p>First things first.
Go, Pokes. Now, if only we didn't have to play Texas, Texas Tech and UO.
I'll leave the analysis to Dwayne, if he bothers to talk about the Pokes, unlike last week.
Also, before we get to the week's business, I've something to call to your attention. On Oct. 19, the documentary Before They Die, will premier at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
The film "follows the survivors and their legal team through their battle for reparations that ended at the Supreme Court. The film reflects both on the survivors' experiences as well as the intolerance and distrust that surrounded this haunting tragedy, and features an epilogue that focuses on Tulsa's post-riot healing and plans to create a more united community in Tulsa."
The film shows at 3pm. Tickets are $25. Get them at the PAC ticket office or www.tulsapac.org.
Now, on with the show...
I had every intention of reviewing Body of Lies and City of Ember. And when that didn't work out, I was going to substitute The Express for Ember.
I had a really crappy weekend.
I always debate with myself as to how much I should make this a "column" instead of just a review. How much of myself should I put in the work?
Do you really want to hear about my personal life?
Probably not. Then again, we live in a voyeuristic society and a lot of us spend our time away from work watching the lives of others.
So let's do it this way. I'll leave out the gory details, but I had some pretty serious health crap go wrong last weekend, and the movies had to be put on the back burner.
You don't care, I'm sure. But it makes me feel better to think you might.
At the end of the day, I think most people still just want to know there are people out there who care about them. I think you guys care.
But then that gets into why you come here in the first place. I wrote my master's thesis on movie critics. I'd do my dissertation on the readers of movie reviews.
Why do you come here? Validation of your opinion? To find out whether or not a film is worth seeing? Just for something to read?
The answer to that provides an answer to yet another question, "Do reviewers have any effect on whether or not viewers see a movie?"
I honestly have no idea. This guy I work with, Paul, tells me he reads the column religiously and won't go see something if I say it stinks. So at least I've got one check in the "yes" column. Thanks, Paul.
I don't talk movies much, not in my day-to-day life anyway.
Sure, I get the usual. "What'd you watch this weekend?"
My answer to that is almost always the same. "I don't remember."
Either way, they'll get an answer out of me and then they'll ask me if it was any good, which really is the second question I get asked the most.
"Seen anything good lately?"
People, seriously, I can't remember what I watch from one weekend to the next. It's the rare film that makes an impression. And I can't answer that question anyway.
If you see me on the street and ask me if I've seen anything good, I'm going to ask you what you like to watch before giving you an answer.
But past those questions, I never get to talk about movies. You know what I mean? Where you sit around and discuss genres, directors, political context and cool special effects. You know, movie talk.
Never get to do that, and I'm not sure why. Well, I mean, first, I don't have a lot of friends who're into movies like I am. It's a short list.
Second, talking about movies is a social thing. It means you're getting to hang out with nothing better to do and just talk. I'm wondering if that kind of thing is getting lost in today's digital world.
This next bit, which segues into the review of Body of Lies, comes pretty much from a "movie talk" session I had with a friend from out of town last Saturday. Action movies were the topic of discussion.
There's that old saying, "They don't make them like they used to."
It's an interesting idea. It's my perception that we just don't get a lot of action movies anymore, and when we do get them, they're hollow shells of the action flicks of my youth.
But I'm misremembering.
For every cool action flick from my childhood -- First Blood, The Terminator, Predator, Raiders of the Lost Ark -- there was a really crappy one. There never have been a lot of quality action flicks, and the ratio between good and bad probably follows Sturgeon's Law, now and then. Most everything is crap.
Ready for Action
What makes a good action flick? Action that fits into the story, that progresses the narrative and isn't just the tent poles marking the denouements of acts I, II and III.
Yes, that means you have to have a good script. No, The Transporter isn't a good action flick. Not by my standards, anyway. There's an art to a good action flick. Very few of our writers and directors are proficient in it.
I think there are a couple of guys who're craftsmen in regard to action cinema. They imbue their films (or perhaps only choose projects with a requisite amount of depth), with a sophistication you don't get from say, The Transporter.
I'm speaking of Ridley and Tony Scott.
The Scotts are two of the more interesting directors in Hollywood, and two of my favorites as it turns out.
They aren't the same kind of director, either. Tony is definitely the more visually interesting of the two. For the past decade, he's worked with a fast, rough editing style and a sort of over-saturated color palette. I love his movies, even when they're not that good (Domino).
Tony's flicks tend to involve... well, I can't say that. He's all over the map. The Fan. Crimson Tide. Top Gun. Domino. Man on Fire. Déjà Vu. Enemy of the State. True Romance. All eminently watchable (and bankable) movies. He has an instantly identifiable visual style, keeps his films centered on the characters, and can handle action as well.
I wish he'd make more movies.
Ridley has really his stride since his success in 2000 with Gladiator. Between now and then, he's given us Blackhawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven and American Gangster. Epic and mostly critically acclaimed films (seems like people were split on KoH).
But he's also slipped in some "smaller" films, stuff like Matchstick Men and A Good Year. Where his brother experiments with editing and presentation, Ridley plays with genres. Matchstick Men is about as far from Gladiator as you can get.
I admire him for trying something new. Knowing a competent director is at the helm makes it easier to take a chance on a comedy with Russell Crowe in it.
Speaking of Crowe, he's sort of become Ridley's DeNiro. At this point, I imagine Ridley just calls Crowe and says, "Hey, gain 20 pounds and be there on Oct. 23 for first day of shooting."
Crowe, as it turns out, is wasted in Body of Lies. I can see why he did it, obviously. He likes working with Scott. But more perplexing is why Leonardo DiCaprio is in it. The guy has had a weird career. Weird to me, anyway. I've always thought of him as too slight to be a traditional leading man.
But he's shaping up to follow in the footsteps of Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner: thrillers interspersed with random dramas and/or comedies. He consistently allies himself with talented directors and picks interesting projects. I'll give him that. But he just seems to not be as good as his reputation.
Here, he's adequate, but he's not asked to do a whole lot other than try to convey a convincing CIA agent. I still think he looks like a scrawny kid, so it took my suspension of disbelief a little while to kick in.
Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) is an up-and-coming CIA field agent in the Middle East. His job is to root out terrorists. When you catch up with him, he's plying his trade in Iraq, though under the watchful eye of Ed Hoffman (Crowe). Literally under his eye, as it turns out, thanks to the help of surveillance drones, satellites and cell phones.
Basically, the gist of the story is this: Ferris uncovers information that there's a terrorist cell in Jordan under the control of Al-Saleem, a Bin Laden-esque charismatic leader. He goes to Jordan to figure a way to catch Al-Saleem.
In doing so, he has to navigate the mine field that is relations between the various intelligence communities in the Middle East, as well as avoid running into his boss's other operations.
As hard as Ferris' job is, Hoffman makes it more difficult by not ever giving Ferris the whole story.
The tale is convoluted, but taut; I've explained it all I'm going to.
It does work. The acting and direction make it work. But there's so much there, and so much has to happen before we get to the final act, that the end result of this is ... meh. It's like being underwhelmed by being overwhelmed.
There's something else that didn't appeal to me. It's about the modern Middle East. And terrorism. But there's no mention of the war. I think perhaps I'm not ready for this level of trivialization of the U.S.'s involvement in the Middle East.
Something about it just didn't resonate with me.
Ask me how it was at the water cooler (Hey, Dwayne, we still have one in our office), and I'll just shrug my shoulders and say, "It didn't suck."
See you next week for some Max Payne and something else to be decided. Woo hoo!
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