Jul. 5th, 2009

sarchasmic: (little people)
We got a few hours free from the baby for the first time in three weeks, so we took advantage of that to see "Public Enemies" today. It's not a great movie, but considering the dreck that's been released this summer, it was the only thing that looked unlikely to have us leaving the theater feeling dumbfounded (and dumber), used, and/or in a bile-filled rage.

So instead we left the theater feeling depressed and dissatisfied, like diners leaving a restaurant that had been hyped out of proportion to the prowess of its cooks. And we agreed that there's something inadequate about Michael Mann. Sabrina says that where a chisel would do, he uses a mallet, whereas I said that he has a tin ear. The comparison to Heat came up more than once: Mann's reliance on the visceral noise of gunfire during action scenes (good) and the anti-climactic encounters between two formidable leads (less than good). He makes movies which attempt to feel grander than they are. The end of Public Enemies features a dramatic musical score that tells us This Is An Important Moment and tears in the female lead's eyes (Marion Cotillard, the latest female prop in a Mann movie) and a door closing with finality before the typed text starts to appear on the screen. The movie demanded that we feel some form of emotional response at this moment.

And we didn't. There just wasn't enough there for us to munch on. We're not particularly demanding moviegoers, in that sense anyway, either. The Secret Life of Bees had both of us reaching for non-popcorn-stained napkins multiple times; Charlotte's Web is a surefire tearjerker; heck, even the opening 5 minute scene from the latest Star Trek had us feeling a bit verklempft.

Mann had 140 minutes to get us invested into the characters, and he didn't get that far.

Sure, you might say, but he's Michael Mann. What do you expect?

I've put some thought into that too. I ran these by Sabrina:

The thinking man's Michael Bay. She shook her head.

The poor man's John Woo. She objected, on the basis of the complete lack of style and flair on Mann's part. Which is true; he's pretty workmanlike. So I adjusted the standards:

Michael Mann: he tries hard.

Michael Mann: he'd go to your movies if you made them.

Michael Mann manages to get some excellent cast members. After all, he got dibs on DeNiro and Pacino for Heat. He gets Depp and Bale here. The former, by the way, is the reason to go see this movie. Depp, as always, manages to bring a charismatic intensity to the role. Total movie star. Bale, on the other hand, has a more thankless role, playing an unlikeable federal agent. But Sabrina points out that he's really really good at being unlikeable. She names him as one of the most unlikeable movie stars of our age. And there's some truth to that. There's a shot of him late in Public Enemies, where his character waits for Dillinger to exit the movie theater, and the camera catches Bale's elongated face and that pointed jaw and the skin stretched over it, while his eyes barely emerge from underneath his hat's brim, and I couldn't help but think of Bryan Hitch's Herr Kleiser from Millar's Ultimates run, slightly oily with a malleable skin that could only belong to a race of alien shapeshifters.

Mick LaSalle's take on Public Enemies mentioned something about how Mann had a golden opportunity here to tie the movie's Depression setting to the zeitgeist of today, but that he failed to do so. And that's true, too. There's little about this movie that makes it feel absolutely tied to the desperation of that time. The cars have running boards on which to pose while one's making a dramatic getaway, and the lack of radios and cell phones makes it more difficult for groups to coordinate. Oh, and J. Edgar Hoover gets portrayed (by an effectively loathsome Billy Crudup) while FDR's name gets tossed around on the radio in the background once in a while. But Mann isn't particularly interested in exploring the setting or man's relationship to society except insofar that there are cops and there are robbers, and the good guy isn't always the one with a badge.

So I guess all this is to say that it's not a very good movie, but it's probably a lot better than what's out right now.

In baby progress news, Holden is getting scary fast at walking in his walker, getting very adept at navigating around corners and changing direction and just flat-out baby sprinting when he sees a grandparent (his face lights up; it's adorable) or reaching for his jingling set of baby keys. He's developing a mixed relationship with Kingsford, their dog. He likes the dog, with his eyes more often than not tracking the dog than one of his human companions, and trying to follow Kingsford around as the dog trots away from him. Then Kingsford will abruptly double back, going for an extended and enthusiastic licking of Holden's face, usually when the baby's mouth is open in mid "Thhhpppbbfffttt," causing Holden to recoil as best as his little legs will allow him to. And as soon as we manage to pry the dog out of tongue's reach, Holden will resume that big winning smile and start rolling after the dog again.

I'd talk about the job hunt and educational prospects, but I already started the post on a downer note, so I'll leave it at that. Now for a belated dinner.

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July 2009

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