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Moriarty's Review Round-Up! CLOSER! MILLION DOLLAR BABY! BAD EDUCATION! IN GOOD COMPANY!

Published at: Oct. 15, 2008, 1:57 a.m. CST by Moriarty

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Harry already wished all of you a Merry Christmas, so allow me to chime in and add that I hope you have a happy new year. I hope the season is treating you well overall. I’ve had a bit of the sweet and sour so far. On the one hand, things couldn’t be any more joyous on a personal level. Mrs. Moriarty and I had some remarkable recent news, and we’re celebrating the impending expansion of the immediate family. I’ve got one film that’s out to directors right now for a possible spring shoot, I just started one new job and think I’m about to start another, and there are a slew of possibilities for the year ahead. On the other hand, my computer (not quite 15 months old) is in the process of taking one final massive shit on my desk even as I type this. The apartment above mine caught fire, driving me out of my office and away from my DSL line thanks to smoke and water damage. It’s been frustrating, too, since there are any number of articles I’ve wanted to write, including my BNAT coverage, interviews with both Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, my last DVD Shelf column of the year, and a slew of reviews for the new holiday films.

After all... ‘tis the season, right? I’ve done a fair job of keeping up with movies this year, but I’ve missed some surprising titles and am in the midst of correcting that right now. I’ve been using my WGA card, the backlog on my own shelves, and the kindess of friends with Academy screeners, devouring four or five films a day for the last week. I’ve gotten off to a good start, and thought I’d share some impressions with you. I’ll say this... I’ve already started some preliminary work on my top ten list for this year, and I think 2004’s been a feast for anyone willing to do the legwork. There are a lot of great films out there, and actually narrowing things down to ten will be a fairly brutal process. Any year I really have to struggle to pare things down, I feel lucky. And as always, the year’s really stacked with a lot of heavy hitters just now hitting theaters around the country.

CLOSER

I’ve read Patrick Marber’s play, but I’ve never seen a production of it. It seemed to me that his screenplay adaptation is a fairly faithful translation of his own work, which makes Mike Nichols an ideal choice as director. He’s always moved back and forth from stage to screen with ease, and he’s made some great plays-turned-movies in his time, like WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and ANGELS IN AMERICA. Anyone trying to compare his new film to his savage ‘70’s classic, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, is missing the point. The works both deal ostensibly with sex, but they couldn’t approach the material more differently. CARNAL was hot-blooded, full of explosive fury, while CLOSER is much colder, more more of a simmer.

At heart, it’s a slight piece of material. There’s not a lot to this squaredance of casual cruelty, but Mike Nichols has done a nice job of elevating things as much as possible. It’s dangerous to cast movie stars in a piece like this, because they can either unbalance the intentions of the piece or force a director to soften harsh material because of ego. Thankfully, neither is the case here. Nichols gets good work out of all four of his actors, and it’s nice to see that he didn’t try and open the piece up or add extra characters who aren’t needed. All that matters is what happens between the four people who make up these two couples: Dan (Jude Law) and Alice (Natalie Portman) and Larry (Clive Owen) and Anna (Julia Roberts).

The film opens with an accident that brings Dan and Alice together, and there’s a nice evolution to the attraction between them. As the film moves from scene to scene, time can be a slippery thing, and there are some big leaps forward, whole years rushing by in a single cut. Dan and Alice end up living together, and he’s about to have a book published, which is what brings him into contact with Anna, a photographer hired to take the picture for the book jacket. Dan falls for her, and there’s a momentary transgression. It’s really just a minor thing, considering all the fallout that results from it, and what really causes the problems isn’t a single kiss... it’s the way everyone reacts to that kiss. As soon as it happens, Alice finds out about it, and she confronts each of them in her own way. That first scene between Portman and Roberts is electric, and Portman’s work should finally serve notice that she is an adult now. She is the heart of the film, the secret engine that drives everything. You could make the case for Jude Law as the lead, but Dan never seems fully aware of how he’s being controlled by Alice. The pressures she puts on him, the things she says to Larry after his disastrous marriage to Anna... she expertly plays games with everyone in the film, and when everything comes together by the end, Dan realizes that he may never have known her at all. Even worse, he realizes that he may be poorer for having missed the opportunity while he had it.

