Sunday, July 02, 2017

BABY DRIVER: Edgar Eggs!

Edgar Eggs—They're kind of like what people call Easter Eggs in other films, but with a quality that's distinctly Wrightian. What follows is a collection of notes and details from the film—references, motifs, callbacks, and connections—narrative, filmmaking, and personal—inserted and/or found (or imagined by me =) in the perfectly timed rhythmic clockwork beauty that is BABY DRIVER.

Please note that my memory for quotes is tres imperfect these days. I may present some dialogue in quotes or screenplay-ish format, but it's best-of-my-recollection, and the result is likely paraphrased.
Now entering SPOILER CITY…

The Octane Shuffle

On his Octane run after the first heist, Baby musicals his way down the road to "Harlem Shuffle." As he roughly follows the song's instructions, the song is backed up by the city itself, its lyrics presented in graffiti art, spray paint, and signs in Baby's environment. And it's not just static. In at least one instance, the graffiti on his way back from Octane is different, added to, compared to the graffiti on his way to Octane. A piece of wall that echoes "Right" the first time, also tells him "Shake Shake" the second.
Also, 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 a mural of a guy looking up to the sky and play “air horn” in front of a show window featuring a trumpet.
Also also, on the way to Octane we overhear a guy on the phone telling someone that they're late. On the way back from Octane he passes the same guy dressing down the other guy in person about having to be on time.
Just before leaving Octane, a girl across the street catches his eye, right in front of a graffiti'd heart. It’s our Muse, Debora, but Baby doesn’t know that yet. By the time he exits the coffee shop, seconds later and heading in the same direction as her, she's mysteriously disappeared. On his way back to the Healey, he dodges a face-to-face with a policeman, two-steps around a sandwich board doomsayer telling 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. Signs and portents.
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…? Certainly can’t put it past Professor Wright =)
Baby makes another Octane run after the armored truck heist, considerably less joyful, and for us, abridged. Along with the change in the cover of "Harlem Shuffle" it's a great barometer of a downward, darkward, trend in Baby's crime-adjacent fortunes.

What's on the Telly?

When Baby flips thru channels at home w/Joe early on, I was hit with some deja view to the channel-hopping in SHAUN OF THE DEAD which connects clips from different shows to create a message about what's actually going on before our heroes quite suss it out. That's not quite what happens here, but the apparently random snippets of content do end up being (1) useful and (2) meaningful.
1. Useful?

If we pay attention, we learn that Baby doesn't just electronically remix (Kid Koala!) the samples of the people in his neighborhood that he records on his microcassette recorder. He also does it conversationally. When he finds himself at a loss for original words, he verbally samples/replays dialogue—from art and life—that he's stored on his personal hard drive. So, on the TV, we see Alfalfa of THE LITTLE RASCALS squeaking out "You Are So Beautiful." These are the words that seem to uncontrollably fall from his lips soon after meeting Debora. On the TV, we see John Krasinski holding Meryl Streep in some farewell moment in I-don't-know-the-movie, no-doubt-cheekily announcing, "They grow up so fast, don't they?" When casing the post office with Nephew Samm, that's what Baby says to cover up his flub of a guess at the boy's age…
TELLER: How old is he?
BABY: Four.
SAMM: I'm eight.
BABY: They grow up so fast, don't they?
On the TV, we see Mike telling Sulley in MONSTERS, INC, "You and I are a team. Nothing is more important than our friendship." Later, this is what Baby tells Doc to reassure him of his loyalty and commitment to him. The clips are tools that Baby adds to his inventory for later use. They also serve as a Wrightian map of events to come.
It's not just media Baby remixes, tho. He pulls from life, too. In the elevator down after the first heist, he hears Darling approve of Buddy's post-heist celebration plan…"That's the finest wining and dining of all the wines and dines in town." And that's how he describes Bacchanalia when he suggests it to Debora for their first date. Of course, the suggestion itself is a Buddy sample.
I've gotta wonder if Edgar Wright is a fan of a particular sketch from THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, with Alan Alda as guest. It was an immediate favorite when I saw it as a kid. Alda plays a fellow on a date who seems to be quite the charmer, saying all the right things. I forget if the date was at her place or maybe they show up there at the end of the night, but once she turns on the TV, we learn that most of what he's said to her have been lines from the movies. I think he denies it for a while, but when he finally breaks down into an emotional confession, a few seconds later, we hear that very same confession in the dialogue of a movie of the week. Genius.
It's probably very telling that that sketch should burn itself into my brain, eh? =)
2. Meaningful?

