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Archive for the ‘O-Watcher’ Category

OMGWTFLOL: That’s Enough Justin Timberlake

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 4, 2009

Ouch, JT. Perhaps someone is a little jealous that a certain other someone happens to be involved with one of the three hottest female Friends actresses? What celebrities have you slept with lately? (Besides all of them). In any event, no denying that’s a truly dynamite Michael McDonald approximation. Even better than any of the 30 Rock cast. And I still kind of like “Daughters,” for whatever that’s worth.

Most importantly, good to know that the Jimmy Fallon late-night era is off to a dominant start.

Posted in O-Watcher | 2 Comments »


Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 24, 2008

“First, we’re going to–“

Deep Blue Sea is an exceptionally mediocre movie. The cast is mostly bland, the suspense is fairly minimal, and the plot can be most easily described as “Jaws meets Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a movie that’s barely even worth watching on USA at 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon. However, the movie endures at least as a pop culture historical footnote, primarily for three reasons:

  1. It proves that there was in fact a time when actor Thomas Jane was considered leading man material.
  2. Along with Jane’s character, it is the sassy, religious ship cook played by LL Cool J that stands as the last survivng cast member, not the record-breakingly worthless female lead played by Saffron Burrows (who I thought was Rachel Weisz for some reason).
  3. Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten by a mothefucking shark.

So what, you may ask. After all, it’s a movie in which the primary action involves sharks (super-smart ones, no less) eating people, and by any approximation of a One-Cast-Member-Picked-Off-At-A-Time movie rulebook, SLJ’s relatively ansillary character (some sort of corporate executive) would have to be one of the first ones to go. But you probably wouldn’t really ask that, because if you’re reading this blog, I’d like to think the the chances are pretty good that your mind has been blown by this scene as much as mine has. And you know that it’s not just that Sammy J goes down, or even that he goes down so early (2nd to go, after Stellen Skarsgaard)–it’s that he goes down in a way that, for such an otherwise by-the-book movie, is incomprehensibly (and rather impressively) unexpected.

Watch the scene above, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid doing so in life thusfar. Now imagine that the scene comes barely halfway into the movie. Jackson starts to give The Inspirational Speech–a cliche relatively familiar to OCMPOAAT enthusiasts, in which the protagonist makes his or her leadership and control of the situation known to the rest of the cast (this is, of course, not to be confused with The Fuck You Guys i’m Outta Here Speech, which results in death for its pontificator on average of 40 seconds within its delivery). All the trademarks are there–the slowly-evolving close ups, the swelling majestic music in the background, the gradually increasing intensity of SLJ’s vocal cadence. This should be the turning point in the movie, in which the crew starts to think clearly and work together under Jackson’s leadership, until it eventually comes down to Sam and the final shark in the movie’s grand finale.

Nope. Instead, some screenwriter apparently had a brilliant revelation while smoking pot and cursing the fact that he had to write this shitty fucking movie, and asked “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if while he’s giving the lame-ass speech, the shark just jumped up and ate him?” And under some miraculous confluence of the Cable Movie Gods, no one ever shot the idea down, and sure enough, Jackson’s exit from Deep Blue Sea doesn’t even get to finish his final sentence before one of the Super-Sharks rudely interrupts him. Now, there is mild foreshadowing of this–a few minutes prior, one of the crew members cautions him about standing too close to the tank, but he ignores it, and you figure hey, he’s Samuel L. Jackson, fuck does he need to worry about that? If you saw actually this one coming, good for you, though it doubtless means you have never seen a terrible horror movie before.

It’s funnier, scarier, and more jaw-droppingly how the hell did they get away with this than all of Snakes on a Plane, and I just gotta watch it when it’s on. After that, it’s straight to the remote, of course, but the scene is basically enough to buy Deep Blue sea 20 years’ worth of re-run worthiness.

Posted in O-Watcher | 5 Comments »

O-Watcher: Sexy Beast Accentuates the Negative

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 31, 2008

(Spoiler Alert)

Reader and friend of IITS Erick Bieritz commented on my Smokin’ Aces to chastise me for classifying Jonathan Glazer’s 2000 directorial debut Sexy Beast as being a film in the post-Tarantino mold, saying that it was in fact “more like having a really vivid dream about Rififi and then describing it to your therapist the next day.” He’s right, of course–about the Tarntino thing, anyway, having never seen Rififi (or attended therapy) I can’t exactly vouch for his correction. The reasons why I included Beast in the post-QT discussion were for the film’s superficial virtues–the slick photography and flashy editing, the use of quirky and off-color tough-guy characters, the retro pop music, and so forth. But obviously, Sexy Beast is not your garden variety action-comedy, and for what it is, it’s obviously far ahead of the Guy Ritchie and Joe Carnahan flicks I associated it with.

