Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Of course they're kooks. It's all make-believe.

It's safe to say that I'll never run a company that makes movies. But...but...I almost ran a company that shows movies. At least, I had a chance to. 

A couple of weeks back, I entered an essay contest to win a movie theater in Houlton, Maine. I think the current owner needed just over three thousand entries (along with the 250 word essay, and a hundred bucks) to pull the trigger, but alas, he fell short, and cancelled the contest. But in the ten days between my entry being accepted and the dream-crushing cancellation...the possibility remained. 

Regarding the movies actual people see, I was going to be the one calling the shots.

Sounds fun...at least for a little while, right?

Unless, of course, you're Eddie Mannix in Joel and Ethan Coen's latest comedy, Hail, Caesar!, then it's all bad, all the time. Played with a steady dose of stifled bewilderment by Josh Brolin, Mannix is the guy behind the guy. His job? Keeping the highly dysfunctional movie studio, Capitol Pictures, running in 1950's Hollywood. With a host of characters having a host of problems, Mannix's own included, keeping this ship afloat is going to take an effort of Biblical proportions. If only I knew anything about the Bible...

Not quite as slapstick-y as I would have liked, Hail, Caesar! is still a good time, and perhaps a great time, if you're able to catch all the winks and nods. The Coens' latest basks in not only satirizing old Hollywood (and the America it existed in), but contemporary religion as well. While the latter was mostly lost on me, being the heathen a-hole that I am, the final line and shot of the film knocked me on my ass due to each being utterly perfect. Quite the epiphany it was...

See, Mannix is dying for a multitude of sins at his job, the so-called 'fixer' for Capitol Pictures. Initially, it's a starlet posing for lewd pictures at odd hours, but the hits just keep coming. From a sexy actress from the 'mermaid pictures' getting knocked up out of wedlock, to a hayseed (actual) cowboy being cast as the debonair lead in a Lawrence Laurentz picture, Mannix is putting out fires left and right. Hell, even his home life is kind of mess, when he's there anyway, not to mention the relentless pursuit of a Lockheed Martin job-recruiter.

But his main concern, one that twin (gossip?) reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker pether him inthethently about? The alleged disappearance of leading man Baird Whitlock, played by non other than Coen mainstay George Clooney.

Deanna Moran, actress. Strengths: Grace and Beauty. Weaknesses: Keeping her tail down. Or shut.
(honestly, how do you impregnate a mermaid? I've always wond-- nevermind)
Perhaps there's too many balls in the air, or perhaps I simply wasn't interested in the juggling, but outside of Brolin's Mannix character, we're not given enough time to digest (or invest in) all these storylines. Great actors show up and deliver sharp dialogue in gorgeous scenes, but for whatever reason, for me, it didn't amount to all that much. Even moving at breakneck speed, I found myself increasingly indifferent, until the very end, where honestly, I felt the entire film was saved.

Maybe a re-watch is in order?

Speaking of saving a work in the final moments, here are the Yays and Boos. We saw this film on a snow day last week, and are currently typing this up on yet another. Whether that's good news or bad news, I'm not sure...I'll get back to you in mid June. Assuming I'm still not teaching by then.


  • Even though I thought it was Albert Finney, Michael Gambon's narration is fantastic. 
  • Jesus Christ on a scooter!
  • Alden Ehrenreich damn near steals the show as Podunk's finest cowboy, Hobie Doyle. From the drawl to spaghetti lassos, Doyle is thoroughly charming, uh, throughout.
  • I thought it wasn't going to happen, but thankfully, Scarjo drops a perfectly timed scram! to some costume guys, and the world was right again. Phew.
  • I know the preview is all about Whitlock's abduction, but if it had been the entire mirthless chuckle scene with Ralph Fiennes, Hail, Caesar! would have easily dethroned The Force Awakens as the all-time box-office champ, I'm sure of it. Very good. Wonderful, in fact.
  • Though,to be fair, Channing Tatum's sailor number is just about the greatest thing I've ever seen, uh...too. Such an all-American manly man, isn't he?
  • Totally dug all the aspect-ratio switching, too. Especially in the water ballet pitchers.
  • (Jonah Hill's) Joseph Silverman: Master of personhood. 
  • Carlotta Valdez! The only thing better than that name, is the lovely Veronica Osorio being the face to go along with it. Wowzers.
  • And finally, Josh Brolin, kicking ass and taking names. Mannix may deal in the shady depths of Hollywood Hell, but he remains a likable fellow the entire time. This film takes place in just over a day of his life, and you get the feeling that Mannix has had (and will continue to have) many days like this. You also get the feeling...he kind of enjoys them, too. 
Watch that sword, Mr. Whitlock.
It can be a real pain in the ass.
  • I'm sure there's some sort of golden-era Hollywood legend to support it, but Fances McDormand's crazy editor lady was a strange bird, no? Like, a little too strange, perhaps?
  • Hello, Newman. Wayne Knight, you fiendish bastard!
  • So, you saw the previews, right? The one's with George Clooney heavily featured? I did too. Kind of made ol' Baird Whitlock seem important, didn't they?
  • Hobie Doyle can not act. That's just rude, Mr. Laurentz. Very rude. Even if the guy is just a handsome roh-dey-oh clown.
  • Did I, or did I not see Rose Byrne in this film? This is Boo only because I may be imaging her in films now...which seems unhealthy, doesn't it?
  • And finally, it's likely because I don't really have a firm grasp of the Red Scare, but I found the whole angle of The Future kind of pointless and silly, you know? Sure, I understand what's going on at the time on Hollywood, and I very much appreciated Whitlock's conversion (until Mannix, uh, straightens him out), but as villains they didn't really seem all that menacing. I kind of agreed with most of their points, actually.                                    Uh oh.
Maybe overseeing anything having to do with movies and film isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Running around, trying to wrangle a bunch of self-obsessed miscreants doesn't exactly sound like something I'd want to be a part of (though I teach middle school...so....yeah). I guess I'll just keep my relationship with the motion picture industry alive with this blog. That way, I won't have to worry about all the dumb shit that people do in and around the silver screen.

I'll just have to worry about one. On a laptop.

Sounds fun. 

At least for a little while.


  1. If I manage to drag my tired ass to the cinema I'm gonna see it on Friday, I freaking love Burn after Reading and Lebowski so hopefully this is at least half as funny.

    And ScaroJo looks divine in that mermaid outfit

    1. Ha. ScarJo looks divine in just about anything. Though, there were bits of that freaky Under the Skin were she looked a bit...rough.

      I pretty much love all things Coen, but this one didn't float my boat nearly as much as I wanted it to. Aww.