Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway - John Sayles pays up. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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John Sayles pays up. [Jan. 24th, 2010|03:27 pm]
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If one's affections can be bought and sold, it's good to know the price. For example, George Lucas could totally have had my movie love if he had only included a girl Jedi character in the new Star Wars movies. I would have suffered through the midichlorians and Jar-Jar Binks and the whole nine yards, and I would have watched them again and again--if there had been a girl Jedi who was an actual character with a name and lines of dialog and actions taken, and no, it doesn't count if you think you remember something about someone in the background or maybe in a comic or novelization or other related work. It's like Wil Wheaton and the last Next Gen movie: it does not count as having Wil Wheaton in it if you cut his scenes. Girl Jedis, like Wil Wheaton, like most things really, do not work in homeopathic quantities.

Today I found another way in which my movie love can be easily bought, and it is this: give me David Strathairn and Mary McDonnell shooting 1920-appropriate guns at bad people. Even Strathairn cleaning his gun: such a happy sequence there. So very fine. I theorize that a movie with David Strathairn and Mary McDonnell shooting 1770-appropriate guns or 2005-appropriate guns at bad people might also work. But possibly not as well as 1920.

Here is the thing about John Sayles movies so far: I do not always finish them and say, "Oh, wow, that whole movie was great." But so far he has always given me at least one scene, and usually more than one, that makes me go, "Heh. Awesome." When people talk about loving things for their virtues instead of for their lack of flaws, I am now going to think about John Sayles movies, I think. We will get more and see what an expanded data set will do.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: magentamn
2010-01-24 09:33 pm (UTC)

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Have you seen "Return of the Secaucus Seven"? Sayles wrote and directed it, back in 1980; I think it was his first film. Not much action, but the people interact like people, instead of characters.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-25 01:32 am (UTC)

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I have not seen it. But we're trying to see a bunch of Sayles now, so it's certainly on the list.
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2010-01-24 09:38 pm (UTC)

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Matewan? That movie itself was awesome.

Sometimes I think every kid should spend one year of school watching Sayles movies.

[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-25 01:32 am (UTC)

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Yes, Matewan. The library had it, so we checked it out.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-01-24 09:39 pm (UTC)

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Lone Star has Elizabeth Peña being distilled awesome. I recommend it.
[User Picture]From: akirlu
2010-01-24 10:15 pm (UTC)

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Lone Star is also exceptionally fine for the one liners. In fact, I think that last sentence could probably be punctuated after "fine".
[User Picture]From: timprov
2010-01-24 10:28 pm (UTC)

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Lone Star is my favorite movie. It's what got us started searching out more Sayles in the first place.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-01-24 11:00 pm (UTC)

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I *knew* I liked you!
[User Picture]From: timprov
2010-01-24 09:44 pm (UTC)

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I think Mary McDonnell behind an 18th Century fieldpiece would be compelling cinema.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-25 01:33 am (UTC)

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See? Good stuff.
[User Picture]From: reveritas
2010-01-24 09:46 pm (UTC)

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Wil Wheaton ought to use that somewhere on his site. "Does not work in homeopathic quantities."
[User Picture]From: akirlu
2010-01-24 10:27 pm (UTC)

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I did not love Limbo very much, though it does have the usual Sayles helping of ordinary people telling each other small stories, which is nice, but in general I very much like Sayles' movies. Lone Star is a particular favorite.
[User Picture]From: haddayr
2010-01-24 11:53 pm (UTC)

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Girl Jedis, like Wil Wheaton, like most things really, do not work in homeopathic quantities.

THANK you and also I laughed very loudly.
[User Picture]From: davekirtley
2010-01-25 12:02 am (UTC)

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George Lucas could totally have had my movie love if he had only included a girl Jedi character in the new Star Wars movies

But what about that one! You know the one I mean, with the weird-looking head.

[Reads further]

Oh wait, never mind.
[User Picture]From: auriaephiala
2010-01-25 01:28 am (UTC)

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And, of course, there's the brilliant "Eight Men Out", the story of the Chicago Black Sox and how owners' shortchanging ball players led to the scandal.

