Dances with Jailbait

Hey, was Step Up 3D shot with 3D cameras or post-converted? And do 3D movies look better on 3D TV’s? I ask because I went to Fry’s last Friday and went to one of the 3D demo setups and that movie looked very impressive for some bullshit about a bunch of spastic good-looking young bastards who are going to change the world (not to mention the minds of those who Simply Don’t Understand) through the power of Dance. Ah, whatever — I didn’t come to watch in 3D what I can see in Real Life at any water fountain/bench area in the middle of any shopping center (no, I don’t have change), I came to buy a movie I wanted to watch.

Yeah man, I managed to snag a copy of the extended cut of Terrence Malick’s The New World at Fry’s for about $5, but that probably has to do with the plain & simple fact that nobody was buying them the first time around when that shit was selling for $20, and even at $5 no one’s buying it. The public has made it very clear to Mr. Malick — Step Up or shut up.

Colin Farrell plays John Smith (the guy from the cartoon Pocahontas), and some Native American actress with a name too complicated to remember, she plays Pocahontas (only they never call her Pocahontas, they don’t call her anything, and if they did, I certainly didn’t hear it). He’s part of a whole group of these British dudes who come the titular New World and notice a bunch of “naturals” already living nearby, so they’re like Oh yeah, I guess we have to deal with this nuisance if we’re gonna settle here.

Actually, that’s not quite exactly the deal; Christopher Plummer is the leader of this voyage, Captain Newport (because he loves smoking those menthols) and he’s kind of decent about the whole deal. He tells his men not to rock the boat (figuratively; they’ve since disembarked) with the natives, because it’s not cool to be a dick, and besides, they might have to trade for food and supplies and you just don’t bite the hand that could potentially feed you.

Captain Pall Mall also rescinds the execution order for Smith to hang (for kinda being a mutinous motherfucker), and the scene basically goes like this:

Captain Pack o’ Smokes: Did you learn your lesson? 

Smith: Yes.

Captain Pack o’ Smokes: Good. Now don’t you go doing that again, you crazy kid. 

There’s this other dude named Wingfield, played by David Thewlis, and he’s just a fuckin’ hater and he’s always talking shit about Smith. Newport has Smith lead a team of men to go see some of these Native Americans and see about working out some kind of hook-up on supplies (it didn’t take long for these Brits to Bogart their whole stash), and then Wingfield jumps in with his badly-disguised bitch-fit. Apparently Wingfield must’ve watched Dances with Wolves too many times, because he thinks Smith is going to form some kind of alliance with the Naturals and use his knowledge of the Brits’ strengths and weaknesses to take the whole settlement down.

Anyway, Smith gets taken by the natives and is just about to get his scalp handed to him when in comes Pocahontas to convince them otherwise. What follows is a tale about Smith getting friendly with the natives, while getting really friendly with Pocahontas, all told through the magical lightly hallucinogenic-glazed lens of one Mr. Terrence Muthafuckin’ Malick.

Smith is into Pocahontas, and why not, she’s cute in a natural (read: rarely bathes) kinda way. After I first saw this movie, I went home and looked her up on the Internet. While typing her name up, I thought to myself “She’s cute, she’s got a nice body”, then I found her IMDB entry and read on her bio that she was born in 1990 and since this movie was shot in 2004-2005 that would mean — OH MY GOD, NO! OH PLEASE GOD, NO! OH MY GOD, HERE THEY COME! THEY’RE COMING IN THROUGH THE WINDOWS LIKE IN TERRY GILLIAM’S BRAZIL! WHY AM I MAKING MOVIE REFERENCES RIGHT NOW? OH NO, PLEASE DON’T ASK ME TO SIT DOWN RIGHT OVER THERE, CHRIS HANSEN, I DIDN’T KNOW, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW, I MEAN SHE’S HOOKING UP WITH COLIN FARRELL AND YOU’D FIGURED SHE, I MEAN, YOU WOULD THINK, I MEAN, THEY WOULD NEVER HIRE, UH, I, UH…

I SWEAR, I THOUGHT SHE WAS OVER 18!

Speaking of this chick who almost got me thrown in jail, a friend of a friend attended a screening of this film with Ms. Under 18 in attendance for a Q&A after, and after the whole deal, he went outside and saw her trying to get something from the Dippin’ Dots machine. He said that she displayed a remarkable patience as she repeatedly put the dollar in, just to have it spat back out at her. I think that patience might have something to do with having spent a long time playing a character in a setting where there was no running water, no electricity, no microwaves and no Hot Pockets. You had to put in work to eat; you had to plant crops, grow crops, do all the crop-related things just to get some food in the belly. Back then, fishing was a necessity, not a sport to do with your drunk friends. You also had to grow some balls and hunt a fuckin’ animal every once in a while. Anyway, she eventually got the Dippin’ Dots, my friend said. I can only imagine that those Dippin’ Dots tasted great, considering how hard she had to work at getting them.

