Sunday, August 19, 2007

Afternoon Notes

Hello, hello. First things first, English Premier League is in full effect. This means that I get months upon months of Arsenal Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann fucking something up. First game back from recess, Lehmann fucks up a simple clearance. What happens? Fulham scores a goal. Luckily for Arsenal, they put up two in reply and won the game. Today, I watched Arsenal take on Blackburn. Along with being chippy, I'm proud of the Arsenal defense for actually standing strong and shutting down the Rovers. That said, Lehmann made this game into a tie.

During the second half, a player from Blackburn hits a strike from about 23-25 yards out. For the non-soccer folks, that's a bad shot unless you are one of the greatest players of all-time, which this guy clearly was not. I mean, let's be serious here. He wouldn't be playing for Blackburn if he was one of the best players of all-time. But, I digress. This hard but totally saveable shot comes in and what does Lehmann do? Fuck it up. The ball hit him in the hands!!!!! And he still didn't make the play. In fact, it bounced past him. Luckily for him, the game ended in a tie. Blame should also be heaped upon the strikers who missed a couple golden opportunities to put themselves ahead and put the nail in the coffin of Blackburn. If this is going to be the stride of the season, I'm in for a very long season.

After I stopped being mad about the failure of the Gunners to get the three points from Blackburn, I decided that I wanted to watch a movie. I couldn't find any terrible action movies on although The Fly II was playing on Cinemax. Deciding against my better judgment not to watch either Sahara, the fiasco involving Penelope Cruz that wasn't Vanilla Sky, or the aforementioned Fly sequel, I decided upon Proof, a film version of an award-winning play. I'll say that I decided to watch this film because Gwyneth Paltrow is one of those actresses who is lauded by everyone. She is supposed to be the great actress of my era, putting in memorable bids that people are supposed to fall in a tizzy about.

After watching this movie, I'm wondering if these people are smoking crack. I won't go so far as to say this movie was terrible, but it's definitely mediocre. And that mediocrity stems from Paltrow's performance as Catherine, a depressed young woman who is the daughter of a fictional John Nash. Hope Davis, who played Catherine's sister Claire, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Hal, a student of Catherine's father (Anthony Hopkins), were standouts. Claire could have easily just been a bitch, but she showed some humanity and decency although I thought her efforts were misplaced. Hal was a considerate person who was trying to do what was right. Unfortunately, Catherine didn't see it that way.

My problems with this movie were many. I thought that the timing and organization of the movie left a lot to be desired. Joel Madden, who is best known for Paltrow's Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, spliced the film with flashbacks and other things that not only made the movie confusing to watch but actually took away the suspense of the movie. For example, he explains the plot twist fully. The plot twist was the one thing that could have saved this movie, but Madden ruined it by explaining it, leaving nothing to the imagination of the audience as it most likely was in the stage play.

Also, Paltrow's turn as Catherine was terrible. She played the role of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown as plainly and uninterestingly as she could. She just sulked through the film, displaying no changes in emotions or demeanor. She just sat there to her detriment. This led to the sympathy that we were supposed to have for her character (Catherine is supposed to be a genius) being thrown completely out of the window. While other films have had protagonists who lacked sympathy (for me, this was The Squid and the Whale), those protagonists had some redeemable characteristics. The positive aspects of such a negative character were erased by the vacant acting of Paltrow. But, I think that her vacancy was more maddening because Catherine was a character on the verge of a mental breakdown, spending time by herself in a house with a crazy man. The effects of that on her mind, I think, would be greater than what Paltrow lets on in her performance. There was no edginess to her character. Instead, Paltrow just displays a lot of malaise and no signs of being a tormented genius.

Aside from Paltrow's terribly vacant performance, the other primary problem that I had with the movie was the fact that it still played like a stage play. It was very stiff and formal. Everything was overly dramatic and scholarly actor. The natural aspects of the characters were lacking in translation from the stage. I understand the stiffness of the characters on stage because you don't have the flexibility allowed on film. But, when going to film, the characters have to become well-rounded, showing off many aspects and using the camera and surroundings to the advantage. None of the characters effectively did this even though opportunities abounded for such work to take place. All of the characters fell into this trap, taking away from the more realistic aspects of high quality cinema.

Now that I have vented about Jens "Faulty Boot" Lehmann (Faulty Boot is what I will call him until he is replaced in goal) and Proof, I think that I can leave now. So, I will.