Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Note For My Readers

This entry is written in the interest of full disclosure. Since all writers, yes, even critics, are individuals with quirks, prejudices and shortcomings, I feel that you, having chosen to read this site, deserve to know mine. With that belief firmly established, what follows is a brief overview of who I am and what I endeavor to express through this blog.

1.My essay writing style is not entirely academic; it's more conversational in tone. If it helps to think of it as a lecture or commentary, rather than an essay, so be it.

2.I don't know everything there is to know about movies. Sure, I'm a film student, and I have had a rabid interest in the topic for most of my life, but there is still I have yet to learn. I look to you, my readers, to, respectfully, point out to me when I have made an error, or to enter into a debate with me when you disagree with a point I have made. I look forward to your input, both positive and negative (so long as it's not rude feedback) and how to create between us a constructive dialogue about film.

3.I profess to love all film, but am, admittedly, not the biggest fan of horror films, sequels or remakes. That is not to say I hate all films that fall into those categories, but if there are fewer reviews of these types of films on this site, it is because I don't tend to watch as many newer horror films, say, as I do dramas or comedy or even musicals. Ironically, you will find, that when I do like a horror film, or a remake, I truly defend it and recommend it to everyone who will listen.

4.Movie reviews may be for films no longer in theaters, or for films that have been in theaters for some time. Since I am not a professional film critic, I don't usually get to see a movie before it is released. Also, I am currently watching many classic films through Netflix for the first time. While I cannot promise a full review posted for every film I see, I will try to at least share quick hit thoughts on much of what I watch.

5.There are actors, directors and screenwriters that I absolutely adore. While I would hope to always be fair and honest in my critiques, I do understand that sometimes a critic will be less harsh on, or more accepting of a poor film or performance from a favorite performer. I hope to recognize this before it makes its way to you. However, I encourage you to call me on this if it becomes obvious. Unfortunately, a complete list of those I admire most would be too long to list here, but in the spirit of honesty, I will provide a protracted list:

Christian Bale
Martin Scorsese
Joss Whedon
Viggo Mortensen
Judd Apatow
Eddie Izzard
Johnny Depp
Steven Spielberg
Charlie Kaufman
Clint Eastwood
Jason Segel
Robert Downey, Jr.

6.Most people would argue that politics has no place in a film blog, be it essay or critical review, and I would tend to agree. However, it is extremely difficult to divorce oneself from one's political views when the film itself deals with politicized topics. I will always endeavor to look past my own point of view to judge each film on it's own merits, and I promise here and now never to use this blog solely as a forum for my political views. For those who are curious, and, again, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a card-carrying Democrat.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just to tide you over until the official first post...

I wanted to get something posted right away, and since I just started this blog, I decided to re-publish my 1999 review of The Green Mile to give you a sample of my writing style. Enjoy, and please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section.

The Green Mile
Warner Bros. & Castle Rock Entertainment present a film adapted and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the novel in six parts by Stephen King. With Tom Hanks (Paul Edgecomb), David Morse (Brutus "Brutal" Howell), Bonnie Hunt (Jan Edgecomb), Michael Clarke Duncan (John Coffey), James Cromwell (Hal Moores), Doug Hutchinson (Percy Wetmore)

Make no mistake, The Green Mile is by no means the best movie of the year. (My vote on that still belongs to The Insider.) Nor is it as excellent a film as Darabont's debut, The Shawshank Redemption (1994). What it is, however, is an honest, accurate adaptation of Stephen King's moving six part novel.

The story opens with an elderly Paul Edgecomb (veteran actor Dabs Greer) relating the story of his final year as a death row prison guard at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Louisiana to a friend at the nursing home in which he has taken residence. The story is told in flashback, and many have taken to comparing this to the technique used in Saving Private Ryan. Yet, while Ryan was told in flashback seemingly by an individual who did not take part in the primary events, this film's flashback bookends are necessary in keeping with the original novel.

As Edgecomb relates his story to his friend and to us, we are introduced to life on The Green Mile- so named because of the color of the floor tile. Even though his job is to watch over and ultimately lead the unlucky souls of death row to the electric chair, the younger Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) treats his charges with compassion and dignity. Despite what you may have heard about this being a different kind of role for Hanks, it is hard to see where anyone got that idea.

Life on the mile, however, consists of routine. That is, until the day a seven foot black man convicted of raping and killing two nine year old sisters is brought to the mile. On first meeting, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) appears to be a gentle giant- asking only if they leave a light on after dark. He offers his hand to Edgecomb like a man with nothing to be ashamed of, but his eyes are constantly tearing, even though he does not bawl.

Though he might not have the majority of the screen time, John Coffey is the central character in this tale, and Michael Clarke Duncan turns in a breakthrough performance as the simple man with a blessed gift. In fact, if Duncan is not at least nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Academy Awards, I am going to wonder why. After seeing this film, I went home and popped in Armageddon (1998) just to see if Duncan showed any signs of this talent then. It was only when holding the two performances against each other that I saw that he did.

All of the performances in this movie are incredibly well done, not the least of which is that of Doug Hutchinson as the evil, nasty little brat of a warden whose aunt just happens to be married to the governor of Louisiana. Formerly best known for his guest spot as Eugene Tooms, the liver eating mutant on The X-Files, Hutchinson puts one in mind of a young Kevin Spacey, particularly with his head movements and well-defined mouth.

There were moments in The Green Mile when I wished Frank Darabont would fall out of love with exploding light bulbs, and, of course, there were also times I wished this weren't a film about death row (as in the "Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix"), but Darabont doesn't drag the film out any longer than he has to to include all the wonder that was evident in the novel.

Your time is well invested in this three hour-long journey, and you will leave the theatre talking about life, death, miracles, God, compassion, evil, the death penalty, and Michael Clarke Duncan.