Apr 2 – Apr 8
- The Fast and the Furious (1955)
- The Last American Hero (1973)
- September Issue (2009)
- Cairo Time (2009)
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
- Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Book (s) read: None
- Slumdog Millionaire – adapted by by Simon Beaufoy from the novel Q & A – Draft 8/15/2007
With a story by Roger Corman, The Fast and the Furious (apart from the title, it bears no relation to the 2001 Vin Diesel movie), is a typical low budget B-movie. B-movies play by their own rules, as they live in the margin between mainstream, art house, and sometimes pornography. Many good B-movies showcase the director’s inventiveness under financial constraints, or the writer’s clever playfulness with the genre. The Fast and the Furious unfortunately has neither. The plot does not make any sense, and the characters basically do the same scene over and over again. It feels long, lazy, and repetitive even with a modest 73 mins running time.
A young Jeff Bridges shows his charisma in The Last American Hero as a hillbilly who dreams of being a star. The film is an adaptation from a Tom Wolfe article about the true story of American NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. I appreciate the realist approach, but I don’t find it engaging enough. The car race sequences lose the narrative momentum. In comparison, Le Mans, which is another car race film with an almost documentary style, presents a much clear picture of the psyche of the driver(s) and their raison d’être with much less exposition and plot.
The September Issue, though is supposed to be a documentary about the production of the annual, the most important, thick-as-a-telephone-book issue of Vogue, is really about humanizing the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour (not that Meryl Streep hasn’t already done that in The Devil Wears Prada). There isn’t much about the fashion industry or the fashion magazine industry, as the filmmakers are not interested in the deeper, controversial issues of the business. However, once I have accepted that this is simply a straightforward (and flattering) look at a driven, successful person at work, it is actually a very enjoyable film. Ms. Wintour, as much as an ice-queen that her reputation suggests, is a very effective leader. She knows what she wants, and she has the means to achieve them. Her long time partner Grace Coddington, a former model turned creative director who not only has immense talent but the nerves to stand up to her boss, steals the film whenever she is on screen.
Cairo Time has a very, very slight story. It would probably work better as a short story or a short film, or even a travelogue. Still, there is much to admire in Cairo Time. Cairo, for one. And Patricia Clarkson, an underrated actress who is always excellent, is in almost every scene here.
Formulaic, yes. Over the top Ben Stiller, yes. People getting hit in the crotch a lot, yes. In spite of, or rather, because of all that, Dodgeball is a lot of fun. As a bonus, Vince Vaughn plays an actually likable guy, unlike any of his other characters since.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody tries her hand in the teen black comedy horror genre. Jennifer’s Body has some trademark dialogue (“I am scrumptious!”) that you would expect from the writer of the clever and funny Juno, and there is an edge to it that makes it slightly more than just a genre film. But ultimately, I wish it’s funnier or darker or scarier, or all of the above.
Slumdog Millionaire has a brilliant narrative construction with two main stories going on in parallel: 1. The protagonist’s current situation and 2. His journey to his current situation. Flashbacks are always tricky to write as they tend to snap the forward momentum of the story, but the flashbacks here create new momentums as we gradually realize that the two stories reveal character motivations and goals in the other. I haven’t read the novel, Q & A, but I believe that screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has altered the narrative structure quite a bit when he adapts it into the screenplay.
Pick of the Week:
The September Issue.
Total films watched: 93 (in 98 days)
Total books read: 5 (19 to go)
Total screenplays read: 8 (44 to go)