I know Bryan Cranston’s cooler and that I’m ruining a Drive reunion – that movie still sucks, by the way! – but head over to Entertainment Maven to see my picks to cast if I was doing a table read or remake of American Beauty.
From my childhood third world perspective, looking through a keyhole into the widely disseminated First World pop culture, sports were the furthest thing. But I have a sneaking suspicion, that Oliver Stone‘s portrayal of the public and private lives of a football team in Any Given Sunday feel inaccurately cartoonish. For the pats decade, there has been a different quarterbacks who would host SNL once every four years and another one who would announce his blindly conservative views. And mind my traces of nerdy, anti-jock prejudices but anyone who gets to college through a sports scholarship should never be in front of a microphone ever.
That said, I don’t remember the late 90’s with the memory of men Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). He starts out as a nervous last resort on this movie’s football team, the symbolically named Miami Sharks, replacing quarterback Jack ‘Cap’ Rooney (Dennis Quaid), the latter feeling varying degrees of pressure from his coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) and his wife to play on, has taken it to himself to swallow his pride and make way for the new blood.
Then becoming its unlikely rising star, and it’s inevitable that this new fame, the fake friends that go with them and the endorsements get to his unprepared head. For some reason, he would be allowed to embarrass himself through a nationally broadcast sports channel and a rap music video. The movie also gives us access to his semi-private life, with his stupid crass boring ass parties and such. It was as if Stone was conflating that decade’s football stars with those in basketball, like actor Michael Jordan, rapper Shaquille O’Neal and model Lebron James. Beaman is the cringe-inducing manifestation of the black masculine ego, Stone’s inadvertent racial, gendered caricature. I’m not saying that this movie’s racist but if someone told me that it was, I wouldn’t object to his or her opinion.
Knowing that characters within the Sharks are less surprisingly coarse, what interests Stone are stories with trashy narcissists who have no business in becoming figureheads of America’s institutions, whether they be political, financial or athletic, but they end up doing so because of luck and some talent. Timing is important to them, entering these systems in dire times, and their presence within their new worlds make these institutions more precarious, the same way the Sharks’ standing within the NFL is vulnerable. Speaking of talent, I can’t fully discredit Stone’s anti-heroes or villains no matter what they do or how they get to the top, Clay Shaw is well-connected and an efficient taskmaster, Gordon Gekko knowing stocks at the back of his cranium. Of course after vomiting spells and surprisingly, Tony coaching, Beamen can magically pass the football to the other side.
It also helps to know who’s on scriptwriting duties. Helping Stone out is John Logan, responsible for the expanisve, ambitious, masculine and violent A-list vehicles like The Last Samurai, Sweeney Todd and the Oscar-winning Gladiator and Daniel Pyne, whose work in Fracture and the TV series “Miami Vice” bring equal amounts of flash and contemporary grit to this movie.
Back to Stone’s characters, if the ‘trashy’ character is a secondary protagonist like Beamen, there comes a more major character who has to make us less cynical and make us believe that the Sharks and football are holy institutions with integrity and rules. That’s what Tony is for. Pacino amazes here, as we can hear his vocal restraint even when he’s yelling at his players and calling them ‘an embarrassment.’ He has a good rapport with the other actors playing athletes, guiding these characters individually especially in times of need, like injuries, ego deficiencies and the like.
There’s also owner-by-nepotism Christina Pagliacci (Cameron Diaz). Both are conflictophiles, Tony and her respectively representing old and new ways of handling a sports team, both of them being right in their own ways. There’s a short yet innately caricature-like moment when Diaz is sitting on her desk, “Thinker” pose and all. She’s absent in chunks of the movie and neither is she perfect, especially in verbal clashing with a commanding presence like Pacino, but she’s aware of the pressures that faces her character.
Supporting cast includes Aaron Eckhart as an offensive coach impatiently waiting under Tony’s wing, Ann Margaret as Christina’s alcoholic, chagrined and emotionally abandoned mother Margaret and LL Cool J as an endorsement hungry player resentful, like everyone else, of Willie’s refusal to follow the playbook.
