Manna from Heaven

Sometimes, for no reason at all, regardless of what she’s doing, I’ll chuck a soft treat at my dog.

Which is a weird thing– Imagine you’re fluffing your comforter and getting ready for a nap. And then a donut smacks you in the face.

Subtitle Blitz #20: The City of Ember

I loved this book, about a weird clutch of human’s scratching out a steampunk living, deep in a forgotten cave, surrounded by failing technology and a constant, nagging fear that one day their power will fail outright and the world will be plunged into darkness. They subsist, day to day, on flagging supplies and meager gardens, while rumors of an outside world–and open skies–float around them like mist. The movie adaptation is pale by comparison, as they so often are. Saoirse Ronan is terrific, of course. Tim Robbins seems out of place, and Bill Murray is astoundingly miscast as the mayor of Ember. He looks as if he wandered in from a neighboring set and thought it would be fun to settle in for a few weeks.

Ember is Los Angeles. The past few weeks, we’ve been living in a dark, wet cave. The rain kept coming and it kept coming. Jinx and I would just sit at the window and stare at the rain. Secretly, I began pondering the logistics of building an ark. And then… it finally stopped raining.

I am Lina Mayfleet. Jinx is Doon. And we’ve finally made it to the surface. There’s a sky up there. And it is huge.

The sun is back and we’re overjoyed.

Subtitle Blitz #19: Chasing Papi (2003)

Everyone in this movie is beautiful. And everyone is loud. Just an onslaught of loud, beautiful women who find themselves teaming up in Los Angeles to outwit some witless criminals while trying to decide how to come to terms with the fact that they’re all in love with the same man, who also happens to be beautiful.

I dunno. I guess it’s harmless.

All I know is that 300 inches of snow have fallen up at Mammoth since I’ve started this subtitle blitz. I’m starting to go batshit crazy, staring out the window at the constant drizzle. The other day, my friend Kirk called me a rainmaker, reasoning that the drought began in earnest in 2009 when I moved away and now that I’m back– endless, endless rain.

Jinx blames me, too.

She’s a hundred percent convinced I’m making it rain so I don’t have to take her out on a walk.

Subtitle Blitz #18: The Clearing (2004)

I love working on these kinds of movies. Mellow, thoughtful, contemplative, and full of long, silent bits and actors enunciating properly. Easy. Uncomplicated.

Kinda boring.

That said, it’s Robert Redford, and Helen Mirren, and Willem Dafoe, and Matt Craven, and I could think of a far worse way to spend 90 minutes (and it involves a hammer and each of my fingers.) Anyway, it’s about a modestly successful exec (Redford) who’s kidnapped one morning in his driveway by a disgruntled ex-employee (Dafoe) and marched through the woods towards some mysterious cabin, where his fate awaits. Meanwhile, his wife (Mirren) and her grown kids hole up at home with a couple of FBI guys (headed by Matt Craven) and deal with the other end of the equation–the ransom demands and the hand-wringing (of which there’s surprisingly little.) But the movie is awkwardly plotted, and it’s written in an oblique style that somehow led me to guess the big twist– that Matt Craven and his FBI helpers were actually the accomplices in the kidnapping plot, and that they somehow intercepted the 911 call. Man, how brilliant. So Very clever.

But so very wrong. That’s not how it plays out at all. In fact, it’s rather mundane. But I held onto that twist idea and tacked it to my creative wall fo future use. Don’t steal it, or I’m coming over with my hammer.

Subtitle Blitz #17: In America

This one had me wrapped up in knots. My blood pressure was higher watching this than it ever gets watching most horror movies. Except, of course for The Exorcist (requiescat in pace, Bill Blatty,) which still gets the ticker all agitated. The thing is, this is about an Irish family arriving in New York to make a dent. It’s a good Irish family, recently bereaved, with two daughters. And the make a go of it in Hell’s Kitchen. They’re good people and that’s what’s scary to me–they’re just asking for tragedy to come knocking.

There’s a scene at a carnival, where Paddy Considine risks all of their money to get an E.T. doll for one of his daughters. And as a subtitler, I try not to get involved, but damn it, I had to skip ahead to make sure that everything turned out all right. It was just a scene where he goes toe-to-toe with a carnival ball toss game, but writer-director Jim Sheridan (one suspects this is largely autobiographical) constructs in such a way that it could have been mutant zombie tentacled piranhas and it would have been less nerve-racking.

Nice work.

This is not that scene, but here’s a bit of acting, with Considine and Djimon Hounsou.

 

Subtitle Blitz #16: Supercross

After the horrors of Simply Irresistible, I turned to this one, which looked pretty much like an excuse to film a shitload of Supercross footage where dreamy-eyed, hard-abbed men climb onto motorcycles and hit dirt courses while their Maxim-ready girlfriends wring their hands on the sidelines. I figured it would make Simply Irresistible look like Citizen Kane in comparison. I figured that I’d have to take a shower after subtitling the thing.

I figured wrong.

