A Gooden Worsted Double Feature
Gooden Worsted's Bitable Bytes - The Muse:
With all the Hollywood elbows nudging Hollywood ribs in this movie, I guess it's to be expected that there's a meta-level to The Muse. Brooks is basically playing himself in the character of Steven, an established screenwriter who has passed his prime of creativity. As usual, Brooks is bitter and whiny, barely managing to squeak some tenderness into the places where the script calls for it. But Brooks makes a break from such well-developed films like Defending Your Life and the seminal Lost in America with this shallower, more hollow filmstrip.
And as Spike Jonze does with Being John Malkovich, The Muse owes its main creative point to Woody Allen, who has been there and done that, and better.
T.S. Eliot said, or stole the quote, "Good artists borrow; great artists steal." The difference, though between Eliot and Jonze or Brooks is that Eliot was a poet and maybe 1% of the population has heard of him or read him, and maybe .001% of the population would catch his references to other poets. Jonze and Brooks are trying to rip off a cultural icon of his most characteristic aspects and it's patently obvious to anyone who looks at movies. So let's rewrite the quote: "Mediocre artists steal, great artists steal well."
Back to The Muse: in a nutshell, Steven turns to his friend and fellow screenwriter played by Jeff Bridges who tells him that he has to hook up with this woman, Sara. Sara, it turns out, is a muse, one of the daughters of Zeus that brought inspiration to artists back in the day. Apparently, they are still around. Now, I didn't remember the name "Sara" among the other nine, Terpsichore, Erato, etc., but let's call it creative license.
Sara is quirky. She has extremely expensive tastes, and although she can deliver artists into the hands of fame and wealth, it's necessary for Steven to front for her lavish costs before she'll work with him. One he does, though, Sara manages to inspire him to succeed. Plus she lives with Steven's family for a while and helps his wife, Andie MacDowell, find a success of her own.
At the end, the happy ending is snatched away from Steven, but then given right back to him. This is not a plot twist, it's, as Devo puts it, "jerking back and forth." There is opportunity for an original plot element near the end, but it's not taken. I'll spoil it for you now, so you don't have to rent it. Two psychiatrists appear and tell Steven and his wife that Sara is not a muse, but an escaped loony. Can I hear the sound of you slapping your cheek in disbelief?
The fact that these two doctors are cast to look like Zeus and Hera is not played at all. They could have been the other immortals in disguise, out to punish Sara for intervening too much in the lives of mortals. But instead the scene is a fumbled attempt at a surprise ending.
Not only does the tale desperately try to break out of the predictable, with no noticeable results, but also the dialogue is spoon-fed in the most novice way. We only know that things are funny because people tell us. The examples the script uses to illustrate "funny movie concept" and "not funny movie concept" fail to distinguish themselves when removed from the script. It's only from Brook's whiny wise-cracks that we know what's going on. We know Brook's character has lost his edge only because four different characters say that exact phrase. And because Brooks is playing himself--and clearly has no edge in this particular project.
I found the Hollywood inside jokes annoying: they weren't particularly juicy, and in all rather old-hat. The only thing worth seeing in this film is the 1-second view of Sharon Stone's hiney, which is a very nice one even if Stone has been supplanted as Hollywood's favorite hottie by a new wave of younger women like Hallie Berry.
Gooden Worsted's Bitable Bytes - I Married a Strange Person:
My best guess is that someone said to Bill: "you know, your stuff is strange and all, but just think what it would be like if you added sex and violence! A whole world would open up!"
The truth is, it's the same twisted world, but with sex and violence and a ludicrous plot to support it.
If you don't know Plimpton's work, his seminal animated short, Your Face, depicted a head singing a song. In the course of the song, the head mutated, twisted, exploded, reformed, and went through all kinds of permutations. It's a fascinating cartoon. Since then, Plimpton has kept doing approximately the same thing again and again.
In I Married a Strange Person, a satellite TV beam zaps protagonist Grant in the back of the neck, giving him a boil that allows him to warp reality at will. Then everyone starts fighting over him. A broad stroke media corporation called Smile Corp. wants the power, along with a not-funny comedian. Bu Grants's wife saves him. The last 30 minutes is a big battle against a huge corporate militia. The movie is another vehicle for Plimpton shenanigans. You get the morphing heads, bodies turning inside out. People turning into lizards, lawnmowers turning into butterflies. You also get the unflattering portraiture that marks all of Plimp's characterizations.
One or two scenes were interesting, like the description of where belly-button
lint comes from. Also, as in most Plimp cartoons, there are some cute ditties.
These are good, and the animation is fun, but overall this flick is definitely
rainy-day material. If you'd like to experience Plimpton at his better,
try to find The Tune. It brings together his previous short subjects
(many are brilliant) in an equally silly, but more likeable plot.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.