The rest of it I’m not a big fan of. Stone’s indulgent camerawork were effective in his earlier movies. He tries to use the same techniques to capture the game’s frenzy but it doesn’t work, especially with adding the aggressive, multi-genre popular music. Scenes of football games portrayed with pathetic fallacy, either with glaring, desert-evoking multiple spotlights or the rain and mud, either weather condition showing every anguished sinew of the athletes despite all that padding. That and the flashbacks were needlessly fetishistic. The more subtle the better. And of course, Charlton Heston appears some commissioner who says about Christine that ‘she’ll eat her young,’ reinforcing the movie’s xenophobic streak in thinking that a woman could be in power is if she’s evil. Please.
- Are You Ready For Some Football? (Oliver Stone Style) (moviesinpurgatory.com)
Julianne Moore is one of Hollywood’s most versatile actresses but there are arguably three performances where she could be interchangeable with Madonna. The first and most obvious is as Charley in A Single Man. The second being Maude Lebowski although of course we’ll assume that the singer doesn’t have the same comic timing as Moore does. The third is the twice divorced Laura Chevely in An Idea Husband, a dramedy set in London during the Gilded Age. Madonna has the alabaster complexion back in 1999 but Moore had the curly red hair, ringlets and a luminescent yet cleavage-revealing golden gown, looking like an older yet polished Morisot muse. But when she slithers beside Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett, at one time Madonna’s best friend), opens her mouth and unleashes her laced sexuality, it makes my mind go ‘Madge….’
An Ideal Husband is Oscar Wilde territory – petty, bourgeois, yet more lighthearted than a few other works I’ve skimmed. Laura used to believe in concepts like love but she only concerns herself now with acquiring husbands for power or destroying the enemies who get in her way. She threatens Arthur, wanting marriage from him or else she will reveal the contents of a scandalous letter! Her other option would be destroying Sir Robert Chilton’s (Jeremy Northam) integrity, a Member of the Parliament, by convincing him to approve of a scene. Meanwhile the lives of headstrong Mabel Chilton (Minnie Driver), Robert’s sister, and the shy Lady Gertrude (Cate Blanchett), more worthier wives than Laura can ever make, hang in the balance.
Moore’s casting, along with Blanchett’s, makes the film merely three-fifths British. Everyone’s accents, including Moore’s affected and sassy rendition, are passable but there’s something in the movie that takes away from its authentic locality. Maybe I’ve seen most of these actors play North Americans too many times and in better movies. Or that they seem to belong somewhere else.
Getting neither man, Laura plants the letter, leaves London’s boulevards and hopes her work is done. Unfortunately, she leaves us withe the rest of the sappy, romantic characters and I turn into a Grinch.
- Happy 51st Julianne Moore. What’s Next? (thefilmexperience.net)
‘I love Billy Crystal, I want him to host the Oscars,’ so you say but when I hear his name I think, snarkily, like I do with my best friend’s ex-boyfriends. ‘Like really, him?’ National treasure statuses go in waves and I got introduced to him and his work during a hiatus of said status. Others have experienced him during When Harry Met Sally… or now when he upstaged whoever was hosting the Oscars – I have an interesting story of how I missed that glorious moment, by the way. I, however, lump him within middle-aged comedians dominating HBO with dated comedies of the late 1990’s. Tim Allen. Tom Arnold. It’s sad, I know, but he did star as Dr. Ben Sobel in the Harold Ramis directed movie Analyze This.
Oh, I get it, America and Canada loves him because he looks like a human Muppet, with smizing beady eyes and the way he opens his thin lips. It’s funny listening to his muffled voice when he gets high-pitched and irritated with Paul’s demanding ways. He also reaps as much as he can pose as a gangster in Paul Vitti’s (Robert de Niro) place.
With a cast including Lisa Kudrow, Chazz Palminteri as a gangster rival and half of the people who have appeared in “The Sopranos,” Crystal gets sidelined, having to play the normal guy as he normally does. He doesn’t always hit a home run with some punch lines neither. However, I find myself surprised when I chuckle to some of the jokes that I didn’t catch the first or the second time I have seen this. He’s funny when he’s underplaying a punch line about himself as a psychiatrist. His brand of physical comedy more introverted than limb-y.
