Mystic River

11 January 2004

I spent half of Saturday working on Sabino’s computers. I spent the other half of the day lying on the couch, suffering from a low-grade fever of unknown origin. I played Nintendo half-heartedly. I watched home improvement shows. Mainly, I stared into space.

Today, mysterious fever mysteriously gone, I was ready for an outing: Trader Joe’s! Powell’s! A movie! Dinner at a fancy restaurant!

We stopped at Trader Joe’s first. I loathe Trader Joe’s on weekends; it’s crowded and I get frustrated with all of the traffic.

On a whim, I sampled some cheese: raclette. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I knew instantly that I’d made a terrible mistake.

It was as if I had just eaten fresh fecal matter. Ugh. The stench! The taste! After one chew, the lump of cheese sat in my mouth, a gritty, slimy ball of crap. I looked in vain for someplace to spit it out. I decided to swallow the thing, but that only exacerbated the trouble; I gagged, could not get it down. My stomach heaved. I felt certain I was about to vomit all over the $2.99 bottles of Charles Shaw chardonnay (against which I was leaning).

At last I spied a stack of napkins on a sample table. I literally shoved a woman aside to grab a napkin. She glared at me — and rightfully so — but I didn’t care. I spat the hunk of cheese into the napkin and prayed the foul taste would leave my mouth quickly.

Later Kris told me that raclette isn’t designed to be eaten like that. “It’s a fondue cheese,” she said. Right. Everyone wants fondue that tastes like shit.


At Powell’s I spent money compulsively, picking up a Modern Library edition of Proust’s The Past Recaptured, a compilation of Dick Tracy comic strips, another Flash Gordon comic strip compilation (this one in color!) and volumes one, two, three, and eight of a Terry and the Pirates compilation. Oh — I also bought a librarian action figure to go with my Shakespeare action figure.

As we were driving away, Kris sighed. “I’m having one of those days where everyone looks familiar to me, even though I know they’re not,” she said. “Does that ever happen to you.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding in agreement.

“Like them,” she said, pointing to a couple waiting to cross the street. Then she did a double-take. “Oh! It’s Lance and Miriam.”

Lance Shipley and his wife, Miriam, whom we had not seen in fifteen years, and now we’ve seen twice in two months (though they’ve only seen us once). We were seated behind them at the David Sedaris lecture.


I understand that many, many people love the Lord of the Rings films, especially The Return of the King. That’s fine. They’re fun films.

I have trouble, though, when people start trying to pitch them as deserving of Best Picture. I want to ask them, “Have you seen all of the other nominees? If so, what makes you think this year’s Rings film is better than this year’s other films? If you haven’t seen the other nominees, how can you argue your point?” Last year, for example, Jen at the Very Big Blog was adamant that Peter Jackson’s Helms Deep should win, but I’m not sure she ever saw any of the other nominees (although, in retrospect, last year’s crop looks pretty week except for the winner, Chicago).

This year, there’s a good chance that The Return of the King will win as some sort of reward for the entire trilogy. If some other, better, film loses because of this, that’d be a shame. I realize that film preferences, like all preferences, are subjective, but I find it difficult to believe that many people could consider The Return of the King superior to Mystic River.

Mystic River is a fine film. It has a wonderful story, a wonderful script. It is well directed (by Clint Eastwood, who also wrote the music!?!?!?!). The acting is superlative (Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne — some cast, huh?). It’s a great film. (It’s only real flaws are some patches of flubbed editing and, like The Return of the King, an over-long ending.)

For my part, I still prefer Lost in Translation, though I think Mystic River is probably, in an objective sense, a better film.

Kris suggested a great solution: award The Lord of the Rings trilogy an unprecendented honorary award of merit, recognizing the achievement. Reward the accomplishment without taking away from other potentiall more deserving single films. What do you think?

Comments

On 12 January 2004 (07:26 AM),
J.D. said:

I just read Ebert’s review; it’s very good. In particular, I like what he has to say about the acting and directing:

To see strong acting like this is exhilarating. In a time of flashy directors who slice and dice their films in a dizzy editing rhythm, it is important to remember that films can look and listen and attentively sympathize with their characters. Directors grow great by subtracting, not adding, and Eastwood does nothing for show, everything for effect.

