What We’re Watching – 8/10/11

Out of Sight

Continuing my Soderbergh kick, I re-watched what I feel may be one of, if not the, best of his films. Out of Sight is the film that helped elevate George Clooney to the movie star he is today. Word around the campfire is that Soderbergh worked extensively with Clooney on his old acting ways of head bobbing and looking up at the camera through his eyebrows, something you can see traces of if you’re watching Clooney closely. Truth is, I have a man crush on Clooney. He is just so damn cool. His presence is purely enjoyable to watch. According the video store clerk at Scarecrow, the infamous trunk scene was recently voted as the sexiest scene in a movie ever; I just can’t remember who she said voted that. I fail.

This film really is the apex of cool-meets-sexy. The soundtrack alone helps establish that, faltering between groovy soul classics and modern jazz meeting trip-hop. This is perhaps the only film I like Jennifer Lopez in. Soderbergh knows exactly what to do with her, and gets not just a solid performance but a sexy one that rivals Clooney’s. With an estimated budget of about $48 million, the film roughly made back double its cost, and helped not only Clooney’s career, but helped put Soderbergh in one of the top director spots in Hollywood.

One of the nicer touches to this film is Soderbergh’s tie-in and connections to the other films in novelist Elmore Leonard’s cannon, such as Jackie Brown and Get Shorty, the most obvious connection being the reprisal of Michael Keaton’s role as FBI agent Ray Nicollete, who originally appeared in Jackie Brown.

Blow Out

Since the Criterion Collection released this little gem back in late April, I’ve seen it about three and a half times. To be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest Brian DePalma fan. I find his films to be visually intriguing as he is often going for a very stylized look, but the overall product is usually lacking something, and rarely gels together completely for me. Having said that, Blow Out is strong exception. Not only is this a DePalma film I can get behind, it’s also one of the rare instances in which I thoroughly enjoy watching John Travolta. In fact, the entire cast in this film works to its advantage. Nancy Allen, who on the surface appears naïve and almost out-of-place, fits perfectly against the paranoid backdrop of political conspiracies, hit-men, and Travolta’s lack of patience.

One of the most striking elements of Blow Out has to be DePalma’s use of color. Combining the zeal and attitude of a Hitchcock film with the seedy noir aspects of something out of an Orson Welles picture, DePalma makes use of color in place of black & white. Strong reds, greens, and blues create a cool texture while involving a depth into a dangerous world of death and deception. The real surprise of the film comes from John Lithgow’s performance as the hit-man hired to take a senator out of the running for president. One of the film’s best scenes comes when Lithgow has to make a phone call to his employers, at which time they tell him to stop his job, and calmly in response he tells them how he plans to go full steam ahead, not even registering the order to cease and desist. Another thing to point out is the use of music. Here DePalma employs an overt and classical score, recalling again Hitchcock, and in so doing aligns the visual style with an aural one that both compliment each other.

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Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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