At the end of this series of channel flipping clips, we land on coverage of a bullfight. We see a matador stepping around a skewered but still strutting bull. We hear, and see via cc, the announcer…"The bull still stands.” In the moment, that seems to be a comment on the conversation between Baby and Joe. Baby has just told him, "One more job and I'm done." Joe tells him that he doesn't want anyone to get hurt, so Baby promises that he'll make sure nothing will happen to him. Joe explains that it's not himself he's worried about, a concern which somehow sails over his high-altitude head.
However, before we cut to the next scene, the bullfight announcer continues…"The bull still stands…Bloodied, but not defeated. Gaston could not finish him on horseback and now must try his luck on foot." To different degrees, this predicts 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.
By the way, the meaning behind the name "Gaston" can be stranger or guest.
Later, when it’s down to Baby and Debora vs. Buddy, they start car-v-car (the red Challenger and the police cruiser), but Baby tells Debora 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. It was sort of an early short form riff of his full-blown BABY DRIVER concept—a wheelman waiting on his crew to the sound—and duration—of a favorite song of the right length. A very fun watch and listen.

Speaking of Prophecy…

I covered this in my "BABY DRIVER: What's in a name?" post, but I think it's worth mentioning again for anyone who's going back for more. Pay attention to what Griff says about and tells Baby in his little tirade after the heist. I'm fairly certain every bit of it is true or will be proven true by the end of the film. Baby *does* think himself, if not better than, then outside and apart from, the crews that he works with. He can't be in crime and not be a little criminal. He will have blood on his hands.
His closing remark is something like…
GRIFF: Gotta hand it to ya, Totem Pole. I don't know if you're brave as shit or scared shitless, but you're gonna have to figure it out…Which one are you?
Courageous or cowardly? Baby himself doesn't know, partly because he probably hasn't thought about it, partly because he hasn't put himself in a place where that's truly been tested, but it will.
Actually, now that I think about it, on that matter, Griff is not right. It's not either-or, because Baby is both scared shitless *and* brave as shit. That’s kind of the point.

Bo's Diner and the Laundromat…

Thinking about Bo’s Diner's decor theme and wall art…The big long wall has a mural of a couple in a convertible heading down Route 66, apparently a replica of postcard art that Debora later sends to Baby while he's in jail.
Soon after Debora and Baby first speak at Bo's, she excuses herself and tells him to feel free to ask her any questions he might have. When he calls after her to do just that and ask about the "Baby" song she's singing, we see her turn back to look at him with that wall mural as the backdrop, a premix of the moment when they hit the road together, first in Baby's vision, then in reality, five years later.

How about the laundromat's decor theme and wall art? Space-y, featuring rockets and rows of laundry machines against a field of stars. Something fun to note: at whatever hour it is Debora and Baby hit the 'mat, everyone's drying their clothes in loads of red, blue, and yellow—popping primaries. A perfect musical film backdrop to their subliminal dance number. =)
Does Baby ever actually eat, drink, or order anything at Bo's?
Where is Bo’s Diner? If ever in the area, gotta go—gotta go!
I wonder if the decor in the diner and laundromat was redone for the movie, or was left as magically found?
We see Baby dial up Bo’s Diner before he leaves to take Joe to safety—555-1270. I think that was it. December 1970? Does that line up with a significant birthday or cinematic event?
What it *does* line up with is a car part—a Steeda Mustang Pedal Kit, Manual! =)

The Rainbow Connection…

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. =)
A slight stretch, but a little more “rain” falls during the parking garage duel, when the sprinklers kick in.
It may also be a callback to Debora's first anonymous and unacknowledged appearance in the film, during Baby's first "Harlem Shuffle" to Octane. A headphoned Debora (who's not yet looking like a zeb-o-ra) passes Octane on the other side of the street. When Baby spots her, she crosses directly in front of a graffiti'd heart sitting on rainbows, sync'd of course to a nice beat or sting in the music. I *think* they're rainbows below the heart. Something to look for on my next screening.
Also, kind of walking the long way around, a figurative-to-literal connection to Paul Williams!
Dolly Parton -> imparter of Rainbow wisdom -> “The Rainbow Connection” -> written by Paul Williams.

