Saturday, April 29, 2006

Helping you make it through the night

Bored? Here are some notes on some good movies I've recently seen.

Good Night and Good Luck: I think this was my favorite of the three. The look is great, with the black and white and the omnipresent smokes and Scotch. Lots of nice 50s detail like the advertisements and sending the chick to do all the crap work. The best part of course is showing the corrosive and creepy effect of McCarthy's hearings on everyone. People watch what they say and fear being accused of being soft on communism. Excellently done.

One thing worth remembering about McCarthy is that you need to separate problem from policy. As the files released in the 90s indicate, Soviet spy agencies were heavily invested in the US and many fellow travelers in the West were actively helping Stalin and his successors. This was a very bad thing. McCarthy's un-American witch hunt was the wrong response to a legitimate concern. In the end the bad policy obscured the fact that a real problem existed. This allows people who want to hide from the problem to shift the story away from it and it hinders the ability of those who want to solve to actually do so. You can see a similar dynamic in today's foreign policy.

Capote: I liked this movie mostly (if not entirely) due to the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was transformed in this role. The transformation that did not work for me was Capote's shift from NYC bon vivant to the troubled author unable to complete another book. The making of In Cold Blood supposedly crippled his ability to write thereafter. I don't think there was enough time spent on the Perry Smith-Capote relationship to make this clear, unless the point was the Capote was disgusted with how he used Smith to further his own ends, which he clearly did. Anyway, a good movie overall.

Oldboy: This is a Korean revenge tale with a number of twists. A man ends up in the drunk tank and then goes into a bizarre jail for 15 years. Upon release he seeks vengeance and finds it none too sweet. Maybe it wasn't served cold? In his review, Ebert says this movie could not have been made in the US. I thought he meant because of the violence, but it has to do with the reason for imprisonment. This is one of the more morally complicated revenge tales you will ever see.

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