Setter’s ‘Spectives: ‘The Truth’ According to Michael Palin … and Its Movie Potential

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Ever read a good book and wonder what kind of film it would make?

That’s how I felt about The Truth, Michael Palin’s recent novel about a middle-aged British journalist’s quest to write his own tome about a famous globetrotting crusader for human rights. On the surface, this work is quiet, serious, unprepossessing … unusual for Palin, known for his hilarious turns on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But underneath, the story is all about doing what’s right, even if it means uncovering wrongs from the past, and that’s a deceptively simple concept.

I think it might work well on the big screen.

Not sure if that’s a possibility, but anything can happen, right? There’s good dialogue, strong descriptive content, a powerful story and a celebrity writer behind the pages. Why wouldn’t this be a good option for the cinema, I ask?

Fine: There’s not a lot of sex … at least, nothing graphic. That could potentially be a turn-off to Hollywood, especially in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey. Still, it has a lot to like, and the bloodlines are impressive. Maybe one day someone will look at this as a strong cinematic project; it’s still a relatively new novel, and it’s quite topical. And it’s a lot more interesting than FSoG, that’s for sure.

It would be nice in the future to see The Truth playing in the theaters. I’d go to see it, definitely. Perhaps one day that will happen.

Sooner, I hope, rather than later.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: The Long Cinematic Torture of ‘Inherent Vice’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I knew Inherent Vice was going to be a big, sloppy movie. I just didn’t know how much.

And I didn’t know it was going to be awful, either.

Boy, was this a plodding film. The Paul Thomas Anderson-directed (and -written, based in the novel by Thomas Pynchon) story of a dope-addled P.I. out to uncover various uninteresting mysteries in 1970 California, Inherent Vice isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. And it’s more pretentious, to boot. Plus, there’s the addition of some bland narration, which suggests that the film doesn’t trust its audience to make its own judgments.

That’s a problem. Good movies have faith in their viewers. They coax people along, encourage them. Bad movies hold their audiences at bay, alienate them. And that’s exactly how I felt while watching Inherent Vice.

Much of this movie should’ve ended up on the cutting-room floor; there are all kinds of little idiosyncratic bits that purportedly suggest character development but ultimately fail in providing solid context. What results is a tedious mess. Too bad, because it could’ve been so much better.

I like Pynchon, but I think Inherent Vice, as a movie, doesn’t succeed. There’s originality here, but it’s not enough to carry it. For such a tiresome picture, it feels strangely rushed. That’s just another reason not to like it. Oh, well.

Skip’s Quips: Pynchon, ‘Inherent Vice’ and Sloppy Moviemaking

Blog Sketch 082813Paul Thomas Anderson is a good director. Thomas Pynchon is a good writer. But will the film based on his novel Inherent Vice be any good?

That’s what I’m wondering some days after seeing the trailer to the picture, which made the flick look like a bit of a mess. Possibly an amusing mess, but a mess all the same.

I’m not totally happy with those prospects.

I like my movies tight, not sprawling. Frankly, I’m a bit worried that “sprawling” will be a euphemistic description of this film. Other movies in this director’s canon, including Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, were sprawling in an interesting way, meandering with purpose, getting audiences to wonder what would happen next. What I’m concerned about with Inherent Vice is that it will be directionless, muddled – that we’ll be sick of predicting where it’s going by the time we get halfway through it. And that could be a cinematic problem.

Sure, it might be on a par with Anderson’s other projects, in which case I’ll be more than pleased. But I’m cautiously pessimistic here. Not sure that’ll be the case.

We’ll see.

Skip’s Quips: Hoping for a Film of ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’

Blog Sketch 082813One day, hopefully, A Confederacy of Dunces will become the movie it’s destined to be.

I’ve felt for a long time that this great John Kennedy Toole novel – which focuses on bizarre character Ignatius Reilly as he fumbles from mishap to mishap in New Orleans – was made for the cinema, as it’s got sweep, humor and a kind of beauty in its comic pages. Apparently, a project for a film of this book has been in the works for a while; its IMDB page notes that a picture is currently in development. This can, of course, take a long time to come to fruition, but I’m sanguine about the prospects. Ultimately, I believe, it’ll happen. It’s too good of a story not to.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that so many lesser works have appeared onscreen before Dunces. I just have to keep hoping that this movie will become a reality. I also hope that it won’t be ruined like so many adaptations of classic tomes beforehand. It’s hard to know at this stage, though. Staying positive about the prospects is essential.

I think I can do that.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Staying for All of ‘This Is Where I Leave You’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I should’ve left early before I finished This Is Where I Leave You. But no – I stayed for the whole thing.

My loss. It was absolutely horrible, as glib and smarmy as I didn’t predict it would be. So much for my capacity for prediction.

And so much for enjoying the two hours I spent in the theater. The film – directed by Shawn Levy and concerning, in a nutshell, the gathering of a group of semi-Jewish (the question does, self-consciously, arise during the proceedings as to whether they are of this religion) siblings at the family home after the death of their father – strained credibility to the nth degree in its attempt to blend coarse humor with heartfelt sensitivity. Neither worked, and the fact that this ensemble piece featured quite a few ill-defined characters made it all the less credible.

A number of good actors worked on this project. Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, among others. They couldn’t save it, however, and despite their innate charm, the picture went to pieces. The script, adapted by Jonathan Tropper from his novel, was snarky without being believable and showcased plenty of less-than-credible situations, including what seemed like an endless series of fights, arguments and couplings that never went anywhere plausible. Couple that with a time span that was way too long, and you’ve got a rambling, tiresome picture.

So why did I see this? Why did I pass the time watching this flick when I could’ve exited with my dignity intact?

I don’t know. All I can say is I’m only human. It was a lapse in judgment. I could’ve saved those two hours for something productive.

On the other hand, if I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t have written this review. Maybe it was meant to be.

Mysterious ways. If only there was a bit of that in This Is Where I Leave You.

Skip’s Quips: Assorted Ramblings on ‘Watership Down’

Blog Sketch 082813Why I don’t have certain classic movies on DVD at home is beyond me.

Watership Down is one of those missing from my rather lackluster collection. Why? This great, un-Disney-esque cartoon about the (often-scary) trials and tribulations of a migrating rabbit colony is one of my favorite animated features, yet for some reason, I don’t have it at home for my viewing pleasure. And sometimes I get a hankering for it – the atmospheric mythology of the bunnies, the expert vocal performances of actors ranging from John Hurt to Zero Mostel, the evocative score by Angela Morley. It’s a unique film, the type of thing that they don’t make anymore … in part because it’s sometimes very bloody (strange for a cartoon of that era) and certainly not for children. But it’s tremendously moving, and it’s got a lot to offer viewers open to something new and different.

I only read part of the novel by Richard Adams on which the movie was based, so I’m not sure how true to the book it was. A great film, however, stands on its own, in my opinion, and Watership Down does exactly that. At some point, I do expect to buy the DVD for myself. But first I must catch it.

Sorry. A bit of ill-chosen rabbity humor, there. I’ll stop now while I’m behind.