Faure in J'ai 2 mours (2017) in 1080hd
Gregovic in Brand: Eine Totengeschichte (2011) in
Paltrow in Sylvia (2003) in 720p
Before I saw this film, I was not
particularly knowledgeable about the poetess Sylvia
Plath. I knew that she was an unlikely 20th century
poet - not the expected wild-eyed Bohemian, but a
bourgeois middle-American who looked like she would
have been more at home in a Betty Crocker cook-off
than in a Greenwich Village coffee shop. I knew that
she tried to commit suicide several times, starting
when she was ten years old, and coming very close to
success in that endeavor between her junior and
senior years at Smith. By her own count, as detailed
in "Lady Lazarus," she tried to kill herself three
times unsuccessfully. She finally succeeded at
ending her life on the fourth attempt, when she
stuck her head in an oven shortly after the unhappy
dissolution of her marriage to poet Ted Hughes.
I know that many people consider her a great poet. I
don't know about that. I don't like her work, but
I'm not really interested in any 20th century poetry
after T.S. Eliot, and I don't really get into morbid
self-absorption, so that's just my taste kicking in.
Let's assume she was top-drawer. But I'll tell you
this. She sure wasn't much of a novelist. I read The
Bell Jar and I found it to be completely without
merit of any kind.
I also know that nobody really knows what the hell
was wrong with her head. She was not abused or
tortured in childhood. She never had much hardship
in her life. She didn't experience the tragic death
of any of her children. No major traumas like that.
She was a brilliant student, an attractive woman,
and a successful author. She had two beautiful
She was said to be a happy child until she was about
ten, at which point her father died, and she
gradually took on more and more manic-depressive
behavior characteristics, and an increasing
morbidity. In her life, and in her work, she talked
about death so much that she made Jim Morrison seem
as life-affirming as Zorba the Greek.
The death of a parent and the dissolution of a
marriage are difficult circumstances, but similar
things happen to most people, and they do not spend
their lives sticking their heads in ovens or popping
sleeping pills. Clearly she was messed up, and one
naturally wonders if there is some explanation, some
insight, perhaps to be found in her own words.
That is what I knew before I saw the movie. That is
still all I know.
No further illumination, in fact not even that much
illumination, will be found in this film, which
simply hits upon some biographical highlights
chronologically. It can't use her poetry to
illuminate her mental condition, because Plath's
estate would not allow her poetry to be quoted in
In fact, the script really didn't capture the nature
of her mental illness. Ron Howard has taken some
flack in his life for being a pedestrian, mainstream
director, but he did quite a good job at
demonstrating the nature of the mental illness in A
Beautiful Mind, by using visual devices and by
keeping some of the delusions hidden temporarily
from the audience. These tactics allowed the
audience to see through the eyes of the deranged
mathematician, and to live in his reality. Sylvia
accomplishes none of that. Whenever a depressive or
paranoid episode is coming on, it alerts us and then
suffocates us with the usual movie cliché - tragic
and dissonant violin music.
In other words, this is a film about a mentally
unhinged poet, yet it offers no insight into her
mental condition, and never uses her poems. Sylvia
Plath without the poetry and without some insight
into her mental illness is about as interesting as
"Oklahoma!" without the songs.
Some feminists have found Plath to be a symbolic
victim of woman's inferior role in modern society,
and they often claim that she was destroyed by
devoting her life to, and giving up her own work
for, a cheating, insensitive man. The film did, at
least, give the axe to that theory, since it clearly
shows that Plath's mental condition was just as bad
before the failure of her relationship with Hughes,
and that Hughes did everything he could to get her
to stop playing housewife and start writing. Of
course, his leaving hastened her decline, and was
the direct cause of her final sayonara, but it was
merely the straw that broke the camel's
This film was supposed to be the great return of
Gwyneth Paltrow to serious, respectable cinema,
after having been slumming in junk flicks for some
time. Gwyneth does bear a certain passing
resemblance to Plath at the same age, and her
performance is fine, but the movie is so
insignificant that I don't expect her to get any
award nominations, and very few people will ever get
to see the performance in order to evaluate it. And
to tell you the truth, she was overshadowed by a
charismatic performance by Daniel Craig as Ted
Hughes, just as Sylvia Plath was overshadowed by the
real Hughes. In other words, Gwyn will have to wait
a while to re-ignite her career, because this film
won't do it
(By the way, it was quite nostalgic and appropriate
to see the part of Sylvia Plath's mother played by
Gwyneth's own mother, Blythe Danner.)
in Stahlnetz (s8e2; 1999) in 720p
Jolie in Pushing Tin (1999) in 1080hd
How do you determine "cool"?