Over the past three months I have gained a profound respect for Eastwood as a director, and have even begun to admire his acting abilities.

On 12 January 2004 (08:38 AM),
Tiffany said:

I often hunt out an award-winning movie, and I find that I am often disappointed. I am better off know very little of what others thing so that I am not �expecting� a great movie. I enjoyed �Lost� but never got to see �Mystic River�. I have always been confused how you can compare a movie like �Lost� to �Rings�. They have nothing in common, so all you can say is which one you liked better.

On 12 January 2004 (08:44 AM),
Denise said:

Having watched many a Spaghetti Western with my father when I was young, Clint Eastwood has always been one of my favorite actors. The one thing I like about Eastwood is he doesn’t try to take on roles that he cannot be convincing in.

As a director, I think he has improved and continues to do so.

I look at Eastwood as the John Wayne of our generation (and not just because they both made a lot of westerns), and will miss him when he is gone.

On 12 January 2004 (09:58 AM),
Dana said:

My taste is so eclectic that I don’t bother to pay much attention to awards or critics. And, as Tiffany says, movies can be so dissimilar, and yet in the same category, that it becomes like comparing apples and hot dogs. Just too different to be very useful of a comparison.

I think giving the LotR a collective award would be quite nice. At the same time, I think the third film also shows a certain deftness of composition that the other two were still struggling to find. I think Jackson sort of hit his stride with the material and everything in the third film. And I didn’t find the ending to be overlong at all. If anything, I thought it a bit too short…

On 12 January 2004 (10:18 AM),
mart said:

i think NO on giving them a special award. why reward such incredible mediocrity? it only encourages them to make more crap like that. i know this is horribly naive of me, but shouldn’t GREAT movies be given awards? or is an oscar just another stop on the hollywood publicity train now? oh yeah… it is and has been for a long long time.

me? i tend to cast my lot with cannes and the palme d’or, which is a real sign of filmmaking talent.

ok, ok, let peter jackson and his whole pathetic trilogy have all the oscars they want. that just means fewer people in imamura movies irritating me.

On 12 January 2004 (10:52 AM),
Kris said:

http://www.raclette-fondue.com/html/fondue.html

On 12 January 2004 (11:22 AM),
J.D. said:

Mart said: shouldn’t GREAT movies be given awards? or is an oscar just another stop on the hollywood publicity train now? oh yeah… it is and has been for a long long time.

Mart, you’re a good man. While I’m not quite as down on the film version of LOTR as you are, it’s no secret that I’m disappointed by it. Mostly, I weep at the amount of money that was put into these films and how little there is to actually show for that money. Yes, there are a lot of digitally animated battle scenes, but so what? I wish more of the series was like Fellowship (the extended version).

I became disenchanted wtih the Oscars when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. And Titanic over L.A. Confidential? Gladiator? The woefully mediocre A Beautiful Mind?

Still, the naive idealistic J.D. holds out hope that truly great films can win Best Picture…

On 12 January 2004 (01:34 PM),
Lynn said:

Aren’t the Oscars really just about ripping on the ugly dresses and hair that people have the gall to think are attractive?

Mart hit it on the head when he stated that it is impossible to compare and judge two or more dissimilar movies. It’s all a matter of taste.

On 12 January 2004 (03:33 PM),
Lisa said:

Excellent! Craig and I have days like yours too–where everyone looks familiar. It’s a strange thing, and we feel it more in Oregon than anywhere else.

On 12 January 2004 (04:27 PM),
Paul said:

J.D.,

LOTR vs. Cold Mountain.

I like LOTR better than you. I am hesitant to admit that I never read the trilogy. I think that might be the crux of the matter: familiarity with the raw material(the books). Because you read the trilogy you have your own opinion as to what would have made the movies better. You probably also have your own idea of how you would have filmed them (or portions of them); which scenes to delete, which to amplify etc. What I don’t think you’ve been able to do is try to imagine them as if experiencing them for the first time (as I did). I guess you have a need to critique the films.

[Now to talk out of the other side of my mouth.]

Having read Cold Mountain I have a deep fear that it will disappoint me. A movie can never duplicate the feel of language, it can of course tell a story but it can’t be the words themselves. I remember when I first read Cold Mountain, it took me an hour for the first 20 pages! I am a painfully slow reader but I was savoring the writing, the words he chose.

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