Friday, July 28, 2006

Miami Vice, The Ruins, The Weekend

Daniele Lorio Fedak, wife of blog reader and commenter Peter Fedak, is down in sultry Hotlanta this weekend to visit her friend, and had some time to hang out with me for a half-day. So at about 10 this morning, we drove up to the Regal Cinemas at the Mall of Georgia, the largest mall in the southeast, and saw an 11AM showing of Miami Vice. She told me as I dropped her off at the Marta station, that when I wrote about the movie on the blog, that I should write -- and she was explicit about this -- that she hated it. So here it is: Daniele hated Miami Vice. I actually don't think that's an adequate word for her feelings of antipathy -- it doesn't encompass the different facets and nuanced qualities of her loathing for the film. But it'll have to do.

As for me, I kind of liked it. Even sitting beside someone who was alternating between boredom and fury, I thought there were some great things about the movie. Of course, the biggest and best thing about it was the assistant editing. I know there were six credited on this one, but you could FEEL Kevin Hickman's personal contribution to this film. We stayed until his name scrolled up during the credits, and then clapped. Every now and again, a movie will come out that will tell everyone what they need to know about what's cool at that exact second. What cars are cool, what hair styles, what clothes, what jewelry, what everything. Miami Vice does that for the summer of '06. Mann shoots close-ups of jewel-encrusted watches, he shoots white, almost featureless Range Rovers as they pull up to the front of the club, what Crockett and Tubbs drive and wear seem to be important. When they have to get off of land, we see the very best in small planes and far-ranging "go fast boats" that allow their owners to drive from Miami to Cuba on a single tank of gas. Oh, and mojitos are the cool drink at the moment. I don't know what it was before, but now it's mojitos. The film's primary concern is dropping you fast and hard, naked and scared, right into the high-stakes world of undercover, narco-law enforcement. If you don't understand everything that's happening, Mann's not worried. If you have to feel along with the plot at certain times, he's fine with that -- even if it's not clear who sold which shipment of drugs to whom, or who's in league with whom and who's betraying who, you won't miss out on what's important. And the only time it gets boring is at the end, and that's not really all Mann's fault.

The ending was originally supposed to take place in a South American city where another part of the film was shot. The production started to film there, gun violence took place away from the actual filming but on the set, and so Jamie Foxx and his entourage were out and told Mann he wasn't coming back ever. As a result, Mann had to change the locale of his film's finale from this visually stunning, kinetic and frightening place no one's ever filmed before, back to the comparatively humdrum docks of Miami. As the final sequence degenerated into tired old drug deal cliches ("Show me the money and I'll show you the dope!" and "Send the girl!"), and then into gunfire, I could feel the bottom fall out of the movie. I would much rather have seen what kind of stuff would go down in this other part of the world (in which they'd filmed another scene earlier in the film) than how a gun battle on the Miami docks would go down. So the ending was a letdown. But anyway. It's Michael Mann, so if you're into film, you ought to go see it.

After I dropped Daniele off at the Marta station, I drove home and shortly thereafter finished The Ruins. I enjoyed it. It's a 319-page novel about four characters in a survival situation. It's pretty grueling at times, but after I was done, I felt almost viscerally that I had been there on that hill with those people, and endured what they'd endured. The geography of the book is minimal, just one big hill really, so there's not a lot to keep track of, but what there is seems to take on a life of its own in your head. As fast reads go, they don't come much faster than this book. There are no chapter breaks, so it keeps at you relentlessly all the way through. The whole novel's told in the third person limited voice, which means the narrator's inside only one character's head at a time. Each section is told from one of the four main characters' perspective -- one trick Smith pulls off is that he manages to make all four characters interesting and real -- not easy to do. I think for those who don't generally enjoy well-written genre fiction, specifically horror fiction, they may find the nature of the protagonist too silly to find much to be frightened by -- I was having a little trouble with it myself at time -- but for those who do appreciate these kinds of stories, the aims of their writers (to create in the reader a feeling of horror), than there is much to recommend about The Ruins. Ben Stiller's production company has bought the film rights to this one, and though I think this could make a great horror movie, I do wonder if a studio would let them make this the way it is. It's a dark, hopeless story, but exceptionally well-done.

All right. That's it. Have a good weekend everybody.

6 comments:

Captain Mike said...

The Mojito is most certainly the cool drink of 2006. I know this because I'm the only bartender at the club who knows how to make them, and I never had to make any until a couple of weeks ago. They are a pain in the ass to make, but they are delicious. All the wannabe Sex & the City chicks who used to order Cosmos by the boatload are now demanding Mojitos. Bitches.

harwell said...

So, I'm a little confused Crane: did you guys make-out at the movie or am I just reading into things??? Fedak, dude - I would definitely do a hickey check. You know how derrtay Crane rides...

Also, the way you describe Michael Mann showing us what's cool in 2006 sounds pretty much like every Hype Williams video ever made. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just...yeah, I am saying that. Isn't it? Could this movie have aspired for and achieved something more? I really am surprised I'm about to say this, but I almost wish they would've made it take place in the '80s. I hate nostalgia for nostalgia's sake, but if that's the reason for making a movie why not go through with it all the way? Probably scared Hickman would show up with a mullet.

Anyway...remember how good the Insider was?

That means you don't talk!

Nathan said...

Crane, thought you might like this.

Nathan said...

um...why don't I actually post the link that I thought you might like.

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/07/30/Columns/For_2008_election__Al.shtml

blankfist said...

Harwell, that's just messed up, dude. You know, if Gretchen was in LA, I'd like to think I could extend you and yours a courtesy by entertaining her without the posse throwing out the ills, you know what I be saying, cracka? Shit. I'd throw her the ills, though. I'd throw it in her mouth.

harwell said...

The ills? That's a new one to me, I've never heard that. I like it though. I like it a lot, boose. Makes me think of Ill Communication. Which then makes me think of talking to you and vomitting on my naked chest.