Wednesday, December 24, 2008

10 Repeated Lines That Define Their Respective TV Series


Though this blog is called “Film” Babble Blog I’ve written about TV shows from time to time because the worlds obviously overlap (Simpsons, SNL, X-Files, etc.). 

Since this season many folks will be giving and receiving multi-disc box sets of popular programs (most likely of one or more of those listed below), I thought it would be fun to sum up 10 series by repeated lines, both comical and ominous, and sometimes said by more than one character. 

Oh yeah - these are all from the last 10 years because you know, shows like Seinfeld (“Not that there's anything wrong with that!”), Friends (“We were on a break!”), back to ancient Happy Days (“Sit on it!”) reruns and other Nick At Night fare have been pretty covered already on the internets. So here goes:

1. “I’ve made a huge mistake”Arrested Development (2003-2006) This is said by nearly every character in nearly every episode. The stated self realization coming usually in a moment of panicked frenzy defines the rampant disfunction on heavy display. There are a few other choice lines like: There are a few other choice lines like Maebe’s “Marry me”, Michael Bluth’s (Jason Bateman) disapproval of George Michael’s (Michael Cera) plain girlfriend Ann – “Her?”, and my personal pick - Gob’s (Will Arnett) mouthy cover-up of a failed magic trick: “Where did the lighter fluid come from?!!?”

2. “This is the business we’ve chosen.”The Sopranos (1999-2007) Actually this is a quote from THE GODFATHER: PART II. It is repeated in a few variations (“the life we’ve chosen”) by Tony Soprano (James Gandofini) and numerous other mobster buddies and foes. They all worship Coppola’s gangster classics so the quote is both a reference and affirmation of the crew’s code. Honorable mention goes to “all due respect” which is an episode title *. I had originally thought of Tonys (and others) angry “this is how you fuckin' repay me? line but couldnt find as many examples.

* Also a title of an episode of The Wire funnily enough.


3. “It’s a gift…and a curse.” - Monk (2002-present) In the “memorable quotes” section of the IMDb’s entry on this obsessive compulsive disorder detective show every quote is a repeated line including: “Here’s what happened”, “You’ll thank me later”, and “Unless I'm wrong, which, you know, I'm not...” All of which are pretty representative, don’t you think?

4. “You of all people should know that.”Six Feet Under (2000-2005) This line usually spoken by Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) comes in handy when admonishing somebody’s misguided attitude even if it comes off as holier than thou itself. It can also be used as a grounding reminder as when guest star Mena Suvari tells Claire (Lauren Ambrose) “None of us may be here tomorrow. I mean, you of all people should know that.”

5. “And just like that…”Sex In The City (1998-2004) As newspaper sex columnist (bet in todays ecomony that’s not a job that’s very secure) Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker in voice-over often uses this short-cut to describe an abrupt change as in: “And just like that she was a woman again”. It’s even used in the movie released last summer (yes, I saw the damn movie!).

6. “Everybody lies.”House M.D. (2004-present) Pretty much says it all for Dr. Gregory House’s (Hugh Laurie) world view and the show’s thematic thrust, huh? Like Monk there are a handful of repeated lines: “You need a lawyer”, “We’re missing something”, and the odd but handy prognosis: “It’s not Lupus.”

7. “Pretty good. Pret-ty pret-ty pret-ty good.”Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present) Larry David is rarely doing “pret-ty good” in the farcical follies that make up his hilarious HBO hand-held camera comedy and when he is it’s as extremely short-lived experience but the line persists nevertheless. “Hey, let me ask you something” is also often said but it doesn’t bring the voice of David to mind like the “pret-ty good” line. His long suffering wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) has her own repeated query: “Why would you do that?” That question seems to be asked every episode as well.


8. “So, this is how it ends.”Dexter (2006-present) Since this show was just renewed for 2 more seasons the ending isn’t coming anytime soon for blood splatter analyst/serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), but with the myriad of close calls and sticky situations he gets trapped in, it’s sure to make more appearances in his voice-over inner monologues. Possible Spoiler! - It was spoken out loud by one of his victims in season 1, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) incidentally.

9. “That’s what *she* said!”The Office (2005-present) Yeah, this joke has been around way before this American adaptation of the British work place sitcom made it Michael Scott’s (Steve Carrell) go-to tag-on comeback, but you’ve got to admit that now it is both owned by the show and it says everything you need to know about its delusional lead character.

