Monday, June 8, 2009

47 words about Drag Me to Hell (and then some stuff about $12.50 movies and some other stuff about—oh, you’ll see…)

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Produced by Grant Curtis, Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert
Written by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi

Gran Torino (2008)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Clint Eastwood, Bill Gerber and Robert Lorenz
Screenplay by Nick Schenk
From a story by Dave Johannson and Nick Schenk

The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Stanley Roberts
With additional dialogue by Michael Blankfort
Based on the novel by Herman Wouk

The Eiger Sanction (1975)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Robert Daley, Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown
Screenplay by Rod Whitaker, Hal Dresner and Warren Murphy
Based on the novel by Trevanian (the pseudonym of Rodney William Whitaker)

Had I seen Drag Me to Hell on DVD, I would’ve liked it more.
But for $12.50?!?
No way.
And why should an office drone have to suffer for a stupid gypsy’s financial irresponsibility? Raimi’s attempt at regaining street cred falls short: Flick needed to be sicker.

The last movie I saw in the theater (and on that very short list is also Watchmen—I could’ve waited for it on DVD, I think—but more on that movie in a few weeks—I’m working on a superhero movie mega-post) that I thought was worth the overpriced ticket was Clint Eastwood’s incredible Gran Torino (recently released on DVD—it’s on the top of my N-flix list now).

It’s fun to watch a cranky old man mouth off—to someone else, of course.
Walt is the protagonist of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, and more than just the ultimate cranky old man flick (a geriatric Falling Down? A septuagenarian Taxi Driver?), it’s a rich, detailed movie about a dying breed of American male—
specifically one man who refuses to simply fade away.

And as that dinosaur, Clint Eastwood is awesome: outrageous and hilarious, but heartfelt and moving when he needs to be.
Meanwhile, he’s the opposite of vain: showing off his wrinkles to great effect, but still so kick-ass and physically imposing.

Without his wife, he’s nothing, and Walt’s waiting to die, but he wants to do it on his own terms.
He wants to bend the world to his view and he won’t back off.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

A lot of folks gripe about Eastwood’s lackadaisical anti-style, but I dig it. What others call bad camerawork, I like to thing of as a quasi-documentary style—
Which is the antithesis of most of the characterizations, which often fall into caricature—but this is Walt’s movie, dig? You’re just visiting.

Clint’s movies, despite—or perhaps because of—their use of natural light and locations, are often quite anti-naturalistic: People don’t act like normal people in his flicks.
Haven’t his critics figured that out yet? For me, Clint has a stylization that I really dig: perhaps because I grew up watching his movies—even his so-called failures are entertaining in some respect.
I may not have seen Bridges of Madison County (and may never—I only recently saw The Eiger Sanction—see below), or Changeling or Million-Dollar Baby, but when I finally saw Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I really liked it! I also like Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart: Both are detailed, entertaining movies—like something transported from the 1930-1950s in characterization, although contemporary in temperaments.

Back to Gran Torino:
I did want a Hmong to say to him, “Hey cool it man, we were killing commies, too, and for a better reason than you, so shut yer trap.”
I do think it’s realistic that it’s the women--through their food--who turn Walt around. And the sass of the sister? I think that’s a big clue to how Walt’s wife—the elephant in the room—acted towards her husband.

The amazing thing about Eastwood the director is how he can take themes and tropes that feel like they could be from 1940s and 1950s movies, introducing and updating them into a contemporary palette—something that crosses generational lines, creating a movie that really deserves the praise it’s getting—and probably deserves the criticism, too. (But I ain’t linking to that….)

Speaking of 1950s films, here’s something I wrote in April 2008, after watching the DVD of The Caine Mutiny:
Damn good filmmaking, The Caine Mutiny is still worthy of being called a classic. If you haven’t seen it, please try and catch it. It’s a rich, detailed, beautifully acted movie. The leads are all essentially cast against type, a move that’s still brilliant, I kid you not.

The only reason The National Film Board of Ivanlandia can’t give The Caine Mutiny 5/5 is because it found the “love story” segments so awful and dull, it had to fast-forward through them.
(But our tolerance for that sort of thing is almost nil; the more romantic viewer might find them a pleasant diversion from the more testosterone-loaded Navy scenes—this flick is so butch, it’s got Lee Marvin as an extra!)

The rest of the movie is essentially perfect, and if you’re a first time viewer, don’t mock the special effects: for the 1950s, they were considered spectacular.

And always choose The Caine Mutiny over A Few Good Men, if you’re choosing between naval courtroom dramas.

Returning to the United Provinces of Eastwoodlandia:
The National Film Board of Ivanlandia finally got around to screening The Eiger Sanction in April:

Since I consider myself a huge Clint Eastwood fan, especially of his 1970s work, I’m surprised it took me so long to see The Eiger Sanction.

But I think my patience (or laziness) was rewarded: This is a great six-pack movie! A real sarcastic and politically incorrect subversion of the spy genre (more akin to Harry Palmer than James Bond, if you get my drift), the espionage/revenge aspects of the script seem like excuses to lead up to some of the most exciting mountaineering footage ever, with many shot beautifully composed despite the harsh and extreme conditions.

This flick must’ve been awesome to see on the big screen. Although several of the characters are absurdist (especially the albino boss), the movie’s visual style is very low-key, typical Eastwood. And ironically, this low-key style, combined with the most amazing climbing footage ever caught on film, makes The Eiger Sanction not feel as dated as most other spy/action films from this time.

This movie really deserves a cult following---and now that the creators of The Venture Brothers have given The Eiger Sanction a shout-out on the commentary of their series 3 DVD, maybe it’ll get one. (I’ve had The Eiger Sanction on and off my N-flix list since I became a member in 2005, and it was The Venture Brothers’ commentary that finally made me watch it.)

BTW: Fans of The Destroyer series of very sarcastic, ultraviolent pulp paperbacks (of which I count myself one) take note: series creator Warren Murphy is one of The Eiger Sanction’s co-screenwriters!

Since today’s post was written on June 6, 2009—Damien Thorn’s birthday, I thought I’d LINK back to an early entry on The United Provinces of Ivanlandia, where I praise and criticize the son of nataS…

And I PROMISE: the next 47th Minute Project is in the works, we swear!


  1. Clint Bogart is awesome in THE EIGER MUTINY. I saw that movie in a theater in Wichita, Kansas back in 1829. A one-eyed midget was giving me the blow-job of a lifetime, and in the movie, just as the whole city exploded in a nuclear hellstorm, so did I and the whole theater. It was a mind-melting experience that i'll never forget.

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  3. I agree on Gran Torino. Totally enjoyed it in the movie mini-stadium. Loved how Clint used the racial slurs to make a very knock-you-over-the-head but entertaining point. A friend of mine described it as the best Bronson movie w/o Bronson. Always love the badassitude, and Clint is the perfect angry at the world old man bad-ass. Was reminded of his redemptive character in The Unforgiven, which I'm a big fan of.

    Drag Me To Hell was a lot of fun. Of course not as much so as the Evil Dead films, but the well paced, funny and still with gross out parts - heck, the gypsy lady alone supplied plenty of nasty disgusting moments. It was funny that by stepping on the down-trodden in order to get the big promotion, the blond next door main character incurred the wrath of Satan. What didn't make sense was that the old gypsy could summon the power of the dark-side, yet still couldn't make her house payments. But then when you consider the scene when she visits the bedlam of the gypsy's house it seemed more of a xenophobic diatribe against lower-strata European immigrants. All the way through to the end was not unlike an issue of Creepy or Eerie.