Thanks to Lena for ROCKING OUT this results show.
Thanks to Art and Tad for the voice mail.
Congrats to Cougron, Tad and Marc for their 23s.
Thanks to Lena for ROCKING OUT this results show.
Thanks to Art and Tad for the voice mail.
Congrats to Cougron, Tad and Marc for their 23s.
On the soapbox:
3rd in this series of four Modern Black & White movies
Release date: 11/2/01
Directed, Written and Produced by:
Billy Bob Thornton Ed Crane
Frances McDormand Doris Crane
Michael Badalucco Frank
James Gandolfini Big Dave Brewster
Initial comments by the hosts:
Sam thought the movie was “decidedly meh.” Darrell thought it was pretty good. It had a slow pace but eventually got into the story. If you’re a film buff, you’ll really like it; he liked the cinematography. Tony thought it was a good noir picture but the story ambled along without any deep meaning. Sam thought that the movie meandered through the story just like Ed Crane meandered through his life.
Tony thought Billy Bob Thornton was fantastic, Frances McDormand was great (she successfully created a very unlikeable character) and he always enjoys James Gandolfini and this movie was not a letdown. All the performances were equally solid. Darrell talked about how every other character was over-animated against Ed Crane’s cardboard cut-out character that everything and everyone moved around. Lena (from the chat room) thought that Ed Crane literally looked like cardboard and Darrell added how Crane’s suit was always pressed, his barber’s smock was tight and neat, adding to that appearance. Sam loved Richard Jenkins’ Walter Abundas character. They also talked about how the relationship between Ed Crane and Birdie Abundas seemed to be developing into something weird (romance or father/daughter or both?), until you realize that each of them has developed that into a completely different relationship than the other.
Tony enjoyed all of the performances. Sam didn’t think McDormand was that great in this movie (or Fargo). Lena mentioned (chatroom) how Frank (Badalucco), was more like a character in a play, and Tony added that since Ed is so quiet, the others have to have something to do or say to fill the void. They also discussed the narration and even though not all of the hosts are fans of narration, they agreed that it was necessary in this kind of film. Telling the story would not have been as successful without Ed Crane’s narration.
Darrell brought up the use of light and shadow. The movie was shot in color and then transferred to black and white, and Tony questioned the intention of doing it that way. Darrell explained how, when you shoot in color, you can then adjust all of the black and white shadow patters and you can do more with that than if you shoot in straight black and white. It’s also more difficult to shoot in black and white. Darrell also brought up the scene where Big Dave’s widow visits Ed Crane’s house and how, in her shots, she was in stark contrast to the darkness of then night behind her and when the shot turned back to Ed, you see all the moving shadows of the leaves.
Sam thought that, in general, the movie was a great representation of the late 40’s/early 50’s. Tony and Darrell disagreed on the life that Crane was living. Tony thought Ed Crane was content with his miserable life but Darrell thought that he was dying but didn’t know what to do. Sam countered with the fact that Crane seemed to stumble through his entire life, not actually making any choices but letting the choices be made for him. When Crane made his big “decision” in the movie, is it because he truly wanted to change his life or is it because, after finding out that his wife isn’t who he always thought she was, this was just one more decision that was placed into his lap for him to simply follow, just like everything else? Even in the scene where Crane stabbed Big Dave, was that simply a reflex reaction of self-defense or was that Crane taking some kind of a stand with his own life? In turning their discussion to the perspective of Big Dave, it was brought out how Ed Crane comes across almost as cold and heartless. The argument easily goes both ways.
Tony thought that Ed Crane’s biggest failing was that he truly believed that he was invisible and that he could get away with things because he thought people didn’t notice him. Inasmuch as he was part of the background, he was always acknowledged, he was always noticed.
Who is this movie for? Film noir fans, Billy Bob Thornton fans, Coen brothers fans.
Joel and Ethan Coen came up with the story for The Man Who Wasn’t There while working on The Hudsucker Proxy. During a barbershop scene, they saw a poster of 1940s haircuts and developed a story about the barber who cut the hair in the poster.
In the scene where Scarlett Johansson’s Birdy character is playing the piano for him, Thornton made it look like Ed Crane had an erection. When the Coen Brothers later found out, they made it clear that Ed would not be aroused in the scene.
