|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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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"
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.
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.
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.
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
to tell Filthy Something?