Monday, January 08, 2007

At the movies

They say that one can ignore mainstream movies released for ten months of the year. These are just the first step to DVD or electronic release. They are mostly junk. Doing this skipping suits me fine, as I am very selective about what films I see.

Come December all this changes, though, and the quality stuff comes out (running on through January) to qualify for the Academy awards. Then I start going to movies.

The best one I have seen so far is "Painted Veil," a fine version, coordinated by Edward Norton, of an old standby by W. Somerset Maugham. Although it is set in Republican China, it is more a character study about two stereotypical English people, and how one (the wife) achieves personal growth.

Shifting to a Boston venue, "The Departed" has the highest volume of homophobic epithets of any film that I can remember. This filth is practically wall to wall. In general we gay people have made many gains over the last fifty years. In the old days, though, tabooing would keep such stuff off the screen.

Apparently the cops--or at least these Irish Boston types--commonly use homophobic slurs to "get over" on colleagues or others they wish to control. The homophobic slurs overlap misogynistic ones (e.g. calling another cop a "prom queen").

All the actors who use these words are, I think, just reading their lines. One, though, Mark Wahlberg spews them out with such venom that you feel he is really invested in them. You will remember that as "Marky Mark," Wahlberg was something of a gay icon. He has always been uncomfortable with this clientele, and now (it seems) he lets it all hang out. In that case the good news is that his looks have faded, and he should henceforth be relegated to doing character parts. Screw him.

Repeatedly, Leonardo di Caprio steals the movie. This actor, who started as a kind of male Shirley Temple, has shown an almost incredible ability to develop (with a few false steps along the way). He is also in "Blood Diamond," and may walk off with an Oscar for one or the other performance. Good.

One of the people in "The Departed" that Leo trounces is Matt Damon, truly a good guy in my book. I thought that Damon would win back his spurs in "The Good Shepherd," but he simply doesn't perform at all in that movie. In order to show a character devoid of feeling, he rigidly maintains a neutral mask throughout. The role could have been played by an expressionless android. They should garnish his paycheck.

Much has been expected of "The Good Shepherd," but it suffers from a really major flaw. The film seeks to explain the early years of the CIA by the personality of a single invidual, whose emotions were deadened by a childhood trauma. The movie is also full of minor loose ends in terms of plot. In my view, the makers (De Niro directed, as well as playing a supporting role) were trying to create another "Syriana." They failed.


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