Monthly Archives: August 2004

Good Performance, Bad Movie

Purchased a used dvd of
Owning Mahowny at the friendly neighborhood supermarket for $5 on the principle that it would cost me about that just to rent it. Decent cast really: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Hurt, and Minnie Driver. It’s based on the true story of a Toronto banker who managed to embezzled millions of dollars from his place of employment in order to finance his gambling addiction.

The acting isn’t the problem. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of those actors who always turns in an excellent performance; John Hurt can do no wrong in my book; and Minnie Driver, while not at that level of talent, is very good at what she does.

The difficulty is that this is a less than gripping film. The plot just isn’t . . . well to quote Gertrude Stein, “there’s no there there.”

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Revisiting movies on DVD

I took my time getting a DVD player. My reasons were sound, but I’m beginning to wish I’d purchased one sooner. While I’m not one to get excited about crystal clear pictures or better sound quality, I have to admit it: I’m hooked on the special features.

Watched Pieces of April,
Shattered Glass, The Station Agent, and 24 Hour Party People–all on DVD. With the exception of the last, which didn’t excite me too much, I found that I went back and watched the films again with the commentary tracks.

What did we do before these were available? Maybe I’m just the biggest geek in the world (always a possibility), but I love getting insights on the making of the film. There’s an art to these though.

Peter Jackson and co. have it down pat. They offer multiple commentaries, which are a combination of anecdotes, factual information, artistic choices, and the technie stuff.

George Lucas and his cohorts need some help. Which I’m hoping they obtained for the upcoming release of the OT on DVD. Listening to the commentaries on the two prequel films is like hearing my washing machine manual read aloud. The focus is almost exclusively on the technical, which admittedly is the strength of these films, but honestly, if I really cared that much about how they made the sounds for speeders or monsters that have 15 seconds of screen time, I’d be in film school. And someone needs to hand Mr. Lucas a dictionary so he can look up the definitions for motif and theme. I’m not sure that a plethora of severed limbs in five Star Wars films qualify for either.

Really, really loved the commentary track for The Station Agent. It was clear the participants believed in what they were creating. They’re entertaining. Their discussion and comments are interesting and enlightening. That’s what commentaries should be.