Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

“American Gangster”

November 25, 2007

Denzel in American Gangster

Ridley Scott is a master of tone and atmosphere. Remember Alien and Blade Runner? In each he’s able to capture a future that we somehow relate to, even though I can’t imagine flying state size space ships to other planets, much less cars through a cityscape in my life time. In his newest film American Gangster his skill as a filmmaker brings to life an era that I missed entirely with an eye that no director has used before. Most films glorify certain eras, making them more beautiful perhaps than they actually were. One such film is Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, which I found more rom-comish than a real look at the music scene from the early 70’s. Hollywood distills through the eyes of a frosty lens or soft light, Scott however keeps it dirty, grungy and filthy. So this is what they mean when they say New York City didn’t always used to be as pretty or safe as it is now! I felt a true sense of danger while watching the story of Frank Lucas unfold before me. Denzel Washington is a calm fire as Lucas, the biggest drug runner of Heroine in the era of Vietnam. He’s a man no person should like, but he’s smarter than most everyone else and most of all, he’s patient. We respect him even when he brings his oblivious but decent family members into his drug trade. When one member of his family decides to put aside his potential for a note worthy career to become like Frank, we shake our heads in dismay, because not even Frank can see his potential down fall, and the damage it will cause his family and that is his flaw, pride. While he barks at others for vainly wearing their flashy clothes because that’s who the cops will pick out first, the pride that lingers inside begins to twist into a darker vanity. I could easily draw parallels of Lucas’ downfall to Scorcese and De Niro giving life to Jake La Motta’s downfall. He no longer sees his own family as people he should take care of, he no longer see his own flaws, he can no longer better himself. He doesn’t see himself as a person who needs to better himself, because he’s successful.

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“Across the Universe”, Spans and Spins on a the Best Known Generation

September 27, 2007

across the universeWe’ve seen it all before in the movies and various forms of entertainment: Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the riots, the speeches, the love story. It has been common territory for entertainment. Part of the reason is that it was one of the biggest eras of political mistake making so its the easiest go to when making a point about our current political culture, but it was also one of the biggest artistic renovation periods of American History. This era and the jazz/blues era I would put at the forefront. Also making it an easy choice for creative stomping grounds. We’ve also seen in movies about this era those scenes when the songs beat over the various films images with the meaning they were created to have. But I’ve never seen it done with so much excessive creativity and literalness as I have in Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe”, and that’s the biggest compliment I could pay any movie this year, because with a sharp hand she makes it work, almost all the time anyway.

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