This movie also came out the same year when the aformentioned “The Sopranos” did, both coincidentally have plots about aging gangster types who deal with their emotional and psychiatric issues. Ben plays a psychiatrist who deals with the sexual ennui of the middle-aged until he lands on a goldmine by getting Paul as a patient. Wackiness and whacking – not off – ensues, chaos being an essential part of every generic comedy. Ben sees Paul merely as a patient but like every other comedy, the latter has boundary issues. Vitti has daddy issues but unearthing those psychological knots also mean that he can convince Ben to talk about his father too. In a way, they’re perfect for each other.
Crystal also gets upstaged and rightfully so by de Niro, who’s on his post-post-Scorsese era. The latter probably did this movie in the tail end of gangster revisionism or genre mash-ups that began a decade before. He gives the character exactly what it needs for a comedy – a childlike nature that makes him think that he beyond scrutiny. Unlike Crystal, de Niro barely if ever plays it down. In some of his scenes he’s angry. In one, he almost seems like he wants to give out a full-on Christopher Walken impersonation. He also uses his signature scrunchy frown in the greatest ways, in one scene transitioning to that to full histrionic crying about his daddy issues that he can’t function during a gangster gun fight.
And since we already brought up the ‘national treasure’ thing. He’s probably the only unscathed survivor of the great actors and actresses of the 1970’s, getting constant work that are equally hit and miss. But we’re also living in a world where Jack Nicholson stipulated in his contract that he can’t work with Lindsay Lohan in any circumstances yet de Niro is in a movie with Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi and Ashton Kutcher. I don’t like saying this phrase but how the mighty have fallen.
- Inspired by: Robert De Niro (dandizettecharm.wordpress.com)
You might know her as The Queen or as Supt. Jane Tennison whoever but I will always remember Helen Mirren in the first movie I’ve seen her in, playing the title role in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. She’s the stereotypical teacher from hell, 90’s bowl cut, angry American accent and all.
Some film geeks might herald 1999 as a banner year but it was also a part of that decade, seeing the release of many teen movies. We have the headlining adult in this film but where do we get the young stars to get my attention? Why television, of course! At the time Katie Holmes, also coming out with Disturbing Behavior, was then one of successful “Dawson’s Creek” alums. There was also “7th Heaven’s” Barry Watson.
But let me present you Marisa Coughlan. While Leigh Ann Watson (Holmes) and Luke Churner (Watson) are ‘going to school or home so they won’t look suspicious,’ they assign Jo Lynn Jordan (Coughlan) to Tingle watch. So ‘aspiring actress’ Jo reenacts famous scenes from classic movies, passing the time. At one point she has to pretend to be Tingle when the married Coach Wenchell (Jeffrey Tambor) comes over, Jo sounding more like Isabella Rosselini instead of Mirren. She has to wear Tingle’s clothes and perfume, coming too vulnerable and close to the dark side.
I find one scene interesting, when Tingle finally makes Jo into believing that Leigh and Luke are having an affair behind her back and Jo readily believing anything she has to say. For argument’s purposes, Jo is being a bad actress in front of Tingle, saying the words ‘You’re lying’ so insipidly but the latter can’t see it. I don’t know how intentional this is on Coughlan’s part, or that writer-director Kevin Williamson can’t transition from one part of the scene to another, but I’ll call this subversion. Points for Miss Coughlan.
- Jarv’s Birthday Series: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) (moonwolves.wordpress.com)
I’ve seen some movies and fewer great ones in the past week but the word love is for Drop Dead Gorgeous. I don’t even know why because most critics think that it doesn’t deserve that word. It forces us to believe that the overdeveloped Denise Richards is the same age as the film’s star Kirsten Dunst. The equally overdeveloped Amy Adams makes her début here too and, as a cheerleader, is playing a personally relatable character, if you catch my drift. It also seems humiliating to watch Will Sasso‘s character be repeatedly called a ‘retard.’ That Amber Atkins’ (Dunst) tap dance number wasn’t as electrifying as it was the first time I saw it. And her ascent to the national beauty pageant is just as suspicious as Rebecca ‘Becky’ Ann Lehman’s (Richards) win at the town-wide level, the latter competition of course rigged by Becky’s mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley). Of course Amber’s innocent but even the good girl never deserves the ‘great’ level that she achieves.
