Rented “Babel” this weekend, an event remarkable only in that it whittles the unseen-Oscar-best-picture-nominees down to two (“The Queen,” “Letters from Iwo Jima”), which is pretty good for post-parenthood Nance. I liked it a lot, but I’ve liked Alejandro González Iñárritu ever since “Amores Perros,” which blew my doors off. “The Mexican Quentin Tarantino,” he’s called, but he’s much better than that. More serious, anyway.
The theme of “Babel” and “Amores Perros” is one that I’m always a sucker for — the way our lives all connect, stranger to stranger, even across continents. The Butterfly Theory in human form, maybe. But here’s what I have to ask someone who saw it in the theater:
Were there subtitles?
Because there were none for the DVD, a pretty cheeky directorial decision for a film where characters speak in seven-count-’em-seven languages, according to IMDB: Japanese Sign Language, French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Berber and Arabic. When I realized none were forthcoming, I decided to just settle in and groove with it — dialogue is just words, and acting is a lot more — and found that I understood it pretty much perfectly, with the exception of the Japanese girl’s backstory, which was superfluous anyway. I know her backstory because I looked it up online; helpful souls at Wikipedia, who apparently speak all these tongues, figured it out and posted a complete synopsis. The movie is called “Babel,” after all. And making people do supplemental reading is totally, whoa, postmodern.
Before I took the DVD back to Blockbuster, I went through the menu until I found a setup screen. I selected “English subtitles” and hit “play.” No subtitles. So who the hell knows? I enjoyed the movie. Brad Pitt may be a handsome devil, but now he’s a handsome devil with serious eye-crinkle. Like his friend George Clooney, he’s striving to age in an interesting manner. I heard Alec Baldwin talk in an interview about the morning-afterness of being last year’s hunk, how it’s not as difficult for men as it is for women, but it is difficult, breaking through into something resembling serious work, especially when women fan themselves at the thought of your butt. (Or at least how it looked in “Thelma and Louise.”)
Through the magic of the Google, I looked up my old Prof. Terry’s take on “Babel.” He frequently surprises me, and this was one of them: Two lousy stars, and a flip of the hand:
Though “Babel” would seem to be a plea for more cross-cultural empathy and understanding … it fails to provide dramatic evidence that any of the bad things that happen to the generally good people here could have been avoided if we all spoke the same language.
Hmm, I didn’t get that that was its aim, but then, I watch a movie in my living room very differently than I do in a theater. At home, I’m a much easier lay. The other day I found myself whiling away an early Friday evening with “Imagine Me & You,” which I objectively recognized as a total piece of crap but still failed to turn off. I think it was because all the characters dressed so well. I just wanted to see what the next scene’s sweater would look like. (There were also a lot of knit hats in that one. I have never been able to wear a knit hat without looking like a person who sells newspapers out of a van on a busy corner.)
“300” — there’s another one I won’t be catching until it hits cable, even if it shaping up to be the “Billy Jack” of the Bush-boosters. Even if it is, like, the gayest movie since “Top Gun” and maybe gayer. Even the previews make that obvious, but this blogger puts the cherry on it:
Any movie that features this many half naked, really good looking guys running around thrusting long shafts into each other over and over and over again, in which so many men spend so much time demanding that other men kneel before them, and in which so many truly butch guys dressed only in panties and leather straps manage to get so constantly and thoroughly spattered with the body fluids of other men… I don’t know. I’m thinking that pointing out that the Greek culture which the Spartans were part of and which they were fighting, killing, and dying to defend was homosexual by choice is, well, appropriate, and merited.
Yeah, me too.
(By the way, those who have seen “300” — does Leonidas have any scene where he’s not yelling at the top of his lungs? The whole trailer, he’s bellowing. “This…is…SPAH-TA! Then we will fight…IN THE SHADE!!!” That would get old fast.)
I’m retooling my blog bookmarks again. My rule: The drop-down menu must not extend beyond the depth of the screen. Every few weeks I add and drop to make it fit. I added Bats left, throws right for the sheer novelty of a Hoosier liberal. Found Kim Morgan, who writes better about movies than I do, via Wolcott. Kept the increasingly disappointing DetNews politics blog because they provide my health insurance. Laura Lippman’s blogging her book tour, but she’s so nice she can’t say anything mean about anybody; her life is an exercise in gratitude. Also, discretion:
Just this morning, I tried on some outfits in anticipation of an engagement later this week. The outfit I ended up choosing is, according to the one outside opinion I sought, “classy and becoming.” It also is a) twelve years old and b) from Banana Republic. But no one will know that unless I wear it inside out. My hunch is that the context of the engagement — not to mention the killer shoes — will lead people to think the outfit is nicer than it is. Unless you read this blog, in which case, if you catch this particular gig, you’ll probably be thinking: “I can’t believe that Laura is such a dork that she’s wearing a 12-year-old Banana Republic outfit.”
From further analysis, I suspect the engagement was an appearance on CBS’ morning show, whatever they’re calling it these days. I missed it, and too bad, because I would have liked to fire off an e-mail to the producer chastising her guest for wearing a 12-year-old Banana Republic outfit.
And then there’s Ken Levine, whose St. Patrick’s Day post I didn’t see until after I’d done St. Patrick’s Day. It’s from a “Cheers” episode that he wrote, so he’s allowed to quote it:
AN IRISH BAND ENTERS. THEY’RE ALL WEARING CABLE-KNIT SWEATERS. ONE OF THEM IS NAMED SEAN.
THE BAND BEGINS TO SING AND PLAY A SLOW IRISH BALLAD:
(singing) “They broke into our Dublin home, the dirty English dogs. They took away my sister and they beat my dad with logs.”
THEY BREAK INTO A QUICK UP BEAT IRISH JIG FOR A BEAT, THEN RESUME THE LYRICS:
(singing) “Along the ring of Kerry you can hear the bleat of gulls, I’ll sip the blood of the English from their bleached and hollowed skulls.” (TO THE BAR) Everybody!!
Everybody! Happy week to all.