Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand": Paul Newman, 1925-2008

Two, maybe three kind favors from Paul Newman--maybe four: Hitting that pool ball, learning a lesson from the Fat Man. Fifty eggs in an hour--of course, of course--his grin as phony and as real as every single year that beats or blesses it out of him. And winking at everybody, especially himself, throughout the '70s, a fight where a hockey game breaks out, dispensing frontier justice, playing cowboy--but somehow, most of all following Robert Altman all the way up to Montreal, icing down Expo '67 and playing a little Quintet.

Why that last one sticks most with me, I don't know. But I remember being surprised to see him there, like John Wayne with the wind knocked out of him, wandering around the Last Days. And so now Mussburger meets the Old Man--the One he prayed to in Cool Hand Luke, a couple of hard cases with a sly-sad sense of humor. But maybe He'll forgive and forget, the tangy tastes of Newman's Own fresh on His tongue like kind words, both of them deep down charitable, with matching blue eyes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rating Game Redux 43: This Is the End

Our local paper's Rating Game called for Best Movie Endings--very nice category, but phenomenally difficult to do well. So I just did three Kubrick endings. Better than nothing, but of course I abandoned Kane's Rosebud; Antoine Doinel's walk on the beach--not to mention Charlton Heston's, accompanied by the Statue of Liberty; the telling piece of information that it's Chinatown, Jake; the Blair Witch wall-huddle; the standoff in the snow to see who's a Thing and who isn't; Marcello abandoning his film to dance in the circus-line; Rocky caring less who won the fight--and Joe E. Brown caring even less that Jack Lemmon's a man; Peter Sellers walking on the water; Michael closing the door on Kay; and Rick at the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And so on. (Feel free to add your own--c'mon, dear geeks, show me up and tell me what I've missed.)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Some sneer at its pretentiousness, others scratch their heads, puzzled. But it remains one of the movies’ great mysteries, a beautiful reminder that, before it was a story, cinema was an image.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” You can say that again. Funniest apocalypse ever.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) wanders from the despairing mess of a war run by opportunists, and hears the German girl sing, his men joining her, their hearts breaking, the front waiting to tear them to pieces. The perfect counterpoint to yet another Best Movie Ending, Casablanca’s.

Aint YouTube grand?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rating Game Redux 42: "What's So Special About Them?"

I usually don't go for the snarkier Rating Game categories for our local paper, but I eventually succumbed to "Worst Movie Special Effects." And while I promised myself not to kick a movie when it's down--that is, no low-budget picks--I couldn't resist just one.

The Polar Express (2004)

The mask-like faces of the motion-captured actors convey a sense of menace, rather than the almost-solemn dream that was the attraction of Chris Van Allsburg’s book. You know you’re in trouble when Tom Hanks (as the Hobo) looks more like Tom Waits.

Spider-Man (2002)

Yes, Spider-Man is strong--like the man says, “Listen, Bud, he’s got radioactive blood”--but the CGI Spidey seems made of rubber as he bounces from one skyscraper to the next, his trajectory as convincing as Wile E. Coyote’s--while only unintentionally funny.

Robot Monster (1953)

I’m being unfair: Good special effects are hard to come by when you have no budget. But when the interplanetary threat is the one and only Ro-Man--a guy in a gorilla suit sporting a dual-antennae space helmet who communicates with his home world via bubble machine--one must conclude that the lack of funds was exceeded only by a lack of imagination. As Ro-Man remarks, “Your deaths will be indescribable.”

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