The Mouse That Roared

Kevin over at The Smallest Minority has reviewed Why We Fight, a documentary about the Iraqi war. It’s lengthy, but it’s a good read if you can carve out a few minutes.

 One thing struck me in Kevin’s post:

The Imperial Roman motto was “Veni, vidi, vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The American version seems to be more along the lines of “We came, we kicked ass, and then we hauled out the checkbook.”

In the 1959 comedy, The Mouse That Roared, the tiny, poor, pre-industrial country of Grand Fenwick declares war on and “invades” the US in hopes that the US will invade Grand Fenwick in return, then pay for the country’s reconstruction efforts.

No, I have nothing relevant to add to Kevin’s post. I just thought of that silly, half-assed British comedy when I was reading.

Try the Priest

Tim Burton made my favorite Broadway musical (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) into a movie. It’s out today. Now, I love Tim Burton’s movies. I just don’t know how I feel about him at the head of my favorite musical. Look at the messes Hollywood made of Phantom of the Opera and Evita. And the Sweeney Todd movie…stars Johnny Depp. Dear God, Johnny Depp. Why Johnny Depp? The part of Sweeney is supposed to be played by an older baritone. Johnny Depp can still play a twenty-something.

I heartily approve of the casting of Judge Turpin, though. I dearly love Alan Rickman.

The main plot in the stage production: It’s about a man (Sweeney Todd) sent to a penal colony because a powerful judge wanted his wife. The play begins when he returns home to London to be reunited with his wife and child; he finds that his wife drank poison and his daughter is now the ‘ward’ of the judge. The play is about his plan to kill the judge and get his daughter back. He does this by opening a barber shop (above a meat pie shop that sells the worst meat pies in London). There he kills all his wealthy clients because he’s nuts and maybe the judge will show up at his shop.

So, what to do with the bodies once Sweeney slits their throats? The owner of the meat pie shop has a solution. (Because cats are just too fast for her. And yes, it’s what you’re thinking.) Is it a coincidence that the meat pie shop then begins to have a rep as selling the best meat pies in London? I think not. So, try the priest and go see Sweeney Todd. I’m going to go see it soon. More about it then.

I’ve heard they’ve cut a great deal of the play from the movie. One of the songs cut is the narrative. So here it is, from Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Sondheim:

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
His skin was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

He kept a shop in London town
Of fancy clients and good renown.
And what if none of their souls was saved?
They went to their maker impeccably shaved
By Sweeney,
By Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Swing your razor wide, Sweeney!
Hold it to the skies!
Freely flows the blood of those
Who moralize!

His needs were few, his room was bare.
A lavabo and a fancy chair.
A mug of suds and a leather strop,
An apron, a towel, a pail, and a mop.
For neatness he deserved a nod,
Did Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Inconspicuous Sweeney was,
Quick and quiet and clean ‘e was.
Back of his smile, under his word,
Sweeney heard music that nobody heard.

Sweeney pondered and Sweeney planned
Like a perfect machine ‘e planned.
Sweeney was smooth, Sweeney was subtle,
Sweeney would blink and rats would scuttle.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a vengeful god.
What happened then – well that’s the play,
And he wouldn’t want us to give it away,
Not Sweeney.
Not Sweeney Todd,
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

I can’t wait.

It’s That Time of Year Again

So here we are at the end of another year. Which means that we’ll all have to suffer through those stupid “Best of 2007” review shows. You know those shows that recap a certain element of the soon to be gone year? Yeah, those shows. It’s time for them again. I hate those  shows.

[They’re almost as bad as all the shows we’re going to get soon that glorify Baby Boomers. Oh, it’s only a matter of time. You know it. I know it. There’s nothing Baby Boomers love so much as themselves, unless it’s glorification of themselves. And the networks are counting on that for ratings. Anyway, Brokaw has a book out about them. So TV shows can’t be far behind.] 

Back to topic, I can’t stand those year end review shows. Enough of 2007! I’m ready for 2008. Let’s get on with it and stop memorializing the stinking previous year already.

Just Stop

Well, dammit. Peter Jackson can’t make a hit movie that doesn’t involve small gay men with big hairy feet. So he’s at it again.

There will be two more Tolken movies, this time based on The Hobbit. I loved the books in high school, thought the Jackson movies were pretty on the big screen, but thought they were a snooze on video. Seriously, when I need to sleep and can’t, I go watch one of those stinking Lord of the Ring movies.

But that’s not even the worst of my complaints. And the complaints, they are a legion. No, my biggest gripe is that the actors can’t act. Oh, they are pretty, pretty people and they can read their lines with dramatic flair. But every line, every stinking line is Very Important. Everything is Very Important, Most Special and Quite Thrilling. It’s like that scene in The Ten Commandments where Charlton Heston, as Moses, learns that the first born sons of every house in Egypt (without the blood above the door) will be dead by morning. Heston chewed on the scenery quite a bit in that scene with lots of staggering, proclamations and gnashing of teeth. Every scene is like that in the LOTR trilogy.

Every word must be caught, wrestled, wrung, grappled, and subdued until it lay panting and submissive at the actor’s feet. No word is unimportant. No word is wasted. No word is to be left unpunished. And the words? They are punished aplenty. But because no sentence is spoken more or less than another, nothing is emphasized. And that’s just the words. Every fall of a leaf is Essential. Every gust of wind is Vital. Every chicken scratch, bird flight, grass growth and horse fart is a Very Important Action. All of this Importance runs together in one giant conglomerate of emotion that leaves me completely emotionless towards the characters’ plights.

I didn’t care which pretty, pretty girl whats-his-name chose. I didn’t care that that guy died in the first movie. I didn’t care if pretty, pretty Legolas… well, I don’t really remember what Legolas’ problem was, unless it was finding time to tweeze his eyebrows and wash his hair between battles. I didn’t care that Frodo is something of a crack addict towards the end of the movies.

And the poor actor who played Frodo was something of a one trick pony. After watching the first movie, you know exactly how Frodo will react to any given situation. A group of Dementors (or whatever the black-robed baddies are called in LOTR) has cornered Frodo. Oh No! What will Frodo do? You know what he’ll do: Cue trembling lip. Cue teary eyes. Cue hand to ring on necklace under shirt. Cue death grip on ring. Cue heavy breathing. Cue glazed eyes. Cue yearning look on face. True, he does it very well. But that seems to be all he does beyond the first movie. I have no doubt that some college students somewhere have turned this very reaction into a drinking game. “Trembling lip! Drink!” Well, perhaps they haven’t; they’d probably fall asleep before they get drunk, which would defeat the purpose of the drinking game.

Not that the LOTR trilogy isn’t good. It is. It’s right up there with watching Cleopatra, Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. Those are all great movies. They’re also all boring movies. They’re seriously boring movies. They’re the kind of movies that you watch when they come on late at night on some Turner station when you can’t sleep. They’re the kind of movies my college roommate and I turned on late at night when we wanted background noise that wouldn’t disturb our last minute cramming for finals. They’re the kind of movies your crappy tenth grade world history teacher makes the class watch during first period for a week when his college buddies are in town and he wants to sleep off his hangovers. Simply put, they’re not the kind of movies you watch for fun. They’re the kind of movies you watch when you want to suffer, and suffer for a long time. They’re a fairly masochistic activity.

So no, I’m not looking forward to two more hobbit movies. Frankly, I wish that Jackson would leave Tolken the hell alone.