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Further comments on the season in film


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dirac, I agree about the snail-paced Capote -- even though it was only 90 minutes, it seemed much longer. But what I liked about the movie was that it was NOT a biopic, the way "Ray" and "Walk the Line" were biopics. It was a story about moral ambiguity, something that's much harder to capture on film than one might think. In recent years, I can think of "Do the Right Thing" that did the same thing -- present a situation where there is no right or wrong. Do the Right Thing was ultimately a superior film. It was funnier, livelier, and the issues it presented seemed organic to the story, while Capote's moral quandry seemed a bit contrived. But still, I always like movies that don't have clear answers to questions.

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Believe it or not -- more argument inspired by “Brokeback Mountain” – an exchange in The New York Review of Boosk between James Schamus, co-president of Focus Features, and Daniel Mendelson, whose essay on the picture was originally posted by Anthony_NYC. The letter and response are lengthy and worth reading in toto.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18846

Schamus:

Mendelsohn also unfortunately mischaracterizes other aspects of our marketing too. One example: he points out that "the words 'gay' and 'homosexual' are never used of the film's main two characters in the forty-nine-page press kit distributed by the filmmakers to critics." That sounds pretty damning, as if we were trying to hide the centrality of the film's gay content.

Mendelson:

The evasive coyness typified by that tellingly blank description characterizes the entire document—and, as now seems obvious, so much else about the promotion of the film. Brokeback Mountain, like so many stories of the closet, is ultimately about living with the agonizing consequences of the compromises some men feel they have to make; to judge from James Schamus's heated but ultimately self-destructing protestations, it would appear that he is less than comfortable with the ones he had to make to get the movie seen.

Mendelson wins this one, I think. Schamus has been dipping into way too much queer theory for the good of his prose.

Regarding a minor point that’s raised here – it seems to me that Ennis is intended to be gay, not bisexual or a basically straight guy who’s just fooling around (the classic literary model of the latter being Bob of Gore Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar”).

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Mendelsohn is obviously right. The advertising didn't make it absolutely clear that Ennis and Jack were anything more than good buddies, but it did show Williams fondling Ledger in bed. Nevertheless, you have to hand it to Shamus. Reviews, media attention, and word of mouth did a lot of the work, but the advertisers must have known how to spin it just the right way, because the movie's been far more successful than anybody could have predicted.

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I was put off somewhat by the "Titantic" style posters and selling points. Fortunately, it was only a marketing strategy and the movie wasn't like that. I thought Focus Features did a fine job overall were probably right in the direction they took.

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An article concerning the marketing of "Brokeback Mountain", including discussion of what was included in the press kit sent to critics is probably of great interest to a small number of people and no interest to a large number of people who have seen the movie, including me.

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Mendelson didn’t write an article about the marketing of Brokeback Mountain. He touched on the issue in the course of a long and thoughtful review, which elicited the letter from James Schamus and response by Mendelson printed in TNYRB. :(

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While watching 'Capote' I thought Hoffman exaggerated the lisping quality of his voice; it was overdone and I was weary listening to it. This was brought home to me last night when I saw a film Capote made in the 70's. (it was one of those elegant murder films that took place in a country home, with a large cast of prominent actors) He spoke well and did not lisp every other word. I only saw 'Capote' a week ago; it was the sound of the voice in all the TV ads that kept me away.

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atm711 wrote:

While watching 'Capote' I thought Hoffman exaggerated the lisping quality of his voice; it was overdone and I was weary listening to it.

Hoffman was teetering on the verge of caricature, vocally. It will be interesting to see what the actor Toby Jones does with the role in another Capote movie that’s in the works.

The picture you’re thinking of was “Murder by Death,” I think.

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I finally got around to “Syriana” this weekend. I thought it was a good movie that could have been better. Too many characters, too many plot strands – it makes for an unwieldy two hours. I’m not going to bother seeing it twice, though – it can wait for cable. Not that I want to return to the days of one heroic star singlehandedly battling the international conspiracy, and yes, it’s a complex story, but I still think it could have been more clearly told. In my area it’s playing on a double bill with “Munich” -- it was a good year for internationally minded moviegoers – and anyone who had the stamina to sit through both pictures at a sitting would have observed, among other things, the difference between a director who can use film technique to tell a story and one who has to rely heavily on talking heads dispensing mass quantities of exposition. That said, it was worth my time and money, although I can’t say that it succeeded in transcending the geopolitical spy thriller cliches it’s working with (the timely interruption of Clooney’s torture session, the Spy Left in the Cold, the villain seen gardening, etc., and the climax of the film is a very close approximation of ‘we must head the locomotive off at the pass.’) Interesting connections to Lawrence of Arabia – the scene with Plummer and Clooney reminded me of Claude Rains patting Peter O’Toole on the head.

Many many good actors here, especially Jeffrey Wright, in an unshowy role where he has no fireworks to shoot off and yet makes every scene count.

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