Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War, Screechy Todd and An Unreasonable Man

Two more screenings: CWW was Monday with Aaron Sorkin guesting, ST was tonight, John Logan guesting. While I'm all for ignorant Amerikans wising up, there was something missing from CWW. It was kinda flat, and in that sense, reminded me of American Gangster - it just wasn't that interesting. AG was about a really ruthless muthaphuka. That's about it. And while DePalma's take on Scarface is classic and also about a ruthless mutha, I think it very much points out the differences first in directors and then in renderings. What I mean is, AG, as derived from a biography, is pretty straightforward and Scott treats it as such, but Scarface is fictional, and the bombastic rendering is in perfect hands with Depalma. For instance, given Depalma's movie brat pedigree and reverence for Il Conformista, Nando Scarfiotti's production design is no mistake. Neither is the violence.

Anyway, you'd think a story about a reprobate like Wilson coming around (as much as one of his kind can) would be at least kinda interesting, but - NO surprise - it never considers the pov of mudpeeps. All of the choice reaction shots are reserved for Hanks, for instance, while scanning - replete with mouth agape - at an Afghan refugee camp. (Mike) Nichols then eventually closes out the scene with a panoramic shot of this enormous camp - with Hanks in the foreground. It's still the same as it ever was - all of the suffering in the world of mudpeeps don't mean a gotdamn unless white people think it does.

And I'm a Nichols fan. Although I question his taste in mates, but damn if he didn't cast Emily Blunt who looked kinda annoying in The Devil Wears Prada, but HOT DAMN if she doesn't turn up for this one. I don't know what she did, but she is smokin' here, and I normally don't go for white broads... Evidently she shares Nichols' affliction of choosing bad mates, cuz she's with Michael Boobly. Anyway, the Nichols of CWW needs to ask the Nichols of "Virginia Woolf" and of course, The Graduate, as well as, Catch 22, what time it is.

Oh yeah, Sorkin was a bore.

Here's a gratuitous pic of Blunt to make me feel better.

Screechy Todd made my skin crawl. First, let me just say unequivocally that I grew up on musicals, shit like West Side Story was in our blood in the hood, mainly because we saw mudpeeps on screen. But Singing in the Rain for sure is one of those films that so perfectly captures a feeling, a mood, and certainly one of the golden ages of Hollywood. And it helped that I was in love with Cyd Charisse.

But watching live theater for me has always been a challenge. Beginning in middle school when we had assemblies and they'd stage shows, to grown-up fare.

My brother was a kid when our cousins, who were living with our family at the time and young teens, went to see Phantom. When my brother found out he raised such a stank that they bought tickets and made me take him.

During intermission we didn't say anything except for this:

Me: You liking this?
Bro: (looks down) Uh...

It was excruciating sitting through that shit.

This doesn't mean that live theater can't be extremely moving, but here's where "the play's the thing" truly comes home. Jarry, Pinter and Beckett have managed to make me think of them as artists, while Albee and Williams are so ingrained in the American zeitgeist, that alone is proof of having "good stuff." But even lesser works, such as Bruce Jay Friedman's Steambath have their charm. With that name-dropping out of the way, it's also clear that that last batch of writers don't write musicals.

So it was, O Dear Reader, that I wanted to pull my hair out about ten minutes into Screechy Todd. At 30 minutes in I'd clawed my ears off, and at an hour I fired an RPG at the screen and left. How I lasted 60 is beyond me - I could have been listening to the second installment of The History of Howard Stern fer god's sakes.

Gotdamn, I want my hour back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On to An Unreasonable Man, which I saw on PBS' Independent Lens.

Where do I begin? I can remember extremely heated discussions during the times of Ralph Nader's two presidential bids. And while the filmmakers do a good job of presenting both sides - yes, this is one of those times when it very much is a binary situation - for me, the bottom line is the incompetence of the democraps.

Oh well, nothing to do but post another gratuitous pic of Emily Blunt to feel better.