Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle - © 2012 - OB Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
"I was appalled and disappointed," says Village Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek of Spike Lee's Oldboy on this week's Voice Film podcast. "I love [Park Chan-wook's] original and watching Spike Lee's version, there were big differences I was picking up on.
"Then I went back and looked at the original and saw how operatic it was. The problem with Spike Lee's version is that there is no poetry in Josh Brolin's performance. I thought, 'this thing is just dead.'...[Brolin's] got something -- but he just doesn't have what this movie needs."
Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl says the film was just "fundamentally uninteresting" while the original feels so "alive and strange." He found the movie "deeply disappointing and even somewhat depressing, but even a bad Spike Lee movie has something strange and odd." Lee has made a "localized, bland version of Oldboy," that has violent images without meaning.
"In Park's movie, the original, it's incredibly violent, but he cuts away very judiciously," Stephanie notes. The Lee version has violence that is artless, she adds.
See also: Jointmaker: Almost 25 Years After Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee Releases His First "Film"
L.A. Weekly's Amy Nicholson also laments Lee's exclusion of the "octopus scene," such a memorable visual from the original film that gets cut.
"I was wondering, 'what's going to be the American equivalent of Josh Brolin going into a restaurant and going fucking crazy?' And you don't see it. You see an octopus on the side of a fish tank. That's the only homage."
Alan does drop in a recommendation for Lee's better He Got Game, especially the film's opening scenes about basketball across America. And of course, Do the Right Thing, maybe the best movie of the past 25 years -- but probably not a good choice for family viewing during Thanksgiving.
Stephanie recommends Carroll Ballard's Duma (2005), about a young boy in Africa who raises a cheetah and ends up releasing it in the wild. "It's visually beautiful, really poetic," Zacharek says. If you own a cat -- watch it with your cat.
She also recommends Step Brothers, Adam McKay's 2005 comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. "These two are just amazing together. Watch it with your loved ones," Stephanie says.
Scherstuhl recommends Episode 21 of Season 2 of The Dick Van Dyke Show (the one about an alien invasion) which you can find on Netflix.
Also on Netflix, Alson suggests The Lady Eve, Preston Sturges's 1942 comedy highlighted by a delightful third act and the perfect Thanksgiving line of dialogue from Barbara Stanwyck's Jean Harrington: "I need him like the ax needs the turkey."
Finally, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's The Adventures of Tintin (Netflix) is worth a revisit from its 2011 debut. "A really great way to watch it is to just have it 'on' and not pay attention for the first twenty minutes and give it a go when it starts getting interesting," Alan says, noting that the movie has a little bit of "old man stink" on it because Spielberg makes the mistake that we all love Tintin has much as he does.
Amy recommends 1987's Miami Connection (Netflix). "It was immediately forgotten until an Alamo Drafthouse programmer saw it on eBay, bought it for $50, fell in love with it and asked [the director] 'can we please release your film?'"
Finally, Amy reminds us of 1996's Escape from L.A., set in a "future America that's a moral theocracy" that's actually set in 2013. Making this year the perfect time to revisit a world where all of America is the land of a Rockwellian portrait -- except Los Angeles. "At one point you have Kurt Russell soaring through Los Angeles of the flaming wind waves of the Santa Ana winds, on a hang-glider."
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