Sunday, September 19, 2004

Movie: Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow (2004)

I wanted to love this movie, honest I did. But the sad truth is I’m finding it hard to muster even a little enthusiasm for it.

It looks stupendous, but that’s a given. I’ve stopped fawning over technological wonders in the movies, because special effects are the only thing that Hollywood knows how to do well anymore. (It’s not the first film to rely on computer-generated sets. That honor goes to 1994’s RADIOLAND MURDERS, a frantic George Lucas-produced comedy that’s so devoid of laughs I’m convinced it’s actually an elaborate psychological experiment.) For all the robots, dinosaurs and space-age gizmos dreamed up by writer/director Kerry Conran, I thought the most effective use of the hardware came in recreating the grand entryway to Radio City Music Hall. It’s a stunning piece of artifice that reduced Rosemarie to tears.

And I didn’t mind the indifferent plotting, because breathless and incoherent is the standard in adventure films today. Although the lack of forward momentum does take its toll on the film’s visuals. “Look, another breathtaking setting that exists only in pixel form! Why are we here again?”

It’s the flesh and blood element of the movie that comes up short. A fantasy world needs to be anchored by actors who wear their humanity with divine panache: Errol Flynn, Harrison Ford. Jude Law seems a likely candidate to join their company, but he proves surprisingly wan as Sky Captain. And Gwyneth Paltrow sinks the film every time she opens her mouth. She may look every inch the intrepid girl reporter, but she sounds like a sorority sister insulting her cab driver. Conran’s clunky dialogue doesn’t help; the boy-girl patter was obviously written by someone who’s spent the last twelve years rendering zeppelins in code. Angelina Jolie shows up in the film’s final third to demonstrate how this kind of thing is done, but by then it’s too late.

A final note about the dialogue: I can’t overlook a reference to “World War One” in a movie set in 1939. That kind of slip didn’t get past Encyclopedia Brown, and it’s not getting past me.

TV: The Miss America Pageant

‘Casual wear’ is now part of the competition? How do you judge someone on their ability to sashay around in blue jeans and a handkerchief top?

Miscellaneous: A Fish Before Dying

Two people interviewed in two different sections of today’s New York Times - vineyard owner Randall Grahm and supermodel Carolyn Murphy - say that they would like their last meal to be “the black cod with miso” from Nobu.

Miscellaneous: Links

France’s smash hit reality show sends students back to the harsh schools of the 1950s. This better not mean a comeback for the Magdalene Sisters. And Jaime Weinman takes a thoughtful look at the impact of the STAR WARS movies.