Tuesday, November 13, 2007

T.A.O.J.J.B.T.C.R.F., Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

UPDATE: I've since rewatched TAOJJBTCRF and you can find my (much kinder) thoughts on the film right here.

My 50th post! Thanks to all the readers out there. Hopefully I can keep this going for at least another 50.

The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Director: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt

Well, as far as this one goes, there isn't much to say. The title says it all - and I mean "it all." Nothing else happens. I knew it wouldn't be as good as 3:10 to Yuma, but this was one of the slowest movies I've seen in a long time. The industry is going to have to do a lot better than this to revive the long-dead western. Hopefully the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men (which is a modern western) can make up for this film.

Visually, the movie is great - the cinematography lived up to expectations, with some beautiful-looking scenes of Jesse and his gang robbing a train (they even managed to make THAT boring!) and some cool shots where just the outsides of the frame were out of focus to imply a sort of dream-like trance. But plot-wise, it was like a bunch of junior high girls talking behind each other's backs. Someone would say something, and it would get tense and anxious for a minute, but then the situation would diffuse and everyone would breath a sigh of relief that no one was shot. Repeat that for two hours and forty minutes, and that pretty much sums up this movie. I've got a decent analogy for the movie, but it's too inappropriate to print here, so ask me if you want to know what it is.

Brad Pitt was excellent as the melancholy Jesse James, while Casey Affleck (who was good in Gone Baby Gone) was more annoying than anything else as Robert Ford, the young man who idolized Jesse, joined his gang, and eventually killed the notorious cowboy. He spoke with a broken voice for most of the movie, having an effect reminiscent of Mos Def in 16 Blocks or Adam Sandler in The Waterboy - distracting. Overall, I thought it was really detrimental to the film. But good performances generally can't save a movie with no plot. I think the movie is intended to be a dramatic character study comparing two men at different points in their lives - one at the peak of his fame, one looking to become famous. But they really could have made this a lot more interesting to those of us who weren't watching for the technical execution of how the movie was made. We just want some cool train robberies or gunfights in the street, or a cattle drive - SOMETHING. After all, this is supposed to be a western, right?

Little trivia for you: Shia LaBeouf originally competed with Casey Affleck for the role of Robert Ford, but the filmmakers decided Shia was too young for the part.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Director: George Clooney
Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore

This was a really cool movie. George Clooney's directorial debut was fantastic, especially for someone who's never stepped behind the camera before. The movie is based on an autobiography of Chuck Barris, a really interesting guy who created and produced some hit game shows in the 1960's and 70's. In his biography, Barris claims to have worked for the CIA during that time as an assassin, so this movie follows that possibility and shows what Chuck's life would have been like running game shows and killing people at the same time. The movie intercuts the story with real interviews of friends of Barris, such as Dick Clark and other game show personalities.

I hate Drew Barrymore almost as much as I hate Kirsten Dunst, but she was actually passable in this movie. She played Chuck's love interest, the flower-power free spirit Penny, and the role suited her. Sam Rockwell (Nic Cage's partner in Matchstick Men) was great as Barris, playing both ends of the cool and paranoid spectrum like Leo DiCaprio did in The Aviator. Clooney cast himself as the CIA handler who hires Barris, and he does a fine job with the character. Obvious Clooney-friend Julia Roberts makes an appearance as well, breezing through her role as another CIA operative who throws a wrench into Chuck's life right when he's finally making it big.

I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that this is probably worth your time if you're a fan of any of the actors/actresses involved, and if you're a Clooney fan, this is almost a must-see. To this day, no one really knows if Barris' claims are true. The CIA has released a statement saying "it is ridiculous, and it's not true. We could find no record of him ever working here," but we all know that if they really told us the truth, they'd have to kill us. Until next time...


Alfredsson Dawes said...

Your recount of the trivia is false. Shia didn't take the part because he was too young, it was just that Casey Affleck called him a fawkin' fairy and he was so distraught by the insult he couldn't bring himself to compete with the great C.A.

nick plowman said...

I think his recollection of the trivia is correct Alfredsson, your view sounds a little far fetched, but I am not sure. I heard the same thing Ben said in this great review....