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The Bottom Shelf #99

03.15.2007

I honestly am beginning to believe that there isn't a movie out there that Patricia Arquette couldn't save. Time and time again I've watched her movies, impressed by her presence. I'm surprised that it took me this long to see how she alone manages to bring more credibility to a movie that it otherwise might not garner. Here are a couple examples.

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette

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I'm very upfront about my general distaste for Martin Scorsese. His pompous approach to material and his blatant misogynistic attitude towards the female characters in his movies leads me to not be all-encompassingly impressed with him as so many other people are. I've skipped many of his movies based partly on those feelings and partly on the fact that his subject matter frequently repeats itself and isn't all that interesting to me. However, based on the stories that I've listened to my friend Zach tell about being an EMT and ambulance driver, along with his insistence that I give this movie a try, I felt that it might be worth a go-around.

The life of a burnt out New York City EMT is detailed as he rides around with different partners in an ambulance over the course of one hectic weekend. His first call of the movie is to tend to a man who's locked himself in the bathroom, ready to die. Called to the apartment by his distraught family, including an estranged daughter, he manages to bring the guy back to life, although the prognosis is dim. That call kicks off a series of events in his life, revolving around his fascination with the man's daughter and his hallucinations of a young woman that he failed to save.

The story is actually a very interesting one. The only major problem that I have with this movie is that Scorsese seems to have very little faith in that story. The editing is out of control, with the average length of the screen shots being a whopping 5.1 seconds. The music, while a very powerful and eclectic mix is loud and overbearing, seemingly to distract the audience from the storyline. The best moments in the movie are when the music begins to come to a lull and the lighting mellows out. Even the camera angles right themselves. It's really no surprise to me that those scenes are the ones featuring the lovely and completely underrated Arquette. It makes sense that she and Cage at one point had a romantic relationship, as it plays out in a visually harmonious manner on screen. She and her interaction with Cage are what ground this movie and save it from the heavy-handed techniques of its director. Throw in some profound statements on why EMTs do what they do and you have yourself a pretty decent movie, even if it is a Scorsese.

Favorite Scene:

The first scene in which cage shows up late to work hoping to get himself fired and his boss explains why he can't fire him that day, but promises to do it tomorrow.

Favorite Line:

"I'm a true c*cksman. I don't mix my seed. The only time I touch a white woman is when I'm holding her down for the police."

Trivia Tidbit:

Scorsese is the voice of the male dispatcher.

See if you liked:

THE DEPARTED, TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS

NIGHTWATCH (1997)
Directed by: Ole Bornedal
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I love a thriller that can't make up its mind if it's going to go for chills or for smirks and snorts. I honestly don't think that the intension for NIGHTWATCH was to make the audience laugh, but there are moments when it's unavoidable. The actors seem to flip flop between taking their lines seriously and having that mischievous look in their eye that reveals just how goofy they find the set up to be. Great case in point is Nick Nolte as the hard-nosed police detective. From the start, he seems believable in his pursuit of a serial killer. As the movie progresses he appears to degenerate into a walking, talking version of his notorious mug shot.

I've always been a supporter of both Ewan McGregor and Patricia Arquette, both of whom are convincing as a loving couple. Still, I can never get past McGregor's use of an American accent. Most of the time when things are rough he's dropping it. In the other times the accent seems laughably phony. Josh Brolin provides for some of the creepier moments in the film as McGregor's best friend obsessed with pushing the limit so that he can regain his sense of jollies.

So why would I be recommending this movie to you if I don't think it's a thrilling masterpiece? Because I've been watching the trends lately. Many of the thrillers that are being released are remakes of foreign movies, tweaked so that the American public can relate. Comparing this flick to some of the recent films in circulation and you've got a superior product, not to mention one that was a remake of a foreign film that is supposedly better. (I haven't watched it, so I'm not going to pass judgment.) I do consider the movie to be entertaining. There is something to being entertained which doesn't have to involve brilliance. Sometimes that's found in the flaws.

Favorite Scene:

Call me nutty but anytime there's a handjob scene in a fancy restaurant, I'm highly amused.

Favorite Line:

"You had strange dreams last night."
"I did?"
"Mmm. You were breathing really heavily. Kept kicking your legs and moaning."
"You sure we weren't have sex?"
"Pretty sure. Yeah."

Trivia Tidbit:

Harrison Ford was the director's first choice to play the Nick Nolte role.

See if you liked:

MULHOLLAND FALLS, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, STAY

She'll always be Alabama to me first, but I'm sticking with this one for the long haul. Well, aside from the TV show. I despise TV even more than Scorsese.

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