Much of the action of the film is driven by fate or chance: a mistimed step into the street, a practical joke on an anonymous stranger, an encounter in a strip club. Tiny moments add up to profound life changes very quickly. Each of these characters has a different definition for words like “need” or “love,” and how they interpret those things is quite revealing. Jude Law plays the weaker, uglier side of his ALFIE persona here, a guy who loves the chase but doesn’t know what to do once he gets the girl. He’s a marvel of insecurity. Julia Roberts is great as a woman who should know better, someone who seems to need a certain amount of drama and misery in her life in order to feel complete. Clive Owen’s an animal, a big bag of testosterone, and watching him as he figures out the rules of hits particular game is the most entertaining thing about the film. By the time we’ve come full circle to the image of Natalie Portman walking down a crowded sidewalk, turning heads to the sound of that same great Damien Rice song, it’s been a rough ride, and everyone’s nursing some new scars. This may not have the same lasting power of the very best work that Nichols has done, but seriously... what does? CLOSER confirms that Nichols is still able to make smart, cutting films about the distance between the heart and what it yearns.

IN GOOD COMPANY

IN GOOD COMPANY is a simple, likeable, forgettable little comedy, which is to say that it’s the sort of film that is not only functional, but actually enjoyable while you’re sitting there watching it, but when you try to describe it to someone the next day, it’s hard. There aren’t a lot of great moments or memorable scenes or really cutting dialogue you want to quote, but there’s a certain amount of amiable charm to the enterprise that’s hard to deny, and I think it’s safe to credit Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid with most of that.

They’re both genuinely charming in the movie. Dan Foreman (Quaid) is the ad sales manager for a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED-style magazine until his parent company gets bought out by a mega-conglomerate owned by Teddy K (Malcolm McDowell in a cameo role), a supershark a la Trump or Murdoch. Dan gets demoted to make room for Carter Duryea (Grace), a kid half his age. From Dan’s perspective, the kid’s got the world by the balls. Carter’s not exactly happy, though. His wife Kimberly (Selma Blair in a cameo role) walks out on him, he smashes the front end of the Porsche he buys before he even leaves the dealership, and he’s scared that he may not know what he’s doing in his new job. He tries to bury his loneliness with work, and he sees Dan, a good family man, and he can’t help but be jealous.

That’s a rich setup with lots of potential, and for a while, it looks like the film is working, really hitting on all cylinders. The great comic complication comes in the shape of Scarlett Johansen as Dan’s college student daughter Alex, and Carter gets completely swept off his feet by her. Unfortunately, once the film splits its focus, it starts to falter. It never decides if it’s about Quaid and Grace or Grace and Johansen. Aside from one brief confrontation, the two relationships barely play off of one another at all. It’s a shame, too. I wanted to like the film more. It’s handsomely made, and Paul Weitz has a nice sense of how to build his scenes visually. It just isn’t a fully-baked script. Ultimately, this is no ABOUT A BOY. That film managed to draw together all of its character threads so well that you found yourself rooting for the conventional finish. It earned it, so it didn’t feel like a cheat. Here, it’s like Weitz wanted to defy convention, but he didn’t have a better ending in mind. As a result, Johansen just sort of gets lost, forgotten almost completely during the third act of the film. Still, if you’re a fan of either of the lead actors, chance are you’re going to find something to like here.

MILLION DOLLAR BABY

I feel strange about my reaction to Clint Eastwood’s films as a director these days. I thought last year’s MYSTIC RIVER was instantly overrated and deeply overwrought, a mess with some operatic flourishes that seemed to dazzle people enough to blind them to its faults. I hated feeling that way, too.

