Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday at the Movies

In about twenty years, I'll be a few years short of joining the 21st century in movies. Until then ...

I watched Donnie Brasco for the first time this week, and I liked the bits of comic misunderstanding sprinkled throughout the dialogue ("What's fugazi?") I also realized that that sort of thing is more enjoyable on the page, where one can savor it. So if you like Donnie Brasco, you'll love Charlie Stella and Dana King.

Now I'm watching The Usual Suspects. On the one hand, its narrative is convoluted, so it must be a writer or director's movie. On the other, its stars feign speech impediments (Benicio del Toro), bad accents (Gabriel Byrne), and visible physical and, occasionally, verbal and mental handicaps (Kevin Spacey). That makes it an actor's movie. OK, those of you who have seen it, which is more overdone: This movie's direction, or its acting?

Goodnight for now, and I'll get back to you once I've seen Gone With the Wind.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Blogger Dana King said...

Del Toro's accent is too much, but aside from that, THE USUAL SUSPECTS is one of my favorite movies ever, in any genre. I try not to think too hard about it, but the atmosphere it creates makes the suspension of disbelief effortless, at least for me, even after repeated viewings.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger RT said...

I do not know the movies you have cited, but I share your preference for the oldies but goodies. I have not been to a movie theater in more than 10 years, but I am becoming increasingly grateful for NETFLIX and TCM. The old 40s and 50s crime films on TCM are always worth 90 minutes of viewing.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, The Usual Suspects was fun to watch, but it would not have been any less fun if Del Toro didn't lisp and Spacey didn't limp. (I suppose I should except Gabriel Byrne, because his accent is the same in every movie. Has any movie star ever displayed less range?)

Don't you think such obvious acting with a capital A detracts from rather than enhances suspension of disbelief? And what about the ending? Not so much that the villain turns out to be who he is, but that scene in which Everything Comes Together for Chazz Palminteri's character is positively risible. It's probably a tribute to the movie that I didn't turn it off at such a ludicrous scene, one of the most resistant to suspension of disbelief I have ever watched.

My favorite performance of the bunch is Pete Postlethwaite's, as Kobayashi. He managed to have fun without straining to be seen having fun, the way the rest of the cast did. He is quite plainly the best actor in the cast, far better than Kevin Spacey. Not that Spacey was bad, but one critic aptly called his performance "Oscar bait." He was straining to be noticed. One could say the same for the rest of the movie.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger Charlieopera said...

I was okay with Usual Suspects (and enjoyed Del Toro's mumbling) ... I especially enjoyed Spacey's limp turning into a stride at the end ... great movie.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I don't think anyone outside the movie business would insist that Hollywood makes movies for adults these days.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ach, Charlie! Del Toro's mumbling and Spacey's limp reminds me of Laurence Olivier's legendary remark after Dustin Hoffman went three nights without sleep because his character went three nights without sleep: "Try acting, dear's much easier."

Spacey and Del Toro have reputations as talented actors. The limping and lisping are the acting equivalents of a football player's pounding himself on the chest after he scores a touchdown: Their purpose is to call attention to the actor. In Hollywood, playing a character with a handicap is a surefire shortcut to an Oscar and playing a character with a fake handicap only adds an extra level to the attention seeking. See my post on Actors who act as actors acting.

March 27, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I try not to think too hard about it, but the atmosphere it creates makes the suspension of disbelief effortless, at least for me, even after repeated viewings.

Dana, maybe I'd make myself a more incisive critic if I analyzed what I liked as thoroughly as I do what I didn't like. Still, I'll stick to my position on the movie's acting (for which see my next post, which should be up sometime around midnight EDT).

March 27, 2014  

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