Archive: March, 2009
If you're in Philadelphia reading this, you may have noticed the trucks around City Hall last week where F. Gary Gray's "Law Abiding Citizen" was shooting. (You can read the location piece here.) The psychological thriller stars Jamie Foxx as an assistant DA who strikes a plea bargain with the murderer of the wife and daughter of Gerard Butler, who in turn exacts blood justice from the city and citizens.
Both Foxx, a classically-trained pianist and now chart-topping R & B artist, and Butler, who moonlighted in a rock band after earning his law degree, are musically-minded. Foxx won an Oscar for his turn as Ray Charles in the 2004 film -- the same year Butler put on a mask and sang the title role in the film "Phantom of the Opera." Can you think of a musical that they could make together? Butler told me that he'd love to play Harold Hill in "The Music Man" -- a charismatic con man I can also see Foxx as.
And if you can't think of a musical that would fit both these very different stars, then name your favorite Foxx and Butler movies. For me, Foxx's roles as Bundini Brown in "Ali" and as the cabbie unintimidated by Tom Cruise's hitman in "Collateral" (both from director Michael Mann) are his richest. And Butler's King Leonidas in "300" and his double role in "Nim's Island" has galvanizing physicality. Youthinks?
What did you think of "Watchmen"? I loved Jackie Earle Haley's Rohrschach, with his changeable ink-blot face and his unnerving whispery voice that made him sound like Clint Eastwood's sinister son. Pint-sized Haley reminded other people of the gallon-sized Eastwood, too, as this post observes. One actor not mentioned in this hush-hush, on the QT observation about whisperers such as Christian Bale, Eastwood and Haley is Keanu Reeves, who is likewise a deliverer of breathy dialogue. Why whisperers? Because people who speak low draw you towards them. Those with a bombastic delivery (think Jack Nicholson) make you pull back.
Molly Haskell revisits "Gone With the Wind" in "Frankly, My Dear," a slim but rich volume from Yale University Press that persuasively explains why the 1939 film blockbuster it inspired continues to revolt and rivet Americans. To read it is to catch Scarlett Fever.
With its romanticized view of slavery and its rabid view of Reconstruction, the Margaret Mitchell's story perpetrated untruths. And yet it is impossible not to cheer for Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel (the first African-American to win an Oscar), the film's moral center and soul of the O'Hara family. (McDaniel famously defended herself from NAACP critics chastising her for her role in the film with the quip, "I would rather make 700 dollars a week playing a maid than seven dollars being one." ) And though Scarlett, the film's anti-heroine played with fiddle-de-dee perfection by Vivien Leigh is selfish and deceitful , she is, as Haskell so gracefully juggles the contradictions, "one of the great iconoclastic figures in movies."
With great humor and insight Haskell writes of "...the range of emotions attached to the film [that] fluctuate through time with the predictability of a love affair and its aftermath...."
When winter has you in a deathlock and even the evergreens look peaked, the only sensible thing to do is to cultivate your garden.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is always an inspiration, as are movies with lush gardens, fertile with ideas about what to do with ours. Even if you have just windowboxes or a couple of pots on the kitchen sill, DVD gardens are a wonderful way to beat the winter blues.
Confession: my favorite movie flowerbeds are guilty of what is known as "garden fraud," that is, mixing spring blooms like daffodil, tulips and peonies with midsummer flowers like roses and Oriental lilies. Still, "The Secret Garden" (1993) and "Enchanted April" (1991) boast stunning gardens you want to dream in.