16 July 2007

Rodriguez (1998-2001)

1998 - The Faculty - In light of Nixer's obsession with Invasion of the Body Snatchers in Roadracers, Rodriguez's choice of this project suddenly makes more sense. He's been dying to make his own body-snatcher flick. That's fine. I think every generation should get one of these (I'd like to claim the '78 version as mine, rather than the crappy '90s The Puppet Masters). It's one of those essential horror/sci-fi stories that can be retold in a variety of configurations.

This configuration brings the invasion into the slasher movie's favorite setting: a high school. Surprisingly, this hadn't been done before but it makes perfect sense. The cliques of high school could mirror the terror of conformity the body snatchers represent. This flick didn't explore this idea very effectively, unfortunately. The actual snatching of the kids in the school was put off towards the end of the film, mostly to use them as a mob to chase the uninfected kids around. Most of the movie is spent battling the faculty, as the title suggests. The group who defeat the snatchers, of course, are drawn from each of the standard high school cliques and their diversity defeats the menacing conformity. Too bad the menace was shown just as some shots of kids getting along inside of the normally chaotic school. It's a missed opportunity.

The movie fell similarly short on a number of plot points. At one point, Casey's principal tries to get one of his parents into her office for a talk by themselves as a ruse to infect the parent with a snatcher. There's a moment of tension as no one believes Casey's story. If his parents are infected, we assume he'll lose them forever; he's about to watch them walk into their deaths. Some fast talking saves the day, but it doesn't matter too much. We find out later that every infected person will be A-OK if the queen snatcher is killed. This also results in an unusually low body count for a teen horror movie. None of the (human) teens buy the farm. Only a couple of teachers meet their fate.

Otherwise, it's an alright horror flick. Unlike others of my generation, I have no problem with so-called "WB horror." Never a watcher of '90s teen dramas, horror movies casting from those shows don't seem any different from other teen movies with teen actors.

And to Miramax: eat me. This is your third non-anamorphic transfer in a row (after Four Rooms and From Dusk Till Dawn). It's the HDTV era: zooming these things makes 'em look like crap. (6/10)

1998 - The Ten Minute Film School - This is a brief peak into the shooting of El Mariachi created by Rodriguez for the DVD release. Color me impressed. His hyper-efficient shooting style is a beauty to behold. He films without sound partially to not waste any film shooting slates. He films all of his actors' takes in a row, substituting zooms for camera moves or angle changes. He records all of the dialogue and sound after filming is complete so he can use the actual location's sounds. If an actor screws up, say, a jump over a balcony: stop filming, change angles and have him pick up from slightly before the mistake so it can all be editing together. Every amateur filmmaker and film student in college should watch this. (8/10)

1998 - Ten More Minutes: Anatomy of a Shootout - What did 1000 times more money in the budget do for Rodriguez's shooting style? Rodriguez shows us using footage from the making of Desperado. Mostly, his style has been completely changed. He has so much money, he can have all of the actors and stunt people act their scenes for his video camera so he can pick out the angles he will use when he shoots it for real on a later day. No more frenetic shooting from the hip; he can take his time and figure out things before committing them to celluloid. This is sound advice. If you're filming your first big-budget studio movie, you're going to want to have all your ducks in a row. It's just not as useful as the previous Ten Minutes were for the amateur filmmaker. (7/10)

2001 - Spy Kids - A film I'm looking forward to watching again with my future daughter. It's imaginative, colorful, and full of energy. There are robots made of thumbs, mutants, jetpacks and submarines. There's a solid kid's movie message about families sticking together (even if they sometimes fight). I don't recall any product placement. Who knew the director of Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn had this in him?

Extra points go to Teri Hatcher for walking around the entire movie with a hilarious hairdo. (7/10)