Indiana Jones And The Wrath Of The Fanboy Force

As I’m sure you well know, last summer the long awaited fourth installment of the incredibly popular Indiana Jones series, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, was released to ginormous box office receipts and overall favorable reviews (it’s currently at 76% on the Tomatometer). In the U.S. alone it made over $300 million and is the 3rd biggest grossing film of 2008 after THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN. Well, despite these numbers there were a lot of folk who didn’t “join the rest of the world in breathing a sigh of relief at the multiplex” as I wrote in my review of the film (May 21, 2008). An increasing amount of film bloggers and tons of message board shut-ins, especially as the movie just hit the DVD market, are voicing their displeasure and resurrecting the “they raped my childhood” complaint that was born out of the extreme negative reaction to the STAR WARS prequels.

The fanboy bitching went mainstream a few weeks back when South Park aired an episode that actually featured Indiana Jones getting raped by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg not just once but three times in scenes that borrowed heavily from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE ACCUSED, and DELIVERANCE (of course).

Comedian/fanboy geek (probably best known as the voice of the rat in RATATOUILLE) Patton Oswalt recently went on Conan O’Brien and stated point blank that he thought the movie “sucked” and went on to bash its ending in particular. He elaborated on it in a stand-up performance at Blizzcon, Oct. 2008 in Anaheim, California:

“The last shot of ‘Raiders’, the very final shot of that movie, is that warehouse full of crates. And it was really dark and ominous. And it’s a really ballsy way to end your adventure movie. It’s a perfect film. ‘Raiders’ is perfect. And then the last shot of ‘Temple of Doom’, there’s elephants rearing up and a village is celebrating and he’s kissing the hot woman and you’re like ‘wow, what a cool action movie that was!’ And then the final shot of “Last Crusade” is Indiana Jones and James Bond (!), Sean Connery are on horses zipping away across the desert to God knows what adventures…oh, my goodness, that was great! And then the last shot of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is a line of elderly people slowly walking out of a church! And they play the “Raiders” music over them like they’re making fun of them!”

Oswalt had previously done loads of material criticizing the STAR WARS prequels (“If I actually had a time machine I would go back to 1993 or ’94 and kill George Kucas with a shovel…stop him from making the prequels”) so this bit isn’t surprising and, I admit, a good point. For the record I hated the prequels, though I think “raped my childhood” is a bit strong, and understand completely the disappointment surrounding them. While having some familiar elements they didn’t feel to me like the movies I saw and loved so much in the theater as a kid – yes, I’m old enough to have seen STAR WARS before it was renamed “Episode IV: A New Hope” (and I refuse to refer it as such now). Being just the right age for them I equally loved the Indiana Jones movies – they were like an extension of the old timey serial movie inspired fun and saw each of the films more than I could possibly count.

I was extremely skeptical about them making another Indiana Jones film – the 3rd one (INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE -1989) wrapped it all up nicely into a tidy trilogy and it seemed unnecessary to go back again almost 20 years later to attempt to relive past glories. So I was surprised, and maybe a little embarrassed, to enjoy the fourth film so much. I still stand by what I wrote after seeing a midnight show last May that the film was: “an entry that is as good an Indiana Jones movie as could be made today”. Mind you, some folks have told me that that comes off as a backhanded compliment. I really meant it though – I feel given the changing times and the advanced age of the core participants that this was as good as they could produce. I honestly believe that no matter what they served up that fanboys would have problems with whatever element. Back in the day I remember many schoolyard grumblings about implausible plot points and action set pieces of the original films – don’t get me started on how Indy survived that submarine ride in RAIDERS…, etc. These days the message boards and blogs replace the playgrounds as we all age and get more cynical, nitpicking about annoying details while friends and family say repeatedly “it’s just a movie” just over our shoulders.

I’ve already been scoffed at for saying that I liked it better than the dark TEMPLE OF DOOM (the one I saw the least as a kid) but I seriously do think, especially after seeing it more than once, that KINGDOM OF CRYSTAL SKULL is a more even and much more entertaining action film. I didn’t mind the aliens aspect, though I agree with some film folks about it being too X-Files and that the special effects were at times overboard – one message board poster said it was “Indiana Jones and the CGI Jungle” and I cant really argue with that. I also had problems with the gopher at the beginning, the Shia LaBeouf swinging from vines with moneys like Tarzan scene, and the before-mentioned ending – like blue-velvet-ant wrote in the comments of my review: “Hes Indiana Jones. He doesnt do married.”

