Film & TV: March 2006 Archives

Dangerous Men

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I'm deeply proud of the fact that Yankee Fog was one of the first websites to break the news of the upcoming cinematic juggernaut that is Snakes on a Plane. I am equally proud to introduce my readers to a film that seems even more likely to leave audiences gasping in stunned disbelief: Dangerous Men.

The film apparently surfaced in a handful of LA theaters last fall, with no advertising. But word of mouth soon spread among the city's cineasts. To understand why, you might start with the LA Weekly's review:

Dangerous Men evidences one of the most eccentric, hermetic, idiosyncratic sensibilities to be found in the filmmaking canon: Background paintings leap out of frame. Key exposition is delivered away from the camera. Actors appear to repeat key speeches phonetically. Kung fu sequences employ reverse zooms, sucking the action out of the scene. Sex acts invariably involve massaging of knees and licking of navels. A biker bar prominently features an espresso machine.

At one point, the movie's Ms. 45-style vigilante kneels on the beach, lost in her thoughts, as a tender ballad declaims something about "the splendors of the moment"; as the camera pulls back, we see the lyrics of the song written in the sand -- in cursive writing. The sole name cast member -- the late Carlos Rivas, who played Lun Tha in the movie version of The King and I -- holds a conversation on a phone that is clearly not plugged in, his script on the desk in front of him, his lines highlighted in yellow Magic Marker.

Not all reviews have been as rapturous -- Stomp Tokyo sniffed that "To call Dangerous Men epically bad is overstating the case"--but audience demand kept the film in theaters for four months before director John S. Rad (not his real name) pulled the film in an ingenious strategy to increase demand for it.

Although he doesn't seem surprised by the enthusiasm his work has generated, Rad does seem a little puzzled by the form that enthusiasm has taken. As he told Mondo Kims, "I was so wondering: some scenes in my opinion were not funny to laugh at or be so excited about." But whatever the audience reaction, Rad says, the important thing is "to see the quality of the film, how it is, what message it gives, what education we can receive, and if we have fun from its entertainmentship."

Oddly, Dangerous Men hasn't yet found a distributor, so if you want to experience its entertainmentship, you'll have to check the official website to see if it's playing at a local film festival. Fortunately, the website provides a trailer for the film and--even better-- a special promotional theme song, which reveals that Mr. Rad is not merely a writer/director/cinematographer/editor/producer, but a composer/lyricist/performer as well. Suck on that, Orson Welles!

(Thanks to Music For Maniacs for introducing me to this important motion picture.)

Late to the party

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I've just watched the Oscars.

I know I'm a little late. Here in the UK, they were broadcast only on Sky Movies, which we don't get. I had to wait until the recording my in-laws were kind enough to make for me made it across the Atlantic. Until then, I haven't read any coverage of the broadcast, in order to avoid spoilers. (Yes, I am that big an Oscar geek.)

In short, I recognize that by now, everybody else on the planet with any interest in the topic has already commented on Crash's surprise win for Best Picture. Everybody has offered a theory as to why it beat out Brokeback Mountain. But I have my own theory, and it's one that nobody else seems to have considered.

As far as I'm concerned, the reason for Crash's win wasn't that it was "a hometown favorite" (as the New York Times speculated), or that its setting was urban rather than rural (as Larry McMurtry speculated.)

No, Crash won because the Academy members saw it on DVD.

Now, I loved both movies, but I loved them for very different reasons. Brokeback Mountain's power comes from a lot of small character moments, many of which are expressed through body language and facial expressions. Crash's power comes much more from plot.

As a result, if you see them both in the theatre , you'll pick up on the strengths of Brokeback, but larger-than-life Crash might seem melodramatic or over-the-top. By contrast, if you see them both on DVD, you'll see the strengths of CRASH, but understated BROKEBACK might seem slow or uninteresting. Most critics and (thus far) most moviegoers will have seen both films on a big screen-- but I'm willing to bet that many, if not most, Academy members saw both films on screener DVDs.