Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh, Watson!

There is a great scene in Sherlock Holmes and the Pearl of Death where Watson is gluing a clipped newspaper article into a scrapbook. He inadvertently gets it stuck on his arm and then goes about a good five minute tirade of "deductive reasoning" before he discovers it stuck there. It's absolutely hilarious physical comedy without being demeaning in the least. It's moments like those that make these films so eminently watchable. My son had been pestering us for a good week to watch this latest one, he likes them so much. Pearl of Death is one of the better films in the series, though with every few I watch, I seem to like a new one best. I just got disc 1 and 2 through inter-library loan of the very nice 5-disc Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, and am looking forward to seeing the famous Hound of the Baskervilles on disc 1. Rathbone may be the headliner, but I think Nigel Bruce is actually the star of these glorious Holmes films. Rathbone is a great straight man, but by himself, nobody cares who he thinks is on first, if you know what I mean. Okay, that's a little unfair- Rathbone's Holmes is actually kind of an ass at times, and is consistently condescending to pretty much everyone he comes in contact with, which is great fun to watch. As I've mentioned before, it's a wonder that Watson hangs out with him, given Watson's seemingly extensive social network. But their friendship seems genuine, even if Holmes never really gives Watson his due. Another interesting moment was a scene in which Holmes attempts to comfort the housekeeper of the Creeper's latest victim- he gives her a stiff one-armed hug, followed by a few very awkward pats on the shoulder. It's a small detail, but I thought it lent great insight into Holmes's character and is another one of the reasons I can't get enough of these guys.
[Note: my son very astutley noted recently that the protagonist from Disney's The Great Mouse Detective was named Basil like Basil Rathbone, as well as cartoon Watson's similarities in character to Nigel Bruce's Watson. He's a clever boy, he is.]

I am quite a bit behind on both your blogs, John and Brandon, but I did read at least a portion of your comments on Shutter Island, which I, too, saw on opening night (with Adrienne, no less, a fellow Scorsese fan). I was thrilled to see Von Sydow in the film as well, except that my first exposure to the actor was in the very underrated Strange Brew. So when I saw Seventh Seal, I was all, "Hey, that's the guy with the evil insane hockey players!" I can't seem to completely shake that association, so seeing him in movies always makes me smile for all the wrong reasons. Anyway, he's a great character actor, and his presence really added substance to the film.

What I've been saying about Shutter Island is that it's better than 80% of anything out there, but it's not Scorsese's best work. I thought that the story was well-told, but the plot was not terribly inventive. Not that it needs to be, but if you're going to blow me away, you need to tell a really new story or do it in a really new way. Shutter Island was neither. It was great fun, and I'd watch it again (probably will with my wife when it comes out on DVD), and I know there are details I definitely missed (though I did notice the missing glass on at least one occasion), but placed side by side with the likes of Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, and even Bringing Out the Dead (which is actually one of my favorite Scorsese films, if you can believe it), it's missing something. John, I liked Ruffalo, too. He is very underused as an actor in Hollywood and it's a shame. I would even say I loved the film- but I also loved Hot Rod, so it just depends on what you're in the mood for :). I definitely want to see Scorsese do more of this kind of film, though. It seems to me that maybe he chose something safe because he's not used to working in this particular genre, so maybe next time we'll see more of his trademark edginess.

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