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Further comments on the season in film


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Well I'm seeing Brokeback for the second time on Friday, because I think this is one movie you have to see twice to really understand.

And I'm doing the same with Syriana, for the same reason (boy, a lot it went right over my head). AFTER reading your incredibly detailed synopsis, though! The friend I saw it with wondered why it wasn't told in plain, straightforward fashion, but I'm not convinced the movie would have worked any other way.

I also just picked up the DVD of "Crash" in order to watch it again. I've been recommending it to everybody, but in truth my own feelings about it are still unsettled.

Now, I'm really wondering about Tristan & Isolde.

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I wonder if they'll use Wagner's music.

About Syriana, ultimately I think it's a lesser film than Traffic, although I liked both movies. I think that's because the moral centers of Syriana (the emir's son, George Clooney's character) are less compelling than the moral center of Traffic, which was Benicio del Toro's character, as well as Michael Douglas's character. del Toro's character developed from a somewhat corrupt, jaded cop, to a mini-hero, and it was without a trace of sentimentality.

I also rented the BBC version of P&P, and I'll compare it to the P&P in theaters.

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I regret to say I thought “Crash” made Haggis’ last screenplay, “Million Dollar Baby,” look like a model of emotional subtlety. It’s a picture chock full of good intentions, but we all know what can happen with those, alas. And I’m afraid that line about crashing in order to feel something made me giggle. Calling James Spader and Holly Hunter.......

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dirac, I agree that "Crash" was not that subtle, but for me it was strangely more compelling than Million Dollar Baby, because I thought the performances of Million Dollar Baby were pretty lifeless. I know Eastwood wanted to create a dull, gloomy, subdued world but I never got invested in the movie because of all the "subtlety." Crash, OTOH, had some really compelling performances, from actors/actresses that I thought had never done such great work. Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillipe, and Sandra Bullock were never even on my radar screen even though I've seen their movies. But all of them gave IMO very compelling performances. Matt Dillon will probably get an Oscar nod, but Ryan Phillipe was just as good.

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dirac and canbelto, I'm kind of relieved to hear your reactions to "Crash." The actors are superb, I thought; I especially liked Dillon and Newton. The screenplay is contrived, to say the least, which maybe wouldn't bother me much if it were a) better structured, and b) less mawkish/preachy towards the end (all those epiphanies for each character). The intentions are so good that I have a hard time resisting it despite its flaws.

"Brokeback Mountain," on the other hand, also has a message, but everything is subtle, understated, with no easy answers. Even the smallest details, you realize afterwards, work on the level of metaphor, without the movie ever seeming even the tiniest bit calculated. It's such an *organic* thing, I'm amazed by it. How do they do this in movies, with so many hands involved? For me it is a lyrical masterpiece.

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The final encounter between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton was what pushed me over the line, actually. In an ensemble drama like this where a lot of threads have to be tied together I’m willing to write off a certain amount of contrivance, but I thought it all became just too much, especially in a picture that is presumably telling us hard truths about The Way We Live Now.

It was indeed nice to see actors like Dillon and Newton get a chance to show their stuff -- especially those two, who haven’t had the best of luck recently.

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The final encounter between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton was what pushed me over the line, actually.  In an ensemble drama like this where a lot of threads have to be tied together I’m willing to write off a certain amount of contrivance, but I thought it all became just too much, especially in a picture that is presumably telling us hard truths about The Way We Live Now. 

It had the opposite affect on me. I didn't think it was meant to be a feel-good tie-up in the plot line. (That was saved for the locksmith; I almost expected the soundtrack of Rent to start playing for him.) Newton's character was facing death, and she was in the stage of panic, physical and psychological, that Malcolm Gladwell describes so clearly at the beginning of Blink. I thought the scene showed that no matter what we think we are or believe, when it comes to a situation of pure panic, how we react may be the polar opposite. Dillon's reaction to Newton wasn't a "start playing the strings because this is so beautiful" moment: he seemed to be shocked by her reaction, expecting her to feel repulsion.

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Dillon's reaction to Newton wasn't a "start playing the strings because this is so beautiful" moment: he seemed to be shocked by her reaction, expecting her to feel repulsion.

Yes, it’s amazing how good actors can put over almost anything.....

