Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movie company mercenary

A guy on the A train had a red streaked yellow smiley face Watchmen button on the left lapel of his black leather jacket and I wondered what this meant. Is he just saying he's a fan of the movie or book, or is he also saying that he's a fan of The Comedian, the cynical special ops mercenary? If the latter, does this guy think that The Comedian would wear movie company schwag you can get from the local Suncoast? Maybe he would if he were a guerrilla marketer for the production or distribution company.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Watchmen


As a whole, I really liked The Watchmen; I thought it captured the feel of the comic book and I got sucked into the film's world just as I did when I read the book. It seems like a panel-for-panel remake, or at least the panels that made it into the movie. And the actors were made up to look exactly like the characters; I almost gasped when I saw Dreiberg (Night Owl II) for the first time. (I saw Little Children earlier this winter and could totally picture Patrick Wilson in the role, that is, if he gained some flab, which he did. Even more impressive, instead of being lazy and just gaining a beer belly, it looks like he bulked up and then let himself go, just like Dreiberg did.)

But perfect facades only get you so far. I felt kind of bored until they showed Dr. Manhattan's backstory, which was about half-way though the two hour, 40 minute movie. Up till that point, the movie was a Disney theme park version of the book. Everything was wondrous and looked exactly as it should, but much of it was without soul. Maybe if I hadn't just read the book this past August, and had time to forget the specifics, I would have enjoyed the first half more.

Then Billy Crudup woke me up with his aching portrayal of Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan is slipping away from humanity as he tries to understand its place in the universe. His approach is too practical; he's looking from the outside in and wants humanity to fit into his idea of what the order of the universe is as if it were a cog in a watch and is frustrated and tormented when the pieces don't fit. But when he brings Laurie to Mars and an important piece of her past is revealed, he sees humanity through her eyes, from the inside out, and realizes how improbable it is that she came into being, how improbable it is that every person comes into being. He calls it a miracle, something that can't be explained by pure scientific reasoning or by a watchmaker's practicality. Crudup doesn't overplay Dr. Manhattan's detachment; he could have easily sounded like an automaton, but instead he sounds more like a bemused observer trying to understand what it's all about. I wish the movie allowed the rest of the characters to be that intriguing, as they are in the book.

Zack Snyder needed even more run time than the 2:40 to make this into an excellent movie. He could have taken a deeper dive, used the medium of film to tell the story in a slightly different way than the book, instead of worrying about making it look perfect. But the movie is still wonderful to look at and rings true to the spirit of The Watchmen.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Got FAIL? has just the prescription.

Alfie: I'll tell you what it's all about

Kent and I saw Alfie - the one with Michael Caine, not pretty boy Jude Law (who is pretty even in person, and does look rather like Caine) - last week. I found the character, though highly flawed and overwhelmingly sexist, to be quite interesting. He's pretty clueless, which is, I suppose, the only reason why I could find such a character interesting and even a bit sympathetic. That, and the women he misuses get incrementally smarter about his game. I imagine that not soon after the story ends, Alfie has quite a bit of trouble picking anyone up. I could be wrong. After all, His Awesomeness Barney Stinson hasn't lost his knack yet.

"Only connect" said EM Forster. But Alfie's part of the swinging '60s generation and he rejects that notion wholeheartedly and suffers for it, though he doesn't see the connection between his miserableness and not emotionally connecting with the birds he beds. As he pushes them away whenever they start to get close, he believes he's being honest with himself and them. Alfie lives life on his terms, which are to be free and unattached. But in return, Alfie has no one; no one visits him at the sanitorium where he waits until the benign spot on his lung clears up, not even his buddy. No one's there to listen to his thoughts and feelings - sometimes his buddy does but he doesn't seem to really understand. We're the only ones who's always there for him. And do we actually like him? He has potential if only he'd see how miserable he's making himself. I mean, if he did die, who would actually go to his funeral? Would Gilda bring their son? Or would she keep him away, hide Alfie from him because Alfie was such a bad influence? As the movie ends, the dog from the opening returns and trots off with Alfie taking our place as the ever-present, mute witness to Alfie's charms and self-deceptions.

Interesting Wikipedia tidbit: Terrance Stamp turned down the part and recommended Caine. I would have loved to seen Stamp in that role.