10. “Ya happy now, bitch?”The Wire (2002-present) I’m only just a recent convert to this gripping gritty cop drama but I’ve come to the understanding this line which was in the first episode of season 1 is Detective Bunk Moreland’s (Wendell Pierce) crusty catch phrase always said to partner James McNulty (Dominic West). Seems to show up on every message board as many fans’ favorite lines so I’m sure as I make my way through the DVDs I’ll soon see why.

Well, that’s that. A lot of shows don’t have definitive repeated lines – unless I missed it my favorite show of the last year, Mad Men, hasn’t had any catch phrases yet and may not as the show moves forward through the 60’s. Anyway, it’s the holidays and I got a Freaks And Geeks DVD boxset as well as more The Wire discs from Netflix a-callin’ me.

So as Krusty the Clown would say: “So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip Top Tet, and a solemn, eventful Ramadan.”

More later…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: The Film Babble Blog Review

Now playing at an indie art house near you:


-->SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE(Dir. Danny Boyle, 2008)

The buzz has been a-blazing big on this film 

Right now it is topping many Critics’ Award lists for 2008, getting multiple Golden Globe nominations, and gaining massive word of mouth as it gets a wider release. What’s more impressive is that this film deserves every accolade and award and then some. It is a “feel good” movie in the least cynical use of that well worn publicity phrase with its inventive story-telling and rich palette of visual splendor, simply amazing considering its squalor-filled settings.

So how can depictions such as poverty, child abuse, and even the sight of somebody drenched in feces be in a film that adds up to an overwhelmingly happy and heart-warming experience? I dunno, but this film pulled it off magnificently - echoing the power and grandeur of  CITY OF GOD crossed with the clever charm of Boyle’s own MILLIONS, and its done with wit and grit to spare.

-->
Our hero is 18 year old Jamal (Dev Patel along with Tanay Cheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as Jamal at younger intervals) who is being interrogated by police, USUAL SUSPECTS-style, about his suspiciously improbable winnings from appearing on the Hindi version of the modern classic quiz game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

His answers involve engaging and sometimes disturbing flashback sequences that are handled deftly and definitely more fluidly than in many other recent broken narratives.
-->From an early age, Jamal made a couple of connections that would deeply affect his current predicament – his love for Latika (Freida Pinto with Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, and Rubiana Ali as younger incarnations) and his stormy clashes with fellow slum kid Salim (Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail – whew!) All of these talents, tested (especially Anil Kapoor as the unctuous game show host) and untested are up to the task at hand here.

A end credits dance sequence (that can’t possibly be a Spoiler!, can it?) is the only thing Bollywood about this Indian movie made by Brits but that works as well and as entertainingly as everything else here. Despite a fair amount of subtitled dialogue (which is pretty stylized as it goes for subtitles) 80-90% of it is spoken in English and it’s instantly accessible so it’s sure to pick up even more acclaim and box office in the weeks to come. 

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is one of the best movies of the year for sure and will endure to be much more than a winner this awards season – I feel that for years to come it’s going to be a favorite of the same folks who can love AMELIE and an edgier work like GOODFELLAS equally. It has plenty of pure stultifying competition (got MILK?) out there in what’s shaping up to be a precedent setting prestige motion picture season, but from what I’ve seen so far this has the “fun factor” on its side in spades.

More later...

Friday, December 12, 2008

MILK - The Film Babble Blog Review

MILK (Dir. Gus Van Sant, 2008)

The purpose and passion contained in this portrait of the first openly gay politician has gathered such critical and box office buzz that the oft repeated thesis that the vote on Proposition 8 may have turned out differently had MILK been released before the election is far from mere hype.


In Gus Vant Sant’s best film since MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, Sean Penn completely and compellingly absorbs the plucky persona of an ambitious and enthusiastic San Franciscan business man who after a few failed attempts was voted a city supervisor.


With the support of the homosexual community and many sympathetic liberals Harvey Milk fought a fierce battle to defeat Proposition 6 which, if passed, would have discriminated against California public schools hiring gay employees. The film is framed by a neat natural feeling narration in which Milk records an audiotape relating the story of his political career and a few devastating personal relationships on the side.


Much real life footage is used including footage from news reports of the era and photographs that make up an opening montage showing police harassment of gay bar patrons. We are introduced to Milk as he introduces himself to an easy going hippy played by James Franco who quickly becomes his lover. 


They move from New York to California together and the enterprising Milk opens a camera store in a pre-dominantly gay neighborhood. Gay activism helps Milk’s mojo but turns off his companion at the same time he forms heavy alliances including student and later S.F. AIDS Foundation founder Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch with a frizzy fro oddly making him look like a skinny Jack Black).

