Saturday, March 31, 2007

Start At The End

If you love film the way I do, you probably have a genre or sub-genre that excites you on a molecular level. For me it's crime thrillers & mysteries, noir, neo-noir, etc etc. I mostly like the heavy dramatic variety, but the occasional lighter kind is good too (like say Out Of Sight from 1998, which remains the only worthwhile work that Jennifer Lopez has ever done). My problem, then, right now, is that I am majorly psyched because I just saw The Lookout, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I want to type & type & type about it, and well the problem comes in that I'm totally jazzed and can't focus on one thing...Look at this, I'm even runnin' my sentences on. As a bonus dilemma, I also want to catch the newest episode of South Park which is replaying in seven minutes. So that's like, what, 18 things I want to tell you about. I'm not going to sleep until I run out of things to say, I promise. It's gonna be a long night, but in here somewhere will be a glowing movie review.

Somehow, I don't get why Van Halen's "Jump" is a good stadium song. Granted, it's during the Lakers/Rockets game, so ya know, haha, get it, slam dunk = jump. Yeah whatever. Also, Amy Poehler (sp? I'm too lazy to check) is on Leno, and well (a) nice legs, and (b) bored me enough to watch the Lakers/Rockets game. Be more funny.

Speaking of Out Of Sight, Paul Schaffer's band is playing the Isley Brothers' "It's My Thing". And again, The Lookout was written & directed by Scott Frank. Frank is apparently one of my favorite screenwriters, and I didn't even realize. He wrote both Out Of Sight and Get Shorty. I like both; both are also Elmore Leonard novels. Both are crime thrillers. Difference though - The Lookout is (a) not an Elmore Leonard novel adaptation, (b) nor funny. The Lookout is wonderfully tense and downbeat and exhilarating and...uh...wait...

South Park is on. I'll be back...'s a '24' parody, and it's already hilarious.
There is a nuclear bomb in Hilary Clinton's vagina.
Trey & Matt are fucking out of their minds.

TV On The Radio is playing "Wolf Like Me" on Kimmel. This is sublime, and the musical freedom that Kimmel gives his performers more than justifies the existence of his show. Will Arnett has a mustache. They're gonna play "Dirtywhirl" off the air. This is blowing my mind right now.

Scott Frank obviously (...or maybe not) whittled The Lookout down from years of stray script ideas. The story isn't exactly special, in fact it's so straight-forward and kind of predictable that you could call it classic. It's one you've seen before, but that's because it's really really excellent. Small town high school jock star falls from grace, becomes cast aside loser, gets wrapped up in criminal plot (in this case, a heist of the bank he works as a janitor at) only to make his stand right at that climactic moment. Frank's brilliance is injecting his hero with a soul abyss, a deep sorrow my girlfriend said, that you rarely see in movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Chris Pratt is soaked in sadness, his eyes always downcast; he looks like a dank basement. There are no bright colors in (t)his world until Isla Fisher's panties - the color of raspberry ice cream at Friendly's, that lavender that leans on the red side.

Chris Pratt's affliction, the thing that places him firmly in the loser column, is his short-term memory loss and some motor skills problems. Now, we all saw Memento, and we know, it's a masterpiece. But this is different. Guy Pearce is awesome in that - but, well, he played it like he thought it should be played, as an actor, with a part and a script. Gordon-Levitt becomes it. He is this guy. He put himself in the life of a young guy who, in one night, in one accident, lost everything, and never came back the same. He disappears so completely, and sucks you in. Pearce's Leonard was at least still able, physically. Chris Pratt can't walk quite right, he can't lift a beer with his left hand, he blurts out inappropriate things to the women he likes, he gets the shakes, fits of rage, uncontrolled crying. That's why it doesn't matter that you just know how it'll end. You need to see it. You need to know, to see what happens to Chris Pratt. My girlfriend works in the health field - she's worked with people who've had serious brain injuries, and seen the spectrum of emotional wreckage that comes with it. She assures me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt got it exactly right, and it kills you to see him suffer, but as an audience member you're loving it. This why you pay for those ten dollar tickets. JGL is a talent to keep a close eye on. I said it in the beginning of this blog, when I talked about last year's Brick. When I die, I expect Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be my generation's Paul Newman. An actor of such stature that the mention of his name will immediately bring to mind a career of impeccable choices and breathtaking performances. I see the future, motherfuckers.

