Friday, October 20, 2017

Just a few words about "1922"

And now, a self-interview.
Q:  Hi!  Bryant here.  How are you, Bryant?
A:  Pretty good, Bryant.  How you been?
Q:  Oh, fair tolerable, I reckon.  But I ain't here to jaw about trivialities and such, I'm here to ask you whether you -- like me -- just finished watching 1922 on Netflix.  Well, didja?
A:  Uh ... yeah.  I certainly did.  Say, are you going to ask all your questions in dialect tonight?
Q:  Well, I might do, Bryant.  I might do.  Or I might not do, as the mood takes me.  Either way, I'll ask the questions, if'n you don't mind too much, thanks very much.
A:  [sighs]
Q:  Anyways, sorry to get us off on a contentious note.  I got a way sometimes, don't I?
A: .....
Q:  That was a question.
A:  .....
Q:  Well, be that way, then.  So how'd you like the movie?
A:  I thought it was great.  I've got some caveats, but with 'em or without 'em, I thought it was great.
Q:  Do you think I should paste in a copy of the poster IMDb is using?
A:  Absolutely.
Q:  Hold on... here she comes...
A:  I get the feeling that's less a poster than a thing somebody somewhere slapped together just so somebody could claim a poster existed.
Q:  I get the same feeling.  And that's a shame, isn't it?
A:  It's 100% a shame.  I mean, sure, I would watch a movie based on the poster consisting solely of Thomas Jane with bloody hands in a cornfield, but I'm not your average consumer of media.  I don't know that this will get many Netflix users to hit "play."  This needed a real poster, like Gerald's Game got.

