Results for tag "hail-caesar"

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Robot-Kraken Ep 006 – Pickle and Peanut Pondering Rainbows


Ep 006 – Pickle and Peanut Pondering Rainbows

Look! Another episode of ROBOT KRAKEN! Kris and Thom take on the new Batman V Superman trailer, The Coen Brothers new flick, Hail Caesar, X-Files, Pickle & Peanut, art techniques and how to find alcohol.

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Review: Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!Hail Caesar is an interesting problem. The Coen Brothers are certainly no strangers to the disconnect between what THEY find interesting, and what the audience might be able to tolerate. In fact, I’ve always felt that their mainstream successes have seemed almost like the unseen machinations of some curiously sarcastic time traveler, engineering this material to be out in the world when, if unmolested, mainstream viewers shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, have the palate for it. The fact is, while I concede that Big Lebowski, Oh Brother and No Country each had good pacing and slightly less obtuse narrative flow than their normal fare, I’ve never looked at any of these films and thought ‘mainstream’… which is not to suggest I’m a coffeeshop film snob. I have just generally found myself the only one in the theater with whatever shooting out of my nose. I recall, during The Man Who Wasn’t There, losing my breath and gasping and wheezing from laughter, and coming to my senses and the theater was dark, still, and silent.

Caesar is a typical Coen Brothers project in that it is many things at once, and not afraid to play with dichotomy. It IS, as the critics declare, a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age. But it is also a biting satire of that same system. They slavishly recreated the look and feel of some incredible numbers from the song and dance era, and in typical fashion for them, built a world that is stylistically notional to true history: much like the Capitol Pictures of Barton Fink (again, featured in this film) the Hollywood of the Coen Brothers is sunny, perfect, and artificial. The characters breeze in and out of the affected narrative of the Coen Brothers script, equally parts of the madcap, almost frenetic interaction and at the same time, troubled observers of cracks in the dyke, the way many of the Coen’s creations are both critical of, and necessary to, the context of the story. This love letter paints some wonderful scenes, but the edge is there. Witness the initially perfunctory but quickly mind-numbing pre-meeting with various religious representatives, or the earnestness in which the Communists spout ideology while at the same time lust for revenge and a payout. Everything is a target here: the blacklist, celebrities who profess to be philosophical, the Studio System, actors as commodities, journalists, corporate types, the French… and as usual, the Coens make each character compelling, even when they’re fodder for the joke.

This was one of their best comedies, I think. It didn’t strike the same chord as Hudsucker or Lebowski, but it was a worthy addition to their ‘Period’ series of films, and felt like a Yin-Yang parallel to Barton Fink, which spoke to some of the same absurdities of the Hollywood system of the day, but from a depressed, lonely, screenwriter’s perspective with a nod to noir intrigue. However, this was their worst opening to date. Part of me wonders if its a product of the timing of its release: the box office is dominated by an earnest, fantastic piece of cinematic nostalgia, and the Oscars are being lampooned for their insular focus on white, safe industry darlings. Perhaps the viewing public was neither in the mood for this sort of film, or its subject matter. Perhaps its loose plot and slow pace was too droll for most people to enjoy. Not sure. But the film earned critical acclaim (surprising, in a way, given that the press, and film buffs, are notoriously sensitive about work critical of their world) and mediocre at best fan ratings. It will be interesting to see how it is viewed in the years to come. Recall many of the Coen Brothers’ most interesting works barely made a blip on the big screen.

A few additional notes:
– Clancy Brown and Christopher Lambert together again? Highlander flashbacks!
– Busby Berkeley is well represented here, with the flawless aquatic sequence, cut short by the actor (Scarlett Johansson) breaking character at the last minute
– Gene Kelly’s work was present here as well, in the imagery from Anchors Aweigh and the general cocksure confidence (and tight pants) of the actor’s work in general (as seen in Channing Tatum’s character)
– Donald O Conner is here too, as Channing Tatum’s bar table tap sequence owes much to Applied Mathematics:
-While Manix is based on a real fixer from the Studio days (See Hollywoodland) I thought it was particularly interesting that the character was unnecessary. He fixed nothing. Clooney’s character, Baird Whitlock, was discovered by Hobie Doyle; Scarlett’s character, DeeAnna Moran, is ultimately married to the director, Laurence Laurentz (excellent wordplay in the script on this name) who knocked her up (Ralph Fiennes again killing it) as Manix had suggested, but without his involvement; The Thacker twins pursued their stories regardless of his excuses; the ransom paid for Clooney’s character’s return was lost; Hobie’s dialog problems were resolved through a screenwriting change… Manix, supposedly so pivotal to the studio’s security and branding that he hand-wrung over his headhunter recruitment temptations, in the end spun around in circles.

I’m looking forward to seeing this movie 333 times, as per the usual process with Coen Brothers films…

EDIT: I forgot to mention one critical point: Manix WAS important, and did accomplish something major: he saved the life of the film editor, who seemed to me to be a nod to Anne V. Coates… when he pulled the safety switch and turned off the rollers that were pulling her scarf and strangling her. What I found interesting here was that his value was towards a back of house, invisible employee, not the executives and celebs he was tasked with handling.

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