This week:
Panic Room
Rear Window

Filthy says:
"Overblown nonsense."
Filthy says:
"Really fucking great."

Oh, man, I almost nearly got a job this week. It would have been at Friday Night Live. Every Friday night, Arvada hosts what they call a "teenage party" for adolescents who are too young to spend the night cruising around the Westminster Mall and too dangerous to leave at home alone. They say it's a party but it's really a prison for parents to put their kids in while they go to swingers' gatherings at the Friends and Lovers Motel on Federal Boulevard. The staff is called "supervisors" but they're really prison wardens.

That's the perfect job for me because I'd be so damn great at yelling at teenagers and keeping them from having fun. Also, teenagers are so stupid that you can be drunk and still have better judgment than them. Plus, it's only one night a week and that seems about the right amount of work for anyone.

I would have had the job, too, but when I went to answer the ad I saw in the Arvada Sentinel, this old lady made me fill out an application. We almost got in this argument because I think filling out paperwork is a waste of time. I mean, I can lie to her in person, or I can put the lies to paper, but it's going to be the same lies and they'll eventually figure out I was full of shit either way. If it were up to me, I would hire the people who make up the biggest lies because they obviously want the job the most.

Even so, I nearly had the job. I was close enough to smell it, but then they get all upset because I did my best on their stupid form. The beginning of the application is all easy and straightforward: name, address, birth date, social security number (I just make up numbers). Then they ask for "Employment Experience" and I wrote "Shitty. My bosses have sucked and I get caught for stealing office supplies when everybody does it." That didn't really fit in the space so I wrote it sideways along the margin. Next, they ask for "Educational Experience" and I could leave the college space blank because they don't need to know I got kicked out of Red Rocks Junior College for accidentally fighting with the engine repair teacher. For high school, though, I had a few scores to settle and I was pretty fucking glad that someone finally cared enough to ask. "Fuck Mrs. Leonard and her trigonometry class. I would love to punch Mr. Terry in the gut for treating the popular kids better than me. I DID NOT WET MY PANTS DURING THE FRESHMAN PEP RALLY; I spilled my milk. I was not gay and I can prove it. If I knew the difference between being called the class drunk and fuck up and getting a full page dedication in the yearbook was killing myself in a one-car roll over like Sal Villone, I would have done it too." I had to attach an extra page to finish my educational experience, but it was worth it because I wanted them to know that I could relate to high school kids. Today's kids are a bunch of whiny pricks, but still I know where they're coming from.

I bet nobody that applied had as much educational experience as me and still I didn't get the fucking job. When I turned in the application, the City said they would call and nobody did. So I called them and that lady said my application was not what they were looking for. I "didn't fill it out correctly." I asked her who you had to blow just to get an interview, and she hung up on me. What a bunch of bullshit. This was a job I wanted, and if you can't do what you want for a living, what's the fucking point of working?

Now, I might start my own Friday Night Live in my basement. Mine will be way better, though. I'll probably call it Friday Night Cool, or maybe even Friday Night Super Cool and everyone will want to play my Nintendo and dance with my dog. Then Arvada will be sorry; I'll make sure of that.

Meanwhile, my Friday nights are still available for catching puffed-up B-movies like Panic Room. This is a bad stab at a Hitchcock thriller, complete with Howard Shore's (this year's James Horner) blatant rip-off of a Bernard Hermann's score. Comparing it to Rear Window crystallized why I didn't like it. Both movies are subjective thrillers where we are thrown into a claustrophobic environment with the main characters. Rear Window effortlessly makes us participants in a voyeurism and detective work. Panic Room is flashy and tries hard to use fancy lighting and camera tricks to keep us interested in one-note characters and plot holes as wide as the Harelip's ass. Rear Window is unpredictable and believable. Panic Room ends with trite shit like a battle against "the bad guy who keeps coming back no matter how many times he's killed," a mad-scramble-for-a-loose-gun scene, and the sensitive bad guy striking a Jesus pose as he's caught.

Some people will say it's unfair to compare Panic Room to Rear Window and that would be true if director David Fincher was trying to make a bad movie. In that case, I would compare it to When a Stranger Calls. But Fincher makes pretty fucking clear that he thinks he's hot shit making a great Hitchcock movie, so let's put him to the test.

In New York, Jodie Foster is a mousy recent divorcé looking for a new house for her and her androgynous daughter (Kristin Stewart). For reasons that we're never given, she buys a mammoth brownstone she doesn't want and that has a "panic room" that creeps her out because she's claustrophobic. The panic room is a small steel-enclosed hidden chamber with rations, toilet, phone line and video monitoring of the rest of the apartment. It's where a wealthy fuck would hide when the poor start eating the rich, or where Mrs. Filthy wishes she could go when I follow her around the house begging her to sing the "Libby's on the Label" song. Of course, shortly after she moves in, crooks come a knockin'. Foster and Stewart dive into the hidden room, only to learn that the crooks want a treasure hidden in it.

The crooks are from central casting. Jared Leto is a spoiled (and annoying), hotheaded rich kid trying to steal more than his share of his inheritance. Forrest Whitaker is--once again--the sensitive bad guy with a heart of gold. And hillbilly crooner Dwight Yoakam is the cold-as-ice killer who'll do anything for the money.

In near-real time, Foster and Stewart struggle to outsmart the thieves, despite a series of predictable misfortunes, such as the secret phone not working and the daughter going into a diabetic seizure. The thieves bicker amongst themselves and try to devise a scheme for getting the girls out and themselves in. The tension rises for the first fifty minutes, but then it just flags for the second half. Nothing else is on the line and the attempts to break in or out become repetitive with each new attempt predicated by some contrived action.