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This afternoon it was clear that no one in the EPA was working, so I went to see Brokeback Mountain again at the movie theater just down the road. I saw it with my boss, who's a middle aged straight guy. (And yes I realize this sounds weird, but trust me, it's cool.) Anyway even though my boss is an NPR-listening liberal, I was curious to see how he'd react. Well he was a puddle of tears by the end of the movie

too, and he turned to me and said, "Ivy that was the most beautiful love story I've seen in years. Thanks for taking me."

And I noticed so many things that I didn't notice the first time I saw

the movie.

One of them was how Alma Jr. seemed to tacitly understand her father's sexuality. When she said she wanted to live with Ennis, I got the feeling that she found the conservative values of her mother and her stepfather overwhelming. But the conversation with the waitress sealed it for me -- Alma Jr. had that knowing look on her face. (By the way, I think it was amazing how Ang Lee cast an actress who resembled Heath Ledger so much.)

The other was my reevaluation of Lureen. The first time I watched the movie I thought that her conversation with Ennis was ice-cold -- I just noticed the blond wig and the lipstick and the calm voice. But the second time I watched it I saw how she was fighting back tears the entire time, as it finally dawned on her that all along, she had simply been a beard.

I also understood the conflict between Jack and his father-in-law more clearly. I think his FIL sensed Jack's homosexuality, and that was what the Thanksgiving dinner blowout was really about. The first time I just thought the FIL was being an ass.

BUT THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT NEW REVELATION:

When Jack and Ennis are having their big argument about November vs. August, Ennis says something like he absolutely has to keep this current job, unlike the previous jobs, which he's just *quit* in order to go to Brokeback. I didn't catch this the first time, and it made Ennis's sacrifice seem that much more heartbreaking. I also noticed the strong class differences between Jack and Ennis that develop over

the years.

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Ok I've watched the 5 hour BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I enjoyed both P&P's for different reasons. I enjoyed the BBC miniseries for its faithfulness to the novel, as well as its faithfulness to the period. The hairstyles are consistent, as well as the costumes and the intricate social etiquette. I felt that the new P&P film 'modernized' Regency etiquette too much. All the formalities may be a bit dull to watch, but I admired BBC for its attention to detail. The supporting characters are well-cast in both films.

However, I actually found Firth somewhat annoying, I must admit. Firth's love for Lizzie to me never seems real or palpable -- in that respect, I think Matthew McFayden does much better. I think Firth kind of coasts on his good looks. And Knightley I found to be a more believable 19-year old girl. Knightley's Lizzie I think is also more endearing, Ehle more mature. It's a tossup which Lizzie I prefer. But Knightley and MacFayden have more chemistry than Ehle and Firth, IMO.

So basically, I am glad that I watched both versions :wink:

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One of them was how Alma Jr. seemed to tacitly understand her father's sexuality. When she said she wanted to live with Ennis, I got the feeling that she found the conservative values of her mother and her stepfather overwhelming. But the conversation with the waitress sealed it for me -- Alma Jr. had that knowing look on her face. (By the way, I think it was amazing how Ang Lee cast an actress who resembled Heath Ledger so much.)

I agree, I think Alma Jr. definitely knew. That's why she tells Cassie her dad's "not the marrying kind." When she asks to come live with him, I think she's trying to rescue him--he needs somebody, but she doesn't want him to make the same mistake he made marrying her mother. At the end, when Ennis says he'll come to Alma's wedding, her incredibly touching smile, so big and young, says it all--her dad's finally going to let her into his life.

I know what you mean about the resemblance! How do they do that? She even has exactly the same eyes as her mother in the movie.

The other was my reevaluation of Lureen. The first time I watched the movie I thought that her conversation with Ennis was ice-cold -- I just noticed the blond wig and the lipstick and the calm voice. But the second time I watched it I saw how she was fighting back tears the entire time, as it finally dawned on her that all along, she had simply been a beard.

Hathaway is amazing in that phone conversation, isn't she? The woman who began in a blazing red charge at the rodeo has bleached all the color out of herself (then applies it artificially to her nails and lips). She lets out a couple of almost inaudible wimpers as she listens to Ennis--only at that moment does she understand that her husband had the great passion in her life that she never did. She was, like Ennis, too busy hiding in her work to notice anything all those years--or maybe she didn't want to notice, choking back her emotions just like Ennis, not willing to look the thing full on.

