Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hot Fuzz Day Four: Edgar Wright There

| by Justin Thomas |

Hey, Rocky, watch me get from Weezer to Edgar Wright in two paragraphs.

Ooh, how I’ve gone bananas for the Blue Album and wish I could borrow a time machine, skip back to 1994, give my 18-year-old self a copy and say, “listen to this you f-ing moron because it’s going to be important down the road and you might as well learn it now because it might help.” All of this contemporary geek ruling of the world can be traced back to the Blue Album and its message of being okay with who you are. “In the Garage?” That’s where I feel safe even if I’m listening to Kiss and playing D&D while ogling panel after panel of Kitty Pryde. That’s a life-altering message for anyone who remembers a time when there were scary things on the other side of the Berlin Wall and personal degree of popularity to worry about.

Flash forward six years post Blue Album and the Web explodes with a bunch of Comic Book Guys writing about movies and how they remember that one packet of Junior Mints they ate during Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and how it changed their world view.

Continue on as Hollywood abandons the original idea to adapt anything filed under “C” for “Comics” and Geekdom rewards Hollywood with the annual shattering of the previous year’s box office record.

Observe as Geekdom seeks out its Chosen One.

Watch as we go gaga for the films of Edgar Wright.

Damn. It took more than two paragraphs. Sorry.

If you’re with me, you doubt whether Edgar Wright will make a modern-day Bridge on the River Kwai or Taxi Driver. I can’t see him attempting to reinvent himself as the Modern Day Hitchcock even though we were wrong about the real Modern Day Hitchcock and said position remains open. It’s also highly unlikely he’ll be tapped for Sex and the City 4.

An attempt to peg Edgar Wright down might be to say he’s going to be a good Michael Bay, and that is absolutely a compliment. We all want to like Michael Bay but his movies are such crap you have to shamefully admit you like them just like in 1993 when you shamefully admitted to a kid one year your junior that yes, we were playing Risk at Burger King, and that kid announced to the rest of the Burger King, “Let’s go, there are only losers here.” That type of shame. So Wright might be a good Michael Bay and, for that, we should all hug him or embrace his work if suggesting a literal hug is creepy.

Bay shows the same action from multiple angles, insanely quickly, because he thinks it looks cool. Wright must think it looks cool, too, but he attempts to make it serve a storytelling purpose. In Hot Fuzz, Nicholas and Danny hop in their car for the high-speed pursuit we get three insanely quick cuts punctuated with Nicholas screaming, “Punch that sh*t.” Tied to the dialogue the quick cuts of hitting the lights, slamming home the seat belt and punching the gas to the floor serves a purpose and is more interesting than seeing it from a wider angle in one shot. Bay doesn’t put that much thought into his quick edits.

It’s not just the quick cuts where Wright reminds me of Bay and suggests he might improve upon Bay. Wright makes movies for people to enjoy, which is what Bay tries to do. Not every single reference to Shaun in Hot Fuzz is there because Wright thinks it’s cool but because he wants to care for his audience while tying together the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. The video game noise just before Nicholas and Danny attack the pub? That’s for the fans. The bit of Cornetto wrapper tossed on the counter at the service station? That’s for the fans, too. He’s not pandering to his audience but caring for it, and that’s a breath of fresh air when people exist who hold contempt for their audience. Yep, I’m looking west at Skywalker Ranch with that one.

Wright uses a lion roar sound effect for Frank in the aftermath of the pub battle and gets away with it. Is that him being self-indulgent? Yeah, maybe. A more interesting way of asking the question and illustrating the idea would be to ask, “Do you think Wright giggles when he sees Nicholas write the word ‘cock’ in his official report of the shoplifting sequence,” and the answer is probably yes. That’s okay. It is funny.

If style were the only thing that mattered, Wright and Tim Burton would be fine bedfellows. If making movies for his specific audience were the only thing that mattered, Wright and Kevin Smith are buddies. If self-indulgence were the only thing that mattered, Wright and the Coen Brothers might as well move in together. But those aren’t the only things that matter and Wright shows he’s got the basics down too. Hot Fuzz has a lot going on in it. Not only do we have to learn the complexities of the red herring plot but we have to see the real reasons why the murderers happen and both have to be plausible and not get in the way of developing Nicholas and Danny. It’s all understandable, doesn’t require repeat viewings to figure out and is light years away from whatever the incomprehensible mayhem of Transformers was and how it was filmed, particularly the last battle. He better handled the Hot Fuzz plot than he did the Shaun of the Dead plot and it’s refreshing to see a director growing and not regressing.

You bet I’m silly excited for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Three times in the first 10 seconds of the first trailer, the camera closes in on the characters after a person walking in front of the camera serves as a wipe. And each wipe includes Wright’s signature “whomp” or “whoosh” or whatever it is, and any doubt as to who was responsible for that trailer is erased 10 seconds into it. That’s the mark of a director with a mark or maybe I’ve seen Shaun and Hot Fuzz way, way too many times. I don’t know Scott Pilgrim but I do know Wright’s two movies and I know Scott Pilgrim will be cared for well. Waiting for Edgar Wright’s next movie is like waiting for Christmas morning and August 13th can’t get here soon enough.

Where does Hot Fuzz shake out against the movies to which Hot Fuzz is the two-hour love letter? I don’t really know. It’s a good borderline great example of the genre. I know it’s the best movie Edgar Wright has released to date and raises expectations for his subsequent films. With an Edgar Wright movie comes expectations and so far he’s met or exceeded them. He is the filmmaker I’m most excited about because he makes movies I enjoy and he makes them incredibly well so there’s reason to get jazzed.

Oh, and go listen to the Blue Album. It’s good, too.

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