Just now I googled “Tom Cruise best roles”, “Tom Cruise worst roles”, “Tom Cruise best movies” and “Tom Cruise worst movies”, partially because I’m interested to see where his role as Mitch McDeere in The Firm lands and partially because my boredom has reached carrying capacity. I found, unsurprisingly, that the internet does that thing where it reaches consensus about certain things being “good” and certain things being “bad”, which in this case is sometimes inarguable (A Few Good Men = “good”, Far and Away = “bad”) but sometimes weirdly unearned, as with the endless praise heaped upon Edge of Tomorrow or Cruise’s role in Tropic Thunder. The former is a fairly fun movie and the latter is a fairly funny movie, but to say that these number among Cruise’s best seems a stretch. Again, the common consensus surrounding mediocrity doesn’t exactly come as a shock.
What was surprising, though, is that not a single article or top ten list included Mitch McDeere or mentioned The Firm at all. “Good” and “bad” are complicated, sure, and you might even suggest that the overarching opinions of the internet’s burgeoning culture commentary is at fault for this, too, as if to say “those other guys didn’t claim The Firm to be a great Cruise movie, so we won’t either.” But not a single one mentioned The Firm. No outliers buried in a list to satiate the unconfessed desire of a film blogger, no mention of Mitch McDeere even in reference to another role. It’s like The Firm never registered as a Cruise flick. Putting aside common consensus and inescapable truth (Far and Away = “bad”), that just seemed strange.
Continue reading The Firm (1993)
- Rumor has it that the second season of Serial will delve into the story of Bowe Bergdahl, and that Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal is somehow involved as he writes a new film for Kathryn Bigelow. If any shred of this is true, we’re on board.
- Sam Smith’s Spectre theme song will be available for your ears the day after tomorrow (Friday 25th).
- Jordan Peele — yes, the Key and Peele Jordan Peele — is apparently going to direct the horror film Get Out as his next project. Sounds hilarious.
- The NYFF is well underway — stay tuned for reviews from our screenings starting this week.
Continue reading Film & TV News: September 23
I read The Pawnbroker at the wrong time. Jewish American author Edward Lewis Wallant published the thin novel, his second after The Human Season, a year before his untimely death in 1962. I wouldn’t be hitting the scene for another few decades, and by the time I did The Pawnbroker existed only in relative obscurity. I read it in college, where I sort of zipped through the little volume in between zipping through others.
In doing so, I read Sol Nazerman’s tale largely as a tale of urban woe. Those of suburban woe — by Updike, Cheever, O’Hara, and even a few guys who weren’t named John — were in great supply back then, from Rabbit, Run to Bullet Park to Appointment in Samarra. These books had protagonists that were either downright miserable or just miserable without knowing it, perhaps indifferent to the constant comings and goings or the constant stillness of life around them, and in that feeble criteria they were all grouped together. Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant, about a Jewish shopkeeper in postwar New York, seemed a worthy companion to The Pawnbroker because the protagonists seemed so similar. Assistant‘s Morris worked out of Brooklyn while Sol Nazerman’s pawnshop was in Harlem, but both were simply exhausted by life.
Continue reading The Pawnbroker (1964)
On one hand, a sequel to The French Connection is completely logical. Popeye Doyle sees things through, probably more out of psychosis than out of any loyalty to law and order, and so it does make sense that he’d track the kingpin Alain Charnier all the way to Marseilles after the events of the first film. French Connection II begins right there, not long after the first film left off, and when he pulls up in a cab it’s pretty great to see Popeye again. He pulls his hat onto his head and pays the driver, then glares at him when the driver shakes his head and insists he’s owed more. “I’m taking your number, fella — that’s in case you screwed me,” he snarls. Yes: it’s Popeye.
On the other hand, though, a sequel to the perfectly imperfect conclusion of the first film seems simultaneously illogical. The first Connection ends somewhat suddenly when Popeye accidentally shoots a fellow cop, thinking him to be the evasive Charnier (or “Frog One”). Not only is a wishy-washy ending avoided, but Popeye’s character is further complicated by the brevity of his victory. The smarmy sarcastic wave that Popeye gives Frog One on the bridge is bittersweet, and maybe even a karmic contributor to the ultimate conclusion of Connection (in the same way that Hank’s wave to Walt in Breaking Bad represents his own short-lived supremacy).
Continue reading French Connection II (1975)
A quick glance at Sam Raimi’s filmography shows a greater preoccupation with iconography than with originality. He’s retread the old “cabin in the woods” and “superhero origin” tropes three times over (four if you count Darkman), yet, Robert Frost be damned, it has made all the difference. Through Evil Dead and Spider-Man, Raimi has evaded the title of “hack” to become both an auteur and blockbuster filmmaker, which is no easy feat when you’ve made Spider-Man 3. He manages to inject adrenaline and humor into genres that would die of exhaustion under any other director’s hand. As for The Quick and the Dead, the Western genre has only benefited from the Raimi treatment.
The Quick and the Dead reminds us of familiar Western figures straight away: the blind shoeshine, the bumbling barkeep, the merciless sheriff, the one-eyed ex-convict, and a flamboyant assortment of gunslingers. Of course it wouldn’t be a Western without the nameless hero, and fortunately we have Sharon Stone to give us an emotional anchor as The Lady amid a grotesque cast of caricatures. She arrives in town to exact revenge on the sheriff for the murder of her father, but gets roped into a quick draw dueling competition before she can do the deed. Continue reading The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Wait a minute – Aaron Sorkin wrote Enemy of the State? Before we get too deep into false advertising here, let it be known that “rewrites” and “script edits” are terms that are extremely broad and ill-defined in most cases. Yes, Sorkin was brought on for rewrites of the Enemy of the State script by David Marconi; no, it’s not clear how much of the film is “his”, at least not in any explicit way. Sorkin presently has no credit for his work on the film, no listing on IMDb or anywhere else, although an early poster (later redacted) did feature his name right after Marconi’s:
“Written by David Marconi AND Aaron Sorkin AND Henry Bean AND Tony Gilroy” – phew. That many cooks in the kitchen usually isn’t a good sign – maybe bringing to mind Stanley Kubrick’s quote about one man writing a novel, one man writing a symphony, and one man making a film – but Sorkin’s name would eventually be struck, as would Bean’s and Gilroy’s, and Sorkin’s reputation as a controlling “sole credit” scriptwriter would presumably grow from there.
Continue reading Enemy of the State (1998)