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It looks like there is already some backlash towards "Brokeback Mountain" -- some critics calling it 'soft' and 'sentimental' and such. I strongly disagree. I think there's nothing wrong with a movie that grabs so many people by the heart. I don't think BM is a cheap weepie, the way "Terms of Endearment" or even "Million Dollar Baby" were (just to talk about past Oscar winners).

Anthony, I agree with you about Lureen. I also felt that on second viewing, Lureen becomes more sympathetic while Alma becomes less sympathetic. Alma is still sympathetic, but there's something about her simpering martyr-syndrome that rubbed me the wrong way on second viewing. And when she spits "Jack Twist? Jack Nasty" I felt she was being unnecessarily spiteful. Lureen, OTOH, was in many ways completely snowed by her husband, but she didn't seem spiteful or judgemental.

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I saw Capote this afternoon and while I can't say I'd want to watch this film again, I do think the movie brought to the forefront many morally ambiguous dilemmas. For instance, by the end of the movie, "In Cold Blood" had a double meaning for me -- obviously, it describes the way the Cutter family was murdered. But for me it also described the way Truman Capote played with the life of Perry Smith. Although he seemed to genuinely empathize with Smith, the fact is Capote tried to keep Perry alive for as long as it was useful. I thought Hoffman was masterful at portraying Capote -- his conceit, his megalomania, his pathological lying, his self-pity, and yet at the same time his intelligence and insight. I think this film transcends the biopic because its not really about Truman Capote -- it's about a man's inner moral tug-of-war.

This is going to be a very tough year for Best Actor. Heath Ledger, David Straithorn, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman all gave remarkable performances. The Best Actress field however remains really really weak.

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I am glad Brokeback Mountain won for Best Director and Best Screenplay and Best Picture, because I've seen LOTS of good movies this year, but in the end the movie that haunted me days after I saw it (twice) was Brokeback. This is one year where I wish they could give out more than one award in the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor category, because there were many, many films/performances worthy of acclaim.

Here are my thoughts going into Oscar season:

Best Actor will be a race between Ledger and Hoffman, although Straitharn will also definitely got nominated (and he deserves it). I honestly wouldnt know who to pick. I wish I could give all three of them statues.

Best Actress - very weak field. Knightley, Dench, Witherspoon, Huffman will probably get nods. I have a feeling Witherspoon will win, and I dont really have a problem with that.

Best Director - between George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck) and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), although Spielberg, Allen, and Jackson will probably get nods. I think Lee will win, although I wouldn't have an issue with Clooney winning either.

Best Supporting Actor - Gyllenhaal will get nominated, as will Clooney, but I hope Matt Dillon takes home the statuette for his remarkable performance in "Crash."

Best Supporting Actress - I actually hope both Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams get nominated, as well as Thandie Newton for "Crash."

Best Picture - crossing my fingers for Brokeback. Capote, Good Night and Good Luck are definite nominees -- the other two slots I think are toss-ups. I have a feeling Match Point will get nominated.

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carbro writes:

You think this is the usual dilemma of few well-written female roles compared to men's?

Yup, only this year the dearth of good parts for women is more acute than usual. I fear it’s characteristic of the season that the big chick flick love story of the year shunts the chicks aside while the hunky guys moon at each other. :pinch:

Witherspoon would be competitive in any year, however. And Laura Linney is excellent, as usual, in The Squid and the Whale.

canbelto writes:

I saw Capote this afternoon and while I can't say I'd want to watch this film again, I do think the movie brought to the forefront many morally ambiguous dilemmas.

I’m afraid I found the picture a little dull. It gets off to a good start, with Hoffman swanning about the prairie in his camel’s hair coat, bigfooting his way into the story and bamboozling the locals, but there are long stretches where there just isn’t much going on. We don’t really feel the special connection between Capote and Smith that the story hinges on, and there are too many easy contrasts between the killers languishing in prison while Truman parties the night way in New York. (I thought the picture was too hard on him, BTW.) There are other good actors in the movie, like Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper, but they don’t have much opportunity to register and so Hoffman is the whole show.

