Spacey and Annette Bening
Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis
Photo : Courtesy of Buena
Pacino and Russel Crowe
Photo : Courtesy of Touchstone
Maguire and Charlize Theron
Photo: Courtesy of Miramax
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
YORK, 14 March 2000 - American Beauty may seem like one more
flick goofing on the suburbs. But throughout, the film shows more than
we expected. Scriptwriter Alan Ball has provided dialogue and
counterpoint that thread through the film's issues surely, and director
Sam Mendes has found visual symbols that simplify his difficult
The performers each find unanticipated depths in
suburban icons: Spacey's Lester is surprisingly warm and thoughtful
beneath his midlife crisis; Annette Benning finds the frightened girl
inside Caroline's bitchy squalling; and Birch and Bentley are intriguing
as teens nurturing their inner adults. In a truly standout performance,
Allison Janney sketches Ricky's mother as a wife ossified by her
husband's strict demands.
American Beauty is nominated
for 8 Academy Awards; among those nominated, it is CK's pick for best
(For more, see Culturekiosque film critic Jesse
Gale's review of American
The Sixth Sense
C. Antonio Romero
The Sixth Sense turned out
to be an understated, smart and well-crafted tale of the supernatural
with a surprise ending that was both completely consistent and yet not
at all telegraphed. Nine-year-old Cole Sear, tormented by the unquiet
dead, bonds with Bruce Willis' Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a psychologist
renowned for his work with troubled children; together they work out the
secret of his unbearable visions and how he will cope with them.
does competent, understated work, and Toni Collette's fine work as
Cole's mother earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Every
other aspect of the film - a smart script, and music and cinematography
that do much to build and modulate the film's mood - comes together as
The real revelation in this film, however, is the
riveting performance of Haley Joel Osment. Osment does not steal scenes
so much as own them, allowing Willis and Collette to share the screen
with him. Neither miniature adult nor sentimentalist prop (and certainly
no "Annakin the Mannakin"),
Osment is virtually flawless in creating the character of a bright child
struggling to cope with a constant throng of menacing phantoms.
(Ironically, Osment auditioned for George Lucas's recent space debacle
but did not receive a callback - this rejection may well have saved his
Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan clearly knows
what a find he has in young Osment, and does all that he can to support
him; beyond getting so much else right so that Osment can shine, he
winks at the audience through a subplot about a schoolyard nemesis of
Cole's who lectures him on the finer points of acting.
as The Sixth Sense is, it is not likely to take the Best Picture
Oscar with American Beauty in the running. It is also unclear
whether Osment can take home the Best Supporting Actor award at his age
- some may reason that "if he doesn't win it this time, he'll get
it someday" and slight him for no other reason. Culturekiosque will
pick him for it anyway - and the Academy be damned.
by C. Antonio Romero
Insider surprised Culturekiosque's editors by appearing in the Best
Picture list at all. To give credit where it is due, The Insider
tackles difficult subject matter - both the story of a
not-terribly-sympathetic tobacco company informant who loses everything,
and the moral failings of CBS's news organization confronted with a
clash between the truth and the bottom line. If it seems overlong to
some, it tells a story that could not unfold adequately in less time,
mostly honoring the complexity of its source material (though,
curiously, it glosses over the specific revelations that could have lent
the situation more moral urgency). And the cast (including Al Pacino and
Best Actor nominee Russell Crowe, who brings some of his L.A.
Confidential edge to whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand) turn in very
solid performances, orchestrated by the capable direction of Michael
Unfortunately, Mann's fingerprints are all over more
than just the film's direction and cinematography. At critical moments,
he elects to overwhelm the actors and script, suffocating them under
Hallmark-card sentimentality, an inappropriately throbbing soundtrack,
and even a special effects sequence straight out of (and probably
designed for) music video. In these moments, the film becomes
unintentionally laughable, undermining the cast's fine work, his own
direction and the story as a whole.
It's hard to imagine Best
Picture or Best Direction going to a film with such serious flaws; and
Russel Crowe, capable though he may be, is no Kevin Spacey this time
out. (It would be interesting to see what Mann would be capable of
deprived of the techniques he perfected on Miami Vice - he may
well do better work with one hand tied behind his back.).
Cider House Rules
by Jesse Gale
Cider House Rules was one of the disappointments of the year.
Although many lovely performances and pretty shots compose the picture,
on the whole it seems overly determined to be heartwarming. The tricky
questions in this film tend to be glossed with nostalgia, rendering them
cute but not potent.
The Cider House Rules adapts John
Irving's 1985 novel for film - or, more accurately, it adapts the novel
for the film business. In order to create two likable hours, Irving and
director Lasse Halstrom (My Life as a Dog), stripped the story
of characters, situations, and eras. They also stripped the story of
much of its poison, leaving a pretty but dim picture behind. But the
film's prettiness is no small matter. The camera broods nostalgically
and magnificently on the Maine coast; the cast are adorable and
well-lit; the script offers an acceptable tragedy of love sacrificed.
Visually, even emotionally, the film coheres. It is charming.
it feels almost too charming. Without the agonized secrets and
deceptions that infect the novel, the film's charming picture of the
illegal abortion era seems inappropriately sanitized. The cast's cheery
radiance feels strangely void. Nonetheless, some lovely performances
peep through: Tobey Maguire is awkwardly agreeable; Charlize Theron
sleepily seduces; and Jane Alexander, in an outstanding cameo-sized
role, underacts to perfection. The film has the sweet seriousness of a
junior class vice-president: it is inoffensive and well-intentioned. But
does that mean it's good?
The Green Mile
Lynda S. Nuss
The Green Mile is a nice
little film, but it is hard to imagine what it is doing in this company.
Frank Darabont does a credible job of adapting Stephen King's whopping
six volume serial novel to the screen, and the result is a touching
ensemble production, with Tom Hanks (reprising his role as Everyman as
prison guard Paul Edgecomb) managing a ragtag collection of well
intentioned misfits - prisoners and guards alike - on Louisiana's death
The novel, and to some extent the movie, is an extended
meditation on time - time to develop trust, time to build relationships,
time to understand, time to change, and most of all, the time that all
of us spend waiting for death to inevitably take us away. But
ironically, even though the movie weighs in at a butt-numbing 3 hours
and 2 minutes, time is exactly what this movie does not have. Where
Darabont grew The Shawshank Redemption (which this movie
resembles) from a King short story, this time he has a six volume novel
to pare down, and the seams show.
While some episodes come out
nicely - Michael Jeter steals the show as a mouse-training Cajun - the
resolution feels forced, and bits and pieces of other stories intrude to
make you wonder what on earth they are doing there (is Gary Sinise's 5
minute part really necessary?). The result is a sentimental mishmash,
redeemed by some good character portrayals but bogged down by some
clumsy symbolism (longsuffering inmate John Coffey's initials are
J.C.... OK, class, what does that stand for?) A nice little movie, yes,
but hardly Oscar material.
Next:Nouveau's commentary on Oscar Night