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Wednesday, 14 April 2004

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.

21 Grams
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.

Young Adam
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?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:15 AM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 April 2004 3:45 AM BST
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Wednesday, 14 April 2004 - 4:22 AM BST

Name: Sarah
Home Page:

Oooh, oooh - Swapsy 21 Grams for Monster?

Wednesday, 14 April 2004 - 4:27 AM BST

Name: Vanessa

I'm sure I don't have the foggiest what sort of illegal file sharing downloading nonsense you are talking about. I'm blogging from the cinema, and paying my honest pound to see it, as I type. For sho.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004 - 12:13 PM BST

Name: csf
Home Page:

i know it was you frweydo
you brwoke my heart.
why was part 3 so rubbish?
still to see 21 grams, i always miss films at the pictures...does it work on the tele...does it? does it?
i agree with you about ivans xtc which really captured the essence of dv and considered performance...but phone booth...are you ok? you know it was rubbish.
all that real time stuff based on a really weak premise...ooh i use the phone at the same time every day to ring up moi floozie...farrells bland mole faced punch me please expression whoile i troy to speak loik an american...oh and keifer...oi...stop doesnt even touch the straight to video, criminally underwatched liberty stands still which came out at about the same time and has the vampish fiorentino looking at her coke faced still falls through the same real time wholes that taint it slightly...but its a much better [wesley]sniper movie...mmm she gets handcuffed to a hotdog stand mmm
and that has oliver platt supporting at his podgy faced best.
schumacher needs shooting for tigerland..well not just for that...he just needs shooting
TLOEG needs no comment.
underworld mmmm kate...sooo rubbish...but great.
great post.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004 - 3:27 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

Yeah, 21 Grams, (should I happen to have ever seen it on a tiny dodgy laptop, which I most certainly haven't, officer), works fine on a small screen. God, I wish I had a copy of Amores Perros to compare, though. I love the final scene of that - incredibly black and despairing. Hollywood would never do such a thing, and I kept finding myself wishing Innaritu had been doing such a religious film in spanish - but, hell, I suppose the US is a madonna worshipping religious state by now. Maybe it does work.

I don't think Phone Booth worked, but like reading Time's Arrow, it's a great idea. Did you see Tape? Much the same thing; that's a play, not a movie. Weird to go back in time to an are when much less was thought possible, and to try to do it again. As an ex-theatre buff (who stopped going in disgust), it fascinated me. Haven't seen Liberty Stands Still - if the munchworthy Fiorentino is in it, I want to. Which reminds me, my sweaty copy of the Last Seduction hasn't been returned by my damn two-exes-ago girlfriend.
But Oliver Platt? Man alive, he's practically a curse upon a movie. Kevin Bacon seems to have recovered, and Platt has taken his place.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004 - 10:24 PM BST

Name: Kat
Home Page:

21 Grams is probably the worst movie I've ever seen and it seemed to just drag on forever. My husband hated it as well. I think this is one of those agree to disagree sort of things, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a disappointment. I was so jazzed up about that movie that I couldn't wait for it to come out on video so we paid theater prices to see it. Well, you saw for yourself. On the upside, Stuart Townsend is a hottie and so is Peta Wilson. :0)

Thursday, 15 April 2004 - 1:18 AM BST

Name: Vanessa

Peta Wilson does the audience the politenesws of actually acting, unlike Townsend, which she can do, although she doesn't do it well - the very attempt marked her out in this movie, although her Australian series Nikita had already proved that.

I think if you watched 21 Grams twice it would be less negative of an experience for you - being a film with several narratives, it takes at least 20 minutes to get into it, but if you then go back and watch those 20 minutes again, you do see they were utterly loaded with meaning.
Which actually reminds me of Shakespeare.
No, I didn't really say that...

Thursday, 15 April 2004 - 2:41 AM BST

Name: belle
Home Page:

is Michael Sheen another of Martin Sheen's b a s t a r d children?

Thursday, 15 April 2004 - 2:57 PM BST

Name: Vanessa

Unfortunately for your blog, no. But he does have the same weird piggy upturned nose as Victoria Beckham, Tubbs Tattsyrup, and (before the surgery) Kate Beckinsale.

Thursday, 15 April 2004 - 3:30 PM BST

Name: Paul
Home Page:

21 Grams: Never saw it, but I plan to someday.
Godfather II: Never saw it, but I have seen bits that I liked.
YOung Adam: Heard of it, never saw it, sounds interesting.
Tigerland: I loved this movie, I just saw it over the weekend. Fantastic story, great acting by Farrell.
LXG: Horrible movie. Stuart Townsend was the best part of it. And that's not saying much.
Underworld: I didn't like that the doctor turned into the hulk at the end. What the hell was that all about?

Did you see Hart's War? Another great Farrell performance.

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