Saturday, September 10, 2005

The first batch of the day

BREAKFAST ON PLUTO Ireland/UK, Masters World Premiere

Written and Directed
by Neil Jordan

Cilia Murphy is headed for greatness. As this is being written, his previous movie, Woes Craven's “Redeye” has just come out and between that and this you've got the polar opposites perfectly portrayed. In “Redeye” he plays the perfect gentleman, who's a bit on the macho side before becoming a deranged violent killer. In this thing he's an effeminate transvestite homosexual, who's got no macho whatsoever. Wow!

We meet Patrick “Kitten” Braden(Cillian Murphy) getting whistled at by a bunch of construction workers while pushing a baby carriage. Delighting in the attention, we discover that this relatively pretty person is really a man, and he begins telling the kid the story of his life.

Now this movie is by Niel Jordan, who did “The Crying Game, ” and “The Butcher Boy” with this thing's co-writer Patrick McCabe. He's been known to do some really bizarre stuff, like that soft-core porn thing with Angela Landsbury and we've come to expect the unexpected. I'm not sure if this is THAT unexpected, but…

We cut back to the late 1950s, when a mysterious woman leaves a baby at the door of a certain Father Bernard(Liam Neeson), who is…you know… this isn't the least bit unexpected. Then with appropriate chapter headings and talking robins [with subtitles, natch] we follow Paddy as he develops into a full blown drag queen in the middle of an extremely catholic Irish town near the border with the North.

Cast out of his home for being what he is and rubbing everyone's face in it, he gets in with a rock band called Billy Hatchet(Gavin Friday) and the Mohawks, and from there, he gets involved with IRA terrorists and hangs out with old friends() before heading off to London to look for his birth mother, where he meets some other interesting people, (Stephen Rea and Brendan Gleeson among others) gets blown up by IRA terrorists and in general has a heck of a time before becoming a truly fulfilled individual.

It's a looooooooooong movie. It drags a bit here and there, but Murphy manages to carry the whole thing on his own shoulders. This is not for everyone, Jordan's stuff never is, but if you're into good acting it's worth a look.

A History of Violence (USA)

Directed by
David Cronenberg

Tom Stall(Viggo Mortensen) seems to have it all. He's married to a beautiful, intelligent wife named Edie(Maria Bello) and two children named Jack(Ashton Holmes) and Sarah(Heidi Hayes) who all live in a sweet little town in Indiana, where Tom owns a small resturaunt and Edie is the public defender. It's all very sweet indeed, but as we saw in the prologue, two villain s (Stephen McHattie and Greg Bryk) are coming from elsewhere to ruin this blissful state of affairs.

Tom's bistro is robbed and Tom manages to kill them both in the choreography David Cronenberg is famous for. This makes him a local hero and momentary TV star, which inspires young Jack to fight back against the bullies that make his life hell. But this momentary fame has it's down side…

Enter crime boss Carl Fogarty(Ed Harris) and some of his soldiers. They enter the place and accuse Tom of being the notorious Philadelphia gangster Joey Cusak who had famously ripped open Fogerty's eye and left a really nasty scar a couple of decades before. He's also told that “Joey's” older brother an underboss named
Richie(William Hurt) wants to see him. Is it a case of mistaken identity? What will the local Sheriff (Peter MacNeill) do about it?

That's the big question. It seems that Tom's quite the martial artist, and this leads the family to the truth. But the question remains, what Edie going to do about it?

For us “Lord of the Rings” fans, Viggo Mortensen is one of the best actors around, and it's really nice to see him in what's going to be his post-“Rings” breakout role. His acting is brilliant. We see the inner turmoil of him and his family, and their reactions to the news of the truth. Bello gives an almost as powerful a performance and Ashton Holmes has quite a future in front of him. John Hurt, who's making a bit of a comeback here, is also good.

When this comes out sometime in either the summer or the fall this is going to be a real hit. This is Cronenburg's best and most nuanced movie in quite a few years.

Capote (USA)

Directed by
Bennett Miller

In November of 1959, two ex-cons hunting for money brutally murdered the Clutter family in Western Kansas. This act of barbarism and its aftermath has had a major impact on the history of literature. Truman Capote's book on the subject is a timeless classic, and revolutionized the writing of history.

