a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Monday, July 05, 2004

guy named otto octavius ends up with eight limbs. what are the odds of that?

* Spider-Man 2 is, as the mostly general consensus will have it, an improvement in just about every single category over the quite damn good first. (And what's the "almost" refer to? Shrug. I'm sure there's something.) What's more, it's the closest we'll get in this age to another classic Raimi film. While the CGI's only a little less distractingly fake-looking this time around (the script keeps having Spidey go mask-less, so we know he's not always turning into a computer program when he dons the suit), there's a craftiness to the action scenes the first one didn't have. The to-be-classic hospital scene -- while mildy hyperbolized by this guy -- is giddily B-movie-ish, replete with corny on-their-lonesome shots of claws in motion and '80s era shock zooms. (In fact, see how many Darkman references you can spot. There's also a blatant blue-screened plumet shot, some destroyed genius who labors in an abandoned warehouse, and an image of wreckage falling from a tall building onto the pedestrians below.) Chabon et al. were wise to borrow liberally from Superman II. But while it does a finer job of dealing with the pangs of having a dual nature, it can't beat that one's romantic fatalism. (Though it comes close; how great is it that it's not just unrequited love this go around?) Moreso than his official bid for respectablity, this is the true, idealistic maturation of Raimi, showing he can sketch recongizeable human characters and dish out some well-needed schlockiness, often at the same time. Let's just hope that they don't follow through on the Superman films and hurl Richard Pryor into the fray come outing three.

* Written by Dennis Potter, 1982's Brimstone and Treacle is, of course, worth a trawl-through. But once again, it's evident that Potter needs umpteen hours to work with. His speciality is for making a case for ADD not being a bad thing for drama: his work weaves, dips and goes sideways, never ashamed to examine -- or at least bring up -- an aspect of his story and characters. He and director Richard Loncraine (in his Rembrandt-y lighting days) bring a palpable sense of dread to this whatzit story of a wastrel (Sting) infiltrating the home of a wounded stiff upper lip couple (Denholm Elliott and Joan Plowright), but Potter, ever disappointing with climaxes, springs for the least interesting route in the close. Sigh.

* Might as well join a clique: I don't especially like Jules Dassin's heist pic Topkapi. The big finish is breathtaking enough, even if it's hardly comparable in quality to the break-in in Rififi (though some claim it's a parody of same). But only Peter Ustinov saves the build-up, while Melina Mercouri is a classic case of a director being more enamored by an actress/loved one than anyone else. ("[She's] as inviting as Medusa," is how David Thomson accurately put it.) Surely having semi-recently seen Night and the City didn't help.

* Anchorman, like Dodgeball, is junk, only half-charmingly so. A new sub-phylum? Will Ferrell seems to be on a better trajectory than almost any SNL dope; no one should be comapring it to the ouvre of the Schneider and the Spade vehicles of the world. It also made this much evident: not only will he be a near-foolproof Ignatius J. Reilly, but I can't wait to see what Woody Allen and David Mamet are going to do with him. Me=a Ferrell fan?

* Q. Why the fuck is today a bank holiday? A. Motherfuckers need a day off.

* A quick shout-out to The Skeptic's Dictionary, a rationality-prone site that ate up an otherwise dull Saturday evening. Much thanks to it for enabling my nascent atheism to take on a (slightly) more concrete form.

And, no, I haven't yet ventured out to Before Sunset...or Fahrenheit 9/11, for that matter. I'll get on the trolley soon.


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