Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty

The upshot of a slow weekend?

I get more work done than usual.

It’s still just a lot of running in place for a few hours (while simultaneously dicking around on Facebook), but I’d like to think I used the fact that I didn’t go anywhere or see anybody to pretty good ends. I probably could have gotten through the day just watching Batman cartoons and bothering people at random, but I probably wouldn’t have been as satisfied with the end-result.

I feel like I used to be a lot better about time management, but I don’t know if that’s really true. I wrote a journal entry, edited five pages of that second novel and wrote the below review. That strikes me as a pretty good output for work. I may even try to knock off a poem, and read some more of a book I’m planning to review for Unlikely Stories. I guess we’ll just see how the evening goes. I’d sure as hell rather be irresponsible, but then I remember that this is how I’m trying to make a living (it’d be awfully nice to sell that book, when the son-of-a-bitch is finally finished), so that keeps the motivation to actually do something my time running pretty high.

Being creatively pleased with what I do is iffy. There are fantastic days, and then there are many, many, many days when I wish I taken up that offer from Satan to sell my soul in exchange for a degree with some kind of theoretically useful potential behind it.

Yeah, I know, the economy is a fiendish orgy of despair, but I still wish sometimes I could go to college.

I’m fortunate. I get to concentrate on artistic gigs, but I don’t always derive any personal pleasure from them, and I rarely feel like I’m doing something useful with my life. When I do it’s magic, and I guess that’s one of the big things that keeps me alive.

Reckless misadventures keep me alive, too, but we already knew that.

You know, I don’t set out to write mournful, depressing introductions. I really don’t.

I’m just saving my knock-knock jokes for the next time I go out.

People love those.
**********

30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty: Movie With Your Favorite Actress:

Bandits (2001)
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

There’s nothing really remarkable about the 2001 movie Bandits. It’s immensely enjoyable (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton together can sustain even the weakest plot), but it’s not a classic by any means. Director Barry Levinson does have a few films under his career that many would consider classics. Diner might be one (I’m inclined to think so). A lot of people hold The Natural in pretty regard (I’ve honestly never seen it). His career is one that’s included films like Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Toys (I still think that movie is an underappreciated gem), Sleepers (the one movie I used to win every single Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon challenge, ever), Wag the Dog and several others. His last movie, the HBO original You Don’t Know Jack has one of Al Pacino’s best performances in a decade. All in all it’s an interesting, diverse filmography. You have some great films, some dreadful ones and a few that are solid, forgettable ways to deal with a couple of empty hours the easy way.

Bandits is a decent, little movie, and it’s not much more than that.

This isn’t about Barry though. He’s a talented filmmaker, but he wasn’t the reason why I watched this, and he certainly wasn’t the best thing I took away from it.

I don’t even think this is my favorite Cate Blanchett performance. I could probably make a case for any number of brilliant performances she’s given over the years. After all, she’s got a few Oscar nominations going for her, has already picked up one Oscar, and will probably win another, is enough of a star to carry a movie on her own, and never seems to settle into just one type of character.

Even so, I thought about it, and still chose Bandits over anything else.

Hear me out. I think there are two reasons behind this. At least, two reasons that I’m aware of.

This was the first movie I had ever seen her in, and I was struck by her performance more than anything else. It stood out. An actress of lesser talent wouldn’t have done anything significant with the role of kidnap victim-turned-accomplice. On paper it’s not the most exciting part in the world. Blanchett is the kind of actress who can take on any role and make some memorable of it. I figured this out after Bandits, and she’s reminded of this in roles since. She’s done this with difficult characters, weakly written ones and roughly everything else from one end of the character spectrum to the other. There’s little for her to do in Bandits beyond playing off Willis and Thornton. She does that, and it’s quite wonderful just how far she goes and how frequently she upstages them.

That’s not easy. Willis and Thornton are good actors, and they tend to dominate the scene when around. They’re also pretty good at taking some bland material, and making it several times more enjoyable and interesting. Both are fine in this. Willis is a badass, and Thornton is the eccentric with hypochondria and a host of other low-grade mental illnesses. They’ve made a good team before, and this is the most fun of their appearances. They break out of prison together, go on a series of clever (within the context of the movie) bank robberies, pick up Blanchett along the way, fall for her, fight over her and spiral on down towards one last, desperate job. It’s good, and they’re good, but none of it amounts to anything you absolutely must see.

I think Cate Blanchett is the exception to that, and that’s a huge reason why Bandits wins out.

And the other reason?

It’s purely cosmetic, and it’s as simple as that entire sequence where she’s lip-syncing to Bonnie Tyler, dancing and cooking dinner all at the same time. It’s not some great moment of intense, powerful acting (she’s got a lot of those). It’s a few moments in the movie, and it doesn’t mean much to the overall film. It was just a gorgeous woman in a nicely-shot sequence.

I also blame that red hair. After seeing Bandits, it finally made sense to me, why so many think she could double for Tori Amos. If you believe that, then this movie will probably help your argument.

Seriously, I actually rewound the movie, the first time I saw it. I might have been even lonelier than usual at the time, but it still made that kind of impression on me. Sexiness in movies is hard for me to find, so I tend to be mildly, briefly obsessive about the scenes, actresses and even characters, who send my jaw to the floor, and then pour cement in my mouth to keep it there for a while.


Other people are in this movie, apparently.

But gorgeous actresses are pretty common-place. Porn has a ton of them. The overall package for unbelievably sexy actresses isn’t complete, until you throw in the fact that they’re unbelievable at their craft. Cate Blanchett is that entire package. She makes even a relatively minor movie like Bandits better. Very few people can single-handedly enhance a movie like that for me.

Bandits is worth mentioning again, as a movie that is not going to be some kind of life-changing experience. But it’s good enough. A good cast can always go a long way with an average story, and Levinson knows how to wrangle a few surprises and nice touches (Dylan’s “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” over the opening credits being one of those nice touches) out of things. You’re probably going to feel like you had a pretty good time, but it’s also unlikely, you’ll be demanding Criterion give it a corner spot in their hall of fame. Everything in the movie is just fine, and nothing more involved than that. Except of course, Cate Blanchett. You could do a lot worse than watch this on a rainy afternoon. It probably should have been better with this much talent involved, but we won’t dwell on that.

And that red hair.

My goodness.

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    • Amaranthine
    • October 28th, 2011

    I remember really liking this movie, but I haven’t seen it in 10 years or so. I love Cate Blanchett, more than I probably should.

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