I'm pretty much all recovered from my Wisdom Tooth surgery. A little jaw tension, a slight ache. Saw the doc on Friday, and he told me I didn't have to worry about the other one until next year...unless infection or pain flares up. Fingers crossed. Sooooo - good news! I guess. This week was a whole heap of random. On Sunday & Monday, I was pretty much still feeling the aftershocks from the surgery so I just hopped from one film to the next on VOD, enjoying life from the couch. No rhyme or reason, just what looked interesting in the moment. It did lead me down a rabbit whole of Errrol Morris documentaries that I was not expecting. Enjoyed all three, and will definitely seek out others. I dragged myself out of the apartment on Tuesday, for an Alamo 100 screening of Singin' in the Rain & I went back for more with JAWS on Thursday. As Matt said in his Week in Dork, nothing like seeing a classic on the big screen to make you fully appreciate the craft of storytelling. Still, the big event of the week was the Baltimore Comic Con. It might not have the big deal celebrities like San Diego or the endless array of Wizard Worlds, but if you're actually into comics there is no better place to be. Great way to finish off the week.
Fading Gigolo: Who doesn't love John Turturro? From Barton Fink to Transformers, whenever the man is on screen I'm entertained. His directorial efforts have left me a little cold, but they're always interesting in their subject matter. Fading Gigolo is no different. After his psychiatrist says too much, Woody Allen encourages Turturro to whore himself out for a three way. Business booms from there, and Turturro's florist quickly finds himself knee deep in.....money. Of course, simple sex is never simple. The subplot of a jewish widow suffering crippling grief takes over the film, distracting from the cartoonish antics of Sharon Stone & Sofia Vergara's sexual predators. Solid performances from Turturro, Allen, and Liev Schreiber, but Fading Gigolo is ultimately the kind of film you watch once.
Cuban Fury: When I see Nick Frost why do I always ask, "Where's Simon Pegg?" but the same is not true when it's just Pegg on screen? Nick Frost is certainly talented. The man makes me laugh, but he always seems like half a double act. Maybe it's simply that Frost is not always part of the cleverest of projects. Cuban Fury is decent. The story of a onetime salsa prodigy returning to the sport in an effort to win true love is chuckle-worthy and cute. It's not ground breaking. Chris O'Dowd being regulated to office douche bag is certainly disappointing. Ian McShane as the salsa coach gets some laughs, but the film could have done more with him (a complaint often associated with McShane movies - ALWAYS MORE MCSHANE!!). You could do worse than Cuban Fury, but it's no Edgar Wright film....a very tough, and probably cruel comparison. Still.
Rage: "Who did it? WHO DID IT!?!! WHODIDITWHODIDITWHODIDIT WHODIDITGWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Oh Nicolas Cage, you so crazy. Except you really aren't these days. The above quote is a five second scream almost worthy of yesteryear. Almost. I'm not going to use this space to continue the narrative of Nic Cage's disappointing direct-to-dvd downfall, but I don't mind lamenting for a bit. Season of a Witch, I miss you - never mind Con Air, The Rock, and Adaptation. Rage could have been a kickass revenger in which Cage brutalizes the bastards responsible for his daughter's murder. Unfortunately, the film is a boring collection of scenes pretending to be hardcore. Embarrassingly dull. Can the upcoming Left Behind prove a return to that mega-acting glory? I'm always the optimist.
The Thin Blue Line: In 1976, Randall Adams was convicted and sentenced to death for the shooting death of patrolman Robert Wood. Errol Morris' documentary, through dramatic reenactments and various interviews with the people surrounding the trial, makes a strong, and ultimately convincing case for Adams' innocence. How did Adams end up behind bars? Bad timing? Poor decisions? The terrifying morality behind the Texas judicial system? Yeah, that last one. The Paradise Lost of its day, thanks to The Thin Blue Line Adams was eventually released from prison. Should be required viewing for all Americans.
Tabloid: Another Eroll Morris doc, but maybe not such the essential viewing for the American populace. Let's see if I can give the content it's proper justice - In 1977, beauty queen Joyce McKinney was arrested in England for kidnapping Mormon Missionary Kirk Anderson & holding him prisoner in a Devon cottage where she chained him to a bed & forced intercourse. They had been a one-time couple, and McKinney claimed that the Mormon Church had brainwashed her beloved. Once the tabloid papers got their claws into the story, they uncovered that McKinney was a former S&M model, sometimes prostitute, who often used her sexual wiles to conquer the minds of men. Or is McKinney a simple victim of love gone sour? Also, what does this have to do with dog cloning??? It's a damn strange story, and who knows what really went down in '77, but Morris details a fascinating story. These days McKinney regrets taking part in the documentary, saying that Morris misrepresented her side of the story, but it's hard to argue with the words coming out of her mouth. Tabloid is bonkers all around.
