Daily Archives: June 16, 2018

Morality Movies (BROADCAST NEWS & WALL STREET)

This was published at the end of my first year at the Reader, in their Christmas issue. –J.R.

BROADCAST NEWS *** (A must-see)

Directed and written by James L. Brooks

With Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, William Hurt, Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Joan Cusack, and Jack Nicholson.

WALL STREET ** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Oliver Stone

Written by Stone and Stanley Weiser

With Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Terence Stamp, Hal Holbrook, and Sylvia Miles.


Both Broadcast News and Wall Street score as punchy, energetic movies that are designed to feel as contemporary as possible without taking place in the literal present, and both pivot around a moral reckoning that accompanies economic cutbacks -– as if to remind us that this country’s Reagan-inspired spending spree, which tripled our trillion-dollar national debt, seems to be drawing to a fearful close. Apart from offering behind-the-scenes glimpses of their all-encompassing, hothouse professional turfs, both movies are built around the mise en scene of a moral crisis that splits the major characters apart –- each one charting a mutual seduction that leads to recriminations and the characters isolated in opposing moral camps. Yet the undisputed effectiveness of these films as entertainment seems at least partially predicated on fudging or at least mystifying the moral issues that they are bold enough to raise.… Read more »

Too Big for the Screen [on CHARLES MINGUS: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOG]

From the Chicago Reader, June 20, 2003. The posthumous Schuller-conducted premiere of Epitaph, incidentally, alluded to below, is now available on DVD, and is warmly recommended.  — J.R.

GuntherSchuller

Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Don McGlynn.

The sheer impossibility of encompassing jazz bassist, composer, and bandleader Charles Mingus (1922-’79) in a single film limits Don McGlynn’s ambitious 1997 documentary, Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog, from the outset. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it — it’s playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and Mingus’s second wife, Celia Mingus Zaentz, will lead a discussion after the June 27 screening — but if you don’t already know something about the man’s music this may not be the ideal place to start. I’d recommend instead one of his best early albums — The Clown, Tijuana Moods, East Coasting, Mingus Dynasty, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (the best one with Eric Dolphy), or Mingus at Monterey.

No single book has succeeded in doing full justice to Mingus either. Maybe it’s because he had a genius for straddling musical categories such as traditional, modern, avant-garde, jazz, and classical (as Gunther Schuller points out in one of this film’s interviews, Mingus studied Arnold Schoenberg’s music in his teens, during the 30s, when few people here were familiar with it).… Read more »