Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Hole (2001)

I'm not sure what inspired me to Tivo this movie off of The Movie Channel, but it turned out to be slightly better than I expected. It's not a horror movie, it's a "suspense" movie.

Problem with suspense movies is that they usually violate the premise of suspense as stated by the master. As Hitchcock's Bomb Theory goes, you show a bomb under a table. The audience knows the bomb is going to go off at some point, but the characters sitting at the table don't. For all of that time, the audience is in suspense. Here's the kicker, the bomb can never go off. If it does, you just piss off the audience.

The way suspense works in this movie is like an episode of Law and Order, CSI or House. Part of the story is missing and you just want to find out what the heck is going on. Then some character comes along halfway through the show and fills in a detail that someone should have been able to figure out 45 minutes before they did. After watching enough of these shows I've gotten annoyed with this, so I was slightly annoyed with this movie.

However, the writer and director do turn things around on you a few times in an interesting fashion. The movie starts at the end of the story, with Thora Birch's character wandering down a street all bloodied and limping. Then they work their way back by way of her being interviewed by a psychologist (Embeth Davitz). About 45 minutes in, the story takes a big turn (note Law and Order reference), but there's still enough to keep you interested for the last hour.

The end pissed me off though. I hate endings that piss me off. Hitchcock understood his audience more than modern directors. We're there to get entertained, not to get angry.

Again, all movies are 30 minutes too long and this movie is no exception. When will editors and directors learn we don't give a shit about half the things they want to film in a fancy way?

One more thing, Thora Birch really can't act. This movie proves it. Keira Knightley out-acts her in this movie. That's probably the worst insult I could ever throw her way.

Other than those nitpicks, it actually held my attention for the most part. It's a Good Bad movie, worth watching on TMC or Showtime, etc..

Quiz Show (1994)

Highly recommended. One of the few Good Good movies out there in the world.

I won't write a lengthy review about it, but two things about this movie that I noticed while watching it again this morning.

If you don't know, this movie is about a rigged quiz show in the 50's called "Twenty-One". First thing is I've realized what makes this movie great is how it makes viewers root for the "bad guy". Many movies have tried to make viewers root or feel sympathetic for the bad guy just by portraying them as a sympathetic character. Actually, two of the movies also up for best picture in 1994 were like this: Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption.

Viewers don't root for Charlie Van Doren (Ralph Finnes) because the movie is set up like those others. He's actually a pretty snotty jackass. Viewers end up rooting for Charlie in some ways because of his father. His father is an educated, honest poet who can barely handle the pressure of watching his son on the game show. Redford, who directed this movie, perfectly weaves more and more of the father into this picture as the inevitable becomes clear: Charlie's going to get busted. I think it's a brilliant way to navigate the story and make the viewer feel tension about the show being revealed as a fraud. Also, some of the dialogue involving the father is excellent. A great script all around.

The other thing I wanted to mention about this movie. What does it have in common with the following other movies:
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral

All four were nominated for best picture that year. And all four were beat out by the Bad Good piece of crap called "Forrest Gump." The Oscars are such a scam, kinda like this movie depicts of game shows.