Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bad Acting 101

Lesson 27.

Dear JunkMonkey Institute for Bad Acting, I'm standing in a crappy flat set wearing a green SpaceBimbo mini-dress, surrounded by people wearing costumes left over from Forbidden Planet, and I'm wanting to upstage Zsa-Zsa Gabor. How do I do this?

Well, Lisa Davis, this one's easy. All you have to do is make sure you turn to look at someone who isn't speaking yet - anticipate her only line in the scene by a good six seconds. This will cause the actor standing behind you to turn as well when he thinks he's missed a cue. You can improvise after that. If you are good no one will notice what the other actors are saying at all.

Queen of Outer Space (1958)

Every Movie I have watched in September
  1. Gattaca (1997) - a decent bit of SF that eschews the usual running, shooting, and SFX and delivers an intelligent plot with some logically consistent twists. There are a couple of minor quibbles I have with it (why anyone would build a walk in incinerator you can switch on from the inside is a bit of a puzzle) but on the whole a pretty good effort.

  2. The Princess Bride - Friday night with the kids - and I wish I was still doing the Three Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing because the link between these two would have been so easy. How many movies are there that have six fingered characters in them?

  3. Alien Nation - formulaic mismatched buddy cop movie with a twist. One of them is an alien. Not badly done to start with but I started to loose it when our nasty villains throw one of the Aliens in the sea and he dies a horrible painful death. "Sea water's like battery acid to them!" I can't even start to work out the body chemistry of the aliens which allows them to get high on sour milk (pH of 4.4 - mild acid) but dissolve in sea water (pH 8 - slightly basic). Another oddity was the villain... and to explain the oddity you need to know the back story to the movie. Over to you Mr Wikipedia:
    "The movie is set in 1991, three years after a flying saucer bearing enslaved aliens (the "Newcomers") has crash-landed in the Mojave Desert. Los Angeles becomes a new home for the aliens, who take, or in some cases are assigned, sometimes comical human names (such as "Rudyard Kipling"). Now back to the JunkMonkey in the studio..."
    Thank you, Mr W. So. Quarter of a million aliens are processed through immigration and learn English with remarkable speed - the alien half of our hero partners (a demihero?) tells the human half he learned English in three months - they landed in America, they live in America. They have assimilated to American culture incredibly well in three years. Why then is the bad guy alien the only person in the whole movie who doesn't have an American accent - in fact he has a British accent? Answer: Because he is played by Terrence Stamp. And he's the villain. To the collective chicken brain that was running Hollywood at the time, all villains had British accents. Even ones that were supposed to be from a different species and have travelled untold light years to get here!

    I was just about to abandon Alien Nation when it abandoned me. Somehow I had managed to screw up the timing on the VCR and the tape ran out. The only reason it's in this list and not the 'Films I have abandoned for containing to much of the wrong kind of awful:' list is because the alien demi-hero was played by Mandy Patinkin who was in this evening's other movie, The Princess Bride. Serious Kevin Baconage going on here, and too much of coincidence to resist.

  4. Futuresport ( 1998 ) - In the future the biggest sport in the world will be Futuresport! A sport so futuristic it is played while wearing bicycle helmets! It's that futuristic. Wow! And the point of Futuresport will be to throw a small ball into a hole while people try to hit you with sticks - wait! no! The point of Futuresport will be to make Rollerball look good. No! wait... I've got it now, the point of Futuresport is that the world's best Futuresoprt player will solve the world's problems by challenging the evil Pan-Asian (non American) Conglomerate to a winner-take-all game - where the winner takes control of the disputed Hawaiian islands and millions of people won't have to die in a war! Hurrah for sport! Hurrah for Futuresport! We know the Pan-Asian (non American) Conglomerate is evil because they pay their hired goons in Euros! and have people with beards and English accents, and, even worse, Australians with visible metal plates in their heads working for them and - even even worse - they cheat! Boo! Hiss! But the good guys have an ace up their sleeve - Wesley Snipes in a Predator wig and a Jamaican accent! He knows how to cheat even better than the cheating foreign bastards because he invented Futuresport! Hurrah! - It's not about 'playing the game' apparently.

    When the best thing about a movie is Wesley Snipes taking off a pair of sunglasses (and accidentally looking like Whoopie Goldberg) you know you're in trouble. Total. Fucking. Crap.

    I'm tempted to go to Morrisons and ask for my quid back.