...I'm listening to the new Kings Of Leon album, Because Of The Times. It's brilliant. They manage to be completely retro, and yet not sound like are they really retro then?? Yeah, I actually want to redact that, because every other review is going to use the word 'retro', and it's just not the right word. This album is doing something very unique - it's 100% a late night rock album, at the very least it needs to be dark, like 9pm before you put it on, but I'd say optimum range is 1am-ish. There is no way in hell that you could listen to this during the day, at least not the first half, which is where I'm at. I even want to say it's specifically a soundtrack to low lit debauchery, the spirit of Exile On Main St. filtered somehow through Andy Gill and The Edge, or the other way around. Haunting. Haunting is the word...OK, my one reference is, "Trunk" sounds like the second half of The Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"...OK, I'm done. It's also one of the greatest driving albums ever. "Ragoo" is the only weak track really...I wonder that it's title comes from that Adam Sandler skit from his second album, with the goat and the ragoo festival, cuz it's got that skank to it. It might be the greatest album specifically for open-highway night-driving of all time...AH, this makes sense - from The Observer Music Monthly:

Kings of Leon have spent much of the past couple of years in potentially soul-sapping support slots on extended US stadium tours by the likes of Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam and, most significantly, U2. But rather than be ground down by that experience, they've used it as the jumping-off point for a bold expansion of their own parameters

Yeah, that's tells me alot. The rhythm section, especially the bassist, paid alot of attention to Ament & Cameron. I'm going away in two weeks, Down South where the Followill boys are from, and I can't wait to drive on the interstate at midnight, surrounded by 18-wheelers, doing 90mph, listening to "On Call" or "McFearless" or "Black Thumbnail".

In alot of ways, the KOL album brings me back to The Lookout. I immediately perked up when the film started with fellow Southerners, My Morning Jacket's instant classic "One Big Holiday" from 2003's It Still Moves; there's a serendipity between Southern bands and the lands they come from, sprawling fields stretching like languid guitar lines, and in this case towering arpeggios crashing down as Chris Pratt's car does. And well, there's that sense of possibility, of the great farmlands, open wide across the middle of America, that these bands can conjure up. Because Scott Frank cast such excellent actors in his four major roles, they give the characters possibilities; they give them outs, choose-your-own endings. But in order to have those, you have to be in touch with where you're from, and why you are where you're at now. Gordon-Levitt has it easy in that sense; as the main character, his reasons are the crux of the tale. Not so for Jeff Daniels' Lewis, or Isla Fisher's Luvlee, or Matthew Goode's Gary. But no matter; they work wonders in scenes that are as much highlights as Gordon-Levitt's star turn. When Lewis argues with Chris at a restaurant, and snaps at the waitress for the check, it says volumes about how he's been mistreated as a blind person. His conversation/interrogation of Luvlee illustrates the same, a wisdom that can only come from being screwed over multiple times...there's a reason Ray Charles had all the same denomination of dollar bill. Luvlee is the most wide open; her moment, tears down her cheeks as she looks across the snow covered fields in the distance speaks volumes about her dissatisfaction with her life and her guilt about how she's treating Chris - hooker with a heart of gold and all that, 'cept for she's a stripper. As she looks in half-horror at the guns for the heist, Matthew Goode's Gary gives her that ice cold look, like 'if you double cross us, I'll have that emotionless spectre Bone snuff out your candlelight of life'. Gary stays sinister throughout, making you wonder if his high school back story really would check out. But in the final moments, it's his shortcomings, not Chris', that are left hanging, unforgiven.

...there's something very very special about De La Soul. It's too broad a feeling to really pinpoint why. Their greatness is just so...right. I think Plug Wonder Why is my favorite MC.

"Have You Ever Been To Electric Ladyland?" might be the most underrated song in Jimi Hendrix's catalog. It's completely alone, a nice little soul number. I remember reading that it was the only song he ever did where he was happy with his vocals. Which is amazing to me, cuz I think he's one of the greatest singers; his phrasing is second to none. I sometimes wonder what the Motown and Stax cats thought of him. I gotta imagine at least The Temptations dug him, considering their "Ball of Confusion"/"Cloud Nine" period.

Scott Frank's directorial debut is a success because he took the time to carve his characters some real details, and then found the right actors to make those details work. The journey need not be unique every time now in film, because fucked up shit happens to all of us, and it's those shared experiences that makes life easier. And Chris Pratt is on the road to forgiveness; his story is rewarding because the end justifies the beginning.

Raz's ratings
FILM: The Lookout

MUSIC: Kings Of Leon's Because Of The Times

-The Lookout website
-Kings Of Leon website
-Kings Of Leon video for "On Call"

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