Your Producers for this episode were:
This episode was recorded: 2/8/2012
A deep-cover CIA operative has been working within the system of a Philippine drug ring run by a man known as Christo. Christo is suspected of having deeper ties to organized terrorism, but so far is just suspected. The operative has been discovered and now she’s being tortured to tell what she knows. An elite Navy SEAL team, SEAL Team 7 under the command of Lieutenant Rorke and Chief Dave has been dispatched to rescue her and in the process uncover a plot of potential devastating terrorism that takes their team around the world in order to stop it.
That’s the premise to Act of Valor, a movie that I’ve been looking forward to ever since first seeing it’s trailer in the fall of 2011. This movie has been promoted by the fact that the SEAL team is in fact being played by real-life active duty Navy SEALs. So right off the bat, in the eyes of some that could be a huge drawback simply because these guys aren’t professional actors. Personally though, I thought it was a breath of fresh air.
Because they’re not professional actors, Act of Valor doesn’t feel the need to go into it’s characters in an overly complicated way. Near the start of the film, before the SEALs are deployed, they’re enjoying time with their families all together on a beach. As their party draws to a close, the SEALs come together with the leaders of the team right off the bat asking everyone if there’s any sort of personal or financial problems that any of them have. They basically want to put those to rest right away so that everyone’s mind is purely on the mission at hand. Doing this takes that whole little bit of overcomplicating the characters right out of the picture and instead concentrates on the action, the plot and the fact that these guys are the very best at what they do and as one should expect, upstanding people who you can count on.
What you get is an incredibly slick piece of entertainment that has total authenticity to it’s action. The action set pieces are incredibly well made and you really do get an accurate idea of what it must be like to be right in the midst of the type of firefights that these guys have to endure. From what I understand, this is the first feature film from directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh, though you’d never know. The action scenes are extremely compelling and the whole thing is edited with a tight pace.
If I have any criticism at all about the movie, it’s in the fact that something that happens to one of the SEALs is telegraphed at the very beginning of the film and so when this event does happen, it doesn’t quite have the impact that it should. You’re basically expecting this to happen at some point and while I get why it was done, I’d like to think that there should’ve been a way to get the same points across without telegraphing this action. These guys aren’t professional actors, but at least in my case, I still tended to give a damn about them and felt just a little robbed at not getting the emotional impact from this bit of business that I should’ve gotten. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, and the end denouement supplies a pretty darn satisfying emotional resolution to the life these men have chosen to lead.
Normally, I’d take a little time to specifically talk about the actors and their performances, but because these guys are active duty SEALs, their full names aren’t given in the end credits. For not being professional actors, I think these guys do a pretty good job at getting you sucked into the action particularly Rorke and Dave and a character known as Senior who acts as an interrogator. Their line delivery may not be as professional as it could be, but it’s more than made up for by their screen presence, authentic actions and facial expressions.
Act of Valor is a very entertaining and unique film. It’s distinctly made (at least to me) outside of the Hollywood system and yet it’s action can stand head and shoulder with films like Black Hawk Down or We Were Soldiers. This is real stirring filmmaking and needless to say (though I’ll say it anyway), highly recommended.
Congrats to Scott for the best score of the week… 19?!
Nicolas Cage, why have you forsaken us?
Thanks to Art and Tad for the voice mail this week.
In the (very tiny) seat:
2nd in this series of four Modern Black & White movies
Release date: 4/2/99
Jeremy Theobald The Young Man/Bill
Alex Haw Cobb
Lucy Russell The Blonde
John Nolan The Policeman
Initial comments by the hosts:
Sam wasn’t really all that interested until the last eight or so minutes, and then it ended up being an OK movie, not a great movie (Tony was convinced that Sam would change his mind by the end of the discussion… he did not). He thought it took too long to set up the premise and he also thought some pieces were sloppy (fight scene) and some of the cuts were not very good. Jill agreed in that parts of the movie were slow, but overall, she liked it. She knew it was going to follow the same formula as Memento (Christopher Nolan’s 2ndfull-length film) so she was already looking for clues as she watched. The idea that he made this for 6 million dollars with only two or three takes per shot and the way he had the film structured, which was relatively new at the time, solidified Nolan as a genius filmmaker to her.
Darrell liked it and thought it was a nice tight little drama. He said that you can get a lot out of this film. Tony also really enjoyed it, too. He said he could completely see how Christopher Nolan got every other job he ever got after Following. Watching it through a 2ndtime, he saw how many little things were laid out from the very start. Nothing is actually hidden, but it’s obfuscated by the nature of jumping through time. Tony also said he almost wished they hadn’t reviewed Clerks earlier so that they could compare the two to show what a great director (Nolan) can do against what a great writer (Smith) can do.
