Revisiting/1989: The Year in Pictures
May 31, 2007
Can you blog without the internet, or is this just keeping a horribly insincere and muddled journal? I’m certainly not setting before my fellows a true and accurate image of man. No matter; Dash is a-travelling today, trading in his Davis Square Dandyism for Hyde Park haunts and Wilmette Willows. In order to get a good fare home I flew JetBlue to New York where I currently sit at the dawn of a four hour layover. Worse, my promised free internet has yet to materialize. Who knows when this will be posted. The flight itself was nice. The much vaunted Direct TV service is hindered by the fact that there’s never anything good on morning TV. The highlight was the XM radio. There’s just something about taking a dip with Lucy and Ethel in the morn. Overall, JetBlue kind of seems like the H & M of airlines: highly fashionable, reasonably priced, but lacking substance. Basically, no airline is a real airline until they fly to London. Still, no matter what, JetBlue is a hell of a lot better than skybus.
But the real subject of today’s post is my continuing mission to watch every best picture and director nominee of all-time. Recently, Nate braved the Chinatown bus (and weird Harvard professors) and came to Boston to finish watching 1989 (1990 Awards). Here’s what I thought:
Crimes and Misdemeanors. I really enjoy this movie, but less and less so on repeat viewing. Given the film’s weight, I also find myself surprisingly more drawn to the Woody Allen character than to Martin Landau (who gives a great performance). When I first saw C and M, I was more impressed with Landau and Woody (the director’s) daft switching between the film’s light-hearted elements and pulsating seriousness. This time around, the Woody Allen character was the standout. His character’s sadness is much better realized and immediate. This time, Landau’s actions felt overly rash and poorly thought out. Match Point doesn’t have these problems. Crimes and Misdemeanors without the (misdemeanors?) Woody Allen type, Match Point focuses on the tormented lover, fleshing him out, and improving that part of the story. Match Point is really a model for late-career artistry: revisiting what has come before with the skills of a life-time. Match Point probably deserves to be on the list; C & M certainly does. A-/B+
Henry V: Brannagh’s Henry is incredible. I would gladly march into the breach at his command, I would gladly serve the noble king. The battle sequences are stunning. I can’t decide if this is as badass as Titus, but if not, it’s close. Unfortunately, Henry V stays too close to the source material, which is part of a trilogy, leading to poorly executed scenes that you can just tell are supposed to be really important but have no resonance. A-
Best Picture Nominees:
Field of Dreams: I said a lot about Ray Liotta the other day, and no ode to Field of Dreams really needs to be written. So I’ll leave you with a thought that pestered me during the movie: Is Terrence Mann’s “The Boat Rocker” better than William Forrester’s “Avalon Landing”? What is the best fictional book of all-time? My money’s on Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. As we learned on How I Met Your Mother, not liking Field of Dreams is grounds for a break-up. In short: A.
Born on the Fourth of July: Hard to watch, but incredibly well told. Cruise does a very good acting Job, and the supporting actors are solid. The movie’s biggest problem is that it’s soulless. In an effort to show the disconnect between vets and a changing world, the movie emotionally detaches itself. Neither issues nor feelings are ever really debated. The movie feels (or rather, doesn’t feel) as if Stone has all the cards in his hand, but wont play any of them. Of course, the movie made me think about the major social and emotional ills of that time, even if the characters wouldn’t, so maybe in the end Stone accomplished exactly what he wanted. B+
Dead Poets Society: I’m going to save my full comments on this for another time (I hope they will be appearing elsewhere on the internet). I think I’d like this movie more if I hadn’t seen its plot ripped off so many times that I can no longer tell if there’s anything original involved. Besides, the musical version (!) put on at Columbia a few years ago, “Captain, My Captain” is clearly much better. B
My Left Foot: Daniel Day Lewis’ coming out party. What an amazing actor. He just powers the movie. What would his career have been like if he hadn’t taken all that time off to be a cobbler? A-
Best Picture Winner
Driving Miss Daisy: Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy are terrific. Dan Akroyd is surprisingly watchable. The script is well-written, with beautiful dialogue. So where does the movie go wrong? Its time-frame. The movie casts too wide a scope, telling the story of these two people over 25 years. It goes all the way from the immediate post-War prosperity to 70’s radicalism. But why? It is hardly limiting to focus on Black-Jewish relations in the 1950’s, an era the movie wonderfully exploits. It’s most potent observations are 1) the different cultures of segregation that existed in different states and 2) Jewish desires to be accepted as Whites at all cost, both of which are most prevalent in the 1950s. Despite the 50’s setting, I wonder if the movie would still go without mentioning the Holocaust if it were made today, post Schindler’s List. I can’t imagine it would. I guess more than anything else I was more interested in what wasn’t said than what was. B+
Real Best Picture: Field of Dreams.