Friday, December 18, 2009

To Sing and Die in L.A.

Glenn from Stale Popcorn here to share some thoughts on 2004, the current year of retrospective here at The Film Experience.

Two of my favourite films from 2004 share Los Angeles as a setting. One is about a serial killer driving around the streets in a taxi while the other is about lesbian musicians trying to catch a break. So the similarities pretty much end there. I like to imagine that they filmed right around the corner from each other and that they accidentally caught each other on film. Hiding in the background.

The first title I speak of is Michael Mann's Collateral. Perhaps the best pure thriller of the decade, the film is noteworthy for many reasons. First and foremost there is the decade-topping cinematography by Paul Cameron and Dion Beebe. Truly an awe-inspiring piece of camerawork there, don't you agree? Expressions like "I've never seen that on screen before" are just kept for James Cameron, okay! But other than that the film is just a really great thriller. Fast-paced, sleek and effective while also giving us plenty in the way of technical and actor prowess. Collateral was originally set in New York City and if it were made in NYC of the 1980s then it could've been just as good, but I think LA was the right home for this one.

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Editing and Jamie Foxx got nominated for Best Supporting Actor. If I had a say it would've gotten nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and, depending on the day, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress for Foxx and Jada Pinkett-Smith respectively. Depending on the day! My favourite moment of the movie? When Tom Cruise's hired assassin trips over a desk chair! Whoops! It looks so completely by accident and genuine.

The other 2004 LA-set film I wanted to mention was Prey for Rock and Roll. It's not an expertly made film, but it's an entertaining one and one that has an addictive raw edge to its portrayal of a struggling band. Unlike most of these movies where the band or singer is so tailor-made for stardom that you can predict the scene where a record manager spots them, the band in Prey for Rock and Roll, with Gina Gershon on vocals and lead guitar, is exactly the sort of band you'll find struggling to play pub gigs for the rest of their lives.

I particularly like that they sound like they're from the wrong era. Sounding like a mix of Hole and L7 with a bit of Curve thrown in despite being set in the 1980s. Although, while I wasn't in LA at the time, perhaps that's where that style was originating, in which case the film has another interesting dimension. Clam Dandy, the band within the film, probably would have gone on to release one album to immense critical acclaim with a cult following, but would have then followed that with Billboard-seeking mainstream hooks and would eventually peter out before breaking up and forming side-projects. The title track and "Every Six Minutes" are fine examples from the original songs on the soundtrack and even if they aren't presented within the film in any spectacular production numbers, they are great songs to have pop up on an iPod every now and then. Bonus points for Lori Petty!


Robert Hamer said...

Would completely agree with you were it not for that stupid climax that turned such an intelligent thriller into a boilerplate game of cat-and-mouse/save-the-damsel. I was literally watching in horror at that scene as it proceeded to ruin Michael Mann's best film since The Insider.

Agree with you on mostly everything else, though. The cinematography was pretty amazing, and Jamie Foxx gave a great LEAD performance.

Pat Fryberger said...

A little slice of Heat that goes a long way...I wish L.A. felt like Michael Mann's L.A.

Marshall said...

I would have to say the best moment in COLLATERAL is Tom Cruise's "yo homey". It's probably the best moment of this decade in film. Seriously though, what a great movie.


"Bonus points for Lori Petty"

I love it. Though I should say I am ashamed that I haven't seen Prey for Rock N Roll given my infatuation with Gina Gershon. Such a hottie.

But I love Collateral, too. Thanks for playing the 04 game.

Goran said...

It just looked flat to me. Collateral, that is. Sounded flat too, what with all that existentialist hitman in a suit posturing. 2004 was a great year but I like to forget this film was part of it.

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

If I had a say it would've gotten nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and, depending on the day, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress for Foxx and Jada Pinkett-Smith respectively.

Aw, I know he's a joke now, but no love for Tom Cruise for Best Supporting Actor. At least from the nominees that year, I think he was better than three of them including Foxx just because that was one of the worst cases of category fraud ever just so that he would get a double nomination that year.

Glenn Dunks said...

Rich Aunt, I'd consider both Foxx and Cruise as lead performances and prefer Foxx, but Cruise is definitely in the runner-ups. He really is ace in it.