Archive for the ‘Diane Ladd’ Category


05 Dec

Trumbo – directed by Jay Roach. Biopic. 123 minutes Color 2015.


The Story: US Congress & Hollywood-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo undergoes hard adventures surviving it.


Bryan Cranston, an actor I have never heard of before, seizes the role of the principled black-listed screen writer in his teeth and never lets go – which fits the part down to the ground. For Trumbo, whatever his gifts may have been, must be considered as more than a perdurable survivalist and more than just someone who couldn’t stop writing screenplays. He stood by his guns, even when they seem to have been pointing at himself.

It’s Oscar time, and so we get various heroic biopics, from which we are to choose a best actor. Mind you, we are not picking someone from a best drama. For, really, you know, civics lessons may be dramas of a sort but they are not dramas of the most victorious sort.

But they sure can be informative and a lot of fun. Such as when John Goodman, a producer, hires Trumbo to churn out scripts for his B-minus movies, and Trumbo ropes in his other out-of-work screenwriters to supply the deficiency. Or such as when Kirk Douglas, an opportunist of the first water, outstrips Otto Preminger in being first in giving Trumbo screen credit after Trumbo’s years of being blacklisted. And, yes, Preminger actually did say that: when Trumbo retorted, to Preminger’s complaint that every scene of Trumbo’s screenplay for Exodus must be brilliant, that, if every scene were brilliant, the story would be monotonous, Preminger actually did say: “Make them all brilliant, and I will direct unevenly.”

Trumbo’s writing by his own admission tended to the verbose and sentimental, and Cranston by his very being perhaps captures this. His is an extravagant face. It is a true actor’s face, full of moment and potential humor. It is not given to small expression but expression writ large. And this counts for everything, because it is not the face of a Hollywood hero, not the face of someone who is immune from slings and arrows.

Of course, in Hollywood all writer are outsiders, so it is as well that he does not look like Gregory Peck, but like someone who would definitely not be in a movie. Moreover, he is the only actor I have ever seen playing one whom I believed actually was a writer. The scrip enforces this by making him churn out his stuff by the truckload.

The story is well told, and Trumbo certainly had formidable opposition: The FBI, The Hollywood Producers, and most powerful of all, Hedda Hopper, whom Helen Mirren brings to millinery life for us.

The issue of naming names before a Congressional hearing is still moot. The real issue is, not whether the witnesses were or were not un-American, but whether Congress was. By which I mean un-Constitutional. Trumbo puts us in thought about it all.

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Posted in BioDrama, Diane Ladd, Helen Mirren: acting goddess, John Goodman


The World’s Fastest Indian

21 Feb

The World’s Fastest Indian — directed by Roger Donaldson. Sportsflick. A 68-year-old man shoots for the world speed record on a 40-year-old bike. 127 minutes Color 2005.


This is a children’s film. It is about a man who gets by on magical mechanics. On the surface of it, it is about a feat, and as such, like National Velvet, it is the story of a single person’s faith and pertinacity – and. after encountering many obstacles, in the end the individual shines through. But here the obstacles are all mechanical failures of one sort or another and they are solved by the mechanical genius of Burt Munro, our hero, with the help of persons he meets on the roadside. But that is not what really fuels the adventure and the story of this movie. That is not the real story. What it is really about is how all those folks on the roadside are actually charmed. By what? By the soul and spirit of Munro. And the movie is actually the story of that. It is not a story about an underdog or people’s rooting for an underdog. Rather, it is a story about people responding to the delighted life force, the élan vitale of a single person and joining up to help him because of it. To make this person we have Anthony Hopkins. He makes Munro deaf, odd, abstracted, full of jokes, and a certain shine. It is a perfect example of a star commandeering a story and making it understandable and more true, since, from all we are told, the actual New Zealander, Burt Munro, had this shine too, and in this film he shines through, not because of his mechanical magic but because of this very shine. It is one of Hopkins’ master-creations. He gives him joie de vivre, a happy heart. Everyone somehow is beguiled by this broken-down, keys-missing, upright player-piano. They drop the prison they are in to free him from his, because he is already free.


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