Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No Scheiße, Sherlock

I may have mentioned sometime or other in the archives that I never rent movies, I always buy them... one of my few truly consistent behaviors is to return things, be they library books or video rentals, at least a week late, incurring late fees that amount to more than the cost of the object in question.

Silver Screen Video, where I usually purchase previously-viewed DVDs for very low prices (I used to go to Blockbuster, too, until I discovered their sinister Mormon ownership), has this thing where you can buy multiple videos and get a discounted price... three Tier 1 videos (priced $7.95) or four Tier 2 videos (priced $5.95) for $20. It's only a savings of four dollars, but the goad of saving 20% has habituated me to always buying three Tier 1 and/or four Tier 2 videos every time I buy. And as a result, I often end up choosing videos to fill out my numbers that I wouldn't otherwise have considered.

This habit has landed me some utter turds of movies (like Mama Mia!...I mean, a musical? Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski and Colin Firth? Dominic Cooper with his shirt off? It should have been fabulous, but it made me want to open a vein)... complete wastes of plastic and Mylar and paper; but it has also yielded a few gems.

One such gem was the Guy Ritchie action thriller Sherlock Holmes, which Caroline and I watched on Saturday afternoon. I was rather set against this movie; judging from the previews, it looked like the kind of testosterone-driven schlockfest full of explosions and empty of plot that I generally abhor. And Jude Law looked dreadful, which I consider a crime against nature.

But I needed one more $7.95 video, and Caroline suggested either this or Public Enemies, which I was also not interested in seeing (over-glamorizing criminals bugs me)... so I went with the Sherlock Holmes, thinking I'd at least get the pleasure of pointing out all the historical and character inaccuracies that were bound to be in there. I'm a huge fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, and the Basil Rathbone movies, and the Jeremy Brett serial, so I'm a hard audience to please... still, a bad Sherlock can at least be torn apart and stomped on, which is its own kind of fun.

But I have to say, I was impressed. There was plenty of plot, and though I could not relate the characters in this movie to the Holmes and Watson of literature (just as one doesn't with Sherlock parodies like Without a Clue), I thought their characters were deep and well-rounded, the dialog precise and fluid, and the backstories well-illuminated without being brought into too close of focus; and though the fight scenes and explosions were rather more frequent and drawn-out than strictly necessary, they were ingeniously planned out and beautifully shot, so I ended up enjoying them.

The art-direction was absolutely luminous...the costumes and sets were a joy to the eyes and lent a depth of enjoyment that was at least equal to the writing and acting (I quite forgot Robert Downey Jr. is an American); the conceit of showing Holmes' thought-processes moments before showing him acting them out was quite interesting and entertaining. And the casting was superb, there wasn't anybody in there who rang false or wasn't interesting to look at.

The anachronisms were surprisingly few. Now, I could be wrong, but I think that Lord Blackwood, being a Peer of the Realm, would have been held at Westminster Palace rather than a common jail, to be tried by the House of Lords rather than the Old Bailey... but that would have knocked a big hole in the plot, so we can just chalk that up to artistic license; similarly, I don't believe the Home Secretary's office would have been in Westminster Palace, as depicted, but again it had to be there for the story to work. The one I am sure of was a restaurant scene where Sherlock was wearing an open shirt and cravat at dinner, which would never have been allowed in the caliber of restaurant that was depicted, celebrity sleuth or not... Victorian social mores were much stickier than that.

At any rate, it was a really good movie and I recommend it heartily if you find yourself sifting through the previously-viewed bins at your local video store (which of course is not a Blockbuster... it's very small-minded and vindictive of me, I'm sure; but ever since Prop 8, I count all Mormons as enemies until proven otherwise).

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