Friday, February 03, 2006

Doll parts / bad skin / doll heart.

  • If you told me that you thought Bubble was an interminable piece of shit, I'd disagree with you, but I'd understand. I chafed against the latest "Steven Soderbergh experience" (as it's touted on the DVD cover) for the first fifteen, twenty minutes; then what I'd found banal and rote became surprisingly hypnotic and effective. I won't get into a plot discussion (it doesn't have much in that department and the little there is involves twists), but I've gotta tell you: it looks great.

    Thanks to Collateral, Caché, and Bubble, I think I'm coming around on my staunch anti-digital filmmaking stance. I've always respected the medium's fluidity and the freedom it afforded certain members of the Dogme95 crowd, but deep down I always thought it looked like crap. Soderbergh's Full Frontal was an especially ugly case as I recall, which is why I'm stunned that Bubble is one of the best looking digital features I've seen. There's still a discernible video sheen to it, but I was genuinely floored by how majestic it looks. Soderbergh has eschewed the frenetic hand-held camerawork of his last few films for meticulously framed, mostly static composition. Sodey credits Michael Winterbottom's In This World and Gregory Crewdson's photography as aesthetic inspiration. I'm really fond of Crewdson's work, but haven't seen the Winterbottom film. Have any of youse? Let me know. And go see Bubble and tell me if I'm crazy.

  • So, look, I've gotta get this off my chest: will you think less of me if I admit that I've gotten choked up not once, but twice while watching In Her Shoes? Seriously, when Cameron Diaz reads that e.e. cummings poem... Forget about it. I'm way too much of a softie to make it through that.

    Why don't critics cut Curtis Hanson some slack? I'll be the first to admit that the first fifteen, twenty minutes of In Her Shoes are awkward and conventional. And, sure, there's some eye-rolling Hollywood hokum throughout. Fine; accepted, admitted, moving on... What I think is exceptional about the film (and Hanson's work in general) is how textured it is. I love how meticulously detailed and distinct each character's world is; I love that Hanson surrounds his stars with quality character actors who should be seen more often. I shouldn't have to mention that Hanson can pull genuinely great work out of unlikely sources, but Diaz's performance in Shoes is so far beyond what she normally does, it reminds you that she actually is a really good actress and not just the hottness. I guess what I'm driving at is: I'm sick of hearing about how Hollywood doesn't make any adult entertainment anymore, blah blah blah, when Curtis Hanson is continually delivering it and no one seems to notice. Wong Kar Wai he's not, but I can't think of a much better Hollywood journeyman. (Before I forget, what happened to Shirley MacLaine's goddam Oscar nomination?)

  • Despite the ace "Father Figure" sample, PM Dawn's "Looking Through Patient Eyes" is best left where it belongs: on B106 FM in 1993.

  • Happy weekend.

10 Comments:

At 6:39 AM, Blogger girish said...

Ben, I'm a big Wonder Boys fan and was on the fence about renting the new one until you chimed in with your approval.
And not sure what he means about the Winterbottom film coz it's non-stop joggling hand-held camera.
Thanks for the Crewdson tip: don't know his work.

 
At 6:50 AM, Blogger girish said...

Oh, and I think the Haneke film was actually in 35 mm.
Which made all that "rewinding" doubly inspired.

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger girish said...

On second thought, the "surveillance" footage within the film is probably DV.
Perhaps David would know, if he's reading this.

 
At 9:28 AM, Blogger Morgan said...

CACHE was, I believe, entirely shot on HD. The Toronto film festival listing is just indicating what it was screening off of.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Morgan said...

Additionally, I don't think the comparison to FULL FRONTAL is all that relevant as it (and films like 28 DAYS LATER, DANCER IN THE DARK and TIMECODE) shot on standard def video, which was virtually no latitude, poor color rendition and a resolution of 720x486 pixels for a total of 349,920. HD has far better latitud and a 1920x1080 resolution: a total of 2,073,600 pixels in each frame. And since the explosion of using digital intermediates to color time films that began with O BROTHER, the kind of color reproductions we're becoming used to seeing are a result of hi-def video work, not traditional chemical film processes, even for shows shot on film.

The one thing that I still think does separate HD from traditional 35mm is a chilly crispness to the way it produces images -- pixels are a lot more finite than the fast, loose and ever changing world of film grain. Soderbergh, like him or hate him, is one of the few filmmakers to recognize that HD doesn't look like film, and trying to make it look like film is a mistake; it's a new medium altogether and should be embraced for what it does do rather than trying to blur and hide what it doesn't. In addition to Soderbergh, I think Michael Mann's use of HD in the night footage of COLLATERAL and Haneke's use of it throughout CACHE are two great examples of filmmakers using video's unique qualities to their advantage -- peering into the darkness; providing an eerie almost documentary feel to the preceedings. This, I feel, is a far more worthwhile exploration of HD's potential than sticking Natalie Portman in front of a green card and having her feign ennui.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger girish said...

"CACHE was, I believe, entirely shot on HD."
Wow, I couldn't even tell. And I was sitting fairly upfront. Pretty amazing.

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous dvd said...

I don't see the In This World comparison at all. It's almost the polar opposite, aesthetically speaking.

Yeah, Cache was definitely HD. How I wish it had been projected in the same format, though, rather than 35mm! While there are really beautiful translation artifacts when one transfers lower-res DV to 35mm, I think HD frequently looks better in its native format. Thus, Bubble, projected on the big screen via one of those TI machines, looked absolutely glorious.

 
At 10:25 PM, Blogger B.A. Slattery said...

Uh ... there are a lot of numbers thrown around in the above comments. I don't have any numbers to share.

I remember reading the New York Times great review of the film, which can be seen here, and thinking "That's gotta be pretty good." I also remember being turned off by Cameron Diaz; but given your recommendation, I'll up In Her Shoes on my Netflix queue, give it a shot.

I also remember Diaz in Being John Malkovich and understanding she can't be a completely terrible actress.

As far as Soderberg goes, I say: The Limey. I say no more. The Limey. Crazy old man goes crazy and shoots people. Edited and acted beautifully. Pretty and suspenseful and heartbreaking. The Limey.

Then he made Ocean's 12 and I kinda forgot about him. I'll probably never see Bubble because of the existence of Ocean's 12.

 
At 11:11 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

I hate Michael Winterbottom. He can suck on my cheesey loaf. He's turned the pure spun gold of Thomas Hardy into shit not once but twice, my friends. Even though I do like that part in "Jude" where Christopher Eccleston sucks on Kate's boobies. And now he's got this Tristam Shandy movie out? Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Long-delayed responses, in reverse:

Josh-- Winterbottom is so hit or miss with me. As you'll recall, I wanted to burn the Harvard Loews to the ground after enduring The Claim and 9 Songs was... not a film. Hooray for movies with sex, but Winterbottom forgot about the whole movie part. That said I lurved 24 Hour Party People and really admired Code 46.

Brennon-- Mmmmm, The Limey. I love The Limey so fucking much. I think it's one of the great unsung films of the '90s.

David-- Having not seen In This World, I don't know what Sodey was getting at. Maybe he just thought that it looked really good and DV really won him over at that point.

Morgan-- Thank you for pointing out what a technological ijit I am.

G.-- See! Cache looks so damn crisp and vivid (and not what automatically springs to mind as "DV-looking") that it tricks you.

And Wonder Boys is one of my alltime favorite bits of comfort cinema. I go back to it whenever I'm feeling blue; think it's that I miss academia/snow/Katie Holmes when she was an innocent, Thetan-filled being.

In Her Shoes isn't as good as WB, but it's fun.

 

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