (Rae) does her best to resist her urges, but he has the bad fortune of finally just opening the door after he hears her chain rattling. She gets up from clutching the radiator (her pillar of strength), rips off her top while running across the room to jump on the boy; when she does, she also kicks the door closed in the same motion she uses to jump on the kid. I laughed out loud. And I admired the dexterity needed to perform that maneuver.

So, we come to find out in the commentary that the director/writer thinks he's created this heartfelt docudrama about damaged people and their need for each other (that is, people so co-dependant that even parasites would balk at being so fused to the host). He tells a story about how he and his wife are kind of like that, how they can't function without each other, plus various other details like "safe songs" they use together as refuge from the world (hence the blues musician angle in the movie). At that point I felt like I could benefit from a shower.

While watching I wondered what could motivate someone to make such an absurd, awkward movie. I'm embarrassed on behalf the writer/director that it was an honest attempt to justify outrageous behavior because the person they're addicted to is not within clinging range. Even the great Samuel Jackson couldn't save this gobbler (from being unintentionally funny).

(Btw, if you are the writer/director of this movie and you read this post, and I've assiduously avoided stating your name in hopes you won't via a Google vanity search (we all do it), I do apologize for the harshness of my views here. I typically write things so that I wouldn't be ashamed if the person I'm talking about were standing over my shoulder reading what I'm writing. This is one of the few times I've just taken the gloves off. Sorry. I just thought your movie was a failed attempt at what you were trying to convey. Perhaps if you'd told the real story of your wife and yourself, that would've rang true.)

By the way, a cute thing happened after I told my wife how much the movie did suq. Our three-year-old was playing on the floor nearby and as any parent can attest, they are ALWAYS listening. Later, when the family was discussing which movie to watch, she suggested "snake in the mood," inadvertently getting closer to the theme than the actual title does.

Personal aside: I was in a relationship with a nymphomaniac once. She had (and still has, I'm presuming) a strong resemblance to Christina Ricci; they could be sisters they look so much alike. So watching Ricci play one was a little eerie for me.

For all the young dudes: nymphos are fun for the first three months (presuming you're young, haven't been around the block much (if you get what I mean and I'm sure you do), have a lot of energy, and don't mind the lack of sleep), but then after that they're work.

If I were to give advice to boys on such things, I'd have four essential ones:
1) Avoid nymphos (again, fun at first, but you eventually have to scrape them off your shoe). Sex is like any transient thing that is great (chocolate, beer, movies, you name it), it's better in moderation; too much always diminishes the glory of it. Like Rita Rudner once put it (in responding to one of her friends being in labor for 36 hours): "I don't even want to do anything that feels GOOD for 36 hours."
2) Don't be a "playa"/slut/"stiff-dick-no-conscience" (a phrase we used back in the day)/pickup artist; none of the guys I've known like that have ended up well; it serves your getting laid but destroys your trust and ideas of intimacy, plus most of them got addicted to it and couldn't shake the taste for strange; and oddly every one of them married badly (some a few times).
3) If you are going to do anything deviant, remember that everything you put into your head (the one on your shoulders) stays there, and "everything is worth trying once" is a lie invented either by drug pushers or someone trying to get someone else into bed. And keep in mind that these days regrets can end up on the web to be played over and over by strangers laughing their collective asses off at you. The only thing I do recommend that's out of the ordinary is having a temporary relationship at some time with an "older woman" (at least 7 years older than you), should the opportunity arise. When you do, make it clear the relationship has a built-in stale date - not that it still won't make the ending messy, but at least you can say you were honest up front. Those troubles aside, what you'll experience will most likely benefit you a lot, and not just in bed. And at least she'll have fun for a while.
4) The girls do the choosing whether you like it or not; it'll be much easier meeting and dating girls if you pay attention to those who seem interested in you in the first place; chances are one of those is someone you're interested in, too. I cannot tell you how much angst and ego-shattering you'll manage to avoid by following this simple rule.
5) This should go without saying, but never chain a chick to a radiator.

The Number 23

A little walk through bad movie hell from the hack Joel Schumacher. The second I saw his name on the director's credit, I groaned and looked at the clock.

Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen do a decent job with their roles (and it was fun seeing Bud Cort of Harold and Maude pop up), so there's that.

The movie is essentially a retread of Angel Heart without the menace and charm, not to mention a nekkid Lisa Bonet (instead you get Carrey thrusting away on top of various women).

Skip it and watch Angel Heart again.

I Am Legend

I guess I'm just gonna have to read the book.

This movie is boring, then loud, then boring again, then loud, ad infinitum.

The creatures are so blatantly CGI I just wondered if the boys and girls who sat in front of their rendering stations spent so much time in the dark they simply forgot how people look. They didn't even get to the edge of the uncanny valley.

Perfect Stranger

Glossy sorta-thriller with Bruce Willis and Halle Berry that breaks one of the biggest rules of mysteries: nothing about the actual mystery is revealed until the last 5 minutes. The primary thought you're left with at the end is "how stupid."


A fun little popcorn horror movie with the always awesome John Cusack. My only gripe is gratuitous use of a dead child as a plot device. I read recently (but can't find the reference) that Gene Siskel hated movies where children where put in peril. I'm the same. The only thing that tugs me out of a movie faster is either really graphic sex (because then I think of the actors' moms, dads, and SOs) or just a truly bad movie - see above.

Samuel Jackson's in this one, and he does improve things when he's in the scene; BSM (above) is just a fluke.

Whoopi: Back to Broadway - The 20th Anniversary

Here we come to the ONE thing I watched that I enjoyed unreservedly (outside of the "making of" documentary that comes with the new Blade Runner DVD set).

This set contains Whoopi's original one-woman Broadway show that put her on the map as well as her return show sometime in 2004-2005. Both are fabulous.

If you've never seen the original, start with that one. If you have, watch it again second. It's still good as it ever was.

It's really too bad that there hasn't been a film yet that taps her ability to do a character the way she does in these shows.


Whisky Prajer said...

I'm with you on Whoopi. She's had moments where she's done quite well by Hollywood standards, but none of them even begin to approach what she achieves with her Broadway show. Now that I think of it, I wonder if Lily Tomlin isn't in a similar boat. Andrea Martin ... anyone else? Women who knock the ball out of the park when they're playing solo, but don't have enough space to swing when they're in an ensemble piece.

David Edelstein is another movie critic who decries "child in peril" gratuitousness.

And I thought your personal aside pretty much hit the mark. Now how the heck do we break this down into advice for our daughters?

Yahmdallah said...

I will run that past the wife and get her input. She's good at that. (Though we've already planned to give her the "stiff-dick-no-conscience" info straight up when she's old enough.)