I recently watched Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz for the zillionth time. This was partly to assuage my excitement for Baby Driver, Wright’s latest, and partly because the discovery of a commentary track by Wright and his buddy Quentin Tarantino was too good to pass up. Usually commentary tracks feel slight, strained, straight-up unnecessary; Wright and Tarantino have a casual chat that’s nearly as bonkers as Hot Fuzz itself. The pair share a vast encyclopedic knowledge of film and music, and throughout the course of the commentary they discuss nearly 200 films — basically everything besides Hot Fuzz — and if you’re thinking someone should write out that list, well, yeah: reddit.
Their knowledge is enviable, yes, but it’s not nearly as enviable as the fact that both writer/directors manage to make movies that are unlike any other movie you’ve ever seen. Baby Driver, it should be stated at the outset, is unlike any other movie you’ve ever seen. Wright, like Tarantino, has fresh ideas that swing for the narrative fences, and like Tarantino he also has the prowess to actually achieve his vision. This time around the vision is something people are calling a “car chase musical”, which seems only half-accurate because it doesn’t quite do Baby Driver justice.
Continue reading Baby Driver (2017) →
“Other Lives” wasn’t so much a reboot as a remake, not so much starting fresh as simply starting from the beginning all over again. Following the massive, civilian-offing Heat-esque shootout at the end of last week’s episode “Down Will Come“, all four of this season’s protagonists find themselves down a few rungs on the Ladder of Success. Worth noting, though, that only Ray Velcoro has an arc that’s really worth investing in — and only Ray seems to realize what the Ladder of Success actually is. When Frank Semyon states that he thought being poor was behind him in “Down Will Come”, Ray shakes his head: “That shit never leaves you,” Ray says, “no matter how much money you make.” The sentiment is carried through when Frank, offering Ray a job, encourages him by saying that “a little rage can go a long way.” Ray, of course, even though he knows the answer, asks the question out loud: “A long way to where?”
And even though he knows the answer, he takes Frank up on his offer in the weeks following the harrowing gun battle. It’s now been three months since the murder of Ben Caspere. Ray has straight-up quit the Vinci P.D., Ani was removed from the special investigation and demoted to the evidence closet in the basement during the Internal Affairs probe into her sexual misconduct, and Paul has taken a job at an insurance company that he hates. Frank has moved out of his palatial brood-pad into a more modest Glendale brood-pad, still struggling to clamber back up to the “peak” he felt he’d achieved just before Caspere died with Frank’s money in his pocket. And all in all we’re back where we were during the premiere episode “The Western Book of the Dead“, seemingly no closer to catching Caspere’s killer.
Continue reading True Detective 2.5 – “Other Lives” →
A smash cut can be a beautiful thing. It can also be a broadly-defined thing, somewhat unfortunately, which means I have to reel you into a conversation about Michael Mann’s The Insider by providing a narrowed definition of smash cut. Excited yet? The added problem, of course, is that one of you
damn dear readers will no doubt have the time to point out precisely where I’m mistaken in my definition, holding my hand and stating that, no, that’s not a smash cut, that’s a match cut, and that one over there is a jump cut, and over there is…my, oh my! Is that a Dutch angle shot in its natural habitat?
Anyway, the thing I’m thinking of might not even qualify as a smash cut, but for now that descriptor will have to suffice. Mann loves an extreme close-up, especially in his earlier works like Heat (I’m thinking of that early bouncing shot of Val Kilmer), and in his follow-up The Insider we probably get closer to the facial pores of Russell Crowe and Al Pacino than we’ve ever been before. But there are a few close-ups not of faces but of objects, inserted for a second or a half-second right smack in the middle of a scene, and those cuts are what I’m talking about. They smash to the forefront when you’d least expect them, these otherwise uninteresting objects. Why does Mann shove these in so boldly, and how does he get it to work so damn well?
Continue reading The Insider (1999) →