That said, I have no idea what exactly this movie is. It’s definitely about something (I think), but I couldn’t begin to tell you what it is. So much about this movie I find inexplicable, not the least of which being the film’s title, which as far as I can tell serves no purpose beyond providing a LOL-worthy caption to a credit-sequence Ray Winstone crotch shot. The real X-Factor in the movie, though, is of course Ben Kingsley, in an Oscar-nominated performance and with an all-time classic film character that elevates what otherwise feels like a relatively boring heist movie to unbelivably unsettling heights.

Kingsley is terrifying in this movie for so many reasons. The first half of Beast is mostly spent on Kingsley trying to browbeat retired ex-con Ray Winstone into joining him in one last heist, a proposition that Gal has no interest in whatsoever, living a blissful existence with his wife and friends in some desert estate in Spain and seeing no reason to give it up. The tactics Don (Kingsley’s character) uses to persuade Gal (Winstone) are part Crime and Punishment-style manipulation (as Gal notes) but mostly consist of straight up third-grade bullying tactics–resorting to lots of yelling, cursing, cheap shot insults, and a couple of well-timed punches. These methods should probably seem puerile and uninteresting compared to some of the smarter and more psychologically (and physically) intimidating villains of recent years, but Don’s methods are so straightforward, so unflinching and so unceasing that you feel almost as terrorized as poor Gal does, as memories of all Moe-type bullies you might have encountered who you feel you probably could’ve mentally outsmarted if you could ever get up the courage (or even get the chance) to get a word in edgewise.

What really makes Don such a scary character, though, is how obviously unhinged he is–and I don’t mean that in the “I’LL FUCK YOU UP MAN I’M CRAZY YO” sort of “unhinged” that just equates to “I’m relatively OK with the prospect of hurting people and/or myself.” Kingsley described the character once as “the most miserable person in the world,” a description which definitely helped me see the character for who he really is–a cripplingly insecure, lonely, and legitimately mentally unbalanced individual that probably equates the idea of getting Gal back on the team by using whatever means necessary to simply reconnecting with him as an old friend. He’s a sympathetic character, somehow, but not one you’d want to exchange too many syllables with. Watching him take each of Gal’s successive refusals more and more personally, you know it’s only a matter of time before he snaps (on a larger scale than he does in an average conversation, that is).

And then comes the O-Watcher. Well, not to get ahead of myself, it’s preceded by the movie’s second-best and funniest scene, where an extremely irritable Don, after poutedly storming off Gal’s estate, semi-intentionally gets himself kicked off his plane back to the UK by threatening various passengers and stewardesses and excusing his behavior to the authorities by claiming he did it in response to being sexually harrassed by the stewards. Then he’s off to the races, cabbing back to Gal’s place to give him one final piece of his mind.

This scene–it’s hard to put into words how effective Kingsley is in it. Every syllable, every bit of body language…he just couldn’t get it righter. The way he starts screaming from the moment he steps out of the cab, despite the fact that he has no reason to think Winstone and company can even hear him yet. The way he marches around Winstone while berating him, like R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket. The way he connects various semi-thoughts and half-baked insults in a rapid-fire, almost stream of consciousness pace, sounding more like an Amiri Baraka poem than an actual human being. And then, the culmination of a half-film’s worth of futility:

“Not this time, Gal. Not this time. Not this fucking time! NO! No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-NO! NO! No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-No-NO! NO! NOT THIS FUCKING TIME, NO FUCKING WAY! NO FUCKING WAY! NO FUCKING WAY! NO FUCKING WAY YOU MADE ME LOOK A RIGHT CUNT!!!”

Kingsley makes The Zombies sound positively affirmative. His performancy is so inconceivably overpowering (THIS IS FUCKING GANDHI FOR FUCKS SAKE) that it actually leads me to believe that perhaps Ray Winstone’s performance is significantly undervalued, simply by allowing Gal to seem so meek and powerless by comparison. Look how little resistance he puts up when Don smashes a glass bottle over his head, despite him even warning “I’ma kill you, Gal. I’ma fucking kill you.” What choice does he have, really?

