Wednesday, June 28, 2017

BABY DRIVER: Screening #2 brain dump…

This post is gonna be a spoiler-tastic collection of notes, thoughts, Edgar/Easter eggs, and crazy talk on elements of Edgar Wright's BABY DRIVER after a second screening tonight.

About names and casting…

Buddy—Jason Van Horn.

I couldn't hold onto his last name after my first screening, just vaguely recalled it being Van Winklevossy, y'know? Something that fit Bats's educated guess from an uneducated man. But this time, I remembered, and hours later, I get it! I think? Jason VAN HORN! =)

Darling—Monica Costello.

In the car after taking care of the Butcher & friends, the crew press each other about their names and Buddy explains that they only know each other by nicknames, aka "monickers." With punny timing, Darling then reveals that her real name is Monica. We find out her last name is Costello from a breaking news bulletin later. My mind always jumps to Abbott-and- but I don't think that applies here. =)

Griff—short for Griffin.

We never get his real name, but that doesn't matter so much here. We do get Griffin, as in the legendary eagle-lion mashup beast, depending on the culture and time in which you ask, supposedly supernaturally wise and partial to gold treasure and testing humans with riddles.
Frack, am I confusing them w/sphinxes? Hrm…I'm gonna go with it, just to get my thoughts down.
After the first heist, Griff takes it on himself to find out what makes Baby tick, believing his quiet and aloofness to be signs that he considers himself better than the rest of the crew. He explains to Baby—You can't do crime without being a little criminal…One day, you're gonna get blood on your hands.
I wish I could remember more/all of what he says to Baby, but I'd bet all of it is and/or comes true.
Even if the name isn't a perfect connect, he still plays a Cassandra-like Wrightian soothsayer in the shape of a bank robber.


I don't think we get any clue as to his altar ego, if he has one. All we know is he's a heist mastermind with impressive resources and a line on people with nasal troubles. We do see him sharing drinks w/Big Boi and Killer Mike at Bacchanalia, tho. ENT to hip-hop stars who was once in love, too? =)


The batty lion. That works. I think we must've gotten his last name in that breaking news report, too, but I missed it. Nuts.

Eddie No-Nose—formerly Eddie the Nose.

Heh. That's a No-Nose no-no, page 1.


I didn't catch any hint as to his real name. Maybe it's a filmmaking reference, like R2-D2? But specific to something or someone disposable? Or maybe a clue as to his fate, when or if he's ever discovered, post-sunset, he'd surely be tagged as a John Doe, right?

The Butcher—never get his name, but the actor? OMG! STILL ALIVE! =)

Crazy amazing casting and a damn impressive delivery of a pig-themed bad cop sales pitch! Perhaps PHANTOM holds a special place in Wright's heart? I know it does in mine. Or perhaps it's the man's extensive and inspiring oeuvre as a whole. In any case, a joyous experience seeing him in the BABY DRIVER world.

And the rest…

Now, whatever I can recall that I want to recall, roughly in the order of appearance in the film…

The graffiti behind Baby is definitely updated between his trip to Octane and back to the Healey building. Maybe in more than one place, but I'm only sure about the "RIGHT" + "Shake Shake" art. On the way to Octane, along with Baby's "Harlem Shuffle" track syncing with graffiti and posted words in the environment, we see Baby match poses with wall art of a guy looking up to the sky and play "air horn" in front of show window featuring a trumpet. On his way back, a sandwich board doomsayer tells him that he must save himself from sin, and when crossing the street, a police car just passes him by before turning on its siren.

I wonder…Could the lyrics to "Harlem Shuffle" be a map to one of the getaway scenes? Or the acts and plot of the entire film…?

Hrm…Maybe…? Certainly can't put it past Professor Wright =)

When Baby flips thru channels at home w/Joe early on, there's a series of channel audio bits that felt a lot like SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The MONSTERS, INC bit that Baby uses on Doc—"You and I are a team. Nothing is more important than our friendship."—is part of it. At the end, we see coverage of a bullfight, a matador stepping around a skewered but undefeated bull. We hear, and see via cc—"The bull still stands." In the moment, that seems to be comment on Baby's sticking with his one-more-job-and-I'm-done plan, despite Joe's objection.