Q:  Agreed.  But let's not bellyache about that, let's talk about the movie.  How'd you like the novella it's based on?
A:  That's ... not a question about the movie.
Q:  It's germane.
A:  Fair enough.  Well, to be honest, I loved that novella.  I thought -- I think -- it's one of the best, and certainly one of the bleakest, things King has ever written.
Q:  Whoa, now!  When you ranked his novellas, it didn't even crack the top five!
A:  That's true, but the five that came before it are classics.  So is this.
Q:  Okay, that's fair.  How do you think Zak Hilditch did adapting it as writer/director?
A:  I think he did very well indeed.  I'd never heard of him before this, but 1922 feels like the kind of movie made by a filmmaker who's been making it inside their brain for years.  I don't have any evidence to prove it, and haven't read/seen any interviews with Hilditch, but it seems to me like this was something he was super passionate about.
Q:  If so, he shares that with fellow Netflix adaptor-of-King Mike Flanagan, who literally carried a copy of Gerald's Game with him to meetings for years.
A:  Right!  Yeah, I don't know if Hilditch was similarly obsessed, but the movie he made feels like it, and that's a good thing.  Fuck, man, it's about time we started getting King movies from people who are not only passionate about the material but talented enough to make a meal of it.
Q:  Who would you like to talk about next?
A:  I mean, it's gotta be Thomas Jane, doesn't it?  
Oops, sorry; that was a question.  Let me rephrase that as a statement: Thomas Jane, who is a fucking force of nature in this movie.  He's so good in a few scenes that I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing.  And it's a carryover of his style from The Expanse, in which he was similarly great, by which I mean that if you pay close attention to what he's doing in "little" moments -- which suddenly become not so little in his hands -- you will see a guy who is creating an entire life out of body language, eye movements, the set of his jaw.
Q:  You don't think he overdoes it with the jaw?
A:  I ... yeah, kind of.  That and the accent, too.  But it doesn't matter.  I've seen a few reviewers who have called out those aspects of his performance, and they're not wrong to do so, but that's like criticizing a great guitarist because he hits a few flat notes in the midst of one of his all-time best solos.  Sure, you can make that criticism.  Or you can pay attention to the rest of the solo, which is divine.  What Jane does here is divine: a divine depiction of evil.  It's the best performance I've ever seen him give, which is saying something.
Q:  Who else in the cast impressed you?
A:  Well, Molly Parker, for one.  She's just as good as Jane is, although she has less to do.  She makes what she has count, though.  Boy, does she.
Q:  See, I agree, but I also think you could argue that she's miscast.
A:  Explain.
Q:  Well, the novella depends on you firmly believing that Arlette is a shrew who is going to wreck her husband's and son's lives.  Or, if not that, the novella depends on you believing that Wilf believes it; or, at the very least, has convinced himself of it.  By taking Wilf's point of view, the novella allows you to believe that it could merely be his faulty interpretation.  And that gives the novella some strength that I'd argue the movie doesn't have.
A:  Huh.  Well, okay, I guess maybe that's true.  I think Parker's performance walks the line of letting you believe what you want to believe about her, though.  She's bright and desirable enough that you can see this all as being Wilf's fault, but she's also sharp and cutting enough that you can see things ever so slightly from Wilf's point of view as well.  Not really, but enough to where you can see how Henry would be connived into seeing it that way.  Either way, Parker is awesome.
Q:  How about Dylan Schmid as Henry?
A:  I think a persuasive argument could be made that the movie rests on his shoulders.  If you don't believe his arc, I don't know that you can believe in the movie.  Without what he does, I think Jane and Parker would be delivering awesome performances in service of nothing.  But instead, you see Henry turn the corner from being a kid who is going along with listening to his father's end of these theoretical conversations to being a kid who has been persuaded by his father's evil.  You see it happen in his eyes, and it is horrifying.  Schmid is good throughout, but arguably a little bland at certain times.  Not at the times he needs not to be, though; in the scenes that call on him to make you believe in the decisions Henry is making, he knocks the ball clean out of the park.
Q:  What else needs mention?
A:  I can think of at least two aspects that have to be mentioned: the score by Mike Patton and the cinematography by Ben Richardson.  Patton's score is stark and ... I guess you'd say minimalist.  It's super effective; I hope it gets a soundtrack release of some sort, even if only digital.
Q:  Wasn't he in Faith No More?
A:  He sure was.  Now, Ben Richardson.  This guy is a true up-and-comer in the cinematography world.  He lit The Fault in Our Stars and Beasts of the Southern Wild, and earlier this year he did Wind River, which got great reviews.  He does Oscar-caliber work here; this is a gorgeous movie, and while I'm thankful to Netflix for making it, I'm immediately a bit vexed that I didn't get to see it on a big screen.  Oh, I should also give a shout-out to the production design by Page Buckner; she's got some terrific art direction credits, such as Django Unchained and Jurassic World.  I don't know if the house they filmed at/in was a real location or if it was built for the production, but whatever the case, it looks like everyone took a time machine back to 1922 to film this.
Q:  Well, what else you got to say?
A:  I could talk about this movie for another 10,000 words, probably, but for now, I'm spoke out.
Q:  One last question: how would you rank this against the other King movies of 2017?
A:  Great question.  I think #1 has to be It, but I have to say, Gerald's Game and 1922 are close behind it.  The Dark Tower is obviously in last place.
Q:  Well, which is better, Gerald's Game or 1922?
A:  Gah...!  Man, I don't know!  That's a tough call.
Q:  I demand that you make it.
A:  In that case, I'll say Gerald's Game.  I need to watch them both again.
Q:  How do you think they'll fare when you rerank all of King's movies?
A:  That would be telling.
Q:  Yes, which is why I asked.
A:  Well, where would you say they'd end up?
Q:  I ask the questions!  And I refuse to answer that one.
A:  In that case, we've got nothing else to say.  Do we?
Q:  I guess not.
A:  Ha!  Gotcha!
Q:  Fuck!


  1. Haven’t got to see this yet but should get to it this week. Went along to the American history museum in dc this week for a Star Trek marathon, they were showing wrath of khan, voyage home and Undiscovered country. It was the original theatrical prints from back in the day so they were all scratchy and didn’t have the updated effect shots, only 2 or 3 known to exist for 2 and 4. 6 was pretty much like the dvd in terms of quality. It was pretty great to see them I have to say, they are planning on showing the original Superman next, again from the original print, and it’s the only one known to still exist, apparently they almost never let it out , think I might have to go along to that! It’s an ongoing series of special sci-fi movies- I’m hoping they do the original Star Wars prints but doubt that will happen. Anyway as a trek fan, sci-fi enthusiast and cinema employee I thought you might appreciate this! It’s great that stuff like this still goes on and that there are enough people interested in seeing the original prints to make it worth there while.

