Sunday, March 26, 2006

Double Feature

Feels like ages since I've posted anything -- because it has been.

Had a momentous day today. Went to two different movies at two different theatres for (I think) the first time in my life. I may have done it in L.A., though I can't remember. Regardless, it's the first time in decades.

Pidge had mentioned how much she really wanted to see "Thank You for Smoking." I was lukewarm, but agreed, since she was right that she usually sucks it up when it's something I want to see, and it was my turn to do the same for her.

We drove down to Palo Alto (the CineArts, where it was playing on both screens, which struck me as odd) and ot there pretty much just in time. Big crowd (again, surprisingly), so we didn't have a great choice of seats. What we got were pretty good, although they leaned back so far I was a little uncomfortable, and the head of the woman in front of me occupied a tiny portion of the screen. (That said, it was good to see a movie on an honest-to-god big screen.)

(Odd coincidence. The ticket takers at both theatres were in wheelchairs. I've never seen that at all before, and to see it twice in one day was off. NTTAWWI.)

Anyway, we saw a number of trailers, most of which actually looked good -- I guess that's the benefit of going to an art house -- even one owned by Century. The feature finally started, and I instantly knew I was in good hands with a brilliant credits sequence. I miss credits sequences. They can do so much work for the filmmakers in setting a mood or a time or place. I was watching "Murder By Death" and "The Cheap Detective" last night (the latter of which I hadn't seen since it opened, and boy, does it hold up; much better than MBD, in fact) and both (each?) had credits by Wayne Fitzgerald, who was a god at such things, and a good set of credits is worth its weight in gold.

To continue. "Thank You . . ." is laugh-out-loud funny (a rarity, I find), and the thing that impressed me the most about it (and there's a lot to be impressed about) is that it has a conservative political bent and is still funny. I've often complained that, even as liberal as I am, I'd like to see some kind of conservative political statement in the theatre or movies. TYFS has the usual Hollywood cliches upended, with the corporate shills being the good guys and the do-gooder groups being the, well, not the bad guys, but putzes. It was a refreshing change of pace. I'm not saying I want to see every film be like this, but it was nice to see for once. Nicely written, well-directed (and good continuity!), with fine performances by Aaron Eckhart, J.K. Simmons (who is thisclose to reaching "Money in the Bank" status), Robert Duvall, and Bill Macy.

That said, Katie Holmes has reached the point in her career where she has no credibility on screen. Between her not-overwhelming acting ability, whatever the fuck is going on with Tom Cruise, and her youthful appearance, she has a -lot- to overcome -- and doesn't do it here. The second she appeared on screen, I cringed mentally. She suffers here from the same thing she suffered from in "Batman Begins." She's supposed to be a tough and accomplished professional, and looks 12 and has all the gravitas of Macaulay Culkin. She needs to get off the screen -- now. Oh, and if you're going to have significant amounts of dialogue about a character's awesome "tits," you have to do one of two things. Either cast an actress with awesome tits and have her show them, or cut the lines referring to them. Director Reitman did neither. The only time we come close to seeing Ms. Holmes's mammae is in one long shot where she's standing in an office in a very modest blouse showing nothing out of the ordinary. Contrast this with the attention paid to the ta-tas of Ms. Renee Graham as Tiffany, the corporate jet flight attendant, and the whole thing becomes a "wha--?" moment.

The film ended and it was back in the car to drive to Mountain View to see the film I wanted to, "Inside Man." I'd read a lot about it in the past couple of days, and wanted to see it early, before any potential spoilers reached me. We got to the theatre early and it was a much different experience. Huge lobby, 16 screens, a completely different demographic. (For example: One of the trailers at the CineArts was for "A Scanner Darkly," which is Richard Linklater's newest piece of vomit, using that computer rotoscoping technique that I find so annoyingly pretentious. I turned to Pidge and asked who the hell could watch this for more than five minutes. Well, I found out. The Century 16 has trailers playing on monitors throughout the lobby [seems too cavernous to call it that, but what else is there?], so the patrons can't go more than about 1o seconds without having their senses assaulted. They played the "Scanner Darkly" trailer, and the girls in front of us were -riveted-. When it finished, they both agreed that they -had- to see the picture. Different strokes, I guess . . . )

After about ten minutes in line, they let us into the theatre, which had a suspiciously large number of people in it already. We managed to get decent seats, though (even if both of us complained that they were extremely uncomfortable), and passed the time until the trailers started; this time, showing the usual selection of things I wouldn't see on a bet. Is it me or is it Hollywood? Anyway . . .

We both enjoyed the picture, even if I felt it was a little long. I also expected more twists and turns (from the reviews), but still found it satisdfying, even if there were the usual selection of plot holes. Like how does Clive Owen's character know what he knows? And when he is where he is, how does no one suspect it? Really well-directed, with a real sense of New York and location in general, and just a slew of good performances from Washington, Owen, Dafoe (good to see him not play a heavy), Plummer (who I can't believe I like now), and even Jodie Foster, whom I usually loathe, but is quite good - but then I'm supposed to loathe her character in this one, so it works.

Regardless, it was a fine afternoon of filmgoing, and I look forward to a couple more in the near future. Still have to see "Find Me Guilty" and "V for Vendetta."

Coming up? I'm doing a reading of a new play Monday at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in the city. I play a crotchety college professor who's locked into the traditional way of doing things. Sort of a continuation from "Oleanna." Darold (from "Miss Daisy") called and asked me if I'd be interested in acting in it, and I said sure; especially since there's a little dough involved, and I'll be working with Lorrie Holt, among others. And it may give me a line into finding a black actress for "Mrs. Bob Cratchit."

Tomorrow, it's dinner with the Rustans at a mystery restaurant that's the last gasp of my 50th birthday. Don't expect anything momentous to come of it, but it'll be the first time we see them without Schlomo since, hell, since Leisa got pregnant.

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