This is one of the most claustrophobic and nasty pieces of television I’ve ever seen. There’s not a single likeable character, everyone is a lying and cheating power-mad narcissist out to stab everyone else in the back and then self-justify. Worst of all, no one even seems to enjoy the overripe fruits of their iniquitous labors. The show is completely humorless and profoundly amoral. Watching it makes me feel dirty and ashamed, but I’m halfway through it now.
Wrapping up “journalist as hero/antihero” week. Joffé’s achievement here is easy to underestimate; there are so many ways this could have turned into a disaster, and he avoids them all. The journalist is a hero, and we get that, but he’s also a dangerously narcissistic asshole, and we get that too. His colleague Dith Pran is also a complex character, both ambitious and naive, and his character here is also fully three-dimensional. On top of all that, we get here a very detailed and comprehensive history lesson without ever feeling like we’re in a classroom — also a remarkable achievement. Real questions about journalistic ethics, taken seriously, plus a lively and accurate dramatization of one of the 20th century’s most despicable crimes. There are worse ways to spend a couple hours.
Every time, I swear I’ll not be swindled out of my $7.50 again, and every time, I falter and fail and curse myself. The premise is charming, the people are beautiful, the light is gorgeous, but the dialogue is so stilted it makes me cringe. It’s like Allen has his hand up inside all the actors, flapping their mouths open and shut while he voices variations on the same half-dozen cliches he’s been using for the past twenty years.
“Are you coming to the dinner with my parents at Le Cirque?”
“No, I really need to work on my novel.”
“Why can’t you be happy and enjoy yourself for once?”
Etc. It’s exhausting! And the characters from literary and art history are even worse. Gertrude Stein really has nothing more interesting to say than, “I read your novel, it needs more passion?”
Thank God Allen’s at least moved from London to Paris; I almost hung myself in the theater restroom after Match Point.
Adrian Brody playing Salvador Dali gets the photo because he is the only actor in this entire film who seems to be enjoying himself. Everyone else trudges through their scenes talking like they’re reading off cue cards. I bet $20 that Allen was annoyed with Brody’s performance for being too ad-libby.
What an annoying movie. I’m glad Stone wanted to draw attention to the crimes committed by the (American-enabled) Salvadoran right wing death squads, but the James Woods character is so irritating, and Stone is so concerned with his redemption or lack thereof, that the historical quickly sinks beneath the mire of the personal. A pity.
In honor of this week’s public release of the Pentagon Papers, it’s heroic journalism week here. We begin with this paranoid classic. The relentlessly louche Warren Beatty is pretty improbable as a crusading journalist, but the pure weirdness of the story is ample compensation. As usual in Pakula, banal and efficient modern spaces — parking garages, convention halls, office buildings, airports — intensify the horror and dread. This was made at a time when Americans were just getting used to living with the idea our leaders lie to us as a matter of course, but were still capable of being scandalized. Pakula captures the zeitgeist with verve.
Hoo! I let this sit in my queue way too long. When’s the last time you saw a Cosa Nostra picture that didn’t feature a laundry list of cliches? Garrone, working off the best-selling book by Roberto Saviano, tells five distinct, occasionally overlapping stories of life under the Camorra, from small-time neighborhood hoods with delusions of grandeur to multi-million Euro syndicates dedicated to the expedient (and illegal) disposition of industrial waste. There’s some blood, but the movie’s delightfully free of the kind of swagger and celebration of violence in American mafia movies. Most of the people involved are involved because they’re trapped, bored, scared, resigned, stupid, or some combination of these. Ironically, the scenes of hopelessness played out in the courtyards of the housing projects can’t help but remind me of turn of the century American tenements and the organized crime that blossomed there. Old world or new world, past or future, bathtub gin or pirated DVDs, desperate people will always do desperate things.