April 2nd, 2005

Salt Precaution

Low and human.

Sin City is an excellent movie.

Film noir dialogue of the sort pioneered by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler is something between tough talking and poetry. It has a unique sound and has been mocked and tossed about over the years until it's almost been made to seem phoney and silly. It's a style, and a beautiful one. And in Sin City, it's made relevant again.

An unprepared viewer may go in and find the 40s-ish street talk between Michael Madsen and Bruce Willis to be more off-puttingly artificial than the computer generated backgrounds. But it's when the hard, human reality of ghastly situations set in that we find ourselves clutching desperately at those beautiful words, the pulse that has the brain walk right on through the razor wire and severed limbs and still look up, grin, and say we like this place.

Yes, I liked just about everything about Sin City. Except Jessica Alba. Otherwise, it was great.

What was wrong with Jessica Alba? She's not a very good actress, and she didn't get naked.

Pervert, you cry! Well, look. One thing that was refreshing about the movie was how uncompromising and comfortable it was about nudity. And then we get to Nancy Callahan's story, and we have a stripper who doesn't get naked, not on stage, and not in another, even more unlikely situation. So, Alba, why all the clothes? Why did we have a scene where you said, "Let me put some clothes on" when you were already wearing more clothes than half the other girls in the movie? Alba recently had this to say;

"You know, nudity was an option . . . We could have done it if we wanted to. Obviously, it would have been more authentic. But I felt dancing around with a lasso and chaps was going to be sexy enough. I think being nude would have been distracting and I really couldn't be bottomless. My dad! He would freak out."

Which I translate as, "Initially, I told Rodriguez that I'd be willing and then, after I'd signed the contract, I 'changed my mind', and there was not a damn thing they could do, as it wouldn't exactly look good to fire a girl 'cause she wouldn't get naked."

Although I'm willing to believe Jessica Alba's clueless enough about sexuality to think that a girl with lasso and chaps is as sexy as a girl without clothes.

I don't mean to sell the movie short. Just about everything else is tops. The Marv story, starring Mickey Rourke, being, by far, the best. In fact, if I'd been editing the film, I'd have suggested closing with it. It's the most pure expression of the underlying ideas in all of the stories.

Oh . . . I promised to talk about the Star Wars Holiday Special.

In the mid-1980s, George Lucas vainly attempted to destroy all master copies of this 1978 CBS special. So of course, Tim was quickly able to find a copy on one of his file-sharing programmes.

It stars Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels--everyone but Obi-Wan, really. And it has Art Carney and Bea Arthur. Why not? And, hey, why not have a five minute segment of a Wookiee family having common, domestic discourse, made up of unintelligible growls, in what appears to be a contemporary Earth home (poor matte paintings assure us it's in a tree)? Oh, and throw in Jefferson Starship, only make them tiny.

It was incredible.

In a set that must have been comprised of, at best, pieces of the one used in the first movie, we see Han Solo (indeed, Harrison Ford!) and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millienium Falcon, en route to the Wookiee homeworld so that Chewie can celebrate Life Day with his family. Scores of awkward, commercial-like close-ups ensue (this was not directed by George Lucas). Han Solo blushingly tells the ridiculous ball of fur passing as Chewie's wife that the Wookiees feel like family to him. Princess Leia appears to be working as a bank teller when we see her furiously typing at a keyboard behind a plain, plastic desk while C3PO stands awkwardly by.

In the end, all the Wookiees wear red robes and carry glass orbs through space to wind up at a foam cave set where Luke, Han, and Leia await wearing too much makeup. And then Leia sings about the Tree of Life--to the tune of the Star Wars main theme.

And it's all the original actors. You know you want to see this.

Actually, there was one bit of quality stuff--a brief animated segment involving the heroes' first encounter with Boba Fett. A good, decently written story, with intriguing dialogue--Boba Fett, posing at first as a friend, has a disconcerting way of ending sentences in an eerie neutral tone with the word "friend." The alien designs are great and the whole short is enriched by a coherent style and good, expressive animation.

It felt like ambrosia compared to the rest of the special.
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