Saturday, January 09, 2010
Friday, January 08, 2010
The thing about being a Terry Gilliam fan or being a fan of any artist really, is that your view of each of their next pieces of work cannot help but be informed by your knowledge of their last, and all that came before.
If you are not careful, this can hamper your enjoyment as each sight is identified, labeled and filed away. For example: A recurrent character in Gilliam's films is the one who reminds the hero or heroes, who sometimes so just want to play, that there is serious work to be done and they had better do it.
This person is not a drudge (though those are represented too) they are people who see and speak the truth; often innocent. In Time Bandits it's Kevin, in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen it's Sally.
In Fisher King--although Gilliam didn't write it--this idea is turned on its head. Jack Lucas plays the anchor to the high-flying Parry, but only when he enters Parry's world, is he able to set the both of them free.
In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, that role is filled by Verne Troyer as the Doctor's dwarf companion.
This is doubly echoic of some of Gilliam's previous work, by having the part of the truth teller played by someone whom, at first glance, you might take for a child.
And of course, Gilliam used dwarves in Time Bandits better than anyone has ever used them in film, with the possible exception of The Wizard of Oz.
A clever artist, which Mr. Gilliam indubitably is, knows we see and hear echoes, and like the good Doctor Parnassus, he insists that you breathe in his world, and breathe in his world, if you catch the distinction.
I have heard it said--and often repeated--that a good story is not about what it is about, it is about the way in which it is what's about. Well, this movie is about what it's about: Imagination and a deal with the devil.
I knew while watching it that I wanted to see this movie again and again--I know, how rare for me with a Terry Gilliam film.
One of the things I want to study is Christopher Plummer's performance as the title character. I have the feeling it is the kind of performance that is so good it almost slips by you.
He could've been operatic; it would've been easy for Plummer to turn in the kind of performance beloved by drama students everywhere. It might even have worked as well. But instead, Plummer chose to play the calm at the center point of the storm.
As is well known, this is Heath Ledger's last film. He died before filming was finished.
Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped in via a device: That as Ledger's character steps into the Imaginarium, he changes his face.
This also may affect the way some view the film, but I hope it's something they can get past as both the finished film, and Ledger's unfinished work within, deserve it.
I don't know Ledger's career well enough to hazard a guess how this uncompleted performance stacks up to others, but I did notice something.
Watch him, especially (but not only) in the scenes with Christopher Plummer, and you will see an actor actually listening to another.
There are no rules about what makes a good actor, but that's one of them.
As Valentina, the Doctor's daughter, Lily Cole is a beautiful woman with a Kewpie doll face, and Gilliam makes excellent use of her here.
I'll want to see her in another part or two before I can say whether I think she can act or just stand around looking pretty (It's her first leading role in a film after spending most of the past decade as a model).
But I will say now that she's already got Megan Fox beat in the "can move and talk at the same time" sweepstakes.
Andrew Garfield, whose name is unknown to me, plays Ledger's jealous rival for Valentina's affections. His suit is true, but he's not the hero. More about that in a moment.
Troyer here makes up for his participation in any amount of Mike Myers jackassery, and almost for his demonstration of the effects of alcohol consumption on The Surreal Life.
As for the devil in this movie...well, he's played by Tom Waits. You need to know anything else?
As for the other three star actors, they do some really nice work; with a bit of luck, they may have a future in the business.
I'm kidding of course. Actually, the device works better than I was afraid it might, especially because the character they are all playing--Tony--desperately wants to hide who he is, even if it's not always clear if he is hiding from the others, or from himself.
So when entering a world of merged imaginations, why wouldn't he give himself a face that best suits his purpose?
(There's also a suggestion that at least some of his pleasing shapes are supplied by the women he escorts through the mirror.)
(Supposedly, the women imagine themselves romanced by the likes of Johnny Depp & Co. A likely story.)
Still though, Tony is not the hero either.
Then who is?
Well, exactly and precisely whose Imaginarium is this, anyway?
It's Doctor Parnassus', and he is the hero. Not because his name's in the title, but because when determining a hero, I always look for the character who has been changed the most by the events of a story.
If they're lucky, they've learned, but they've always been changed. I can't reveal the way in which Doctor Parnassus is changed by the end of this film, but I will say...it's not simple.
(Entertaining, yes, simple, no)
Parnassus is the imaginative, wise, but half-crippled (in his case by drink) man who wants only to give people a trip into their imaginations by way of his own.
