Sunday, June 04, 2006

My First Neflix
"The Ice Harvest." Actually much better than I expected. John Cusack is one of the better actors of this generation and does a great turn as the half-addled, half-brilliant lawyer behind a rip-off of his mob boss. Billy Bob Thornton plays his type (I think he's a wonderful actor but c'mon - you know what Billy Bob character is going to be when you see him cast, don't you?) and plays it well. What is not to be missed is the "outtake scene" in the special features. He replays one scene as his immortal Karl Childers characater from "Sling Blade." Oh fer fall down funny!
Really it's Cusack's worn-down, world-weary but gamely hoping for the big score to work out character that makes the movie. The moviegoer has to have someone to like in movies like this and Cusack's Charlie Arglist is that person. Besides, is it really morally wrong to steal from a criminal? Forget all the killings and the divorced family and the tawdry Christmas presents for his kids bought in a filling station's convenience store in the wee hours of Christmas morning.
On the other hand, Connie Nielsen plays the femme fatale Renata and I just don't find her so overwhelming that I bought her devasting effect on the Cusack character. If you look at her face closely while she's speaking, you see the lines gather around her lips which always puts me in mind of little old ladies in retirement homes whose lipstick bleeds off the lips into those lines. Eeesh. Just accept that as my pathology but I don't plan to see any movie in order to see Ms. Nielsen.
The movie struck me as very much in the vein of the Coen's brilliant "Fargo." Very black comedy and a lot of dead bodies by the time the credits roll. One thing I must mention, though, is the commentary by the screenwriters and the writer of the book on which the screenplay is based. Richard Russo (also the author of the bestseller "Empire Falls") has the phrase "As Witchita falls/ So falls Witichita Falls" appear several times in the movie. In the commentary, he professes to not know the source of the words. He needs to review his music collection for Pat Metheney & Lyle Mays's "As Falls Witchita, So Falls Witchita Falls."
This may be a little toe dipped into the big pool but my first Netflix was a winner.

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