Tuesday, May 3, 2011

These Movies are Mine.

Two weeks ago, for the second time, I Netflixed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the one with Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel (Who's very nice to look at throughout the whole thing), and Alan Rickman as the voice of the clinically depressed robot, Marvin.

I'm not a Douglas Adams purist. In fact, I've only ever read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, though I suspect I should read perhaps all of his works one day. I became hooked on the movie because of the absurdist comedy, particularly when the improbability drive is activated on the stolen ship, and the characters are all yarn figures, with Freeman's Arthur Dent vomiting multi-colored threads into a trash can. I love that before he does, after Marvin announces that the "Earth man" is going to be sick, Zaphod exclaims, "Hey, hey, do it in the trash can, Earth man, this ship's brand new."

But most of all, I always go back to this movie because of the scenes toward the end, when Slartibartfast (the truly unique Bill Nighy), who works for a firm that designs planets, takes Arthur to the site of Earth II, and we see a workman spray-painting some rock formations red, and another holding a large hose, filling the oceans. It's also the scenery that stuns me, being so high up in those man-made heavens, all that construction equipment about, and just whooshing through an experience that, had this movie been more popular, I think those special effects sequences would have become as important as the stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A gross of $51 million dollars throughout its run doesn't make The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a major hit. It doesn't matter to me, because if I come to love a movie, that's enough for me. But that relatively minor gross, coupled with some of the gripes I read online about the comparison between the book and the movie, makes me embrace this movie even more. It's mine. I know there may be other fans of it, but it belongs to me.

I have the same feeling with Swing Vote, starring Kevin Costner, and My Blueberry Nights, starring Norah Jones. I love Swing Vote because of my passion for presidential history, and it's interesting to see Kelsey Grammer as the President of the United States. There's an especially affecting scene where Grammer's President Andrew Boone and Kevin Costner's Bud are sitting on lounge chairs, across from Air Force One on the tarmac, and Boone talks quietly about legacy, how he'll eventually leave office, build a library, and Bud will fade back into the crowd. It leads to a moment in the midst of all the craziness of attempting to get Bud's vote (since he's the one whose vote will decide who is the next President of the United States, with Dennis Hopper as the Democratic candidate Donald Greenleaf), in which Boone talks about his uncertainty about all of this with his advisor Marty (Stanley Tucci, continuing to make each role truly different). With that, and Madeline Carroll as Bud's daughter, who votes in his place when a drunk Bud can't make it to the bingo hall to vote, it's no wonder I kept checking the Wal-Mart site for two weeks, waiting for the wonderful news that my copy was ready to be picked up at that Wal-Mart that overlooks Six Flags Magic Mountain, since it wasn't sold in the stores. Every time I watch this, it feels like it's mine. I'm always enamored with the screenplay, impressed at how Kevin Costner still remains one of our most formidable actors, and I love imagining this fictionalized version of our country under a Boone Administration.

My Blueberry Nights reaches into my world. It's low-key, and even though it doesn't get into the Las Vegas pushed by tourism bureaus and newspaper articles and TV ads, that is Las Vegas. The Strip feels like that at times, despite all the lights and the shows and the blackjack tables and the slot machines. Jones and Natalie Portman go nowhere near it, but it does feel that ordinary. It's just another day in Las Vegas. And that's the Las Vegas I love.

My favorite shot, however, involves none of the actors, not those two, nor David Strathairn or Rachel Weisz or Jude Law. Well, not Jude Law in a moment of dialogue, but rather when he sprays the glass case where the pie is kept, and co-writer/director Wong Kar-wai has the camera positioned behind a pane of that glass so it looks blurry, and then it becomes clear again as Law wipes the glass.

What movies do you feel belong to you only?