Grindhouse

I went to see Grindhouse yesterday. I liked it.

Recently, I have seen Once Upon a Time in Mexico playing on cable. I remember commenting to Nancy, “It has been a long time since Robert Rodriguez has had a movie. I wonder what he is doing?” I wondered, because I remember one of the extras on “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” showed Rodriguez’s house/studio. He showed how he converted part of his house into a studio where he could edit his movies and record music for his movies. Days later I saw the first trailer for “Grindhouse”. As soon as I heard that it was a project with Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, I KNEW that I had to see this movie.

I was not disappointed. I don’t want to give too much away, but as you can see from the trailer, “Grindhouse” is really two movies: “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”. “Planet Terror”, written and directed by Rodriguez, is full of zombies. You can boil the movie down to a group of people try to escape a horde of zombies by shooting them. The zombies are very squishy. “Death Proof”, written and directed by Tarantino, is a car chase movie. You can boil the movie down to a car with a fast car who chases and is chased.

But, the movies are much more than this. For instance, in “Death Proof”, which in my opinion had better acting in that it had better dialog for actors to work with and more character development, could be broken up into two segments. Each segment has a group of girls cast as antagonists for “Stunt man Mike”, the protagonist of the film. I will call the first group of girls the “Texas” girls and the second group of girls the “Tennessee” girls. There is one segment shot with the Tennessee girls where they are in a diner. The four girls are sitting around a table. The protagonist Mike is sitting at the counter. The camera shoots the four girls from right behind them. It appears to be one take, as the camera swings around behind the girls, following the conversion taking place between them. This shot seems to go one for many minutes. The whole time, the girls are carrying on their conversation, eating, and interacting. Doing this in one take would be very hard for the actors, they have a lot of lines! Also, during there conversation, as the camera pans around, it catches glimpses of protagonist Mike sitting at the counter, eating, and appearing to be watching the girls, maybe listening to their conversation. I didn’t notice this at first, the “one-take” aspect of the shot, until a little ways in. Then I realized, “Hey, the camera is panning in this shot. The girls are just talking away, without any apparent cuts. This is cool.”

The larger premise of “Grindhouse” is that it is a double feature. Rodriguez and Tarantino continue this premise by including “Coming Attractions” and standard movie announcements in between the features “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”. I was taken back by one of the elements. The features were introduced by a sequence of colorful circles with words that would fly in announcing the feature presentation. It reminded me of going to the “Showcase Cinemas” in Milan, Il. This was the movie theater that we had to go to see the latest releases while growing up in the country between Donahue and Long Grove, IA. It was very late 70’s/early 80’s -ish. 🙂

I can appreciate this type of movie is not for everyone. Nancy seemed to have no desire to see it. I think that I, as a geek who likes video games, comics books, etc. was the target audience for the film. One little moment in “Death Proof” even reminded me of “Buffy”. One of the Tennessee girls is “left behind” by the other three on a farm with a scruffy guy. She doesn’t know exactly what is going on as she hasn’t been paying attention. When she realizes that the scruffy guy is walking up to her and she see the other three girls leaving, you can see the “concern” and uncomfortableness in her demeanor. At that moment, she speaks the word “gulp!”. This just seemed like something you would see in Buffy.

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