An Educated Guess From an Uneducated Man…

Bats at Bo’s does a "reading" of Buddy and Darling. He calls Buddy out as an ex-Wall Street schmuck who played harder than he worked, running up debt that would "make a white man blush." He left behind a wife and maybe kid to run off with his favorite stripper and crime it up in a world of "three things—money, sex, drugs, and action…Oh, shit! That's four."
When he boils it down, he explains that Buddy and Darling rob banks to support a drug habit. Bats does drugs to support a bank robbing habit. They’re on vacation; he’s at work.
The look on Buddy's face tells me that Bats is spot-on. BTW, Jon Hamm kills in this film! =)
Buddy's got nothing to say, so Darling takes this opp to respond for both of them, explaining that Bats may think he's the crazy one in the crew, the wild card, but he's never seen Buddy when he's been pushed. "When he sees red, you won't see anything but black…" Darling's explicit warning for Bats actually predicts Buddy's relentless pursuit of revenge on Baby for her death.

Walter Hill Connections…

Walter Hill is the director of the 1978 getaway driver flick, THE DRIVER (and THE WARRIORS and 48 HOURS). I've only just recently seen THE DRIVER for the first time and it is definitely the godfather of dozens of heist and chase films I've seen over the years. It's uncanny how I recognize it now in the DNA of the likes of HEAT, THE ITALIAN JOB, and DRIVE. Kind of a missing link between LE SAMOURAI and RONIN. Edgar Wright acknowledges the film's huge inspiration on him and his filmmaking and he pays his respects in a couple of sweet ways in BABY DRIVER.
If you sit through the credits (and you should—these people made the film you just watched!) you'll see that Walter Hill played the court ASL translator for Baby's foster dad, Joe. He does not appear on screen. We only hear his voice as Joe signs…
JOE: He's got a good heart. Always has. Always will.
A minute or so later, we learn that Baby's been sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in jail, and we see him serving his time as prisoner number 28071978. That's 28-07-1978, aka the 28th of July, 1978, the original release date of Walter Hill's THE DRIVER!
Note that I did not pull that out of my wazoo. Seeing that number on screen, knowing it’s Edgar Wright at the helm, I just had a feeling, so went googling for info about THE DRIVER to uncover that connection.

Falcon Driver?

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.

(Baby’s taste in clothes—as well as his backstory and talents—inspired this BABY DRIVER: Nerf Herder mashup… =)
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.
Was this Wright, Elgort, or another member or members of the crew expressing their support for HANsel? I have no idea how the timelines of young Solo casting and BABY DRIVER shooting line up. But if the decision was made before shooting, maybe Ansel’s turn as Baby becomes a kind of what-could-have-been/what-you-missed strutting? =)
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.

Musicians in BABY DRIVER…

When Baby delivers his coupe de grace in the parking garage…
BABY: Fuck you, Buddy.
A perfect phrase and sentiment all on its own, but me being me, I do also wonder if he's paraphrasing Elvis—FYB vs TCB?
When Baby does speak more than a couple of syllables, his southern drawl definitely vibes Elvis for me. And although we don't hear his voice when he's lip syncing to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” in the opening heist, he’s definitely channeling Elvis hard in the moment. Or channeling Jon Spencer channeling Elvis. In any case, the impression is made, and it stays with me.
Who gives Baby his mail in jail? Whoever it is has a very unique look—maybe costumed in an ill-fitting uniform?—a Sam Elliot mustache, and a distinctive voice. In the in-order-of-appearance credits, I didn't see him, expecting to find "prison guard" at the end of the list, after "judge." Later, on the twitters, I saw a tweet asking Edgar Wright who Jon Spencer played, and a reply that explained he was the prison guard! Yeah, I do not know my music or musicians very well, so never could've called that on my own. What a perfect cameo, though, right?
I can thank the end credits for informing me that Doc likes to hang out at Bacchanalia with Big Boi and Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels), two artists who contributed "Chase Me" to the movie's soundtrack.

