Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Writing About Film: Dancing About Architecture?

For a hardcore film lover like me, this is the very best time of year.  Not just because so many good movies are released and Oscar season gets people excited, but also partly because film criticism really gets the attention it deserves for a few short months.  There are millions of film reviews out there, but very few really good film critics.  My current favorite is Stephanie Zacharek for Salon.  

I don't remember when or how I first discovered Pauline Kael, but she definitely changed things for me.  In college I would hang out in the library reading her collected reviews instead of doing research.  No one could, but someone should at least try to fill her shoes.  Of course she was in the right place at the right time with the right skills.  To have her talent and to be writing during the very best decade for films:  the 1970s.  At least 65% of my all-time favorite films were made during that decade.  As a matter of fact, as I'm writing this, Tootsie is my background distraction.  If you're a crazy person who has not seen this movie yet, waste no time and see it immediately.  Dustin Hoffman will blow you away.  Not to mention so many other greats:  Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Sidney Pollack...I really could keep going down this rabbit hole and my mind is jumbled with so many other things I want to write about (Gene Hackman in The Conversation, the sharp focus and rich palette of the films from back then, New York vs. LA and nothing in between, etc).

But back to film critics...did anyone happen to catch Roger Ebert on Oprah today?  I had no idea what he'd been through the past few years.  He inspired me so much with his unfazed dedication to writing and his passion for movies, his wife, and living a full life.   Life is too short to not spend as much of it as possible doing what you love.  Carpe Diem, baby.  I'm working on some big changes and need inspiration from all sources.  

I've also been enjoying Charlie Rose's periodic features on this Oscar season's favorites.  He had a great interview with Christoph Waltz, whose performance in Inglourious Basterds was a chilling delight (although it makes me feel weird to say, given that he was playing "The Jew Hunter).  Everyone says he's the shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and I can't wait to hear his acceptance speech; I just know it'll be a good one.  I love the whole spectacle of The Academy Awards, but really it's about seeing people rewarded for great work, and that's always fun.

The other shoe-in this year is apparently Jeff Bridges for Best Actor in Crazy Heart.  D. and I saw it a few weeks ago and I still can't stop thinking about Jeff Bridges' character, Bad Blake.  Yes, the story was pretty clichéd and employed just about every trope available in the Tortured Genius Seeks Redemption With A Good Woman After Hitting Rock Bottom genre, but his performance lifts the story out of the same old-same old.  It's hard to believe he's the same Jeff Bridges that was in one of my favorite films from the '70s, The Last Picture Show.  And, to really bring it around full-circle, read how freakily accurate and predictive Pauline Kael was when she wrote of him, "Sometimes, just on his own, Jeff Bridges is enough to make a picture worth seeing. . . . He may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor who ever lived; physically, it's as if he had spent his life in the occupation of each character. He's the most American--the loosest--of all the young actors. . . If he has a profile, we're not aware of it. . . . Jeff Bridges just moves into a role and lives in it--so deep in it that the little things seem to come straight from the character's soul." 


Remember when films had "love themes?"


Anonymous said...

Tootsie was made in the 80's.

Alannah said...

You're absolutely right, Anonymous! Doesn't it feel good to be right??

Jennifer Erwin said...

I loved Christoph Waltz too. This is a great post & a great post title.

Anonymous said...

Yes, being right feels good. Until it doesn't, like Al Gore on global warming or Eisenhower on the military industrial complex.