Video clips: Nicole Kidman, Part 5 of 6

The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

This adaptation of a Henry James novel (a searchable online version is in the public domain) was left dead in the water as a stand-alone film because of an egregious casting mistake: John Malkovich as Osmond. Malkovich delivers his usual creepy, ophidian performance here, and it just doesn't work. As a result, the whole film makes no sense unless you have read the book and understand the characters' motivations.

If you have not read the book, here's what you see:

Isabel, a beautiful and strong-minded American woman turns down an offer of marriage from a distinguished British lord. This lord is fairly young and neither ugly nor creepy, but she turns him down because she simply doesn't know enough about life to make an informed choice. That tells us a lot about her character. She has some very strong convictions about how she should live her life. Since she has no money of her own, her rejection is not merely a sacrifice of all the comforts that the lord might provide, but also a gamble that might result with her ending up impoverished and miserable. She is brave and daring enough to risk everything to find the "right" man, and thoughtful enough to think her decisions through carefully. Then she inherits some money of her own through a plot contrivance which we needn't concern ourselves with here, and who does she end up with? Malkovich. What happened to all the savvy and self-examination she showed when she turned down the lord? She rejected a perfectly nice if stiff-assed guy to marry an obviously arrogant and slithering creep? Makes no sense. How could he fool her for an hour, let alone finagle a marriage with her?

The point missed by the film is that Henry James's Osmond is incredibly charming. He may be a scoundrel and a layabout at heart, but he has the intellectual and physical presence to woo a smart, rich woman who knows he is not rich, and to be able to convince that woman that he is interested in her for more than money. Malkovich, sinister and insinuating as always, is practically walking around with a "phony" sign on his chest. In every situation he's obviously being only as polite as required, delivering every line on the very edge of condescension and self-absorption. Isabel's acuity has earlier been established by her rejection of the lord. How the hell could that sharp woman fall for this guy? Never happen. The Osmond role needed to belong to a George Clooney or a Redford, or even a younger version of Tom Selleck, a man capable of completely disguising his intentions and his character flaws. This version of Osmond, as played by Malkovich, couldn't fool Miss Piggy.

The film is not without interesting elements. You can see two future superstars, Batman and Aragorn, as younger men in minor roles. Batman was especially young: Christian Bale was barely 21 when this film was lensed. Some of the other cast members are interesting as well: Shelley Winters is on hand, Barbara Hershey appears in an Oscar-nominated turn, and the underrated Martin Donovan breathes life into the film's most credible character. In addition to some fine performances, the film offers splendid scenery and its costumes won an Oscar nomination. As you might guess from those characteristics, Portrait scores significantly higher with women: IMDb 6.3, versus 5.5 from men.

Despite the positives, I'm not really convinced that this book was ever meant to be made into a movie at all. A very high percentage of its merit consists of its eloquent, insightful sentences. Nothing much ever happens. James himself wrote in his preface that the best part of the book consists of Isabel sitting motionless in a chair. Now that's good cinema, right there! James was not unaware of the introspective nature of his work, and that his talents lay as a wordsmith, not as an scenarist. When a theatrical company approached him to adapt it into a play, he flat-out told them that it couldn't be done. Director Jane Campion would have done well to listen to his words. Instead, she not only took a stab at it, but she spent 144 minutes of screen time trying to prove the master wrong about his own creation. The result was a film which was not only overlong, talky, and inert (as James himself would have predicted), but ultimately rendered nonsensical by the casting of Malkovich.

Nicole Kidman film clip: (Zipped .wmv)

Nicole Kidman


Assorted Video Clips:

Here's more material from Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon. (Movie House page.) Crappy movie, but very hot!  Three .avi clips zipped together of Emmanuelle Seigner (Polanski's wife) doing various naughty things. (More tomorrow)

Jordan Ladd bares her bum in a 1999 film called Junked. (Zipped .avi) A good find for the imager. I had never heard of this film, and did not know this nudity existed. (Sample below.)





CNN anchor goes to the bathroom with a live mic - during a Presidential speech!

Jessica Simpson was ordered not to sing
  • That was back in 1992, and she's followed the order ever since.
  • Seriously, who made that order? A war crimes tribunal?
  • Whoever it was, I hope they're working on Celine Dion soon.

The 10 Coolest Classic Cars. I love that '54 Pontiac

Iran's president has challenged US President George W Bush to a live TV debate on world affairs.
  • I don't know how they could have a sensible debate. One of them doesn't speak enough English, and the other is a power-mad ruler.

John Hodgman pontificates on whether Pluto is a planet

Government official suspended for telling the truth.
  • Working for the government is like being in the Garden of Eden - you can do anything you want except one. In this case the serpent is the one thing deadly to governments - the dreaded truth.

Other Crap's tips for a long life: Don't tug on Superman's cape. Don't spit into the wind. And never NEVER hug a Swiss cow

One thing that's always good for some snarky entertainment: celebrity yearbook pictures.

