A Christmas Day tradition observed

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Day tradition observed

Happily, at Six Corners in the familiar purview of the Hampton Arts, again operational after a brief pre-holiday hiatus.

The big Christmas openings are the eagerly-awaited "Sherlock Holmes" and the much-promoted "It's Complicated" with Meryl "I'd watch her in anything1" Streep.

Not a tough call; when one [a-hem!] has been at this pursuit this long, there are certain clues one recognizes intuitively.

The Streep/Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin flick looks and sounds hilarious... smartly written, brilliantly paced and brightly played by three pros at the top of their game... in the trailers!

I make it an easy eight-to-five proposition that the cream of its 118-minute runtime has been adroitly edited into those TV spots we've been watching since before Thanksgiving.

(But see "A corrective note....")

So this afternoon's choice was unanimously "Sherlock Holmes," and I wish I could report that that decision was equally vindicated.

(For the record, Jeanne and her daughter Katrina loved it... mightily!)

Robert Downey Jr. in the title role is terrific... I mean, he's not the fictional consulting detec­tive I've known in various screen incarnations over the past 60+ years, but he is terrific!

The primary problems with the film are in the screenplay (credited to five different writers) and the direction, the offender there being one Guy Ritchie, the second "Mr. Madonna."

Ritchie mounts the production like a 128-minute music video for his ex-wife, abandon­ing virtually any of the trappings which has endeared the fabled canon created in 1887 by A. Conan Doyle, to so many.

I daresay that if Doyle knew what Richie's re­interpretation had in store for his man, he'd never have resurrected Holmes from his 1890 demise at Reichenbach Falls.

The sets are wonderful... it's difficult to nail down the exact year2 in which this tale is set, so period accuracy cannot be quibbled with... some of the details are obeisant to the canon3, while others are shockingly wrong!

(Nothing more so than the rendering of the detective's celebrated Baker Street address as "221B" rather than "221b.")

But the biggest short-coming of the narrative is in the incomprehensibility of the diabolical conspiracy that Holmes and Dr. John H. Wat­son4 are called upon to unravel.

Some of the canon's supporting characters ap­pear (Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade and landlady Mrs. Hudson), but conspicuous by his absence in all things diabolical, it seems, is the dark side of Holmes, his nefarious archneme­sis, Professor Moriarty.

But then in the final reel the (literally) shad­owy presence of yet another conspirator is discovered to be Doyle's "Napoleon of Crime" himself, neatly setting up a sequel5.

And if there might one, we can but pray that Mr. Ritchie will be otherwise too engaged to accept the commission, thus sparing us the embodiment of Moriarty as a gadget-happy Dr. Loveless.

  1. Except Mamma Mia! There I had to draw the line!
  2. Since "The Woman" ("Irene Adler," por­trayed by Rachel McAdams without her usual perkiness) is prominently present, it is of necessity post-1888.
  3. The almost throw-away part with "Holmes" conducting revolver practice in his rooms by shooting a patriotic "VR" on the wall.
  4. Here less a cohort and chronicler than one of two homoerotic gentlemen sharing! (cf: "Staircase" with Richard Burton and Rex Harrison.)
  5. If not [shudder!] a franchise!


1. Carrie said...

I was very much looking forward to this - the wardrobe was great, but movie was overall disappointing.

If any of the "Deadwood," or "Rome" directors had been involved it could have been stunning.

With all deference to your gender, I don't think that Guy Ritchie has the stuff to direct a "chick flick" any more than Michael Mann does.

I like your references, though... while my wife and I are revisiting the western series, another member of my crew and his wife just reprised HBO's sword'n'sandal series.

2. CM said...

I'm all over this fantasy thing. Someone please page DeLillo for rewrite and Preminger's ghost to direct.

3. The Quiogue Kid said...

Best show I ever saw at Hampton Arts was The Young Racals concert..(1966?)

You are aware, I trust, that we're on to movies at this point, yes?

4. Shepard M. Scheinberg said...

Those of you who are Sherlock Holmes fans, Turner Broadcasting ran, I think all 12 Holmes' flicks staring Rathbone and Bruce on Saturday. I watched three and was taken back to my childhood fascination of the great detective.

Actually, starting on Friday, TCM ran all 13 of the Rath­bone/Bruce 1938-1946 oeuvre, in sequence, with a handful of others, including Billy Wilder's little seen but no less remarkable "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," still the best of the films not directly based on a Doyle narrative. (Watch on-line here.)

Other cable channels also traded on the "buzz" from the new film's opening, including some of the best "Holmes" ever (Jeremy Brett, 1984-1994), and early tomorrow morning TCM will being showing the 1922 movie with John Barrymore as the famous consulting detective of Baker Street, and Hedda Hopper in the supporting cast. All hail the DVR!

5. Hampton West said...

Caught most of the movies - the one I didn't know was "Pursuit to Algiers."

All the others I had seen either in my youth or at college - where at Rutgers U circa 1970 there was a Sherlock Holmes fan club.

PS: As much as I liked Basil Rathbone – Jeremy Irons was the best Holmes - he really captured Holmes's darkside - he was not a pleasant man!!!

You mean, I believe, Jeremy Brett. I think the closest association Irons has ever had with the detective was in his first role, back in 1971, in "The Case of the Mirror of Portugal," one of the entries in the UK television series, "The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes."

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