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diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #8

Posted: September 19th, 2008, by Simon Minter

(Originally posted May 2002)

Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter

Mulholland Drive. The Devil’s Backbone. Storytelling. Bully. What do these films have in common? They’re all interesting-sounding films, films which seem to offer something aside from the norm, and all films which I’ll be watching over the next couple of months! That, you may notice, is the future, and currently we are in the present, or at times the past, and so I’ll have to make do with telling you about some other, less interesting movies instead, but still, movies which I’ve actually seen. Damn you Reading, and your shoddy selection of cinemas! Stay awake at the back. It begins.

First up in this rollercoaster ride of low-quality, second-rate programming we have LEGALLY BLONDE. To be fair, however, this isn’t really so low-quality or second-rate. It’s very Hollywood, very safe, very ‘nice ending’, and yet it’s still very watchable and I enjoyed it. Okay? I can hear your cries of “but it’s a girl’s film!”, but you know what? If this is a girl’s film, then goddammit, I’m a girl. No, hold on, I’m regretting saying that now. I’m not a girl. But I enjoyed this. It’s just further evidence of the world being screwy at times. Anyway, this ain’t no trial, and I ain’t no defendant, so get off my back, alright? I can’t control my likes and dislikes any more than I can control my drunken limb placement, and it just so happens that I like these cutey-pie, heart-warming, troubled-teen type movies. I own records by both the Fat Tulips and Bouquet, for Christ’s sake, and if you know who either of those bands are, you’ll understand what it means to own them. But I ain’t no cutie pop fan no more. It’s ROCK all the way for me, oh yes, a souped-up V12 RockMobile is what I drive to the video store and back. Right on. But I digress. This film is about a Valley Girl-type Californian ‘dumb blonde’ who, in order to attract the affections of her straying boyfriend, successfully enrols at Harvard Law School to impress him and spend more time with him. “With hilarious, and emotional, consequences”. You can guess how it turns out. But in the same way that CLUELESS seemed to avoid any over-sentimental nightmares of cheese, LEGALLY BLONDE seems also to tread a fine line between stupid and clever. Er. Whatever that means. And Reese Witherspoon is just great in the lead role, playing dumb-is-cleverer-than-you-really-think with exactly the right combination of sassy and naive. Aah, if you don’t like this, you’ve got no heart.

However, if you DO like JEEPERS CREEPERS, you are a brain-dead, soulless, idiotic waste of skin. I don’t think that’s too harsh, or over-the-top? The movie’s a disappointment, OK? In the same way that waking up in stinking reality after a particular good dream is a disappointment. After some film magazines left me thinking that this wasn’t the crappy teen horror flick I thought it was, what do you know, it turns out to be a crappy teen horror flick. But (and here’s the clincher), it gets worse! This is a monster movie, in the worst B-movie sense that you can imagine it! Not a cool, The Thing / Godzilla monster movie, but a crappy, special effects by the Doctor Who team circa 1977 monster movie. Gah. Anyway, the story, such as it is, is “monster chases kids”. That’s it. Really. If I was feeling creative, and if this movie wasn’t a crock of piss, I might go so far as to call it ‘The Hitcher meets Assault On Precinct 13’. But that would be doing two good movies a serious disservice. In its favour, JEEPERS CREEPERS started OK, with it’s ‘what’s down this hole?’ idea being somewhat promising, but it’s like they ran out of scriptwriter money a third of the way through putting the movie together, and let the Dolly Grip finish off. No offence to Dolly Grips anywhere, by the way. Unless you finished off writing this movie – in which case, maximum offence is meant. You bastard.

Now, if this column was to follow a classic film story arc, with a clearly-defined beginning, middle and end, then you’d have had an enjoyable beginning and a seriously depressing middle so far. So let’s hope that the end redeems things, eh?

Would you believe it – it does! It’s THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE. It’s one o’those Coen Brothers films, so you’d be surprised if it wasn’t good, right? Right. You’re so right. Because they don’t make bad films, those guys. What they make is good films. Good, interesting, original, innovative, character-rich films. Lately, they seem to be showing off about how they can turn their hand to whatever kinda film they feel like doing – so, there was O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? recently (er, comedy-musical-drama), THE BIG LEBOWSKI and FARGO before that (hard-edged surreal comedy), and now here’s THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE, which is full-on film noir, shot in rich black and white, with much, much attention to detail in the sets and costumes, and perfectly understated performances from Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand (especially). It’s sometimes hard to believe this was made so recently, such is the finesse with which shots are framed, scenes are lit, stories are gradually developed and revealed… but it’s not just some meaningless homage to the Coens’ favourite (maybe?) movies, if it had have been, that would have been a real shame. It’s a real movie in its own right, and one which deserves your attention throughout – it abandons recent (i.e., the past 25 years) Hollywood conventions of shoving all the story in your face right away, and builds and builds to a genuinely moving finish. In the same way that AMERICAN BEAUTY had that moment of ‘ahhh.. now I get it’ right at the end, so it is here as well. The black and white film stock is coloured by the depth and individual realism of the characters (all the characters, not just the leads). And yes, I understand how pretentious that sounded. But what are you going to do? I see a good film, I get pretentious. Thank God for JEEPERS CREEPERS and its ilk to keep me grounded.

And that, my cinephile, film buff, movie mates, is where I must leave you. Check out that list at the start of the column, and remind yourself that the next one’s gonna be a real winner. Oh yes. And that’s a damned promise. I keep my film detector skills honed for you guys, and you alone, so gimme some love, people, and who wants to star in the diskant movie? It will happen. We’re just working on budgeting, right now.

Simon Minter

Simon joined diskant after falling on his head from a great height. A diskant legend in his own lifetime Simon has risen up the ranks through a mixture of foolhardiness and wit. When not breaking musical barriers with top pop combo Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element or releasing records in preposterously exciting packaging he relaxes by looking like Steve Albini.


5 Responses to diskant rewind: Mild Head Injury #8

  1. David S

    Simon:- Legally Blonde. Really?

  2. Jason

    I hear you. I took a lady friend to see it one Saturday night, the following Saturday night we had a storming argument and broke up.

    Had her expectations of me and my cultural tastes been lowered beyond acceptance?

    That was fireworks night in 2001 and seven years later I still find myself asking that question

  3. David S

    I dunno fella. I managed to go and see Titanic back in 1997 with a girl and not realise it was a date until she started avoiding me a month later.

    But do go and blame Legally Blonde for any possible negative impact it may have had on your life; I do this for any film starring Reese Witherspoon.

  4. Simon Minter

    Even Election ?

  5. David S

    Even Election. And I really enjoyed all of Alexander Payne’s other films – especially Citizen Ruth!