Thursday, May 19, 2005

Double Dare, a documentary about professional stuntwomen, turned out to be one of the very most enjoyable films I've seen in this (so far) weak film year, but it would be a small gem in any year. (I guess I'm not the only one who thinks it's been a weak year. A spate of articles recently has pointed out the disappointing box office so far in 2005.)

It's not for everyone, of course, but if the topic interests you, it's very well done. As a kid, I was a fan of Wonder Woman, and I've been a big fan of other action heroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and, of course, The Bride in Kill Bill. So I had some natural interest to begin with. The film focuses on veteran Jeannie Epper, who worked on WW (soon, of course, to be a movie scripted and directed by Buffy creator Joss Whedon) and, amazingly, continues to work today past an age people retire from desk jobs; and Zoe Bell, the antipodean who spent years doubling for Xena. Luckily, the doc doesn't bore us with too much stunt footage, selecting just a few impressive moments (the training as well as the unvarnished stunts in all their glorious danger), and it also offers some astounding footage that puts you in the shoes of the gals as they pursue their oddly glamorous yet unglamorous careers.

The talking heads are fun, including some unusual (for Tinseltown) honesty from Lynda Carter; great contributions from the consummate pro Steven Spielberg, who gives some background on Jeannie Epper's legendary Hollywood family, noting that in his 1941, there were "Eppers flying everywhere" in one particular fight scene; and comic relief from Quentin Tarantino, who admits that at one point while searching for Uma's stunt double for Kill Bill, "We were shittin' bricks, man, we were fuckin' shittin' bricks." The film serves up deeply rich portraits of some interesting people and is surprisingly intelligent and hearfelt.

(IMDB's strange formula gives the film an unusually low rating, but if you click on the vote button, you'll see the vast majority of viewers showered the film with the top score of 10: the average score would be 8.3--that their "weighted" formula results in 4.7 is absurd.)

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

In observance of Frank Gorshin's death, MeTV re-ran the first two episodes of Batman, "Hi Diddle Riddle" and "Smack in the Middle," the first of which garnered him an Emmy nomination according to IMDb. Strange episodes, more serious than later on when the show found its style. (It features an awkward--nuclear!--death of the bad girl, a touch quickly ironed out of its later formula. I prefer the flirting with Newmar's Catwoman.) Gorshin was truly manaical running around in green underwear and cackling like a looney. Clearly he was a major creative influence on the show.

In my recent book round-up, Freakonomics was one of my top picks. Now I read that it's "this spring's 'it' book," and that it has an unusually good blog supporting it. I look forward to reading it down the line.

Song: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, the best I've heard yet from him.

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