There is not a wasted moment in MILK as the momentum flows evenly through to our protagonist’s later days. Josh Brolin, obviously now approaching the A-list after lauded turns in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and W., has an effective restless role as Dan White – a fellow Supervisor who assassinates Milk and Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber).


This last bit is no Spoiler mind you, the film gives us this info up front and I doubt anybody reading this will be unaware of Milk’s fate. With its use of much archival footage seemlessly blended in and touching display of campaign comaraderie its a nice companion piece to Rob Epsteins 1984 documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK.


I predict that MILK will dominate the upcoming awards season and deservedly so; very few supposed “event” movies, especially of the historic biopic ilk live up to their billing but nothing here falls short - the acting, the screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, the focused film-making, and the choice of era music - even the overused Sly and the Family Stone song Everyday People feels right.


The best performance of Sean Penn’s career in the most accomplished and powerful project that Gus Van Sant has ever delivered is so much more than must see cinema. It’s such a supremely entertaining and essential endeavor that it should be classified a mandatory movie.

More later...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Nominee For Weirdest DVD Of 2008 - THE FLAMING LIPS: CHRISTMAS ON MARS

THE FLAMING LIPS: CHRISTMAS ON MARS 
(Dir. Wayne Coyne, 2008)


Okay, so it didn’t take as long as Guns ‘N Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” but Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne has been plugging the release of CHRISTMAS ON MARS since the dawn of this decade. After some festival screenings here and there, the film finally just dropped on DVD and it proves to be every bit the space oddity the Oklahoman art rockers have been promising.

What wasn’t expected though was that the film has no vocal pop songs on its soundtrack, just reams of ambient embellishments that mostly serve as incidental music. So dont expect a Beatles-eque romp unless the idea of watching MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR with the songs edited out appeals to you.

In a scenario reminiscent of sci-fi staples like ALIEN, 2001, and the lesser known John Carpenter cult curio DARK STAR, a team of astronauts work to colonize Mars in the near future (2052?) while a baby is being birthed by extremely unconventional means which inspire qrotesque fetus hallucinations (think ERASERHEAD). This is mostly presented in grainy black and white shot on 16 MM film on makeshift sets making it resemble an art school project. Bright color sometimes blurry, sometimes jarringly vivid, does come into it in pointed places making it also resemble home movies of an acid test.

The birth is timed for Christmas eve so the colonists which include Lips members Stephen Drozd (pictured left - presumably the protagonist), Michael Ivins, and Kliph Scurlock plan an impromptu pageant to mark the event. A Martian played by Coyne painted green with antennas (described by one character as looking like something “that crawled out of Godzilla’s ass) appears and is recruited to don a Santa Clause suit. Dialogue consists of ponderings such as:

“Humans aren’t meant to live in outer space; it destroys your internal beliefs…makes you think about ‘where is Heaven when you’re in outer space?'”

“I’ve got such a bad feeling that it should make you have a bad feeling.”
(shout-out to STAR WARS?)

“Space is cold, unfeeling, and mean. It crushes all the little things like a moth on a window sill.”

The rising conflict through all this psycho-babble occurs with a capacitor malfunction that threatens their oxygen supply. But with Coyne’s E.T.-esque chest light you can expect a Martian Christmas miracle! None of the Flaming Lips members are good actors (Coyne conquers this by not speaking at all) but there are a few talented thespian folks who ostensibly as fan favors lend a hand.

Adam Goldberg (DAZED AND CONFUSED, 2 DAYS IN PARIS) as “Mars psychologist” has a great scene describing a Lynchian dream about a marching band that all had heads of human genitals, and SNL’s Fred Armison has a nice casual cameo credited as “Philosophical and Hymn-Singing Astronaut”.
Emulating the Russian sci-fi of the 60’s (the likes of which Francis Ford Coppola was enlisted by Roger Corman to rework for American audeinces - NEBO ZOVYOT which became BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN), and distilling dystopian elements down to lazy shoe-gazing isn’t quite the space pop opera cinema that I anticipated.

Artists though should constantly thwart expectations and dive into different mediums with different ideas not caring about consequences so it’s hard, or downright impossible, for me to dismiss or dislike this effort. CHRISTMAS ON MARS may gain cool credit as a ironic holiday late night movie to put on after feasts of food and other altering substances are consumed in seasons to come but for now I can’t get past that it’s just weird for weirdness-sake.

