8/12: Hot Fuzz (2007)
“Movies” are their own own character in Hot Fuzz. Edgar Wright’s continuous callbacks to Point Break or Bad Boys II are clear signposts for an action homage that wears its influences on its bulletproof vest. But consider the less flashy references, too, like how one of Gloucestershire’s own actors was an extra in Prime Suspect or doofy Nick Frost’s perusal through the grocery store bargain bin yielding Chuck Norris’ Silent Rage and Jackie Chan in Supercop. (“The cop who can’t be stopped.”)
As obvious as Frost’s library of action DVDs and “Keanu in Point Break” mimicry are, the movies themselves are right there with Frost and Simon Pegg’s cops. Undeniable self-awareness is achieved when casting Timothy Dalton as a smarmy village overlord, because even behind the mustache we still see James Bond. When the Standford supermarket’s discount action bin spills across the floor in a wild firefight, on one level, it’s just a bunch of plastic DVD cases. On another, it’s a wealth of character turned into collateral damage. I’m all broken up over it.
8/15: Blood Simple. (1984)
This filled a gaping crater in my Coen Brothers familiarity. I had attempted to watch Blood Simple. once several years ago and struggled through the first 30 minutes; I was far less patient then. In hindsight, my lazy criticism still kinda stands, because the Coens’ first feature film begins unbearably slow.
This neo noir’s trudging pace, I suspect, is somewhat intentional, considering how intrinsic characters are to delving into the film’s exploration of opportunity. Dan Hedaya’s bar owners hires a hitman (M. Emmett Walsh) to take out his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz), and the implosion of all players’ shaky morality is when things get interesting. One can even spot seeds of 2009’s Burn After Reading in the layered psychologies of a crime and murder. (This is far more successful.)
Less notable than being the Coens’ debut is that Blood Simple. also marks the emergence of Barry Sonnenfield’s cinematography, a high mark of the film’s central thrust in playing the sandbox of a bygone period in classical cinema. Shooting Blood Simple. in black and white would have been a mistake on Joel Coen’s part, but thankfully Sonnenfield’s exquisite lighting makes full use of color committed to celluloid. Joel Coen places so much emphasis on the background of characters, even what’s behind their heads, operating in either/or pairings of blues and greens or golds and reds. The color schemes operate at the periphery of these characters, and an instance like bathing Hedaya’s grimy bar office in cheap pinks adds a visual dimension to Blood Simple.’s dimensions. If only those dimensions were attributed to fuller characters. John Getz deliver a relatively flat performance, and his arc — that of an adulterer slow self-immolation — isn’t nearly as satisfying as it could have been. Conveniently enough, the Coens’ debut peaks with a wordless sequence, as Getz struggles to bury a still-breathing body in a cornfield in the middle of the night. Lit only by the cars twin high beams and dominated by a shovel digging into hard soil, it’s a beautiful and horrifying prospect. At the very least, Blood Simple. delivers in that respect.