Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dispelling Myths About Miami Vice

Since it's TV-to-big-screen adaptation was announced, I've found myself confused by the insistence of the general public and critical world that Miami Vice is going to suck neon-lit, 80s pastiche, art deco butt. Well, it doesn't. Is it a stand alone feature that was inspired and adapted by the series' original creators and producers? Yes. Do they think so little of their ideas that they merely homage the original with tongue-in-cheek distaste in order to skive along on the recent bandwagon of television-to-feature tedium? No. Is poor Colin Farrell finally going to transcend his apparent status as Hollywood's most invisible leading action man? ... Um... who knows?

What Michael Mann has created is a grim and cynical cop/drug bust movie. Is that all? No. Despite what lazy critics might lead you to believe, it's never that simple people. This film isn't Heat, by any means, it's Miami Vice. A different film. Thank you Michael, we all appreciate the fact that you don't just recycle all of your films. What we don't appreciate is high school criticism parading around as professional competence.

[Enter: The Doofus]

Eric D. Snider, illustrious cheap thrill enthusiast and apparent film-hater (whom I have previously posted on here), seems to have had his assumptions that this was going to be Charlie's Angels dashed into reductive pieces.

He begins his review of Miami Vice by saying,

What Michael Mann -- executive producer of the TV series and writer/director of the new film -- has done is take that story and strangle all the fun out of it... The fact that I've never seen an episode of "Miami Vice" does not appear to be a liability.

Considering that Snider criticises the feature for being devoid of 'fun', I would say that it is a BIG liability - how can he assume that the TV series had any fun in it to be removed in the adaptation if he hasn't even seen it?! What does he mean by 'fun', anyway? Should the 'convoluted' vice cops be cracking more jokes, or making more sexual inuendos? Should there be more slo-mo car crashes or gun battles? Maybe the undercover cops should be a bit more wacky because the whole scenario is just a little too dramatic and not fun enough. That's what we need: drug busts that are not just uplifting and pleasant, but enjoyable and fun.

He continues,

Mann's films tend to be melancholy, even somber ("Ali," "Collateral," etc.), but never has he seemed so hell-bent on dreariness. The story, easily handleable in a two-part TV episode, is stretched out for 133 minutes, its themes repeated endlessly. Occasional bursts of action provide temporary respite. Then it's back to the dreariness.

It's sure good that his 'etc.' wasn't replaced by, um, I don't know, 'Heat' or 'Last of the Mohicans' or 'The Insider', because that would have ruined his whole argument, since they are all monuments to uplifting sensationalism. What I think Snider wanted was 133 minutes of bursting action to deaden all of that pesky dreariness. Need I remind anyone that the title of the film is Miami VICE? Not Miami Somewhat-uplifting-and-hopeful, but Vice; complete with all of the respiteless dual meaning.

Does this all mean that I thought Miami Vice was prefect? Definitely not. My purpose here is to encourage people to stop making/listening to stupid criticism that rails on it for not being another Michael Mann film or claiming that it is worthless and shallow. Michael Mann may be the best director since Michelangelo Antonioni or Andrei Tarkovski at commenting on humankind's relationship with themselves and with nature. Whether it takes place in Los Angeles or Miami, Mann's films build on characters in morally distressed situations that resemble similar themes found in Antonioni's Mediterranian or Tarkovski's deep space. The simple fact that Crocket and Tubbs are vice cops working under cover doesn't make their respective moral and physical battles in urban and rural environments any less of a comment on the paradox of 'fighting' conflict or discovering/losing humanity.
Mann implements a number of interesting formal techniques here. The use of silence is very effective in illustrating the feeling of disbelief and wavering sense of bearing. Several times sound would cut completely, as we watch a character carry on a telephone conversation, or respond to a particular situation. In these scenes, not only do we not hear the dialog, but we don't hear music or ambient noise either and are left to gather the story elements from other characters' reaction shots - a huge improvement over Collateral, in which I thought more than a few scenes were botched by lame audio edits and annoying music.

The use of camera focus also makes us consider who/what is important. The overall cinematography embraces a documentary style, with shaky pans and quick rack focus, and several times the camera would frame a character (usually in extreme close-up) and remain out of focus. Which makes us wonder who/what is in focus? Are our heros maybe too entrenched in the under cover nature of their seedy business that they have lost moral focus? I would say, yeah.

These themes are crammed into a fairly straight forward cop/drug bust plot complete with pros and cons. To reduce a movie like this down to what it isn't, rather than what it is, is cheap and lazy. Take the time to think about the details and the elements that make you uncomfortable or interested; They are there, but you may have to put forth a little effort to notice.

Click image for wallpaper

[Link to Snider's full review]

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kiera: Spotted

It was a sunny day, I was walking along in Hyde Park, enjoying my lunch break, when who should pass, listening to her ipod?