When this film was first released in L.A. and Nueva York back in late 2005, it was 150-minutes long and for some unknown reason, I didn’t immediately go. I guess I had other things to do, and besides, it’s not like the movie’s going anywhere anytime soon, right?

Holy shit, I should’ve held a mirror up to my douchebag face the moment I found out that Malick had the movie pulled so he could re-edit it; I was fine putting my trust in the director here, assuming he’s cutting a better version of the movie that reflects his ultimate vision — but now I felt assed out of watching a cut of the movie that will most likely never be seen again. It’s like Kubrick re-editing 19 minutes out of 2001: A Space Odyssey after the premiere; on the one hand, he probably improved that masterpiece, but on the other, the rest of us are left wondering just what was in those 19 minutes.

Anyway, when the movie was re-released in early 2006, it was not just cut by 15 minutes but it also had some stuff that wasn’t in the previous version, as well as having some stuff moved around. I eventually saw this 135-minute version of The New World twice; once in theaters and then a few months later on DVD. I dug it both times and while it didn’t match The Thin Red Line (his best work so far, in my opinion — keep in mind I haven’t seen The Tree of Life yet), it was still pretty goddamn good (about even with Days of Heaven, I’d say) and just another shining example of why Terrence Malick is one of a select few who in my humble opinion, Own The Fuck Out Of The Cinematic Arts.

This group I just created in my head, this group of Filmmakers Who Own The Fuck Out Of The Cinematic Arts, is different than a group of who I think the best filmmakers are. There’s a difference. I’m not talking about filmmakers who are great at what they do, no, I’m talking about filmmakers who are not only great, but who also never made a bad film. I’m talking about motherfuckers who never slipped, who always knocked it the fuck out every time they stepped up at bat. This, of course, is a personal opinion, because I know there are plenty of people who don’t like The New World or The Thin Red Line. Not me, though, I loved those movies and I love Terrence Malick films and I even love you, hater of all things I love.

So let’s see: Spielberg? Sorry, son — the guy made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (oy!) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (OY!!!), and even though he certainly directed the shit out of those flicks, I left the cinema damn near tears at how disappointing they were. Cinema has owned him a couple times, unfortunately, saying “Nice try, kid — but not this time.”

Kubrick? Well, it took that big boy a couple of movies of crawling before he cinematically walked. You watch Killer’s Kiss and you see a young talent who’s gonna really kick some cinematic ass soon, but that’s about it.

Coppola? He’s directed some of The Greatest Movies Ever Made, sure, but one can only defend Jack for so long before looking ridiculous, and a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!

How about Scorsese? Well, I haven’t seen all of his films (gasp! terror! righteous indignation!), so the jury of one that is Me is still out on that guy. I’m not too hopeful though, because I watched New York, New York and did something with that movie I’ve never done with any other film EVER — I stopped watching it. I tapped out about an hour in. I’ve sat through Cannibal Holocaust and Irreversible and came out both times bright-eyed & bushy-tailed, but that film fuckin’ defeated me, daring me to continue watching what should’ve been called Asshole Time or something equally unpleasant.

One day I will return to New York, New York and sit through that entire goddamn film, even if I have to Clockwork Orange my fuckin’ eyeballs to finish it. (Alternate version of the last sentence for Dario Argento fans: One day I will return to New York, New York and sit through that entire goddamn film, even if I have to Opera my fuckin’ eyeballs to finish it.) Because if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.

I guess, as of now, because I don’t want to continue with this, I guess I’d say that Quentin Tarantino and Terrence Malick are the only guys who not only came out with their dicks swinging the first time out, but have managed to maintain the motion of said organs after all these years. This, again, is merely my opinion; the other filmmakers I mentioned are still bad motherfuckers. But when it comes to a spotless record of Consistent Excellence, the top 3 guys are Malick, Tarantino, and whoever directed all of those Ernest movies, except for the one he didn’t direct — that one was a fuckin’ travesty.

So while the 150-minute cut is nowhere to be seen (unless you live in Italy), we thankfully now have an extended 172-minute cut, and that’s what I watched a couple of nights ago. The sticker on the box says it’s 30 minutes of new footage, while the description on the back of the box says it’s 20 minutes of new footage. Meanwhile, I’m comparing it to the 135-minute version I saw, so to me, I don’t know, it appears to be about 37 minutes of new shit. Or is it 36? I’m not sure. Maybe 38. I’m probably wrong because when it comes to math, I’m like the Highlander franchise — I make things worse with each attempt to get better and I should really stop trying.

The cool/weird thing about this version is that nothing really stood out in this version, it felt like I was getting more of a good thing without really knowing where the “more” part begins and end. Usually, with the extended versions of Dances with Wolves or Aliens, you can tell what new shit they added, but not with this movie. Yet it doesn’t feel longer, the flow is right on — actually, the flow is improved, so at least I was able to notice that. How the fuck does Malick do that? What’s with this fuckin’ sorcerer, he who is able to conjure 20-40 new minutes of phantom material without flint or tinder? Maybe I just don’t remember as much from my last viewing back in 2006. Maybe I’m just a fucking dumbass.

