Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Movie Reviews

Hairspray (2007) - An OK movie, in spite of John Travolta. Every other actor in this film did a great job (particularly the lead girl playing Tracy), but Travolta was so atrociously bad that I actually found myself getting through his scenes by developing a mental block around him, erasing him from the film and fantasizing someone better in his place. Just off the top of my head: Harvey Fierstein, Tim Curry, Nathan Lane, John Goodman; hell, Robert DeNiro could probably have done a better job. I've seen Monty Python sketches with more convincing female characters (as played by men in drag).

I'd love to know what kind of accent Travolta thought he was speaking in, but mostly he suffered from something I know I've seen before, though I'm not sure where (possibly Wesley Snipes in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar): He doesn't play the character as a woman, or even as a drag queen. He plays the character as a straight man in drag, with a bit of a "wink" to let the audience know that "I'm just playing around here, you know - I'm not gay". As a result, he holds back just enough to make the whole performance seem uncomfortable and unconvincing.

Beyond illustrating the dangers of stunt casting, it was a competently-filmed version of a Broadway-musical-ized movie, but the original film was still better. For one thing, in the original film, the whole theme of racial integration sort of snuck in. It paradoxically gained power by not being the main focus. In the Broadway version, it's there pretty much from Scene One: The very first Corny Collins song talks about the "white kids" on his dance show. It's obvious right from the start that racial integration is what Hairspray is "about", in this incarnation. That may also be what the original was "about", in some sense, but it made its points with more subtlety. And there's a word I'll bet you never expected to apply to a John Waters film, eh?

And, another in a continuing series:

Things I Learned from Saw III
  • Serial killers have the magical ability to track down a person who witnessed a drunk-driving hit-and-run, even though they explicitly did not testify in the trial.

  • Her failure to testify in the trial meant she was morally deserving of punishment, even though the injustice in the case wasn't that the driver went free from lack of evidence, but rather that he was given a short sentence. Somehow, testimony from an eyewitness would have prevented that, apparently.

  • Someone who is alive and presumably generating some amount of body heat through metabolic processes, albeit hanging naked in a freezer, can not only freeze to death, but actually be coated with a layer of solid ice in a matter of minutes just by spraying them with (liquid) water.

  • Bare shotgun shells with no gun barrel surrounding them at all nevertheless still fire directionally.

  • You have a ring of said shotgun shells around your neck, rigged to go off and blow up your head if the Rube Goldberg Killer's heart stops. Your husband comes by with a gun. Instead of shouting something unmistakable and unambiguous like "If you kill him, I'll die", stick to less direct exclamations like "Wait", "Don't", that sort of thing. If he really loves you, he'll stop and ask for clarification before attacking the guy holding you both hostage, and who just forced him to crawl through six kinds of hell.