|Feb. 19, 1999
"Out of Sight" &
"The Horse Whisperer"
Although I have yet to even look at the Academy
Award nominations because I completely donít care, I am starting to catch
up on some of the bigger films of í98 as they become available on video.
What this ultimately does is reassure me that I was correct in the first
place for not bothering to see these films in the theater.
I was informed by several people whom I respect that "Out of Sight" was
the overlooked gem of 1998. It also received very good reviews, not that
that means much. Well, killjoy that I am, I didnít like it. It seems like
one more illogical, run-of-the-mill Elmore Leonard adaptation. Yes, itís
better than "Jackie Brown" or "Get Shorty," but that is certainly faint
Elmore Leonardís stories all seem like first drafts to meóhe seemingly
blasts his way through them and sends them off to the publisher before
the ink is dry. I have no doubt that if Mr. Leonard thought his way through
these stories a bit longer they would be much better. But why bother when
the first draft will absolutely be published and most certainly sell quite
a few copies? Elmore Leonard is obviously more concerned with quantity
I do not intend to recount the filmís plot, but as with most of Mr. Leonardís
crime stories, "Out of Sight" is about a lot of tough-talking criminals
that spend a great deal of time shuttling between Michigan and Florida.
There were at least five times during the film when I internally proclaimed,
"That seems highly improbable," or "Iím sure," or "Get the fuck outta here!"
This brings up an issue that really bugs meóthe "suspension of disbelief."
We all go to the movies wanting to believe what weíre told; thatís why
we spent the money and went there. But itís the filmmakerís job to make
us believe the story, not for us to have to keep suspending our sense of
disbelief. Iíll do it once or twice, but by the third time Iím a goner.
For me, "Out of Sight" can be lumped together with such notable films as
"Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder" in its use of the good-looking babe in
a completely inappropriate role. Oh, sure, Kelly McGillis is an astrophysicist,
Nicole Kidman is a neurosurgeon, and, in this case, Jennifer Lopez is a
federal marshal. I know this is totally un-PC to mention, but how can Dennis
Farina be Jennifer Lopezí father? Yes, I suppose he could be married to
a Latina, but they never say so. Itís just like in "Much Ado About Nothing"
where I am simply supposed to accept Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington
as brothers and just shut up about it. Iím sorry, but I donít. And I also
donít like having to attempt to fill in the logic holes in my imagination
to explain how this might have occurred.
I also got a true sense of desperation from Steven Soderberghís direction.
This is a guy that began his career at its high point, with "sex, lies
& videotape," and has progressively been working his way down and out
of the business. Both "Kafka" and "King of the Hill" were sort of interesting
and not particularly commercial. Well, neither film did very well and you
have to believe that financing was getting more and more difficult for
the man to find. So he got himself on an Elmore Leonard project, which
there seem to be several of a year now. Now he has to prove heís a stylish
action director. Whatís Mr. Soderberghís answer to this? Freeze frames.
In an utterly arbitrary fashion, the action keeps freezing for no good
reason. After the third or fourth time this happened I felt like they ought
to be simultaneously running a subtitle that read, "Caution: Director at
Work." Then, to make sure we understand that heís a contemporary, stylish
director, Soderbergh begins jump-cutting just like almost every commercial
on TV. Well, Iíve got news for him and everyone elseóif theyíre doing it
on most of the TV commercials, itís not stylish and itís not interesting.
Jump cuts and shaky hand-held camera work that tilts down to peopleís feet
for no reason is not only not hip and not stylish, itís boring! "Out of
Sight" does not have the shaky camera work, Iíll give it that.
Adolph Zukor, founder of Famous Players Film Corporation, which merged
in 1916 with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company to become Famous Player-Lasky
which ultimately became Paramount Pictures, was the man that made feature-length
films his mission in life. When Zukor started in the film business in 1913,
movies were either one or two reels long, meaning 10 or 20 minutes. Zukor
believed that movies ought to be a similar length to theatrical plays,
meaning about 90 to 120 minutes long. The film distributors fought him,
of course, saying that people could not sit still that long. Then in 1914
the Italian film "Cabiria" was released at 148 minutes and in 1915 D. W.
Griffithís "Birth of a Nation" was released at 159 minutes. Both films
made a lot of money and the feature film was born. Then, in 1918, Griffith
released "Intolerance," which originally ran 208 minutes. Although the
film was as spectacular as any film ever made, no one could sit through
it. Griffith quickly re-edited the film to 178 minutes, but still no one
was able to sit through it. Adolph Zukor came to a conclusionópeople can
comfortably sit for a maximum of two hours, then they must get up and go
to bathroom or stretch or smoke or whatever. If one intended to make a
film longer than two hours, there had to be an intermission about two hours
in. And this is the way films were made from 1918 up to the 1970s. Itís
not that there werenít quite a few long movies made during that timeó"Gone
With the Wind" is 222 minutes, "Lawrence of Arabia" is 216 minutes, "The
Godfather Part 2" is 200 minutesóbut they all have intermissions at about
the two hour mark.
Now, however, we no longer get intermissions. Do Hollywood filmmakers believe
that humans have gone through a genetic change since then and our bladders
have gotten larger? I completely resent having to leave a movie and go
to the bathroom, even if I donít like the movie. But after two hours and
a huge Coke, I always have to.
Which brings me to "The Horse Whisperer." This would have made a fine,
insignificant, 90-minute TV movie jammed into a two-hour time slot. As
it is, the film is a dull, slow, pretentious 166-minute snooze-fest. Obviously,
the concept of pace and rhythm are completely outdated. For a contemporary
movie to seem important and be taken seriously it must be at least 30 to
60 minutes too long and feel like molasses were poured all over it. Does
Robert Redford actually believe this tiny little story needs a longer running
time than "The Bridge on the River Kwai?" Itís completely insane.
Since Kristin Scott Thomas is seemingly happily married to Sam Neill, why
the hell is she messing around with Robert Redford? And if Redford is supposed
to be so fucking wise, why is he messing around with a married woman? It
all gave me the creeps, very slowly.