And that’s one of the main reasons you gotta watch this scene whenever it’s on–because, for reasons I’ll never quite understand, it’s the last one Kingsley gets in the movie. Though we don’t find it out for certain until later in the movie, Gal’s compadres end up killing Don, and the rest of the movie is Gal back in London working on the heist with Ian MacShane of Deadwood. Honestly, I barely even remember what happens in the rest of this movie–something with a drill and some underwater shit–because after Kingsley peaces out, who fucking cares? Imagine if one of those kids got the drop on Robert Mitchum halfway through Night of the Hunter, and the rest of the movie was just the two of them playing jacks at recess or something. I don’t get it.

In all fairness, it’s not so terrible to have a cable-frequent movie that you only ever really feel like watching half of–the world of TV is a wide one, and it’s nice to have a movie that allows you to get its O-Watcher out of the way and move on to bigger and better things. Still, it’s just one of the many things about this movie that leaves it as a fascinating question mark in my mental filing cabinet–maybe it’ll make sense once I watch Rififi. Or enter therapy.

Posted in O-Watcher | 2 Comments »

Popcorn Love: The Jeopardy Scene in White Men Can’t Jump

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 10, 2008

“Sometimes when you win, you really lose..and sometimes when you lose, you really win..and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie…and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.

To borrow from another Simmons concept, there are some movies that may or may not be classics as a whole, but have a scene that I like to refer to as an Obligatory Watcher, or “O-Watcher” (because everything sounds cool when it has an O- prefix). These are the kind of scenes that if you catch the movie on TV, and it’s at a point where the scene has yet to come on, you are basically under obligation to wait for that scene before changing the channel. Doesn’t matter if it’s an hour away (though it shouldn’t be at either the very beginning or the very end), and it doesn’t matter if you just saw the movie last week–it’s just not a scene you can feel comfortable with having skipped.

Not to run rampant on White Men Can’t Jump–which I supsect might be the most underrated sports movie of the last 20 years–but good as the rest of the movie is, the only O-Watcher in the flick is the scene where Gloria, played by the truly inimitable Rosie Perez, goes on Jeopardy! for the first time. It might not have all that much to do with the WMCJ’s main plot–really, the movie doesn’t even have all that much of a main plot–but in a movie filled with hilarious exchanges and striking action sequences, it’s the one scene that’s guaranteed to be unforgettable.

Of course for this scene to be appreciated, what must first be ignored is how the movie gets there. It’s definitely funny watching Gloria sutdiously memorize her irrelevent trivia (and I guess you could say that I relate a little), but for the first half of White Men, you’re pretty sure she isn’t getting on–that her quest is just a metaphor for ridiculous dreams or some such. Nope, she actually gets on the show, thanks to a cross-court hook shot delivered on a bet by scorned ex-boyfriend Billy (Woody Harrelson) to try to win her back. Considering he only gets one shot at this, and he puts up his car for the other side of the wager, it surely ranks up with Mike McDermott wagering a summer internship on his ability to guess blind the hands of an entire room of poker players (down to the card) in Rounders and Michael Jordan staking his own freedom on the game against the Nerdlucks in Space Jam in the history of Sports Movie arrogance.

But he makes the shot, so Gloria’s on her way. She gets a hysterical introduction (as a “former Disco Queen”–can you list that on a resume, exactly?) up against two academic-lookers, one of which is the reigning champ and has the aggregate appearance of every Jep contestant in history. Though she gets off to a slow start, answering “Babe Ruth” to a question about the NBA’s all-time leading rebounder (“she doesn’t really know sports,’ Billy explains to an incredulous Wesley Snipes), her board is even a bigger dreamboard than Cliff Clavin’s in the Jeopardy! episode of Cheers (for which, I only now just noticed, Woody was also in the audience for), including
Popes, Natural Disasters, and the immortal Foods That Start With the Letter Q. And unlike Cliff, not only does she practically run the board, she doesn’t screw up in the final Jeopardy, ending up flush over 17k.

It’s not quite the most realistic recreation of a Jep ep–much to my chagrin, you can’t just buzz in when you know the answer to a question, and no matter who you are and how well you’re doing, the contestants will never just lean over their podiums and frown at you in disbelief. But watching the unlikely categories that Gloria has been studying throughout the movie pretty much all come up in the game is funny as hell, as it is hearing the super-nasal Rosie Perez pronounce words like Vesuvius and Quahog. And plus, it’s good to see a trivia-oriented scene starring one of the least stereotypically academic people in the world–I wouldn’t want to have to start my own ADL for this shit.

You just don’t see scenes like this in movies very often.

Posted in O-Watcher, Popcorn Love | 6 Comments »