Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Weekend viewing

Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005)
Given all the lavish praise this movie's gotten, I sort of expected a relative disappointment, and with my expectations lowered a bit, they ended up being met. This is a very well-crafted and well-acted film that tells its story in a straightforward and unpretentious manner, but it's often so dry that I can definitely understand the criticism that Clooney might have been better off making a documentary. Much of the most compelling footage in the film is the historical archive of McCarthy himself, and it seems almost a cheat to get to see the real McCarthy but not the real Murrow. That said, David Strathairn gives Murrow a wonderful quiet dignity, and Clooney does make something of an effort to expand beyond the dry history lesson with a subplot about married co-workers that illuminates some of the values of the time. I also liked his subtle undermining of Murrow and co.'s authority with the inclusion of the cigarette ad that lauds Murrow's viewers for their intelligence while convincing them to smoke more. Murrow may have been admirable, but he clearly wasn't infallible, and I like that Clooney isn't afraid of that fact.

Overnight (Tony Montana & Mark Brian Smith, 2003)
This documentary about self-destructing Boondock Saints director Troy Duffy is a seriously depressing look at the movie business. Duffy is clearly an asshole and an egomaniac, and this movie, made by two former friends and business associates of his, is designed to make him look bad (which, admittedly, doesn't appear to be that hard). But I found myself coming away with a surprising degree of sympathy for Duffy, who, although clearly his own worst enemy, was in some sense screwed over by the Hollywood machine. A lot of attention is paid to his volatile temper and his tendency to alienate people, but the movie glosses over what attracted Harvey Weinstein to him in the first place, and doesn't bother to explain why Miramax would lavish such money and attention on him and then pull it all away; it couldn't have all been his personality, since that was clearly one of his selling points at first. This isn't necessarily a fault of the filmmakers, who had unlimited access to Duffy but none to Weinstein; it's just an interesting comment on how capricious the film business can be. If Duffy behaved in exactly the same way but became a huge success, everyone would be forgiving him rather than making scathing documentaries about how he's such an asshole. And, really, Boondock has a huge cult following now, despite being, well, not very good. The movie notes that Duffy doesn't get to share in any of the DVD profits, which, whatever you think of him as a person, definitely seems unfair.

Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
I originally meant to watch this to prepare for the boxing film series I moderated last month, but obviously I didn't have the time (not that it much mattered after only five people showed up to the series anyway). I was sort of sick of boxing movies after that, so this has been sitting on my TV for a few weeks. Watching it, I did appreciate that it wasn't quite the same arc as the boxing movies I saw for the film series, and generally didn't focus on the corruptness of the sport. It was rather more about the dreams of the lead character, and in that sense it did follow the typical formula. It's another one of those movies with scenes and lines so famous and overplayed that it's hard to appreciate them fresh, but even so I was underwhelmed. It does its job, and Stallone captures the mook with a heart of gold, but it didn't exactly move me to cheer.

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