But it’s still enjoyable to watch Dunst in her signature glee, making every movie of hers watchable. But her Amber also has a mean streak towards Becky and ever her own idol Diane Sawyer so she won’t seem insipid. Or Alley, at the time relegated to supporting work for the Olsen twins, comes with her venomous performance and over-the-top accent that of course, the rest of the female-dominated cast has. Tony winning talent like Allison Janney and Ellen Barkin also howl their way into the film, being featured in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, only to prove that they can go to the extreme without seeming smug. And this film was part of my ‘indie’ upbringing, one of those movies playing on cable in the early 2000’s. Richly nihilistic, mean-spirited, campy and excessive, it’s confident and defiant in its badness.
- Song of the Day: Paul Oakenfold (featuring Brittany Murphy) – Faster Kill Pussycat (canaussiegirl.wordpress.com)
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Louise Fletcher in the film adaptation of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” called Cruel Intentions. Yeah she’s in this movie, undeservedly provoking Sebastian Valmont’s (Ryan Phillipe) misanthropy, one of the fakest things in the film. The Oscar winner’s got at two scenes, least five lines and loses meatier parts of the film to Christine Baranski or Swoosie Kurtz. Her role is more symbolic, as her century-old estate is the setting for Sebastian, her favourite nephew to clandestinely seduce Kansas born Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon). So yes, I haven’t forgotten that this movie is about the kids.
Yes, this movie asks us to make too many leaps of logic, as Roger Kumble‘s script makes the characters swear too much but oh, they’re private school educated, which accounts for all the witty comebacks. And that their Calvin Klein, minimalist chic makes the actors look like their real ages as opposed to their characters who are supposedly 17. Or that all the rich adolescents in 1999 had therapists and wore two layers during the summer or wore tighty whities or had invisible parents. And that they all suddenly looked younger by the time they wore their private school uniforms.
But I still prefer this over Dangerous Liaisons, since Christopher Hampton’s script is still more affected and mannered than this newer version. The chateaus of France became estates and penthouses inhabited by New York debutants, its gardens turned into Central Park. My generation has probably grown up to be slightly ashamed of loving Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s turn as Kathryn Merteuil, but she matches Philippe’s smugness with her raunchy side, fighting her sexual desire for him and chooses to destroy him instead. Besides, she’s probably the only actress who can dress like Audrey Hepburn and still doesn’t look insipid subvert her character’s mean streak. And Philippe makes Sebastian appeal to Annette instead of simply seducing her, their growing feelings towards each other being both a product of rich man’s cabin fever and that she can actually see sincerity and fragility pouring through, bringing in the change that both he and Kathryn were afraid of.
My childhood memories of The American President and its run on late 90’s HBO Asia was that Annette Bening as Sydney Wade is the most beautiful woman on earth, her glow of sanity here is unforgettable. Crazier roles almost made me forget, but rewatching is remembering. She cuddles to President Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) in the couch, the country loves her, they get all the votes they need. The perfect couple. I honestly didn’t remember how hostile the movie was.
And I don’t remember Sorkin writing the typical second act of a romance movie where the lovers are driven apart. Their differences are more political, as Shepherd’s Crime Bill conflicts with Wade’s fossil fuel bill. Let me remind you guys that this is 1995, when people still cared about the environment. Then people stopped caring, then Al Gore made people care again. The film’s a product of its left-leaning time. Another conflict within the film is how the Republican men labels Wade a ‘whore.’ How dare they! And she had red hair? And everyone else in this film has red hair?
