August 3, 2010

"Get Low"

Get Low, a dramedy starring venerable elders Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Cissy Spacek, is promisingly based on a prime slab of Old, Weird Americana: the true 1938 story of an elderly hillbilly (played by Duvall) who hired an undertaker (Murray) to throw him a huge funeral before he died. The Southern period setting is reminiscent of two of the most imaginative films of the last decade: the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Tim Burton’s Big Fish. Not surprisingly, Get Low has garnered 100 percent positive ratings among Top Critics on RottenTomatoes.com.

Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice said of her spotlight-loving father, “He wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening.” In this same spirit, the illiterate Tennessee codger Felix Bushaloo Breazeale decided to enjoy hearing his own eulogy.

Breazeale’s whim captured the fancy of the nation. Soon, he had a publicity agent and newspapers were treating the faux funeral like the biggest news in Tennessee since the Scopes Monkey Trial. About ten thousand people from 14 states swarmed the festivities. A two-mile long traffic jam left Uncle Bush late for his own funeral.

The “living corpse” savored every moment of the “doin’s and goin’s on,” chuckling “Folks, I’m tellin’ ya, this business of having your funeral before you die beats sparkin’ in a buggy.” Afterwards, he autographed fans’ programs with his “X.” The 74-year-old backwoodsman then went to New York and appeared on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Radio Show, but reported back that big city “victuals weren’t worth a dern.” He lived on another half decade, entertaining his numerous visitors by having his mule (named “Mule”) perform tricks....

The 79-year-old Duvall is being talked up for a second Oscar, based, apparently, on the Commutative Property of Film Appreciation. See, last year Jeff Bridges got his first Oscar fpr Crazy Heart, another ornery coot movie in which Duvall played the best friend. So, this must be Duvall’s turn, right? He might indeed win for Get Low, because Duvall here delivers Acting for the Sake of Acting in the Oscar-grabbing tradition of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

To find out whether Get Low is as good as it's cracked up to be, read the whole thing at Taki's and comment below.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Old Weird America, check out these astonishingly well-preserved color photos from Depression and WW2 era America and marvel at the lost world on display.

http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/2363/

Note the obviously poor but well-scrubbed kids. Adults who looked and dressed like adults. The lack of fatties. And the strength and dignity on display. What happened to those people?

Anonymous said...

What happened to those people?

they got zhooed.

adsasdfasdf said...

"Compare the execution of the last two Christopher Nolan movies, Inception and The Dark Knight, to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender and The Happening. You may not understand what’s going on in Nolan’s movies, but you’re obviously in more capable hands."

I haven't seen Airbender and don't plan to and I have yet to see INCEPTION, but I strongly disagree that THE HAPPENING is marred by inferior filmmaking. If anything, it's clearly a film by a minor master who understands how to build suspense, move the camera, use light and shadows, shift moods, and exploit natural surroundings for maximum impact. Though not as effective as Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or John Carpenter's The Thing, it is up there as one of the most psychologically effective horrors ever. It really gets under your skin. It was to Night's credit that he took an idea that might seem absurb and made it seem frightenly real and plausible.
Horror is most effective when it makes us feel trapped in the REAL world where things that shouldn't be happening keep happening, a rule missed by many horror meisters who lay it on so thick that horror just feels natural after awhile.

The scene where the pistol goes from one suicidee to the next was a perfect combination of the neat and horrific. The manner in which one person fell off the roof, then another, then another, was horror suspense building at its finest.
The friend staring at the hole in the roof of the SUV and slowly being converted is freaky and unnerving because whatever malignant force takes over people without their knowing. It's like people go under to carbon monoxide.
And the scene with the old decrepit woman was eerie, worthy of Tarkovsky. But I agree The Happening, though with a fascinating idea and some great scenes, needed a bit more thinking through. Conceptually, something feels missing.

I heard good things about Inception but Batman was not filmmaking but film engineering. Not bad as nuts and bolts go but it was machinery, not organic entertainment. I did like Memento and Insomnia though.

asdfasdfasdf said...

The Happening is also interesting because it makes us wonder why we don't lose our minds more often. We are a million times more complex than bees, with so many circuitry and nerve systems,etc. We are perhaps the most complex biological systems created in the universe. Yet, most of us function normally and get by day to day.
But given the unfathomable complexity that make us what we are, even the slightest alteration of something fundamental(but hidden to us)could possily trigger an undoing of great magnitude.

And, in a way, the Happening could be seen as an almost inexplicable sucide of the West. How did a people who achieved so much wealth, power, confidence, mastery, and knowledge suddenly lose all will to survive, to struggle, and win? How and when? Is it social, historical, political, economic, or was there something inherent in the Western Soul that was bound to reach this moment of crisis and collapse?

adfadfaf said...

This movie kinda reminds me of the final scene of BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE where the character orders his preacher friend to eulogize him while he's still alive.

TGGP said...

Either Paul Ewald or Greg Cochran gave an explanation a while back on how we shouldn't expect our complexity to lead to a high failure rate, but I can't remember where to find it.

Anonymous said...

Another anachronistic touch is turning the presiding minister from white to black. I kept expecting the 1938 Tennessee crowd to react like the Western townsfolk eagerly awaiting their new sheriff in Blazing Saddles, but nobody notices.

If you're attending a funeral for a man who's still alive, you're pretty much open to anything.

Mostly Anonymous said...

I agree with the first two comments. Now that we have our own version of the Great Depression, we can compare our behavior (public and private) with that of our forbears. WTF?

Having your own funeral when you are still alive so you can attend it is a bad idea. It spoils the surprise.

Peter A said...

the strength and dignity on display

Eye of the beholder I guess. I found the people in those pictures surprisingly ugly and often with fairly stupid vacant expressions. You can almost see the Flynn effect. I've noticed that in other pictures from the '30s and '40s too though - the women in those days tended to be dogs.

Anonymous said...

Back in the golden age of TV junk sports, when The Wide Wide World of Sports gave us figure eight auto racing, Robert Duval of all people won the Best Hollywood Athlete Award. He could run and jump and handle various balls. Who'd a thunk it?

In his most memorable role in Network he describes himself as the corporate "Golden Boy". Golden boy? Bald headed Duval?

Alas the wonderful young Duval has been doomed by his longevity to these portentous and "meaningful" movies that no one ever sees. But at Oscar time the Academy never considers its central industry products like Transformers III but honors these dreadful obscure films.

An old girl friend recently dragged me to the truly awful movie that Ben Stiller made apparently as a shot at an Oscar - Greenberg.

Virtually all Hollywood money makers are pure froth but they never get recognized in the Oscars or Golden Globes. The best example of this phenomenon is the fate of Bill Murray's huge hit Ghostbusters. Everyone on earth loved that movie and him in it but no awards - too commercial I guess.

I don't envy you as a movie reviewer.

Albertosuarus

Eric said...

A bit of weirdness about Duvall being in 'Crazy Heart' is that the movie is largely a remake of 'Tender Mercies,' in which Duvall was the lead.

The problem with 'The Happening' wasn't the production quality. (I'll leave aside the disbelief suspended by the neck until dead requirement to take Mark Wahlberg as a high school science teacher.) It was the fantastic stupidity of the premise. The trees are mad at us? Really? For increasing the CO2 content of the atmosphere and making the planet more accommodating to massive forests?

Painfully dopey.