  5. Batman (1966) - I pulled rank on FridayNightisPizzaandMovieNight and made the kids watch it. Holly loved it. I win!

  6. Leolo (1992) - my habit of buying any VHS on the Tartan or Artificial Eye label that I come across pays off again. Leolo is a 1992 French Canadian movie that might have won the Palme d'Or if the director hadn't told one of the judges (Jamie Lee Curtis) that he wouldn't mind fucking her like the little boy in the movies fucks a pig's liver. I really don't know whether I really liked it or hated it. I laughed, I was repulsed, I was captivated by its beauty, and bored by its selfindulgence. A piece of Art, or a piece of Crap? Will I ever watch it again? I really don't know. I do know I won't forget it in a hurry.

  7. Dark City ( 1998 ) - Which looked even better on a second viewing (only partially because it was on DVD this time and not crappy old VHS). Annoyingly the DVD didn't have an option to avoid the opening narration - added at the chicken brain studio's insistence - which gives away 99% of the story before you get to the opening credits. So here is my usual Dark City caveat: If you have never seen it before, and you don't have the Director's Cut version which omits the narration, keep the sound muted until the opening credits. A crackingly good SF movie.

  8. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) - Will Ferrell - Comedy genius or not? Still haven't made my mind up. I do know though that Gary Cole is turning into one of my all time favourite character actors.

  9. The Card - Charming gentle little British comedy, based on an Arnold Bennet novel, which I dearly love.

  10. Time of the Apes (MST3K) - one of those dreadful Japanese Kids TV shows edited together by Sandy Franks to look like a movie. This time a blatant rip off of The Planet of The Apes with obligatory annoying Japanese child in shorts and lots of pointless running around and pointing. Fever-dream stuff.

  11. Tron - Again. For the umpteenth time. This time as a special birthday treat. Mrs JM booked the High School's auditorium and I get to watch it on the biggish screen with friends and relations - some of whom have never seen it before (and are bemused). I like Tron. It's a fascinating film. The story is pretty rubbish very simple (verging on the simplistic); it lends itself (if you could be bothered) to any number of interpretations: it's an allegory about belief systems, global capitalism, a reworking of the Frankenstein story with the creation becoming the master, a darn good chase movie etc... take your pick. The acting and direction are nothing much to get excited about , they're competent and serviceable - but the look of the thing, the style. I love it - mostly, as I have said before - and several times today to whoever would listen - it is because it was never copied.
    The Star Wars style was ripped off, copied, duplicated, and watered down by other jump-on-the-bandwagon film makers, and so merchandised to death at the time, and since, by George Lucas that the freshness, novelty, and sheer fun of the first film is unrecognisable now. It's been buried under millions of tons of over-priced cheap toys, tatty imitations, and huge bloated pre/sequels.
    Tron never suffered that fate. No other movies co-opted the Tron style. It is one of a kind. This is not to say the movie has not been influential; no one can read any cyberpunk without seeing that, but in movie terms Tron is a unique stylistic treat.
    It was sold at the time as being a major innovation, the first time computer graphics had been used in such a massive scale in a movie and some of the graphics are still amazing. But what struck me watching it today was that so much of the movie was made with traditional animation techniques - people at easels with paper ink and airbrush. In 1982 it was still easier faster (and therefore cheaper) to paint backgrounds by hand to look like computer images than it was to make the computer images themselves. Things that I can do on the desktop computer with Photoshop in minutes were beyond their budget. The actors were Rotoscoped into the backgrounds by hand - a phenomenal amount of man hours - according to Wikipedia 500 people worked on post production including 200 inkers and hand-painters employed in Taiwan. There is a sequel in the pipeline. I'm not looking forward to it. Computer animation has become so commonplace that whatever they do it is going to look like just another movie.
    Though, if they get a decent story this time....

  12. The Dish - It's the first moon landing. Neil Armstrong is about to set foot on the moon and it's windy in Australia - and that is about as exciting as this movie gets but jeso this is a great movie. I was in tears at the end of it. I was watching people sat watching a historical event on the telly and I had tears streaming down my face. I have no idea how or why this film works but it does. I think a lot of it has to do with the sound. The sound is wonderful, sometimes you are simultaneously listening to two or three things - in addition to the general background atmos: overlapping dialogue, archive news coverage, music and each layer of sound is telling you things and feeding you the story. It's wonderfully rich. And very funny.