Michael J. Fox is awesome here too. I never thought he could play an adult, but there you go. Aaron Sorkin is a great but with his characters-as-symbolic ideologies method, he’s not the best writer of TV and film. He does, however, know how to write explosive, eloquent dialogue. His America sounds more true than we think, one that doesn’t pay attention to sexual gossip of the Clinton era nor the Tea Party insanity of today. I just hope my country catches up. Also, Samantha Mathis and Anne Hathaway’s stepmother in Rachel Getting Married is in this movie.
Also, I never watched The West Wing“. I know Peggy’s in it, but I was 11. I liked stuff like Buffy and MTV. Give me a break.
Now to Fincher. I’m not the biggest fan of ubermasculinity and Fight Club is the cinematic version of a hockey bag. Yes, I’m turning down shirtless guys with that sentence. At the same time, I also resent that Project Mayhem promised so much but didn’t really happen, or that it kinda did but people turned away and instead defended the institutions that oppress them. But then again, if I ever joined a radical group like Project Mayhem, I’d cry if they took away my iPod. My whole life is in there!
I’ve had, however, fantasies about this scene, as an Asian who hates his job and secretly wants out.
Fight Club, not The Social Network, is Fincher’s most Wellesian film. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inherits an empire and wants a newer, more radical, destructive, oppressive one of his own making. It’s liberating to blow up buildings of credit card companies, but a leader taking away individuality casts doubts. Yes, this movie was in my Imperialist Cinema class. This film also fits into my unorthodox education, corporate sculpture and bauhaus bourgeois being shoved away by performance art, performed by Project Mayhem.
And the shot composition, finding unconventional ways to light every shot, and often times there’s symmetry despite its baroque angles. And the colour, just like Se7en.
My mom has harped about how ugly Pitt is, an unfathomable concept to me until I rewatched this movie. As Tyler he’s both sexy and bruised, letting himself go as he sees fit. Speaking of Brad Pitt, this was a date movie. That’s as much as I’ll share.
Thinking this out, Fight Club might become my favourite Fincher instead of Zodiac all along. Also, I need to read Palahniuk’s book.
- Modern Maestros: David Fincher (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
It’s Roberta Guaspari’s (Meryl Streep) second day at her new job at an East Harlem alternative elementary school teaching violin. Her class is half as large as it has been the first day. They’re still rambunctious with the exception of Naim, who actually pays attention to her. She notices her competition, DeSean, talking about basketball, when she asks him a question on that day’s lesson, about the parts of the violin’s bow. He feigns indifference in not knowing then she replies ‘Yes you were [here], buy you weren’t paying attention. Do you want people to think you’re stupid.’ She turns to her star student, saying ‘Tell him, Naim.’
As the expression goes, her words with the kids are like a confident tightrope walk, and as expected she doesn’t come off as any hurtful. Neither does she look like the naif who miraculously comes up with a quick rebuttal to hurl on the person she’s talking to. Well, she does raise a few alarms from a parent, but that gets ironed out by the urban ‘stop snitching’ code.
The movie also typically shows the difficulties in running and staying in a class related to the arts. The children have to be whipped out of their ADD, which all but one of them apparently have. They have to regard the class as if no other exists. And Roberta deals with her own marital issues and its effects on her own children, having to let them ride a plane on their own on Christmas.
Also cast and crew notes: Directed by horror director Wes Craven, trying something new. Aidan Quinn plays Roberta’s boyfriend. Gloria Estefan plays a teacher/parent who also sang the film’s theme song. The grown-up version of Roberta’s kids are Abe from Mad Men and Kieran Culkin. Don’t pretend you don’t know who that is.
The Talented Mr Ripley is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema today at 6:45, followed by Amadeus at 9:30. This part of their Seven Deadly Sins Film Festival. Today we get to the fourth sin, Envy.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith – the same author who wrote “Strangers on a Train”- the centre of class-based resentment and guilt resides within our anti-hero, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). He wears a Princeton blazer for a performance for rich folks on a rooftop facing Central Park. He is mistaken for a rich boy’s college friend, the rich boy being Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Dickie’s parents then ask Tom to get Dickie home from the latter’s self-exile in Montebello, Italy.
