A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)

George Clooney, Ving Rhames, and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight
Jack Foley: George Clooney
Karen Sisco: Jennifer Lopez
Buddy Bragg: Ving Rhames
Maurice Miller: Don Cheadle
Adele: Catherine Keener
Marshal Sisco: Dennis Farina
Glenn Michaels: Steve Zahn
Richard Ripley: Albert Brooks
Chino: Luis Guzmán
Kenneth: Isaiah Washington
White Boy Bob: Keith Loneker
Moselle: Viola Davis
Midge: Nancy Allen
Hejira Henry: Samuel L. Jackson
Ray Nicolette: Michael Keaton

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Scott Frank
Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard
Cinematography: Elliot Davis
Film editing: Anne V. Coates

When George Clooney left ER in 1999, there were some who thought it was a case of David Caruso Syndrome: a TV star whose ego had led him to think he had outgrown the medium that made him famous and was ready for movie stardom. There was evidence to support this premise: Clooney had done a disastrous turn as Batman in Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin (1997), a film that Clooney himself has disowned, and his forgettable appearances as a leading man with Michelle Pfeiffer in the romantic comedy One Fine Day (Michael Hoffman, 1996) and with Nicole Kidman in the thriller The Peacemaker (Mimi Leder, 1997) had done little to establish his credibility as a film actor. The one exception was Out of Sight, and among other things it cemented a working relationship with the director who had brought out the best in Clooney, Steven Soderbergh. The two have since worked together numerous times, with Soderbergh serving as director and/or producer, as well as mentoring Clooney's own directing and producing career. What Soderbergh found in Clooney was a kind of puckishness and vulnerability that has been further developed into broad comedy by directors like Joel and Ethan Coen in such films as O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) and Hail, Caesar! (2016). But at the same time, Soderbergh helped Clooney figure out how to be a romantic leading man: His scenes with Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight have a kind of heat that Clooney never generated even with Pfeiffer or Kidman. That said, the romantic scenes in Out of Sight are probably the least entertaining part of the film. Much better are the scenes in which Clooney plays off against such wizardly character actors as Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, and Albert Brooks. Out of Sight puts such superb actors as Catherine Keener and Viola Davis in tiny roles, and also supplies unbilled cameos for Michael Keaton -- as Ray Nicolette, the character he played in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) -- and Samuel L. Jackson. It's wittily put together, with such teases as the opening sequence in which Clooney's Jack Foley angrily dashes his necktie to the ground before going across the street to rob a bank -- an action that isn't explained until halfway through the film, after numerous flashbacks and setting changes. It includes audacious surprises, such as the macabre-comic death of White Boy Bob, whose klutziness has been subtly hinted several times before he brains himself with a slip on the staircase. (Clooney's reaction to the death is priceless.)

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