My guess is that the majority of the new stuff serves mostly as extensions of existing footage. There are certainly more lovely shots of nature in this version, so I think he just fattened up sequences with more stuff to cut to and maybe in some cases he just extended the In and Out points on the ol’ Avid. But again, because this guy is a fuckin’ master magician, none of the new stuff causes the old stuff to feel like it’s overstaying its welcome. In fact, I’m like Hey, you’re welcome to overstay, bro.

Maybe it’s because a Malick joint isn’t about propelling the plot forward; his flicks are about the journey, not the destination, and in this case, homeboy took the scenic route with the extended cut. I mean, if you were to tell me that there’s going to be an extended 4-hour version of Muthafuckin’ Fast Fuckin’ Five, my first reaction would be Fuck Yeah, but then I’d have a second thought about that. What that movie has going for it is speed; it’s got the right ratio of action beats to character grooves, and unless the new footage consists of more cars smashing into each other and more people getting riddled with PG-13 bullets, I’d have to pass. I don’t think I want to see more shots of assed-out Vin Diesel drinking Brahma beer, feeling sorry for himself. I don’t think I want to see more shots of The Rock sweating like Barry White on a hot August afternoon. And I certainly don’t want to see more shots of Paul Walker doing whatever the fuck Paul Walker was doing.

But I do want to see more beautiful shots of poetry, which is why I’m down with this particular extended cut. Terrence Malick is all about chilling out and letting the atmosphere envelop your ass like one of those fuckin’ blanket-winged monster things from The Beastmaster, and more of that atmosphere is a good thing. One thing I certainly did notice was that this longer version now has title cards every once in a while, like chapters in a book. You know who else uses chapter cards in his films? Fuckin-A, right, he does, because these FWOTFOOTCA’s, you know how they do.

I also noticed that the asshole douchebag cunt character of Wingfield has a couple more noticeable moments for him to do his thing, which makes the end of his character arc feel even more justified. You like how I did that, the way I spoiled something in so many words without actually saying it straight out? C’mon man, don’t be angry with me — if I was to really spoil something for you in a Malick joint, I’d describe how he frames and lights a shot of an animal or something.

Yeah, I know — Malick doesn’t do all of this stuff himself, so I’m giving props to Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the ace Mexican cinematographer. From what I understand, little-to-no additional lighting was used during this production, it was mostly just natural lighting coming from God’s gaffer. This is a good thing, because Christian Bale is also in this movie, and shooting with natural lighting meant he had no fuckin’ lights to trash, which was probably a relief to Lubezki because lights are expensive.

Like I said, Lubezski is a Mexican from Mexico and some of you might be like Whaaa? Come on, not all world-class directors-of-photography come from Italy and China, you know? They also come from Mexico, like Guillermo Navarro and Gabriel Beristain. Yeah, I know Beristain moved to England, but are you gonna blame him? I mean, I love mi gente and I’m deeply proud of our culture, but c’mon — it *is* Mexico. One day, someone non-corrupt is really going to bring that place back to its old glory, and that’ll be the same day when a cure for Cancer is found, a Republican will tell a Democrat (or vice versa) “I completely agree with you and we should work together on solving this issue”, and people refer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the past tense. Because I am nothing if not optimistic on all things Human.

I bet you there’s a couple of American-born cinematographers out there who look at mi gente kicking ass behind the camera and they seethe, man, they fuckin’ seethe in anger at these fuckin’ Mexicans who probably swam across the Rio Grande with a satchel of clothes slung over one shoulder and a 16mm Bolex over the other: These fuckin’ beaners, man, they come to my country illegally and take all the cinematography jobs and us hard-working Americans have to pay for it when we spend our hard-earned American dollars at the ticket booth and ask for two tickets for the 7:20 showing of Children of Men.

These angry American cinematographers (who I would wager have the kind of complexion that keeps them from properly tanning in the sun without peeling), they don’t understand that my Mexican brothers are simply taking the jobs that Americans won’t take. We’re too proud to accept a job lighting a movie for David Mamet or Michael Mann. These guys, though, they’re willing to work for scraps, and by scraps, I mean Oscar nominations and the occasional win.

Listen, if you liked The New World, you’ll like the extended cut because it’s more of the beautiful same (not to mention more of the great-sounding same), and if you didn’t like it, then you certainly won’t like the extended cut. Personally, I think this is the only way this movie should be seen, this is the one I’ll go to for a rewatch. If you’ve never seen it before, I don’t know, I’m very tempted to recommend this version for your first time. You don’t need the Cliff Notes cut, you shouldn’t even ask for it, man up and go Extended. But perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me, because I’m more than a little partial to this guy’s work, I mean, it’s obvious that I’m Gay-tham for Malick.

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