The movie was obviously made with thought and care and I feel bad about not liking it that much, but I thought the issues it raised were more interesting than what was actually taking place onscreen. Also, I had no idea the late William Shawn was so bloodthirsty. :)

canbelto, I must respectfully disagree with you about Terms of Endearment and Million Dollar Baby. They're weepies, yes, but not cheap ones.

Re: the Golden Globes. I am quite unable to take them seriously, but I enjoy watching them. I think the stars enjoy them, too. Harrison Ford had quite the buzz on.

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I enjoy the Globes a lot because I think the stars are more candid. I for instance loved Mary Louise Parker's out-of-nowhere comment, "I'd like to make out in front of everybody." Or Clooney's joke about Jack Abramoff. Steve Carell's speech "written by my wife Nancy" was really funny, as was Geena Davis telling the story about the little girl and then admitting that she made it up.

The Oscars are staid and pale by comparison. But with Jon Stewart hosting this year, it might be a lot more fun. Also, I think that, as Ang Lee said in his classy acceptance speech, there were so many great movies and great performances this year, so the Oscars will be more suspenseful than they usually are. Best Actor will be a racehorse, as will Best Director.

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GWTW writes:

I've only skimmed this thread as I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet, but based on tonight's Golden Globes awards, Brokeback hasn't suffered from any backlash.

I’d prefer to keep this thread to discussion of cinematic quality or the lack thereof as opposed to an awards horse race thread, please. :blink: In defiance of my own wishes, however, I note that if BM continues to do as well as it has at the box office, any such backlash will be of doubtful importance. I would love to report that aesthetic quality is all that counts when awards time rolls around, but if BM had failed to make an impact outside of the cities, it might have received nominations but would be an unlikely big winner. If the picture keeps on pulling ‘em in, its march to Oscar will be well-nigh unstoppable.

I haven’t seen it yet, either, BTW. It comes to my little neighborhood multiplex this weekend. I hear it’s pretty good. :)

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I've been waiting to hear comments about "The Producers," this being a dance board. I'm finally seeing it this weekend, and after hearing about its box office woes I'm afraid the theater will be empty and there won't be any laughter, which would be really depressing (I'm taking two friends who never saw it on stage). Stroman always strikes me as great with a gag, but at something of a loss when it comes to pure dance values. I thought she was the perfect choice for a Mel Brooks vehicle, and I've rarely had so much fun in the theater or laughed so hard. How are the production numbers in the movie? I would assume they are expanded to fill the big screen.

I saw "Match Point" last weekend. A very well done film, with a theme reminiscent of "Crimes & Misdemeanors." There's a rather improbable plot twist towards the end, which I went along with but my companion didn't. Leaving the theater, however, the first thing both of us exclaimed about, talking at the same time, was the *piano accompaniment* (!!!) used in the Covent Garden scenes. I'm sure it was a budget issue, but I wonder if Allen realized just how bizarre this comes off to any opera goer.

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I've been waiting to hear comments about "The Producers," this being a dance board. I'm finally seeing it this weekend, and after hearing about its box office woes I'm afraid the theater will be empty and there won't be any laughter, which would be really depressing (I'm taking two friends who never saw it on stage).

It never showed up in my area. The reviews that I read were, with a few exceptions, very bad indeed, and perhaps that’s why. I have to say that the trailer, which I did see, looked distinctly unpromising.

Regarding Match Point, the descriptions I read did indeed make it sound very much like Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I thought was all right but nowhere near Allen’s best. (In particular, I had a problem with the treatment of the Farrow character and her preference for Alda over Allen – as if not wanting to go to bed with Woody was a kind of moral failing.:))

It is indeed hard to watch a comedy in an underpopulated theatre, especially if you’re the only one who thinks there’s something humorous going on......

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I've been waiting to hear comments about "The Producers," this being a dance board. I'm finally seeing it this weekend, and after hearing about its box office woes I'm afraid the theater will be empty and there won't be any laughter, which would be really depressing (I'm taking two friends who never saw it on stage).

I saw the original movie in Bonn, Germany in 1977, with subtitles. Talk about being in a group of three with no other laughter in the movie theater.

From the reviews I've read, it sounds like there's less to laugh about in the re-make.

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