But in order to keep these going, he must make deals that would best not be made, and risk the sweetest thing in his life: His daughter.
The film is, I suspect, Gilliam's most autobiographical work yet, emotionally if not literally.
What do I mean by that? Well, I couldn't help but observe that a producer of this film is one of Gilliam's own daughters, Amy.
(Her sister, Holly, appeared in Brazil as a child--just a little Gilliam fan trivia).
I hate to play blogger psychiatrist, so let me just say...I would imagine, the child of Terry Gilliam knows a little something about the sacrifices one must make just to keep
PS: And speaking of going, go see this movie. Have I not made this clear?
Now I'm up in the big leagues, gettin' my turn at bat...
PS: eagle-eared blogger? I feel like Stephen Colbert.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
You can read the whole thing here, but this is my favorite part:
We should be using all legal means necessary to push [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] to release all his information, not allow him to lawyer up.
Now, I have to admit, Keith Olbermann caught this before I did: Do you realize that within one sentence she went from calling for us to use "all legal means" to denying a suspect their right to an attorney?
Now to my revelation: Bachman, famously, thinks that the President of the United States is anti-American. Well, I think that she is the anti-Rachel Maddow.
The kind where the two of them should never be in the same place at the same time, because it would cause the annihilation of the universe.
(That's probably why Bachman has never taken Maddow up on any invitation onto her show...for the best, really, if you like the universe, which I do.)
Everything that Rachel is (sexy, smart, liberal, feminine, energetic, charming and just plain jazzy)...Miss Bachman is not.
On the Thursday (Jan. 7) episode of "The Jay Leno Show," Jay Leno addresses the cancellation rumors in typical Jay style. ...
Leno jokes about asking Katie Couric how switching to another network has worked out for her. He also says NBC stands for "Never Believe your Contract."
Zap2It calls these jokes "Gems." Well, the devil is in the details, and one little detail is that the "Never Believe Your Contract" joke is one Jay was using in 1992 when NBC toyed with throwing him out to keep Letterman.
You'd think he could've written a new joke in 20 years...
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Yes, I even love this.
There are two questions to ask about last night’s earth-shattering news of the planned retirements of Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd.
The first: What does it tell us about the overall political landscape and how tough the environment is for Dems? The second: How do the retirements impact the Dem chances of holding their supermajority?
My third: Given what we've seen of how the Dems squandered the "supermajority" when they had it, who gives a fuck whether they keep it or not? And I'm not the only one who's wondering that.
Either the Democrats will lose their "supermajority," and spend the next year or two humping Republican legs like crazed cocker spaniels, or...
They will hold on to their "supermajority"...and spend the next year or two humping Republican legs like crazed cocker spaniels.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Some worried they would draw the ire of Cheney’s circle if they did...
And Yglesias' response:
some of them don’t want to say he’s doing the right thing because that might make Dick Cheney mad and they’re timid, gutless careerists?
Now now, Matt. In their defense, he could shoot them in the face.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Disney's film for next year is Rapunzel, one of the few Brothers Grimm fairy tales that has never been adapted into a motion picture
Another is a man called Dean Wellins, whose name I don't know but maybe I should as he worked on Bolt, which I liked, and The Iron Giant which I absolutely love.
According to this news item their "take" on the classic is:
Rapunzel is a more independent heroine who uses her 70-foot locks for more than just a ladder, like whipping and tying people up.
Boy I hope I can put this together properly...as you're about to see, I'm heading into quicksand. But...does anybody else get tired of the independent, strong Disney heroine of the past 20 years? Belle; Jasmine and Ariel and so on?
I happen to like independent, strong women characters, and I like the movies those three "star" in. I'm not advocating for a return to helpless Minnie Mice being rescued or kindly old widow women.
I guess it's just, they're beginning to all sound a little bit the same to me. Then again, I feel the same way about American Idol contestants, and that hasn't seemed to hurt their popularity.
Then again again, in this image of "concept art" released for the picture-
--I like the look of Rapunzel...but that prince looks too much like Eric, Aladdin, etc. However, if you've seen concept art for other motion pictures (animated or otherwise) you know that it's merely a suggestion of how things will play onscreen. (You can find more images here)
The same goes for characterization. In a couple of lines, this Rapunzel sounds like I've heard it before, but that doesn't mean that I have, or that I won't like the way they tell it to me again.