Tag Archives: Kim Basinger

Cool World (1992, Ralph Bakshi)

What does it say about a performance when the actor is better voicing a cartoon than giving a full performance? I think it says the actor’s performance is godawful, but I’m not sure that adjective is strong enough to describe Kim Basinger in Cool World.

And Cool World is not a film with good performances, so for Basinger to come out so far ahead (or is it behind?) the pack is true atrociousness. If it weren’t already terrible, she’d ruin it. She does. She makes a terrible movie even worse.

Second-billed Gabriel Byrne is pretty bad too. He has the benefit of having an awful character though. The screenplay only totally fails Basinger’s character once the cartoon vixen becomes real. Before that change, it’s up in the air–the real problem’s the handling of Byrne’s character though. He’s even supposed to be the protagonist, which is a laugh.

Brad Pitt’s more the protagonist than Byrne or Basinger and he’s fairly bad. He has occasional moments, but all the acting by himself established some bad habits. His finish in the movie is actually worse than anyone else’s.

There are some good performances, but they’re all voice ones–Candi Milo, Charles Adler and Maurice LaMarche are all good.

Bakshi’s direction is a mixed bag. His real world sequences are lousy. His cartoon ones are okay, though Cool World‘s way too cheap for its ambitions.

Mark Isham’s score is occasionally good.

It’s a truly lousy movie, with Basinger making it worse.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ralph Bakshi; written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor; director of photography, John A. Alonzo; edited by Steve Mirkovich and Annamaria Szanto; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Michael Corenblith; produced by Frank Mancuso Jr.; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Kim Basinger (Holli Would), Gabriel Byrne (Jack Deebs), Brad Pitt (Frank Harris), Charles Adler (Nails), Candi Milo (Lonette), Michele Abrams (Jennifer Malley) and Maurice LaMarche (Dr. Whiskers).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988) / COOL WORLD (1992).

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Batman (1989, Tim Burton)

Batman‘s an odd success. It has almost constant problems–Kim Basinger’s bad, Jack Nicholson’s phoning it in (but never contemptuous of the material, which makes it a peculiar performance) and the movie never really finishes the story it starts in the first act–but it’s also got constant greatness. Tim Burton’s direction is fantastic–the only scenes he doesn’t wow with are the ones both he and the viewer are bored with–Danny Elfman’s score makes the movie in a way no one’s done since John Williams and the original Star Wars trilogy, Michael Keaton’s mesmerizing and there’s a whole lot of good stuff.

This good stuff occasionally features the badly acting Basinger, mostly in her romantic scenes with Keaton, only because the combination of writing, direction, music and Keaton are so strong, they overpower any of her silliness (and her goofy outfits). The Batman action is all good too, again because of the direction and the music. Batman might have kicked off the contemporary blockbuster, but it does so in a way no one else has ever duplicated. Burton, apparently unintentionally, peppers the film with iconic sequences. It’s hard not to get involved with the scenes, even though they don’t make any sense, when Burton’s really going. The big Batmobile car chase is not a particularly interesting car chase, but it’s spell-binding. Burton’s Gotham City is obviously false–the matte backgrounds and the (excellent) miniatures–but once the viewer accepts it, it’s impossible to leave.

Still, as the film enters the third act, the good isn’t quite overpowering the bad. The bad’s still putting up a pretty good fight. Strangely, it isn’t the Prince music empowering the bad… though it certainly isn’t hurting it.

But more than any other film–with the possible exception of The Last Temptation of Christ and that example doesn’t count because it’s a far more precise moment–the last five or ten minutes of Batman make the movie. It finally delivers. Keaton’s been good as Batman throughout (in the costume) and great otherwise, but when he faces off with Nicholson and the two banter… it’s other-worldly. I think my favorite part is the use of Keaton’s Bruce Wayne voice. He drops the Batman voice a little for the last scene and it works beautifully. The scene’s so good, the illogically, instantly appearing goons he fights before Nicholson didn’t even bother me.

Then there’s the close and the close is perfect. Not even Basinger can screw it up (though she only has a few lines, but her outfit is ridiculous for a photojournalist).

There’s some really good supporting acting in the film. Billy Dee Williams, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough. Tracey Walter’s pretty good too. But there’s some absolutely atrocious acting as well–both Jack Palance and William Hootkins are astoundingly bad. They’re both so bad, I can’t believe they weren’t recast. Palance wasn’t famous again yet and Hootkins was going to be pulling in a lot of Porkins supporters.

Technically, besides Burton, Elfman and production designer Anton Furst, Batman‘s kind of underwhelming. Roger Pratt’s cinematography is competent but indistinct. Ray Lovejoy’s editing is fantastic though, especially how he cuts the effects sequences together (I love how Batman’s obviously a little model in the Batwing, but it doesn’t matter).

The last time I saw Batman–must have been ten years ago–I was really down on it. But it’s solid. It’s a chore to get through the first third, but after it, the movie’s solid.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren, based on DC Comics characters created by Bob Kane; director of photography, Roger Pratt; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Anton Furst; produced by Peter Guber and Jon Peters; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Keaton (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Jack Nicholson (The Joker / Jack Napier), Kim Basinger (Vicki Vale), Robert Wuhl (Alexander Knox), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent), Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth), Jack Palance (Carl Grissom), Jerry Hall (Alicia), Tracey Walter (Bob the Goon), Lee Wallace (The Mayor) and William Hootkins (Lt. Eckhardt).



The Natural (1984, Barry Levinson), the director’s cut

The Natural is a strange one. It’s a cheap success. The story is incredibly simple–you have the golden-haired hero and the evil monster who lives in the dark–and looking for anything more will leave one wanting. Even though the film taps into the baseball mythos, it’s superficial. The Natural is the superhero movie Robert Redford never made… there’s no question of his morality, his loyalty, his ability. Watching the movie is about enjoying what the movie does. The scenes of Redford knocking the ball out of the park aren’t supposed to come as surprises, they’re supposed to be Hollywood magic. And for the most part, they are.

