Saturday, October 21, 2006

MARIE ANTOINETTE

Here it is, folks. You know in your heart of hearts this is what you’ve been waiting for. The first Scott Nye full-on geek-out over a movie in 2006. The movies I had huge expectations for and just went crazy for every single second of it. This is that movie.

I’m going to try to distance myself from the three-page rants that befell Elizabethtown (I still stand by every word), mostly because I want you to stay as surprised and elated as I was for every second. It starts out very powerfully though, I’ll just say that, and lets you know that although this is a costume drama set at an important time in French history, it knows how to party. Because that’s basically what the movie’s about…the party. It never ventures outside of Marie Antoinette’s worldview, but through the magic director Sofia Coppola wields, you understand the larger issues at play here.

And what magic…look, I LOVE Sofia Coppola. The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, the only other two movies she’s ever made, are two of my all-time favorites. Lost in Translation especially… I wrote a huge, almost three-page piece on it, but I lost it when my computer crashed, but basically…that movie saved my life in a lot of ways. I have huge, immense respect and affection for it, and it’s probably the deepest and most profound impact any single piece of art has ever had on my life. Sofia Coppola could do a movie on dung beetles and I’d still be first in line.

Then of course, Kirsten Dunst, who Sofia Coppola made me fall in love with after seeing The Virgin Suicides. I’m totally serious when I say she’s my favorite actress working today. Not the best by any stretch, but she has an energy and a magnetic quality that extends beyond being a total babe. This film puts her in a new league. Even her harshest critics would have a hard time denouncing such a total portrayal of a person. She handles innocence, heartbreak, confusion joy, seduction, and a thousand other things beautifully. She and Coppola and a huge cast really convey the insanity and ridiculous formality of being in Versailles at the time.

That she’s backed up by Jason Schwartzman, one of the best young actors, only adds to the film. Schwartzman has VERY few lines in this movie, and you couldn’t find a character more distant from Rushmore’s Max Fisher or Huckabees’ Albert Markovski or Shopgirl’s Jeremy Kraft (all of whom are, in their own right, totally different from each other), but it’s just stunning, often hilarious work.

Sofia Coppola’s created something very different from her previous two films, but thematically similar (in that it dealt with young women in huge transition phases trying to find themselves in an increasingly crazy world). It’s almost intangible, but I think it’s largely that it tells a more complete story. It’s certainly more ambitious, but it succeeds just as well. Marie is her most beautiful film to date, with a huge part due to its costumes and sets (I believe they were the only film ever allowed to shoot IN Versailles, and if not it’s one of few). And I swear they could have taken out all the dialogue and the story would still be told. A lot of films look good, and they’re getting a lot better at it every day. But few filmmakers have figured out how to communicate almost entirely through pictures. To me, the only people who really ever knew how to do it have been Stanley Kubrick (who did 2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and a dozen others you should really see) and Terrence Malick (who did The New World and The Thin Red Line), and this film confirms what I’ve been secretly believing for three years now – Sofia Coppola is the most important filmmaker of her generation. There, I said it. She’s doing incredible, original work with some very talented people, and the result is being shown on screens across the nation.

As a final note, the soundtrack kicks ass right from the beginning. This is probably the element that’ll make the film connect completely with the young audience it’s aiming for, and it’s handled in a beautiful way that I can’t believe is getting so much crap. It’s blasting through my headphones right now, and I have a feeling I’ll be listening to this for weeks.

Did I mention I love this movie? Hopefully.

EDIT: I should mention that this movie has no aims of historical accuracy, and stays entirely within the grounds of Versailles (besides a quick trip to Paris). Most of you know I have a HUGE problem with people going to movies expecting them to be slaves to history and to try to teach us something, so if that's what you want, The History Channel's doing fantastic work. But if you want to see a movie with emotions and beauty and depth and fun...step right up.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A nomad from Portland?

My friend sent me the above link. It's about this guy who lives in and travels by a solar powered bike he built. The guy who wrote about him kept comparing him to a homeless person but he's obviously an engineer and could get a job if he wanted to. Well, I suppose you could say being a nomad is his job. Sweet.

