Tag Archives: Jeff Bridges

The Disney-fication of the end of the world

The blandest love story ever told.

The blandest love story ever told.

The Giver is about a future civilization that exists on a mesa above the clouds all its own, no one ever going beyond the borders. There are strict rules about the sort of things you’d expect – don’t lie – as well as some more odd demands – don’t talk about the past. Families exist, but they are no longer based on genetics and people are assigned to these units. Everyone takes a daily dose of drugs to essentially neuter them emotionally and sexually. All because of how awful things used to be. Awful how? No one knows. Well, except one guy. He’s about to share the information, possibly with everyone in the settlement. And that may or may not be a good thing.

Not a bad premise. And, according to my daughter and wife, it was a pretty good book. But the movie … not so much.

It’s not that it’s not very good. In its own, clean, superficial way, it’s not bad. But it comes off as apocalypse-lite, a Disney-fied version of what could have been a darker, more interesting film. I kind of kept waiting for Fred MacMurray and the shaggy dog to appear during the black-and-white scenes, it was so pristine, straight-forward and dumbed-down.

I think, in the end, that’s what really ruined it for me, how The Giver insulted my intelligence. At the tail end of the film, our hero – whose name I don’t remember and isn’t worth my time to look up – marches a baby across the desert, feeding the baby with a bottle that seemingly appears from nowhere, and then both dress warmly for the mountain trek with extra clothes that, I don’t know, they picked up at a Dick’s Sporting Goods while we were watching the action back at the settlement. It was egregious and ridiculous, undercutting the seriousness of the moment.

My advice? Skip it. We’re about to get big-screen doses of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner that will likely far exceed what The Giver has to offer.

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All ‘The Long Goodbye’ was missing were nihilists, a marmot and a toe

Private detective Philip Marlowe lights his ever-present cigarette.

Private detective Philip Marlowe lights his ever-present cigarette.

Detective Green: My, my, you are a pretty asshole.
Philip Marlowe: Yeah, my mother always tells me that.

The Coen brothers, writers and directors of The Big Lebowski, have made no secret of their fondness for author Raymond Chandler and his unshakeable detective, Philip Marlowe. Not knowing much about Chandler, that really didn’t mean anything to me. But after seeing The Long Goodbye, director Robert Altman’s adaption of the Chandler novel by the same name, I totally get it now. The convoluted plot, the ridiculous characters, the twist on film noir, Los Angeles as the back drop, the drama of the wealthy and foolish wreaking havoc on all those around them. If you’re a Lebowski fan and haven’t seen The Long Goodbye, I recommend giving it a shot.

To me, what was most fascinating was the Lebowski-Marlowe comparison. Jeff Bridges’ Lebowski is a stoner shlub who loves his weed, White Russians and bowling. He gets dragged into nefarious business that’s not his simply by having the same name – Jeffery Lebowski – as the wealthy man whose drama it truly is. Lebowski stumbles and bumbles his way through a poorly executed ransom payment then stumbles and bumbles some more as he hopes to recover the cash and luck into a payday.

Elliot Gould’s Marlowe is a private detective, although the mystery of who killed Eileen Wade isn’t his case. Marlowe’s pal Roger Wade shows up late one night asking for a lift to Mexico. Marlowe obliges, then is arrested upon his return for aiding and abetting Roger in the murder of his wife. Marlowe is dragged in further by gangster Marty Augustine, who believes that Marlowe knows where Roger and Augustine’s missing money are located. Marlowe neither stumbles nor bumbles, nudging, grimacing, yelling, threatening and smart-alecking his way through the madness in an attempt to figure out who framed his friend and clear his own name, both with the law and the lawless.

The story is similar, and there are even similarities between Marlowe and Lebowski. But while Lebowski is just kind of wandering aimlessly hoping to luck into his fortune and out of trouble, Marlowe only appears to be aimless. His constant smart-ass comments, his chain smoking, his rumpled appearance, his mumbling, all of that are part of the show. He wants to be underestimated, because if you believe he’s a bozo, Marlowe has that much more of a chance to ooze into your life and learn what he wants to learn without you even realizing it. At first, Marlowe very much comes off as incompetent and a jackass. After awhile, the viewer starts to realize that’s just as false as anything Marlowe’s adversaries are throwing at him.

What I’m considering doing now is watching both, back-to-back, just to get a better look at how the two parallel each other. Marlow and Lebowski, two shlubs cut from slightly different cloth.

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Songs class rock radio needs to forget, No. 2

2. Don Henley, Dirty Laundry. Much like the Dude, I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man. OK … hate’s a strong word. Overrated and overplayed? That’s what’s happening here, particularly when it comes to the post-Iggles solo careers of the band’s members. This track, an indictment of the fluff that passes for television news, is soooo dated. First of all, no one younger than Henley watches the evening news anymore. Second, that “Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down” break was a bad idea in 1982, and 30 years later it sounds just as bad, as well as dated. Third, it’s not much of a rock song; it’s really a pretty pedestrian pop track that doesn’t hold up against most of Henley’s other hits, let alone The Eagles’ catalogue. So next time, radio programmer, the next time you’re preparing to insert this track, stop. Try Seven Bridges Road. Try Boys of Summer. Try something not by any member of The Eagles at all. Please. Pretty, pretty please.

I can’t image anyone wants to hear this, but here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46bBWBG9r2o

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