Yes, I do still exist. I saw my face on a milk carton today, and I thought it was high time I checked in. My new job as a professional newsperson has officially taken over my life after only two days. And I love it! But alas, that combined with my impending move (it’ll all be over after Saturday!) is keeping me from my dear, dear blogger friends. So chime in down there in the comments – how are you? What’s new with you wonderful people? And how awesome is Broadcast News, right?
Living out in South Dakota, it’s not very often one witnesses a world premiere of any kind, be it film or some new kind of farming implement. But last week I was treated to the former. Courtesy of up-and-coming director (and former college classmate of mine) Andrew Kightlinger, the film, You Don’t Know Bertha Constantine, is well on its way to bigger and better things than the Sioux Falls venue. The movie, which clocks in at about 30 minutes, follows the story of Bertha, whose husband unexpectedly croaks on top of her. The series of events that ensues following the unfortunate death takes us out into the rough terrain of the South Dakota badlands, where the film was shot on location. Bertha’s insistence on burying her husband in the spiritual manner to which he’d desired gets our heroine in a little trouble with the law. I’d hate to give any more away, as I’m sure many of you will be hearing about it in months to come (and will hopefully get the chance to see it at some point), as its recently qualified for the AMPAS Student Academy Awards program.
Kightlinger’s choice of story and locale make for a visually brilliant movie. The best of live action shorts tend to be ones that are just as eye-opening culturally and, often, spiritually as their full-length counterparts. Bertha may be a quick journey, but the characterization is wholly effective. Newcomer (and dear friend and former professor at my alma mater) Julia Pachoud Bennett is harrowing as the title character. Thanks to the excellent camera work, the unapologetic close-ups let us in to the highly skilled character work Bennett is able to achieve. All in all, I’m sure I’m highly biased and partial, but the finished product of Bertha is well worth your time. And I’d make the same claim had it been three hours long as opposed to 23 minutes. Check out the home page for the film here.
Naysayers be damned, you can’t get much more of a perfect film than The Godfather. Packed with brilliant performances, writing, scoring, cinematography (feel free to stop me at any point), costuming… basically the movie has it all. And though some would argue the very stellar Part II outdoes this 1972 original, I have to stick my guns (I’m sorry for that) and stay loyal to the Marlon Brando starrer. Here we see a family in transition – the aging Don Vito Corleon (Brando) is dealing with the changing landscape of the modern mafia. His eldest, hothead Santino “Sonny” (played with short-tempered gusto by James Caan) is itching to take over, while sniveling Fredo (the ideally cast John Cazale) can’t muster up the courage. And war hero Michael (brilliant newbie turned screen legend in his first major role, Al Pacino) can’t seem to keep out of the family business, despite the urging of his schoolteacher girlfriend, Kay (a young and pre-Annie Hall Diane Keaton). The story that Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola have set up is an age-old one: which son will take over the family business? Lord knows Connie (played by Coppola’s sister Talia Shire), with her abusive marriage and dastardly husband isn’t going anywhere near that top dog spot.
But enough of setting up plot, which I’m sure most people with a pulse are familiar with already. On to the reasons why this movie ranks as my No. 2 favorite of all time. As always, let’s start with the performances. Oscar switcheroo aside, Brando is at the top of his game in one of his last great performances as the don. His signature voice and bottom lip have been ridiculed in movies and TV incessantly ever since, so it’s easy to pass off his role as comical. But don’t disregard its original effect – Vito has been at this a long time, so don’t let his seemingly soft demeanor fool you. Caan is a young fireball in the Sonny role – I guess he really couldn’t shake that sort of part since, but at least he perfected it off the bat. Robert Duvall is quiet excellence as Tom Hagen, lawyer and family friend. You can see the desire in his eyes to play a bigger role in the Corleone business, but he keeps it in check for the duration. And Pacino, frankly, has never been better. He may’ve since become the poster child for hamminess in his more recent years, but Michael is so multi-dimensional. Small stature and a delicate speaking voice should not undermine the fact that a future cold-blooded killer is lying in his soul.
And as for the ladies, though Shire was obviously shown a wee bit of nepotism, her domestic scenes are weepy work that the actress does well with. The stand-out of the female set, though, is Keaton, whose quirky tendencies have become her wheelhouse, even though this auspicious beginning (this was her first major film role) called for much more stoic character work. But all of these cast members that have since become major players in the movie business would be nowhere without Puzo’s original source material. Thanks to his work with director and co-screenwriter Coppola, the iconic words and oft-repeated lines are each gems. When watching The Godfather it’s hard not to appreciate every bit of dialogue as a treat. And with Nino Rota’s signature trumpet-driven score behind it, the words fly off the page with such eerie tension.
I have an additional update for you devoted few that still remember my little blog that could. The next couple of weeks will be rife with frantic packing, reorganizing, moving, orientating, starting-new-jobbing, and the like. Now that I put aging another year behind me yesterday, it’s time to make it to May 1st in one piece. And all of this is the good news! Because, since it wouldn’t be a proper wonderful day without one thing to mar it, my computer’s display officially petered out yesterday (I’m working from a temporary loaner as we speak). So taking all this into consideration, I’ll be mostly computerless for the foreseeable future – or, probably about a week-and-a-half. I fully intend to return full force in May and catch up on all your brilliant posts! And I’m chipping away even more so on Best Actress of the ’80s, so expect a Great Big Academy Awards Project entry as scheduled! Well wishes to everyone out there in the blogosphere!
Well, the truth is, I’m not off daydreaming somewhere. In fact, after that extensive work on my big first round of Oscar predictions, my resources for writing have been a wee bit depleted for a few days! Add to that a potential move and a possible major life change in the job market, and Journalistic Skepticism is in a little bit of a limbo. But rest assured I’ll get my act together again soon and come back to the fold of regular movie blogging.