Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Catching up on my movie viewing

Time, energy and enthusiasm mean I rarely get to the cinema these days. It's an hour's drive away, plus another hour back, plus you've got to park and put up with idiots nearby who talk and fidget and have bladders the size of a thimble. Going to the cinema certainly brings out the misanthrope in me. Fortunately, the advent of DVD and online shopping means I can savour what I want when I want where I want.

This weekend I was playing catch-up on some of the best picture Oscar nominees. I'd already seen Crash and Walk the Line on long haul plane flights, and Brokeback Mountain isn't available on DVD yet. But kindly souls in the US have released Good Night, and Good Luck and Capote on Region 1 shiny disc recently, so both films got a spin on Saturday and Sunday. The Clooney film looked great - nothing like black & white to give that instant classic feel - and I loved the soundtrack. While watching the movie, the story it told seemed all too relevant and meaningful for the sometimes hysterical world in which we live now.

But the more I think about it, the less satisfied I am by the film. The subplot about the couple who have to hide their marriage was, ultimately, completely extraneous. I kept expecting it to pay off in some more meaningful way, but it never did. McCarthy was built up as this massive threat, yet no sooner had the Murrow show stood up to him than he seemed to melt away. And what was the significance of the black woman who worked in the code room and got accused of having communist links? Without watching the supplementary material on DVD, I was left rather scatching my head. I should be able to enjoy a film on its own merits without needed to have read or watched a primer on the background to the story being told, shouldn't I? Perhaps I simply wasn't paying enough attention. The thing Good Night... most reminded me of was All the President's Men, another story about crusading journalists taking on powerful politicians. To me that's a superior effort, but I'm far more familiar with the circumstances surrounding the story, so I'm probably biased.

Watching Good Night..., I was constantly stunned by how much everybody in the cast seemed to smoke. The same reaction occurred when I watched Alien a few days later. It's the future, yet they're all smoking like chimneys. Here in Scotland smoking has just been banned from enclosed public spaces and workplaces, so it seems anachronistic to see people smoking on spaceships. Perhaps a non-addictive, non-carcinogenic cigarette has been invented in the future? Now half-way through Aliens and Ripley is smoking up a storm again. Those things'll kill you, Ripley!

I can see why Capote was Oscar-nominated and Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a stunning performance as the eponymous Truman. Catherine Keener was in cracking form as Harper Lee, but I struggle to recall a bad performance by her in anything. Perhaps the finest performance in the film was given by Clifton Collins Jnr as the killer Perry Smith, something that seems to have gone unheralded during awards season. He was, by turns, charming, pathetic and chilling.

Capote had great music too, by Mychael Danna, if not dissimilar to the music of Thomas Newman in films like The Shawshank Redemption and Road to Perdition. Sadly, the Capote score isn't available on iTunes yet, as I'd download it in a trice. You get the film score, plus extracts from In Cold Blood read by the late Truman Capote. That would be something worth listening to...

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