Samantha Morton has big breasts and Viggo Mortensen has skinny legs

Now I want to be in the film business, and I don’t care what it is, as long as I make the minimum requirements to get those awesome “for your consideration” screeners of shit I’d have to pay to see. Especially now, in my current situation, where I’d most likely have to wait until DVD to see half of these motherfuckers. This is what I was thinking to myself while watching said screeners this past Sunday night/Monday morning.

My buddy was housesitting for a friend, and it’s a nice place, the kind of thing to give ambition to an unambitious motherfucker like myself. In addition to a bunch of DVD’s and Blu-rays of old favorites, there were stacks of thin cardboard cases of these screeners. Fuckin’ A. So we started watching them on the dude’s sweet flat-screen, marathon-style.

The first movie was called The Messenger, starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. Now I know you know who the fuck Woody Harrelson is, and even though he’s never been out of style as far as I’m concerned, it’s safe to say that thanks to Zombieland he’s got a little more heat on him currently, a high temperature not recorded since the days he’s been doing buddy pics with IRS favorite Wesley Snipes. By the way, THAT motherfucker’s resurgence is LOOONG overdue. Make all the tax jokes you want, homeboy can fuckin’ bring it when he wants to, and I hope he gets to make that James Brown movie Spike Lee is always going on about (now that Lee’s Jackie Robinson flick is probably never gonna happen). Always bet on black, is what I’m trying to say. But I digress.

So yeah, you know who Harrelson is, but maybe you don’t know who or what a Ben Foster is. Foster is this kid who started off playing teeny dreamboy types in films like Liberty Heights (see that shit) and Get Over It (I don’t wanna see that shit), but nowadays it’s hard to even fathom that because the guy has been playing freaks and psychos for a while. Plus, he just has this crazy intensity to anything he does; if you watch him in Alpha Dog, you will see that Foster can’t even take a shit without looking like he’s gonna have himself a stroke — or maybe it was just one of those really painful dumps, I don’t know. But yeah, in this movie he plays a soldier who got wounded in Iraq and is now back in the States. Because he’s being played by Ben Foster, you know this dude has issues, and it doesn’t help that he’s been given a new assignment: breaking the news to a family that their soldier son/daughter/husband/wife/etc has been killed in action.

Holy shit, are those scenes tough to watch — which is the point, obviously. You feel like you’re witnessing something way too personal to be witnessing. You don’t want to be in this room and would love nothing more than to get the fuck outta there. There’s a subplot involving Foster and Samantha Morton (as the wife of one of the fallen) that I was never fully into, and yet I wanted those scenes to go on as long as possible. Because each additional minute spent watching these two mumbling at each other meant one less minute watching mothers and fathers and wives crying/yelling/vomiting after finding out their loved one is fuckin’ dead.

The off-duty scenes between Foster and Harrelson were far more interesting, reminiscent of some Hal Ashby kind of shit, which I guess means that I was getting a The Last Detail vibe from it. The performances are top-notch; Harrelson is good as always and this is easily Foster’s best work yet and Jena Malone is cute too. But the movie was OK but nothing worth tossing your cookies in a corner store for; the “We regret to inform you…” scenes were powerful to the point of being unwatchable, and the stuff with Foster & Harrelson was cool, but the Samantha Morton stuff wasn’t that interesting. If it’s Ms. Morton that interests you, maybe you’re better off watching a film she did with Jason Patric called Expired — HOLY SHIT what a fuckin’ movie THAT was.

The second movie was A Serious Man from the Brothers Coen. Real quick, can I bring up my little theory on the Coens? Ok, cool. You know that scene in The Big Lebowski when the Dude is at Maude’s place and she’s on the phone while some fuckin’ bald prick is laughing his ass off while reading something? Then both Maude and Bald Prick get on separate phones to talk to someone (from Spain, right? I don’t remember) and they share a joke (“Que ridiculo!”) and laugh their asses off while Dude just stands there looking assed out? That’s the Coens laughing at their secret joke and we’re the Dude left standing there wondering what in the fuck. And I love the fuckin’ Coens. You just have to admit their totally having their fun at what a bunch of dopes we are.

Anyway, I had read the script for this movie a few months before the film was released, and after the watching the finished product, I was surprised at how the movie damn near reflected the script exactly. I mean, even fuckin’ Tarantino made some cuts and changes for Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. But it was weird to see that the movie I pictured in my head while reading the screenplay is pretty much the same movie I saw on my friend’s buddy’s plasma set. The only thing missing was the neighbor’s kid constantly saying “Ow” each time he caught his old man’s fastball.

