I loved Roger Ebert’s review of Marie Antoinette. He wrote, “Coppola has been criticized in some circles for her use of a contemporary pop overlay -- hit songs, incongruous dialogue, jarring intrusions of the Now upon the Then. But no one ever lives as Then; it is always Now. Many characters in historical films seem somehow aware that they are living in the past. Marie seems to think she is a teenager living in the present, which of course she is -- and the contemporary pop references invite the audience to share her present with ours. Forman's Amadeus had a little of that, with its purple wigs.”
Marie Antoinette was a great movie. Watching it was like eating handfuls of dark Giradelli chocolate. The picture above is the opening shot, which would qualify as another superb example for Jim Emerson’s Opening Shots Project. In that image, you see everything you need to know about Marie Antoinette and what her movie is going to be about. Question – Was it essential to see her get beheaded? I don’t think so. It would have been too out of line with the rest of the movie, which took place almost entirely within her bored, cocooned existence in Versailles. Instead, Coppola connected the closing shot with the opening shot, which was the pitch-perfect way to go. Side note: when Marie Antoinette finally consummated her marriage to Louis XVI, everyone in my theater applauded.
For me, this has been the year of applauding audiences. They applauded when Samuel L. Jackson muttered the now famous obscenity-riddled line in Snakes on a Plane. They applauded when Marie Antoinette finally got laid, and they applauded during that hilarious closing shot of The Departed. Despite rumors of its demise, a love of movies is still alive and well in 2006, thank you very much.
Speaking of The Departed, I loved that movie. There was a scene that handled exposition so brilliantly - Leo's interview. Leo's family background is actually quite crucial to the story. But it was disseminated in the film through that interview and so it was also about A) whether Leo would get the job, B) a mind-game in which Wahlberg and Sheen tried to convince him he's nothing and no one so he'll accept the assignment they want to give him, C) it was thrown in his face while he was being verbally beaten down by Wahlberg so that Leo would always know who's in control, and D) it was also about how well Leo would handle the pressure. This scene also ran tangent with other scenes taking place at the same time, so these moments were given to us in brief doses.
I could just hear the screenwriting music in Bill Monahan's head as I watched that movie - quick set up, quick set up, quick set up, PAY OFF, quick set up, quick set up, IMPORTANT SET UP SLOW DOWN, quick set up, quick set up, PAY OFF. And then the end was just PAY OFF, PAY OFF, PAY OFF. And quick set up #2 was meant for PAY OFF #10. Just great. And the dialogue was so layered, full of manipulation, evasion, subtext, mind-games, the works.
However, was The Departed a Scorsese masterpiece? Don’t think so. Jim Emerson had a couple of posts on his site on why it’s not a masterpiece here and here. It must also be noted that Emerson wrote a sensational piece for MSN Movies about all of Scorsese’s morally conflicted characters called Goodfellas and Badfellas. Just great.
Next, that angry Terence Davies interview in the Guardian in which he said, “You're up against people who know nothing, who have done a media degree or, worst of all, have done the Robert McKee lectures.” Why is that worst of all? “Because they've done a great deal of damage. Who can turn round and say it's good to have a climax on page six? Who said so? Robert McKee, and his theories are based on Casablanca, which was being written as it was being shot. So you're up against that level of philistinism. It beggars belief.” Hehehe…
This shout-out’s been long overdue. MaryAn Batchellor has a great post highlighting the best of her blog on her One Year Anniversary. She also did a great study on exposition: Properly Exposing, Exposition ABC’s, and Over Exposure.
I loved Matt Spira’s recent posts on the Asian Film Market.
Don’t miss Dennis Cozzalio’s entertaining Robert Aldrich blog-a-thon.
Unk's got a new site and his new post I get it, but I don't get it was great fun. He also has a cool new forum.
Is your head spinning yet?
And finally a shout-out to myself, if you don’t mind. I recently posted on TriggerStreet (for fun for myself) a script that was all about practicing the fine art of subtext in dialogue. I incorporated as many examples from our study as I could and gave everyone who participated a little shout-out in one scene. It’s called The Gigolo & The Vicious Vixen.