Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New Guest Oeuvre: Ridley Scott (see sidebar)

He runs the gamut, does Sir Rid.


JavierAG said...

I'm not very familiar with Ridley Scott, but "Black Hawk Down" was indeed atrociously meaningless and pornographic in every possible way imaginable.

But most importantly, it was disastrously dull. That's its greatest downfall I say.

Ironic that he got the "artsy" sole Director nomination that year together with David Lynch, who got one for a very A+ film (coolest nom of the decade so far!)

Nick Davis said...

I'm curious to hear more about this Black Hawk Down situation, especially since it sounds like my kind of F: not just despite its technical proficiencies (I must say, I admired the photography and the sound elements quite a bit), but perhaps even because of them, if they're in the service of something nefarious. Do tell.

Meanwhile, I'm tickled to see you giving such a thumbs-up to Hannibal, which I also thought was pretty succulent camp. The Silence of the Lambs plays more and more to me like a movie that needs the piss taken out of it, which I think Scott does, quite amply. Hardly perfect, but the wrong target for the kind of casual opprobrium it elicited in so many quarters.

I'm going to have to try Alien and Blade Runner again, to see if admiration ever lights the match into love. I've tried with Alien over and over, but I never really get there. I've only seen Blade Runner once, so there's more hope there.

I love these features, but I can't keep up! I still have a whole festival to mount in gleeful response to your Top 100, and now all these Scotts and Kubricks and Romeros are piling up......

tim r said...

Music to my ears, javier, and, yes, it's absolutely a Nick Davis kind of F: slickly mounted but pernicious, flagrantly xenophobic, and mind-numbing. The movie's agenda, insofar as it has one, is nicely catalogued by the end credits, which lists all 19 dead US soldiers by name and then (this might as well be in brackets) adds that 1000 Somali militiamen and civilians met their deaths. (They're the indistinguishable rabble from Black Goon Casting Central crowding the edges of the frame, in case you were in any doubt.) Still, as long as teen viewers raised on a diet of Delta Force X-Box games get their fix of thrills 'n' spills, right? It really is hateful.

Nick Davis said...

(Though I rush to add, I didn't mean "the kind of F that I invented and therefore possess as my own," but the kind that leads to reviews I enjoy reading, because something's really at stake in the F. [/unintentional arrogance])

Ali said...

B+ for Hannibal? I love you.

tim r said...

Nick, you don't have an arrogant bone in your body! It's my fault for being arrogant on your behalf, since you do practically have a patent on these Fs as far as I'm concerned. Rush to read Nick's reviews of The Matrix, The Terminal and The Legend of Bagger Vance, everyone...

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

I thought BLACK HAWK DOWN was an effective, well-made war movie. Do you object to American military/politics? (No problem, if you do.) Even so, it just struck me as a basic, and grippingly told, tick-tock story, with maybe a little USA hooray here and there. But no worse than a John Ford movie.

Goran said...

I can't say I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott's. In his entire career I think he's made maybe three pictures that aren't wildly pretentious.

I find Alien to be a solid, efficient monster movie of the B+ variety more than the masterpiece it's often proclaimed to be.

Blade Runner didn't win me over when I was 13 years old (Harrison Ford emoting? Futuristic androids with 80s haircuts?) - maybe it might if I watch it again and I realise I should. I did appreciate the production design.

Thelma and Louise and Matchstick Men are fun and the only two films of his (apart from maybe Alien) to be remotely well-acted.

Otherwise I get this feeling that Ridley Scott is a half-talented man unfortunately inclined towards very stupid ideas: a gladiator with an Australian accent, Orlando Bloom as an inspiring warrior, a Southern-accented Eric Bana delivering a pseudo-profound speech about war and humanity, and Hannibal the Movie. I don't think a "fifth-best director of all time" would allow these things to happen.

tim r said...

Is that the Empire ranking? I won't disagree with much of what you say, though I'll defend both Alien and Blade Runner to the hilt as dense astonishments. (Good dense, before you pounce on that! There's quite enough bad dense lower down the list...) Scott seems to have found everything that he wanted to say in his first few years making movies, and has spent the rest of his career in search of another masterpiece that's completely eluded him. There's a lot more wrong with Gladiator than just Crowe's accent (the Romans weren't into RP either, at last check) and as for Kingdom of Heaven... sheesh. It's barely worth discussing.

I'm with the other Hannibal fans, though, and the curious outrage it was received with continues to perplex me. It's a comedy, guys!

As for Black Hawk Down, my own vague politics come into it less, I reckon, than my nagging problems with the war genre, displayed in a particularly pronounced form here. To remove the political context (which BHD attempts to) does not let you off the hook, and to try and make an "apolitical" war film in this millennium is arrogant folly in any case. Mogadishu is not Ridley's playground. Anyway, I have a tendency to rant on this subject and should stop.

Anonymous said...

I've always been fond of Gladiator because when I was younger --around 7th grade, I'd say-- it probably planted one of the seeds that would eventually grow into my love for cinema. I remember seeing it twice so I could see it without my hands covering my face 75% of the time. I remember thinking it was really beautiful and really well-acted. Of course, my concept of what great acting is has changed, but I'll always love Russel Crowe's heartfelt performance that may not have deserved an Oscar but certainly influenced my younger movie-watching years. Oh, and I love Blade Runner!

I also love these guest oeuvres and not simply because I love the word "oeuvre."

martinqblank said...

Am certainly loving the B+ for "Hannibal", which I think was very considerably misunderstood at the time of its release, but I'm more intrigued-perplexed by the A- for "Thelma & Louise", which has always struck me as Scott's most overrated movie.

