Friday, July 11, 2008

In which I spend (nearly) a week
in bed with Pacino and Heston

Urgh. What a fine week it's been. Struck down Monday by gastroenteritis (stomach flu) and have been a gibbering dessicated wreck most of the past few days, just now returning to feeling human. Managed about 1.1 days at work and much time lying on couches or sofas buried under a ton of blankets and sleeping bags. The problem with having the chills during a week that just happens to have been one of the coldest in recent NZ history cannot be understated. I just couldn't get warm for a while there even with heaters blazing and tiny fireplace roaring (well, meowing). Not recommended for anyone, really, but cross fingers that the boy and the wife haven't picked up this excruciatingly nasty little bug. (That blog post I managed to get up Wednesday was actually one I'd been working on for a week or so, and I somehow crawled blearily to the laptop to finally post it in between spells of dementia. See, I think of you guys first.)

PhotobucketIn any event, I did get to catch up on a few movies/books between naps and medically induced comas. I went on a 1970s movie binge this week, watching Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon" which I'd never seen and the late great Charlton Heston in "Omega Man" which I think I'd seen many years ago.

"Dog Day Afternoon" was just great, one of those rangy, gritty '70s flicks of the kind you never see anymore – a rollicking bank robbery thriller but also a tense character study. Can you imagine a major studio doing a movie today where the "hero" turns out to be a closeted gay man trying to steal money for his lover's sex change operation? It's Pacino near his peak before he got all "hoo-ha" self-parody. I particularly love his slow staring shock at the pivotal moment when a phone rings in the bank he's robbing. And John Cazale as Pacino's partner is swell, simmering and telling more with his eyes than some actors do in an entire movie -- Cazale only made four or five movies before he died shockingly young of cancer, but every one of them - "Godfather," "The Deer Hunter," "The Conversation" - is a stone-cold classic. He and Pacino do some great acting in this flick that's a template for many an inferior heist movie since.

Photobucket"Omega Man," like I said, I think I saw wayyyy back when, but barely remember it. "Planet of the Apes" is like grade-A+ Heston Apocalyptica Cheese-Whiz for me, whereas "Omega" is probably more like a B+. Swingin' Chuck is absolutely awesome, of course, as the last man on an infected earth, snarling invective and taking off his shirt whenever possible. I also watched "I Am Legend" recently and they're both decent popcorn thriller adapations of the same quite good sci-fi novel by Richard Matheson. But neither of these adaptations are quite faithful enough to get the haunting misery of the book right. Will Smith is surprisingly good in "Legend" but the rubbery CGI villains are lame. "Omega" gets more fun out of the end of the world, what with Heston's grunting, the utterly unsuitable disco-classical soundtrack and the Black Power girlfriend. And of course, Heston dies a glorious Christ-like death at the end. But the cult-like "infected" annoyed me with their yammering and constant catching on fire and Anthony Zerbe looked nothing so much like Peter Sellers' Dr. Strangelove in a robe. Goofy albino guys in black hoods don't equal apes, so there's that.

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