Tom’s a quick study, as Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman) would say. He is an all American boy who’s always wanted things he could never have. He can crack jokes that can amuse Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). He tells Dickie that his talents include ‘telling lies, making forgeries.’ He tries to like the same things and live the same lifestyle as Dickie, a premise as dangerous as it sounds. Tom a classical fan, sees Dickie, a jazz fan. He wants to like the same things Dickie likes and to become Dickie. And he can charm women like Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and convince her that he is Dickie.
Anthony Minghella is probably the closest our generation will get to a golden age Hitchcock. The movie doesn’t oscillate with valleys of Hitch’s thriller side nor the peaks of his surprisingly cheerful Grace Kelly side. We get both fear and harmless beauty at the same, evenly mixed concoction. Minghella here is trying to beautify and exoticize the Italian beach country as well as the diasporic upper class Americans living there. Minghella dresses the gang in New Look outfits and summer whites. There’s a lot for Tom and for the audience to covet, and the coveting is what helps the cloud of intrigue to come in.
Despite of the embarrassment of riches that the characters have, the actors playing them give unflashy performances. I’ve applauded Blachett’s interpretation of her character in a previous post. There’s also Damon, whom Courtney Young praised for standing up to the same levels as Jude Law. This movie was my introduction to Hoffman, who plays someone opposite his characters. Gwyneth Paltrow also amazes in her final scenes, although some critics like Amy Taubin don’t like her performance here.
I often doubt the movies I have watched before I legally become an adult. The Tim Allen/Kristie Alley movies of my childhood? I have abandoned those a long time ago. The ones I watched in my adolescence, however, are more difficult to leave behind.
For instance, the unfortunately named Moonie Pottie (Liane Balaban) would just be an unsympathetic sniveling teen if she wasn’t played by someone with the look and build of a Shalom Harlow. And her relationship with her teacher Cecil Sweeney (Andrew McCarthy) would have been creepy if they didn’t have chemistry, surprising for a first timer like Balaban. She’s on good ground most of the time, taking the script into high and low emotions. Her scene with the town doctor (Mark McKinney) is pretty hilarious as intended.
What I haven’t seen before in other movies about small towns is the insularity that the fictional New Waterford has. The town considers Moonie weird becuase she insists on leaving for New York, an invitation they have received that they strangely declined. There is also an older generation factor when the parents push her on becoming a nurse when she clearly wants to be an artist. The whole town, in other words, is adamant on sledgehammering each other dreams.
Moonie is then slightly obsessed with the train and the people who leave and arrive with it. When Moonie sees Tammy MacDonald go abroad the train teary-eyed, she narrates that Tammy would be visiting her relatives in “Cal-i-for-ni-a.” That would have been impossible because Tammy doesn’t look like the kind of girl who has family outside town. Then there’s Lou Benzoa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) willingly exiled from the Bronx with her family, a girl who would eventually become Moonie’s friend.
It’s with Moonie’s friendship with Lou that she becomes self-aware of her attitudes about her small town. Both of them talk disparagingly about their provenance and romanticizes the places where they want to be. In one of the scenes where Moonie finally socializes with others, she and Lou gather round a fire with the other teenagers. One starts to sing a folk song and Moonie joins too. Planning to escape the small town and on her way into becoming an outsider in New Waterford, joining the sing along gives her a sense of pride for her home turf.
There are other treasured moments and factoids in the film, like Lou’s mother Midge (Cathy Moriarty) complaining about the lack of a deli in Cape Breton. And that her role as a boxer’s wife is a reference to her role in Raging Bull. And this is a film that features versions of 70’s fashions appropriately toned down for a small town milieu. We do get the Benzoas’ animal print and red leather mixed with the wool sweaters and corduroy of Moonie and the rest of the town.
A decade or so after the film, Liane Balaban ends up as Dustin Hoffman’s daughter in a movie, Tara Spencer-Nairn enjoys syndication immortality in “Corner Gas” and Mary Walsh and Mark McKinney are Canadian institutions just like Tim Horton’s.
Like Moonie’s final reluctance to get on the train, I cannot let go of this film, nor do I want to.