Thursday, December 15, 2005

The End of the Year****MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS*****Capote; Pride and Prejudice; Good Night and Good Luck

CAPOTE: Hard to get involved watching one bird of prey (the writer, Truman Capote) feeding on two other birds of prey (the Kansas killers from Capote's book: "In Cold Blood") Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Capote is brilliant, as usual (in fact, he is one of America's great actor's right now, isn't he?: when's the last time you've seen him be anything but wonderful?). But even he can't surmount the material. There is no character development in the story, and therefore in evident in Hoffman's performance. You are correct if you blame the script, and blame the real life personality of Truman Capote, but a great actor's job is to find the beginning-middle-end of character performance even when it is not given to him by the script. Even in the hands of a great musician, playing a single note without surcease can get boring.

(Oh...I amost forgot...Catherine Keener...she gives a wonderful, lovely performance in the film. I find her hauntingly beautiful.)

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Sappy. The great Jane Austin played for sub-teens. Beautifully mounted, of course...British films are always lovely, aren't they?...but the film is pedestrianly directed. The director's, Joe Wright's, strong suit obviously isn't dealing with actors; at least not in this film. He let's Keira Knightly as the lead Elisabeth Bennett get away with constant endless 'cuteness': watch me act the sub-text (for non-actors, that means "inner meanings)"...and aren't I clever and cute doing it?; and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy pouts and furrows his brow with such unremitting and off-putting agony that I could care less if they ever fall in love...or kiss...which finally happens (gratefully: the film's finally over!). I know it's important commercially to reach for the teen audience...but...come on....the great Jane Austen deserves (and demands) more film respect than this.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK: It is the best drama/film/picture I've seen so far this year (as opposed to the best theatrical experience I've had this year which was Mad Hot Ballroom and March of the Penquins...both documentaries. If only the Academy included them in Best Picture categories!!!) . Good Night, and Good Luck is George Clooney's achievement. It is written by (collaboratively with Grant Heslow), directed by, acted in, and I'm sure partially financed by (...his box office leverage if nothing else) George Clooney. The black and white picture is solid, engrossing and worthwhile. (It is in black and white by necessity: to enable the filmmaker's to use the actual footage of historic Senate proceedings. It is also a fortunate artistic choice: black and white often abstracts reality in such a way as to heighten thematic truth by dimisnishing pictorial.) It's history is a bit Hollywood-hype-ized (Sen. Joe McCarthy wasn't about to bring down the whole US with his demagogery!!! Trust me: I was there.). But other than that liberal dramatic license, all is excellent, including David Strathairn's top-notch performance as the protagonist and McCarthy exposer Edward R. Murrow, one of the finest journalists and TV commentators of his or any generation. The picture has Academy Award nominations written all over it.


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