Kiera Knightley

I was tempted to make this into an interesting dissection upon the nature of celebrity, stardom and all the rest of it, and in fact an unprovoked comment from one of my colleagues did initially lead in this direction. After telling them I had seen her, he said casually ‘yeah, she lives in lancaster gate, just down the road, (Pause) I see her all the time…’

The pause in his speech was, I now realise, crucial. I see her all the time? Did he mean at her place, or the park? Or on the television? Or on big posters and magazine adverts? I thought therin lies the crux of the problem with modern celebrity – where does our engagement with them stop? Would it have been appropriate for me to go up to her and say hello in the manner of Capt. Jack Sparrow aka Keith Richards? Isn't I see you all the time the kind of comment a stalker makes? Should I be wary of my workmate?

However, after seeing a ‘star’ it was inevitable my thoughts took me onto a completely different – and slightly less intellectual level. What really confirmed that it was Kiera (stalking aside, I do feel like I’m on first name terms now, having walked past her an’ all) was that she pouts. I did a double take as I walked past to check it was her, and as if on queue she did this funny thing with her mouth muscles - they went into a sort of amphibian-breathing-for-air-style. I thought it was just an effect for Pirates of The Caribbean, - or the next olympic sport- but it now seems more like an uncontrollable, and potentially career-breaking, mouth disorder…

Once I get over the shock of having seen Kiera I will post a photo of said pout – there’s bound to be one on some mouth disorder charity website.

p.s. for the record I looked, she looked, I looked again, she pouted. Not once did I pout back m’lord.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Mickey Spillane Dies at 88

Hard-boiled Crime and Pulp Fiction writer, Mickey Spillaine, dies at age 88. Probably best known for his anti-hero, slap-happy detective Mike Hammer, Spillaine has been a prolific writer of the genre and influenced several films that have become quintessential noirs, such as Kiss Me Deadly. Now don't get me wrong here. I read I, the Jury, and was pretty much disgusted with the character of Mike Hammer after the first few pages. However, I do acknowledge the fact that Spillane's writing has influenced many other (dare I say, more talented?) writers to create fantastic crime noirs and pulp fiction. I also loved the Robert Aldrich adaptation of Kiss Me Deadly. For that, I say, Rock on.

Being that we focus on film, literature, etc. we thought it appropriate to post on this rather than, say, the fact that the Chairman of Hooters also passed away today... oh, what the heck - Hey people, the Chairman of Hooters passed away today. There.
Generally speaking, I think it's a sad day for chauvinists everywhere. Weep softly, then go slap someone around.

[Link to NPR's story]
[Link to CNN]

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Clean Flicks? Not Anymore

A U.S. District Court has ruled that content editing and duplication of DVDs and VHS tapes is a violation of federal copyright laws. U.S. District Judge, Richard P. Matsch, says,

"Their [studios and directors] objective ... is to stop the infringement because of its irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies... There is a public interest in providing such protection."

This is, of course, very true as I have previously mentioned - and yes, there is public interest in preserving artistic expression. The judge has ruled that the specific companies involved in the legal battle (Cleanflicks, CleanFilms, Family Flix USA, and Play it Clean Video) must shut down and relenquish their inventories to the proper authorities.

...Meanwhile, back at the Strawman Ranch, Daniel Thompson, owner of the Utah County CleanFlicks stores and stalwart movie-hater, cries out,

"It's sad that Hollywood finds it wrong to take out profanity, sexual content and nudity."

Fortunately for all of us dirty, rancid pervs, we were too engrossed in our un-edited filth to hear his warning call - but we did note that the Judge said the ruling was because of copyright violation and not because we all want to indulge in "profanity, sexual content and nudity." Apparently moral superiority excludes abiding by the laws of the land. Well, not anymore.

As a side note, I find it interesting that he didn't criticise Hollywood for violence.

Now leave me alone, I'm going to go watch The Insider, To Live, The Thin Red Line, Billy Elliot, Gosford Park, The Man Who Wasn't There, Bowling for Columbine, Psycho, Manhattan, The Three Colors Trilogy, and American Splendor.

[Link to quoted material]
[Link to Deseret News]
Believe it or not, the press section on the CleanFlicks web site doesn't mention any of this recent news.

**Huge, gargantuan News Update**
It's really difficult to believe that the 'Clean'Flicks boys are genuinely interested in (your) morality when they get busted for having sex with underage girls in their store.
[Link to KSL article]

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Transformers Overdrive?

Zahra over at the rockin' Flixens site has posted an image of Optimus Prime from the newest Transformers movie project.

Unfortunately, the image of Optimus Prime reminded me of Maximum Overdrive more than the old Transformers show and movie. Yikes! I know some people are skeptical of Michael Bay directing it, but I wonder if the show's premise isn't beyond the destructive lameness of Mr Armageddon...
Disputing Alien robots that transform into semi trucks, VW Beetles, and ambulances? Sounds pretty sweet for saturday morning, but a live-action feature? Hmmm... I almost hate myself for saying this, but Bay might actually be able to make this show watchable.

Then again, maybe not.

Movie MILF's Transformer post

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