Monday, August 20, 2012

No More Stunt Acting, Please

By Lars Trodson

One of the problems mainstream movies have today is that they often have the production values of an old-style TV movie. I’m talking about straight ahead dramas or comedies  –  not movies that require extraterrestrial landscapes or large-scale detonations. I was reminded of this when I watched “Hope Springs.”

This is a film with two legitimate movie stars and one very popular actor trying to become one: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. But it looks like it was shot on the back lot of an old studio. There are hardly any other people in the film besides the stars (one very short scene with Elizabeth Shue notwithstanding) and the entire enterprise looks decidedly unlived in.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sexually Confused Cop Triumphs Over Megalomaniacal Newspaper Tycoon

By Lars Trodson

There's been a lot of chatter about "Citizen Kane" being knocked off the No. 1 perch in Sight & Sound's poll of the best movies ever made, a survey the British-based magazine publishes just once a decade.

"Kane" had held the top position for 40 years, unrivaled, but this year Sight & Sound asked a total of 846 critics to arrive at their verdict, a much wider net cast than ever before. While I don't know the demographics, I suspect the end result of this year's poll has as much to do with a lower age of the average reviewer as it does with the films themselves.

Let's face it: a lot of the things in Orson Welles' first film are hopelessly out of date. The film is in black and white. It's about a newspaper tycoon. Newspapers!  And this is a film decidedly lacking in any kind of sex. Oh, sure, Charles Foster Kane gets himself a mistress and even puts her up in a fancy apartment. But there is nothing sexy about Kane - either the man or the movie.

"Vertigo", on the other hand! Wow! The only thing it has on its mind is sex! "Vertigo" -- for all its flaws -- just seems more modern. Charles Foster Kane exhibits old fashioned fits of jealousy. He may even have a screw loose. But James Stewart's Scotty Ferguson is a real head case, as they would have said back in San Francisco in 1958. Man, he's gone.

But what are the virtues and drawbacks of each film?