June 25th, 2011

Good Omens

Welcome to The Rock

The Rock (1996) is maybe the only time I've enjoyed getting a headache.

Maybe it prepared me not to have a headache when i saw and loved Con Air a year later+. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Sensory-Overload-Is-Us filmmaking is honestly a good way to use the power of a big screen -- if you can and you want to, make your images and sounds as big and ridiculous as possible! And The Rock knows it's ridiculous. It's also ridiculousness created by genuinely good writers -- Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino were among the uncredited writers (Jonathan Hensleigh, who had the good taste to fall for and marry producer Gale Anne Hurd, was another writer, his first of several times working for Bruckheimer) -- and a fantastic cast heavy on character actors like David Morse, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Michael Biehn, William Forsythe and the late great John Freaking Spencer. (And I'd forgotten Steve Harris did this film before he kicked ass on The Practice. C'mon, casting people, put Steve Harris in other good projects!) And then, of course, there's director Michael Bay, who got name-checked in the original commercials.

The Rock is the only Michael Bay film so far that I've genuinely liked. Fuller disclosure; I actually get a kick out of big chunks of Armageddon (1998), and I've never seen The Island (2005) which I've been told is smart, and Michael Bay's TV commercials are frequently hilarious, but the Enormous Dumb of the rest of Armageddon means I'm not getting the Criterion DVD of that film anytime soon, because the film in toto annoys me. I'd heard a story when The Rock came out that after Bay and his editors had cut together the film, they had to "de-edit" some of the action sequences to make certain shots last longer on the screen -- because some shots flashed on the big screen so quickly they could not be tracked by the human eye. This was early in the guy's directing career, and only occasionally has he calmed down. (At least I think he's gotten his ridiculously-calculated Oscar Bait movie out of his system by doing Pearl Harbor. I probably don't have to worry about him trying to remake Gone With the Wind or anything like that from now on.) They don't call it "BAYHEM" for nothing. I have issues with the guy, including what I can think may be a really privileged and unthinking view of race -- what, no worries about foreshadowing what's going to happen to Tony Todd when he's next to that rocket? Really? How much extra mayhem happens to his films' non-white characters? -- but, here, for the most part, it works. And is scored with music (by Nick Glennie-Smith, Hans Zimmer, and a few others) that is some of my motivating-myself music.

So. If you're 21 and older come Friday and in Portland and able to get to the Bagdad, you can see the Cort and Fatboy Midnight Movie screening of The Rock. Three bucks to get in, watch Sean Connery be pissed, watch Nic Cage's character be waaaaaay out of his element, watch John Spencer dangle from the side of a building, watch a really obnoxious gay stereotype, watch cameras fwooooosh sweepingly, watch guitars make everything cooler, watch the tensest moment in a bathroom ever, and more!

BAYHEM. You're welcome. (Thanks for introducing me to that term, Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts.) And to tide y'all over 'til the commentary for The Rock goes up, here's a taste of Rock thoughts from yesterday's Cort and Fatboy episode, with Mike "Culture Pulp" Russell.

+ Truth: when I reviewed 1998's Enemy of the State, I wrote "I am an only slightly abashed fan of Jerry Bruckheimer productions. They're often full of unexpected pleasures. Really." I like in The Rock how Nicolas Cage and his girlfriend/fiancée Vanessa Marcil relate, where there's joking and messiness and "Are you serious?!" moments to the relationship (scored with what sounds like Don Henley's guitars, but I accept that and go on); they're clearly in love and into each other, but even then you don't always immediately understand each other or get into perfect sync with each other. Humans are complicated, you may have heard. Even those of us watching a big asplodey movie where, for instance, a San Francisco street car flies aloft and in flames.