A World of Pain–April shame prompt

CinemaShame_TCMFF_hisgirlfriday

The April shame prompt was to watch and report on a film shown at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Now this is an event in which I envy all who attend, since I probably never will. But I perused the list and knew right away which movie I had to see: The Big Lebowski. I have had no end of shame over not knowing anything about this movie, and never getting the cultural references that everyone else seems to get. So I got some popcorn, some raisinets, and settled in to learn something about The Dude, and why he abides. I had high hopes, as I am never disappointed in anything I see Jeff Bridges do.

 

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Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here

 

The coolest thing about this movie is that it is impossible to put it into a slot. Some movies are dead on Noir, Action, comedy, horror, and so forth. This one was a mixed bag of tricks that surprised me. Loved it. I give it a four out of five stars, which is very good for me as I never give anything five except the movies I could watch over and over and never get tired of, like The Third Man, Groundhog Day, and The Big Sleep. Down-side? A bit frequent on the f-bombs, more than my taste, and a pedophile, but then who didn’t deal with pedophiles in the late 90’s?

It was all part of it–the sexually ambiguous 90’s. Nothing clear and standing out like the 50’s where you knew what was morally ‘right’ to society and what you were supposed to do. You knew your role. The 90’s had slackers and hackers, terrorists and sexual predators. Yeah, I know, every era has had them. But now the general public was aware, and bothered–and I would maintain, titilated by the whole situation we’d found ourselves in. But then, this is not an analysis sort of movie review. I really hate those. You know the ones that dig into Nietzsche and Freud and tell you what to think about film history. I know what I think, and I know what I like. I like movies that don’t look like every other movie–and surprise me.

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Speaking of The Big Sleep, I did not expect this movie to feel like a noir film. The premise seemed silly to me. Not that silliness puts me off. I love it. But I thought it would be a straight comedy. It totally wasn’t. What I like about the noir films that have caught my attention is their ability to tell a story and keep me engaged, without necessarily putting closure on the plot. Like life, you finish watching the movies knowing that life will go on with those characters, as it does for us.

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Mark it zero!

 

Oh, and there are femme fatales, of which this movie has two, depending upon your view.

The noirs of the 40’s were pulpy and fiction-y, and the moment and atmosphere felt more important than the plot. Like Raymond Chandler. Oh dear, I do love his writing. I know, I know, it is not Shakespeare. It is not even Ian Fleming or Grisham. It had it’s own style and is very quoteable, even by those who say they don’t like pulp fiction. But I have digressed from The Big Lebowski. The Dude. A lazy-ass sonofabitch who goes to the grocery store at the start of the movie and writes a check for sixty-nine cents.

check

Which brings me to my final point about this film, and what I liked about it the best. The running gag, or point, or philosophy, if you must about the rug. The Dude brings it up at the most infuriating of times, to some, seeming to be a minor issue, this rug he feels ought to be replaced by the older, crippled, mega-wealthy Lebowski. I found it funny, odd, and something like I would do. After all, who wants to live in a world, where someone can just walk into your place and piss on your rug, with no consequences?

Well that was enough for me, and alone made the film entertaining, even without the bowling, the white russians, the nihilists, and the kidnapping. But maybe you feel differently. Maybe this film didn’t do it for you, or you prefer to see something deeper into the plot.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, your opinion, man.

your opinion

 

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You can also read me at  Are You Thrilled
or come and say hello to me on Twitter at @areyouthrilled for poetry and artsy stuff or @movielovebogart for movies and television

 

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April #1: Look Into Your Heart. Miller’s Crossing

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Never has the expression honor among thieves played a larger part in a modern film than in this Coen brothers’ Prohibition era gangster film. Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom Reagan, right hand man to Albert Finney’s crime boss, Leo. Tom, a brilliant strategist in the crime world’s chess game has long had Leo’s ear and his back. He also has Leo’s girl, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and this Lancelot/Guinevere affair threatens to undermine King Leo’s reign.

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The story begins in a Godfather-like scene with mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) asking Leo to rub out John Turturro’s Bernie Bernbaum, a bookie with a knack for angering the wrong people. Leo refuses because although Bernie is a thorn in his side, he’s also Verna’s brother. Tom advises Leo to give up Bernie and when he won’t a mob war starts. Tom ends up on Leo’s bad side and despite his loyalty, Tom is cut loose. Caspar snaps him up and Tom seems to have switched sides. Caspar takes over Leo’s businesses and prospers as Tom plants seeds of distrust about Caspar’s main henchmen Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) thus eroding Caspar’s gang from within and proving his loyalty to Leo.

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Based on the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key, Miller’s Crossing is a love letter to 1940s film noir and the snappy dialogue prevalent in novels by Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, and Cain. At one point Tom is asked if he knows the mayor. He says, “I oughta. I voted for him six times last May.” The costumes by Richard Hornung, sets by Nancy Haigh and cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld along with Carter Burwell’s spare and perfect score give the film a 1940s feel. Supporting roles by Steve Buscemi, Mike Starr, Frances McDormand, Michael Jeter, and Olek Krupa add depth to the already stellar cast and the direction by Joel and Ethan Coen just works. The scene with hit men approaching Leo to the strains of Danny Boy is as beautiful as grand opera and as violent as anything Peckinpah ever directed. Poetry. I liked Miller’s Crossing a lot. It has a flawed hero devoted to an equally flawed father figure and crime. Combine that with the Coens usual gang of quirky characters and great dialogue and you have an entertaining and almost Shakespearean story. I cheered for Tom and Leo. I booed for Bernie and Caspar. I hung on every word of dialogue and after watching the film for just under two hours, I wondered where the time went. Here’s another example of the sharp dialogue.
“Come on Tommy, wake up.”
“I am awake.”
“Your eyes are closed.”
“Who you gonna believe?”

How can you not love this film?

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