Capote was an odd duck with his weird voice and strange manner. When he appeared on TV talk shows during the 1960s through the '80s he was a witty joke, sort of like a short Paul Lynde. An extremely flamboyant homosexual who induced giggles on the small screen, and thus was invited to all the parties that mattered as well as those that didn't. He'd done a lot of silly stuff in the past, good stuff like “Breakfast at Tiffany's” mostly. Then there was “In Cold Blood.” That changed everything.

So how did this talented lightweight manage to change the world of literature so utterly? Dan Futterman, who's best know as the brother on “Judging Amy” has turned the relevant parts of Gerald Clark's book into a tight screenplay, and then gotten a killer cast to do it.

Beginning with a graphic depiction of the actual crime, we cut to Truman Capote(Philip Seymour Hoffman) doing what he was then most famous for, being a recanteur at a fancy party. The next day we see him and his boyfriend (Bruce Greenwood) having breakfast and reading that day's NEW YORK TIMES, which has an article on the crime. He's inspired, and with the support of his editor at the NEW YORKER(Bob Balaban) , he and his childhood friend and research assistant Harper Lee(Catherine Keener) way to Kansas.

With Lee doing most of the undercover work in a town ill-disposed to strangers, especially one as weird as Capote, they begin to piece together who the victims were and how the town reacted. Then they get some luck, as the lead investigator's (Chris Cooper) wife(Amy Ryan) turns out to be a bit of a fan. Suddenly, he's got access, and when the culprits are finally caught he gets to meet them.

Whether or not Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock(Mark Pellegrino) were to some extent the objects of Capote's infatuation is left to the viewer, but we begin to notice his duplicity in his dealing with them from the getgo, and it's this relationship with the two killers that takes up much of the rest of the film. That, writer's block, and as the months turn into years, his frustration and regret that he ever got involved in the first place.

Now the depiction of celebrities in film has always been problematic in films. Parody is easy for some of the more quirky ones. Capote's public persona has always been somewhat cartoony and depicting him in a serious mode could be somewhat difficult. Phillip S. Hoffman manages to do this with a boffo performance, and it's here that the Oscar® race must begin. This is something that has to be seen to be believed. He's worth the price of a ticket all by himself.

That the rest of the film is excellent is just icing on the cake. Going is a no-brainer.

See it.

PARADISE NOW (The Netherlands/Germany/France)

Written and Directed
by Hany Abu-Assad

In the world of War movies, the people are beginning to get it. War is different now. Asymmetrical warfare, or as we usually call it, terrorism, is now the vogue, and we're beginning to get stories from the viewpoint of the bad guys, the terrorists.

Said(Kais Nashef) and Khaled(Ali Suliman) are two auto mechanics working in a garage in Nablus, Palestinian-Occupied Palestine. They're not very good workers. In fact, Khaled has just gotten fired when we first meet them. But they seem nice enough. Said's got an eye for the lovely Suha(Lubna Azabal), who's rich and the daughter of a famous father. It all has the makings of a nice comedy. That is until Jamal(Amer Hlehel) shows up.

Jamal is the representative for the Terrorist high command and informs our to saps that they've been chosen to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv the next day and take a bunch of innocent Jews with them. Our friends, being brainwashed losers, are very exited to give their lives for the cause, especially since their pictures will be on sale all over the Palestinian-occupied territories as martyrs and heroes, and the videos they make just before they strap on their bombs might be more popular than the confessions of peace activists [also known as 'collaberators'] before the PA or the Terrorists murder them on tape.

The mission doesn't go as planned. We don't know whether or not our two protagonists have made up their minds to go again, or what. But we do know the culture of death that the unlamented Yassir Arafat, his cronies and competitors have managed to instill in the Palestinian people since the late president decided on war as a negotiating tactic back in 2000.

We see some hope, but in the end it's all a sad waste. We don't really get much of an inkling of what makes the terrorist mind works, and we can't see how it could stop.

This is the future and it sucks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just came across your review of THE WAR WITHIN...and wanted to point out that the actresses are mixed up in your review. NANDANA SEN plays Duri-the sister & love interest. SARITA CHOUDHURY plays the wife, Farida. Is there any way to change this. we saw the review on and we were glad you liked the movie but just wanted to clear up who plays who.