Thursday

Rip-Off Alert

What I normally would be typing into this space would be my overview of The Duchess. That, however, is a much lower priority than informing you about what has been done with the Region 2 DVD for this film

Bottom line: don't get it. Oh, I know you probably weren't planning to, since the film itself is vaginocentric, but Keira is beautiful and some of you may have been planning to acquire it for her nude scene. If you do, you'll be in for a surprise. It ain't there!

You may have read yesterday or today about the campaign being waged by Simon Pegg and his director to get people NOT to buy the North American DVD of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. I agree with their points wholeheartedly and, in fact, I made the exact same case when I advised people NOT to buy the DVD of Basic Instinct 2. The essence of the argument in each case is that there are various deleted scenes that should have been included in the DVD extras, but were not. The omissions were particularly egregious in both cases:

1. In Basic Instinct 2, there were some really hot deleted scenes circulated on the internet. The DVD advertised deleted scenes. I bought it. It did include about a dozen, but not the ones we all knew about, and none with any significant erotica.

2. In Lose Friends, the director and star had agreed to allow some cuts to the theatrical version to please their investors, on the condition that the deletions would be restored on the DVD, either in a director's cut or as deleted scenes. The conditions were not met on the region one release, despite the fact that the region two disk was fully loaded with all the scenes and more.

Those were obviously not good situations but you can kind of forgive the DVD producers because the errors are errors of omission in both cases. Human beings being the lazy fuck-ups that we are, we sometimes mess up and don't do things we are supposed to do because we get drunk, or leave early to take our kids to the zoo, or forget, or use the money to take our sexy secretaries to St. Kitts, or whatever.

The problem with The Duchess is much more grievous than an error of omission because it was not just created by laziness or stupidity. The guys who produced the DVD had to make an extra effort and spend extra money to fuck it up!

Here's Keira's nude scene, as we saw in a bootleg Asian knock-off of the DVD screener.

Now here's the same scene on the DVD. See the problem? There are no more Keira breasts, and it took a real effort to get rid of them. In the first camera set-up, the editor had to snip a couple of seconds of footage when Keira's hands failed to cover her breasts. Then, when Keira was on her back, the editor did not remove any frames, but he had to crop the scene so that KK's breasts were just out of sight, below the bottom of the screen.

What makes this even more difficult to understand is that the other nude scene, which was performed by an unknown, was left intact. If the Knightley cuts were made in the interest of making the film family-friendly, the other scene would not still be there, so censorship was not the apparent motivation. Moreover, the motivation does not appear to be greed either. That other nude scene is not likely to sell some legal DVDs, but Keira Knightley's scene just might! Let's face it, if your wife wants to pick this up, you're much more likely to say "sure, why not?" if you know it has a topless scene from one of the world's most beautiful women. So the DVD producers actually paid an editor to spend time creating a new version of that scene which is less marketable than the one they started with, thus increasing costs while lowering revenues. Now that's good business!

The problem runs much deeper than merely the loss of short-term revenues. If the movie industry wants to combat piracy, it cannot do so by making a legal DVD a less desirable product than the pirated equivalent. It is obvious (to everyone but them) that this sort of thing will have the opposite effect, making pirates of people who had been perfectly willing to pay for a legal DVD!

By the way, the Region 1 DVD has not yet been issued (it comes out Tuesday), so I don't know whether to recommend it or not, and I don't know whether the comments above are applicable to North America.

 

On to the movie:

The Duchess

Making historical dramas and biopics is a process that comes with three major inherent problems.

(1) If the person being portrayed was truly interesting and important, there was probably too much happening in their lives to fit into a single movie, so the author must eschew his natural desire to make the script merely a litany of accomplishments. This requires a good and disciplined screenwriter who can toss out some great stuff that he would love to keep. Only so much can fit into 100 minutes. 

(2) If the author loves or admires the subject, he must not allow that to interfere with creating a three-dimensional character. Leave hagiography to the Vatican.

(3) The fact that the film is historically accurate does not liberate the filmmakers from their obligation to create an interesting and cinematic experience. If I wanted to learn about history, I would be reading a detailed and nuanced account of it rather than watching a superficial 100-minute treatment of a person's life. 

I'll take this third point a step further. I don't especially care about historical accuracy when I watch a movie. What I want to watch is a moving and/or entertaining story. I think we all know that the basic story behind Amadeus is total bullshit, but the film is funny, insightful, poignant, and has a lot to say about the nature of genius. It is thus rated among the greatest films ever made, and nobody really cares that it is bullshit.

In terms of The Duchess, I'd assign the following grades in each area listed above:

Area 1: condensation.

B+. Not bad.

Although the film covers a long period of time, it is focused tightly enough on the central story of her unusual marriage.

 

Area 2: honesty.

F. Fail.

This film reminds me of those adoring biographies of Princess Di which are so intent on beatifying her that they overlook some rather major flaws in her personality. For example, she was as dumb as a box of rocks, and this is important to know in order to understand her relationship with Charles. Imagine you're a reasonably intelligent person with far-reaching interests, and are married to the most beautiful and elegant and compassionate woman in the world, but she is simply incapable of making conversation on any subject that interests you. Would it be long before you were seeking other companionship? 