Those making great feminist claims for that film - and I'm not automatically assuming you are, Tim - have always been undermined by the paper-thin male characters in that film. Surely Thelma and Louise's victory (if, indeed, driving a car into the Grand Canyon *can* be considered a victory) would be all the greater if they actually overcame men of substance along the way?

Instead, I've always found Callie Khouri's rationale that "if the male characters are weak, then - hey - that's nothing compared to the number of weak female characters we girls have had to deal with over the years" a show of insurmountable bad faith. Surely, in this instance, two wrongs can't add up to a right?

tim r said...

You have a point, Mr Blank, and I'm welcoming your arrival on the blog! But, though I was once quite hard on T&L for exactly those reasons, I've come round to the thinking that they just add up to a sizeable minus, rather than derailing the movie all that much or lessening its nihilistic kick and sense of release. I still think it's a blast, actually, and I have to say Pitt, Madsen and Keitel are all individually memorable, for me, despite the thinness of the roles on paper. If the movie spent too much time trying to round those characters out beyond broad, performance-led strokes, it would crash and burn, I'm pretty sure.

Nick Davis said...

I bumped Thelma & Louise down a notch the last time I watched it, but mostly because the pacing and photography weren't quite what I'd remembered. Christopher MacDonald and, in particular, the truck driver are embarrassments (Sarandon and/or Davis agree about the trucker on the DVD commentary), but I agree that Madsen, Pitt, and Keitel do pretty well as second-level characters.

I also get a little shifty when a movie about women, especially about women roused to anger or action, gets put under pressure to make a perfectly glorifying case for its "feminism." Thelma & Louise seems rather at pains to show us that their methods and choices along their journey are far from irreproachable (rather grandly so, at a few moments), and while their coming to consciousness may be rather limited and flawed as a result, it still derives from a powerfully persuasive place and still becomes something hugely resonant. In addition to the dramatic problem Tim points out, I think that making these men more elevated, formidably "substantial" characters would solemnize and even romanticize T&L's own journey a little too much.

StinkyLulu said...

OK: I'm a bit slow on the uptake. I didn't really understand how the "oeuvres" operated... But here goes:

BHD is indeed awful; "pernicious" says it all. And -- while I do admire & enjoy the Ridley-ness of flicks like Alien & Bladerunner & even T&L -- shockingly there's only one movie on this list that I truly truly love:
G.I. Jane.

Which is not to say it's good, or that it deserves more than a C on any "objective" movie listing -- just that I really do love it. I love the operatic formulaicism, the oversaturated visual sensibility, and -- most of all -- the the diva turns from Viggo, Demi & the indominatable Anne Bancroft. I even love that it really makes no sense when you try to hammer down the narrative/moral/ideological arc. In short, it's a nearly perfect masterpiece of hollywood pap with a kickass woman at the center.

Yes yes, I know, my tastes do lapse toward the trashy. But G.I. Jane would be the Ridley I'd vote to preserve...

tim r said...

I kind of know exactly what you mean, while being far too cowardly to award it more than a C, which might fluctuate upwards to a C+ on occasions when I'm really in tune with my inner trash-hound. The movie was certainly a guilty pleasure for me back in 1997: a mess on every level, but an oddly punchy mess, I think, and it's the one Demi performance from that awful mid-Nineties run she had that I might consider going back to one day. I remember loving me some Viggo and enjoying Anne's attempts to teach stale baguettes a few things about being crusty, and finding the score and really everything atrociously OTT, but almost in a good way.

Recognising there's heaps of Ozu to see, plus that stack of Trollope novels I should read isn't getting any shorter, but you know what? I quite feel like a repeat viewing of G.I. Jane. There's no law against it, though maybe for the reasons glaring at me just above there should be, I don't know. Anyway, thanks for plucking up the courage to love it, stinky!

PS. My defence of White Squall, nestling squarely in that C+ junk-pleasure zone, would be even more embarrassing, so I'm not really going to go there, except to say that it's the maritime Top Gun in all the obvious and barely sublimated ways.


Ridley Ridley...
where to begin. I'm with the As on Thelma & Louise --although I'm sure I love it even more than any of you (easy A in my book and my favorite film of its year) I agree that it doesn't deserve the pressure of making a perfect feminist statement...

but it's grandly entertaining in the way that very few movies are. I don't mean entertaining in the popcorn way or 'that was fun' so much as I mean in the way you can think about it forever, it is fun, it's beautiful to look at, and most impressively it has an extremely fluid range of emotions --always a plus and not something you can say about much else in Scott's filmography which is perhaps why I'm so sold on this as a Sarandon/Davis/Scott achievement rather than a strict auteur piece.

I think it's one of his two best films. The other is of course Blade Runner which I never tire of. Blade Runner gets occassional flack for being a technical achievement mostly but I figure if it's that much of an achievement technically who the hell cares...

And I know I'm not writing coherently today but i also dispute BR being merely an art-direction flick. If it was only an achievement in this particular realm the infinite copycats that have cropped up in its wake wouldn't feel like ants in the shadow of a true giant.

I lurve Blade Runner. Can you tell? [director's cut only though please]

As for the rest of the filmography I'm take it or leave it on most of them leaning toward Leave It (Alien aside I think the bulk of his work is highly overrated and sometimes jaw-droppingly so *cough*Gladiator*)

tim r said...

This went:

The Duellists (1977) B+
Alien (1979) A+
Blade Runner (1982) A+
Legend (1985) C+
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) C
Black Rain (1989) D+
Thelma and Louise (1991) A—
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) C—
White Squall (1996) C+
G.I. Jane (1997) C
Gladiator (2000) B—
Hannibal (2001) B+
Black Hawk Down (2001) F
Matchstick Men (2003) B—
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) D