Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

12 October 2014

Two with Kevin Costner

I don't know if you all have seen Draft Day, but I was into it. It is a kind of poor man's Moneyball. Ok, it has nothing to do with Moneyball, really, but it is about the general manager of a professional sports team fighting with the coach, fighting with his advisors, that kind of thing. So it has a Moneyball vibe. Kevin Costner is no Brad Pitt, and Ivan Reitman is no Bennett Miller, but hey, I loved Moneyball and I was into this, too.

For me this was all about the suspense of the thing. What is he going to do? How is this going to work? How does he get out of this mess they're in? And Kevin Costner is just a lot of fun, so watching him finagle his way through things is a delight. The filmmakers very intelligently keep a clock running at all times. One always feels a sense of urgency. By this I don't mean dread – the stakes just aren't that high in a game like this – but the stakes of a game itself, the rush of winning, of getting one over on the opponent, of coming out victorious. Draft Day has this in spades, and it is a fun ride, though not much else.

I will say, though, that I hadn't seen Chadwick Boseman in a film before (I skipped 42 and Get On Up), and so seeing him in this was incredible. He is so unbelievably good. I am in love. He is totally brilliant in this little film.

Now for Waterworld. I remember this getting a lot of flak when it came out in the mid-1990s, and I can't really remember why. Bloated budget, probably. All of that water! Here's the thing, though: the film looks cheap! This is a prime irony in film history, surely. One of the most expensive flops to date looks like it was done by cutting corners.

The film itself isn't too bad, though. The dystopia Waterworld describes is at least totally different and interesting when compared to the grey, zombie-infested dystopias of our own decade, or even the back-to-the-forest dystopias of Planet of the Apes or After Earth (not that I saw that, haha). I mean, Waterworld is just water. And that looks really cool. Plus, Costner's little boat is really cool, too. It has all kinds of little hidden compartments and he moves around on it like a little evolved monkey. It's quite fun.

The disaster part of the film has to do with the film's villain, Dennis Hopper, and his henchmen, all of whom are played in full cartoon mode. These portrayals are so silly, so completely ungrounded, that the film has no stakes at all. Jeanne Tripplehorn, Costner, Chaim Girafi, R.D. Call, and Michael Jeter are actually playing the scenes like real humans, but Hopper and his crew don't seem to understand, they clown it up in literally every sequence, and the director Kevin Reynolds stages the violence they commit and that is committed upon them as cartoonish, as well. It is easily this that kills the film. The plot is not that great, but lots of plots aren't that great. When you can't believe that there are any stakes in a film, that is a problem of an entirely different order. Waterworld could've been pretty cool, I think, and it's still not as bad as everyone made it out to be in 1995, but it is indeed a big mess.