This film basically performs a sanctification rite with Georgina Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. It makes her seem to be a beloved public figure and a farsighted and prescient political manipulator who had a profound influence on the voices of freedom that inspired English reform as well as the French and American revolutions. She comes off as a combination of St. Francis of Assisi and Voltaire, with the looks of Keira Knightley.

Oh, get off it. In real life, "Gi" was an interesting woman who seemed to be on the right side of most causes, and she had a truly intriguing marriage in which her powerful husband blatantly brought another lover into his bed, and then to their dinner table. In fact, the Duke finally just lived publicly with both "wives" and merged all of their various children into one family, while the Duchess somehow managed to endure the public humiliation. She definitely had a life which provided a good enough story for a film.

But a saint and an intellectual she was not. Her entire life revolved around gambling and pretty clothes, and one of her best friends was the equally naive and superficial Marie Antoinette, the queen of France who was beheaded by the freedom-loving activists Georgina seems to support in this film. The real duchess died with mammoth gambling debts, and fought lifelong battles with gambling, eating disorders, drug addiction, and excessive alcohol consumption.

By the way, the duchess did have a lot in common with Di, who is a direct descendant of Georgina's brother. Both Di and Georgina were born with the surname Spencer at the family home in Althorp, some two centuries apart. Both were engaged while still teenage virgins, and in both cases to the second-most powerful person in England. Neither marriage was happy, and both women were subjected to the public humiliation of having "three of us in the marriage." In both cases, the husband outlived them, and eventually ended up legally married to that third person. Both Gi and Di were extremely popular public figures who attracted curious crowds wherever they went. Both were considered beautiful and impeccably fashionable, and were portrayed by the great artists of their own eras.

Georgina bore, by the way, a child by Earl Grey (yup, the tea guy), who became prime minister many years after their affair, a quarter of a century after Georgina had shuffled off this mortal coil.

 

Area 3: cinematic appeal, as opposed to historical appeal.

C+. Some appeal, but only to a targeted audience.

The film has some very strong aspects: the acting is outstanding; the costumes and hairstyles are luscious; the sets and cinematography are gorgeous. Unfortunately for me, those are minor elements in my overall enjoyment of a historical film, possibly as a result of a fairly common biological malady which has left me bereft of vaginas. I would rather hear brilliant badinage between great wits, encounter the thoughts of great thinkers, hear great period music, and see a plot with an engaging hook.

Pretty costumes? Meh.

 


 

In short, this film is competently presented, but is a hagiographical whitewash and fundamentally a chick-flick. I shan't give it a thumb down because it held my attention throughout its running time, but it never really engaged me, so my thumb remains parallel to the ground.

 

 

  • * Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

  • * White asterisk: expanded format.

  • * Blue asterisk: not mine.

  • No asterisk: it probably sucks.

OTHER CRAP:

Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munich

2005

High quality (1920x1080) film of Marie-Josee Croze. Sample below

 

 

 

 

 


There's Something About Mary

1999

Mostly tease from Cameron Diaz, but she looks spectacular. Caps and a gorgeous 1920x1080 film clip.

 

 

 

"The Morning Show"

The spectacular gams of Juliet Huddy on December 9th



 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes and collages

 

"Las Vegas"

More of Nikki Cox. Season Two continues.

s2, e4

 

s2, e5

s2, e6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Firecloud

(1975)

Sacheen Littlefeather is best known for her surrogate acceptance speech (actually a refusal speech, if such a term exists) of Marlon Brando's 1973 Oscar, in which she cited Brando's opposition to Hollywood's alleged misrepresentation of Native American Indians.

This became even more controversial when it was revealed that she was a humbug, a Latina actress named Maria Cruz whose entire resume consisted of having won the prestigious Miss American Vampire contest in 1970.

Sacheen Littlefeather film clip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         
   

Electric Blue

In order to get any copies of this series, you have to pray to the Tikki gods and sacrifice a few goats. Germany sells a DVD set, but the episodes are heavily cut. I managed to acquire several of the very earliest, uncut episodes and will present them here.

Today: Michelle Bauer, part 1 of 3. Sample below.

I have to say Iím very surprised that with all the magazine spreads, including that full-on lesbian one, plus several adult movies, several bondage videos, at least one nude wrestling video (and probably a few things I missed), that Michelle didnít end up fully attached to the adult business instead of becoming one of the three most popular scream queens.

 

 
   
         

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pics

Amy Winehouse stayed dressed today, but Lily Allen got topless again. These pics are almost identical, but in the interest of completeness, here they all are:

Amy Smart in Crank (this time in 1920x1080)

Lola Davidson in Totally Baked

Vanessa Minnillo (sorry, dressed) in the appropriately titled Disaster Movie

 

In yesterday's edition, I was supposed to show a Michelle Trachtenberg photo next to a lightly Photoshopped version. Sorry. I forgot the original. Here it is.

 

Film Clips

Barbara Sukowa in Equateur (Sample right)

Patricia Schuman in De Unge Ar (Samples right)
Amy Ciupak Lalonde in Diary of the Dead (2007 version)

Angela Landis in Alien Abduction

The women of Sextet (2007): Esmarel Gasman, Femke Lakerveld, Katja Schuurman, Marlies Bark, Tara Elders. "Feature film about love and relationships in Amsterdam, consisting of an ingeniously interwoven plot of several stories and characters. Together with the feature SIMON (2004) this one is part of Terstall's trilogy about the liberties of the present Dutch society."