Still, the bottom line to me is that it felt like the Indiana Jones movies I saw at the theater as a kid – it had the same tone, pacing, and Harrison Ford’s crusty charisma carried me through just like before. I went along with the outlandish escapades and was even immensely amused by the much derided “nuking the fridge” sequence (see Urban Dictionary: Nuke The Fridge). I wish folks would cut out using the “raped my childhood” tack – it’s a dead horse beaten beyond recognition at this point and many people are offset and offended by the use of the word “rape” in what is supposed to be a humorous context. Though I’m not saying ban it completely – Patton Oswalt’s line “Hollywood, where dreams come to be raped” is too accurate and brutally funny to be dropped. When somebody makes that “raped my childhood” complaint, perhaps the best response would be this one, from a snarky message boarder: “Well, your childhood was dressed too sexy and all walking around acting slutty; it was asking for it!”

More later…

Oscar Postpartum 2008

So it’s the morning after and I’m looking over my predictions – none of my wild cards paid off and some of my darts didn’t hit the bulls-eye so what do I got? Well, I don’t know whether to feel comforted or disturbed by the fact that I got EXACTLY the same amount right that I did last year – 13 out of 24. So here’s at ‘em:

2. BEST DIRECTOR: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – Though everybody was saying this was a lock I was still somewhat scared that this was wishful thinking. So glad that it happened – it is definitely the Coen Brothers time. Seeing them on stage – Joel stoic and commanding with Ethan cutely quietly fidgeting made them look like the Penn & Teller of movie directors.

3. BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis for THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
4. BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie – WRONG! – Marion Cotillard for LA VIE EN ROSE – As much as I loved Christie in AWAY FROM HER I am not disapointed here. Cotillard’s performance was amazing and the award is well deserved. Besides Christie’s won before.
5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Hal Holbrook – WRONG! Javier Bardem for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – I knew I’d be wrong about this one but didn’t care. Bardem was excellent and his short acceptance (hard to call it a speech)
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS : Cate Blanchett – WRONG! Tilda Swinton for MICHAEL CLAYTON – This was a real surprise. Still she did a good job in her role and I liked that backstage afterwards she said winning is often “the kiss of death”. Yeah, just ask Cuba Gooding Jr.
8. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins for THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORDWRONG! – Robert Elswit for THERE WILL BE BLOOD – I knew I’d be wrong here but still thought Deakins would win but for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I loved TWBB so I’m happy it got 2 major awards.
12. FILM EDITING: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLYWRONG!THE BOURNE ULTIMATUMBOURNE surprisingly swept the technical award categories. Maybe I should see it.
14. VISUAL EFFECTS: TRANSFORMERSWRONG! THE GOLDEN COMPASS – I called it a “no brainer” but I should’ve remember the Academys track record on this category. I mean E.T. won over BLADE RUNNER for this 25 years ago!
16. ORIGINAL SONG: “Falling Slowly” from ONCE – A nice moment during the broadcast was when Host Jon Stewart quipped “wow, that guy is so arrogant” after Glen Hansard’s humble as Hell acceptance speech. It got a big laugh from the audience and the folks at the Oscar party I was at last night.
21. ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: JUNO by Diablo Cody – This was the real ‘no brainer’.
adapted by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.23. ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: RATATOUILLE

Okay! So I did no better or no worse than last time out. Sigh. Story of my life.

More later…

It’s That Time Again – Film Babble’s Funtime Oscar Picks 2008!

The Academy Awards is one week away so I am finalizing my predictions. I admit that I’m no expert – I only had 13 out of 24 right last year but it is such a fun process for a film fan so I’m game. In Roger Ebert’s 2008 predictions column he writes “as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall”. I hear you Roger! That’s why I decided to say “screw it!” and go with my heart. I went against my heart last year and guessed wrongly that BABEL would win over my true favorite THE DEPARTED so I think I owe it.

1.BEST PICTURE: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – My brain agrees with my heart on this one. It seriously feels like The Coen Brothers time as evidenced by my pick for #2 as well but I have to remind myself that 10 years ago I really thought it was their time for FARGO and THE ENGLISH PATIENT won. Heavy sigh. Please JUNO – don’t split the vote and cause an upset! Please – my heart couldn’t take it.
2. BEST DIRECTOR: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.

3.BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis – Again heart and brain are on the same page with just about everybody out there on this – he truly did perform the best acting of the year so it’ll be shocking if he’s not rewarded.

4. BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie – Most are predicting this one for Christie. Her performance was wonderful and like Lewis she’s won before (for DARLING – 1965) and it just seems right. The wild card would be Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE but that’s stuck at “very long wait” in my Netflix queue so I can’t appraise yet.

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Hal Holbrook – This is my wild card; my INTO THE WILD card! Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Seriously though he was the best thing in that movie – he’s 82 and he climbed up a mountain! Somebody else who thinks he deserves it is one of his competitors for the title – Javier Bardem. Read Bardem’s touching comments on Holbrook’s performance. My brain is doubting this pick but I’m still letting it stand.

6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS : Cate Blanchett – Brain and Heart together again. Blanchett is amazing as ’65-’66 era Bob Dylan – actually Jude Quinn – one of 6 different personifications of the said rock star singer in I’M NOT THERE if you haven’t heard. I predict she will dedicate her Oscar to co-star Heath Ledger. Awarding her will honor him so to speak. Also since she was also nominated for Best Actress for ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE this stone kills that bird too. Hey, I’m just blogging out loud here!

And the rest:

8. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins for THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Deakins is also nominated for NO COUNTRY as well so I hope a DREAMGIRLS-like canceling out doesn’t go down. I will be supremely bummed if Deakins’ amazing work doesn’t get the gold for either film.
10. DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: NO END IN SIGHT – Because SiCKO would seem to be a shoe-in my brain is still pondering over whether the Academy will let Michael Moore back on their stage. I mean, remember last time? That’s not the only reason I think Charles Ferguson’s little seen Iraq war breakdown will win but it’s good enough for now.
11. DOCUMENTARY SHORT: SARI’S MOTHER – Haven’t seen but damnit it looks like a winner!
12. FILM EDITING: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – Heart again. I mean the editing was really the show on this one so I can’t help but pick it.
13. MAKEUP: LA VIE EN ROSE – Can you believe NORBIT was nominated? Maybe it did have phenomenal makeup but still – NORBIT – an Oscar Nominated Motion Picture?! I may do the biggest spit-take in history if that Eddie Murphy mess upsets this category.
14. VISUAL EFFECTS: TRANSFORMERS – The definition of “no-brainer”.
16. ORIGINAL SONG: “Falling Slowly” from ONCE – This has got to happen. People are crazy about that freakin’ soundtrack and this song seems a sure bet.
17. ANIMATED SHORT: I MET THE WALRUS – Didn’t see it but the trailer (that’s right, a trailer for a short film) is pretty cool.
18. LIVE ACTION SHORT: AT NIGHT – Haven’t seen either so I’m just going throwing a dart in the dark here I admit.
20. SOUND MIXING: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Didn’t see it but it looked like this flick mixed it up soundwise. Yep, another dart.
21. ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: JUNO by Diablo Cody. Consider this category to be re-named “snarkiest script”.
22. ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ATONEMENT by Christopher Hampton
THE COUNTERFEITERS (German title: Fälscher, Die) – I haven’t seen it yet but I read good things about this Austrian war drama on the internets and the Academy seems to love World War II so it seems pretty sound.

Okay! I bet I do even worse than last year but I don’t care. I’m just glad the writer’s strike is over and the show is going on. It was one of the best years for movies so I bet whatever the flaws and surprises it’ll be a blast.

More later…

Dog Day Matinee

It was so good to hide from the scorching Summer heat in air conditioned theaters in the last few weeks. I caught up with some of the second-tier films like ONCE and YOU KILL ME (reviewed below) that are competing with the blockbusters. I did however make it beyond my local art-house theater haunting ground that I normally dwell in to hit the multiplex to see –

RATATOUILLE (Dir. Brad Bird, 2007)

When walking out of the matinee I asked the common after-movie question to a friend who saw the movie with me – “so, what did you think?” He said “it sucked! No, just kidding – it was awesome.” Sure, an obvious joke but still apt because we knew going in that it was going to be awesome. Pixar has a high level of quality streak that they are riding on and the casting of comedian Patton Oswalt, who is also having a bit of a winning streak lately *, is pure genius. Oswalt voices Remy – a French rat who’s a “foodie” – not content to sift through trash for his meals because of his sophicated palette. After infiltrating a famous restaurant that has dropped a star off its four star rating after the passing of its owner and head chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett) Remy teams up with Linguinni (Lou Romano)- an incompetent klutz who has just been hired as janitor. With Remy’s culinary genius – inspired in part by a ghost of Gusteau – Linguinni rises above his mere kitchen help status to become the star chef. The animation is fluid and flawless, the dialogue quick and witty, the script with its honest passion for food and cooking is sharp as can be, and the supporting cast (including Janeanne Garafolo, Ian Holm, and Peter O’Toole) is spot-on. Man, I hope this Pixar winning streak lasts for a long time.

