Monday, December 23, 2002

Sunday, December 22, 2002

I caught The Searchers again this afternoon. Added the interesting use of "Gather at the river" (John Ford's staple favourite) at both a burial and a wedding. Then there was Peckinpah's dark use of it in a protest march in The Wild Bunch.

Movie du jour: Training Day. Denzel Washington deserves accolades for his performance -- against type, against convention, against role model, against everything an actor in his position should represent. What sets Denzel apart from the Tom Cruise line of stars is that he is actually a talented actor (Cruise fans will *strongly* disagree with me here). Despite having his share of bloomers (that long embarassment called The Pelican Brief with the "talented"[sic] Julia Roberts, he's gone from strength to strength, pushing the envelope for the kind of roles he could have taken on. Alonzo Harris is the most startling and impressive transformation of his career. Harris is the meanest, baddest, most brutal and vicious narc in the city and Jake Hoyt (an excellent Ethan Hawke) is the rookie under his wing. This is day one of Hoyt's assignment, this is training day. Harris sets about giving him a taste of street reality, and soon Hoyt's morals, values and perceptions take a beating, as does his self-respect. The film has a great script, and an appealing kinetic energy and enthusiastic acting (including turns by Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and Macy Gray). This is a good flick with a race twist: it's Spike Lee minus the simple subtleties and messages (Of course, every time I heard the words "by any means necessary", I am struck by the ambiguity of their utterer Malcolm X, who, incidentally, was fodder for one of Denzel's acclaimed on-screen roles). Except for the unfortunately cliché-laced dénouement, this is a solid thriller brimming with contempt and malice. The burning question, of course, is: Did he deserve the Oscar? His fellow nominees included Will Smith for Ali, Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, Sean Penn for I Am Sam and Tom Wilkinson for In the Bedroom. Smith and Washington seem to have received nominations for like reasons: attempting to break their image and emerge with resounding success. The Academy, imho, had a large howler when they awarded Crowe a statuette for Gladiator, and they rightly needed to atone for that transgression (although I haven't seen Crowe as Nash, I am willing to put my money on this film instead of him playing Maximus). Penn's "I'm playing a retard" Oscar fling was all front-bench-stuff, sans subtlety or heart or talent. I missed In the Bedroom, so I can't say anything for/against Tom Wilkinson. That leaves us with Mr Washington. His case has another advocate: like Al Pacino, an award has long been due. And once you treat the Oscars as appreciation for your 'body of work' rather than a single film, the choice seems fair.

As for the puzzling Ms Berry, I need to watch Monster's Ball. Whatever I have seen her in, she stunk to the high heavens, so this had better be worth it.

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