Monday, July 26, 2010

The Greatest

I had no intention of writing about this movie, but the composition, performances and editing were exquisite to say the least.  Beginning with the sexy introduction, where two young lovers madly invite each other into an emotional coil  unleashed upon one another after a period of implied suppression, a quick and unexpected act of violence ends the life of 18 year old Bennett.  And that's just the first 3 minutes of the film.  Unfolding then is a story of grief and love.  Bennett's tragic death sends his parents (provocatively played by Susan Sarandon and Peirce Brosnan) into a tailspin of grief manifesting within the home in various ways from denial to obsession.  The performances by the British new kid on the block Carey Mulligan and old reliables Sarandon and Brosnan are outstanding: thought-provoking, honest, sweet, and wrenching.  As nuanced and affective as the performances, is the cinematography and direction.  Stunningly understated, yet highly photographic, this film has a careful tone, fully aware of its own medium.  When a film is created with the knowledge that everything inside the frame is artifice (sometimes filmmakers forget this and a film becomes boring from an over kill of realism), a sense of the extraordinary emerges.  An example of this occurs with in the title sequence:  The family has just attended the funeral of their 18 son and brother, Bennett.  The camera angle is a low medium frame taken at the back seat of the limo as it transports the family away from the grave site.  The composition includes Brosnan (the Dad) in the center of the seat, leaning forward, absently wringing his hands and appearing slightly uncomfortable.  Sarandon (the Mom) is to the left of Brosnan and is sunken into the black leather seat gazing wearily out the window, which is a wash of green leafy color as a bright and sunny day glides past.  The couples remaining child, Ryan (Johnny Simmons), is to Brosnan's right and is also staring out the window, though decidedly far less haggard appearing than his mother.  They ride in silence, and this lasts for quite sometime, until the shot is broken by the words "The Greatest",  slyly interjected in a humble font at the bottom of the screen.  Though this may not sound like much to get excited about, it is this composition, in its simplicity and humility, which foreshadows the remainder of the film.  Within this delicate frame exists the nuances of each of these central characters, subtly displayed and enveloped within the drama that each with soon participate in, a microcosm, a metaphor, a 3 word summary for the rest of the story.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Good Guy

Why is this film worth writing about? Well, read on and I'll be more than happy to explain, only briefly...because it wasn't that great. What an introduction, eh?
Anywho, The Good Guy is narrated by a young, hansom Wall Street trader who wants to tell us a story about how he lost the woman of his dreams.  Surrounded by Gordon Gekko types, this gentleman is presented to us as a nice guy who stands up for his friends, vouches for the underdog and cherishes his girlfriend; the Wall Street veneer is only a means to make the money needed to really do something great with his life. And that is where we are all wrong.  He has told us that's who he is and shown us only the parts of his life that back that claim.
I honestly cant tell you anything else or I will ruin the film.  If you are like me and continuously searching for an intelligent girly movie to sink into after a long day, this might be as good as it gets without becoming political, hence the need to honor this film for its departure from the formula.
Generally in these romantic "Chick-flicks" we can trust that the narrator is truthfully telling their side of the story.  The Good Guy subverts this assumption and uses it later to present the real thesis of the film: who is the good guy, and are people ever really who they seem to be? Maybe that sounds a bit cynical, but its a fairly common experience to create an ideal fantasy in a new relationship, and The Good Guy plays with this phenomena.  Direction, acting, cinematography were all average, but the script, concept and execution were surprisingly fresh.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Recommended reading to anyone curious about the inner workings of the rebel 70's in Hollywood. Beginning with the highly influential 1967 Bonnie & Clyde, Easy Riders Raging Bulls relentlessly exposes the processes, dramas and ambitions behind one of the greatest movements in cinema history.  Well researched and smartly written, this book will change the way you think about the American film industry.