The Unknown Known: Who knows why, but for some reason Donald Rumsfeld agreed to be interrogated by Errol Morris. I certainly see what Morris had to gain, but what did Rumsfeld? That question is never really answered. Well, the former Secretary of Defense certainly doesn't take a beating? He can dish it better than he can take it. And Morris does not come across as the Liberal Shining Knight. I'm not a terribly political person. The game has never interested me - disturbed me, scared me more like it. The Unknown Known picks over some of the most disturbing history in modern America, filtered through Rumsfeld's participation. He defends in some cases. He questions in others. He sometimes shrugs when the words are simply not there. How will the Bush Jr administration go down in history's annals? Time will tell - The Unknown Known is not the revelation some will want.
JAWS: I love this film. Sometimes it's hard to keep talking about the films you love. How many ways can I say that Steven Speilberg's Jaws is one of The Great Films? This is the second time I've seen the film on the big screen. It's a whole different experience when Bruce stretches his 25 feet across the entire width of your vision. It's genuinely AWEsome. I've seen the film a hundred times, and you'd think there would be nothing new to see. This go-around, instead of focusing on the genius of Robert Shaw's shark killer, I attached myself to Roy Scheider in a way that's never happened before. The scene where his son mimics his movements around the dinner table - "Give me a kiss." "Why?" "Cuz I need it." Just crushing. I'm an emotional guy, I cry all the time at the movies, but this was the first time I teared up during Jaws. I cherish the way Chief Brody can never finish a meal, that fear bubbling in his stomach. And the way Brody pushes through that fear, eventually delivering him to that ship's mast, a rifle in his hand, and a final quip on his lips - "Smile you son of a bitch." This film spawned forth an infinite spew of knockoffs, but what the wannabes never understood was that Jaws is not about the big beastie. Jaws is all about character. How these three very disparate men come together to tackle their own demons. Brody, the failed New York cop fighting through fear to protect family & home. Hooper, the rich kid oceanographer making a name for himself through a passion for fish.Quint, the emotionally wrecked sailor, killing sharks as revenge for all those sailors lost at sea. I love Orca as much as the next guy, but it's just not Jaws.
Wayne's World: Man, I used to love this movie so much. I might not have watched it as much as Jaws, but I've seen it a few dozen times or so. But I have not bothered with Wayne & Garth in several years. Just one of those movies that floated out to sea. Friday afternoon, I played a little game of Netflix Roulette & suddenly I was "Party On." It's a cute film, but it's also completely rooted in my teen years. I can't disassociate it from my teenager brain, nostalgia lost. Rob Lowe, there's no better sleaze.
Double Indemnity: "I'm rotten to the heart." When most hear Film Noir most think Double Indemnity. With good reason. It's a hateful bastard of a film. Fred MacMurray is an insurance investigator who falls for Barbara Stanwyck's Femme Fatale, and agrees to bump off her husband in exchange for sex & money. The guy's a dope. The dame's a demon. They deserve each other. Billy Wilder is much beloved in Hollywood; he made every kind of movie, but his best were the ugly ones. Double Indemnity & Ace in the Hole sizzle with mean, cold, rage fueled dialog. Immoral men and women damning themselves with every word. I love it. If I took any issue with Double Indemnity it's that Barbara Stanwyck has never worked for me as a Fatale. I've never understood her allure, how she pulled MacMurray's dope into her web? Switch her out with Gloria Graham or Veronica Lake, and I get it, but Stanwyck is an off-putting creature. The film though, is delightfully nasty.
Baltimore Comic Con: There were not a lot of new faces in the crowd of Comic Book creators this year. Sure, they're were some big guns (Greg Capullo, Francesco Francavilla, Eric Powell, Jim Starlin, etc), but they're regulars at this point and there was no need to wait in any lines. I spent the majority of Saturday snapping photos of cosplayers and diving deep into the dealer's room. I brought less money this year than I've ever had before, but thanks to $5 Trades, 50% off tables, and dealers willing to haggle, I walked away with more comics than any previous Balticon. My favorite get was the X-Statix Omnibus which retailed for $125, but I scooped it up for $49. I also grabbed volume 1 of Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man, Superman - Secret Origin, Walt Simonson's Thor, a few Shazam classics, and a treasure edition of Jack Kirby's 2001 A Space Odyssey. Comics, man. That's what it's all about. Time & money deemed only one day for Baltimore this year, but I had as much fun as I've ever had. Still, it would have been nice to sit in on some panels. Next year, next year.