. . . Lost in Translation

. . .

Movie comment: Lost in Translation

After the California recall I didn't think it was possible to feel any more alienated, but seeing this movie did the job. Now I feel alienated from New York, too.

Imagine Larger Than Life devoting half its running time to the elephant, solo. Now imagine the elephant, solo, shot full of tranquilizers and stumbling around in pink panties. Well, Lost in Translation's not even that good, unless you find Gap ads more entertaining than elephants.

Doesn't anyone remember Bill Murray's Rushmore interviews? When he said he took a salary cut because Wes Anderson's screenplay assured him he wouldn't have to work as hard as usual? Whereas he was usually paid to pump life into otherwise barren scenes? Haven't any reviewers noticed that their favorite Lost in Translation moments are precisely what Murray was talking about? "OK, Bill -- do karaoke!" "Stupid Japanese commercial -- take fifty-four!" No wonder he looks trapped.

Aside from leaving improv room for Murray, the script is only what you'd fear from a comfortably wealthy arts major, complete with a voice-of-authority encouraging the protagonist to keep on writing, she'll be great someday. Very much Life Without Zoe, Part Deux, and almost enough to make me watch Storytelling again -- now there's an unwelcome impulse.

Sofia Coppola wants to make herself look good the way Woody Allen used to make himself look good, but she's unable or unwilling to provide her stand-in with any distinguishing marks. Scarlett Johansson's dialog is just as vapid as Anna Faris's, her stare even more vacant. The movie's one attempt at wit is so clumsily executed that it took a minute to work out the point: The heroine's Hollywood rival says merrily that she's registered under the pseudonym, "Evelyn Waugh." (OK, so the rival has a sense of humor.) Sofia/Zoe/Mary Sue looks sulky and objects, "But Evelyn Waugh was a man." (OK, so Sofia's got no sense of humor...?) Then Sofia's husband complains that Sofia is too aggressively intelligent and well-educated, having gone to Yale. (OK, so... uh... we're supposed to have assumed that someone would use the name "Evelyn Waugh" without knowing who he is? And shouldn't Yale have warned her that English isn't the official language of Japan?)

Coppola's blind faith in our blind faith in her POV's superiority puzzled me, but here's my tentative solution: Having been told all her life she's a genius, she interprets lack of interest in her ass as a sign of intellectual shallowness. "Daddy doesn't act like that."

At this point the only future I see for humanity is if the entire species goes sterile except for Kimberly Chun and some guy who hasn't yet expressed his opinion in print.

As for Sofia Coppola, call me when she remakes The Furies.

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Elvis Dead at Budokan

The scope of our eugenics proposal has been reduced thanks to intervention by Ross Nelson:

I believe my first comment to the missus upon exiting that "film" was, "Was that a rich girl's movie, or what?" Leaving aside the complete and utter implausibility of Charlotte as Yale Philosophy major, I really can't imagine anyone who's not clinically depressed suffering from terminal ennui as much as she does, unless we assume (and we also assume this is true of Ms. Coppola), that Japanese luxury hotels and weeklong trips to other continents are so common as to be unworthy of any attention what so ever. I did like the whiskey ads, though.

I knew I had to see Bubba Ho-Tep when I heard the plot, though I didn't have high hopes. My low expectations were not really exceeded, though I thought there were some flashes of brilliance, mostly in the filming of the time-dilation and decrepitude of the home. I was reminded of a line of dialog in Urinetown when Officer Lockstock say, "Be careful, Little Sally, too much exposition can ruin a show." Not to mention repetitive voice-over narration. Still, this feels like a show that deserves a remake. One where the writers get a little more time and money.

Or a lot less time in the end product.

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Movie Mop-Up: 2003

Given how much I enjoy early 1930s product, I'm not quite ready to call for a reinstated Production Code, but reviewing my recent first-release experiences, I'm struck by how many of the satisfactory ones were "family-friendly" -- Lilo & Stitch, Holes, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spirited Away, School of Rock.... The best adult-oriented "film" I saw in 2003 was videotaped by Spanish TV reporters. The most tolerable R or NC-17 rater I remember was Y Tu Mama Tambien, and even it was just Beavis-&-Butthead plus Godardian voiceovers and yet another of those scenes which will someday lead historians to conclude that our era enaged in male homosexuality solely as an emetic.

Of course, the early 1930s had a hyperactive studio system and no film schools, whereas contemporary Hollywood careers don't usually allow time to learn about grown-up stuff before production starts. Why fake it? Let overgrown children make overgrown children's films.

From what Earl Jackson Jr. says, I should be attending Korean film instead. I'd only be able to attend it on DVD, which seems like an admission of defeat, but hey, what wouldn't be?

+ + +

Any year starting with a "2" will end with a mucilaginous stack of "If only"s clogging soul's gorge. Here's one small enough to dislodge:

If only Bill Murray wasn't so irritatingly ambivalent about working and Sofia Coppola hadn't so much opportunity to practice her "But I want you to buy me an Oompa-Loompa now!" routine, we might have ended the year with Murray's Bad Santa and Billy Bob Thornton's Lost in Translation.

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Lost in Translation: Follow-Up Speculation

Regarding the worst Bill Murray movie ever, Lawrence La Riviere White writes:

I have one verisimilitude question: as a thorough student of the Larry Sanders Show, I noticed that Bill Murray's character seems oddly distant from his handlers. Doesn't a guy who can pull down 2 million for a week's work have a personal assistant w/him? On a more serious note, & to help shore up my fragmentary knowledge of film, isn't Wim Wenders the original Rolex to LIT's sold-on-the-sidewalk knock-off? Even down to the knowing hip music references? (I remember Wenders short w/a guy sealed behind a panoramic window looking out at Central Park. At one point he's flipping through albums. I was delighted to see the second Psychedelic Furs in there.) It has been a long time, but I was quite taken w/Kings of the Road & Alice in the Cities. & shooting the Coppola surrogate in The State of Things. Do you have patience for Bruno "I'm the saddest puppy in the pet store window" Ganz?


I would only note that while there is, indeed, more than a trace of Wenders, it's mostly lost in an attempted translation of Wong Kar Wai.

Josh, however, is of the majority opinion. Wish I were there, but having been raised on a diet of Persona and Red Desert, I retain the old-fashioned distinction between depression and petulance. And as charming as it would be to imagine LIT's encouragement being played like the ESP test in Ghostbusters, the autobiographical protagonist who's forecast a brilliant future is too well established a narrative convention for me to ignore.

On the other hand....


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