It takes place in 1960’s Minnesota and some actor I never heard of plays this professor whose life begins to take a turn for the shitty. His wife wants to leave him for some asshole, the kind of asshole who never raises his voice and plays at being super-nice to you in a way that makes you wish he’d fuckin’ scream profanities at you so you can deck the motherfucker. He has this deadbeat brother who lives with them, never looking for a place of his own, or a job for that matter. Then there’s this kid who doesn’t want to fail the prof’s class and maybe he did/maybe he didn’t try to bribe the dude. All this has our guy looking for answers, so he tries getting advice from some rabbis, and if the movie is saying what I think it’s saying based on the outcome of what the rabbis say, it’s got a pretty fuckin’ right on point about this kinda shit.

I thought the script was an amusing read, with only one real laugh-out-loud moment — and that’s exactly how I felt about the movie. I know this shit has been getting praised all over, but unfortunately I can’t say the same. I understand this is probably the Coen Bros. most personal work, but to me, the whole piece felt like minor Coens. Keep in mind that minor Coens is still Pretty Fuckin’ Good, I’m not slamming this one, I just don’t see coming back to it like I do their other flicks. Watching all the fucked up things our main dude goes through, I kept flashing back to the Coens’ other films, and how they seem to take pleasure in torturing their leading characters. It makes perfect sense that they’re very good friends with Sam Raimi.

3rd flick of the night was Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, directed by Michael Shannon’s former manager, Lee Daniels. Daniels produced Monster’s Ball and The Woodsman, then went on to make his directorial debut with a real piece of work called Shadowboxer. Now when someone’s first movie is incredibly well-received and watched, their second movie is eagerly awaited with bated breath. But since Shadowboxer was neither of those, I guess it’s safe to say there wasn’t much buzz going on with Precious, a buzz that soon came around after it won over the Sundance crowd and left with a couple of awards. They say the air is thin up in Park City, and perhaps that’s why motherfuckers were swooning over this one, because as far as I’m concerned, Precious is most definitely a film made by the same guy who made Shadowboxer.

Which is not to say that either film is garbage, because I might be one of two people who enjoyed the hell out of Shadowboxer (me and whoever decided to play it at the Silent Movie Theatre a few months ago) and I enjoyed the hell out of Precious. But the critics and audiences who are Slumdog Millionairing this motion picture are confusing me because they’re telling me this is not only Powerful and a Great Movie but downright Respectable. Me, I’m like Whaaa? Shadowboxer was a awesomely weird trip of a movie, and so is Precious. I’m just confused that something as oddball as Precious is getting a free pass by the general public.

Storywise, it actually sounds like something created for the Oscars; a fat, illiterate black chick tries to get by while getting the shit beat out of her physically and emotionally by her monster of a mother (played by monster of a comedian, Mo’Nique). But then I watched the fuckin’ thing; it’s a goddamn phantasmagorical freak show of garish colors and harsh camera filters and sweaty, pockmarked skin and extreme close-ups of a rapist’s face intercut with super gross shots of boiling cauldrons of pig’s feet. Ugliness seems to be Lee Daniels’ forte, in some cases repeated and familiar; the apartment Precious lives in is shot and designed much like the apartment Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lived in as a boy in Shadowboxer. Mariah Carey is here and made to look very dowdy and every ounce of Crazy Ho is drained out of her; the only pretty thing to look at in the entire movie is Paula Patton as the black version of Nice White Lady.

This flick features some great performances, and any awards Gabourney Sibide or Mo’Nique get will be richly deserved. The final scene between them is as intense and awesome a climax this year as watching Shoshanna Dreyfus & Aldo Raine try to do their thing at the end of Inglourious Basterds. If I wasn’t so overtaken by the nutty strange tone of it all, it might have affected me emotionally in a tear-jerker way. Instead, it only affected my head as I was left scratching it. The stuff Mo’Nique says to this poor girl, for example, left me at a weird crossroads, stuck between Cry Your Eyes Out Blvd. and Laugh Your Ass Off Lane.

At this point, we took a break from the screeners and watched Big Trouble in Little China because my friend had never seen it before and that, my friends, is a goddamn Crime Against Humanity, if you ask me. I think he liked it, I don’t know, I didn’t ask him; I fear the truth sometimes and would rather live in the Matrix when it comes to friends/families opinions on stuff I dig.

Fifth screener on the menu was The Road, the Weinstein Brothers’ attempt at having their own Oscar-winning film adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel. I’m sure you know the deal; post-apocalyptic world, man and his son walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu, getting into adventures, trying not to lose hope and humanity, shit like that. The guy who made The Proposition made this flick and I wish I dug The Road as much as I dug that flick, but alas, that was not the case.

