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.

Subtitle Blitz #11: The Heat

This is the second time I’ve had to work on this one. The first time, I was working on the airline version, which meant I had to configure an existing full subtitle file to a stripped, sanitized, de-fanged and nonsensical version of the movie. And this is insane because one of the arcs of Sandra Bullock’s character is that she learns to relax and unleash the crude, foul-mouthed persona she’s got locked inside. So when she finally unwinds and lets loose with the profanity, it just makes no sense.

Real version:

“You’re just a shit-jerk!
You’re a shit-jerk dick-fucker assholer!”

Admittedly, not the finest barrage of profanity, hey, she’s growing. Here’s the airline version:

“You’re just a spit-jerk!
You’re a spit-jerk dick-plucker butt wiper!”

Undermines the entire point of the scene. It’s supposed to show that Melissa McCarthy’s character has helped her grow. But “dick-plucker” is downright confusing. “Did she learn nothing?” you have to ask. “Did she not grow at all?”

To sum up: Don’t see the airline version. Or you’ll miss this:

Subtitle Blitz #10: Street Kings

From high fashion to gritty cop corruption drama, from David Frankel to David Ayer, one of the things I love about subtitling is the sheer variety of the work. This one’s got a high-power cast, including Keanu Reeves, Jay Mohr, Chris Evans and Common, but eclipsing them all, as usual, is Forest Whitaker. He’s just so damned fun to watch.

Hugh Laurie’s in this, too. He shows up for the first time in a hospital scene, and I literally thought that Ayer had created a shared-universe movie that overlapped with House, M.D. And that Keanu’s character would end up becoming a complex medical mystery, solved in the third when a random comment dropped by Omar Epps switches on the light bulb over Gregory’s head.

But no. Just corrupt cops shooting at each other.

Gregory House’s epiphanies, for the record:

Subtitle Blitz #09: The Devil Wears Prada

I once had to create subtitles for the documentary, Mademoiselle C, which turned out to be one of the most brutal jobs I’ve ever taken. Just a non-stop onslaught of researching high fashion insanity and deciphering Carine Roitfeld’s girthy French accent. This project was like that in many ways. But easier, because it’s Hollywood. Also, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep (channeling Anna Wintour) are so watchable.

A lot of effort is made to hammer home the point that despite its entrenched weirdness, the fashion industry is utterly indispensable. But I can’t help feeling that when society collapses, it’ll be one of the first to go.

Much like subtitling.

The More Things Change…

I was digging through some old books and crap in an effort to keep the simplification going when I stopped to leaf through some old issues of Comic Relief. One of them is from May 1990 and the other, December 1994. Immediately, I was struck by how the exact same things were on our minds then. Guns, arms, crime, Republicans, Democrats, Castro… Take this on, for starters:

Drumpf - Doug Marlette, 1990

We were obsessed about him back then, too. And this one, which seems a bit prescient now:

Don Wright, 1990

Continue reading “The More Things Change…”

Subtitle Blitz #08: Bedazzled

“Elliot Richards is just a beautimous player for the game of basketball.”

I have a soft spot for this movie. I still haven’t seen the original, with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (it’s in my queue) but I can’t help but giggle at the hoops that Harold Ramis held up for Brendan Fraser. Say what you will, the guy has charisma. And comic chops.

That said, the best parts of this movie ended up on the cutting room floor. Witness the deleted scenes. Holy crap, Orlando Jones and Toby Huss improv the shit out of their courtside scene, to the point where even Harold Ramis is cracking up. And nobody says the word “beautimous” quite like Mr. Jones. From the 3:30 mark:

Continue reading “Subtitle Blitz #08: Bedazzled”

Subtitle Blitz #07: Bus Stop

When I was in my late teens I went on a Marylin Monroe bender. I saw a lot of her flicks. For whatever reason, Bus Stop wasn’t one of them, I must’ve thought it was a musical. Now I really wonder how my teenaged self would have reacted to it. As I worked on it today I was surprised to find myself cringing in horror. Don Murray’s Bo Decker is a monster–a knuckle-dragging domineering horror show of a man who’s convinced he should be married to Monroe’s Cherie, even though they’ve known each other all of twenty minutes. George Axelrod (adapting William Inge’s play) tries his level best to pull a rabbit out of a hat at the end and give us Bo’s redemption. But man, that’s a big pill to swallow. I don’t know if that has to do with my own changing morals or the changing of the times, but I suspect back in the day I would have bought it.

Today, not so much.

It’s interesting to note that Axelrod fought to keep Murray in the picture because the studio brass felt like I did, that he was too extreme. But Axelrod said he wanted “Attila the Hun.”

And that by God, is what he got.

Subtitle Blitz #06: State Fair

I like musicals all right. I used to take them literally and complain to Rick, one of the owners of Emerald Video in Isla Vista, “I don’t get it. Nobody ever just bursts into song like that.” To which he responded, “Of course not. It’s a scene where they decide to show an emotion that’s best expressed through song.” Of course. he was right. But I still declared him insane and stormed out of the store without clocking out.

Just like regular movies, some musicals are good. Some are bad. This one is somewhere in between. I like the scenario, and a young Harry Morgan is terrific as a fair arcade proprietor. Dana Carvey Andrews plays a reporter. And Jeanne Crain sings a lot about wanting to fall in love. The songs are okay, but the real show stopper comes near the end when Vivian Blaine (and pretty much the whole cast) sings “All I Owe Ioway.”

Interestingly, the subtitle file I was working from just spelled it IOWA through the whole song. I changed it all to IOWAY. Sure, it’s not how Iowans spell it, but that’s the actual song. And it’s more genius from lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who’s responsible for the tongue-twisting lyrics of “The Lonely Goatherd” and “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.  Witness:

Oh, I know all I owe I owe Ioway,
I owe Ioway all I owe and I know why

I’d love to have watched Hammerstein work. Man, just laughing non-stop, reaching for more mushrooms and laughing some more.

Subtitle Blitz #05: Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back

The original had a cast of interesting voice actors, like Adam Samberg, Cheryl Hines and Jeff Daniels. I didn’t see it, either. I had to look it up. This sequel is one of those dirt-cheap, cynical affairs that aims low and falls even lower. It tries so hard to be fun and quirky, but without a solid narrative structure or real dilemmas for its paper-thin characters, there’s nothing at all going on here.

Unless you count Kilowatt, the alien character retrieved by our protagonist, Comet, in a huge out and back journey that has exactly nothing to do with the central conflict. Kilowatt is a victim of what I call “forced-cute” design. He (she?) might have seemed cute in theory, but without the raw talent necessary to pull off that kind of design, he just looks like an engorged tick.

Subtitle Blitz #04: Speed

People often criticize the plausibility of action movies, shaking their heads in disbelief as, for example, Geena Davis and Sam Jackson sprint down a hallway to outrun a grenade blast. Poor people. They just don’t know.

It’s all real, folks. Take the bus jump sequence from Speed. A bus, rigged with a bomb, has to jump a 50-foot gap on the 105 freeway (remember when that was under construction? I’ve still only ever driven it once.) Totally impossible, right?

Wrong. Watch the sequence below. What the doubters just don’t understand is that a bus CAN clear that gap, no ramp necessary. How? It floats on the power of music. Mark Mancina’s score literally lifts it up by the wheel wells like a crane and drops it on the other side.

I mean, I don’t know. But that’s my theory.