Friday, October 19, 2007

Intermission: Elizabeth: Full Throttle

The Chicago Film Festival ended on Wednesday, but I still have six or seven more reviews from that festival in the pipeline. I've been trying to knock them out in the order I saw them, which means that the superb 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, bound for my year-end Top 10 list, should rightfully be next. But I'm going to allow this stinker to cut in the line, because it was easier to get it out of my system right after I saw it, and it makes for lighter Friday reading. Enjoy!

The CGI Spanish Armada sinks into the CGI water. That's how this thing ends, or nearly so. Some cuts imply that Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett), unwigged, and therefore more thoughtful and somehow True, observes her country's victory from some sort of castle window, but not long before she seemed to be leading a CGI army on the southern coast of England, and in between she's found a lot of time to stand on her big map of Europe with her palms outstretched and all the royal fans turned on High. So I'm not sure where she actually is. I suspect that Elizabeth does not watch the Armada sink from her castle window, but that she telepathically absorbs their defeat as an Inner Message, in the same way Mariah banged out the words to "Reflections (Care Enough)" at her piano while her boyfriend, across town, wrote the music for the same song in Glitter. Elizabeth is Mariah, and Clive Owen, against every Newtonian law of Stardom Conservation, is somehow Max Beesley, swinging along riggings and diving into the green sea. A horse swims over top of him. Chagall, y'all. The movie has a bit more twisting and turning to do before it actually ends, with Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, coddling a baby in her arms and fading into the glaring whiteness of failed irony. Then she stands on her map again and turns all the fans back on, but this time she fades to black. Some captions prove informative. I didn't write them down, because bringing along a notebook to Elizabeth: The Golden Age would be like bringing along a tape recorder to interview your dog. So, I can only paraphrase: The defeat of the Spanish Armada went down as one of the worst humiliations in Spanish naval history. Seems awfully qualified to me, in the manner of "the fall of the Bastille was one of the largest-scale destructions of a Parisian prison in French history." But there you go. Also: England, under Elizabeth's reign, entered a time of peace and prosperity. Which sounds an awful lot like...a golden age. Tristram Shandy-like, the movie ends just when it's caught itself up to its promised beginning, so perhaps, like Sterne's novel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a crafty metaphysical and rhetorical masterpiece, and its surface appearance as a jewel-toned, bovine, blender-edited, overdressed nightmare of a Wigstock festival is but a clever disguise.

But no, I'm pretty sure that the movie is ridiculous, and that among its endless list of wrong choices and confused agendas, it simply adopted the wrong title. There's a lot of that going around, but let's be generous. Let's close our eyes, think of England, and even though we wouldn't know the first thing about directing or producing or picking the proper lens, and even though we weren't around to feed the composer his Ritalin or to remind Abbie Cornish that she isn't playing a stoner in this movie, let's help where we can and endow Elizabeth: The Golden Age with the title it deserves. I have several suggestions. Click here to read the rest...

Photo © 2007 Universal Pictures/Working Title Films

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. One review called it "the longest Eurythmics video ever made."

4:36 PM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Shame on that person. What did the Eurythmics do to deserve this? It's sort of like the longest Debbie Allen-directed Elizabeth-inspired Oscar-telecast "dance" number ever. Except without (most of) the dancing.

4:48 PM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

(Obviously, I appreciate your comment, and am digging the sense of humor. Should have said so, though.)

4:48 PM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I heart this review and only somewhat regret having bought a ticket for a preview screening here on Thursday--after which there's going to be a satellite-link-up Q&A with the director. I will report back if anything EXPLOSIVE! happens, like if someone says, "Um, how could you have been such an asshat to have made this film this way?"

6:52 PM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger tim r said...

Hilarious review Nick. I am quadruply glad I failed to see this thing in Toronto, where industry etiquette would have probably dictated being semi-polite about it.

Lars and the Real Girl did the same slide to a C+ for me. Did you like Kelli Garner?

With you on Ass of Jesse James too. My friend Fiona said she thought the weather was overacting, which is a good way of putting it. Plenty of stuff to admire but end, already.

I'm irked because I'm missing a chance to see We Own the Night next week, but having so much Nick Davis to read is a lovely consolation!

5:17 AM, October 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am only saddened by the fact that this brilliant, caustic, hilarious, and well-plotted review isn't deserved by the piece of tripe in question.

Well, that's not totally true. I'm saddened that the film is such a complete and utter mess. I'm saddened that Shekar Kapur has been (again) revealed as a complete charlatan.

And I'm saddened that, despite all of the crap in this movie, I still desperately wanted to wear all of Cate Blanchett's over-the-top costumes. Who knew that Queen Elizabeth was actually history's first successful drag queen?

10:32 AM, October 20, 2007  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

funny stuff but you started at the peak "Elizabeth: Full Throttle" is quite possibly the most brilliant retitling in the history of, well, ever.

Or as the movie might have put it in caption [The Most Brilliant Retitling of A Terrible Sequel Released in 2007]

2:19 PM, October 20, 2007  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Okay: I just saw Kapur speak at a Q&A that was beamed from a cinema in Norwich to the cinema where I was in Cambridge. And here's the secret:

It's all about how people in the East understand History, which is Mythic and about Divinity. Also, it's all about the color blue. Which is Mythic and Divine. And represents Divinity. In a Mythic way. It's all about Mythic Clashing Gods Wearing Blue.

Elizabeth: Clash of the Blue-Clad Titans.

(He did seriously talk about how "we in the East" understand history. And I lost count of the number of times he used the words Mythic and Divine. But then an old woman berated him for not having shown Mary, Queen of Scots's little dog when it curled up and went to sleep between her neck and her severed head. That made it all worthwhile.)

5:20 PM, October 25, 2007  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Amazing, amazing review of a movie I haven't seen. And I wasn't planning to. But now that you've supplied all this delirious foreplay, I think I'm gonna have to go for it - all the way.
You're the top, you're the Coliseum ...

2:30 PM, October 28, 2007  
Blogger lylee said...

Bravo, Nick. Haven't seen the movie, and now don't need to - your review was better entertainment than it could possibly be.

My favorite line: "Chagall, y'all." Bwahahaha...

4:08 PM, October 30, 2007  

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