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Archive for the ‘John Cusack’ Category

Pushing Tin

03 Oct

Pushing Tin – directed by Mike Newell. Comedy. 124 minutes Color 1999.

★★★★★

The Story: Complications arise in a group of air traffic controllers when an out-of-town expert arrives.

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Here is a near masterpiece.

The farther you get into it the more a masterpiece it remains until it nears the end and blows apart with an exaggeration so blatant the plot thereafter sticks out like a compound fracture, and it becomes another picture altogether.

And you can’t have that because the story is not driven by plot but by the nature and interior operations of the two male protagonists.

The first of these is John Cusack who is at the top of his very high form here. Everything he does is right, telling, interesting. Everything he does throws you into the character. And when that happens you know that the story must resolve itself through the machinations of what he is and may become.

The second protagonist is played by Billy Bob Thornton.

Now when you are dealing with Billy Bob Thornton, you are dealing with Vesuvius. He is therefore an actor of preternatural calm. This makes him dangerous. It also makes him attentive, which also makes him dangerous. Flat of voice, which also does. Of unmatchable screen presence, which does not detract from his danger. Volatile. Rash. Impatient. Devoid of sentiment. Sardonic. Patient. Rash. Ruthless. All of which make him dangerous and add up to an aura of Mastery. Beware of actors with three names: if you closed your eyes, he is Tommy Lee Jones.

The comedy is set in the flight control conning tower of the Newark Airport, where 7,000 airplanes a day must be herded without barging into one another. These two characters are on a collision course, because Cusack conceives himself as king of the mountain and in competition with Thornton even before Thornton arrives on site.

Each round of the competition escalates to the next, starting with shooting hoops, progressing to the sexual conquest of each other’s wives, and once this level is reached, the forces of morality and morale collide inside Cusack, as the last competition leaves the two men in the emergency of handling the entire air over Newark alone.

But this takes place under a bomb threat which clears the conning tower of all personnel. That is to say, it is run by an external force. It needed instead to run by an internal force. It needed to be set in the mechanical breakdown of all flight control stations but two. It needed to be played with the other controllers rooting for them, betting on them, and distracting them as the two save all the planes coming in.

Up until that point the film is a brilliant comedy of human nature, all of which is played out by our witnessing the inner workings of Cusack who is marvelous at realizing them for us.

He is matched by all the supporting players, who are perfectly cast and a lot of fun. Their presence and behavior establish the film as a comedy. As does the style of presentation, which is Restoration farce. I don’t know if the superb writing of the script derives from the novel on which it is based, but you deserve to enjoy it. Newell’s direction is at top form. The setting alone of the scene where Cusack hesitates outside Thornton’s house before going inside to sleep with his wife is a model of moral defeat we all will recognize.

Cusack’s wife is played by Cate Blanchett who gets the Jersey girl down pat, although perhaps a touch too dense. Thornton’s wife is played by Angelina Jolie aged 23 and a power-beauty already. She astonishes with her reserve, timing, and humor. Her wonderful breasts lie naked before our eyes. So does her capacious nature.

The force field of the ego is the ground of this comedy. Its course is almost realized. But staying the course until then brings delight, truth, laughter. One man has an ego, which is the mind thinking it is God. The other man actually is God. What a battle! What a jest! Catch the next plane to Newark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted in Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, John Cusack, ROMANTIC COMEDY

 

The Butler

26 Aug

The Butler – directed by Lee Daniels. A poor black farm boy becomes Butler to the White House during six Presidential occupancies concurrent with the Civil Rights movement. 132 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★★

What did those folks feel who did nothing during the Civil Rights years – which extended from The Eisenhower administration and still go on? What were those folks like? What did they go through?

I, a white man, was one of them, and so were a great many black folks. And this movie pays attention to those who were not on the firing lines, favored the black cause, but hung back. Rather than Cecil Gaines, the White House Butler, the true subject of this film is the sort of human he was: reserved, conservative, restrained, domestic, uxorious, responsible, honorable, hard-working, and unimaginative about and unsupportive of the racial revolution under his nose. Many black people were the same. They may have doubted or disbelieved or felt The Civil Rights Movement was not the way to go. They may have simply felt they were content with their lot or were lost in their own pleasures, work, and lives. They felt the movement was disrespectful and ill-mannered. They did not hold back the tide, but were carried along with it, and, in the end, had to acknowledge the accomplishments attained and still to be attained. The Presidents Cecil Gaines served all fall into this category as reluctant participants. They were ignorant of blacks. And to all of them, the Civil Rights Movement was an annoyance. It was supposed to be.

Cecil Gaines, who rose from the cotton fields to be the White House favorite, was reluctant also. Forest Whitaker plays this man with all his might, and his work is enforced by Oprah Winfrey, perfectly cast as his self-indulgent wife and the domestic tangle she and her son, played by David Oyelowo, in different ways, represent to Gaines. Coleman Domingo is brilliant as the White House matre d’ interviewing Gaines for his job. Clarence Williams III is grand as the man who first mentors him, as is Vanessa Redgrave, telling as the plantation owner who takes him into her house as a boy to learn to be a footman. Cuba Gooding Junior brings the character of a fellow butler and friend fully to life in every scene he plays. Various presidents are played by Robin Williams as Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber marvelously made up and played as Johnson, and Alan Rickman as Reagan. James Marsden has Kennedy down pat. But most amazing of all is John Cusack capturing psycho-physical screwiness of the rodent that was Richard Nixon.

The picture paints a strong picture of a part of the black world of that era – the world of the uncommitted or limitedly committed, that is to say, the majority. It balances and honors it. It puts before us ourselves as we were.

It is a rich entertainment indeed.

I was deeply influenced by seeing it.

 

 

 
 
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