Saturday, October 30, 1999

Movie Review: Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club is... oh, hell, how unoriginal to use that in my review. By now, I'm sure you know the first two rules of Fight Club. But do you know that the film is one of the most brilliant cinematic experiences of all time? That's the first thing I want to discuss, I'll get to the actual subject matter in the next paragraph. I remember when Alien 3 came out and everyone I knew hated it and said "Damn that David Fincher, he ruined Aliens!" My reply to those people was this: "The story sucked ass, but the directing was amazing. Fincher is going to be big time." To which my friends replied: "Yeah, but a director has input on the story." To which I retorted: "A first-time feature director? I don't think he's got as much input as you think." I don't know, maybe he did. If so, he more than made up for any errors he may have made with Seven, then with The Game, and now with Fight Club. This film is a visual and aural masterpiece. Technically flawless, cinematically a creative powerhouse. If you like filmmaking, no matter what you feel about the story or its subject matter, you absolutely must see this film. Period. Run. Now.

Now, about the actual stuff of the movie. I didn't really find it as violent as the media is making it out to be, first off. There's some extraordinarily bloody faces, but that's really it. Second off, the media is worried that it sends out a socially irresponsible message of violence to solve problems. What they're really saying is that the stupid masses will misconstrue it as an advocation of violence, and maybe they're right. But please. It is not art's job to cater to the stupid. Art is meant to be provocative, to make you think. Most of the time, movies don't really do that. And when it does, people tend to get themselves all worked up. I wish they'd just shut up! I'm going to go kick their butts, that's what I'm going to do! Wait. Sorry. Strike that. Um, just see the movie. Unless you are stupid. Then, don't see it; it's not for you. The acting, especially Ed Norton, is top notch. If there was a notch above the top one, though the logical possibility of that is nil, that is where the writing would be: every word of dialogue drips with dark wit. As for the technical aspects, I was completely blown away. To paraphrase some dialogue from the film, I am Jack's profound sense of appreciation and gratitude.

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Movie Review: American Beauty

Kevin Spacey has a knack for appearing in the type of movies that I particularly enjoy: The Ref, Seven, The Usual Suspects, Swimming With Sharks, and now American Beauty. The film follows Lester Burnham (Spacey), a burnt-out, bored, depressed, self- titled "loser", who experiences a reawakening inspired by his teenage daughter Jane's (Thora Birch) seemingly promiscuous teenage friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). His newfound youthfulness leads him to address many of the issues that have been plaguing him: his thankless job, his "joyless" wife (Annette Bening), and his distant daughter. Meanwhile, a new family moves in next door to the Burnhams: Retired Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper), his bizzare, catatonic wife (Allison Janey), and their enigmatic son, Ricky (Wes Bentley). The two families' lives begin to intertwine, primarily through Ricky and Jane.

Typically, movie taglines are extraordinarily lame. But American Beauty's, "Look Closer," is as apt as the film itself. It encourages you to, yes, look closer at the seemingly average American suburban family - and see just how average they're not. It examines what the world sees versus what really goes on behind the closed red front door of the Burnham house. These are real people, with real problems - and this exists behind every door on every home. This film unflinchingly explores many domestic issues: violence, apathy, disenchanted children, affairs.

Acting: Tremendous, especially Spacey and Wes Bentley.
Directing: A superb job for first time film director Sam Mendes, a theater veteran. Unique visual style, with help from cinematographer Conrad Hall.
Writing: Also superb for first time feature writer Alan Ball, a sitcom veteran ('Cybil', 'Oh Grow Up')
Music: Amazing score by Thomas Newman

I urge you, if you haven't seen it, look closer.