Monday, December 17, 2001

The Difference Between the Atlantic and the Pacific

A friend who hadn't been by for a while was over the other night and she noticed how the normally gray haired Mr. Max's coat is getting redder. I had just assumed since he hasn't seen one of his favorite red-headed inline skaters in a while, he was taking on a new look in a show of protest. Turns out it is a zinc deficiency. Yes the passing years can change a whole bunch of things.

Perhaps the very best gauge of my changing (or not changing) mental state is to analyze my movie watching habits. Last week I was surreally spooked as the amphibian precipitation scene from Magnolia played out on my computer's DVD system. So spooked that it put me in (for only the second time this year) a let's go to a movie type mood (the other excursion was to see Ms. Congeniality for a whole other reason). I wanted to see either Mulholland Drive or The Man Who Wasn't There. Unfortunately neither was playing at a theater near me. So instead I went to Ocean's 11.

In the interests of full disclosure let me begin by saying that until last week I hadn't seen the original version starring the Rat Pack boys. My exposure to the movie was limited to the wonderful SCTV spoof featuring Sammy Maudlin and Bobby Bittman. It's usually difficult to enjoy a spoof unless you've seen the original but the SCTV bit was done with such love and glee that it remains deeply etched in my memory. "EEEOOOUHLEVEN..."

The new Ocean's 11 is flashy and entertaining. I love heist movies where the intricate split second plans unfold even if they turn out to be slightly unrealistic. The way this movie's plot plows forward, the sheer momentum makes it as fun to watch as the charismatic performances of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Elliot Gould.

But there is little comparison between the original and the remake, not because one is better than the other but because the movies don't have much in common. Both are about a group of men deciding to pull off a historic heist by ripping off a number of Las Vegas casinos simultaneously but other than that there isn't too much of a connection. (I'm 37 years old and I spent hours seriously contemplating the corresponding character to Brad Pitt: Was it Joey Bishop or Dean Martin?) Watching both movies back to back one is able to clearly see the difference between being slick and being cool.

The original "Ocean's" is fun, fun, fun. It was a heist caper that was just an excuse for a bunch of friends (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., et al) to get together and make whoopee. They met in the capital of decadence, Las Vegas, during that precious pre-p.c. era when a man in an orange angora sweater stirring a martini could call a woman in a tight skirt and pumps a "great broad" and she'd take it as a compliment.

The new version is dumb, dumb, dumb. It's a heist caper that was an excuse for a bunch of highly paid actors (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, et al.) to get together and make big box office. It was made in the post-p.c. era when a man in a badly fitting suit can't say anything witty or clever in a movie because 12 people on some team have to OK the script based on its appeal to 13-year-old boys and whether it will offend some special-interest group.
-Karen Croft

Well maybe. For me the reason I enjoyed the original movie better is while the 2001 version is about a group of stars pulling off a high tech caper the 1960 Rat Pack version was ultimately about friendship and loyalty. One doesn't necessarily automatically associate the word "heart" with Sinatra and Co., but the genuine friendship and camaraderie that existed between Frank and Dean and Sammy and Peter and Joey was palatable in the movie. Plus there are a lot of great lines:

"Give it to me straight doc. Is it the big casino in the sky?"

"You'd better stop getting prettier every day otherwise you'll be a monopoly."

"I married you once and it didn't work out. What's wrong with a little hey hey?"

A big surprise is that Angie Dickinson (the jiggling Pepper of Police Woman) is absolutely fabulous in the role of the wife of Sinatra's Danny Ocean. She actually comes across as radiant and demure. On the other hand Julia Roberts' Mrs. Ocean to Clooney's Danny is stiff, humorless and quite frankly rather boring. A little hey hey indeed.

And yes it's entertaining to watch the token Asian character played by the acrobatic Shaobo Qin flip and contort himself in order to help Clooney and the gang's heist but it still doesn't come close to watching ole Dino suavely sing that wonderful song about love being a kick... a kick in the head that is.

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