Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Fuck Me Your Majesty!

I know, I know. It’s inexcusable to be incommunicado for so long, but
I’m very sorry. I’ve been working lots of T.V. shows which means no
access to a computer. But I’m back and you might actually be
recieving two emails today because I have a few very important things
to talk about. First though, I promised a movie countdown and we’re
on to number 2 in the final countdown.

So here goes. My second favorite movie of all time
is…………AMERICAN BEAUTY. I can remember exactly where I was for
almost all movies that have had a profound impact on my life. I can
remember what theater, who I was with, I can remember my frame of
mind, it’s a little weird, but whatever. American Beauty will always
stay with me as a movie that just got it right. Now I know a lot of
people that think movies should be an escape. Why go see a movie that
portrays how miserable life can be? And I totally get that arguement,
I just don’t agree with it.

The brilliance of American Beauty is how spot on it is. It’s a real
portrayal of a real American family. Who doesn’t know people like
this? People who like to pretend that everything is great, when
everything is falling apart. And the amazing part of this movie is
that this theme permeates all the characters in a variety of different
ways. From Annette Benning (who was totally robbed of an Oscar for
that performance), to Kevin Spacey (who deserved his Oscar), to Chris
Cooper (hello, who knew he had it in him?) and Allison Janney (is
there any role she can’t play?). American Beauty is the perfect
movie.

It starts out in the Sunset Boulevard type of noir
narrative…basically, it’s narrated by a dead guy who tells you he’s
dead, and takes you from a turning point to his death. I love the
noirish aspects of the movie: we hear everything from Lester’s (Kevin
Spacey) point of view, it’s a dark view of life (a.k.a. it’s
realistic), and the true mystery is who kills Lester Burnham, which we
find out at the end in a huge climax.

But that’s not enough to make it my favorite movie ever. I mean, I
love noir movies but none of them are in the top five. I think it’s
really the movie’s catchphrase that says it all…Look Closer. That’s
the thing about this film is it’s really all about what we are
underneath everything. What are we beneath the labels and the facade
that we put on for the rest of the world? And everyone does this,
everyone has some side of front that they put up in public, but what
are we beneath all that? American Beauty really explores this.

We all know that Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey were absolutely
flawless in those roles, but I want to talk about the other adults.
The underrated ones. Chris Cooper and Allison Janney are amazing in
their roles. Allison Janney is someone I always associate with
comedy. The first roles I saw her in were 10 Things I Hate About You
and Drop Dead Gorgeous, both comedies, both of which she’s
ridiculously hilarious in. I’ve seen Drop Dead Gorgeous about 8
million times and I still practically pee myself every time she comes
on screen with her Minnesota accent. But in American Beauty she is
silent almost the whole time. She stares off into space blankly, she
says very little, but when she does speak it’s always something like
‘would you like some bacon?’ She’s like a ghost. That performance
is so amazing it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Now, Chris Cooper had definitely been lauded for his performance…you
might want to skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t seen the
movie. As I was saying, Chris Cooper has been lauded for his
performance, but he’s always overshadowed by Kevin Spacey. And sure,
Kevin Spacey was great, and yes he’s the lead, but Chris Cooper plays
the best uptight military man there is, and makes the best turn around
in film history. I mean, who sees it coming when he kisses Kevin
Spacey at the end of the film. It’s just amazing, and the
vulnerability in such a tough man is…I mean, that’s not easy to do.

As great as the adult actors are, and they are great, I always
identified with the teenage characters. I mean who hasn’t felt
completely embarrassed by their parents in one way or another (as most
of you know my parents live to embarrass me and try to do it whenever
possible). But also, as a teenager, who hasn’t been swayed by their
friends opinion, who hasn’t tried to fit in. At the beginning of the
movie there is a great scene where the two girls (Mena Suvari and
Thora Birch) are cheerleading, but they aren’t paying attention to the
basketball game at all, nor do they care what is going on. This is
the perfect example. They think they are supposed to be cheerleaders,
but they don’t give a crap about basketball. And of course, there’s
the big reveal, where we find out Mena Suvari’s character is a virgin,
even though she’s been talking about how much sex she’s had throughout
the entire movie. I love this because I know plenty of people who did
something like this in high school, exaggerating how far they’d gone
or what they’d done. It just rang true to me.

I remember leaving the theater (the Cinema 9 to be exact) with my mom
and both of us couldn’t speak. We just kind of blankly walked out of
the theater looking like deer in headlights. And I remember after
that first viewing being very struck by the relationship, or
infatuation, between Kevin Spacey’s character and Mena Suvari’s
character. I mean, it just seemed so wrong. But after my twentieth
viewing or so I now see everything differently. Now there are more
themes and instances that I find poignant. I love the humor.
American Beauty contains one of the funniest lines in cinema…I’ll
give you a hint, it’s the title of this email. When Annette Bening is
cheating on her husband with the real estate king she yells this out;
I pretty much think it’s the funniest line ever. The thing that’s
amazing about the use of humor in American Beauty is how it goes from
these great funny moments, to total seriousness. The best example is
when Annette Bening in her slip chants ‘I will sell this house today’
quickly turns into her breaking down and then slapping herself in the
face to try to stop crying. I mean, that scene alone should have won
her the oscar.

And I can’t talk about the film without talking about he music.
Thomas Newman’s haunting score really sets the tone for the whole
movie. It’s full of chimes and xylophones, which have a sort of
hollow sound. They’re rich but they almost lack a center. Isn’t that
a great metaphor for the film.

American Beauty is one of those films that has only gotten better and
more poignant the more I’ve watched it. It gets more poignant the
older I get. It gets richer and richer the farther I get into
‘adulthood.’ Even though it’s not my favorite movie of all time, it
may actually be the best movie of all time.

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t
take it…and my heart is going to cave in.”

Peace, Love, and Rose Petals,
Julia

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October 18, 2007 - Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Music, Oscars

1 Comment »

  1. Agreed and well said.

    Comment by M. Wade Nichols | October 22, 2008 | Reply


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