Friday, October 31, 2008

Film Cliches

I saw the French film I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) earlier today.

It stars Kristin Scott-Thomas as an ex-convict reunited with her younger sister. There's two cliches in this film. On the meta level the plot is a bit of a cliche... another story about a character who has a secret, a secret you must wait until the last moments of the film to learn. Entirely the case here, although in I didn't mind. But a more annoying cliche presents itself at the end of the film. (minor spoiler.)

It's the cliche of repeated dialogue. Screenwriters love to have characters repeat certain phrases to underscore importance of the moment. "I'm going home. Going. Home." Nineteen times out of twenty i hate it. It's artificial, annoying and filmy in the worst way.

Near the end of I've Loved You So Long, Kristin's character Juliette musters her courage saying "I'm here. I'm here."

This time it works. Perhaps because she's not just really repeating the same phrase. The first "here" is just a statement to friend. The second is a vow, a sign she's finally moving forward.

They Shot the Dog

If you're a film industry fan, if you follow the industry like others follow the stock market, if you've already bookmarked boxofficemojo and know who producer Brian Grazer is …you might appreciate What Just Happened. You might not like it but you will appreciate it because a lot of the ridiculous petty things that go on in this movie about Hollywood are sadly believable.

The movie is about a producer played by Robert De Niro. De Niro actually turns in a surprisingly toned down and empathetic performance (that's right he doesn’t play an angry screaming guy..welll not most of the time) as Bob, the producer of a gutsy thriller starring Sean Penn. I should mention this is a movie where some actors play themselves and other don't. So Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis, but John Turturro is Dick Bell a cowardly bow-tie wearing agent.

What Just Happened starts with a test screening of a thriller called Fiercely. Fiercely's director is Jeremy, a crazy Brit who sports a Hebrew letter tattooed on his neck (Guy Ritchie?) With Fiercely Jeremy is making not a movie, but a statement, breaking new ground, subverting the audience and all that garbage. But at the test screening the audience recoils when Sean Penn, as the hero, shoots a dog on screen. Can De Niro/Bob get the director to recut his masterpiece in time for Cannes? That's the kind a movie we're talking about. The kind a movie where the question of whether Bruce Willis will shave his beard isn't just a subplot but the major axis the entire story pivots on. Ridiculous? Sure. True? Yup. Except it was Alec Baldwin who showed up on the set of The Edge looking like Grizzly Adams.

What Just Happened is a movie that you might say is mainly for insiders. But for an industry built on the art of deception there's a surprising amount of truth on the screen. It’s not always pretty. In fact considering the way it wraps up you might say the creators of What Just Happened shot the dog themselves.
See and you’ll understand why in this case, that’s a good thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Before Sunrise for Adults

Sometime a trailer comes along and it just works.
Take the case of Last Chance Harvey, starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. It starts simple. A couple quick cuts and we meet Harvey, frumpled and fumbling. Soon the song comes in and we're in rom-com movie montage heaven. Who needs 2 and half hours? I've seen all I need to in 2 minutes and 20 seconds.


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