However, before we cut to the next scene, the announcer continues, talking about how the matador, having failed to finish the bull from horseback, must now try his luck on foot, which is kind of what happens to Baby after the Post Office robbery and also in his finale duel with Buddy in the parking garage. Post-Post Office, after skewering Bats, Baby (and Buddy and Darling) have to abandon their steed and escape on foot.

Later, when it's down to Baby and Deb vs. Buddy, they start car-v-car (the red Charger and the police cruiser), but Baby tells Debra they have to get out of the car so that he can end this, and although he does that just to get into a different car, the final confrontation has all of the players on their feet. Well, y'know, until they're not any more.

I think the second time we see Baby or Joe channel-hopping at home, Noel Fielding appears on screen for a few seconds. On my first screening, I thought it was a clip from THE MIGHTY BOOSH, but now I realize that it's from the video for Mint Royale's "Blue Song," which Wright directed and was sort of an early short form riff of his BABY DRIVER concept. A wheelman waiting on his crew to the sound—and duration—of a favorite song of the right length.

Debora vs. her sister Mary for songs with their names.

Bo's Diner decor/wall art—Route 66, couple in a convertible. Same as one of the postcards Deb sends Baby in jail.

Where is Bo's Diner? If ever in the area, gotta go—gotta go!
Laundromat decor/wall art—rockets and space.

Was the decor in the dinner and 'mat redone for the movie, or left as found?

The senior waitress says that Baby's been coming there since before she started. She thinks/heard that his mom used to work there. Lucky for Baby Deb thinks that more sweet than creepy. =)
BABY: I have different iPods for different days, different moods…
Bo's Diner number—555-1270. I think that was it. December 1970? Does that line up with a significant birthday or cinematic event?

There's a beautiful pair of shots one after the other when Baby, at home, calls Debora at Bo's. He's framed in a doorway of a darkened room, Joe in the lit living room behind him, with most of the dark on screen to the right. Then we see Deb, framed by the dark foreground of part of the kitchen, or maybe a supply/pantry area, to the left, with the light of the diner behind her. There's a palpable sense of their connection thru that phone line that crosses a darkness between them.

Or something. =)

Baby notices JD's "HAT" neck tattoo. JD explains that it used to read "HATE" but he had it "fixed" to be more marketable to prospective employers. After all…
JD: Who doesn't like hats?
Baby invites Debora to "Buck & Ella" for the finest wining and dining of all the wine and dine in town.

Deb and Baby make music with their glasses at Buck & Ella. The whole non-verbal carousel cam montage of their date there is in wonderful sync to the music. LA LA LAND, eat your hat! (Cuz, who doesn't like hats, right? =)
DOC: Take the buds out, shades off. Take the nephew, it'll be less suspicious.
I remember thinking that this seems like a way for Doc to set Baby up for capture later, getting his uncovered face caught on camera. A contingency plan to keep Doc under his thumb? Or put him away after this job?

NEPHEW SAM: You have a mint that says "Sam?"

When Baby and Sam deliver their reconnaissance report, I think Doc says, "Chips off the old block." A hint of actual fatherly affection? A Fagin-like show of pride? A clue to his brother's identity? Something else?
POSTAL WORKER: Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain, but you can't have a rainbow without a little rain.
This after saying she's working "9 to 5, just like Dolly."

It's a sweet connect to the rain that falls the next day, the day of the Post Office heist, and the rainbow that appears five years later when Deb picks up Miles on his release from prison, ready to drive west on 20 in a car they can't afford with a plan they don't have.
I guess that's romantic? Sounds like a lot of stress to me. =)

Whenever someone slams a door or trunk, we hear Baby's tinnitus ringing. Always a flashback to the accident?
BATS: You don't need a score for a score!
And he talks about Hex Songs…
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
"End of the Road"
"Hotel California"
BATS: An educated guess from an uneducated man.
Bats at Bo's "reading" Buddy and Darling. They rob banks to support doing drugs. Bats does drugs to support robbing banks. They're on vacation; he's at work.

