Hi everyone! What’s up. I’ve been kind of taking an internet vacation from everything but facebook and email and food websites, mainly since I’d started finding all my free time eaten up with my car-crash-type fascination with nonsociety.com. It’s kind of nice, even if Alex now has to update me on all the dumb internet stuff.

But on to more important things.

1. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007): Way better than I expected, mainly because George Clooney’s performance was so great. The story is not necessarily anything special, which is why I was so surprised this got so many Oscar nominations: Clooney’s a “fixer” for a law firm, meaning he’s the guy lawyers call when they don’t know what to do – unfortunately, and the movie really makes this clear, being a fixer is a raw deal. I think the reason I liked it so much is that it more or less admits that being a lawyer either requires or causes you to go a bit crazy – insanity is the only normal reaction to spending years of your life defending the mean company that contaminated all those people’s water in Erin Brokovich (not the actual one, but close enough). George Clooney’s performance as this sort of lost guy who has the illusion of power (people assume he’s rich because he’s got this fancy car, he’s a lawyer, etc.), but actually has next to no options, is just tremendous. I’ve always thought of him as more star than actor (which I don’t mean as a slight, often being a star is enough for a really great performance), but this performance really made me reconsider. 2. Fido (Andrew Currie, 2006): I’ve been meaning to see this one forever (like, since it came out), but I put it off because I thought it would be really goofy and sort of sanitize the “zombie” element, since the ads made it look so toothless. Not the case! It’s set in the 1950s, in an alternate history where zombies are real and some company invented collars that make them, essentially making them zombie robots. But if the collars malfunction… your pet zombie will basically eat whoever’s around. Including old ladies and small children, which is almost always a no-no in American horror movies. It’s really funny, and great because it doesn’t back away from any of the creepy consequences of its concept. 3. Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2006): I don’t have anything earth-shaking to say about this one, but I do definitely recommend it. I loved the orangey-yellow cinematography; and it’s a really well-acted, smart, grown-up thriller. There’s a nice corporeality to all the hero’s experiences. He’s tired after spending all afternoon running from the police. When he hides in a gardbage can, there’s a rat eating stuff that he has to fight off. When he gets tortured by the bad guys, there’s flailing and drooling. Apparently François Cluzet won a Cesar for his performance in this, which isn’t surprising, since he pretty much holds the movie together. 4. Ossesione (Luchino Visconti, 1943): This was just absolutely fascinating. It’s a wonderful movie in its own right – gorgeously shot but still gritty, obviously a little in love with its male protagonist (Massimo Girotti, who’s described in his one-sentence imdb blurb as “exceedingly handsome”) in a way that the equivalent American film couldn’t be – but it’s also because of what it is. An adaptation of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, made a couple of years before the Lana Turner version, in Italy. During the Second World War. It’s such an Italian version of a story I always think of as quintessentially American; and it’s so…completely in fitting with the culture. It’s a great lesson about how much of Hollywood cinema is style (and censorship!). 5. Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009): So going in, I’d heard that there was no squid, and I’d read very, very mixed reviews. But I also noted that the very negative New Yorker review appeared to totally miss the point. (“There is Dan (Patrick Wilson), better known as Nite Owl, who keeps his old superhero outfit, rubbery and sharp-eared, locked away in his basement, presumably for fear of being sued for plagiarism by Bruce Wayne.” …Well, yeah.) In other words, I was cautiously optimistic. And I’m kind of left with a cautiously positive review. As I’m sure has been mentioned in every review ever, aside from losing the giant squid subplot (which is smart, since the giant squid is tied in with the almost unfilmable pirate comic book meta section), Snyder’s adaptation is almost painfully faithful. His direction draws very strongly on the visual cues of the book, sometimes going so far as to freeze frame on images that seem lifted directly from Dave Gibbons’ panels. It’s sort of thrilling to see stuff like Dr. Manhattans giant glass house on Mars matched in glorious detail on screen, and I have to say I enjoyed just about everything about it except Malin “Oh my god, I’m on Mars” Akerman as the Silk Spectre (they needed to age her a bit more between the 60s flashbacks and the 80s sequences, and also she needed to be able to act). I was glad to see a lot of the sex and violence remained just as sexy and just as violent. Sometimes it felt even more so, seeing those images in motion – I’m thinking especially of the whole sequence with Rorschach and the little girl and the dogs here.
Four more years
So it was mostly faithful, but the changes he had to make to the story are pretty powerful. (I’m going to just talk about the ending now, so if you haven’t read the book and/or seen the movie, be prepared.) The biggest change between the movie and book is that you lose repeated stops in at the newsstand that ran through the book, where you actually meet some of the normal New Yorkers who will eventually die in the squid attack (which is a Dr. Manhattan-imitating nuclear blast in the movie, which actually is a bit more narratively elegant, but I still (like Hitler) miss the squid). This seems like obvious chaff to the wheat of the central superhero storylines, but it’s actually pretty important, since you do know the faces of the people who died (as Ozymandias claims to). Without any contact with the people outside the little Watchmen circle, the horrible bargain they all make at the end seems a bit less horrible. I don’t know if you remember, but at the end, when John and Laurie come to the destroyed New York in the book, you see bodies. Dead dead bodies. In the movie, it’s just a hole. The other real shame is that Snyder chose to cut the death of Nite Owl I – who dies after Nite Owl II goes back to knocking heads together for information. This unintended consequence to Dan’s actions is important, because without it, it’s just “Let’s take out the owl ship for fun sexy times!” Which is decidedly not how the book ends. I want to end on something good, though, since I actually enjoyed more about the movie than I disliked. For the most part, except for a few on the nose decisions (like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” playing in the scene where Adrian is meeting with Lee Iacocca ), Snyder’s music choices were gold – especially that first sex scene with Dan and Laurie, where he plays the Leonard Cohen version of “Hallelujah.”