The Junk Food of Writing

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Self-serving directors and actors in one entry!

Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) shows Peter Jackson how to use restraint.

From the opening credits of King Kong to the first moment the score swells, it is easy to realize that Peter Jackson has tried to create an old-fashioned spectacle. “Remember when films were events?” he implicitly asks the audience. The audience, however, is not completely aware of what they are in for. Actually, that’s not true at all; if they saw the running time or heard anything about this film previous to buying their ticket, then they have an idea of what they will discover. Hmm, let’s see – there are a couple of forced love stories, a film about filmmaking, a questionable interpretation of “bravery,” literary parallels (hell-o clunky "Heart of Darkness" allusions!), exploitation, and a treatise on man’s harmful relationship towards nature. None are very exposing or insightful, but Jackson’s seems comfortable with simply dipping his toe in this hodgepodge of themes. Kong himself, however, is technically quite an achievement. He is presented as a tantrum-prone, lovestruck ape with a dental problem, a proportional helping of heart and the attention span of a vaudeville audience.

Most of the film is undoubtedly self-aware, yet the campy moments have the fun sucked out due to the constant winking (“Fay will fit into her costume!”). As for its view of audacious filmmaking, there are self-reflexive moments injected in whenever Jackson would like to receive even more credit for what he has created (which is, admittedly, a massive project). Jackson must have mistakenly misunderstood that he was hired to remake just "King Kong" – not "King Kong", all the "Jurassic Park" movies and "Tremors".

The film is ridiculous – utterly ridiculous, and smugly loves itself for being so. Any complaint about implausibility will surely be quickly disregarded since the film involves, well, a gigantic ape (but, shockingly, does not revolve around him at all). There are a few far-fetched moments, however, that are downright distracting. Kong’s weight seems to fluctuate depending upon how cool something will look as it crumbles (ice cracking would just be boring), and Ann Darrow apparently is bone-less, and Jackson decides to remake another film: "The Indestructible Man," but with a female twist. Being asked to step into this world is difficult, because there is not enough original thrills and genuine emotion to enthrall. The middle segment is bogged down in tedious action scenes; aside from being repetitive, they are dragged out so long that the suspense has already disappeared less than halfway before their welcome end. The same goes for the repeated doughy-eyed moments which are interrupted by violence (it was partially effective the first time, but enough already). Enough already. Enough already. Enough already. It’s all just too much self-proclaimed “massiveness” and too little significant substance. Enough already. Enough already. C+, 5/10

I assumed that this would be a fine time to predict the SAG Guild Award winners, since it is essentially actors rewarding themselves, just as much King King was Jackson serving himself.

Best Ensemble: Crash (My choice: Brokeback Mountain)

Actors love Crash; they seem to love anything with a slightly "liberal" concept/agenda, even if it is poor filmmaking (this could help Brokeback, even though the very good filmmaking will most likely be overlooked because of its small, yet worthy, cast). The Crash cast is not terrible, I suppose, but hardly a good pick. I do not have a clear personal choice, as I believe that Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, and Good Luck both has fine casts. Nonetheless, I am spiteful about the marginalization of my Patty in GN, and GL, so I'll throw my vote towards Brokeback. Speaking of marginalization, I forgot there were other characters in Capote besides Truman himself (what a waste of the Keenster and Mr. Greenwood).

Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote (My choice: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain)

He's a character actor -- he's worked with everyone, and I assume he's rather well-liked (popularity goes the farthest at this awards show). Phoneix is in the big film, which always helps at the SAGs, but he seems rather introverted and awkward (and not in the eccentric-Johnny Depp way). Actors prefer their blockbuster award-winners to be eloquent and personable. Ledger is, as always, the potential upset, but SAG likes it's showy roles -- and even Hoffman's narcisstic Capote is more showy than the mumbling and repressed cowboy. Tis a shame; I had hoped Ledger would pick up at least a couple of awards, because his perfomance is just as good as Hoffman's.

Best Actress: Ms. Witherspoon, Walk the Line.

Reese. Reese. Reese. She's charming/popular/cute, and in a generic big box-office flick -- she's got it all wrapped up. I don't even like Reese much, but this pathetic category scares me. Let's just hope they don't waste screen-time on her douchebag-of-a-husband, Ryan Phillipe, again. Oh shit, he's going to get one of these for Crash, isn't he? Wait, so is Sandra Bullock? And Brendan Fraser? Oh, fuck. It seems as if I will have to turn off my TV immediately after the presenter utters "Crash."

Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giammati, Cinderella Man (My choice: Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain)

Yuck. This throwaway category would depress me more if the supporting actress race wasn't so strong this year. I fear they will get pulled into the Clooney trap, but no -- I believe they will fall into the Giammati trap.

Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Wiesz, The Constant Gardener (My choice: Amy Adams, Junebug)

Damn, I love Weisz, Adams and Williams (Adams and Williams are particularly great). Any of those will be fine with me. And it will, fortunately, be one of those. Now, I must decide -- which one? Eenie, meanie, miny, mo!

Actually, I used that method on almost all of them.


  • See, you're wrong about Jackson. He wasn't merely serving himself, he was also serving me. Which come to think of it, it's all that matters ;)

    By Blogger JavierAG, at 6:28 PM  

  • I'm very much in agreement about Kong, and your review has convinced me to drop it down to the same grade (I've been liking the film less and less since seeing it - the opposite of what I expected to happen). I've read many noble defenses of the movie that attempt to bring to light the many depths lurking within - sorry, I just don't see them. Or maybe they're just drowned out by the deafening sound effects and vertigo-inducing stunt sequences.

    Re: SAG. I'll try to have my predictions up soon (maybe, maybe not; it's hard to muster enthusiasm year after year for this stuff), but we are in agreement about mostly everything. I still think Clooney's going to win though; it will be oh-so-Hollywood and would fit in with their trend of awarding mediocre work. And although I'm not thrilled about the prospect of a Giamatti win, I'd still prefer his feistiness over Clooney's bland muttering.

    Actually, I'd love to see Hustle & Flow (have you seen this yet?) walk away with the SAG Ensemble prize. Although it's a long shot, it's not totally out of the realm of possibility. The Birdcage won a few years ago, and its chances for a Best Picture nod were nil.

    Your grade for The New World sickens me. It's appallingly low. Fix it immediately.

    By Blogger Ali, at 2:01 AM  

  • Hmmm, lots of BROKEBACK love... I guess we all have our different tastes...

    But then again, the SAGs are a particularly uninspiring lineup...

    By Anonymous jesse, at 2:37 AM  

  • Ali: No, I have not seen "Hustle and Flow," but if Howard gets nominated for Actor, I shall have to (and I'll rent it willingly).

    Hustle and Flow cannot win, whoever -- the cast is not as big or famous as The Birdcage's.

    Jesse: My Brokeback "love" is more by default. I have mixed/negative feelings about almost every film that will inevitably be nominated at the Oscars. And I chose "Brokeback" at the SAGs because the acting is the strongest part of the film (which, I admit, is not FANTASTIC).

    By Blogger Nick M., at 4:28 PM  

  • This confirms you have no soul.

    By Blogger Malloree, at 2:28 AM  

  • "The Crash cast is not terrible, I suppose"

    You seem to be forgetting that the Crash cast includes one very very terrible Sandra Bullock.

    By Anonymous MERYL ADVENTURE TOCHEN, at 2:44 AM  

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