Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being John Malkovich Chat

We're trying out a schedule for watching, chatting, and posting! I know---you'd totally think two hyper-list-makers would have figured this out earlier.

Tracy:  Malkovich. Malkovich. Malkovich.
Natalie:  Sorry-some strange lady just knocked on the door and then kept me by declaring that this was not 413. Nope. The door you just knocked on pretty much clears that up.
Tracy:  That's bizarre!
Natalie:  Yeah. Anyway--Malkovich.
Tracy:  So I like this movie, but I think my lifelong crush on JM is a large source of my enjoyment. Objectively, I think it's a cool concept flick the concept for which runs out at about minute 75.
Natalie:  I'm not sure I like it as a movie. I definitely like the idea. I like JM and his role. But Cusack and Diaz bug me as does the dialogue about the "big ideas." I don't hate it but I'm definitely in "eh" territory.
Note: Cusack does not bug me normally. Diaz does.
Tracy:  Yes, agreed on Diaz. I guess I like the way they set up the rules of this world (initially) and then just go with it. This is a world where there's a puppeteering rivalry and floor 7.5, and JM and Charlie Sheen are best friends. But then that gets dropped for this extended set piece with Cusack in JM. And though I usually like actors pretending to be other actors, and I think JM did a good job, that wears off fast. I'm thinking it's trying to be a metaphor for cinema, but doesn't quite get there.
Natalie:  Definitely like that they just go for the rules of the world--no one questions the 7.5 floor, just the height of the ceilings but even that not so much. I guess I just needed something else to happen. I'm not sure what though. I agree that it's trying to be a metaphor for cinema. If there's anything Charlie Kaufman likes, it's a meta metaphor. And it also seems a metaphor for our idolization of actors. JM can just be a puppeteer now. He had to "pay his dues" sort of but if a hugely respected actor wants to do something wacko, it's suddenly "art" and cool. Maybe I needed it to be trimmed back a bit in terms of the absurd? I could have done without Diaz bringing all of these animals home, the chimp's psychological problems (and ESPECIALLY that scene where the chimp flashes back and actually has the same name in chimp language?), the bird as an alarm clock (terrifying) . . . it was all just a touch too much for me, I think, and not needed for the narrative.
Tracy:  Which also seems to be a Kaufman problem. He gets this cool idea (let's make a movie about how hard it is to adapt a book into a movie! let's make a movie about how we need to be distanced and mediated by media in order to have authentic emotion!) and then gets so far up his own ass in the last third of the film that it becomes either too precious (BJM) or pretty unwatchable (Adaptation). And that chimp moment is really strange. It seems like he was trying to be all post-human but ended up being insulting to the chimp.
Natalie:  YES! And the end of BJM? Some strangely modified Electra complex?
Tracy:  I don't think he had a clue what to do. He had painted himself into this corner, and then it becomes a weirdo immortality project. I thought that the person would only go into the new consciousness if he got pushed out of JM? But last we saw Cusack, he was on the ground, back in reality? I think the movie was reaching for this sort of polymorphous progressivism about sexuality as well, but that didn't work either. Really, I wanted more puppeteer rivalry, and more with JM playing this sybarite version of himself. And/or a movie about the adventures of Ma-Sheen and Malkatraz. There are lines and moments and ideas that I really dig, but yeah, the narrative is a fail.
Natalie:  The movie really needed to explain how Cusack gets to inhabit the body of his/Diaz's/JM's daughter--and, um, that's a weirdo and problematic version of conception, btw. Ha! Yes--more puppeteer rivalry (second movie in a row with puppets from the list) and more JM. I'd completely forgotten from my last watch that Sheen was in the film--how the times have changed Description: :) So . . . It seems the book is simply enamored of Spike Jonze (trying to be hip and name-dropping Fat Boy Slim and Beastie Boys) and Charlie Kaufman, declaring this “one of the most inventive Hollywood films in recent history.”

Well, ALL Hollywood films are “recent history” really.

But, it continues by praising the “intricate plot” woven around an “outstanding idea” and twittering that “Jonze dazzles at every turn as he tells this smart, subversive, and darkly comic tale.” The cast is praised and the movie is cemented as “Wonderfully hip, utterly marvelous.”
Tracy:  It's sort of sad that the movie's version of what old Charlie Sheen would look like is a lot less frightening than the reality. I don't understand how the movie is subversive at all. What is it subverting? I like it because it's an experimental movie that doesn't totally turn me off, and because I'd really like to have a Malkovich timeline room like Lester, but I think the filming wasn't that inventive (the porthole view to indicate looking through someone else's eyes is pretty obvious) and the writing has some big old problems. Your movie doesn't get to be hip just because the director is hip.
Natalie:  Ha! Poor Charlie Sheen. I don't understand the subversion idea either. I don't wholly dislike it but I wish it were something else. And, yeah, if the movie is a problem, it takes hip points away from the director not the other way around. I'm surprised the book didn't add in that Michael Stipe was a producer to try to add to the hipness.
Tracy:  Hah! Namecheck opportunity missed! So do you think it belongs in the book?
Natalie:  Eh. I won't kick it out of the book because there are MUCH worse movies that are currently taking up valuable real estate and it is inventive to a point but I think I could pretty easily replace it. Your verdict?
Tracy:  Yeah, I think keep it in the book. It's no Eternal Sunshine, but I guess it's representative of what was to come. Plus, Malkatraz!
Natalie:  Sigh. Eternal Sunshine. And, actually, reminding me of that movie changes my mind. I'd kick it out and replace it with ES because ES is NOT in the book which is just a sin.
Tracy:  WHAT???!!!!!
Natalie:  Yeah.
Tracy:  Oh, that's inexcusable. INEXCUSABLE. It's Kaufman, right?
Natalie:  Let me double check but I'm pretty sure
Yes, Kaufman
Tracy:  As you check, I seethe with rage.
That's fucking ridiculous. RIDICULOUS.
Natalie:  That's appropriate.

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