Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mediocrity in a Meritocracy

Alright. I admit it. I am not a high achiever. There. I said it. Now what? Hmmm. Nope I don't feel at all the better for this confession. I've kept this secret for a long time. But what does this revelation mean? I don't know. Maybe it's to set the bar low for anyone that I happen to come into contact with in the future. Perhaps expectations would be much more realistic. Subsequent meetings might go something like this:

-Hi. I'm Sean Mitchell. Nice to meet you.
-I'm *new person* Where are you from?

-Have you seen my website?
-No, I can't say that I have.

-Oh. That's a shame.
-Really? What's it about?

-Yeah...Hey listen. Before we go any further with this you've gotta go to seanmitchell.com.

- I can't be responsible for what might happen if you don't.
- What are you talking about?

- Until verification of viewing seanmitchell.com via IP address log, or secured site registration on seanmitchell.com, I, Sean Mitchell, and any relatives, affiliates, associates or acquaintances of Sean Mitchell will not be held liable for any and all concurrent actions or inaction as a result of this conversation or as a result of referencing this converation by any and all entities, be they live, human entities, or virtual products of technology. Said products include web bots, trojans, cached webpages, Google searches in their entirety, phishing ads, coincidences, acts of God, fortune cookies -
- What the!

- Also not to be held liable are persons with the same or similar names, similar name origins, etymological likenesses, or similar genetic constitution. Likewise names appearing in reverse order (common name, surname) are also-
- Uh, good bye.

Well, anyway, this is just to inform you that I consider myself an underachiever. So don't be surprised if I under-achieve. But if I achieve, W00T!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Black Snake Moan...Damn!

It went like this:

I ambled up to the snack bar line with 10 minutes left before the start of the movie. I was trying to determine whether or not I was in movie mode. Sometimes my mind seems in a perfect state to take in a movie. I'm feeling fine, focused, not rushed, ready to walk through the portal-to-another-world that is my seat in the theater. Well I wasn't sure I was in movie mode at that moment because I was really annoyed by the crappy commute to the theater and the really crappy drivers in the DFW area. Seriously, does anyone else notice how ridiculously slow DFW drivers are? And then I had to contend with the woman in front of me whose extremely liberal use of dollar store perfume was consuming all of my senses at once. Slightly tilted, I made my way to the counter and ordered a large popcorn and a Diet Coke as the fog of "designer scent" slowly began to dissipate. The guy behind the counter began filling my order and asked me what I was going to see. "Black Snake Moan," - as soon as I'd said the title ,"Oooooooooooooh." he said in a more than suggestive manner. He then pointed to a display that was, well, maybe provocative? Yes, provocative would be the word I'm looking for. The whole life-sized display was very provocative. Having not seen a Christina Ricci movie since she was 13 years-old and dressed in black, I quickly considered every movie of hers that I might have missed since then. I think the reason for that was to fill in the blanks in her career that brought her to this particular...role. DAAAAMN! Hot only begins to....yes. I digress.

So I was now ready to watch the movie. Eager to see what this thing was about. Still tilted, but for different reasons, I made my way to the stadium seats in the theater. As I waited for the endless previews to conclude, I could not get the image of the provocative Christina Ricci out of my head. What the...? I don't obsess about anything, so why was the image of Ms. Ricci so persistent? As I sat there in my theater seat, cynicism took hold and I considered all of the imagery to which I'd been exposed during the movie's marketing campaign. Black man, white woman. Older black man, young white woman. The deep south. Older black man chains young, beautiful, provocative, white woman in the deep south. Sex, sex, sex. Hmmm. Yup. I was being manipulated from the very beginning. Oh yes, very deftly manipulated. It was the audacity of the writer/director to taunt the right wing establishment with such imagery that tickled our fancies. Was this implied taboo situation and resulting conflict to be played out onscreen by such pop culture superstars as Samuel Jackson and Justin Timberlake? And...is that Christina Ricci? Wow. That is Christina Ricci!

Yep, I knew what they were doing. I knew where they were going. I decided to roll with it.

The Plot.
-Let's see. What is controversial? I know, a multitude of things. But we know controversy sells and we need conflict to make a movie, so what type of conflict is controversial?
-"Hey Sean!"
-"How about this: An older black man in the deep south finds a beautiful, young, white, out-of-control, nymphomaniac, woman and purposefully chains her to the radiator in his shack - like a slave - against her will. Controversial enough?"
-Nah. Been done before.
-Yup. Return of the Jedi.
-Yup, the white woman was Princess Leia and the black man was...Jabba the Hutt
-Black man...Hutt...equally taboo.

The Cast
Samuel Jackson (Lazarus) is so, so perfect for this role. As a matter of fact, I have to believe that the role was conceived with Jackson in mind. He hits every line like a marksman, delivered with mastery as if there were no other way it could have been delivered. Jackson is incredible.

Christina Ricci (Rae) was very good for the role. I think she may well have reinvented herself with this one indeed, but I don't think she was the first choice. Of course I don't know, but other people that come to mind that might possibly have been considered are Paris Hilton ( Black Snake Gag), Jessica Simpson (Black Snake Belly Laugh), Reese Witherspoon (maybe slightly too old?), Kirsten Dunst(Mmm. no.), Jessica Alba (not enough contrast), Julia Stiles (Save the Last Black Snake), Lindsey Lohan (Herbie the Black Snake), Drew Barrymore (Black Snake Quirky in Love?)...No, it appears that Christina Ricci was perfectly cast in this.

Justin Timberlake (Ronnie) Well, I've seen him pull off comedy on Saturday Night Live and he his just hilarious! While his dramatic skills come up a little bit short, he's still better than some Oscar winners over the past decade. He at least earned his paycheck. On the whole, he was pretty good indeed.

Craig Brewer does a wonderful job bringing his characters to life. The movie isn't terribly dialog heavy. Brewers actors accomplish much of the drama in this movie with action, reaction, music, and physical expression. That is life after all. I never got the sense that the dialogue was there for the sake of being dialogue. It moved the story along well. I think more could have been done to paint an atmosphere of potential conflict between the main character and the residents. Perhaps Brewer felt the energy better spent on developing other areas. Maybe a few interactions might have done a bit more to establish the different worlds of the characters. But well done overall.

The bulk of the action takes place on a rural farm. This was well established by the beautiful shots of trees and rows of crops. The house shots leave you feeling that Lazarus' land could have been passed down by sharecropping ancestors. And the in-town scenes only work to deeper engross the viewer in the story.

Choppy in a few places near the first third of the film, but generally well sequenced. The story moves a long well and naturally. Great job during high intensity and action scenes...beautiful job.

I left the movie wondering what I just saw. A slice of life from the south I suppose. A small farming town with issues, maybe? What was it that I just saw? Hmmm. It was good right? Yeah. Damn. That movie was pretty good! Hey, that was a pretty good movie. And how about that Christina Ricci? Oh Yeah.