"Eyes Wide Shut" and "L.A. Confidential" are the final recommendations of 2019.
Get your mugs ready for a final serving of 'Nog Blog.
I can't believe it is here, and I cannot believe 2019 is over. At times I thought it would never end, and at other I wished it never would. Through it all, my readers were here. Thank you for reading however much you did. If you took one of my recommendations to heart, I would love to hear from you. If you didn't, well, why are you still reading? Spend your time on something you enjoy.
For those still with us, take a big sip, then read on:
“Eyes Wide Shut” (1999)
Amazon, rated R, 159 minutes
Have you ever heard a secret about someone, a dirty secret, and then later that day you see that person at the grocery store or a bar or something, and it takes every brain cell in your skull to A) not tell them you know the secret, and B) figure out a way to have them organically bring up the secret, so you then can talk about the secret?
That’s how I am feeling, kind of, right now, as I plan how to talk about “Eyes Wide Shut,” except the person is an entire audience, and the secret is not a secret.It’s the fact that “Eyes Wide Shut” is one of the most sex-heavy movies ever put to film, both in mood and in dialogue. I am pretty sure Nicole Kidman invented the word “fuck” during the filming of this movie.
But this is ‘Nog Blog, and it is the holidays, and some people would rather not read words like “fuck” or “erotic” or “underground masked orgy ring,” so I am going to try to not focus on the film’s bluntness and instead focus on What It All Means.
“Eyes Wide Shut” is a film about trapping and being trapped. Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) feels trapped. She has desires she cannot express lest her husband, Bill Harford (Tom Cruise, Kidman’s real-life husband at the time), get jealous. At a holiday party, she dances with an older gentleman who charms her. She charms him back. He invites her upstairs; she says thank you but no, she’s married, and she’s had too much to drink, anyway.
This happens while Bill walks arm-in-arm with two younger women who try to persuade him into bed. Before he can answer, he’s whisked away to solve a medical emergency. But Alice notices his consideration of the whole thing.
Eventually, Bill’s willingness to cheat on his wife becomes his downfall. As the movie goes along, Bill is whisked into the world of a dangerous underground society, and it seems like every step of the way he is faced with temptation to give into his carnal urges. He does give in, sometimes, but something always seems to stop him from cheating at the last moment. These sequences feel like a dream, and it is no coincidence that after Alice tells Bill of a dream she had, one where she sleeps with multiple men, that Bill admits nothing is ever just a dream.
When Bill gets caught by the society at the aforementioned masked party, and things go south, his confidence wanes. He fears for his life. By the film’s end, it’s clear that Alice has some connection to these people, though the exact terms are left a mystery. Did she orchestrate Bill’s entire nightmare? If she did, she successfully showed him how trapped she feels in her desires, and their marriage might survive because of it. The idea that men get to act on their urges with impunity while women are forced to sit and take the emotional abuse is absurd, and Director Stanley Kubrick, in his final film, wants you to know that.
The fact that these dark themes are set against the backdrop of Christmas, the most cheerful holiday – every scene, except the masked party, features a lit Christmas tree – makes them stand out even more, which makes “Eyes Wide Shut” feel like bizarro world. It’s a brilliant effect.
This movie isn’t what I would call cheery. It’s almost the opposite. But it is fascinating as a single person, and, I’m guessing, terrifying as a married person. Either way, if you have never seen this trippy classic, now’s your chance.
"L.A. Confidential" (1997)
Google Play, rated R, 138 minutes
Before I dive in, I want to link to this disclaimer I wrote about Kevin Spacey when I recommended “Baby Driver.” The same explanation applies to “L.A. Confidential.” There’s no great solution here, so it is what it is.
That said: “L.A. Confidential” kicks an incredible amount of ass. The '50s noir follows three LAPD officers (Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce) as they try to catch the culprit of mass shotgun homicide at a local diner shortly after Christmas. Like most noirs, the case takes these detectives places they never thought it would go, including into their own police force.
Here’s some reasons why this movie is good:
– Lots of people kick in doors, an objectively cool thing to do.
– Kim Basinger is in it, and Kim Basinger rules.
– Guy Pearce’s cheekbones look like they could cut glass but in a way that makes me think he need to eat a bit more?
– A key plot point hinges on the name “Rolo Tomassi,” which is fun to say.
– There’s a lot of double-crossing going on, and there’s no better time to get crossed up than on Christmas! (This isn’t my best joke, but I’m leaving it.)
– The shootouts all look extremely sick.
Some other stuff happens, but it’s not important. The script curls in on itself more than a python, catching viewers’ minds in knots, and the good guys – well, “good” guys – come out on top while exposing the sleazy underbelly of the LAPD. Isn’t that what you want at this time of year? I do.
Happy New Year!