Daily Archives: July 20, 2001

Imitation Flavors

From the Chicago Reader (July 20, 2001). — J.R.

America’s Sweethearts

Rating * Has redeeming facet

Directed by Joe Roth

Written by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan

With Julia Roberts, Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, and Christopher Walken.

The Score

Rating ** Worth seeing

Directed by Frank Oz

Written by Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs, Scott Marshall Smith, and Daniel E. Taylor

With Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett, Marlon Brando, and Gary Farmer.

“Talent means nothing if you don’t make the right choices,” says seasoned safecracker and jazz-club manager Robert De Niro in The Score, as he sets up “one last score” before he quits the game for good. It’s the only sensible thing anyone says in either this movie or America’s Sweethearts, a clunky ribbing of the movie industry, and whoever was making the big choices about these pictures should have taken it as advice. Both appear to be agents’ packages first and movies second, so that even though they’re trying hard to recapture the feel of Hollywood standbys — the heist thriller and the satiric screwball comedy — they seem to proceed from the premise that all that’s required is to throw the right number of “talented” elements in the same direction.… Read more »

A Constant Forge

These days, most accounts of John Cassavetes’s work and career tend to be either uncomprehending dismissals, which often wrongly assume that his scripts were mainly improvised by his actors, or uncritical hagiography. At least the hagiography is better informed, and this is especially true of Charles Kiselyak’s 200-minute video documentary, finished last year–possibly the most complete look at the man we’ve had yet and much easier to follow than most of the books published about him. The narration is drawn from Cassavetes’s own words–a drawback as well as a plus, because sometimes he created as much confusion around his work as his detractors–but the biggest value of this chronicle lies in the interviews with most of the writer-director’s main actors, including Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel, Lelia Goldoni, and Lynn Carlin, who perceptively discuss their own performances and those of their colleagues. We even get some insights into Cassavetes’s theater work, from Jon Voight and Carol Kane, among others, and into his handling of music in his films–subjects that are usually neglected in other accounts. There’s also a generous supply of clips, many of which will mean a lot more to those who already know the films. To be shown on DigaBeta video as part of the Film Center’s ongoing Cassavetes retrospective.… Read more »