  13. Stranded in Space (1972) MST3K - very not good TV movie pilot, for a never to be made series, in which an astronaut finds himself trapped on Earth's evil twin. Having a planet of identical size and mass orbiting in the same plane as the earth, but on the opposite side of the sun, is a well worn SF chestnut - the idea is over 2,000 years old, having been invented by the Ancient Greeks. In this version the Counter World is run as an Orwellian 'perfect' society. Where for totally inexplicable reasons everyone speaks English and drives late model American cars. After escaping from his prison-like hospital, the disruptive Earthian is chased around Not Southern California by TV and bad movie stalwart Cameron Mitchell who, like his minions, wears double breasted suits and black polo neck jumpers - a stylishly evil combination which I fully intend to adopt if ever I become a totalitarian overlord. Our hero escapes their clutches several times before ending up gazing at the alien world's three moons and wondering aloud if he will ever get home - thus setting up one of those Man Alone in a Hostile World Making a New Friend Each Week but Moving on at the End of Every Episode shows so beloved of the industry in the 70s and 80s (The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk, The Littlest Hobo etc.). The curiously weirdest bit was the title sequence. Somewhere between Stranded in Space first airing (under the title The Stranger) in 1972 and the MST3K version in 1991 it had somehow acquired footage from the 1983 movie Prisoners of the Lost Universe. So in 1991 the opening credits for 'Stranded in Space' ran under a few shots of three people falling into a matter transmitter and vanishing. It's a sequence that has nothing to do - even thematically - with anything that is going to follow. Just to add to the nerdy B movie confusion, one of the actors in this randomly nailed on footage is Kay Lenz who later appeared in a 1994 movie called Trapped in Space. Knowing this fact could never save your life, but it might score you very big points and admiring looks from fellow trash movie enthusiasts - if you could ever work out a way of manoeuvring the conversation round to the point where you could casually slip it in without looking like a total wanker...

    As an example of the shoddiness of the show: play was made of the fact that on this counter clockwise Counter Earth most of the people were Left Handed! (How scary weird and evil is that!) But quite why an alien planet full of left handed people wrote (in English) from left to right, instead of right to left which they would have found a lot easier to do, is never explained.

  14. Earth Vs The Spider ( 1958 ) MST3K - one of those Cold War paranoia movies that isn't anything to do with the Cold War - or paranoia. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Invaders from Mars and even I Married a Monster from Outer Space can be seen to be reflecting the mood and preoccupations of America in the late fifties early sixties - the fear of Atomic War, and the overwhelming conviction that there was a Commie spy under every bed. Earth Vs The Spider has nothing to do with any of that. Like most of Bert I Gordon's movies it's about jumping on the bandwagon and making money quickly by showing people running away screaming from something very big before the hero manages to electrocute it in the final reel. This one is shoddier than most of Gordon's Giant Things Chasing People movies and even manages to namecheck a couple of his other works - The Amazing Colossal Man and The Attack of the Puppet People - by having one of his characters work in a cinema which, by some amazing coincidence, only seems to show Bert I Gordon movies. When Preston Sturges managed to sneak in a poster for one of his other films at the end of Hail the Conquering Hero it was knowing and funny - here it was just pathetic and cheap. But then the whole of Earth Vs The Spider is pathetic and cheap - for 'Earth' read a small Californian town for 'Spider' read - well a spider, some hapless hairy spider shot in close up and superimposed on streets and roads as the script required. This movie contains some dreadful dreadful matte (or forced perspective) work as various characters wander round a darkened studio with decoupaged pictures of caves cut from the National Geographic Magazine held up in front of the camera for them to walk past. 5.6 on the Dreadfulometer. Extra points for having a 35 year old man with a receding hairline playing a teenager.

  15. My Fair Lady - Holly's love of Hollywood musicals surfaces again. But I had forgotten it was almost three hours long! God there's a lot of songs in it. I was still awake enough at the end of it to spot a hitherto unreported (on IMDb at least) continuity error - In the final scene when Henry Higgins sits on the chair as he listens to her voice on the phonograph, Eliza's shadow can be clearly seen on the carpet behind him, to his left (screen right). In the next shot she is shown entering the room. Hurray for me! ( I know.... ) Four days later Holly interrupts us long-windedly asking her about something (but without giving her the chance to answer) by declaiming, like Mr Dolittle in the film: "I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you! I'm waiting to tell you!"

  16. Anchorman - Okay, that's me Will Ferrelled for the next few years. I think I just reached saturation point.

1 comment:

Phoebe said...

the heads bobbing side to side - what fun! Thanks for that clip!

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