Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Big Lebowski

Ever imagined a western mixed with bowling? Well, now you can see what happens. It's not really much of either, but they are combined in this iconic piece of American comedy by the men behind "Fargo," "Barton Fink," and "Miller's Crossing." It's one of the most unique movies I have ever seen, and maybe that's why there are Lebowski fests from coast to coast. Anyways, Jeff Bridges, five years removed from his best role of his career in "Fearless," turns in a dazzling performance as the hero and massive slacker Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, who gets mixed up with the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski (Donald Huddleston of "McQ") , who shares his name, but not a lot of his passive traits. His wife Bunny (Tara Reid) has supposedly been kidnapped and he has chosen "The Dude" to be the courier. It all goes horribly wrong, anyways, and it gets mightily confusing, but it's all in great humor. Also in the picture fellow bowler Walter Shobchak (John Goodman in his career roll), who is serious about bowling, and Donny (Steve Buscemi), who is always pretty much confused and always is told by Walter to "shut the f*** up." To add to that, Julianne Moore, for once, is not the greatest actress on the screen, as she unevenly but still hilariously takes the role of the millionaire Lebowski's artist daughter, and David Thewlis, who has played a very wide variety of roles, plays a cackling fellow artiste in one hilarious scene. Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Sam Elliot, and John Tuturro all make great supporting performances, too, but in the end it gets too complicated to describe and I am left with only the words "you have to see it to believe it." Some great lines and quirks were spawned from this film, such as the Dude's White Russian obsession and the summarizing line "the dude abides." The film also has set some records, being, as of now, 21st on the list of most f-words (something that has spawned many mashup videos on YouTube) and possibly the only film ever to have both a marmot and a pee-stained rug as a result of two separate incidents. It's only problem are the random unfunny sequences that pop up, which are basically whenever Lebowski however gets knocked out. This only happens twice, but they are the downpoints of the movie. In one of these sequences, Saddam Hussein passes out bowling shoes out of a skyscraping tower of them. Talk about strange. Bottom line: not the best or worst movie of all time, but altogether very, very funny, lifted on the sweet comedic timing of four hilarious: Bridges, Goodman, Buscemi, and Tuturro. A-

The Big Lebowski is very profane, very raunchy... for adults only.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

As you may know, Paul Newman passed away yesterday due to cancer and he joins the list of Hollywood's finest who have passed away this year, Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac, Sydney Pollack, and Charlton Heston being a few others. It is saddening to see an entertainment great like Newman pass away. He has left behind many classic and forever treasured films, such as "Cool Hand Luke," "The Verdict," and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "The Hustler," and it's sequel "The Color of Money," the only movie for which he received an Oscar, although he was nominated ten times and he also not only won one but two honorary Oscars. He spearheaded the company that made some of the best lemonade I've ever tasted, and donated the money to charity. He was a driving force all around. I am deeply saddened that I will never be able to see brown eye to blue eye with him in person.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Truman Show

"The Truman Show" is television satire at it's absolute best, and although it's director, Peter Weir, went on to direct another great movie ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" was also stellar), "The Truman Show" is his magnum opus. It is also Jim Carrey's best performance of his career, even better than his great dramatic work in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and his actually underrated comedy efforts in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" and "Fun With Dick and Jane." In this film he plays the title character, Truman Burbank (another sarcastic joke about the industry), a man who has been living in a 24 hour television show practically his whole life, unknowingly being held captive by the ratings-greedy television producer Christof (Ed Harris, also quite good), who adopted him as a baby. The show, though, is a pop culture phenomenon, shown on the big screen at Times Square and loved by millions of people. We only get to see some of the audience though, including two lazy police officers, an entire bar devoted to the show, two old ladies with a Truman pillow, a guy taking a bath, etc. Back to the actual show. Truman lives with his wife Myrel (Laura Linney) and goes to work every day practically the same way every day, with the same people bumping into him, etc. The show in all honesty is about as much a product placement vehicle as it is about Truman himself. Anyways, one day during his daily routine, he sees his supposedly dead father (Brian Delate) wandering around on the set of the show and this where Truman starts to suspect something is up. During a flashback, we see this isn't the first time. During a brief romantic encounter he had with Lauren (Natascha McElhone of "Ronin," "Solaris," and TV's "Californication"), Lauren, in the real world Sylvia, tried to spill the beans on the show before she was driven off the set. But they couldn't hide it forever, and Truman eventually outsmarts the TV crew. But before that, you have close to 85 minutes of absolute genius from Andrew Niccol (whose wrote the movie adaptation of Adonis Huxley's "Brave New World" coming 2011), who, with this film, solidifies himself with Charlie Kaufman that he is one of the best unconventional screenwriters in the business. A

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Late Oscar Commentary

Old magazines are fun to read. One I keep coming back to is the Oscar edition of Entertainment Weekly, and besides the Oscar minute-by-minute recap, something else caught my eye. Apparently now, the Oscars are boring, and, mark my words, you are not a true movie lover if you can't appreciate awards night. I admit, it wasn't the speediest of years, but it was still suspenseful, especially that Best Supporting Actor race that featured the five heavyweights: Bardem, Seymour Hoffman, Holbrook, Wilkinson, and Affleck. One thing I do agree on, though, is to stop campaigning movies and actors/actresses so much for certain honors, such as Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood" or Javier Bardem for "No Country for Old Men" or even "No Country" itself. Why? Some frontrunner victories are okay, but to have a truly predictable year at the Oscars is like having a Super Bowl victory of 50 points. One of these years was 2003, when "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", won so many awards, it was embarrassing. It was such a predictable ceremony, also because Sean Penn was sure to beat Bill Murray despite a lot of attention given to Murray, Tim Robbins held off two great actors in Djimon Hounsou and Ken Watanabe, Charlize Theron beat Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Renee Zellweger captured Supporting Actress easily. So, I admit, some years can be kind of downers, but that's no reason to tune out, as apparently 82% has done from now on. So then, Hollywood cooks up crappier movies because they think due to the popularity of the ceremony that the films sucked and then viewers/critics like myself are forced to watch these less-than-top-notch movies to stay connected. Take, for example, "Crash." "Million-Dollar Baby" was really quite good, but no, Hollywood obviously doesn't think so, as they promote "Crash," an absolute mess that didn't deserve any nominations, over such greats as "Capote" and "Brokeback Mountain." How dare they? Well, this year seems to be one of those years, because although there seems like good pickings this year (refer to my Fall movie preview blog), it seems like the Academy is going to award the film that seems to be creating the most buzz among fans.