The bill at Bo's for four Cokes, aka three Cokes and one Coca: $5.70. Baby leaves a 20 and a note: Road trip 2am.

When Baby and Deb are on the run after shooting Buddy at Bo's, Baby steps into a phone booth in a bit of empty lot to call Doc, who is not helpful. The booth has graffiti on its clear walls of tentacles reaching up from the ground—a visual representation of the realization of Griff's prophecy? This is just before they—Bonnie and Clyde? More like Bonnie and Bonnie—acquire the red Charger from the vaping punks. One of them asks Baby to leave him his phone but since it's playing the music, Baby says—Nope. =)
BABY: Fuck you, Buddy.
Paraphrasing Elvis? FYB vs TCB? =)

I didn't mention it in my previous ramble, but Baby definitely vibes Elvis at least as much as Han throughout the movie, and earlier, actually. When lip syncing to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" in the opening heist, he's definitely channeling Elvis for me.

Caught in the credits this time that WALTER HILL is the ASL interpreter for Joe in the courtroom at Baby's trial. Only heard, not seen.

Also, Baby's prisoner number is 28071978—the release date of Walter Hill's THE DRIVER. =)

WHO gives Baby his mail in jail? Not credited (in order of appearance, he should've been last, and the judge was last). Whoever it is has a very unique look, and a distinctive voice. Guess I'll just have to see it again!

Keep on keepin' on~

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

BABY DRIVER: Take a Ride w/Edgar Wright's Rockin' Wheelman

Thanks to the Brattle Theatre and the Independent Film Festival of Boston, I got to watch BABY DRIVER at an advanced screening last week!

It is a gorgeous musical roller coaster ride of a film. Writer and director Edgar Wright supercharges another beloved cinematic icon-slash-genre—the Wheelman or Driver—with his remarkable style, vision, wit, and rhythm. While not *a* musical, per se, BABY DRIVER is very musical, delivering snappy dialogue, sharp looks, slick moves, death-defying driving, and brutal gunplay, all choreographed to a soundtrack beautifully interwoven with the film…

There's not a lot more to say, really, beyond additional superlatives upon superlatives, and I don't want to go into scenes or characters too deeply and give up any of the fun. I think I'll just let one of the trailers do the talking…

Bottom line—GO SEE THIS MOVIE! And see it IN THE THEATER!

And for Space Pope's sake, do NOT take your phone out for any reason while the movie is running. You just paid $10 to $20 for this amazing experience! We live in an age of wonder that allows you to ignore a movie for free at home. Save the spacebooking, twitting, and txting for later. Or if you're gonna do that, or even look at a message on your annoyingly-bright-in-a-darkened-theater phone, get out of your seat, walk to an exit, behind a barrier, or *maybe* the back wall, out of anyone's view, and then have a look, respond if you must, and get back to the show. If you're waiting on your wife to finish delivering, or the funeral parlor's supposed to call about Pop's arrangements, or you're expecting a call from the doctor with those test results—WTF are you doing at the movies? If your phone lights up and you can see it, believe me, everyone next to and behind you can see it. Keep it in your pocket. If you see someone next to or near you futzing w/a screen, do everyone a favor, be your own (and my) hero, and ask them to put it away or take it outside.

Beware, beyond this point, I'm gonna start lobbing spoilers into my rambling. So, exit pursued by a bear now if you haven't seen BABY DRIVER already!

CRITS (oh-so-minor, probably more like backhanded compliments).

I don't feel the heart in this that I do in the Cornetto films. Those films—SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, THE WORLD'S END—had relationships at their centers. But I have to say that my not feeling that with BABY DRIVER is very fair and true to the driver genre. You don't get the warm fuzzies thinking about BULLITT, THE BLUES BROTHERS, or THE FRENCH CONNECTION, right? Well, okay, maybe THE BLUES BROTHERS. =)

The characters tend to be flat and archetypal, taking a back seat *sorry-not-sorry* to the action and style. Wright does get me rooting for some of the baddies along the way, because of their professionalism, circumstance, charisma, and, well, moral relativism. And while they may be flat, they own their two dimensions and are memorable, essential, love- and hate-able in their own ways.

