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IN PRAISE OF TIMOTHY OLYPHANT & MILLA JOVOVICH

In The Films in Our Lives, Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 12:08 pm

IN PRAISE OF TIMOTHY OLYPHANT & MILLA JOVOVICH

We as an audience sometimes fall victim to disregarding talented actors because they are the best part of shitty film. We qualify their performance by saying that he/she ‘were good, but…’, which is an attempt to distance ourselves from liking something that we deem unlikeable, whatever the reason.

A Perfect Getaway , which is not a shitty film, stars Timothy Olyphant and Milla Jovovich, actors who have fallen into this category often in their career. (Hitman, The Girl Next Door & Resident Evil, The Messenger)

I will not argue the fact that these films are good or bad, or that I’ve seen them all and enjoyed them. (Well, not The Girl Next Door it’s absolute shit, but I really loved Timothy Olyphant.)

Timothy Olyphant: probably best known for his portrayal of Seth Bullock in Deadwood, and that more than likely he was born with a Cheshire Grin. His first noticeable role was the villain in Scream 2. (Which more or less was a knock off of the villain that Matthew Lillard played in the original.) He played the unnamed hitman in Hitman. A pimp in The Girl Next Door. A pissed off computer tech in Live Free or Die Hard. He’s played the gamut of villains, high & low, and always been the best part of those films.

He has spent the better part of his career wasted in films unsuited for his talent. ‘A Perfect Getaway’ is a great role for him. It plays off his villainy, as no one trusts a man who smiles too much, they seem to have something to hide.

‘Outstanding!’ Nick (Olyphant’s character) smiles. But it’s more like ‘Out.Standing!’ (The period is properly spaced.) The key to every Olyphant performance is reading his smile. Is it joy? Is it masochism? Is it the fact that he knows he’ll get away with it?

There is revelry in his performance.

And there is too little joy in cinematic performances; film actors seem to think that you have to be tortured to be believable. (Benecio Del Toro, have some fun, you’re really talented.) Or you have to be careless to have fun. (Transformers, I’m looking at you.)

Olyphant is measured.

Milla Jovovich: model/actress not always a great combination. Rule of thumb, model/actresses tend to be able to pose like they know what’s going on, but fail to connect with the emotion behind it.

Milla Jovovich is not measured.

Watch The Messenger, she fidgets, emotes, wiggles, and generally suffers from some mild form of Parkinson’s for the duration of the film. She’s almost unwatchable in her movements. (For the sake of your time and energy, don’t watch The Messenger.) Now watch Resident Evil, again, she emotes, she kicks ass, she plays the scenes and according to the DVD Commentary, she also made her outfits. Point I’m making, she throws herself into the roles (literally, if she could, she would), who cares what people think of it.

She’s a committer.  What she lacks, more times than not, is a director to guide her to realistic, human outcomes. That’s is to say, you can present emotions but not the right emotions at the right time.

In fact, watching the Resident Evil Trilogy there is nothing wrong with her performance. There is a lot wrong with the script, the direction, the leaps of faith. But she follows the path of her character come hell or high water.

In A Perfect Getaway she has a little monologue that ends with ‘It’s amazing how much you talk about yourself when you’re on vacation.’ (Paraphrase.) A bad actress would not be able to say that with the right amount of conflicting emotions, she does.

Final point: no one wants more shitty films. What we want is good films that entertain us. Films that we enjoy, films that make us think, films we can walk away from and go on with our day. One way we can do this is find actors whose performances we enjoy, flock to the cinema to support them.

Support Timothy Olyphant and Milla Jovovich.

(Another post could be made to follow Steve Zahn, but he is often referred to as brilliant and a comedic force, neither of these arguments I disagree with. But the case for Timothy Olyphant & Milla Jovovich, is much more interesting to me at this moment.)

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Pulse

In The Films in Our Lives on August 23, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Pulse

Maybe the thing about Japanese Horror films (J-Horror, as its also referred to) is that its ghosts don’t really do anything. Which is a little untrue, they don’t physically do anything. Emotionally they kill.

And I’d argue that if you we’re faced with a ghost, one that is drawn to you because you are alive and it is not, that’d emotionally scar.

Pulse, the 2001 film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is an example of this phenomena. Without getting into to much on this film, mostly because Scott Tobias over at The Onion’s AV Club does an excellent job talking about the film, so let me briefly say that the thought of life after death being a drag, full of monotony and disillusionment is horrifying.

The impact of Pulse comes from its use of plain long shots to unnerve. The longer the take, the more the action takes place in a shocking place on the screen, the more unsettling the film becomes.

Kurosawa (not related) uses his framing, editing and actor positioning to an uncommon effect. It could not be any more different than the flash cutting of American versions of the J-Horror movement. There is a long sequence near the end of the film between a ghost and a human. There is no inter-cutting between the ghost and the human. The ghost, slightly blurred, moves towards the human. The human trips, and continues to look at the ghost. (If you thought death was walking up to you, how would you react?) The ghost moves towards him. The ghosts comes into focus. And what a focus pull. The scariest focus pull I’ve ever seen.

But it isn’t all focus. It’s also in the fact that the ghost moves towards the human from one part of the frame to another. That the minimal cuts are deliberate. The emphasize the presence and physicality of the ghost. They make the ghost real.

There is one other question I’d like to address about the film:

Why the humans die after seeing the ghosts? It’s not as if the ghost’s physically harm the people them meet. They seem to just imprint them with the a feeling of uselessness. A feeling that life after death is tedious. And while that might seem odd that the humans die after being exposed to this, instead of trying to live even happier lives, which is what each of us hope to do, dread and sorrow are powerful emotions.

It can effects the spirit.

And quite literally, ghosts are spirits.

So, if our spirits have no hope, what’s the point?

The Films In Our Lives: Let the Right One In

In The Films in Our Lives on February 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

‘Let the Right on In’ (dir. Tomas Alfredson) is a beautiful film. It belongs in the same sentence, if not breath, with both versions of ‘Nosferatu’, not because of its subject matter, but because of its willingness to take that subject and devout the same intelligence and care that Bergman or Wilder paid to lives of their characters.

Simplifying the story: Oskar is a bullied boy with an absent father and a dismissive mother. Eli (Lina Leanderson, an actress who expresses unimaginable knowledge for someone so young) moves into Oskar’s building late one night, with her guardian.

While Eli lives off the blood of others, she befriends Oskar. Why she does this is up to some speculation.

Alfredson, working from a script by John Ajvide Lindqist, spends a lot of time setting up a realistic world for the characters to live in.  The scene where Eli’s guardian, must go into the snow and find a victim for Eli, is a great example. Pay attention to the time we spend watching a man prepare to murder a stranger, and to the care he takes in gathering the blood. Later, notice the  action he takes to protect Eli when he is caught. His love for his ward hints at an unsettling end for Eli and Oskar’s relationship.

A quick note about the adults in the film. They seem distant or monstrous. I think this has more to do with the fact that Alfredson and Lindqvist have told the story from Oskar’s perspective. His relationship with his parents, strained as it is, relates to how we view all the other adults in the film. They are pieces of his parents’ relationship. It is a strategy that works very well.

In the end, the film is about two people who find each other in a lonely world, and forge a bond.

In another context, it’d be very romantic.

In this context, it’s a little terrifying.

‘Let Right One In’ comes out on DVD in early March 2009. Watch it.