More later…

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

10 Slapped Actresses


Sometimes fake fights turn out bad,
Sometimes, actresses get slapped.
Some nights, makin’ it look real might end up with someone hurt.
Some nights, it’s just entertainment,
and, some other nights, it’s real.”

These lines from the track “Slapped Actress” from the latest album (“Stay Positive” VAGRANT 2008) by New York rawkers The Hold Steady call upon the neo-realism of the films of the independent film innovator John Cassevettes. Written and sung by feisty front-man Craig Finn, who was influenced by watching a friend’s Cassevettes DVD box set, the song shines a theater spot-light on the hazy line between art and real life.

For those of you unfamiliar with the song here is a live clip from YouTube (albeit crudely recorded, but you should know how that goes) of The Hold Steady performing it live.
Since the impact of a slap in the face can not be easily faked and such a dramatic device is so effective yet so still such a common place cliché (think soap operas) I thought it would be somewhat insightful to look at the case studies of:

10 Slapped Actresses

1. Gena Rowlands in OPENING NIGHT
(Dir. John Cassavetes, 1977)

The Hold Steady’s “Slapped Actress” directly references all the principles of this film: “We are the actors. The cameras are rollin’. I’ll be Ben Gazzara, you’ll be Gena Rowlands” and “We’re the directors - our hands will hold steady. I’ll be John Cassavettes—let me know when you’re ready.” Finn in an interview with Uncut Magazine elaborated: “I was really taken by the scene where Cassavetes wants to slap Gena Rowlands, and he says, ‘If I don't really slap you, it won't look real for the performance.’

And she says ‘It’s a play, why would you have to actually slap me, that's the whole point.’ That kinda connected with the way I think people are preoccupied with my relationship with the characters I write about. Ive always said no one really cares whether Quentin Tarantino kills people or does karate but for a songwriter theres this question of a perceived honesty, that your songs are the story of your life.”
“Performances were scripted, but delivery was not” says Wikipedia on the films of Cassavetes.

A slap is one of the potent forms of delivery, so to speak. Rowlands after protesting is told by Manny (Gazzara): “It’s a tradition. Actresses get slapped. Its mandatory you get hit.” Rowlands does eventually get hit but as convoluted as it may be it’s on her own weird terms. Rowland’s Myrtle goes through the motions of a dying diva later commnented on by The Hold Steady’s sing-along concluding chorus which says of this brand of “perceived honesty”: “we make our own movies, we make our own movies...

2. Faye Dunaway in CHINATOWN (Dir. Roman Polanski, 1971) (Major Spolier!) “She’s my daughter [slap]...my sister [slap]...She’s my daughter [slap]...my sister [slap]...my daughter [slap]. She’s my sister and my daughter!” Dunaway gets multiple slaps from Jack Nicholson as not so hard nosed (he had his nose sliced by the knife of Polanski playing a small time hood) detective Jake Gittes who had no possible patience left.

According to the IMDb: “After several takes that never looked quite right, Dunaway told Nicholson to actually slap her. He did, and the scene made it into the movie.” Dunaway got her slap happy revenge years later in MOMMIE DEAREST playing Joan Crawford - who Ill get to later.

3. Diane Keaton in THE GODFATHER PART II (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

In arguably one of the most powerful confrontation scenes between a husband and a wife in cinema history, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) reacts violently upon being told Kay (Keaton) not only wants a divorce but that she had an abortion because she feels this “Sicilian thing” must end. This sends him over the line in what looks incredibly like the real thing – his incensed slap sends her reeling back onto a hotel sofa.

No quotes from Keaton on whether it was authentic but this passage from Deborah C. Micthell’s biography “Diane Keaton: Artist And Icon” is pretty noteworthy: “When her parents saw Godfather II in Los Angeles, the audience applauded when Michael slapped Kay in the confrontation scene. She (Keaton) defensively explained: ‘he was a horrible character…I say to Hell with those people who applaud. My parents were with me.’” Watch the scene on YouTube here and see if you would applaud.

4. Charlize Theron in HANCOCK
(Dir.Peter Berg, 2008)

This is from a mediocre summer superhero-with-a-twist Will Smith vehicle, mind you - but to be fair I liked the first half of said film with the slap appearing to perfectly divide it. Theron went on the record: “He tried to fake slap me one time, but the fake one just didnt happen. Were still debating this one. I think he just hit me! But Will claims I leaned into his hand and thats how it happened. I was so shocked! I was like, He just slapped me!

