First off, some business. Last issue I offered my barely used pirate CD of U2's Pop to the Korner reader providing the best argument for which of Dr. Dolittle or Flubber is a more direct sign of doomsday's arrival. To my surprise, two or three of the responses were literate, succinct, and even witty. But I think Matthew Ward of Des Moines, Iowa best captured the spirit of the contest with the following entry: "I watched Flubber on a 10 hour flight to Maui and it made the flight seem longer. I began hoping the plane would crash." Technically, Matthew violated one of the rules by actually seeing one of the films, but since he didn't really have a choice in the matter (and especially since he didn't pay for a ticket) I'm going to cut him a break. Matthew, if you're still with us out there in America's heartland, congratulations! I'll be making arrangements to have the CD shipped to you some time in the next few months. Or, if (as I suspect you do) you'd rather I just sent the piece of shit to a liquor store in some remote part of Alaska, I can do that too. Just say the word!
And now for the usual round of non-view apologies and casual dismissals. First up is Sliding Doors, some British-type thing starring Gwyneth Paltrow that's apparently based on an Aqua video in which the Barbie Girl and her Danish cohorts ride around on the London Underground. I don't know how they managed to stretch that into a feature-length movie, but I assume that Paltrow plays the Aqua chick (without the red dye-job). Needless to say, I wasn't about to drag my hung-over ass out of the apartment to see this thing on a chilly Sunday evening.
The Player's Club is a different story. I really did intend to see Ice Cube's directorial debut in time for this issue, but last-minute cancellations and schedule changes once again wreaked havoc and created unresolvable conflicts with the eXile deadline. Still, aside from a costar who is a known standup comic, this should be at least a vaguely watchable film. As they say at the Olympics, "Go for it!" And you can quote me on that.
This weekend also gives you a chance to see Woody Allen's latest, Deconstructing Harry, on the big screen. Nearly six months have passed since I saw this one, so I think I'll just let Moscow's own Mr. Video, Bobby Brown, do the talking on this one: "Might give people some strange ideas, but it does have a few of my favorite things: art, envy, Jews & Jewish culture, kidnapping, whores, and so much more..." Pretty much says it all, don't you think? I suppose I should add that it's probably the Woodster's best in awhile, with lots of his trademark structural experimentation and some unusual camerawork that's pretty effective. And that early scene with Elaine from Seinfeld giving head to the Portnoyish novelistic incarnation (played by screen Portnoy Richard Benjamin) of Allen's movie character was a freaking riot. I thought the ending was a total cop-out and completely wrong for the film, but what the hell do I know?
As you may recall, last time I mentioned a Brian De Palma/Nicolas Cage project called Snake Eyes. That turned out to be dubbed, so I'm going to ignore it... for now.
Which brings us to our feature presentation: The Truman Show, a Jim Carrey vehicle doubling as a critique of media-driven/obsessed US culture. As the former it's fairly enjoyable, showing (like Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar before it) Carrey to be a surprisingly capable comic actor who's a lot more versatile (and better at keeping his potential for overacting in check) than over-glorified head cases like Robin Williams.
As the latter, however, it's feeble and majorly deluded as to its own worth. This quasi-philosophical side is handled in such a half-assed way it makes you long for the days of Max Headroom lunchboxes and family-goodnight rituals that ape The Waltons. For example, I'll allow that those sitcom-length behind-the-scenes dorkumentaries-cum-infomercials that run on places like MTV and the E! network are deserving of ridicule, but they're not exactly an obscure target. Besides, they've already been so accepted by consumer/moviegoers that it's only a matter of time before we get behind-the-scenes specials about behind-the-scenes specials. Mass-market acceptance of this kind tends to render even flawless satire more or less irrelevant. The slightly higher brow supporting players (Laura Linney is a Julliard grad, for instance) obviously relish the opportunity to lampoon their colleagues and their profession, mugging for the camera during the mock behind-the-scenes segments with that vacant, vaguely orgasmic expression that tells you an actor thinks he's really up to something clever. The exercise loses some of its impact, however, if you've already seen the real Truman Show behind-the-scenes special in which those very same actors discuss the significance of their roles and the film as a whole with that very same vacant-climax expression on their faces. It would have been quite a show of faith on the movie's part if it had disposed with this formality, indicating that perhaps it really intended to reveal something complex about American culture. But, as with every other shitty movie made these days, the actors' contracts included the now ubiquitous mandatory promo-interview rider obliging them to spend a few minutes acting like morons before the camera. This might be my imagination, but I swear I remember hearing director Peter Weir--with a look on his face that only could have been more serious if he were already dead (which he may be for all I know)--throw out that Shakespeare (or is it Rush?) line about all the world being a stage and ordinary people being actors. I'd like to believe that Weir was kidding or consciously playing down to his audience, but this is the guy who made Dead Poets' Society after all--so he's well-placed to become the elder spokesman for the dreaded New Earnestness.
Perhaps the best thing about The Truman Show is that it gives the middlebrow critics yet another chance to praise Ed Harris's understated presence, or whatever it is they say about him. That shit always kills me. Harris is not as bad as usual here, but he still very much sucks. And I never thought I'd say this, but I'm getting sick of Harry Shearer making the same cheeky cameo appearance for the 32nd time. If he were a star of any real stature, he would long ago have crossed over into self parody. As it is, I imagine that many people still don't even have a clue who he is.
Obvious as the premise (man's entire life filmed and broadcast live as TV show) might be, The Truman Show might nevertheless have been a pretty good movie had the writers put any kind of effort at all into developing it. Instead, what we have here is a decidedly OK film, one that leaves the viewer feeling empty or even hollowed out (as if somebody reamed out your brain cavity with a pipe cleaner, as I sometimes feel), not unlike at the end of a prolonged evening heavy in alcohol, nicotine, and amphetamine during which you coulda shoulda woulda easily scored on more than one occasion but for some elusive reason never did. With movies like this, who needs weekends?