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Archive for the ‘Michael Keaton’ Category

Spotlight

14 Nov

Spotlight – directed by Tom McCarthy. Drama. 128 minutes Color 2015

★★★★★

The Story: “Spotlight,” the investigative reporting crew of The Boston Globe,” probes the Catholic priests molesting youngsters and the church’s hiding it.

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The difficulty actors face in playing writers is that the writer’s instrument reserves, the actor’s instrument reveals. Writers always keep the real story to themselves. Actors never do.

Thus we have the main journalists, John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo all behaving like actors and the non-journalists, such as Billy Crudup, behaving as whatever their characters may be.

Stanley Tucci, for instance, gives a performance so justly calibrated that it stands out as brilliant next to actors being journalists. His playing a non-writer, a lawyer, impatient of fools and wastrels, which at first he believes these journalists to be, gives us a human being. And what is true of him is true of all the other non-writer characters in the piece, all of whom, like Crudup and Len Cariou as Cardinal Law, Neal Huff moving as a molestation survivor, and all the Boston locals, are remarkable.

Liev Schreiber, however, playing the editor-in-chief, actually creates a character, a man soft-spoken, stolid, gracious, and guarded of speech. The other actors have not taken the trouble to create characters. They simply act off of their technique.

This is especially true of Mark Ruffalo who acts his part all over the place, not realizing that though his character in real life may have done the same thing, he didn’t look like an actor doing it. Ruffalo has always been rather a ham – in film a ham means that where once overacting meant gesticulating with the arms, it now means gesticulating with the face. Will he ever stop pressing his lips to express stuff? If he did we could see his eyes, which are wonderful.

But this foible is understandable. Since there are no fully developed long scenes in the track-down, no main actor has the chance to stand before us as a character. Each scene is about The Next Bit Of Information. The script is expository from start to finish. This means it is by definition not dramatic. The actors think they have to rev things up to make them so. They are mistaken. They do not trust the information, which, just because it is expository, does not mean it is not stunning.

Exposition, of course, does belong in plays, and exposition scenes can be great. Greek tragedy is full of them “Attention, attention must be paid…” are words from a famous one in Death Of A Salesman. An exposition scene catches you up on what’s happened so far.

But a play usually has but one of them.

This play has, of necessity, a passel. For it is about the conveying to the characters and to the audience the next piece of information. As, for instance, The Cardinal knew. Wow! A list of priests exists. Wow! 79! Wow! What the congregants did about it. Wow! How were the young children affected by it. Wow! What we did then. Wow!

This information is well presented. The movie is a treasure hunt looking for a skull. But, since we know already that the skull was found, what it has to offer is the ins and outs of the chase, which are not generally known. This is the way we got around the court order. This is the way we got them to release the documents. This is the way we went door-to-door.

The movie never moves off its back-stage premise, the hunting camp, and that’s a real good thing, a great strength of the picture. It is never objective; it is always subjective.

Its general subject, the sexual violation of children – hidden, overlooked, not believed or admitted to – remains keenly important. It is well to witness the difficulties faced by honest men struggling to bring the truth of the matter to light – the molestation of children being the greatest of human wrongs.

 

 

 
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Posted in Billy Crudup, John Slattery, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton

 

Birdman

03 Nov

Birdman – directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.  Dramedy. 119 minutes Color 2014

★★★

The Story A one-time movie star rehearses for a comeback in a Broadway play, and various calamities ensue.

~

It’s a maze with no center. So one’s fun in it leaches away, as this dawns on one. And we become bruised by the way the story fails in its loyalty to us. For what we have, instead of a tale of something, is pigtails that octopus out on all sides and seize on nothing. We have the main actor and we have his stage competitor and this actor’s live-in lady and the main actor’s former wife and the main actor’s present mistress and the main actor’s grown daughter and the main actor’s best friend, and we have a play cobbled together from fiction by Raymond Carver, and we have a vengeful theatre critic. And the main story so trails off into unnecessary and thin expositions of these personages that it loses any coherence or any sense that there is a main story and a principal concern for us to latch onto. What’s at stake? Is it Will the show go on? Is it Will he get back his wife? Is it Will he commit suicide?

A possible story might have been: can the main character act? That is to say, Can he act brilliantly? The best acted scene is one in which he must come alive when a replacement actor brings it to brief vivid life. Edward Norton plays this replacement, and Norton is an actor in full command of his instrument. But the main character?

So the story might be: Can the main actor act just as brilliantly on opening night? That might be the story, but it doesn’t seem to be, for the success of the opening night performance depends upon a fluke that has nothing do to with acting. Besides, the main actor is played by Michael Keaton, and he is up to his old bagful of tricks and tics and twitches. So since we see Keaton is not a great actor himself, we never know what we are supposed to think about the acting of the character he is playing or how we are supposed to respond to him. The result is we never identify with the character. It’s a failure of treatment on the part of the director. Even the play he is in looks like a bad play, but one isn’t sure. Besides, we as an audience want a story to follow. We are filched of it.

We are also given scenes extravagantly unnecessary. For example, the film begins with Keaton meditating in his dressing room in full levitation, so we know he can fly; we don’t need this shown again until the end. On the other hand, we have scenes missing. The character Edward Norton plays is sidetracked cheaply into a dubious relationship with the daughter, and dropped from the story cold. We are left with the marble quarry of Michael Keaton’s charm. It becomes colder the more the director pays attention to it.

Norton is very good in his part, and so is Zach Galifianakis as the friend, and Lindsey Duncan as the deadly critic. The picture is shot so fluidly that it brings pleasure even to the missing pleasure of the film as a whole. We are given lots of narration but no story. Lots of icecream but no cone to carry it in.

At the end, there was no ovation. Everyone stood. To exit. Defeated.

 
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Posted in DRAMEDY, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis

 
 
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