May 29, 2011
Bridesmaids' plot operates in a mostly standard fashion: chronic failure Annie (Wiig) must compete with elegant, snotty, rich Helen (Rose Byrne) as she takes on the duty of being the maid of honor for her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). We identify with Annie right away, even though Helen isn't a complete bitch. She's close, but the movie isn't going to let us hate her with impunity.
In fact, the complexity of these women and their relationships is what gives Bridesmaids such personality. Besides that, director Paul Feig doesn't rush the humor. He knows how talented the cast is, and he lets them take time building the jokes to a crescendo. You laugh so much you'll miss half the gags, but what's going on visually is just as funny as what's being said, so you eventually become exhausted because you're laughing so much of the time. Bridesmaids is like a really good mixed drink and a really crude joke combined. The crudeness goes down easier because of the buzz you're feeling--as well as the sweetness, which isn't saccharine but genuine sugar.
I enjoyed the predictable relationship developing between Annie and a likable Irish cop, played by Chris O'Dowd. And Melissa McCarthy stole every scene she was in as the bride's sister-in-law to-be, a plump, plucky, and socially awkward self-made woman whose eccentric personality seems to render her oblivious to the drama that's unfolding between the other women. Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper round out the group of bridesmiads (the first one is a discontented housewife and mother of three, and the second a dreamy-eyed newlywed who's obsessed with Disney World and domestic life).
Wiig's comic timing is impeccable. She reminds me of Tina Fey, but with a dose of Goldie Hawn. She's utterly likable even when she's being stubborn, and her humor is genuine. There's something so natural and unforced about her performance. She seems to be having a wonderful time with Rudolph, who projects her own comic radiance while playing the straight gal. Byrne is wonderful too as the spoiled rich thing with a heart of platinum. With Jon Hamm as Annie's insignificant other and the late Jill Clayburgh as her mom. Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig.
May 21, 2011
Along with meeting celebrities at the convention, we got to attend a screening of a real cinema treasure, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957), which is exactly what you think it is. Whit Bissell plays a Frankenstein descendant --stubbornly intent on continuing/ improving his infamous ancestor's work-- who tries to put the Grim Reaper out of business by reanimating a dead teenager. The acting was priceless, the dialogue of that rarified quality that only the masters can create. And what can I say about the mad scientist's method of disposing the people that get in his way, except that I no longer trust anyone who keeps an alligator as a pet?
The event is still happening. Tonight there is a midnight screening of a slasher movie called Pieces (tagline: "It's exactly what you think it is!"), and tomorrow they're showing, among other things, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
May 16, 2011
Director Hugh Wilson doesn't always stage scenes the way he should. There's a scene where they sneak into Midler's ex's apartment, and it's built up like something out of a bad spy thriller, with the three comedians screaming and pushing and shoving and freaking out in histrionic fashion. The scene is big but it feels big in a contrived way--factory made comedy with a director's attempt to manage the audiences' reaction.
The talent rescues the movie from its shortcomings. The three leads are too much fun to watch to completely dismiss The First Wives Club, and the supporting cast is to die for: Maggie Smith, Eileen Heckart, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stockard Channing, Dan Hedaya, Victor Garber, Stephen Collins, Marcia Gay Harden, Bronson Pinchot, Elizabeth Berkley. 1996
May 15, 2011
May 13, 2011
Welles was brought to Hollywood soon after, even though he'd never made a motion picture before, and the legendary Citizen Kane was born. Kane is a thinly veiled biography of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and a film that was nearly doomed to a life on the cutting room floor because Hearst did not want it to see the light of day. The American Film Institute voted it the number one American picture of all time. It's certainly innovative. The cinematography is unlike most of the movies you'll see before 1941. However, after watching both Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil virtually back to back, I must say I like Touch of Evil better. It's a nightmarish looking film noir set in a sleazy border town, with Charlton Heston playing a Mexican narcotics cop (!) who gets in the crossfires of a corrupt Texas police chief (played by Welles).
The movie is outlandish and offbeat: it pulsates with a wonderfully lucid rhythm that makes it still fresh despite its age and some of the corny dialogue. Janet Leigh co-stars as Heston's wife, who spends a terrifying night in a rural motel that foreshadows her experience in Psycho two years later. The film boasts one of the most famous opening shots in movie history. Cinematographer Russell Metty used an incredibly long tracking shot to show us a stick of dynamite being placed into the trunk of a convertible, then letting us watch as the car's owner gets in, drives off, and eventually is killed in the impending explosion. That suspenseful, almost voyeuristic feel never leaves the movie, and you spend the rest of Touch of Evil as a complicit audience member rather than a passive one.
Henry Mancini's Latin-enthused score drifts through the picture giving you the feel that you're wandering through a busy city--lit up with neon--at midnight. Smoky bars with moody music seeping out into the twilight. The seedy underbelly of the film noir world at its darkest most irresistibly enthralling (and the genre was on its way out by 1958). Alas, Touch of Evil was taken away from Welles and dramatically re-edited, then released as a B-grade thriller. It made very little money, but after being restructured to fit Welles's original vision, it has become something of a classic, one that is more exciting, more twisted, and more unhinged than the magnificent Citizen Kane.