Friday, October 13, 2006

MAN OF THE YEAR

I could not warn you more thoroughly that if you go see this film, you will not find what the advertisements tell you is there, which seemed to be a warm, fuzzy look at how hilarious it’d be if a comedian was voted into the Oval Office. Nor is it the film I’d expected and hoped it’d really be, which would have been a look at what a huge mistake it’d be for a comedian to be voted into office – it seems like a good idea at first, but over the years becomes blatantly obvious that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

Which is a film I’d loved to have seen, but that’s not what this is. It starts out more along those lines; Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) hits the campaign trail, trying to set himself up as a serious candidate who discusses the issues without so much as a joke. By the time he hits the debates, he comes to realize why the people asked him to run in the first place, and does some pretty fantastic criticisms of the people running against him, and of the political process in general (this whole bit acts sort of as the Cliff Notes version of the last few years of The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher). And all through this, I loved it.

Then somewhere around the middle it goes into full-out John Grisham thriller mode. Seriously. I could hardly believe it either. And it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the thriller elements weren’t so much less interesting than the Dobbs campaign. Where do the thrills stem from, you ask? Laura Linney plays Eleanor Green, an employee of Delacroy, the fictional company that makes its fortune by manufacturing a computerized voting system. Problem is, the voting system is faulty (any of this sound vaguely familiar?), and Eleanor is the one who discovers it. So the rest of the film becomes about the company trying to silence her so they can keep their fortunes.

It’s not a political story, but a morality tale. I’m not going to spoil the plot any further, but it does take some pretty solid turns from there, and by the end I found myself liking it well enough.

I don’t like putting my expectations first and foremost when I see a movie, but it’s tough not to. In the end, a movie is usually only as great as you expected it not to be. The higher the expectations, the more chance there is that you’ll be disappointed. It’s why I can still look back fondly on the Fantastic Four movie (which should have been steaming crap), often forget I even saw V for Vendetta (which I've come to regard as lightweight political commentary), and still be amazed by The New World (which I expected to be great, and was even greater). But in this case, all expectations were sort of thrown out the window as soon as Jeff Goldblum said “I can make a phone call…” is that creepy hit man sort of way.

Well, this was a garbled review. Lesse…Robin Williams is pretty great (a lot of people are fed up with him, but I’m not among them). Christopher Walken and Lewis Black are largely wasted, but are entertaining enough actors on their own. Laura Linney still annoys me. And like I said, by the end I did enjoy myself, but it’s not something I’d rush out and see. It is a solid watch though, so wait ‘til it’s on TV and it’s late and you’re bored. You’ll enjoy it more knowing you didn’t spend money on it (I guess…I don’t know, I’ve never walked out of a movie and cursed myself for spending eight bucks to see it, and I did see The Village in theaters).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Scott, You Are Our God!"

It's not everyday you hear such words. But today was one such day, a day when that phrase was uttered several times. Many, even. I even received the following notes on my door...

Scott, you are our god! We will have your BABIES, both of us (1120). This pass entitles you to one free 3some. WE LOVE YOU GOD

The second note came later.

Scott, you are my God. I will have your babies any day of the week! Let's get it on sometime soon. I'm squirming in anticipation. - Nicole

Now, aside from the random hallway "hello," I have no real preexisting relationship with these kind people. I'm not even entirely sure I know Nicole, although there are a number of the Frosh population I know but whose names were never given. What could have prompted them to post such flattering notes upon my otherwise-empty door?

I'll tell you what.

TiVo.

See, I had TiVo all set to go in my room before I was informed that splitting my broadband connection was a violation of Emerson policy, and I could very well be kicked off the network. But instead of letting God's own device go to waste in my room, I set it up in the common room. I expected a positive reaction, but nothing like this. I post not to say that I am at all superior, but rather to let you know just how powerful TiVo's hold is over us all.

P.S. I posted this here rather than The Rail because The Rail is automatically posted to Facebook, and the last thing I need is anyone at Emerson getting the wrong idea about the post. My buddy Aaron already exclaimed in front of several girls "Dude, you TOTALLY did this to get laid!"