Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Defending The Proposition

by Nick
I'm sorry to say this but Jeff Wells must be going senile. Maybe it's the L.A. fumes poring into his skin, going to his head. Poor old coot. And he doesn't even like LA.

I just can't find no other explanation for the fact that he can name The Missing "the best film Ron Howard's ever done," "a real class act" and just last year call it "an undervalued, tough-as-nails western," but of The Proposition "all you can think about is how they all need a bath and a shave."

I find it a little hard to take a dude seriously if he calls one film "tough-as-nails" (btw, did he see the same The Missing I did? Or you did?) but can't handle some grime and dust in another.

The main criticism he levels at the film seems to be just that: they're all so dirty and grimy. Eww. You'd expect the great proponent of the classic male values of Dean and Brando to be all right with some shit and filth, but apparently uncleanliness is where he draws the line. Primadonnas.

The best thing Wells can say about the film is that "it's visually distinctive," but just can't allow himself to show even that much love, disparaging the cinematography for the rest of the sentence.

Apparently people are supposed to look (like Tommy Lee Jones in The Missing) as if they just came from a Florida rest home, and not like the dirty pig you would actually be if the nearest water was in the well of a small town in the middle of the desert.

Nostalgics of the never-there call the Wild West "the last great frontier." Watching The Proposition, all I can say is those folks never saw 19th century Australia.

I've reviewed The Proposition before on this blog, and while I won't call it a masterpiece, it has its flaws, it's damn close. Its main flaw lies in the dialogue, which sometimes threatens to go overboard with its ponderousness. But I gave that a pass for several reasons. Mostly I got into the groove of it, the whole film is kinda otherwordly in its extremity anyway, and the dialogue serves to give a mystical undercurrent that is oddly fitting considering the film's realism otherwise.

And also because who the hell knows how they talked more than a hundred and thirty years ago? Listening to film and radio from seventy years ago the whole flow and syntax is so alien it takes you a while to get a grip on it. Double that time in a wild terrain with mostly uneducated, or overeducated, expatriate Brits and Irishmen?

The film year has been unusually good this far (three really good films at this time of the year is pretty good), but The Proposition is still the best film I've seen so far. Those who have a problem with The Missing or Cruise should definitely give this a shot.
Addendum: Wells also mentions that he blew off seeing the film because "(the word was on the dismissive side)." Who were these journalists? Looking at Rotten Tomatoes they must have changed their mind. Or maybe they just work for Reel Film Reviews.

And besides, all I have to say about festival-journos ability to spot a classic - Donnie Darko.

7 Comments:

Blogger jaydro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/26/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/26/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

My interest grows, Nick.

From your description of The Proposition, I think you might enjoy the HBO series Deadwood. I'm not a big fan of it--for me it is too unrelentingly depressing, though I feel compelled to watch it. It is full of ponderous dialogue that is attempting to be period-accurate, while also shocking with a liberal dose of contemporary vulgarisms--part of me would like to hear what passed for vulgarisms in the nineteenth century, but this is HBO after all--they have to give subscribers what they feel like they're paying for. And the people are very dirty and filthy and beset with all manner of ailments. I don't think I've been the same since the show's doctor acquainted viewers with a set of rods used to feel out stones lodged in bladders....

4/26/2006 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Sorry about the deleted comments--I couldn't believe the problem I was seeing, which I saw before with a Poseidon comment. There's a bug wherein a comment preview will look perfectly fine, but when you post it will screw up the link text. I think it has to do with links that end in a slash, but I'm not willing to muck things up here too much experimenting with it....

4/26/2006 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

Well, David Poland liked it a great deal.

4/27/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wells is a very shallow guy. We're talking about the dude that will dismiss the movie if the lead looks a little bloated.

Although usually he appreciates realism, and I think it is pretty realistic that 19th century Australians would be a tad dirty. I also reccomend Deadwood. I have watched all the episodes out of order so I don't really know what's going on, but I love hearing the victorian dialogue absolutely drenched with obscenity. Watch with friends and shout along whenever someone says "cocksucker," it can be hard to keep up sometimes!

I am interested in The Proposition for a few reasons; Guy Pierce and the fact that I have never seen a western set in Australia. Also, dirty grizzled men with hot Australian accents.

4/27/2006 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, I was surprised by my agreeing with Poland. In a regular Wells-Poland stand-off I tend to side with Wells. Not this time. In general I really liked his review of the film, also uncommon for me. But it spoils the film a bit, and I shouldn't say any more, lest I be guilty of over-hyping.

And maybe I should have mentioned that I'm a big fan of Deadwood. Love its characters, city and attention to detail and realism. Not such a big fan of its plot, though, which tends to meander here and there. This is realistic as well, but tends to make my focus drift, which is bad. Like Poland says, Proposition is a much smaller story, but it says a whole lot more about how our former frontiers were won.

4/27/2006 12:53:00 PM  

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