Of course, we know who we're rooting for—our Baby on board.

Maybe this isn't fair to BABY DRIVER, but I'd *just* seen Walter Hill's THE DRIVER, right before it, and was so frickin' impressed with its style and tension and story-slash-chase-telling cinematography. I found myself wanting more from the final car-v-car showdown in BABY. I feel like both Wright's BABY DRIVER and Refn's DRIVE put their tightest and tautest chase set piece at the start of their films. They are a-ma-zing intros to each film experience, but greedy me, I want even higher peaks in the middle and the end.

Oh, don't get me wrong—there ARE more peaks, gorgeously choreographed, executed, shot, and edited peaks, throughout. It's been a week now and I still feel my thoughts are vibrating from the experience.

I'm gonna see it again, so maybe I'll revisit this notion of the "starting with dessert" problem, if that's what it is. Maybe it was having THE DRIVER on my palate affecting my perspective…


I love the reason that Baby is always listening to his music. I don't know which movie or story first used music as a way to time and count off the steps to a heist—at the moment I can only think of HUDSON HAWK =) —but I was almost surprised that that seemed to be what was happening with Baby's character in the film's opening chase scene (w/Buddy, Darling, and Griff). It almost seemed too, well, easy…y'know, for Edgar Wright. But it *is* Edgar Wright, so we know he's gonna do something brilliant with it.

Yeah, I know. Sometimes I wish I could watch a movie with my 9-yo brain, and not think so much.
Then we see Baby on his apparently regular walk to Octane coffee, and in a beautiful "Harlem Shuffle" music video starring Baby against the graffiti of Atlanta streets, we learn that music permeates every moment of Baby's life. Man, when Debora walks by outside the shop in front of the rainbow heart—so simply perfect. =)

And I'm pretty sure that when he retraces his steps, "Shake Shake" has been added to a column or wall that had "Right" on the way in.

Later we learn that there's more method to Baby's madness for music. Doc explains that he suffers from tinnitus, and music helps keep the ringing in his ears at bay. Later still, we learn that he has a habit of recording much of what he hears, using the audio as samples in musical creations of his own. I really wish we'd been able to see him create some more of those, and/or hear more from his extensive library.


Some little bits of fun that I feel are somehow Wright-ian, whether intended by the director or not. =)

J.D., of Bats's crew, is given a simple assignment—pick up three HALLOWEEN Michael Myers masks for use in the robbery. What does he show up with? Three Mike Myers (as Austin Powers) Halloween masks. When questioned about his cluelessness, one of the gang tries to clarify—The Bad Guy from HALLOWEEN, the movie! To which he replies—Oh! You mean Jason! And hey—What's Buddy's real name? Jason! As in Jason from FRIDAY THE 13th? As in the guy who keeps getting killed by never dies?

And what's Baby's real name? M I L E S of course!

Hrm…Good thing Wright didn't make this movie on the continent somewhere or Canada. His name would've been Kilometers! *groan*

Bananas! Doc reveals that's the phone call confirmation code word he receives from his contacts after a successful interaction. Darling reacts to the playing of one of Baby's tapes—"Is he slow?"—with B-A-N-A-N-A-S. When the Butcher's Atlanta PD colleagues show up for revenge on Doc, they give him the code word—"Bananas!"—along with some hot lead.

The invisible camera returns! In WORLD'S END, Wright shoots a scene between Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike in the restroom of a pub with the camera pointed squarely at the mirror on the wall. Sure, it could be digital magic, but I can't help but wonder if Wright has pulled off some practical magic. Just the right lighting combined with a glass plate at the correct complementary angle or something? Well, whatever he did then, he does again in…I want to say at least two shots—maybe three, with reflections in a car exterior?—in BABY DRIVER. My lame brain is now only recalling one, tho, in a pan across the washing machines of a laundromat, a sweet bit of Courtship, American Style.

