Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Good Wife (CBS 2009-2010)

The Good Wife a legal drama series set in Chicago is surprisingly good. It showcases how important good screen-writing is. Glossy yes, but deals with weighty issues intelligently and with panache. There is an ongoing story arc centering on big-city political and judicial corruption – very topical and compelling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Inception (2010): Banal shoot-em-up

A disappointment. Apart from the technical wizardry, the direction and editing was pedestrian. Director Christopher Nolan wants to have his intellectual cake and eat it too: an essentially banal shoot-em-up with a thin veneer of pseudo-philosophical posturing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Before Sunset (2004) after Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise is romantic, as young lovers are, and thankfully there is no cynicism, but there is love and a cold reality. The camera towards the end returns to empty places where Jesse and Céline spent time together, and you the viewer bring the sadness to these scenes, of a special night that seemed liked it would last forever and is now ended and gone forever, with the lovers leaving no trace of their passage. Such is mortal life. Memory and regret have no refuge, they are lost in the brightness of the new day. This is truth and great cinema: beyond romance or the cynical.

Before Sunset is again about memory and time lost. The regret of growing older and deflated dreams. Fate is kind to Jesse and Céline. They are given a chance to recapture that night in a reprise of the new day after the night they last met. They are older but wiser, and now they can discover that mellow flavor of a love cellared and mellowed into a new sweetness and softness. As they approach Céline’s apartment they encounter Céline’s cat, and Céline tells Jesse envies her cat – each day everything is new again.

Marty (1955)

Directed by Delbert Mann from the screenplay/teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky, and starring Ernest Borgnine (4 Oscars in 1956).

Borgnine and his co-stars wonderfully inhabit their roles. Great in a simple way: 24 hours in the life of a lonely 34yo Bronx butcher from an Italo-American family told with empathy, pathos, and without melodrama. Coming from a similar background but growing up half a world away, I recalled what my dear late father used to say, “Tutt’il mondo e un paese [All the world is one country]“. From a tradition in film-making that finds universal truth in stories of simple humanity told with sincerity, respect, and affection, with a feeling for place and the wonderful nuance of character that shines in family life, the movie is also about the richness of language that develops from a transmigration of cultures. My favorite lines are when Marty’s mamma is talking to her sister about the girl Marty has just met, a shy school-teacher:

Hey, I come home from your house
last night, Marty was here with a girl.



Your son Marty?

Well, what Marty you think is gonna
be here in this house with a girl?

Were the lights on?

Oh sure. (frowns at her sister)
This girl is a college graduate.

They’re the worst. College girls are
one step from the streets. They smoke
like men inna saloon. My son Joseph,
his wife, you know, she types onna
typewriter. One step from the streets,
I tell you.

(Mrs. Pilletti ponders this philosophy for a moment.)

That’s the first time Marty ever
brought a girl to this house. She
seems like a nice girl. I think he
has a feeling for this girl. You
heard him sing. He been singing like
that all morning.

There is an interesting counterpoint in the screenplay where the unmarried guys talk about Mickey Spillane and how he depicts women. Not as savage a critique as Bezzeridis’ in Kiss Me Deadly, but quite witty:

…so the whole book winds up, Mike
Hammer, he’s inna room there with
this doll. So he says, “You rat, you
are the murderer.” So she begins to
con him, you know? She tells him how
she loves him. And then Bam! He shoots
her in the stomach. So she’s laying
there, gasping for breath, and she
says, “How could you do that?” And
he says, “It was easy.”

(without looking up
from his magazine)
Boy, that Mickey Spillane, boy he
can write.

[ ... ]

What I like about Mickey Spillane is
he knows how to handle women. In one
book, he picks up a tomato who gets
hit with a car, and she throws a
pass at him. And then he meets two
beautiful twins, and they throw passes
at him. And then he meets some
beautiful society leader, and she
throws a pass at him, and…

Boy, that Mickey Spillane, he sure
can write.