April 24, 2007
I rented a few movies over the weekend, all of them serviceable for what they were, and one of them outstanding to the point that I kept thinking "Why didn't anyone tell me about this movie???" I thought about it with all three question marks, too.
The first one I watched was a no-brainer, a charming little English thing starring Maggie Smith as a axe-murderer. I knew it would be good, and, after a slow start, Dame Smith came on and straightened everything out by slinging a few axes around after dark. Lightly predictable and mildly entertaining, Keeping Mum is worth a watch if you're in that mood.
The Good Shepherd was another story altogether. Dark and grim, it told the story of the forming of the C.I.A. from its Yalie origins as the O.S.S. in the pre-WWII days, as seen through the life of an operative shaped by the paranoia inherent in his career choice. We have Matt Damon as the inscrutable spy; Robert de Niro (who also directed) in a few brief appearances as his tough mentor, and, incredibly, Angelina Jolie as the desperate housewife in the background, always a better actress than I expect, and always rather astonishing in appearance. The movie was well done, leaving many disturbing images and fresh thoughts in the mind.
Then came a little thing I picked up called Infamous. I don't know why I got this one; I had seen Capote last year and been underwhelmed, and this covered the same subject matter and time period. I don't mean to say I didn't admire Phillip Seymour Hoffman's work, or that I disliked the prior film for any reason, it just didn't capture the Truman Capote I thought I knew, but emphasized some evil strain that was hardly his raison d'etre.
Infamous did just the opposite: It took the viewer to a swanky world of New York in the late 1950's, beginning with scene at El Morocco, a torchy number sung by a gussied-up Gwyneth Paltrow who bound a spell over the equally glittery room of in-crowd hangers-on with a sultry number. Then we have testimonials about Truman from his lunching friend Babe Paley, Slim Keith, and Diana Vreeland. These society dames are played by Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, and Juliet Stevenson. Delicious. And even better, Capote's buddy Nell Harper Lee is played by Sandra Bullock. Oh, and even better than that, when we get to Kansas to investigate the murders, the more interesting murderer Perry Smith is played by Daniel Craig, now aka Bond -- James Bond.
Needless to say, I loved every minute of it.
There are a couple of movies out there that I want to see. The Hoax, of course, is still on the big screen, and I may travel to one to see it this weekend. There is one out there, probably between big-screen and small at the moment about the spy Robert Hanssen who was working for Russia while in the employ of the F.B.I. This one is called Breach, and I have a devil of a time remembering that title.
In fact, of the latter three movies I've talked about, I have to repeat what actor Steven David Martin said when the movie Basic Instinct came out, following blockbuster Fatal Attraction. What's going on -- have they just run out of titles?