The pounding beat of a headache, or the sear of a migraine, is something I rarely have to face. That makes me lucky, for the most part, but it also means that when one hits, like today, all I can think of is heads and brains like a zombie in training. Naturally, this has me thinking of movies that focus on the stories of the noggin. Should I go for The Man with Two Brains or other similar brainy fare? Nah.
Instead, I'm going to focus on a man behind the camera, one who brought us two of the best stories of the mind to date: Mr. Charlie Kaufman. It all started with a little Malkovich Malkovich, and then continued with the overwhelming urge to erase love from the mind -- two stories that make a little headache seem like nothing. On this warm Friday, I give you: Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ...
Being John Malkovich
"It's my head!"
In the mind of Charlie Kaufman, John Malkovich's head is not just his head -- it's a destination for aging seniors looking for a longer life, the means by which two women can love each other, and the way one puppeteer can find professional success and get the woman he lusts for. Sure, it's great to escape to a world where there's a 7 1/2 floor that contains a portal into Malkovich's brain, one that will give you 15 good minutes in the life of the famous actor before you're splatted out next to the New Jersey turnpike. But the real magic is Malkovich himself.
Playing a fictionalized version of yourself is challenging enough. Playing one that is continually at the whim of strangers in his head is something else entirely. From exasperated anger to a barely-dressed dance, Malkovich makes Kaufman's world come to life in the most irresistible way. Yet there's also Cameron Diaz in one of her best roles, John Cusack kicking butt as the desperate Craig Schwartz, and Catherine Keener as Maxine Lund.
TRIVIA: The Charlie Sheen cameo was originally written to be Kevin Bacon.
If you're feeling particularly wild, there's the Being John Malkovich drinking game. However, if you're lazy and have a high alcohol tolerance, you could always just drink every time "Malkovich" is said -- but I think you'd pass out by the time the Malkovich Malkovich scene is over.
DVD Extras: Check out the short video segments about the building and puppeteering.
John Malkovich on Charlie Rose, with some Jimmy Carter too.
Please have a seat, Mr. Juarez.
Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Malkovich was a tough act to follow, but after the 1999 film, we got Human Nature, Adaptation, and then the perfect blend of Kaufman and Michel Gondry -- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) break up, and all Joel wants to do is forget -- so much so that he pays a company to go into his mind and strategically remove his coupley, Clementine memories piece by piece. However, once it starts happening, Joel realizes that he loves these memories, and wants to keep them.
What's great about this film is that in the midst of all the surreal elements created by Kaufman and Gondry is a story that is completely realistic. We often wish we could remove memories, or even actions, but what would really happen if we had the power to do so? They not only make us who we are, but it's hard to choose to erase memories when you're lucidly re-living them.
TRIVIA: Nicolas Cage was considered for the role of Joel.
Ellen Pompeo, of Grey's Anatomy, played Joel's ex in a deleted scene.
Hit the trivia link for another interesting note about the original ending (at the bottom of the page).
Trying to hide Clementine in old memories.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as a horror movie.