Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's a Look

Episode 9 of The "Best Picture From the Outside In" series is ready for your eyeballs. Nick's Flick Picks hosts this week's discussion in which Nick, Mike and yours truly wax longwinded (you would too!) about 1999's American Beauty Inconsistency and 1936's bio-epic The Great Plain Ziegfeld.

In the odd chance you're just joining us...the complete series (so far)
episode 1 No Country For Old Men (07) and Wings (27/28)
episode 2
The Departed (06) and Broadway Melody (28/29)
episode 3 Crash (05) and All Quiet on the Western Front (29/30)
episode 4
Million Dollar Baby (04) and Cimarron (30/31)
episode 5
LotR: The Return of the King (03) and Grand Hotel (31/32)
episode 6
Chicago (02) and Cavalcade (32/33)
episode 7 A Beautiful Mind (01) and It Happened One Night (34)
episode 8 Gladiator (00) and Mutiny on the Bounty (35)
episode 9 American Beauty (99) and The Great Ziegfeld (36)


NicksFlickPicks said...

I'm not trying to be cheesy (let's compliment each other!) but I love this graphic.


muenster, provolone, gouda. BRING IT ON. if nobody else comments we can still keep each other company!

Anonymous said...

Never fear! You have readers other than the three of u-- I mean you. Ahem.

adam k. said...

Alright, how long do we have to wait for these "ummm"s, "errr"s and "oh my"s to turn into grades? I'm getting restless. Really wanna know just how much you hated/were flabbergasted by Mamma Mia, what exactly the American Beauty comment means, etc.

Tram said...

Hello Nick and Nathaniel! I'm supposed to be studying for the GREs, but to hell with that crap!

For better or for worse, American Beauty was one of those films that made me realize that there was more to film than dialogue. (I was a burgeoning, ninth grade cinephile who snuck off to R-rated features, around this period.)

So yeah. Even though, in retrospect, I hate the film and everything it stands for conceptually (its ideas regarding homophobia and repression are downright simplistic), I think both Mendes and his DP, the late Conrad Hall performed their jobs impeccably.

Oh, that reminds me. Is it me, or is the new Revolutionary Road trailer, bereft of much color? While Mendes is not exactly one of my favorite directors, he does have an eye for the sublime (think: the sweeping aerial shots that open and close AB, the wonderfully depraved introduction to Jude Law's character in Road to Perdition, the burning oil fields in Jarhead). RR - lensed by Roger Deakins - looks more like a filmed play.

Pedro said...

I always thought that American Beauty stole a lot from Sunset Boulevard.


certainly it's framing device

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the dead guy narrates from the grave. I think Mendes mentioned this in the DVD audio commentary.

Sid said...

I love American Beauty. It would be right at the top of a personal list of "the films I think about when I think about films" -- the now defunct Cinemarati style list that Nathaniel was also a part of.

It changed me as a person and as a movie-goer -- and I think it's a great thing when a film can do that to a person. I think it was the perfect film for a certain section of audience (like me) back in 1999 who were moving from mainstream to arthouse cinema -- it fits right in the middle.

I find a lot of American Beauty to be similar to The Graduate -- in the sense that both seem to be in a "time capsule" but are still great films.

Glenn said...

Well Sid may have hit the nail on the head. American Beauty was a film that people could feel good about liking because it was one of those small arthouse movies, yet it looked and felt like a bigger Hollywood piece. Kind of like Pulp Fiction, but not as good. Heaven forbid that the majority of the audience should actually go out and see true arthouse cinema. It's probably why the film won the Oscar so clearly. Same with The English Patient. Both feel distinctly less Hollywood, but are recognisably Hollywood enough to give it the prize.

Having said that, I love American Beauty.

Janice said...

I love these sessions, Nat! (And that graphic is terrific although it took me a moment to realize that Annette wasn't standing in the midst of an ice sculpture she'd just designed and created herself. Very Martha Stewart-ish, actually.)

I didn't see AB film in the theaters (and I know there is a difference watching films on the big screen vs at home - the audience, the size, etc) but I watched it on my friend's BIG screen TV about five years ago. My friend and a friend of hers were in their late 50's and chuckling throughout the film (I think they'd seen it previously). I hated it. (And I was in my late 30's so maybe it's a generational thing, I wondered? I couldn't understand why Spacey's character is supposed to be a charming jerk who wins my empathy while Benning was the monster, when he was just as materialistic as she, and why was his lusting for a teenage girl ok and her affair was not? Wasn't she as unfulfilled, as searching for meaning and a sense of self, as he was? Why did the film have no room whatsoever to allow her to be a real human being? (Any depth to the character or nuance came from Benning's perf, not the flat scripting). the teenage couple was very interesting and really the bright spot of the film. And the whole upshot with Suvari's character (she's a sexpopt but she's really a virgin) I saw coming a mile away - because the film wants to redeem her somehow and the only way to do that is to have her sexuality be a put-on, rather than something she owns.

And good lord, Chris Cooper is good as always, but when we know that gays and lesbians are more likely to be victims of violence than perpertrators of it, why why why do we still, in this day and age, casually accept that hoary old "killer homosexual" stereotype in the movies without blinking? (Again, Cooper gives a great performance, but that's just Cooper giving a great perf - any nuance in the character is due to him, I feel, not the script itself.)

the whole thing struck me as so terribly flat, so in love with itself, and it's sense of self-importance.