For his second feature, Barry Levinson is perfect–just like his first–capturing the film’s era. He’s not so perfect at capturing or creating the wonderment. There are some problems. The biggest is the opening, with Redford playing twenty at fifty (or forty-nine)–only two years younger than co-star Wilford Brimley–while Redford playing thirty-six is digestible (he has had a bullet in his stomach for sixteen years), the opening flashbacks are distracting and might have done better just as voiceovers. But Levinson also isn’t able to direct those scenes, the mythic scenes. He lacks the visual imagination for it. Levinson is, always–no matter how much gloss he puts on it–a realistic director and mythic scenes are beyond him here. Randy Newman’s score doesn’t help in these scenes either and really should. Newman’s score is half perfect and half off. It’s good throughout, but he’s supposed to be whacking the viewer in the ears, filling he or she with a double serving of wonderment, richer than any cheesecake. And he comes close enough to show he could have, but doesn’t.

Some of those problems–the Newman score–suggest the filmmakers were going for something a little deeper. There are certainly suggestions of it. The scene where, when talking about his father, all Redford can say is, “I love baseball,” or the scenes with Glenn Close. In some ways, the most ambitious–as a real film–The Natural gets is when it’s deliberating on these two people picking up with each other after so long. It’s great stuff, it just doesn’t pay off in the end. What pays off in the end is sparkling rain and the hero victorious.

All the performances are good (except, obviously, Michael Madsen). Redford in particular, though Brimley and Richard Farnsworth are both excellent as well. As the nefarious villains, Robert Prosky, Darren McGavin and Kim Basinger show why being campy isn’t always a bad thing. Robert Duvall is a little disappointing too, I guess, playing a far too two-dimensional character. Close manages to play a grown-up dream girl, which was probably either a lot easier or a lot harder than it looks.

The film’s a little too clean, a little too long in places and a little too short in others, but when it works it works beautifully.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Barry Levinson; screenplay by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, based on the novel by Bernard Malamud; director of photography, Caleb Deschanel; edited by Stu Linder and Christopher Holmes; music by Randy Newman; production designers, Mel Bourne and Angelo P. Graham; produced by Mark Johnson; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Robert Redford (Roy Hobbs), Robert Duvall (Max Mercy), Glenn Close (Iris Gaines), Kim Basinger (Memo Paris), Wilford Brimley (Pop Fisher), Barbara Hershey (Harriet Bird), Robert Prosky (The Judge), Darren McGavin (Gus Sands), Richard Farnsworth (Red Blow), Joe Don Baker (The Whammer), John Finnegan (Sam Simpson), Alan Fudge (Ed Hobbs), Paul Sullivan Jr. (Young Roy), Rachel Hall (Young Iris), Robert Rich III (Ted Hobbs), Michael Madsen (Bartholomew ‘Bump’ Bailey), Jon Van Ness (John Olsen), Mickey Treanor (Doc Dizzy) and George Wilkosz (Bobby Savoy).


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Nadine (1987, Robert Benton)

There’s got to be some kind of story behind Nadine, one explaining why it makes no sense in its plotting, why the ending makes no sense and why it only runs seventy-eight minutes. Unfortunately, I can’t find any reference online to those issues, so I guess they’ll remain a mystery.

As it stands, Nadine is a couple great characters in search of a story. Well, not even a story–the characters have a story. They’re separated and they get back together. It’s everything around that story. Benton’s script moves real fast–without a lot of bridging scenes; it’s frequently confusing–and he spends some real nice time on the couple, ably aided by Howard Shore’s score.

But the rest of the film–involving a land deal, Rip Torn as a lame villain (he’s Rip Torn, no other explanation for villainy needed apparently), Jeff Bridges’s dumb bar and Kim Basinger hating the dumb bar–is a mess. The bar in question barely appears in the film, but everyone’s always talking about it or mentioning it–at least as much as something can be talked about in seventy-eight minutes.

Bridges and Basinger are both fantastic, whether together or apart, but together’s a lot more fun. But I really don’t know what Benton thought he was doing with the film. There’s a visible lack of content, even if there were bridging scenes in place, because–well, it appears he’s trying to tell the romantic comedy equivalent of Chinatown, which isn’t even necessarily a bad idea (I guess), but there’s no setting beyond the cars and the title announcing the time and place.

There’s three action set-pieces too. There’s a car chase, which isn’t bad and is somewhat amusing, but it’s not a movie with car chases… then there’s a suspense sequence, then there’s a gunfight.

Oh, no, I think Benton was trying to do a non-traditional traditional Hollywood comedy here… argh.

If a movie could float on Jeff Bridges’s considerable charm, Nadine would certainly be a candidate. Except, it’s disqualified, because Basinger’s really appealing and the two of them are wonderful together.

Glenne Headly has a bit part and is great, big shock, as is Jay Patterson. Jerry Stiller is in it for a minute and a half, but it seems like keeping him around would have been a better idea.

I just wish I knew the “making of” of Nadine.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Robert Benton; director of photography, Nestor Almendros; film editor, Sam O’Steen; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Paul Sylbert; produced by Arlene Donovan; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Jeff Bridges (Vernon Hightower), Kim Basinger (Nadine Hightower), Rip Torn (Buford Pope), Gwen Verdon (Vera), Glenne Headly (Renee), Jerry Stiller (Raymond Escobar), Jay Patterson (Dwight Estes), William Youmans (Boyd), Gary Grubbs (Cecil) and Mickey Jones (Floyd).


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