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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oscar Watch Continues: A Tale of Two Shitties

The Black Dahlia, Director Brian DePalma's movie of James Ellroy's book of fiction, in turn based on the real murder of a Hollywood starlet-wannabe, is nominated only in the "Cinematography" category. That is nearly all the film has going for it. I love Film Noir, even the recent ones like L. A. Confidential (1997) and The Usual Suspects (1995), but this film is not anywhere near their caliber.

The art direction is fabulous—the places, sets, and costumes are absolutely flawless—I fervently believe that it should have been nominated for costume design several times over Marie Antoinette, but that discussion will follow shortly. Of the actors, Aaron Eckhart and Fiona Shaw alone give bearable performances. Josh Hartnett is wooden, and Scarlett Johanssen, who ever only has 3 facial expressions (slack, upset, fake-smiley) somehow manages to be even more cartoony than usual.

Direction and editing is where the biggest problems lie. I don't want to fault Bill Pankow for the editing, because he showed how brilliantly he can edit with Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), so the root of the problem, and the failure of the film, must be laid at the feet of DePalma, who must have railroaded how the editing had to be. In duration the film is only about 2 hrs, but half-way through, you would swear on all you hold dear that you had been watching it for 5 hrs already. It is torturously slow and boring. I would take a root canal and 2 wisdom tooth extractions over ever having to see this film again. It is not worth watching. Period. D+

Then, we get to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, nominated for "Costume Design." Considering, that the costumes are purporting to be authentic period reproductions, the fact that the wigs are egregious and the hem of Marie Antoinette's first dress is A) lopsided B) too short, I don't know what the nominators were thinking.

The actors are miscast outrageously, except for the ever-magnificent Judy Davis, and she must have been cringing to have been part of that film when she saw the end result. Kirsten Dunst, whom I generally like... oh, poor girl, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? If I were her, I'd fire my agent YESTERDAY. She is awful in this film, and it's not all her fault.  Jason Schwartzman's presence and performance in this movie, or indeed that this guy has a career in Hollywood at all, is a total mystery to me. I do not have words in my vocabulary (and that's saying something, folks) to describe that absolute awfulness that is his performance.

Apart from the gorgeous sets, I think this movie ought to be BURNED. It is among the worst pieces of cinematic manure and wastes of LIFE, I have been forced to endure in years. Must be nice to have Francis Ford Coppola as your dad, and one accidental cinematic success, to be able to get the budget for anything you want to do, whether you truly deserve it or not. F.

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Blogger Vik said...

Marie Antoinette was THE WORST movie I have ever seen. EVER. And that is saying something. My old #1 worst movie, "Sweetie", will finally have to relinquish the top spot! I never thought it possible...

While I didn't notice the lopsided dress, it was so obvious that Sophia Coppola saw herself as Marie Antoinette - a "bumpkin" underdog in a sophisticated court. Unfortunately, SC never read a history book, or she would have known that MA was from Austria/Hungary - the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and CENTER of western civilization. France was a backwater, and a step DOWN from Austria for MA, not a step up.

I am sure Sophia Coppola felt pleased about creating a thinly veiled AUTOBIOGRAPHY of how she perceives her entry into Hollywoodland. Coming from the Napa Valley branch of Hollywood Royalty, but without the sophistication of her Hollywood cousins (such as Nicolas Coppola - Oops! I mean Nicolas Cage), I am sure she felt swept up in a world beyond her control and a victim of her success.

Please. *eyes rolling*

February 23, 2007 1:28 AM  
Blogger onlyjokinglasse said...

So you had a nice movie evening.. At least we now know two movies which we do not have to see!

February 23, 2007 3:54 AM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

I did not intended to see Marie Antoinette and your review has strengthened my decision :) On the basis of what you and Vik said it is not even coming close to history. And K.D. does not look like an actor at all to me. Sorry K. :)
Re: Black Dahlia - I watched the trailer and was interested in seeing it for kd lang's is it, too, but - I've changed my mind. This is too much of a stirring-up-show-some-disgusting-material type of film for me. I don't mind brutality and (homo)sexuality if it has its right purpose in the film. One of my fav film is Michael Douglas's Falling Down for example.
But as far as I understand here's just a show.

February 23, 2007 4:14 AM  
Blogger Anniina said...

k. d. lang is in the film for all of 45 seconds, actually - they show her singing for maybe 20 seconds of it. Not worth it for that. I'm sure you'll be able to see that bit on YouTube as soon as a fan posts it. It wasn't the subject matter of "Black Dahlia" that turned me off - as a matter of fact, I think the book could have made a very good movie, in different hands. Many say James Ellroy's books are impossible to turn into screenplays, but while difficult, it has been done (cf. "L. A. Confidential). The screenwriter should have gone back to school - Screenwriting 101 at UCLA would have taught him to step away from some of the cardinal (and basic errors) that he did in the screenplay, and Brian DePalma should never have been let near the material. With a director on top of his game, and actors worth their salt, this movie could have worked. Perhaps that is why it especially pissed me off.

As for Marie Antoinette, the PBS Documentary (2006) was a jewel, and this movie was dross. I don't even want to spend another minute thinking about this film, it made me ill.

February 23, 2007 5:19 AM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

Oh, yes, I see.
And fortunately there's no need to worry about me seeing kd lang in black dahlia - I've already have my share, and yes, it was on YouTube :)

February 23, 2007 5:04 PM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

sorry: *I've already had*, of course.

February 23, 2007 5:06 PM  

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