Note that a lot of the above appeared in earlier posts here and here, but this rambling above is the most developed crazy talk (so far).
I've got some more half—well, more like quarter—baked thoughts, but will let them cook a while yet before posting. Don’t wanna give anyone blog salmonella. After all, these *are* made with eggs.
If you’re interested in seeing some BABY DRIVER fan art poster designs inspired by Edgar Eggs, click here. =)
All you need is one killer track…
Keep on keepin' on~

BABY DRIVER: What's in a name?

What’s in a name? When it comes to Edgar Wright’s movies, a lot! I’m gonna go thru BABY DRIVER’s major and minor players and quick-ish-ly discuss the significance of their names, nick- and -real. Note that I may be using the word “significance” somewhat generously… =)
SPOILERS follow!


Well, I don’t think the significance is all that deep or mysterious on either name front for our wheelman. “Baby” describes his youth, his naiveté, and perhaps a degree of arrested development. “Miles” is a literal reference to his driving skills—miles of road covered—as well as a figurative one—a comparison of his talent behind the wheel to that of a certain jazz great on the horn. Given his mother’s pursuit of a singing career, I feel a pretty satisfying “click” at the thought of his being named after Miles Davis.


I feel like I’m missing something when it comes to connections for both names given to Baby’s girl. We do get a fun discussion and revelation of the significance of “Debora” in the realm of songs with one’s name. I imagine Edgar Wright’s been walking around with some late night discussions of these names and stats in his head since high school. Could it be that cross referencing those numbers with actual lovable songs might have been all the calculus needed to decide on her name?

And what about “Jonathan?” I feel like I may have missed a piece of a phrase in the exchange between Baby and Debora about her name tag. I think the punch line, as much as it was one, went something like—So, you’re the new Jonathan? Or maybe it was her telling him—I’m the Jonathan…? Frack. There’s gotta be another layer to this mix-up, right?


Baby’s foster dad. Did the movie reveal his full name at some point and I missed it? On paperwork somewhere in their apartment? Well, I didn’t pick up on a last name, so I’m just gonna tackle “Joseph,” and I gotta say, my take is a bit thin and simplistic. You can probably guess what it is—Who’s the most famous Joseph you can think of? And what is BABY DRIVER’s Joseph to Baby?
Yeah, it’s kind of a reach identifying Baby with Jesus, but if you do, then his Joseph does line up with the savior’s, right? Basically, Joseph is the man who steps in to raise a boy in place of his absent(ee) father.

Buddy—Jason Van Horn.

There’s a hilarious exchange between Bats, No-Nose, and J.D. about the disguises J.D. has picked up for the Perimeter armored car heist.
EDDIE NO-NOSE: Doc said Michael Myers!
JD: This *is* Mike Myers.
BATS: This should be the HALLOWEEN mask.
JD: This is a Halloween mask!
BATS: No—the killer dude from HALLOWEEN!
JD: Oh, you mean Jason…
This conversation by itself is a nugget of fried gold, but would you believe it’s even moreso for being a set-up for the revelation that Buddy’s real name is Jason? Jason, as in the FRIDAY THE 13TH killer who just won’t die and keeps coming back!
Also—Jason VAN HORN! =)
I love the simple punniness of it—van horn!—but wonder if there is some specific association with van horns I’m unaware of? Maybe a particularly British take or insight?

Darling—Monica Costello.

