Wednesday, March 02, 2005

  • Bright Victory (Universal-International, 1951). Arthur Kennedy, earnest in his fashion, as a sightless WWII veteran. Sincere if flavorless.
  • Love Liza (Sony Pictures Classics, 2002). A recipe for disaster (or at least a swift emetic) gone right. After years of sweaty character turns, Philip Seymour Hoffman slows up to find his stride as an emotionally stunted widower taken to huffing gasoline and an obsession with model planes. Delicate writing and an assured sense of composition frame this potential indie mess, a sincerely presented meditation on the harrow of bereavement sensitively managed by a well-chosen cast. (Jack Kehler nails the role of a small craft enthusiast.) A curious, if likely, conclusion.
  • The Subject Was Roses (MGM, 1968). Laborious adaptation of Frank D. Gilroy's stage success concerns the fractured family dynamic of yet another returning veteran. Patricia Neal (post-stroke and sadly sour), Frank Albertson (he won the Oscar?) and a then callow Martin Sheen deliver indicatory performances that bump up against one another without ever really connecting. They can't. The arcane dialogue and hands-off-the-artwork direction won't let them. It's American "kitchen sink" drama dutifully transferred to film with the compulsory amount of "opening out" to appear less theatrical. And it's a drone.
  • Thoughts on Oscar '04. Did I blink and miss something, or did the membership capitulate and (mostly) get it right for once? While I might have preferred seeing Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen take home richly deserved honors, the woefully overdue Freeman and peerless Cate Blanchett were nonetheless worthy recipients. Also: the proper urge to wait and award Scorsese for his next "great" film (although The Aviator was requisitely well-crafted and undeniably invigorating); screenplay awards bestowed upon the most deserving nominees in their respective categories (see Dead Poets Society or Ghost -- ugh); Hilary Swank besting the admittedly terrific Annette Bening (though not for Being Julia -- swell performance in a superfluous film); Million Dollar Baby going the distance, even over my second-by-a-nose favorite, Sideways; "Al Otro Lado del Rio" shaking up Original Song amid the usual clot of wallpaper paste contenders; Lemony Snicket's justifiable win in Makeup over the cheesy body suit in The Passion of the Christ; my worst fears unrealized as the pageant-like dispersal of awards both onstage and in-house actually worked -- and well.

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