Week in Review
I went through my queue and tried to put all the music movies together. If I had to do this project again, I would have kept it organized to directors or categories. It is a little maddening to see the same plot devices used over and over again.
In the last few years, as the music biopic has become an Oscar standard, a license to print soundtrack sales money, and an assured way to get entertainment journalists to write articles about the film (as many of them are music enthusiasts), we have seen at least one big name biopic every year. And we can count on that for years to come. Often, the same company owns both the back catalogue AND the movie studio, financing the film as more or less an infomercial for the soundtrack.
These biopics tend to focus on a brief part of the subject's career. In Ray and Walk the Line both, the films leave off the last 30 years of the each singer's life story. Why the fascination with ending the film after the singer kicks his drug addiction? Because it's Lady Sings the Blues with an upbeat ending, which is an easier sell than that depressing overdose storyline.
Pick of the Week
There were several films to choose from for this week's pick. From the first moment to the end credits of Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, I was thoroughly entertained, and the dialogue alone almost made it my pick. The peacock-colored and sometimes psychedelic trash classic Valley of the Dolls is a must for group viewings. I loved watching Clint Eastwood acting alongside his son Kyle in the road movie Honkytonk Man. Watching Elijah Woods' transformation from expelled Harvard student to West Ham Football Hooligan in Green Street Hooligans almost got the nod. But the pick this week goes to a classic: Otto Preminger's government drama Advise and Consent.
Henry Fonda stars as a man nominated to be secretary of state. The opposition digs up dirt on him, and it's all conspiracy and slander after that. It's an early sixties behind-the-scenes government film, as dirty as it got before the JFK assassination and the various political traumas that followed.
Charles Laughton steals the movie in his supporting role as the rabble rousing Senator Seabright Cooley. Cooley seems to be the only man who opposes Fonda's nomination. At first he seems to be wasting everyone's time with petty grievances and a strange witness played by Burgess Meredith. But as time goes on, his accusations and reservations bear more and more weight. This was Laughton's last role before he died, ending a career that included such films as Witness for the Prosecution, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Private Life of Henry VIII.
Peter Lawford also turns in a great performance as Lafe Smith, a young senator with a bright future and a dark secret in his past. Lawford, if you're not familiar with him, was one of the Rat Pack, with Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and Joey Bishop, with whom he also starred in the original Ocean's Eleven. His Advise and Consent scene during the Frank Sinatra song was priceless.
It's a slow-paced film, but brilliantly written, directed, and acted. It didn't get a single Oscar nomination, but was severely overlooked, in my opinion. If you get this, and I recommend you do, give it time and be patient with the front-loaded exposition, as it pays off in the end.
My So-Called Life
I caught Spike Lee's Inside Man at the AMC. I love Spike's work. If you look at a list of his films, there will be a half dozen that you've missed, unless you watch a lot like me. He runs the gambit from small documentaries like Jim Brown: All American, to stranger small productions like She Hate Me, to mainstream releases like The 25th Hour and Inside Man. Inside Man is a great heist film, using elements of other botched-heist films and TV shows that we've seen before, but finding a new way to resolve the conflicts. It's almost out of the theaters by now, having started its run 3 months ago.
Wednesday was Will Franken's one man show, Press One for Existence, at The Marsh. Franken's been written up in the local papers lately as an up and coming comic, but I think he's already here. It's more "funny theater" than comedy, something Franken describes as one-man sketch comedy. Franken's been ready for bigger things for years, it has taken San Francisco a little while to catch up with him. I've seen Franken multiple times, but only now does he seem to be getting the proper venues to show off his abilities. Franken's talent is not how he constructs a single character, but the way he fills the room with one character after another, until the stage is crowded with his weird personas.
On Friday night, I went to The Dark Room to see a night of sketch comedy. There was a strong showing by Santa Cruz's Sunshine Fortress, but the opening group, Boomtime! was a hard act to follow. Boomtime's premises were fresh and most of all, unusual. I can't do justice to their sketches by describing them, but I will say I will never go to a kid's pizza party again. Sunshine Fortress uses the conventions of sketch comedy against itself, playing with the ideas that they are performing sketches within sketches. Check out these groups and more in The Dark Room's Sketch Comedy Festival in August.
I watched 11 this week. 231 DVDs in 176 days. 269 DVDs left in the next 189 days for a pace of 9.96 per week. The way I figure it, July 2 is the middle of the year. There's no way I'll fit 19 DVDs in before then, so I'm a little behind the yearly pace.