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, April 22, 2018

Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)

Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, and Jeremy Davies in Saving Private Ryan
Capt. Miller: Tom Hanks
Sgt. Horvath: Tom Sizemore
Pvt. Reiben: Edward Burns
Pvt. Jackson: Barry Pepper
Pvt. Mellish: Adam Goldberg
Pvt. Caparzo: Vin Diesel
T-4 Medic Wade: Giovanni Ribisi
Cpl. Upham: Jeremy Davies
Pvt. Ryan: Matt Damon
Capt. Hamill: Ted Danson
Sgt. Hill: Paul Giamatti
Lt. Col. Anderson: Dennis Farina
"Steamboat Willie": Joerg Stadler
Minnesota Ryan: Nathan Fillion
Gen. Marshall: Harve Presnell
War Dept. Col.: Dale Dye
War Dept. Col.: Bryan Cranston
Elderly Ryan: Harrison Young
Elderly Ryan's Wife: Kathleen Byron

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Robert Rodat
Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski
Production design: Thomas E. Sanders
Film editing: Michael Kahn
Music: John Williams

The criticisms usually leveled at Saving Private Ryan are that its framing scenes of the elderly Ryan visiting the cemetery in Normandy are superfluous and sentimental, that it trades on war-movie clichés such as the ethnically mixed company of soldiers (an Italian, a Jew, a Brooklynite, a Bible-quoting Southerner, and so on), that it eschews any portrayal of the enemy as other than cannon-fodder, and that there's no overall originality of vision on its director's part. And they're all valid criticisms. Are they outweighed by the sheer brilliance of Steven Spielberg's movie-making -- and that of his usual team of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, and composer John Williams? As a lover of movies I have to say they are. I would like Robert Rodat's screenplay to be edgier and more intelligent. I would like for the film to provoke thought and to give us a new vision on World War II. But each time I watch the film I come away admiring the way Spielberg and company push my reservations about it into the background as I'm caught once again by the masterly way they manipulate both the medium and its audience. I have learned to ask more of movies than Spielberg gives us -- the unique personal visions of Ozu and Hitchcock and Tarkovsky, for example -- but I'm also content to suspend my expectation that all movies should aspire to that standard and to let myself be manipulated into temporary submission to simple wonder at mastery of the medium.

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