ThePingOfPong

Pieces on Film, Prose and Music by a Nigerian

Tag: Hollywood

COMMENTS ON HOLLYWOOD: RE: AMADEUS AND LIBERAL ARTS

At the end of Amadeus I sat still in my chair, dumbfounded.

I asked myself, what is the appropriate length of time for existential meditation? How long are we allowed to contemplate the meaning of life? How can a film possibly examine the gamut of humanity in ninety minutes? An hour? Two hours? Three hours?… Then there is Amadeus.

Amadeus

 

That in three hours this film compresses millennia of the human condition without missing a beat is extraordinary. There is nothing like a work of art or artistes at the height of their powers. Milos Forman’s direction of this film is sublime. The scenes are masterstrokes of realism; the pacing, the staging. And F. Murray Abraham – dynamite! Not since Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood have I seen a character so fully formed. He inhabits the bitter old man (in make up!)  just as brilliantly as he plays the pious musician with the grace and trajectory of a fallen angel. But I feel (and I say this with some bias) that you credit, too, must go to Peter Shaffer. That Amadeus is his magnum opus. That (and this is strictly my personal opinion) to write this film required something of his life force because genius can only be drawn from an eternally unknowable place.

 
Genius is the film’s primary subject. What does it mean to desire genius, to possess genius, to behold genius, to appreciate genius, to covert genius and to destroy genius? What is genius to the world? What is genius worth? How far can genius, alone, go? Amadeus benefits from being a work of art from three sphere of genius: music, literary and cinematic. It is a testament to Shaffer’s ability, or genius, that every scene of this film feels entirely necessary, utterly indispensable, like Mozart said, if he were to remove one sound the entire piece would fall apart. We should advocate the creation of a Writer’s Cut.

 

Strangely, it comes full circle with Liberal Arts. The music. That the music, first, then the letters connect the dots between the two characters. Music, I am afraid, is, on some level, the most superior because of its primeval and sensory accessibility.

 

Liberal Arts posterI was moved and saddened that I didn’t watch Liberal Arts when it came out, couldn’t write a review or something.

Liberal Arts is the rare film on the kind of men of selective morality. Men scorned by society? The world?  For being conflicted in the idealism and realism. Men who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, or should I say willingness of nubile teenagers, that certain things are scared. Men who will pursue fantasies only to see them disillusioned by reality.

 

It was a sweet film. It raises difficult questions. Liberal Arts and Amadeus are or, or may very well be the story of our lives: Are we geniuses? Or are we the chroniclers of geniuses? Are we advanced? Or are we stunted?

 

Whatever the case maybe there are still wonders in cinema and I am glad we can share them—via email, perhaps, like the characters in Liberal Arts—and in euphoric agony.

 

Osang Abang

RAPID REVIEWS: GRUDGE MATCH

grudge-match-poster

Hollywood’s first vice is the franchise, a stream of films aping the first in the series while offering fleeting variations of set pieces. A close second is the remake, a mostly scene by scene recreation of an earlier film, released year later.

Films like Jason vs Freddy and Alien vs Predator, mean a third one, a hybrid of aforementioned vices, is budding. Ideally confined to video games and comics, for fans boasting an untested superiority, this third features outsized villains.

Peter Segal’s Grudge Match alters the format by using two recognisably human, if Hollywood kissed, heroes. Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone play Billy McDonnen and Henry Sharp, aged and retired boxers who come back to the ring.

In other words, De Niro reprises his role in “Raging Bull” and Stallone continues his post-Expendable career with an incarnation of “Rocky”.

A series of scenes alert us to the fact of their rivalry. Many years past each won a bout but Stallone’s Sharp retired before a deciding match could be staged. De Niro’s McDonnen has seethed ever since, baying for a decider. When a young fight promoter (Kevin Hart) convinces both to star in a video game and an ensuing squabble gets online, a fight is scheduled.

Their motivations differ: McDonnen wants to know why Sharp cancelled the rematch. And Sharp is broke and caring for an old friend (Alan Arkin, who gets the best lines.) But what would a grudge between two old mean be without a woman? So, the script introduces Sally Rose (Kim Bassinger) a woman with whom both boxers have a history.

Aware of its shamelessness, the film shows it’s in on the joke. De Niro after watching an old commercial featuring a young McDonnen turns to his co-viewers and says, “I never had jock itch, I’m just a great actor.”

“Grudge Match” story skewers in favour of Stallone. His “Rocky” was action; De Niro’s “Raging Bull” was drama. Grudge match is more action than drama. And the acting is invariably measured with both actors neither flailing nor truly pulling weight. Old age and loss are explored but not so much as to obscure the sheer absurdity of two old men not acting their age.

The audience can see this, but may still forgive. That is, as long as both actors don’t make it a habit.

RAPID REVIEWS: CARRIE

She's Back

She’s Back

The first Carrie film (based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel of same name,) released in 1976, is considered a horror classic in Hollywood. It followed high school outcast Carrie White’s humiliation at the hands of her peers upon her first period and culminated at her revenge on prom night after another humiliation.

Carrie the first, played by Sissy Spacek, hardly pretty easily came across as the bullied girl; the new one, a pale Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl from the Kick Ass films) is a conventional beauty— a far far cry from the ‘frog among swans’ Mr King described— so her ordeal is of a psychological origin, a low self-esteem brought about by the actions of her Christian fanatic mother, played by a mousy Julianne Moore, who claims, “The first sin is the sin of intercourse.”

It is the 21st century, so Carrie’s humiliation is updated through a YouTube upload, an act that leads the culprit, classmate Chris Hargensen, to be suspended from prom. From there, the film then becomes a series of revenge plots: Chris plans the prom humiliation, and Carrie counters.

But it isn’t a fair fight. With Carrie’s hormonal changes come telekinesis; she is able to move objects with her mind. While the first film was horror, based on bullying and vengeance, both taken too far, the current adaptation is more superhero than horror. A scene where Carrie tries out her new found powers in her bedroom recalls Peter Parker’s similar experiment in the Spiderman franchise.

This unexpected turn leads to an inconsistency in the characters, especially in Chris, who alternates between mean girl-ness and heartless villainy as the film itself tries and fails to find a right tone. Director Kimberly Peirce, one of few female directors in Hollywood, clearly sympathises with most of its female cast, treating Carrie’s initial humiliation with cinematic dignity, avoiding nudity previous director Brian De Palma allowed. Her “Carrie” is also imbued with colour symbolism. Carrie’s last name and pallor project purity; red appears often, from Carrie’s blood to an abandoned prom dress; Carrie herself picks a pink dress for prom.

Every remake’s challenge, deprived of suspense, is finding new angles to an old story, and it is on this score that “Carrie,” despite Peirce’s good intentions, fails.

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