July 11, 2000
The Perfect Storm,
The Passion of Ayn Rand,
RKO 281, & Savior
So then act two, the storm,
goes on for way too long. For nearly two hours people that are difficult
to recognize are washed overboard in the dark with the noise of the storm
so completely deafening that little of the dialog can be heard, then they
are saved or not saved by use of gaffing hooks. Each of these rescues
is clearly supposed to be a big audience moment, and we are given appropriate
time to cheer, except that the audience I saw it with in Oregon sat mute
every single time.
Neither The Patriot
nor The Perfect Storm had to be bad movies -- theyre
both true events and both inherently very dramatic. So what went
First of all, The
Perfect Storm is improperly structured. They rush
through their act one, far too over-eager to get to the storm, and basically
blow their chance at any suspense -- nevertheless, this is still the
best part of the movie. Nevertheless, the characterizations are
so perfunctory that I never cared whether any of the crew lived or died.
Also, there are several subplots that are exasperatingly unnecessary,
like Karen Allen in a sailboat and a news weatherman whose entire purpose
in the film is to ultimately intone the words, This is The Perfect
Act three is, of course,
way too short and basically handled in one scene in a church with a
bunch of women crying. Since every female part was utterly thankless
anyway, it was merciful to get through it quickly.
But worse than the poor
structure is the crews severely lame motivation, which is: their
fish will spoil if they dont sail straight into the worst storm
theyve ever heard about in their lives. It may even be true,
but the way its handled made me not give a shit about anyone aboard.
These guys are sitting in calm sunny waters and decide to intentionally
sail straight into the storm that kills them -- well then, who cares?
If the storm caught them by mistake, like it did Karen Allen in the
sailboat, thats a whole different story. But if the filmmakers
intention is to play an anti-hero story they need a lot more characterization
than George Clooneys character just doesnt catch as many
fish as he once did.
isnt about patriotism at all, its about revenge, and revenge
is a tree that grows no limbs -- if you kill a guys kid it isnt
going to make him much madder killing more of his kids. It is
also clearly and obviously Braveheart set in 1776 America. Well,
Braveheart bored the piss out of me and The Patriot
managed to do the same thing. It all wouldnt have been so
bad if, an hour before the end, when Mel and the evil, bug-eyed, Snidely
Whiplash British dragoon come face to face, one of them managed to kill
the other and that was that. But of course they dont.
So now were stuck sitting through an extraneous hour worth of
bloodshed as Mel uses a tomahawk to split red-coats heads open.
Director Roland Emmrich,
who brought us Godzilla, shoots all the battle scenes exactly
the same way, meaning every other shot is in slow-motion, which is such
a painful cliché at this point that I can barely watch it.
I dont know about you, but to me slo-mo just makes all of the
bullet hits look ultra-fake.
Luckily, Caleb Deschanels
photography is, as usual, gorgeous, so theres at least something
to look at.
During the first hour
of The Patriot I thought to myself, This is better
than The Perfect Storm. By the third hour, with
my ass on fire, I thought, This isnt as good as The
Perfect Storm simply because The Perfect Storm is
of Ayn Rand is a made-for-Showtime cable movie, which
I used to not take seriously and not even put on the master list of
films Ive seen. However, I now consider them as real as
any other movies, since the best films Ive seen in the past couple
of years have been either made-for-Showtime or HBO, specifically: Elvis
Meets Nixon and Don King: Only in America. Ayn
Rand isnt nearly as good as these other two, but theres
a heck of a lot more to think about here than any recent theatrical
films. Anyway, if in The Patriot, patriotism is confused
with revenge; in The Passion of Ayn Rand, passion is confused
with humping. Helen Mirren, who plays Ayn Rand, used to be known
for her nude scenes and sex scenes, having begun her career in Michael
Powells Age of Consent, an early, adult nudie picture,
and went on to do Caligula, which was supposed to be the
first legitimate porno film. Ms. Mirren gives a world-weary performance
with a Boris & Natasha Russian accent as she and Eric Stoltz, playing
Nathaniel Brandon, her number one fan, hump on every flat surface available
in the 1940s and 50s as their respective spouses, Peter Fonda and Julie
Delpy, look on and painfully tolerate it so that they too can be considered
modern and open-minded. What we are led to believe is that Ayn
Rand needed a good hard daily fucking to get Atlas Shrugged
out of her and since her husband Peter Fonda wasnt up to it, she
used Nathaniel Brandon for her purpose, as he used her to his purpose.
It all makes sense, but sadly there isnt much passion on display,
and montages of humping just dont cut it for me.
is one of the better movies about making movies. Since most films
about filmmaking are awful, that this depiction of the making of Citizen
Kane seems factually correct and shows the process clearly makes
it quite good. Liv Schrieber makes a creditable Orson Welles and
John Malkovich makes a spunky, if miniature, Herman Mankiewicz.
The story is presented in a slightly ominous, apocryphal way, as though
Citizen Kane destroyed both RKO and Welles, forgetting that
they both made another picture together right away. I mean, lets
face it, for RKO to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination and the film
won Best Screenplay, thats a lot for the littlest major studio.
I also think that the great cinematographer Gregg Toland is given a
slightly short shrift in the film. When Orson Welles asks for
a lower angle at one point and Toland wipes his sweaty brow in exasperation,
saying, We cant go any lower, Orson, were on the stage
floor now and Welles intensely replies, Then dig a hole
in the stage floor! Ill just bet it was more like this:
Welles looking at the scene and asking Toland, Can we go even
lower than the stage floor? and Toland replying with a grin, Sure
we can, watch this and quickly getting in a guy with a jack-hammer
to pound a hole in the floor. I think that no matter what Welles
asked for, Toland gave it to him, which is indeed properly represented
in their first meeting. James Cromwell is very good as William
Randolph Hearst, but Melanie Griffith seemed particularly humorless
in her portrayal of the rather wacky Marion Davies.
This is the best film Ive seen in a while. It was produced
by Oliver Stone, clearly wasnt all that cheap, stars Dennis Quaid
and Nastasha Kinski (for one scene), and I dont think it got released
at all. Id never heard a thing about it before seeing it
in the TV Guide, looking it up in Leonard Maltins book, then seeing
it on TV. Nevertheless, this is a real movie about brutal issues
that actually upset me. Oddly, my biggest gripe would be that
its too short at 103 minutes. It needed the full 120 minutes,
and the extra 17 minutes should have all gone into act one. Weve
hardly gotten to know Dennis Quaid, who is some sort of security guy
for the American embassy in France, when suddenly his wife and son are
killed in a terrorist bombing. He is speaking with the security
and military officers at the embassy, who assure him theyll track
down the terrorists. Quaid dispassionately remarks, Go into
any Mosque. I must tell you that is the toughest line Ive
heard in anything in recent days. I wont tell you what comes
next, but a lot of it is shocking, and I dont think Im all
that easily shocked. Savior is directed by Peter Antonijevic,
whoever he may be, in a totally straight-forward fashion that I found
refreshingly clear and understandable.