A good rule of thumb is the "James Bond rule."
- If it is a guy, he's cool if he could he play
James Bond. Fred MacMurray doesn't play James
- If a woman, she's cool if James Bond would try
to seduce her, or consider her a worthy
adversary. James Bond doesn't hit on Tonya
- If it is an activity, it is cool if James Bond
would do it. James Bond does not belong to a
bowling league. James Bond plays chemin-de-fer,
not slapjack. James Bond would have an old
dueling scar, not an ingrown toenail.
Some people are just plain cool. Dean Martin and
Cary Grant and JFK and Bogart are cool. Mr Rogers
and Dick Cheney and Mr Garrison and Wally Cox are
not. Nothing can change that. You can't become cool
through great acting. You either are or you aren't.
Kenneth Branagh is not cool, despite the best acting
skills on the earth. George Clooney is cool without
Which brings us to this movie, which was was
hamstrung by a very strange casting decision. The
Russell Bell character has to be really cool, so
cool that he intimidates the cock of the walk in the
air traffic controller world just by being himself,
so cool that if you met him you'd make plans not to
introduce him to your wife.
So who was cast in this role?
Billy Bob Thornton
Let's face it. BB is not cool. Billy Bob may be the
best character actor in the business today, and he
can do many different things, but cool is not one of
them. Billy Bob is a little skinny geek who who used
to be a little fat geek, and is afraid of old
furniture. If you were a high school bully in Billy
Bob's school, you would not beat him up, because you
would never even notice him. Years later, he would
come up to you at your reunion and say, "Remember
me? I was in your Chem class." You would not.
Because he is a nobody. That is precisely what makes
him so effective as a character actor. He is a
genius at being a nobody.
So how did the script try to convince us that this
little weasel is a cool, big penis kind of guy? He
sings "Muskrat Love" on a karaoke machine.
I think that pretty much says it all.
Kingston in Croupier (1998) in 1080hd
"The world breaks everyone. And
afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.
Those that will not break, it kills. It kills the
very good and the very gentle and the very brave,
impartially. If you are none of these things it will
kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."
If I tell you that this is a movie about an aspiring
author who takes a croupier job and delivers first
person voice-overs, you probably already know that
it's one of those "loners with integrity" movies.
Authors, after all, practice to be detached
objective observers, and croupiers can't get
involved either with bettors or with other members
of the casino staff. Of course, despite his
practiced lonership and alleged integrity, our hero
manages to get involved with everyone. He's got more
women undressing in front of him than Warren Beatty.
His harem includes both staff and bettors. He not
only dates bettors, but conspires with one to
participate in a scam to rob the casino. Or does he?
Near the end of the film, just before the heist,
Croupy figures out that he is being scammed, but he
simply doesn't care. That is pretty cynical and
world-weary, even by noir standards. In fact this
guy is so world-weary that he makes Stephen Rea look
as enthusiastic as Mike the Sweater Guy from those
Amazing Discoveries infomercials.
After the heist, however, he finds out that he has
been scammed in yet another way he had not foreseen.
There is a final "gotcha" that pulls the rug out
from under him, and does finally break down his
indifference. Yup, the loner with integrity gets
conned for a change, despite his cynicism.
Of course, the whole experience just prepares him
for even world-wearier soliloquies in the future.
Director Mike Hodges is the guy who directed the
original Get Carter way back about twelve minutes
after the Big Bang. I guess that isn't so completely
absorbing unless you realize that he pretty much did
nothing noteworthy in the thirty years between these
two good movies. He was close to seventy years old
when he did this one.
The film was a critical darling (97% positive
reviews), but was disqualified from Oscar
consideration because it first appeared on Dutch TV.
Clive Owen's performance was so highly admired that
he was immediately being mentioned as a leading
candidate to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. I
was less enthusiastic about thew film. I think
Croupier does what it does quite well. It is cool
and dripping with atmosphere, and sexy, and the
dialogue is interesting and witty and poetic. But
all that the critical praise might lead you to
expect a taut and tense thriller, which it is not.
And don't expect a slick Hollywood look. It looks
low-budget and it is low-budget. It is even sloppy
in spots. There is a ham-fisted editing error at
about 58:40, and they just left it in!
But go into the film with reasonable expectations,
and you may be pleasantly surprised.