Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

zoolander_2_poster

On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #15: Quintet (dir by Robert Altman)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

quintet

The 1979 post-apocalyptic film Quintet aired on FXM on November 15th.  I recorded it because this film is often cited as being one of director Robert Altman’s worst but I’ve also read some very passionate defenses of Quintet.  Since I’ve enjoyed several of Altman’s films (Nashville, Gosford Park, Short Cuts, The Company, The Player, The Long Goodbye, and many more), I wanted to experience Quintet for myself.

I mean, seriously — a postapocalyptic sci-fi film from Robert Altman!?  That would have to be at least interesting, right?

Anyway, I watched Quintet and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what the Hell was going on for most of the film.  Things made a bit more sense after I did a little bit of research and I discovered that Quintet was 1) inspired by a fragment of a dream that Altman had and 2) went into production despite not having a completed script.

Quintet opens with a breath-taking shot of a frozen landscape.  There’s been a new ice age.  The entire Earth is frozen.  There’s only a few hundred humans left and their number is rapidly dwindling.  Some, like Essex (Paul Newman) and Vivia (Brigitte Fossey) spend their days hiking across the tundra and hunting seals.  Others — like practically everyone else in the entire freaking film — spend their times in ramshackle villages, pursuing what little pleasure they can find while waiting to die.

In this new frozen world, the most popular activity — outside of getting drunk — is playing a board game called Quintet.  I have no idea how Quintet is played, though the film is full of scenes of people playing it.  From what we do see, it really doesn’t look like that fun of a game but I guess you can’t be picky when you’re waiting to freeze to death.  I mean, honestly, if the world’s ending, I’d rather play a board game than charades.

Anyway, in one of the frozen towns, a group of people are having a Quintet tournament, with the rule being that, once you’re eliminated in the board game, you are also killed in real life.  (And again, this is where it would have been helpful for the film to take just a few minutes to clarify just how exactly Quintet is played.)  One of the Quintet players is killed by a bomb, which unfortunately blows up Viva as well.  Seeking revenge (or, at least, I’m guessing that was his motivation because Paul Newman didn’t exactly give the most communicative performance of his career in Quintet), Essex assumes a fake identity and enters the tournament.

Soon, he’s running around the frozen landscape, killing people.  He knows that the final player standing will receive a prize of some sort but he doesn’t know what the prize is.  How deep!  Or something.

Dammit, I really wanted to defend Quintet.  I really did.  Whenever I see a movie that has gotten almost universally negative reviews, my natural instinct is to try to find something good about it.  And I will say this: visually, Quintet is fascinating.  A lot of care was put into creating this frozen world and it’s interesting to note how every location is decorated by elaborate ice sculptors.  The ice may be destroying civilization but it can’t squelch humanity’s natural creativity.

Unfortunately, Quintet  may be well-designed but it’s also a painfully slow film.  Just because the film takes place on a glacier, that doesn’t mean that it needs to move like one.  The slow pace is not helped by the fact that many of the characters have a tendency to suddenly start delivering these faux profound philosophical monologues, the majority of which are about as deep as the typical Tumblr post.

Quintet stars Paul Newman, who was both an iconic movie star and a legitimately great actor.  He spends most of Quintet alternating between looking confused and looking stoic.  That said, it’s always interesting to watch an actor like Paul Newman slog his way through an artistic misfire like WUSA or Quintet.  Let’s give Paul Newman some credit: he delivered his lines with a straight face. Just as Essex knew he was trapped on a glacier, Paul Newman understood that was trapped in Quintet.  Both did what they had to do to survive.

Robert Altman was a great director but Quintet is not a great film.

It happens.

quintettrain

Music Video of the Day: Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush (1987, dir. Jim Blashfield)


Now we get to the other version of Don’t Give Up. Or as I like to call it, the literal interpretation of the song Don’t Give Up. I don’t know why this version was made, but if you have only seen the beautiful version directed by Godley & Creme, then this is worth watching. It focuses on the sad meaning of the lyrics. Gabriel and Bush barely make an appearance in the music video. We instead follow the people the song is singing about.

While I don’t know for sure why this music video was made, I have a theory. I think it’s a pretty good one too. So far I have only written about three music videos directed by Godley & Creme: Don’t Give Up, Rockit, and Two Tribes. They also directed Every Breath You Take by The Police. That’s the gorgeous music video that has an interesting behind-the-scenes story. Every Breath You Take is also one of the most notoriously misinterpreted songs. So misinterpreted that people have gotten married to it and even couples sent Sting letters saying it was their song. The music video only reinforces that by not looking like anything that resembles the meaning of the song. Something tells me that while I’m sure that Gabriel thought Godley & Creme made a wonderful video, he was probably well aware of what happened to Every Breath You Take. It is very easy to watch the music video and misread what the song is about because you are overcome by the single take, the eclipse, and the deeply touching constant embrace between Gabriel and Bush. I did. I didn’t know the meaning of the song till I sat down to write these two posts.

That’s my best guess as to why this music video was commissioned. It is nowhere near as good as the original. However, it does get the meaning of the song across better. You can read more about the origin of the song over on Songfacts.

Jim Blashfield seems to have directed about 10 music videos and produced a couple of them for Sesame Street. He is still around today. You can find more information on him at his website.

Missy Stewart was the production designer on this music video. In particular, some of her last ones were for director Gus Van Sant. It should come as no surprise that she would go on to work as a production designer on a couple of Gus Van Sant films such as Good Will Hunting (1997). She is still around too, having worked on Mother’s Day this year. You can also find more information on her website.

Enjoy!