Then to another source she said: But he said, I did not slap you. I had my hand there and you turned into it Theron, however, insisted that the incident did not sour their relationship. Were just like kids, its so much fun. Hes not a woman beater! she said. Whatever the case, the Will Smith bitch slap will no doubt echo through out the ages...

4. Michelle Pfeifer in WOLF (Dir. Mike Nichols, 1994) This was another incident that inspired this post - recently Christopher Plummer revealed in his new memoir (In Spite Of Myself) : “I had to lose my temper and slap [Michelle] in the face . . . Gazing into those deep, limpid eyes of hers, I was so hypnotized, my expertise at faking a slap utterly deserted me and I let her have it with full barrels. He lamented that it was: one of the worst days of my life. Again I believe, Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, should just take comfort in the sometimes actresses get slapped clause.

5. Brigitte Bardot in CONTEMPT
(Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) I recently saw this again, for the first time on the big screen, and I had forgotten about the slap Michelle Piccoli lays on Brigitte Bardot's face during their lengthy domestic argument. The sequence which takes place at their flat is a painful but compelling series of break-ups and make-ups with the slap coming midway as Phillip Locate in the New York Times noted: In any film today, a man slapping a woman would end the scene, but in Contempt we keep watching the sequence for 25 more minutes, as the adjustments to that slap are digested.” It is indeed startling how Bardot brushes off the abuse, to her character Camille it seems like just yet another daily indignity.

6. Marisa Tomei in
IN THE BEDROOM (Dir. Todd Field, 2001) File this under when actresses slap other actresses. In what Roger Ebert called “the most violent and shocking moment in a violent film” Sissy Spacek slaps a hysterical Marisa Tomei. According to IMDb: There were 15 takes of Sissy Spacek slapping Marisa Tomei. The final version of the film used the first take.Looks like Tomei sure was a trooper in the slapped actress department there!

7. Anne Baxter in ALL ABOUT EVE (Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)


Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Academy Award winning screenplay describes the action between Addison (George Sanders and Eve (Anne Baxter) as follows:


She smiles. Then she chuckles, then laughs. A mistake.
Addison slaps her sharply across the face.

Actually there are many comparable slaps from movies from this era and it’s a quick cold one but it’s a personal favorite because I (and I’m sure many audiences) so wanted to slap Eve throughout the whole movie. Incidentally there was a little known semi-remake called SLAP HER...SHE'S FRENCH (Dir. Melanie Mayron, 2002).

8. Shirley Maclaine in
(Dir. Billy Wilder, 1960)
As Dr. Dreyfuss, Jack Kruschen really strikes Maclaine’s face exactly as written in Wilder’s and I.A.L. Diamond’s screenplay (also an Academy Award winning script):


With his free hand, Dr. Dreyfuss slaps Fran viciously across the face. Bud winces. Dreyfuss, still holding Fran by the hair, takes a box of ammonia ampules out of his bag. He crushes one of the ampules in his hand, passes it under her nose. Fran tries to turn her head away. Dreyfuss slaps her again, hard, crushes another ampule, repeats the process.


So it goes for reviving a heartbroken woman from a Christmas eve suicide attempt, huh?

9. Joan Crawford in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
(Dir. Robert Aldrich, 1962) Bette Davis and Joan Crawford famously did not get along so there is absolutely no doubt this slap is real. Apparently mere slaps were the least of their worries according to Wikipedia: During a scene after Blanche makes a desperate attempt to call Jane's doctor, Blanche is kicked around by Jane. In reality, Crawford had several broken ribs from the scene, as Davis had really kicked her." Crawford also felt pretty symbolically slapped later when she wasn't nominated for an Oscar for the film while Davis was.

  10. Lee Bryant in AIRPLANE! (Dirs. Jim Abrams & Jerry Zucker, 1980) Thought I’d end on a comical note with definitely the fakest slaps not just on this list but possibly in movie history. As frightened passenger Mrs. Hammen (but probably better referred to as hysterical woman), Bryant starts freaking out: I can't stand it anymore...I've got to get out of here! A stewardress tries to restrain her then another passenger takes over, then Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielson) all repeating calm down, get a hold of yourself!

Soon enough just about everybody on board is lining up to slap (or worse) the troubled traveler. Watch the clip here. There are hundreds, if not thousands more slapped actresses out there but that’s my top ten and I’m sticking with it. Of course, there are many slapped actors as well but I was keeping with The Hold Steady song that inspired the post. Still may do a slapped actors post someday – so stay tuned.

More later...