Friday, March 25, 2011
Art Deco Flying
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION FOR OUR COMMENTERS. So doleful, glum DRV is complaining about an absence of uplift. Never mind posts about inspiring cats, cheesecake and YouTube clips of Elizabeth Taylor, a Puck Punk tour de force, and an open thread designed to invigorate our in-house political savants. Not enough for DRV:
[T[his blog has been somewhat of a downer of late. I admit my comments have been pretty pessimistic as well. But it really seems like it has been a while since we had an uplifting post about racing cars, or music, or sports, or...well, anything. I mean, come on. Haters gonna hate, knowhutimsayin? There's still good in the world.
Can we get a little love in here?
Sure thing, DRV. Something literally about uplift. A movie called Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Thing is, it won't be everbody's cup of tea. A user review at imdb.com sums it up pretty well:
I'm sorry I love it, I just can't help it...
This movie is somewhat the opposite of "Sin City". Sin City was a movie liked by everyone and made me feel stupid for not liking it. Sky Captain is the opposite I guess, despised by everyone and made me feel immature by liking it. But the movie is just too good not to like, sorry guys.
It gives the great atmosphere of old cinema plus comic books, and it does so perfectly using flying funny looking evil robots, strange laser guns, and comic-book like dialog. And it was the first time I said to myself "wow, Angelina Jolie is actually a good actress". She's nothing like her boob-flashing movies.
And story? For me a story is good as long as it's not boring. And this is a comic-book adaptation, it was MEANT to be silly, and it didn't bother me at all since I was busy enjoying the film. If u're a stiff businessman with no shred of child imagination and if u even hated Star Wars saying "hey, this can't happen in real life", then don't watch this movie. If u're a comic-books fan, watch it and love it. It has a great atmosphere, great visual effects, and it's exciting. And it's fun to watch.
I said, "pretty well." It's obviously not a great movie because it was a dud at the box office and most of you have never heard of it. But the Sin City comparison is apt. It's much more art design and cinematography than a rip-roaring action movie, which it also is. Sin City's provenance consists entirely of comic books and pulp noir detective novels. Sky Captain's provenance is much more far-reaching, deliberately evocative of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, H.G. Welles's The Shape of Things to Come, the original King Kong, and the War of the Worlds, as well as early twentieth century science fiction, the romance of the art deco movement, and, um, heroes who save the day.
There's lots that's annoying. From almost the first scene you wish the utterly talentless Gwyneth Paltrow could have been traded in on Cate Blanchette, and Jude Law on Timothy Olyphant or Barry Pepper. And the annoyance keeps getting worse with every leaden line delivered by Paltrow and every simpering affectation of Jude Law. But the compensations are enough for me. The hero's weapon of choice is a P-40 Warhawk (scroll) painted with the famed, bloody shark mouth on the cowling employed by Chennault in Burma and China. The clothes and everything else in matters of style are late thirties glamour. And I have always loved old-time visions of future technology, monstrous robots coupled with squealing vaccuum tube radios, sleekly voluptuous cars, flapping flying machines, you know the kind of thing. And there's still the Empire State Building, where the Hindenberg III docks majestically in the opening scene, the Chrysler Building looking new, and the Flatiron Building looking beautifully like itself, all done up dramatically enough to look like an Atlas Shrugged movie that veered suddenly sci-fi. Visually, it all works amazingly well, a curious amalgam of atavistic black-and-white, semi-sepia, and startling technicolor. I'm sure not everyone will share my assessment of this. But it's mine, and honestly, they had me at the first closeup of Sky Captain's vintage faceted pilot goggles and that heavily modified P-40. (Yup. It's also a submarine with a back seat big enough for a long-legged blonde. Cool.)
The story? Who cares? Sky Captain is a standard issue comic book hero who just might have been brought to life by someone else. Gwyneth Paltrow is an anachronistic feminist journalist with no scruples but nice pencil skirts. Angelina Jolie wears an eyepatch. Why not?
It's a thrill ride, definitely fun to watch, and not depressing, unless your existential angst goes very deep.
Have fun not thinking about Obama for a couple hours.
P.S. Or, if you'd rather see a really good movie that isn't necessarily rah rah, you could take the hint embedded above in the mention of Barry Pepper. The link is to The Snow Walker. It's also uplifting, but not like a story about the Bugatti Veyron. More like, "We really are all in this together, and not all of us are going to make it through to the other side." Is that a downer?
Maybe. But not to me.