Tuesday, March 26, 2002

The Movie I Watched Last Night XIII
Sorry to take so long to publish these. I wrote 'em before, but then my browser froze. Bad browser! Bad! Even moments ago, after I'd written the previous sentences, my browser crashed. I think it's a conspiracy. A conspiracy against the movies.

Tuesday: V: The Original Miniseries
This originally aired in 1983, when I was 10. And it blew my mind. My friend Richie and I would cut V ads out of TV Guide and tape them to our bedroom doors. The book terrified me. On TV, Diana was the hottest. Mike was my hero -- and probably my inspiration to become a journalist. (Just kidding.) But watching this again on DVD almost 20 years later, I'm impressed. The story holds up well. The production isn't awful, given the year it was made. And I now understand layers of the story that completely flew over my head when I saw V as a kid. What did I miss? While I got the whole War of the Worlds-style alien invasion elements and the political realities of the resulting police state, I didn't understand the Holocaust allusions (even the blatant Anne Frank homage) or the McCarthy parallels of the ostracization of the scientists. V was a miniseries ahead of its time, and it takes the test of time well. Worth revisiting.

Wednesday: American Beauty
About time I watch this 1999 Oscar winner, eh? And just before A Beautiful Mind snagged its awards, too. Not sure why I waited so long. The movie is excellent in terms of balancing the tensions and edge of the solid characterizations and plotline with an understated, almost-hesitant subtlety. This movie could've gone over the top. Instead, the cast takes us just below the horizon, hinting at what's over the top, but restraining and refraining from overplaying their hand. The story's your basic male midlife crisis narrative (My friend Alex said, "It's such a man's movie!"), but it's really the story of self-examination, self-discovery, and self-expression. While it's a slight shame that Kevin Spacey's character reverts to teenage boyhood, the overall message is good: Know yourself. Then let others know who you are. Keeping secrets and quelling emotions doesn't help anyone. Even if it nets you an Oscar.

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