Yeah, probably some "simple" digital trickery…But maybe only for the last 10% that some Houdini-like stage magic couldn't quite cover? I want to know but don't want to. =)

And speaking of courtship—I kind of adore how Baby sharing his earbuds with Debora physically connects them while they're moving around the laundromat and talking. It turns their conversation into a sweet dance number. A bit of Wright magic.

Becky & Ella? In the elevator down to P1, P2, and P3 after the first job, Buddy promises to take Darling to Bacchanalia, for the best wining and dining around, or something to that effect. When Debora presses Baby for an idea on where they'll go out, he tells her what sounds like "Becky and Ella" for the best wining and dining around. NB: Found out Bacchanalia *is* an actual ATL restaurant, but I don't believe we ever see its name or signage on screen.


About the "Spirit of 85" or whatever it was called. Doc mentions it to help establish Baby's cred. Apparently Baby tied the Atlanta PD in knots on what sounded like a crazy prolonged chase involving a cloverleaf interchange of highways. I think the word "spaghetti" was used? No doubt native Atlantans will appreciate the description of the feat. Baby's Kessel Run? =)

Oh, man! Who is responsible for Baby's wardrobe? For half if not most of the film, he is strategically yet uncannily decked out in duds that scream "Han Solo" to me. I'm talking A NEW HOPE—black vest over white shirt with dark pants.

After the film, I was told that our Baby, Ansel Elgort, had been on the short list for the young Han Solo film. I honestly had no idea as I did and do my best to block that sort of "news" as much as possible when it comes to films I'm looking forward to.

When I heard about the LEGO MOVIE directors being dismissed from the project, I thought that maybe they'd seen BABY DRIVER and realized that Edgar Wright had already made the movie—what's the point now? =)

And in the Hollywood minute before Ron Howard was announced, I wondered if maybe BABY DRIVER might possibly be the perfect proof of capabilities for Wright as the new director. Alas—*sigh*—not to be.

I wonder just what the heck happened with Disney/Marvel/ANT-MAN and Wright.


I love it when my experience of films and shows connect in little unexpected ways…

Last week, I got to see Edgar Wright's amazing action jukebox, BABY DRIVER. The next night, I caught Kumail Nanjani and Emily Gordon's hilarious, heart-warming and -punching rom-coma-com, THE BIG SICK. And tonight, a week later, experienced Bong Joon Ho's OKJA on the big screen before it streams on Netflix.

Yeah, none of that connects on paper, but in my head it's a different story… =)

In THE BIG SICK, Kumail and Emily's non-dating dates reveal his obsession with cricket and appreciation of zombies, which of course would logically add up to a SHAUN OF THE DEAD poster on his bedroom wall. That's some solid math, and reminded me that I've followed some twitter exchanges between them about movies (about ROGUE ONE, Riz Ahmed, representation, and a buddy heist film).

The content of OKJA does not directly connect to anything Wrightian (as far as I could tell on a first viewing), but Bong Joon Ho's previous film, the must-see sci-fi fable SNOWPIERCER, features Jamie Bell as a character named Edgar, apparently named for Wright. That note, plus the fact that Edgar was best buddy of Chris Evans's Curtis, inspired a meta-mashup poster for SNOWPIERCER starring SCOTT PILGRIM's Lucas Lee.

Yeah, like I said…it's all in my head.

Why do I have a feeling like this will be read back to me in court at a later date?


Oh—how did I get to see all these films in the theater? And before their wide release dates? The Brattle Theatre and the Independent Film Festival of Boston are my enablers-slash-suppliers. If you're Boston-local and love moviegoing, I *highly* recommend you check their schedules and membership privileges, join/donate/support either or both, and see some amazing movies!

Allright, enough a-ramblin'. If you made it this far, I'm sorry and thanks much. Now, get thee to the theater and BABY DRIVER up!

Keep on keepin' on~