Friday, September 10, 2010

Loose Ends: The American, Machete, The Year’s Goofiest Trailer, and a Personal Note

- In my bio and signature for DVD Talk, I’ve written that I “blog every day at Fourth Row Center.” I did that (the blogging every day, not just the saying that I did) for two reasons. First of all, I liked how it sounded. But more importantly, the notion of a daily deadline—of posting something, be it a new review, a blog entry, an archive piece, a wrap-up—seemed an important part of being a disciplined writer. I didn’t always pull it off, but most weeks, I posted at least an average of once a day, sometimes more.

Well, there will probably be a bit of a slowdown in the output here on the ol’ Big-Ass Bailey Blog. As you may have gathered from the Twitter feed, I have gone back to school, effective this week; I’m pursuing an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU’s graduate school of journalism, which is good news if you think (as I kind of do) that my writing has gotten a little stale of late. I’ll be writing a lot and reading even more, and learning the ropes from people I genuinely admire, like Dennis Lim and Greil Marcus. But it does mean I’ll be decreasing my freelance writing for DVD Talk; I’ll still go to screenings when I can, and turn DVD reviews whenever possible, and if I write something that’s of interest outside of the classroom, I’ll post it here as well. But you probably won’t see as much as I’d been pumping out on a fairly regular basis since the blog started. Try to hide your disappointment.

- I saw last week’s two new releases over the previous weekend, and apologies for the delay in saying anything about them. But in a strange way, I had similar responses to The American and Machete, though it’s hard to imagine two pictures more superficially divergent; one is quiet, meditative character study, the other a pulpy, gloriously over-the-top shoot ‘em up. What they have in common is that both are clear, attributable throwbacks. The American, with its deliberate, distinctively European tone, tenor, and (especially) pace, has the feel of a ‘60s French crime pic (a Melville effort, perhaps?) or a ‘70s Italian film (I’m thinking Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, particularly in its Morricone-style score, which is cleverly replaced by the real thing at one point). Of course, films like those are the precise antithesis of a modern, star-driven Hollywood action movie; little wonder that CinemaScore tracked its audience rating at a miserable D-. People are dopes. If you know what you’re in for—and it is important that you do—it’s a fine, fascinating picture, and Clooney is marvelously understated.

Machete’s mediocre box-office caused a gnashing of teeth across fanboy sites early in the week—inexplicable, since the film is basically a sequel to Grindhouse, and nobody saw that either. I can’t imagine anyone seriously thought there was much money to be made from it (though Fox’s attempts to sell it as a straight action film are admirable, if ill-advised), but I’m sure glad it exists, as it’s a jokey, energetic movie full of great gags, gleefully nutjob performances, and wonderful “bad-movie” touches. It’s also a good 20 minutes too long; as admirable as its considerable excesses may be, it’s always a better idea to leave the audience for a film like this wanting more.

- We saw this ahead of Machete, and I swear to God, I really thought it was Rodriguez doing another joke trailer. Even among contemporary (that is to say, terrible) horror, this is some goofy shit:

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