Monday, December 22, 2014

Eyes Wide Shut (tidbits)

Hey everyone, just a quickie for the holidays here.  It wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do at least a little something.  So Eyes Wide Shut is it.  The thing is there’s been so much written and said and hypothesized about the film that I don’t have anything of real value to bring to the conversation.  Instead these are a couple of tidbits I noticed this last time through (this was my third or fourth viewing).

1. Disgustingly rich doctor Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) drinks the ol’ classic of the everyman, Budweiser, in two separate scenes.  Not only does he drink one of the cheapest and widely found beers but he also drinks it out of a can!  I guess Bill sticks with what he’s comfortable with during a very fucked up time in his life.  It’s such a small detail but I love it.

Hard to tell in this scene...

...but in this one you can see what he's crackin'

2. Bill and Alice’s apartment is really cluttered.  Every single table has a whole bunch of shit stacked up on it.  The thing is the place doesn’t feel that dirty (maybe because there isn’t crap scattered all over the floors?) but they’re a bit of a messy family.  You would think the place would be like a sterile perfectly kept museum with it being in posh upper Manhattan.  This sorta falls in line with the Budweiser thing in that this is an attempt to make this wealthy family relatable on some level.  It’s like see they leave crap everywhere just like you and me.  I mean I don’t identify with them pretty much at all but I totally appreciate the effort.

Look at all that shit on the table

The dresser, the vanity and even the window sill has stuff on it

A little difficult to see in this picture but if you watch the movie
it's clear the bathroom is overloaded with toiletries

3. The NYC streets seemed more noticeably like sets this time around.  They got the look and feel pretty good in my opinion but at the same time it did feel like Bill was wandering around the same two block area over and over.  You could however chalk this up as more evidence that the entire movie feels like a dream (or that it is a dream).

Amazing looking sets

They fuckin' nailed it...except there's slightly less people than
the real NYC

4. Why did the costume store owner pretend to barge in on his daughter and those two Asian Johns?  He could’ve given Bill his tux, cloak and mask without going into that other room.  But was the owner pretending to find his daughter with some dudes or did he not really know?  Maybe he needed to go in that room for the mask or the tux?  Who knows?

What if Bill crashed the party in that kimono back there?
Maybe they would've been cool with it and adopted that look
instead of the tux and cloak thing.   

5. At least half of Tom Cruise’s dialogue is repeating the previous line of who he’s currently in the scene with.  I wonder if that was on purpose and means anything. 

"What if I told you it was all fake"

There are so many other things I could bring up, like I love how in the billiard room scene Sydney Pollack admits everything and nothing at the same time, what was the point of that daughter character suddenly saying she loves Bill after her father died, Harvey Keitel was originally cast as the Sydney Pollack character but pulled out because of scheduling conflicts, etc.  With this picture it’s all up in the air.  It is whatever you want it to be and that’s powerful filmmaking.  This is one of my favorite Christmas movies and also one of my favorite movie movies.  I hope your Christmas ain’t like Bill and Alice’s.  Don’t go wandering off and sneak into an ultra secretive cult orgy extravaganza thing.  I know it sounds like fun but it could cost you your life, or at least make you feel real weird about what you just witnessed.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all that shit.  Thanks for stopping by and taking a minute with me.  See you next year!  

Sunday, December 7, 2014


This is Bennett Miller’s third strike in my book.  Moneyball was frustrating and I remember Capote being pretty whatever.  Foxcatcher, while his best effort, is not very good either.

The story involves super rich John du Pont recruiting Olympic gold medalist brothers Mark and Dave Schultz to head up a wrestling program.  John knows nothing about the sport but pretends to and even bears the title Head Coach.  As these things go there’s eventually rifts, drugs, erratic behavior by du Pont and so on. 

It sounds like this should be interesting but Miller turns it into such a slog.  One of the biggest problems is that the focus isn’t so much on du Pont but the Schultz brothers.  This doesn’t make sense to me.  Mark Schultz goes through a bunch with him living in the shadow of his older brother, looking up to du Pont like a father figure at first and becoming a MMA fighter for UFC.  That’s all good stuff.  But this should be about the drug addicted, totally self-absorbed, awkwardly social lunatic with serious mother issues, John du Pont.  Even though du Pont is in most of the film it feels like we’re teased with him and don’t get the man full on.  He’s used more simply as a tool to move the story along.  We don’t explore nearly enough of his psyche.    

Steve Carell’s (Hope Springs, Dan in Real Life) performance epitomizes the movie itself.  He plays it dry and monotone.  When there’s some emotion Carell never raises his voice or changes the look of the top half of his face.  His mouth does all of the moving.  He comes off too much like a robot.  I went to go look at some footage of the real John du Pont and there was more to him than how Steve plays it.  Granted, the footage I saw is of du Pont desperately attempting to portray a certain image and establish an identity but in the movie Carell doesn’t act any differently in front of a camera crew where he should pretending to be charismatic.  I think there’s potential here though and Carell seems capable of pulling off a serious dramatic role.  The thing is he needs a better director to help guide him through.

Channing Tatum (She’s the Man, The Eagle) delivers the best performance as Mark.  Whether he’s hurting or happy he’s intense and you feel for him.  He just wants to establish his own thing and gets the opportunity with du Pont.  Unfortunately his life turns into a bit of a mess and Tatum goes through all of the emotions great.  I liked him from 21 Jump Street but this one shows he can act with the big boys if he wants to.

Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, 13 Going on 30) plays it straight.  He does fine but they don’t show us anything that makes this character stand out.  He’s a family man, he loves his brother and he’s supposed to be a helluva wrestler but there’s only one very brief part that shows this off.

Bringing it back to Bennett Miller, I kind of can’t stand his filmmaking style.  Visually he doesn’t put a lot of interesting stuff in the frame most of the time and filters the entire thing with a grayish tone.  Not only is it sorta depressing but he also likes to use a fair amount of static shots, which I’ve actually been championing more use of, but in this case it just makes the scenes more tedious to get through.  He likes to have the characters sitting there silently for long stretches too which doesn’t help.

This movie is really serious and kinda boring.  I wasn’t totally engaged and found my mind wandering which is weird because I was able to predict several key events that ultimately unfolded later (I knew nothing about John du Pont, the Schultz’s or Team Foxcatcher before watching this).  Thinking back on the picture for this Talkin’ I’m having a hard time remembering how things unfolded and why because the whole thing turns into a blob in my mind.  I mean look at the plot description I wrote, it’s pitifully vague.

Miller does seem to be improving because I liked this the best of his three majors but at the same time I have a good number of issues with this film.  Stick a fork in Benny, I’m done with him.