Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for July, 2012

The Movies I Love, #50: Adaptation

July 29, 2012 By: Colin Low Category: Full Essays

When I fished a video CD of Adaptation off a videostore bargain shelf circa 2005, I had no idea who Meryl Streep was. (I know, I know.) The cover lodged her squarely between Nicolas Cage, whom I vaguely knew, and Chris Cooper, whom I didn’t. At the time, what drew my eye lay above Streep’s face and name, where it proclaimed, in large font: “Academy Award Winner: Best Supporting Actor – Chris Cooper.” Ooh, I thought. An Oscar-winning performance. Might be interesting. No nominations were mentioned; the rest of the cover gave little else away.

My first Meryl
Adaptation thus holds the lone, eccentric honor of being the first and last Meryl Streep movie I’ve seen where I was not anticipating her performance. And unlike The Devil Wears Prada, which burnishes its own loin-girding introduction to Meryl for many of my generation and younger, Adaptation sneaks Meryl up on those who have yet to grasp her massive cultural chokehold over the ’80s cinema. Our initial glimpses of her typing solitarily in a high-rise office at night, slinking into a courthouse in session, or approaching Cooper’s chip-toothed hick for an interview hardly give off the vibes of a breathtaking role, even if her voiceovers of literary snatches from The Orchid Thief take on a mellifluous tone.


Best Shot: The Royal Tenenbaums

July 26, 2012 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

This post was written for the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series over at The Film Experience, graciously hosted by Nathaniel Rogers.

Wes Anderson’s films (of the mere Oscar-nominated two I’ve seen) brim with shots like the above: candy-colored, immaculately designed, and with human props at its center. Can you tell I’m not that huge a fan? Yet I love how the pervasive deadpan that Anderson enforces on his actors leaps out into the image here. The billboard behind Royal (Gene Hackman) and Pagoda (Kumar Pallana) might be the visual equivalent of a racist joke—why does the Indian right-hand man get lumped in with a Spanish translation?—but it’s also blaring the emergency/emergencia in which these two baffled men are waist-deep, but barely able to countenance.