Friday, July 16, 2010

Shutter Island, Scorcese, Boxing, Eastwood.

I know that normally when I talk about films in this place, I usually just blather on about what they meant to me emotionally, not really focusing on much other than my perceptions, my experiences as related to media items, my moods, my needs as a viewer, etc., etc. But, as it turns out, I do know a thing or two about cinema.

I thought Shutter Island was good. But here's the thing. I think it was an okay story (for Scorcese, who usually makes films from GREAT stories) but that it was done wonderfully, so the film was good, even if the story was a little ho-hum and full of trickery at the end. I for one never see these things coming like so many others do, so I guess I always lose the figure-out-the-twist-quickest game.

The music was terrifying. The entire boat ride to that place was terrifying; I didn't want them to get off. The creepy music got worse once they got there, all I remember were these deep, jarring minor chords, together with the look of the inmates. . . I was very goose-bumpy. It was all very claustrophobic and dank. Even Ghandi looked crazy most of the time. Once the security went out and they started roaming around on the grounds? I had to shut it off and try again the next night, it was seriously THAT creepy. I like that Marty was able to freak me out a little, normally I just lay back and enjoy a severe beating or rock out with the good tunes and that's the end of it. I also enjoy how Leonardo DiCaprio seems to have grown up so much; he hardly annoys me at all anymore!

(this, to the left, is what I meant by "look of the inmates." Seriously?)

This got me thinking of what I consider to be good cinema. Stephen King wrote in "Low Men in Yellow Coats" about how there are books with good stories, books with good words (or storytelling) and some books that have both, and that we should try to read all kinds. I feel like that with films, too, and I think mostly, Scorcese is a winning ticket. When you watch Scorcese, you're not just watching a story on film, you're usually watching an homage to really any decent Italian Noir director (Visconte, Rossellini, De Sica, Goddard). You know how John Favreau claimed in Swingers that Tarantino "rips everything off from Scorcese," ? Well, Scorcese did a fair share of ripping off from these guys, not that I mind, of course. Watch anything they've done and you'll agree.

Onto boxing (and back to my emotional needs, of course)

I have no interest in the sport whatsoever. I mean, if I had to choose between boxing and ultimate fighting, I think I'd probably choose boxing, but that's the best I can say about it. When I worked at Blockbuster back in the late 90s, there was a kid there who loved Martin Scorcese. We chatted a lot. I was a bit mainstream for him, but once I proved I knew how to do a DeNiro kick and that I knew who The Well-Dressed Gentleman was, he thought I was all right (and this is surprisingly common with people I meet most of the time. They think I'm some sort of mini-van driving, procreating freak but then they flip out when I can actually do something cool, like sing "Anything Goes" in Chinese, ala opening scene in Temple of Doom.) He was shocked and horrified, however, when I neglected to list Raging Bull in my top five favorites. I hadn't even seen it yet, so I had to grab it and man up if I was going to be any sort of film scholar, I guess. I was skeptical because of the not liking boxing thing, but guess what, IT WAS AMAZING. It was a great story, it was wonderfully acted by DeNiro, Pesci, and Moriarty, but really, I think the filmmaking made the film.

In Million Dollar Baby, however, it was mostly about the story. It was smartly done, some nice film stuff (grainy slow down just before she gets her ultimate smack down from the German troll? very cool), and the acting was good. I'm sure I've uttered a few unnecessarily negative remarks about former 90210 actresses winning Oscars in the past, but Hilary Swank did just fine. It's a different kind of acting than acting crazy (Ellen Burstyn), doing accents (Meryl Streep, Krystof Hadek) or generally being someone very much unlike you, the actor, but it's a lot of doing, which is impressive, too. I don't think it was a stretch for DeNiro to have acted many of those fight scenes or arguments with Pesci and Moriarty, but it was probably a lot of hard work to have half his work on the film be done in tip-top muscular fitness, and the other half as a big old fatty. I think this was probably the same for Hilary Swank. The being-acting was the easy part, the doing-acting was what won her the statue---and the doing was amazing (she was RIPPED! She actually did those boxing moves! She can really hit a speed bag!) I was quite impressed. And that stool in the ring? Wow. Like I said, I'm slow when it comes to stuff like that, but I did not see that coming at all!

This is getting a bit long-winded, and I'm sorry, so I'll wrap it up soon, I promise, but I can't talk about any of this without adding my two cents about Clint Eastwood, one of my favorite, favorite guys. He does in this film what he does best, which is to play the man he always plays. The man he always plays is very close to my heart because it's more or less a spot-on impersonation of my old man. My dad could be gruff. He wouldn't talk to anyone he didn't like. He was crabby a lot. Once my grandmother (his mother-in-law) asked him why he was always so short with her; he said,

"Because I don't like you." He could be very blunt, my dad.

To see Clint Eastwood, in acting roles, together with a younger daughter type will always bring back these memories, however flawed they are and however flawed he was, of Dewey. I watched my first Eastwood film with him (Dirty Harry). I defended Robert Kincaid over Thanksgiving dinner when my aunt was doggin' him (Bridges of Madison County). I get teared up at the scene where Tyne Daly, the 70s precursor to Maggie Fitzgerald, gets shot in The Enforcer; "Harry, oh, I messed up," she says, Harry kneels down next to her, "No, you did just fine, babe."

That always severe and annoyed look on his face, and the way something ALWAYS melts it. . . just crushes me, every time. The greatest things, for me, in Million Dollar Baby were the bagpiper processional to her fight with the German Troll ("I got you some pipers") and the *SMILE* on his face when she belted that bitch almost to the mat. He never smiles!


Donald said...

I hate to plug my own blog, but you should check out my review of Shutter Island:

Like you, I hardly talked about the movie at all, and just talked about Scorsese. He's brilliant. But I also think Raging Bull is one of the most seriously overrated films ever made. But it is entertaining, because it's a flat out comedy. Anybody who thinks it's more than that is crazy. But it's a good comedy.

Donald said...

Oh, and if you haven't see The King of Comedy, rent it.

Anna said...

king of comedy is one of my favorite of his films. that back and forth talking to his mother? genius.

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Justin Garrett Blum said...

Good post, since I've actually seen all three of the films you reference! Also, I agree with almost everything you've said.

It's great how Shutter Island creeped you out so much that you had to turn it off. I thought that was a really neat movie from start to finish.

Anna said...

I went into Shutter Island completely unprepared because I felt like EVERYONE was complaining about it and saying it wasn't scary at all, so I expected it to not be, you know? I found it to be very scary!

I remember the exact moment when I decided that I couldn't do anymore that night and made Matt shut it off and then wouldn't let him go to bed until I was asleep because I didn't want to be the last one in the house awake in the dark with all those horrible images and sounds. ICK.

I just reread the Eastwood post this week and decided that I love Million Dollar Baby maybe more than any others and need to see it again ASAP. I think of him telling her I GOT YOU SOME PIPERS and I am almost in tears over it.