In the car after taking care of the Butcher & company, the crew presses each other about their names and Buddy explains that they only know each other by nicknames, codenames, monickers. With punny timing, Darling then reveals that her real name is Monica.
If I dig a little into “Monica” in a musical way, I find that it’s the title of a track on THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY, which of course sets off my HOT FUZZ detector. The singer of the song proclaims his love for Monica, who is—altho the song never explicitly says so—the town prostitute. A rude but perhaps not unfair comparison to Darling’s character (if we take Bats’s “educated guess” to be fairly accurate), and a shameless declaration that seems to fit Buddy’s love for her.
Later, we find out her last name is Costello from a breaking news bulletin. Monica Costello… 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, the Griffin is supposedly supernaturally wise and partial to golden treasure and testing humans with riddles.
Frack, am I confusing the Griffin with the Sphinx? Hrm…I’m gonna go with it. Please feel free to comment with a correction or confirmation.
After the first heist, Griff takes it upon 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 be in crime without being a little criminal…One day, you’re gonna get blood on your hands. He also comments on how Baby doesn’t seem to scare, saying something like—You’re either brave as shit or scared shitless…Which one is it?
Regardless of whether the name and significance of Griffin isn’t a perfect connect, he still plays a Cassandra-like Wrightian soothsayer in the shape of a bank robber.
I wish I could remember more/all of what he says to Baby, but I’d bet all of it is or comes true by the end of the film. Don’t forget what he says to the crew when he makes leaves them, stepping off the elevator…
GRIFF: If you don’t see me again, it’s because I’m dead.
That story will be an a-MA-zing extra on the dvd. =)
Huh…Damn, was there something about his death in a newspaper, TV news bulletin, or over the police band in the background later in the film?


I don’t think we get any clue as to his alter 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… Hrm…Perhaps he’s an actual doctor? ENT to Atlanta’s entertainment elite? One who was once in love…I love that sentimental soft spot revealed when Debra enters. Just kinda ridiculously hard boiled romantically perfect. =)
Beyond choosing the name for being short for “Doctor,” a title which would, with those who don’t know him, instantly imbue him w/intelligence, precision, and authority, I don’t have a great connect for the nickname. Although Doc himself would not think it flattering at all, perhaps the best that comes to my mind is Doc of Snow White’s seven dwarfs. While his manner is not a match for Spacey’s Doc (although his apparent soft spot for Baby might be compared to the dwarf’s paternal treatment of Snow and the other dwarfs), he *is* considered the leader.

Bats—Leon Jefferson III.

Leon, for lion? Hrm…The batty lion, crazy king of the jungle? That certainly works. When we first meet him, he’s sporting that playing card King sweater. =)
Doc reveals Bats’s first name when Bats explains that the Atlanta PD are gonna need a Ouija board to Id them for their massacre at the farmer’s market. Doc tells him that won’t take long as his name is only four letters. Bats tries to be smart by saying “Bats” isn’t his real name and Doc hits back with something like “I know that, LEON.”
We get his full name in the same bulletin on the telly at Bo’s that gives us Darling’s. Leon Jefferson the third. I feel like I’ve found a great and fun Wrightian match/inspiration—Leon Jefferson Mohammed. That’s the name of the drug dealer played by Mykelti Williamson in the pilot of Michael Mann’s MIAMI VICE! I was a huge fan of the show, and I really wish I could say that I knew that name off the top of my head, but no, I’m just not that encyclopedic with my fanboy knowledge. I will say that I do still have dozens of eps on betamax tapes at my parents’ place. =)
Also, Jamie Foxx played Tubbs in the big screen MIAMI VICE.

Eddie No-Nose—formerly Eddie the Nose.

Do not ask what happened to Eddie’s nose. That’s a No-Nose no-no, page 1.

J.D.—He puts the “Asian” in “home invasion.”

I didn’t catch any hint as to his real name. Maybe J.D. as his nickname is a technical/filmmaking reference, like R2-D2? Perhaps specific to something or someone disposable or temporary? Or maybe it’s a clue as to his fate, for when or if he’s ever discovered, post-sunset, whatever’s left of him would surely be tagged as a John Doe, right? I feel like it’s a long shot that it would connect to “James Dean,” dying so young in his car…?

The Butcher—never get his name, but the actor? OMG! Paul freakin’ Williams! =)

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 musical oeuvre as a whole. Did he write any of the songs that appear in the movie? In any case, a joyous experience seeing him in the BABY DRIVER world, if only for a short and final time.
And…that’s all I’ve got. This time, at least. I took a first crack at BABY DRIVER names in an earlier post. The rambling in this post (above) is an updated version of those thoughts.
All you need is one killer track!~
Keep on keepin’ on~