Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Matinee 002

I'm going to roll it out like this. First, a new shot, then the answers from last week, and finally a review tagged at the end so you don't have to scroll through to get to the shots.

Today's shot is a few weeks late for Christmas, but I think somebody's going to get it fairly quickly. The bounty for a correct guess this week is pride.

Here's a picture of what I feel like after playing the Full Tilt 28K:

That's right, Full Tilt makes me feel like a fat kid with a Hanes-deviated rectum.

And now, the answers:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). That's Robert Duval in a cameo as a priest who likes to, um, swing.

Body Snatchers (1993). That's Forest Whitaker with the gun. Poor dude turns it on himself in about five seconds here.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). That's actually Astin in the foreground there.

Aaaaaand Snatch (2000). That's Brad Pitt the pikey taking a dive.

Obviously, the common theme linking three of them is that they are all versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Furthermore, all four of them have "Snatch" in their title.

First of all, kudos to Carson for nearly nailing it. He knows his Snatchers, but not his Snatch. So sorry, no Mookie for you.

All four of these movies are good (Body Snatchers is only 'good-ish'), but there's one that stands out for me. The Phillip Kauffman 1978 version is the gold standard as far as I'm concerned. This is one creepy mama-jamma of a movie, and not just because Leonard Nimoy shows up wearing a turtleneck with a corduroy blazer. I won't front though - that is part of it.

This 70-era remake eschews the Red Scare allegory of the 1956 Don Siegel original, but the subtext is still plenty thick: the conspiracy is real, and the authorities will be of no help - they're in on the trick. Those square emotionless alien pods are coming on strong. By the time you notice the warning signs - strange flowers growing on the wrong plants, garbage trucks off their normal route, your husband's brand-new thousand-yard stare - it will be too late; they'll already be here. (It played well, I'm sure, in the era of Watergate, and it is not without resonance in these 'Patriot Act' days. I don't know if Dick Cheney watches these or any other films, but if he does, you can be sure he does it in secret.)

For this cautionary fable against conformity, Phillip Kaufman enlists a couple screen iconoclasts. Donald Sutherland is Matthew Bennell, a San Fran inspector for the Department of Health and Safety. He knows the system and trusts its integrity. This is a guy who can look at the soup of life and sort the capons from the rat turds, brother, and he doesn't mind calling a turd a turd. He'll even put it in a baggie and take it to the lab. Jeff Goldblum plays Jack, who is a writer friend of Matthew's, I suppose. Really, he's doing the quirky Jeff Goldblum thing, except here he's about fifteen years younger and twice as adenoidal. Honest, I think his eyes are the size of tennis balls in this picture. The surprise is that he isn't the alien. Or isn't he?

Matthew works with Elizabeth (Brooke Adams), who is beginning to be worried about her boyfriend, who just doesn't seem right, exactly. He still looks the same, but . . . it's crazy, but she's becoming convinced that Ted isn't Ted. Ted's changed. He's something else. No, scratch that. He's some thing else.

Matthew first sees this as his chance to flirt - he is clearly attracted to her - but soon becomes concerned as her nervousness starts to taste like psychosis. He introduces her to David (Nimoy), a psychiatrist friend of his who is also a celebrity writer of psychobabble. Nimoy is admirably understated in the role, but he is unfortunately upstaged by his own wardrobe. David, over-rational and not a little condescending, tells them that he's seen all this before; Elizabeth's fear is indicative of a chronic hysteria that seems to be sweeping the city, a hysteria that seems brief, and which David chalks up to the chronic fear of close relationship endemic to modern urbanites. Clearly, David has gotten hold of early script treatments for Seinfeld.
No fair telling what comes next - information would only kill the suspense. I suppose though, that given that the name of the film is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it won't be too much of a mind-blower to disclose that David's soothing theories are somewhat off-base. Yes, some bodies get snatched, and there is an invasion.

The true fright of the film is watching Matthew's trust in the network of authority die an all-too slow death. "Hang up the phone," Jack shouts, but Matthew dials again. The operator knows his name before he tells it, and, even as the sirens drawn closer, Matthew dials once more. It would be close to futile to over-politicize what is essentially a sci-fi thriller, but Matthew is a cogent warning to anyone who thinks the evil can't possibly happen here. Matthew may not be a pod, but he's still programmed to sit tight as the water warms and starts to boil . . .

By the way, what ever happened to Donald Sutherland? Check him out in this, or in Kelly's Heroes. Remember Klute? What about M*A*S*H? Jimminy-whilickers, remember Animal House? Is it just me, or was he great? No, don't answer that; it's not just me. He was our prime offbeat leading man. We're still scrambling to come to terms with what he did for the white guy afro. What has he played in the last decade that couldn't be described by two words, and one of those either 'seedy' or 'psycho'? Let's get this guy a lead role in something, pronto. Howsabout the brothers Coen or maybe Spike Jonze casts him as Rabo Karebekian in an adaptation of Vonnegut's Bluebeard? He even looks like Vonnegut a little. Let's make this happen.


Gadzooks64 said...

Lame Ass Guess: Bad Santa?

Astin said...

Obviously my aces didn't hold up in that pic.

And that's not a lame guess... it's Bad Santa.

Carson said...

I'm used to my Wife telling me that I don't know snatch... but now dudes are telling me as well.... DAM.

Iak said...

I am in shock to see another poker blogger familiar with Rabo. bluebeard is one of my all time faves.

I am officially frightened of you now.