    1. Weird that they'd jump from II to IV. Smells like they wanted to only show the Nicholas Meyer ones. Still, pretty cool to get to see those, I bet. Especially if you were seeing original prints. As you say, that sort of thing won't last for much longer.

  2. I haven't had a chance to see this movie yet so I don't have much to say except that this post made me laugh... so thank you for that :)

    1. You are welcome, from both of us.

    2. Ok, I'm back after finally watching the movie. I quite liked it. I like Tom Jane a lot, thought he nailed the character and was totally believable. I've heard a number of comments about his accent but it worked well for me. The atmosphere was great too... really conveyed the doom of the story. It finally seems that we are getting some consistently good SK adaptations! Woot!

    3. I hope it will stay that way. One would like to think that between "The Dark Tower" and the tv version of "The Mist," Hollywood received a wake-up call this year in terms of how NOT to adapt his work.

  3. Well now! I keep turning this one over in my head. First off, a very entertaining back and forth with your alter ego, there. I could hear the dialect very well as I was reading.

    I liked it, and I thought it was a honorable adaptation. Something about it seemed off to me. Not as an adaptation, in fact maybe it was TOO true an adaptation? Maybe? I thought it could've jettisoned a lot of the narration. I wouldn't exactly classify this as a criticism, just more of something I thought of along the way. It committed to the narration, though, and I think it chose the passages from the book well. But I don't know... does this one read better than film? Until I saw the film, I thought of the novella as a masterpiece. But after finishing the movie, I finished my quick re-read of the novella and it, too, seemed a tad too much. Too many classical allusions (whereas before I thought the classical allusions were great) and just something too...

    Well, that's the problem. I can't put my finger exactly on what it is about either the film or the novella (now) that are hitting me that way. So, it's a tough one for me to review except something makes me stop short of declaring it a masterpiece. I'm fine giving it some kind of "A" as a movie, but... it just doesn't jump into that top tier for me.

    Why this is, I don't know. I guess instead of deepening the source material, I felt it diffused it a little. But did it? I don't know. I'm going to have to watch it again.

    The performances were all good - although Thomas Jane's drawl kind of wore on me after awhile; I think you got more out of his performance than I did, overall - and everything looked great. The sound design was subtle and great. I liked the key sequence of truth-telling Dead Arlette. Could the very end have used a more grisly punch, not just the hint of it? For my tastes, yes, but not a fault of the film by any means.

    I think you hit on something in there about how certain things come across better in prose than in the movie. (Like Arlette's unpleasantness or Wilf's side of things.)

    1. Your reaction lines up almost perfectly with my own, not regarding the movie, but regarding the audiobook. It's like I was reading my own thought process from when I listened to that years ago; the disappointment has always stuck with me.

      I can see how it would be perfectly applicable to the movie, as well, though. I got close enough to having that experience for it to make sense to me. Tweak my feelings about it just a wee bit, and you and I are on the same page.

      Thomas Jane's drawl does seem to be alienating people. It worked on me, though, because I felt like he was doing it to sort of draw a line between himself and everyone else. This is a pent up and essentially awful man, one who is sort of all alone on an island; he wants the world to be something it is not, and never will be, and it's twisted him so much that he can barely even get his mouth open to speak words into that world. I've met people like him; not with the attitude toward the world (although possibly that), but with the thick dialect that marks them as almost members of another culture altogether. So for me, he tracked as a real person.

      From what I remember of King's prose with this novella, it's something you have to soak in like a bath. He's stepping a bit outside his normal voice, and it can be jarring outside its context. Or if somebody tries to interpret it for you (a narrator, for example).

      King's prose is often a house of cards, though; it's part of the reason why so many of the adaptations seem off -- they can't capture his voice, and make no effort to replace it with a different one.