Odds & Ends With Some More Politics Schmolotics

Hey folks – I haven’t been posted this week ’til now because I’ve been busy with a few projects. First, writing my long-in-the-works book “Crime & Popcorn: An A-Z Guide To Conspiracy Cinema” which I may take some time off the blog soon to finish. Second, the marvelous MovieZeal.com are having an April Coen Brothers blog-a-thon with reviews and articles about their incredible oeuvre. I am contributing a 2 part piece on the music in the movies of the Coen Brothers for the fine site. You can read Part I here.

After my post Nitpicking on NetFlix (March 17, 2008) I was surprised to be approved as a NetFlix affiliate after applying a long time ago. So I proudly welcome NetFlix into the Film Babble Blog fold. However don’t think I’ll stop bitchin’ though – I mean you guys still don’t carry the much written about and heavily advertised BONNIE AND CLYDE: 2 Disc Special Edition and that after waiting for 4 months (very long wait from Dec. to April) for what I thought was the 2 LANE BLACKTOP: CRITERION COLLECTION DVD I got the old 1999 Starz/Anchor Bay version! C’mon! Uh, sorry to go off there…anyway welcome.

I watched a movie the other day that I knew was going to be bad but I just couldn’t resist. When LIONS FOR LAMBS was released in theaters last November I wrote: “I wanted to see LIONS…but just about every critic is telling me not to – though I probably still will”. Well, I guess I never lost the lust for lameness that I had late last year. Even that its current rating is 27% on the Tomatometer couldn’t stop me from putting it in my Netflix queue.

So it is what it is:

LIONS FOR LAMBS (Dir. Robert Redford, 2007) This is so much of a high class dud that I don’t even want to write a conventional review. I mean I can’t really add anything to the criticisms that this is a putrid preachy bore and I sure don’t want to recount the plot threads that involve Redford as a heart of gold professor, Tom Cruise as a hot-shot Republican Senator, and Meryl Streep as a old school liberal journalist. So what I thought I’d do is take a look at one aspect of the film that particularly stuck in my craw. It’s less than a scene actually; it’s a few moments of dialogue-free melodrama in which Streep left alone in Cruise’s office takes a look at the framed photos on his wall.

We’ve seen this many times throughout the history of cinema – in the background of the offices and residencies there are often photos to show that these are real people with lives beyond what we see on the screen. Sometimes these are pictures taken from the actors’ personal life – baby photos, school portraits, stills from their previous movies, etc. and sometimes they are art department fakes. Streep gazes at a few career defining pictures – Cruise’s character with Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and, of course, President George W. Bush. These are obviously but competently photoshoped and it’s funny to note that Cruise has most likely really been photographed with these folks but those pictures would be of real-life movie star Cruise not the Senator act we’re supposed to swallow here. As Streep’s eyes and the camera scans the wall we see a picture of a young Cruise in military duds – hey, it’s a still from his 1981 movie TAPS! Better pan faster so people don’t notice that. Her eyes finally fall upon a fictitious Time Magazine cover – too bad it wasn’t the Man Of The Year mirror that the Dude (Jeff Bridges) starred at in THE BIG LEBOWSKI in a likewise scene with phony photos on the wall. Yep – I know, any excuse to bring up THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

The pictures on the wall in LIONS FOR LAMBS would be fine if they were only in the background and never given close-ups but when prominently displayed they call attention to the seams in the film’s fabric. Redford points out a picture on his office’s wall as well. He does so to illustrate to a apathetic student that he was a solider in the Vietnam war. Redford remarks “3 of those guys never came home” or something like that – I was too distracted by how unreal the picture looked and that it was a picture of somebody taking a picture of a group of guys. I know the points these pictures are supposed to make just like I got all the points the film was trying to make but the Devil sure wasn’t in these details. LIONS FOR LAMBS is the cinematic equivalent of “blah blah blah”; the phony photos the polish on a tedious turd.

More later…

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