The hosts all thought that the acting as a whole was OK, unimpressive, passable. Alex Haw (Cobb) was the best actor of the bunch. As for Lucy Russell, they all pretty much agreed that she was probably very lucky in that her bad acting played well into the cold character she portrayed. Jill countered that female characters in film noir usually aren’t multidimensional characters. Tony added that they tend to play damsels in distress, vamps, ice queens… and she played all three of those, but still all “cold”. Lucy Russell’s character struck Sam as a more jaded Ilsa from Casablanca. Darrell said to keep in mind that she’s playing The Blonde as cold because she’s setting Bill up, but she truly cold/stoic throughout the scene.
Jill thought that she was dressed in black in every scene except the one when the gangster is leaving the house and she’s waiting for Bill to arrive, in which she’s dressed in white. Sam said that she’s also in a white shirt in the last scene when she tells Bill how he’s been set up.
Cobb tells Bill, as they’re going through someone’s apartment, “You take it away… to show them what they had,” and this is the recurring theme in the movie. What Bill doesn’t realize is that Cobb is flat-out telling this to Bill that this is what he’s doing to him, but Bill doesn’t realize this until the end. Bill only sees what’s going around him and not what’s literally being put right in his face. Tony brought up that it’s similar to what M. Night Shyamalan does not too long after in The Sixth Sense, when the boy tells Bruce Willis that he sees dead people. They don’t know they’re dead yet, but they are. The boy is telling Bruce that he’s dead but he doesn’t see the big picture right that’s right in front of him.
It’s a very short, compact movie; 70 minutes long including the credits. Sam notes that the ending is very abrupt. All the “webs” that are set all comes together in the last eight minutes and then it’s over… nothing extra, noting unnecessary. Tony compares the ending of Following to the ending to Usual Suspects, differentiating by adding that the ending of Usual Suspects almost feels like a “cheat.” The audience never sees any of the clues in the Usual Suspects until they’re all laid out at the end, as opposed to Following, in which the clues are throughout the movie. The audience is shown the clues and they get to enjoy the discovery of piecing it together themselves. The audience is not given this opportunity in The Usual Suspects. The beauty of Following and The Sixth Sense is that you can go back and see the clues that you might not have caught the first time, the clues that were easily glossed over until the ending is fully presented. It’s an intellectual puzzle for the audience to solve.
Sam thought that Following was more of a master’s thesis, so to speak, that sets the style for Christopher Nolan films. Sam is still not convinced that this was a great film. Ultimately it was slow and it came together too quickly at the end. He thought it didn’t have the amazing visuals (Batman Begins), the creative storytelling (Dark Knight) or the jaw dropping reactions (Memento) of Nolan’s later films. In essence, it’s like watching his first “student film.” You can see a lot of artistry and craftsmanship in this first film.
Even though Nolan chose to film this in B&W, for budgetary reasons, but none of the hosts can imagine this film in color. This is the resume for the rest of Nolan’s career. This is the film in which you can see what he has to offer in all of his later films, in how he tells a story both visually and through dialogue; it’s creating his brand in the same way that Do The Right Thing IS Spike Lee and Clerks IS Kevin Smith.
Jill mentioned how the movie was shot on Saturdays because everyone (cast and crew) had full time jobs. The cost of making the film ($6 million) came out of Nolan’s pocket. Darrell brought up how Nolan had the actors were made to practice their lines so that he would only have to have one or two takes per scene, to conserve film and time.
Bill’s apartment, with the Batman sticker on the door, was Bill’s real apartment.
Christopher Nolan came up with the idea for Following because his home had been broken into and he wondered what the people thought as they went around looking at his belongings.
As Nolan’s debut film, it was designed to be as inexpensive as possible to make. He mostly used available light to save on the expense of professional lighting equipment. Apart from providing the script and direction, Nolan also did the photography, editing and production himself.
Your Producers for this episode were:
This episode was recorded: 2/1/2012
Johnny Blaze is literally on the run from himself, or more precisely the demon inside him known as the Ghost Rider. He’s found himself in seclusion in a non-descript area of Eastern Europe, Simultaneously, a religious order is under attack by a group of men seeking to take a young boy from them who’s under their protection. As the attack occurs, the boy, Danny, and his mother Nadya go on the run and manage to escape their pursuers. Moreau, a member of the order, tries to find them but has little luck. One thing that Moreau is aware of is the fact that the Rider is near by and he knows he could persuade Johnny Blaze to search for Danny and Nadya.