In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is an international photographer confined to his studio apartment while his broken leg heals. He broke getting hit by a race car while trying to capture the perfect shot. He spends his eight weeks of rehabilitation contemptibly watching the lives across the courtyard behind his Greenwich Village apartment. He seems happier when they are miserable, as when "Miss Lonelyhearts" breaks down in tears after another dinner alone, or a songwriter drunkenly throws out his latest work. One night he notices a traveling salesman (Raymond Burr), who frequently fights with his invalid wife, moving about mysteriously. The wife has disappeared and Burr is seen cleaning and hiding a saw and large knife.

Stewart also has relationship trouble. He's too immature to settle down with Grace Kelly, a Park Avenue debutante who's madly in love with him. He's just a selfish guy who thinks he wants freedom, but he tells her she'll have a hard time traipsing all over the world and sleeping in bamboo huts with that silver spoon in her mouth. He refuses to give her the chance to prove otherwise.

At first Kelly is irritated by Stewart's voyeurism, but soon enough she can't resist the story across the street. They both ignore all the obvious signs that there is nothing wrong because that's just not nearly as much fun. While Stewart watches, she goes across the way and roots around Burr's apartment and digs up his flower bed in search of clues to turn over to the police. This leads her into a confrontation with Burr that Stewart can only watch through his rear window. It's the consequences of his voyeurism in concrete terms. The tension and stakes rise until you want to look away, but you can't because it's too much fun to watch.

The Panic Room fancies itself a "smart" thriller that's supposed to operate more on suspense than blood and guts. Yet, Fincher can't resist some gratuitous and gruesome imagery that adds nothing to the story but gets us flinching. He puts everything on the line in the first half hour and then fails to raise the stakes.

Fincher also can't resist showing us how hard he's working as a director. He makes the camera follow every wire in the house and shows us long tracking shots that are so fucking flashy that they are about how long he can hold them, not what they are showing. Sure, they're fancy, but they don't add to the story. They're like gold plating on a Hyundai: ostentatious and expensive without making the vehicle any better. He also uses the same old clichés to tell us this is "creepy." There's hard rain (apparently hard enough that a neighbor can't hear their screams in one scene, but soft enough that a neighbor can later complain to the police about noise), buzzing fluorescent lights, gritty walls, and a weird green tinge to everything.

This is also a story that controls the characters, not the other way around. You can't root for the characters because they might do something incredibly stupid in a moment because the story needs them to. Some examples are that the crooks know the house is filled with cameras. They can see the cameras. They do not want to be seen by the cameras. Yet, they never destroy them. Otherwise, there would be no movie because Foster wouldn't be able to watch from the panic room. One character is told to cut the phone line so he tears the kitchen phone out of the socket. That way, the story can let Foster tap into the line later. What crook could be so fucking stupid as to think a 4200 s.f. house has only one phone? None. Only screenwriters are that stupid. The panic room has a four-inch straight pipe leading right to the outside world. Yes, it's great for signaling the neighbors as the story requires, but it sure is shitty for making the room "impenetrable." As are the huge unfiltered vents leading into the room.

The crooks are written to be smart when necessary, but usually dumb enough to make decisions that no real person would make in the same situation. Spoiled rich kid Leto is the "comic" relief with a bunch of "three Stooges" style physical shtick. He also makes the sort of clumsy expository speeches you find in soft-core thrillers on Skinemax. Except in this movie, they don't end with some big-boobied lady humping him in a way that shows no genitalia. In one scene, he reveals that there's more money in the panic room than he initially told his partners by "accidentally" calculating his share of it out loud in front of them. It's the sort of moment that's so contrived and corny it would make "Simon and Simon" writers flinch.

In Rear Window, Grace Kelly is so fucking pretty that she has single-handedly changed my opinion about genetic cloning. I hope to God there's a Grace Kelly in my future because I'll treat her with so much class and respect she'll shit her pants. She's sophisticated, smart and runs rings around Stewart, yet she's hopelessly in love with him and he's too stupid to appreciate it. He only realizes what he has when she's risking her neck and showing she's a hell of a lot more adventurous and smart than he thought. That chick has brass balls. Her dialog, and everyone else in the movie's, is smart, funny and to the point. You don't see people saying "This is not happening" or other placeholder lines.

Rear Window does something else that Panic Room doesn't even dream of: it involves us. It's about voyeurism and our secret delight with it. Like Stewart, the camera never leaves his apartment and we see the story the same way he does, coming up with our own reactions, making our own conclusions. Like him, we know spying on other people is a guilty pleasure and wrong. Still, we want the camera to turn back to Burr's apartment.

Hitchcock's camera work is so smooth and elegant that you're never pulled out of your peeping tom experience to admire it. It's only later that you think about how beautifully it suits the story. I guess his ego was big enough that he didn't need to remind us of what he could do the way Fincher does. Fincher doesn't want to involve us or even make us care about his whiny characters. He just wants to show off.

Panic Room is a loud, empty thriller pumped up with camera-trick steroids and obvious devices. Fincher needs some new stunts or he'll be a hack. Rear Window sneaks up on you, like a killer in socks, and then it scares the shit out of you. Two Fingers and Five Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Dawn Powell- Angels on Toast

Listening to
Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Rear Window

Juia Dahl of Marie Claire

John Q.:"This man-against-the-system story is as inspirational as they come!"

Crush is "A funny girls' night out film!"


©2002 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All fucking rights Reserved