Monday, January 08, 2007

"Hannibal" and "M.A.S.H.": Dissected

While I'm printing my book out (which is taking forever -- who knew printing 497 pages could require such close supervision?), I thought I'd jump on here and offer some of my world-class opinions on some movies I saw recently on DVD.

1.) M.A.S.H. When my folks exclaimed in disbelief at dinner a couple weeks ago, "You haven't seen the original M.A.S.H.?", I decided to fill in that objectionable gap in my filmgoing career and put it in the queueueue on our Blockbuster NetFlix-ripoff. It came and, in the spirit of two dutiful film-studies freshman doing homework, my wife and I watched it. I give "M.A.S.H." props for realism and a feeling of showing how things were without trying to make the characters seem more likable or the tone-skewing gore less gory, and it has an episodic, I-Hate-Plot sort of feel which isn't always a bad thing. Overall, though, the film's wildly uneven and some of the comic set pieces have more in common with one of those straight-to-video National Lampoon movies than with movies currently recognized as comic masterpieces, like, say, "Dr. Strangelove". The football game that serves as the film's titular climax just seemed very weird to me. It was as though someone had cut and pasted an earlier draft of the big game from "The Longest Yard" (the remake, not the original) into the "M.A.S.H." script and everyone was too high to notice.

2.) "Hannibal". Of course I've seen this movie (3 times in theaters) but I had a hankering to watch it again because I'd been listening to Hans Zimmer's excellent and gloriously overblown score of late. I loved loved this movie when it first came out, and I really like Thomas Harris's novel of the same name (and I didn't even hate the book's end, the one that killed any chance Jodie Foster or Jonathan Demme might return to the franchise). Watching it again I found myself more unhappy this time than last that Anthony Hopkins couldn't be bothered to drop a few pounds before filming. Hannibal Lecter is the character he'll be remembered for; I find it a real letdown that Hopkins wasn't more committed to bringing Lecter back to life. It wasn't as if he'd have had to forego eclairs and barbecue chicken wings forever, just until "Hannibal" wrapped. I understand that in the 10 or more years that elapsed between Lecter's fedora-wearing island walk at the end of "Silence" and the moment when Pazzi shakes hands with Dr. Fell in "Hannibal", and people change in 10 years, even monsters. But still, it's hard to imagine the larger-than-life killing-and-eating-machine Lecter letting himself go to fat no matter how much he likes food. Might slow him down when he'd most need to be agile.

Aside from that though, some of the sequences that I thought worked like gangbusters back in '02 still work like gangbusters now. (Like every damn scene in Florence, particularly the hanging of Commendatore Pazzi). And the way Ridley Scott and the actors handled the Krendler brain-eating scene at the end perfectly captured how goddamn horrifying that scene was in the book. Seeing the film again made me want to not only reread the novel, but also to revisit the Ratner-directed "Red Dragon", which I thought was only so-so when I saw it in theaters, mostly on account of the miscasting of Edward Norton and the even more regrettable portliness of Anthony Hopkins in a film considering the fact it's set BEFORE "Silence of the Lambs". Maybe they can go back through "Red Dragon" and do to Hopkins's face (and gut) what Ratner did to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan's faces in "X-Men 3". That would be some Lucas-style meddling I'd be all for. Anyway I've got "Red Dragon" sitting here on my desk all ready to get its ass watched.

I feel like there were more movies I was going to talk about, but they've all gone out of my head. I sure haven't seen any in theaters lately. "For Your Consideration" was the last movie I saw, though I think "Children of Men" will be the next. Haven't read a non-rave for that movie.

Anyway, book's done printing. I'm out.


harwell said...

No comment on HANNIBAL RISING??? Surprised you haven't read it yet, mega-fan. Or have you?

blankfist said...



Michael said...

I've never seen M*A*S*H, either. Altman has never floated my boat. I can't stand those random zooms of his. I think actors worship him (and Woody Allen) because he let them do pretty much whatever they wanted to. And I think Dr. Strangelove is more clever and satirical than actually funny. Watching it, I smirked a few times, but I don't think I ever laughed.

Hannibal is not a great movie. The stuff in Italy was pretty good... Ridley knows how to use Old World settings better than pretty much anyone. And that shot when Lecter's face is crookedly half-reflected in the mirror is cool. Once they get back to the States, though... booooooooring and just kinda gross rather than horrific. And of course he put on a few pounds, Crane! He has spent the last few years EATING PEOPLE! PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOPLE!!!

Best of luck with your book!