Wednesday, February 16, 2005

grosse pointe blank

it's all tight & compact perfection, this film. i can't recommend it enough. admittedly it has liberal splashings of every plot device i've come to love in films - intensely over-stylised & 'cool' violence & dialogue (no one in real life wields a gun or talks like this), romance of 21st-century physicality & rhetorical interplay (the lovers almost too cool for touch, always skirting around the edges of outright heart-professions by way of sarcasm & irony, but the world around them always an abnormal sphere of less-impressiveness), & a story that moves towards revelation, outcome, & a sunset. i love it.

in a strange way the film draws comparisons with a movie i lambasted elsewhere on this blog - 'collateral'. fundamentally different films, of course - as a director michael mann loves scenic evocation as much as script & character devices, & the way he intermingles these two filmic desires can be jarring &/or brilliant. 'grosse pointe blank' works on a bedrock of scripted wit & concrete character development (the writer/director makes sure we learn everything about cusack's character & past, even if it seems extraneous, i.e. cusack pouring booze onto his father's grave), & treats the professional killing thing as the unreal & funny & unknowable prop it is - something so cliched through years of gangster anti-heroes that it's hard to depict dramatically anymore. 'grosse pointe blank' can teach 'collateral' something about over-seriousness, about falling too much in love with gunfights & less with the dialogic shit in between. the comparison is a bit strained, come to think of it.

every performance is spot-on, both from the leads (cusack & minnie driver, who interact & work off each other on a chemical level that suggests utter mutual respect for one another as performers), & the bit-part players (cusack's ex-teacher, who features in one 90-second scene, is wonderfully sharp; dan ackroyd is viciously superb (watch for the scene between he & cusack over 'breakfast'); jeremy niven as cusack's angsty old high-school friend is fuckin hilarious (it's not surprising to find the two came through the theatre circuit together); etc etc.

so the gun-toting conclusion is a bit much. so the post-shootout marriage proposal is a bit much. who cares. there is so much to be excited about here. not least the discovery of what can happen when writers/directors/performers strive to combine genres & create a kinda dramatic overlap that says: laughs, action, & love in 90 minutes. you gotta see this film.

Monday, February 07, 2005


hmm. the first comedy to feature on filmism? i think so.

dodgeball is not very good. even though he co-produced the picture, you get the feeling this is a minor aside of a movie for ben stiller, whose best & likely most influential work is done in the guise of the downtrodden hard-luck nice guy ('something about mary', 'meet the parents') around whom the most ridiculous shit happens. the polar opposite of such performances sees stiller as the centre & source of all that is ridiculous - zoolander, dodgeball's 'white goodman' - in which a lot of the comedy comes from realising this is stiller (the usually loveable & lame hero) camping things up to the extreme. or, to put it better, part of the lameness of a 'normal' stiller character seems to live on in his more ludicrous incarnations. no matter how outlandish his 'big' characters are, you can still see 'little stiller' in there somewhere - especially in his voice, which he modulates beautifully to make characters like 'white goodman' seem almost self-conscious or unsure of their own stupidity. in the midst of goodman's most nefarious proclamations you catch a little twang that makes it seem like we are watching greg focker trying to be funny. it's loveable hilarity.

it's also an interestingly crude kind of hilarity. i don't find the self-conscious thematic aspect of the film that interesting at all - insofar as the film tries to subvert/make fun of the underdog comedy genre, it does nothing to avoid it. the film is as 'sister act'/'major league' etc formulaic as you can imagine. it's in the little lashings of impromptu dialogue or action - scattered, as it were, over the generic template - that we might discover whether this film is halfway decent. but there's not enough mustard for mine. think of 'there's something about mary' - there's really not one minor character ("step into my office! why? because you're fucking fired!") or comic set-piece that isn't funny. in 'dodgeball', there's a few. if anything there's too many minor characters in 'dodgeball' - the 'pirate' is hideously under-written; a funny pirate needs to be really funny nowadays, we can all do decent pirate impressions - & there's just one too many underdog idiot to come to terms with.

but getting back to the crudity aspect. i guess 'south park' (&, in a way, 'something about mary') really raised the bar in terms of just how far comedy could go to get a laugh. political correctness is a thing of the past when it comes to comedy - one suspects kenny's 're-birth' sequence in the 'south park' movie was the beginning of the end - & 'dodgeball' is certainly at its funniest when it embraces the 'south park' spirit: the german dodgeball team coached by a hilariously fuhrer-esque david hasselhoff, the japanese 'kamikaze' team wearing 'diapers' on court, the senile coach 'patches o'houlihan' imploring his star player to come back to his room for some 'prostitutes', christine taylor vomiting into her mouth after being hit upon by white goodman etc. one also notes the 'south park' (& 'simpsons)-esque willingness to refer randomly to popular figures - chuck norris's classic cameo, for example, or lance armstrong's brilliant barside lecture (errrm, has lance had acting training? because his delivery was damn good). as i say, though, these comic sprinklings are hit & miss, & the whole seems watered down for the fact the film is about, well, a 'dodgeball' tournament. in 'something about mary' there was a beautiful freedom about the 'plot' - boy chases girl - that allowed for some brilliant visual & dialogic asides. 'dodgeball' races towards its 90-minute climax with all the regularity we expect from an underdog film, & one is stuck as to whether to try & laugh at the bit-pieces or savour the inevitable victory of the 'average joe's'.
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