Whether You Like It or Not...
Now Playing: 21 Grams on repeat play . . .
Topic: Vic Jameson
I've been watching movies, and you're going to have to put up with me while I wax knowledgeable here.
I have a whole new crop of 'Oh yeah, who is that guy' moments, all from the one film. (don't knock it; previous members of this category include former supporting actors like Oscar winning Chris Cooper) The majestic 21 Grams, which I've been watching again and again, is not a patch on my favourite film of the century, Amores Perros, but is better plotted than Memento, better acted than Mystic River, better cinematography than Ali or City of God, and it contains a ton of those really great supporting actors whose moment hasn't yet come, may never come, but know how to actually act, as opposed to hogging the starlight.
Clea DuVall, the sexy butch one from 'But I'm a Cheerleader', Melissa Leo, the sexy butch one from Homicide (sensing a theme here?), a cameo from Danny Huston, whose marvellous lead turn in IvansXTC made it my best film of 02. There's minor roles also from great background actors like John Rubinstein (an old fave as evil lawyer Linwood from Angel), and British actor Eddie Marsan, who is in the crowd shots of absolutely every movie ever (oh I dunno, Gangs of New York, Gangster Number 1, This Year's Love, etc). Even the dreadful Sean Penn actually put in a powerful, restrained performance, in contrast to the shoddy sub-Pacino mugging of Mystic River.
Anyway, it's lovely. If you can, watch it twice. The opening shot, of Penn and Watts in bed, is beautifully framed, in a way that Sofia Coppola can only dream about.
The Godfather II
Easily my favourite of the trilogy. I love Coppola's direction of the opening and closing sequences of I, but the book Puzo wrote was about Michael, about how an all-American boy can travel so far from his identity to become a Sicilian crime lord, and this section of the trilogy focuses on that in a way the other two films don't quite achieve. Every shot of De Niro as the elder Corleone, building his empire in New York, contains a reference to the damnation that awaits Michael - the traders, the shots of money pinned to poles to honour the community festival, the religious reverence for the Madonna. Underestimated is Diane Keaton's portrayal of the American wife, Kay, the second best, the pale American imitation of the first wife, the emigre at sea in the Sicilian world. Caught between religion and feigning ignorance, she's a Lady Macbeth; when she understands the reason all the Corleone women spend their days in church is to pray for their husband's sins to be forgiven, her world splits, and she rejects the vision of America Michael is coming to represent. The pathos of the scene where Michael cuts first Freddy Corleone, then her from her family's life forever is beautifully done: his eyes betray his knowledge that his role imprisons him.
Coppola's finest feature here is in controlling his lead actors, though; Pacino and De Niro can be such terrible old hams, these days - was Al even awake during Scent of a Woman? - but he managed to draw incredibly miniaturised, understated, controlled performances from men who were at that time unknowns.
I'm biased; I had to read Puzo as background reading to studying Old English texts like the Battle of Maldon, Beowulf, Wulf and Eadwacer - and never forgot the tension in Michael's emergence as a mephistophelic force in the novels. I also first saw the trilogy all in one day, nicking the video box set from a flatmate and not emerging from the duvet on the sofa till the whole damn tale was told. Gorgeous.
This seems like a typical Scottish fart burner of a boring romp through the exciting nightlife of postwar barge living at first, until you realise its sources. It's based on a story by a Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, the countercultural ideas-pusher behind sigma, "the smack addled icon of Beat literature", and once you know that, the sex every four minutes suddenly seems less of an excuse to show Ewan McGregor's increasingly generous arse, and more of a violent, intoxicated, murderous fuck you to the conservative society he wrote about never belonging to. Like both the films above, it veered deep into the territory of guilt: guilt at the monster you can unwittingly, carelessly become in life.
Now that I've confessed my obsessive poring over certain supporting actor's career histories, you just know I'm going to fuss excessively over Clifton Collins jr in this one, don't you?
It's refreshing to see a latino actor not imprisoned within the guido-gangster roles he had to make his name in (look him up on imdb and see how many of his roles adhere unerringly to monikers like Cesar, Loco, Nando, Nino, Ramon), and Clifton (formerly Clifton Gonzales Gonzales) sets the screen drippily awash with his teary eyed, badly written monologues on the idyll that is life as a smalltown butcher, but holds us still, eyes fixed on the screen through his group scenes when he transmits acerbically the fear and insecurity of anyone who's been promoted too early, of anyone stupid enough to assume their own merit then have it proven the hard way their position is merely fall guy.
Colin Farrell was why I watched the movie in the first place though (which overall, was an overdramatic hysterical pile of llama-toss); you have to support your European boys made good in Hollywood, after all. But mostly, I'm intrigued by him: he's blink and you'll miss it blandness personified in Minority Report, snoozing through a bigscreen role where the source material offered up the chance to brood and menace with much more impact. The Recruit (Pacino, again, ruining it again) was so bad I had to switch the thing off - a pretty rare move for me. But Phone Booth - amazing. Clearly more of a one-act play than a viable movie, he *held* it together in a way that most Hollywood product couldn't dream of. (And I swear his character reminds me of the real life Boz.)
Similarly, Tigerland shows someone in control of his material. What's with that? Why can't he just be always good or always shit? Or even mostly mediocre? I forgive Tom Cruise for it, after all.
The League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen [deliberately spaced]
Poor Alan Moore. What bullshit. Speaking of how Hollywood can ruin a young actor, pushing him into freefall in a shower of overpriced shit, what the fuck is the brilliant Stuart Townsend doing in this? Do they suck their brains out at the US border or something? He came from the disturbingly horrific Resurrection Man via shagging an ex supermodel, playing a fucking pixie, and now this? Sheesh.
Only remarkable for again proving what I know to be true about Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge's wicked Duke, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula in the upcoming Van Helsing) - he is genius, he is godlike, he needs to be the next Bond.
I'll brook no argument on that one.
Starring the impeccable Kate Beckinsale (who played the dominatrix in Cold Comfort Farm, also soon to show up in Van Helsing) in very very tight rubber. You don't need much other reason to watch this movie, but actually, she and her ex, the luminously talented Michael Sheen save the film. It's obviously informed by the eye of a comic book enthusiast, but its plot is twuntery to the point of effrontery.
Beckinsale and Sheen play it straight, deadly serious, though, to the last minute, and save the damn thing, make you cheer for it.
Oh, and Bill Nighy's a vampire. But then we always suspected he was, didn't we?