It was an OK movie, but I just wasn’t able to get into it. I wish I could get into it more, but this a lot like The Messenger in that I liked it in stops and starts, but never as a whole. Plus, it’s one of those movies that feels a lot longer than it really is. Mortensen is good, but nothing special, the kid is really good and he didn’t annoy me the way most kid actors do. You totally get the sense that this is a kid who only knows this world (he was born after the Apocalypsation) and it’s pretty goddamn heartbreaking to see him enjoy what is quite possibly The Last Can of Coke In Existence — that shit would probably go well with the last fresh Twinkie in existence from Zombieland.

I didn’t know Charlize Theron was in the movie. The Road remains the only Cormac McCarthy I’ve yet to read, but I understand that Theron’s character is less a presence in the book than she is in the movie. Surely, the book is better, and I might even revisit the movie after I read it. But for now, this one was kind of a sad disappointment.

Last movie after sunrise was Brothers, starring Spider-Man, the guy who almost replaced Spider-Man, and Queen Amidala. Jim Sheridan directed it, and I guess he’s still recovering from that 50 Cent movie. Perhaps after one more movie he’ll get it out of his system, but this was still pretty good. Maguire’s the good brother, a Marine on his way out to Afghanistan and Gyllenhaal is the bad brother, and we know this because he’s introduced getting out of the joint and because he’s got the perpetual five o’clock shadow going on. That means you’re either a badass or bad. Or just lazy.

After Tobey goes out to fight the questionable fight, he gets into a chopper crash and it looks like he’s a goner. The family is devastated (the kids seem to take it pretty well, though) and poor Natalie Portman is left looking as alone as Mathilda after Leon went jihad on Stansfield. Bad bro Gyllenhaal slowly becomes the new daddy to the family, and we are treated to a few montages of the warmth entering all their hearts, etc. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve seen the entire movie, and you probably already know the little twist that follows. Shit, you don’t even have to see the movie to know where this shit is going, but I’ll hold off anyway.

Like I said, it was a good flick; Gyllenhaal is decent, Portman is good and looking older for a change (is it her hair?), but fuckin’ Maguire is pretty fucking top notch. I guess when you make Spider-Man money, you can take it easy on the acting jobs, but it’s work like this that makes me wish he worked a lot more. You know who doesn’t make Spider-Man money but is certainly working his ass off? Muthafuckin’ Clifton Collins Jr., baby. Yup, he’s in this motherfucker, as Maguire’s superior. Good for him, and good for Jenny Wade showing up in one scene as Gyllenhaal’s date. When I did the MySpace thing, I had her — and half the cast of Feast — as a friend, and she was capable of some very entertaining blogs when she felt like it.

My main complaint would have to do with something that happens to Maguire, and what results from it. I just never bought it. I don’t know if they had to trim that shit out or it was never in the script to begin with, but it felt like there were some scenes missing from this movie about Maguire, and I think they were sorely needed. His character pretty much changes in a snap of the finger, and this was the kind of shit I think you needed to see happen in slow-motion, so to speak. Ugh, I’m not making any sense. Shit, I never was.

So that was it for the first night of screeners; we then chowed down on breakfast burritos after. I could end it here, but let me just mention something about these screeners. Some of them actually give you a choice to either accept or not accept the rules; shit about not pirating copies and not letting your friends borrowing them, etc. And then ACCEPT and DECLINE would pop up on the screen. Clicking on ACCEPT gets you to the main movie menu, but I was tempted with clicking DECLINE to see what would happen. I just didn’t want to find out that the DVD would get all Mission Impossible and self-destruct or something, so I never did. Also, they all have periodic disclaimers during the movie, reminding the viewer that this isn’t something to be pirated or sold.

About those disclaimers; it was interesting to see how they differed in timing, depending on the studio. Lionsgate (Brothers, Precious) was the most frequent, their shit popped up every fuckin’ five minutes. Dimension Films (The Road) was every ten minutes, and so was Oscilloscope with The Messenger. Focus Features (A Serious Man) wins the prize with a disclaimer popping up only every 30 minutes. Nice work, Focus. Regardless of frequency, the disclaimers weren’t distracting — with the exception of The Messenger. While all the other disclaimers would fade in and out at the bottom of the screen, fuckin’ Messenger would scroll in from the top of the screen from left to right — twice. What the fuck, man. That shit just cost you a nomination, if I was a member of the Academy. But I’m not, so consider yourself blessed.

There might be another screener marathon tonight. If so, consider this shit Part 1. If not, consider this shit Buckaroo Banzai and I just promised you …Against The World Crime League next.

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