I mean, I was right about the excuse. The plot is a paper-thin bit of phyllo crust on the filthy piston of Supercross footage, but the leads are decent, the good guy wins and holy shit, is that Channing Tatum as bad-boy biker Rowdy Sparks? It sure as hell is, and he plays up the thick-headed throttle jockey role as well as he possibly could. It was a harmless movie, easy to work on, and no one’s having orgasms after eating an éclair.

I used to ride a motorcycle. It was a dirtbike. I was thirteen. We’d ride around the housing development in Santa Fe. One time I tried to go up a steep, little hill and the bike fell back on me. I wasn’t hurt. I just felt like an ass. And I told my brother, “Do NOT tell Mom and Dad!” First thing he says when we get back home. “Will wrecked the bike.” Which I didn’t. But I probably tried to hit him anyway for breaking a promise.

Steve Howey and Sophia Bush

Subtitle Blitz #15: Simply Irresistible

I was so excited to work on this one. Not because it’s Sarah Michelle Gellar, and not because I’m a huge Buffy fan, and not because I like food movies. No, it was because I’d finally be able to listen to Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Rafael dismantle the movie on How Did This Get Made? And as I’m writing about this, I realize that what I want to do is tear this movie limb from limb and laugh and jeer and point, but I’m also realizing the extent of the conundrum that HDTGM? has to deal with now that they’ve gotten so popular. You can’t just go after movies with a meat cleaver when you’re working in this industry. Well, you could, but say, for example, I see Ladybugs with Rodney Dangerfield and then I blog about how I hate it and wondered who would produce such a thing, and then my agent calls me up and says, “Hey, Albert S. Ruddy wants to meet with you about your script,” and I look him up and see that–gulp–Ladybugs is one of his credits? That actually happened to me. Well, not the blog part–I haven’t seen Ladybugs–but I did meet with Albert Ruddy, and when you see  a terrible movie, you have to say, You know, they were doing their best, and among a ton of other things, Albert Ruddy produced The Godfather, so he obviously knows what he’s doing. Although he did say to me, “You’re gonna go far in this business,” which is funny because, many years later, I’m still at the starting gate.

The point is, recognize that movies are bad. A lot of them are. But don’t be afraid to love them. They give us hope.

Oh, and Simply Irresistible? I think the crab is magical. And I don’t think it’s SMG’s mom. And Patty Clarkson is hot. And no way did Buffy look, act, move or behave like a real chef. I’ve seen Noma: My Perfect Storm.

Subtitle Blitz #14: Sunshine

I saw this in theaters when it came out in 2007. Danny Boyle’s take on sci-fi is glossy, kinetic and a bit top-heavy with phony philosophical musings about the sun. To say nothing of the absurd plot. But suspension of disbelief is my middle name. Will SOD Keightley. I can often overlook the silly parts if the characters are cool and the imagery compelling. Obviously, because that’s why I moved back to California. I just wish they’d explain somehow the “gravity in space” thing. Even if it’s just a moment where a crewman says, “That fire is dangerously close to the grav generators, sir!” I’d be onboard and munching away at my popcorn.

Subtitle Blitz #013: Heidi

There are lots of versions of Heidi. I’ve only seen this one. And I realized as I was working on this that it’s honestly the only Shirley Temple movie I’ve ever seen. She’s one of those actors who you just know exists, and that’s all you need to know. But it’s not until you actually see her move and act and sing that you realize why she was such a phenomenon in her time. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working on this movie, especially after the concentrated sleaze of The Counselor. It was like a bright, fresh after-dinner mint after a heavy slab of filet mignon that I ate while squatting in the gutter dressed in a plaid dinner jacket in a hot tropical rain.

I don’t know if that makes sense. I’m still waking up and my coffee is extra bitter this morning because I bought my pound of Peaberry down the street at Charlie’s Coffee House on New Year’s Day and I think I left my credit card there. Why did I do that? Because I meant to leave a tip and I messed it up, so I hightailed it outta there. Maybe they’ll use it to buy themselves an Xbox, which sounds like a decent gratuity to me.

Subtitle Blitz #12: The Counselor

There’s a hell of a lot of gloss around the core story here, which is about a lawyer who, because he’s fallen so hard for the most beautiful woman alive, chooses the worst get-rich-quick scheme possible to be able to afford it. Lots of flamboyant characters and moneyed sleaze, a kind of miasma of decadence and edge-of-society boredom. I really resisted this one while I was working on it. But I dove in, because when you watch a Ridley Scott flick, you’re at least guaranteed a beautiful ride, regardless of who it’s peopled with. But because I had to work on both the original and extended versions of the movie, I spent enough time with the gang that it really grew on me. I had little sympathy for Michael Fassbender’s character, who made his own bed and pays a brutal cost for it when the whole thing goes up in flames, but he makes those choices because he’s in love with his girlfriend, who looks like this:

The photo above is clear evidence that Ms. Cruz has signed some kind of Faustian contract to preserve her looks, or at the very least has a withering portrait of herself tucked away in an attic somewhere.