Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stuff I'm Watching


The first half of the semester has been a busy bear of a time, and this week I've been laid low with a bug that seems to be traveling around Cineville. Which means that the backlog of review posts in my head has yet to be cut down-- really, for months now I've been meaning to catch up on what I've been seeing in theaters and on DVD. As a holding mechanism-- and perhaps a spur for me to get to writing more expansively about them over the next month or so-- here's a list of the films and TV-on-DVD I've been catching up with, in no particular order:

The Ox-Bow Incident
Jumper
Slumdog Millionaire
Nero Wolfe, Season One
SIsterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Deathtrap
Hellboy 2
Ballet Shoes
Frost/Nixon
Last Chance Harvey
The Incredible Hulk
Cool Hand Luke
Tropic Thunder
The Great Debaters


I've also been re-watching Sports Night-- a 10th anniversary box came out last year, and it's been fun to look at the episodes again, and to view the extras. I'd forgotten how dense with language and imagery each episode is, and it's always a pleasure to be enveloped by Aaron Sorkin's pitch-perfect screwball dialogue, and engaging sense of grace.

Less pleasurable? This news. Really, Jon Favreau? Really? Lost In Translation aside (and admittedly that's a pretty big aside), can someone explain the enduring appeal of Scarlett Johansson's blank expression to me?

10 comments:

Ed Howard said...

Does Black Widow really require such incredible complexity that you just can't imagine Scarlet Johansson playing her? Actually, I think while not a good actress, she can be interesting with the right director. Woody Allen's certainly brought out the best in her, and Favreau is a good actor's director who might be able to do the same.

digital_sextant said...

Mmmm. I loves me that Nero Wolfe. I miss that series almost as much as Wonderfalls.

Brian Doan said...

Brendan,
Yeah, I'm really enjoying WOLFE-- I've been watching it out of order over the last year or so, getting discs from the library and thus being at the mercy of whatever's available at the time. So I've seen all of season one and the last half of season two. Timothy Hutton is really great, and plays so well off of Maury Chaykin.

Brian Doan said...

Hi Ed,
Well, my plea was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that might not have registered given my woozy state and its effect on my blogging.

Is the Black Widow complex? Well, no-- not compared to some characters, although she does have an interesting history in the Marvel Universe as a double agent and paramour of several of the universe's superheroic folk. She also has a confidence and wit that I don't see Johansson's affectless ennui being right for; you mentioned Woody Allen, but I think she's pretty awful in those movies, and doesn't seem to have a great talent for comedy (although I think she's ok at doing other things), so I don't know how that will translate to the character.

I think it depends on what they want to do with the character-- one of the nice things about the first IRON MAN is how it took a rather absurd premise and found something rich and human in it, and in the relationships between the characters (the HELLBOY movies did this, too). Like I said, my "plea" was only half-serious-- although my confusion about SJ's "it girl" status is quite real--but I am looking forward to the film, and agree that Favreau is very good with actors and might get some good stuff out of here.

I also feel like it's worth mentioning that superhero/comics movies still seem to labor under a gulity-until-proven-innocent burden about their potential seriousness and complexity that, say, art house dramas don't. The Black Widow isn't the world's most complex character; then again, neither were the ripped-from-the-19th-Century Indian stereotypes of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, but the latter was framed as "meaningful" by its press and blog coverage, and relatively few critics felt the need to challenge that pre-approved framework, despite how shoddily made and deeply pernicious Danny Boyle's movie was.

Roger Whitson said...

I have to second your critique of the Black Widow casting. It's all wrong. The Black Widow is supposed to be all mysterious. You're supposed to be questioning her motives constantly. There's nothing mysterious about Scarlett whatsoever, and I seriously doubt she could pull off mysterious.

digital_sextant said...

Re: Wolfe

Absolutely. I love the moments when Wolfe sits down to purse his lips and think. And then there's the chef! Magnificent.

I also really like the "cast of players" concept -- it would be a fantastic way to allow for some real depth and feeling to develop in a show where three quarters of the characters have to switch each episode.

BTW - Kari Matchett, who often ended up playing the "dame" Archie was pursuing shows up as Hutton's ex-wife in LEVERAGE.

bill r. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bill r. said...

I picture Scarlett Johansson in the costume, and I cannot find it within me to complain. And I agree, she's not much of an actress, but still. And I do mean "butt".

Ah ha ha ha etc.

Also, Brian, you're accidentally watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2! Stop it!

Brian Doan said...

Bill,
Ha! Actually, I liked Traveling Pants 2, although I was also a bit disappointed. I really liked the first film, and have seen it several times, but the second film felt a bit sitcommy in comparison-- enjoyable, but without the textures and warmth of the first film. Which is funny, because the second film was directed by Sanaa Hamri, who made the very textured and warm and funny SOMETHING NEW, whereas the first film was directed by Ken Kwapis, who's best known as a director of...sitcoms. Really good sitcoms, though-- THE OFFICE, LARRY SANDERS.

Brian Doan said...

Brendan,
I definitely need to get LEVERAGE through Netflix, if its available already-- I really like what I've seen, and your comments make me even more curious. I love the revolving ensemble of WOLFE, too. And the chef deserved his own spinoff sitcom.