Moreau finds Blaze and explains why the boy is so valuable, and with the offer of being able to release Blaze from his curse, Johnny Blaze soon joins the pursuit.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the second film to use Marvel Comics’ superhero/supernatural character and all it has in common with the first movie is Nicolas Cage playing Blaze and the broadest of aspects of the character’s origin. It’s both a sequel and a re-boot, which of course for most are already two strikes against it. But under the able directorial team of Neveldine/Taylor (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who have previously made the Crank movies and more recently Gamer with Gerard Butler), there’s a lot of new life here, but it’s hard for me to say if it will be embraced. For myself though, I had a ball with this.
Neveldine/Taylor and Cage are basically embracing all of the “B” movie aspects of the Ghost Rider and just playing them to the hilt. Just about every part of the film is over-the-top fun. Neveldine/Taylor’s hyper-kinetic shooting style just fits this thing to a “T.” I’ve already read complaints of the style for this film from others as being too fast and shaky, and it is fast and shaky, but honestly I just didn’t have any trouble following the action in the slightest. I think the choice of setting this in a non-descript area of Easter Europe was on point. The locations are both bleak and beautiful and add a bit of surreality that for me harkens back to such horror movies as Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes or Robert Fuest’s The Devil’s Rain.
The attention to detail is terrific and really on focus with the background settings and in the re-design of The Ghost Rider himself. The new look of the Rider is evident in his skull visage and close-shots of the leathers he wears which are both charred and boiling due to the intense heat caused by the Rider. Neveldine/Taylor are directors who were made for 3D and their use of the effect is extremely entertaining both for it’s immersion and it’s moments of being in-your-face. One of the better uses of the technology is also one of the more quiet scenes in the film. This scene is a split screen phone call that takes place between Roarke (the man in pursuit of Danny) and Carrigan (Roarke’s lead in the pursuit). When the screen is split, it offers up to completely different planes of depth that’s just really fascinating to watch.
Nicolas Cage looks like he’s really having a ball with this one. In the first movie, I thought his quirks worked a little against the story that was being told (though in general, I like the film), but here, Neveldine/Taylor really play that up to a point where it’s funny to watch, but still entirely suitable to the story. When Cage is in action as the Ghost Rider, he adds some jerky movements to the character that can imply two things; either Blaze still trying to contain the character or the demon being uncomfortably confined to a human host- either way it works. I tend to think Cage is at his best when he’s making “B” movie fare and I certainly enjoyed him in movies like Drive Angry and Season of the Witch. He certainly plays with that here, but there’s also a little bit in common with his work with Werner Herzog in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans as well.
Violante Placido and Fergus Riordan play Nadya and Danny, and they’re the most “normal” parts to the whole film (though Placido is over-the-top gorgeous in her part). Johnny Whitworth plays Ray Carrigan, who later gets transformed his own self into what should be a worthy opponent to the Ghost Rider, and i general, he’s a fun character. Idris Elba plays Moreau, and it’s a character that to me certainly has a lot more life to him than others that Elba has played. Much like Cage, Elba looks like he’s having a ball making this film.
The biggest surprise to me in the cast though was Ciarán Hinds as Roarke. Hinds has always been one of those guys who for me has always been a little on the stiff side in his parts (though don’t get me wrong, it’s worked for some of those parts as well). Here, he’s positively animated in a way that could suggest that’s he’s some sort of strange mix of Moe Howard, Shemp Howard, Ernest Borgnine and the Devil Incarnate rolled into one. Now I know that mentioning two of The Three Stooges here could sound detrimental and it’s not meant that way at all. There’s something that’s just both fun and funny about Roarke and Hinds looks like he’s lapping it all up and just enjoying every single minute of it.
I suspect I’m going to be a minority on this one, but I just had a terrific time with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Neveldine/Taylor’s visual style is a perfect fit for the character and their use of 3D is both inventive and immersive. The performances, in particular from Nicolas Cage and Ciarán Hinds are over-the-top and not meant to be taken seriously at all, and much like the visual style of the film, they fit. All this really needed to further it’s embracing of “B-movie trash” (and I say that with great love for “B” movie trash) was adding some of the scratched and warped film effects that Robert Rodriguez used in his portion of Grindhouse, Planet Terror. This was a lot of fun and I look forward to eventually seeing it again down the road.