* This great Onion AV Club interview with Patton Oswalt reveals that he has done script doctoring punch-up work on 25 movies alone this year including SHREK THE THIRD. I would really like to give him props for his newest stand-up comedy disc “Werewolves and Lollipops” on SubPop. If you are not in the habit of purchasing comedy discs (most people I know aren’t) you should break the habit and buy this one – it’s hilarious all the way through and it comes with a bonus DVD of a performance at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia in which an audience member pees on another audience member because he didn’t want to leave to go to the bathroom and miss any of Oswalt’s set. Don’t worry – you don’t actually see this happening but it becomes a part of the routine in a glorious way.

And now for the arthouse also rans :

ONCE (Dir. John Carney, 2006) This highly touted Irish drama finally arrives in my area and has been charming the pants off of nearly everyone I know who sees it – me included. The story is simple – struggling songwriter Guy (Glen Hansard) meets piano playing Girl (Marketa Irglova) , Girl helps Guy * to make a demo recording and the will they-won’t they get together question is amplified through the music they create together. A very low-fi griminess adds to the realistic almost documentary feel and the music is heartfelt and catchy. ONCE has a sweet sincere melody to it and that’s a pretty good endorsement for a movie that is almost a demo itself.

* that is actually how they are credited – we never know their names.

YOU KILL ME (John Dahl, 2007) Ben Kingsley is Frank, a New Jersey hit-man whose alcoholicism has interferred with his ability to pull off his mafia contracts. Told by his boss (Phillip Baker Hall) he must attend AA meetings and sober up in San Fransisco where he gets a job in a funeral home. Yep, if the first half of this plot description made you think of The Sopranos the second half takes us to Six Feet Under. Through his new temporary line of work he meets Tea Leoni, gets sponsered by Luke Wilson, and monitored by creepy real estate agent Bill Pullman. There are a number of mild chuckles but this film isn’t the delightful dark comedy it wants to be. I didn’t really buy its ‘drinking : bad/murder : okay’ message either but the acting which is so much better than the material saves this from being forgettable. Kingsley should actually consider doing that “I’d pay to watch him read the phone book” project that people have been pitching for years.

Now for a review of a recent release DVD if you please (or even if you don’t) :

Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) – “Why was the 911 switchboard unplugged?”
Deputy Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney-Silver) “We had to plug in the popcorn maker!”

RENO 911! : MIAMI (Dir. Ben Garant, 2007) I’ve enjoyed the modern Keystone-esque antics in the satire of the reality TV standard Cops since Reno 911 premiered on Comedy Central in 2003 but then I’ve also liked Strangers With Candy and its transfer to the big screen yielded pretty patchy results. This is better than that by at least a notch and for the record funnier than another likewise stoner cop comedy SUPER TROOPERS (’01) by a long stretch. It has these things going for it – the full cast of TV regulars appears including Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant (who both co-wrote) it has a good Laughs Per Minute ratio, some clever cameos (Danny Devito, The Rock, Paul Rudd, and all the members from the sketch comedy troup/MTV show The State *), and a consistent tone throughout.

The squad journeys to a police convention on Spring Break in Miami and after a major arena quarentine they are made the only law enforcers of the city ensuring a wave of wackiness. Since this review is based on the unrated DVD version I can’t comment on the theatrical version obviously but there is a lot of scatological humor of which I’m not a fan of – I could have really done without the cheap motel masturbation sequence for instance. Still as a whole it’s funnier than it has a legal right to be. RENO 911! : MIAMI may never be considered a cult classic but it will be preferable to many of the films that air on Comedy Central for years to come.

* Also Patton Oswalt appears in the more-than-mere-cameo role of acting Miami-mayor Jeff Spoder – okay! That’s enough Patton promoting for now!

This post is dedicated to Laszlo Kovacs (1933-2007)- the recently deceased legendary cinematographer who has made his mark on 60 movies including classics like EASY RIDER, SHAMPOO, PAPER MOON, and GHOSTBUSTERS.

More later…