Michelle Trachtenberg told Mean magazine that she has a bare butt shot in Beautiful Ohio (The Trachtenberg story is in the middle of the page)

The Arrogant Worms sing the Celine Dion song

Is dad's birthday coming up. Consider The Albert Einstein Robot. It's like a two-for-one deal because it can be converted to a Ben Kingsley robot simply by removing the hairpiece.

Only women need apply for Russian traffic police

Boulder District Attorney Pleads Insanity ... 'Out of My Mind' to Arrest John Mark Karr, Lacy Explains

NBC has apologized for Conan O'Brien's behavior as host of the Emmy Awards on Sunday night, in which he shocked the sensibilities of many Americans by actually being funny.

Four behind-the-scenes clips from 30 Days of Night
  • "Based on the Steve Niles graphic novel. In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn't rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff (Josh Hartnett) and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love."

Monty Python: The Bruces' Philosopher Song, live at the Hollywood Bowl

Bill Maher: New Rules, show one of the new season

Rob Corddry presents: Rob Corddry's Last Day on the Daily Show

What is the deal with Bob Dylan's moustache?

Letterman offers the top ten reasons he didn't win an Emmy
  • They didn't like my idea of doing a tribute to people who should have died this year
  • For some reason, everyone in Hollywood thinks I killed Pat Morita
  • Charlie Sheen and I split the 'hooker-loving bad boy' vote.
  • Hey, at least I didn't lose to Barry Manilow

Keith Richards stays one step ahead of the law.
  • "Keith Richards won't be fined for reportedly lighting up during a Rolling Stones concert in Scotland. The stage at Hampden Park, where the band performed Friday night on their 'A Bigger Bang' tour, is exempt from a new law that bans smoking ... "

Jump The Shark - Chronicling the Moments of When TV Shows go Downhill



Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Rome (2005) - Day 4. Episodes 8 through 12.

Rome (2005) Day Four

Episode 8 takes place mainly in Egypt, where Caesar has pursued Pompey, only to find him dead, but Egypt is near civil war. He elects to side with Cleopatra against Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra has a son Caesar believes to be his. We aren't so sure, as we see Cleo knock one off with Pullo after he rescued her.

Kerry Condon shows breasts in a little girl/girl with Lindsay Duncan.
 Lyndsay Marshal, as Cleopatra, shows breasts in two sex scenes.

Episode 9 begins as Caesar has defeated Cato and Scipio in Africa. They commit suicide, and Caesar has a triumphant return to Rome. Lucius returns home to find his wife a successful butcher. When he offends a newly powerful merchant, Caesar comes to his aid, and offers him an important position. Servillia is attacked in the street. Servilla is trying to discover what Caesar's health secret might be, still wanting to bring Caesar down for having jilted her..

An unknown shows breasts in a street performance.
Lindsay Duncan shows breasts being attacked on the street.

Episode 10 is mostly about Caesar's triumph celebration. He declares that the war is over, and is voted by the senate to be emperor for 10 years. Servillia becomes even more active in her opposition to Caesar. Pullo decides to free his slave and marry her. When he tells her she is free, she confesses her love for another slave, whom Pullo kills.

No nudity in this episode.

Episode 11 has Pullo taking work as a paid assassin. Lucius wins veterans benefits for his old comrades. Servillia is still hard at work convincing her son Brutus to go against Caesar, and, when Caesar tries to ship him off to Macedonia, he decides he is no longer on Caesar's side. Pullo is sentenced to death in the arena, but defeats many gladiators and Lucius comes to his aide at the end.

No nudity in this episode.

Episode 12 has Caesar appointing a bunch of new senators, including Lusius. Lusius and Pullo have become public heroes. With the assassination of Caesar planned, Lucius is the one remaining obstacle, as he has become a bodyguard to Caesar in the Senate. Sevillia solves it by having Lusius told the truth about his supposed grandson. When confronted, his wife commits suicide, while Brutus deals the deathblow to Caesar.

Again, no nudity.

A second season was announced, rumored to be cancelled, and, as of today, seems to be on again for next year. They will, of course, have a very different cast, and a whole new story, since Caesar is dead, Lucius knows the truth about his wife, etc. There are few open sub-plots. If they can find as good an era and equal the first episode technically and artistically, there is no reason to believe a second season will not also be very good. It is a little worrying that the nudity tapered off so badly towards the end of the first season. The first season was an HBO BBC co-production. The BBC site announces pretty clearly that the series has ended. I suppose we will hear more about season two next year.

This was a very engrossing mini-series, easily the equal of Shogun or Roots, grounded in historical fact, lushly produced, but, by focusing on the view of events by two ordinary soldiers, they were able to show all levels of Roman society. This is a high C+.







Kate Vernon in Bloodknot. These European TV captures and the ones below from Soft Deceit are the best ones I've seen from those two movies.

Kate Vernon in Soft Deceit. For the few of you who don't already know, the attractive Kate is the daughter of the late Dean Wormer himself.

Finally, two from RokWatch. The first is a Shannon Doherty collage ...

... and the second is an interesting bit of nostalgia. Some samples from What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?, a movie which basically consisted of the Candid Camera ideas too naughty for TV.