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Archive for the ‘Billy Crudup’ Category

20th Century Women

24 Jan

20th Century Womendirected by Mike Mills. Dramedy 119 minutes Color 2017

★★★★★

The Story: The mother of a teenage son enlists the help of her friends to rear him.

~

When we are teenagers we become secretive to our parents. If we are not secretive already, still we pull away into the unknown experiment called independence.

Annette Bening does not understand this about her son because she does not remember that she did the selfsame thing in adolescence. She does not remember and she is not aware that she does not remember.

This makes her character a gem to watch. Because it means we who watch it can fit into her ordinariness and her error. We can fit into it by means of seeing how disordered her hair often is and how unaware she is of that disorder. And how she, most of the time, is unconscious of any notion of being aware of it to begin with.

How we live our actual lives seldom gets to the screen. Movies are often about tying things up. From the very first reel they aim in that direction. And it is a fine direction to aim for, because wrap-up is one good way to end a story.

I liked the way the story unfolds. I liked the this-and-that of it. The foolishness of the endeavor. I liked what Bening found in this woman. I liked what the writer put in the woman to begin with. Such a woman allows us to forgive everyone we ever met, including our difficult mothers. Forgive them, and forgive ourselves, for they, like us, lived their hours and days in untidy life. Not silly. Not without purport. Not without accomplishment. But not camera-ready.

I tend to adore Annette Bening.

 

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE, Annette Bening: ACTING GODDESS, Billy Crudup, DRAMEDY, Elle Fanning, FAMILY DRAMA

 

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.

~

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

 

Almost Famous

26 Jun

Almost Famous – directed by Cameron Crowe. Music Drama. A teenager becomes a stringer for Rolling Stone Magazine to cover the disintegration or rebirth of a famed Rock and Roll band. 124 minutes Color 2000.

★★★★★

Well, Frances McDormand is the best actress ever. Here she plays the pestering mom of the boy journalist, and each time she appears she is both dead on true and dead on funny. The boy is a gawky pubescent chap adopted by his journalist mentor played brilliantly, of course, by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a master of eccentric timing to allow a real life character to spring up through the cracks of his lines, as it were. The whole story is a dear adventure, based on the director’s actual experience as a fifteen year old kid sliding into the world of the big Rock stars, participating in their tours, being taken as an experienced journalist, and eventually filing the story. Crowe manages the mise-en-scene immaculately. He lived the boy’s story when young, and he brings it to life with relish and a loving eye. Billy Crudup is the target of the young journalist’s particular aim for a scoop, so we see a good deal of him. Crudup does not quite nail the inner life of the character, but depends on the story to do his work. In the crucial scene, when an apology is due from him to the boy, his failure to make it goes unregistered by the actor. But still, it is always a pleasure to see this fine actor, very beautiful twelve years ago, and in fine form as a Rock star, first deranged by modesty, then by drugs. Kate Hudson is the band-aide 15 Year old sex object of both the boy and Crudup, and she plays it out with remarkable presence. Anna Paquin is in it, but for some reason is not used properly. But Jason Lee is dynamite as the less-talented leader of the band, too full of himself to face the fact. It’s a good movie, even if you don’t, like me, care about Rock and Roll. A sort of open-heart surgery on the music world of that time, but the heart, while stricken, is sweet.

 
 
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