I also love Matewan, and Limbo, and Passion Fish, and The Secret of Roan Inish, and almost everything he's done.
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2010-01-25 01:33 am (UTC)

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Roan Inish is one of my favorite movies of all time.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-25 01:34 am (UTC)

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I had this weird moment of, "Wait--the same guy did Lone Star--and Eight Men Out--and The Brother From Another Planet? This is worth further exposure to this man's brain."

I saw Matewan for the first time today, and I haven't seen any of the others you list, so I have a bunch of stuff ahead of me.
[User Picture]From: songwind
2010-01-25 02:33 pm (UTC)

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The librarian had lines. *duck and cover*

I definitely agree with you. I think that one female character for which he has to write dialog per movie is probably about as much as Lucas can handle.

That's actually a way in which the the Cartoon Network animated series Clone Wars is better than the movies. Anakin's padawan, several of the other Jedis with whom they work, and multiple significant villains are all female. Plus important one-shot characters, like Ambassador such-and-such and Commander Thingamibob.

Sayles, eh? I shall have to investigate.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-25 02:45 pm (UTC)

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You can borrow Lone Star from us. I think timprov is always eager to make a convert there. It's that lovely kind of movie that's structured so that anybody not mature enough for the concepts in it is also probably going to be bored stiff and ignore it or wander off.

Edited to add: I make this comment because songwind has kids in the house, not because I doubt his own maturity.

Edited at 2010-01-25 02:45 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: columbina
2010-01-25 07:59 pm (UTC)

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I was coming in to say the above. The Clone Wars animated shorts which Genndy Tartakovsky had a hand in - not the horrible ones which came along later - corrected all of Lucas' faults. They are so good, and did so much in only five minutes a dose, that if Lucas had an iota of self-awareness, and there were any justice, he'd be ashamed. Female Jedi actually kicking ass! Actual characters! Good, if minimalist, use of dialogue! Etc.

To me the biggest example of Lucasfail is when you put Samuel L. M-F Jackson in a movie as a badass Jedi and then DON'T LET HIM FIGHT. There is a segment of the Tartakovsky Clone Wars that is NOTHING but Mace Windu essentially destroying an entire army of robot soldiers ALL BY HIMSELF. That's the way it should have been done. Couldn't Lucas have spared five minutes for that and cut some bad Anakin-and-Amidala dialogue to compensate?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-26 02:33 pm (UTC)

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Yah, it seems like George Lucas has stopped asking himself, "Why is this character here? What is this character doing, and why? What does this scene actually accomplish other than paying the special effects crew, which all of my scenes do because this is Star Wars, at least allegedly?" And that's...not at all reasonable.
[User Picture]From: columbina
2010-01-25 08:00 pm (UTC)

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My line about John Sayles film was inspired after seeing Passion Fish, and it continues to hold true for any number of his films:

I would never in a million years have watched this film, much less enjoyed it, if anyone else in the world had made it.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-01-26 12:40 am (UTC)

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I saw the plot summary for Passion Fish and said, "Yes, I see why it would never have occurred to me to watch this movie otherwise." So we'll see whether I like it--but because it's John Sayles I'm at least interested in finding out.
[User Picture]From: laurel
2010-02-18 10:59 pm (UTC)

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I've been trying to catch up with the Sayles movies I haven't seen via Netflix (particularly their instant view option).

I hadn't thought to apply the "well there's always at least one awesome scene in it to make it worthwhile" thing to Sayles movies, but it fits. His also tend to have a certain atmosphere or mood that I enjoy, even if the film as a whole doesn't rock my socks.

Wim Wenders is a director whose work I kindof love for this same reason. He's the one I always point to as someone whose films have just enough awesome in them that I'll forgive or overlook their slow pace or other things that don't quite work. (His Until the End of the World is one of my all-time favorite movies, flawed though it may be.)

I have a weakness for movies with good ensemble casts and/or a certain feel to them that may have some big flaws in them, but I love 'em anyway. (This explains why I own Hudson Hawk on DVD-- a perfect example of a movie with all sorts of potential and interesting bits that just didn't work really. But I enjoy the bits enough that I don't care.)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-19 07:12 pm (UTC)

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I am a big fan of the good ensemble cast, too. I have difficulty mentally isolating people anyway, so I like movies better that don't try.