I was raised on Clint Eastwood’s films. He was one of the staples of my dad’s cinematic diet. I’m the kind of Clint Eastwood fan that owns stuff like COOGAN’S BLUFF on DVD. I’m crazy about many of the films he directed, and not just the easy-to-like stuff like UNFORGIVEN, either. BIRD, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART, and BRONCO BILLY are all favorites of mine, films worth revisiting often. He’s made a lot of average or even weak films over the years, though, including MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL and A PERFECT WORLD. I remember when I was managing a theater in Sherman Oaks, and I had to go in one Tuesday morning to host an exhibitor’s screening for THE ROOKIE, which was one of the big Christmas movies for Warner Bros. that year. Eastwood showed up at the breakfast event, and since I was the manager on duty, it was my job to escort him around. I ended up sitting next to him during the film, which I pretty much despised. It was the most uncomfortable two hours imaginable, and Eastwood kept looking at the faces of those of us sitting around him. At the end of the film, he turned to us and said, “What did you think?” I didn’t even manage an answer, trying to figure out how to answer tactfully but honestly, before he just shook his head and said, “Me, neither.” How can you not like a guy like that? With these last few films, though, it feels like the critical press has decided that now is the time to rally around Eastwood’s body of work and celebrate everything he’s accomplished, and not just what we’re actually seeing onscreen. At least with MILLION DOLLAR BABY, there’s something of merit going on. I’m just not convinced this is the masterpiece that so many people seem to be proclaiming. Ignore the over-exuberant hype or it’ll ruin the film for you. This is a small movie, a modest story, and its virtues are quiet ones. If this is, as rumored, Clint’s last movie, then he’s chosen to go out in a minor key.

Maggie (Hillary Swank) wants to be a fighter. It’s that simple. She doesn’t care that she’s 31, that she’s had no training, or that she doesn’t seem to exhibit any particular natural skill for it. She simply wants to be a fighter, and she sets her mind on one particular trainer, a grizzled old gym owner named Frankie Dunn (Eastwood). He’s a guy who is nursing a lot of disappointments in his life. Every time he trains a fighter well enough for them to get a shot at the title, they leave him, just like it appears his daughter did at some point. He spends part of every single day in church, to the exasperation of the priest he peppers with relentless questions like verbal rabbit punches, unable to stop sparring wherever he goes. He wants nothing to do with Maggie at first, but of course he eventually changes his mind. He has to, or there’s no movie. Screenwriter Paul Haggis, working from a collection of short stories by F.X. Toole, a real life fight trainer writing under a pseudonym, paints in a lot of quirky detail for each of his characters, filling Frankie’s gym with all sorts of colorful eccentrics, and there’s a glib likeability to the first half of the film. I know that Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have worked together before, and they’ve certainly got the same easy chemistry that they had in UNFORGIVEN during their scenes together. Freeman’s narration is ham-handed and obvious, though, and more than anything, it’s unnecessary. The only part that really works is the ending, where Freeman’s writing someone a letter. The rest of it just belabors the point. Maybe the simple truth of it is that by this point, we know all of Freeman’s tricks as an actor. It’s been a long time since he surprised me in anything. At least Eastwood cries here, something I’ve never seen before. Technically, it’s as professional as can be, the aesthetic that Eastwood favors. Tom Stern’s cinematography is crisp and polished, particularly in the fight scenes, punctuated beautifully by Joel Cox’s cutting, and the score by Eastwood himself is effective, supporting without underlining.

Much has been made of the film’s narrative “left hook” that turns this from a simple boxing picture into something else... only it really doesn’t. It’s a nicely handled melodramatic twist a la THE CHAMP or BRIAN’S SONG, and it gives Eastwood that chance to shed a few tears. This is one of the year’s two most shameless tear-jerkers, and without being too spoiler-specific, I’ll say that this would make a brutal double-feature with THE SEA INSIDE. Eastwood’s real purpose here isn’t making a feel-good sports film about triumph. He wanted to pose a difficult moral question, but he wanted to stack the deck first so your sympathy would be fully engaged. It’s tastefully made, to be sure, but it’s hardly a subtle film. You’ll respond; you’ll have no choice. What redeems the film is the deeply-felt humanity that has become Eastwood’s signature as a director. No matter how damaged or broken or dark some character is, Eastwood does his best to impart something honest about them, something you can identify with. Maybe that’s why people are responding so strongly. Look... if it’s old-fashioned you want, step right up. You’ll get two scoops here. It’s obvious that Eastwood cared deeply about the story he was telling, and Swank couldn’t work any harder if she tried. She lays herself out there, and even if I feel like it’s a fairly shallow performance, all surface, it’s still impressive in a way. If they gave awards based on sheer sincerity, MILLION DOLLAR BABY would be poised for a clean sweep.

BAD EDUCATION

Pedro Almodovar’s latest film is the exact opposite, structure-wise, from Eastwood’s. Almodovar loves to play with time and conventions of narrative, and this picture plays like Queer Hitchcock, sly and subversive and stylish as hell. The only thing that puzzles me is why this film was rated NC-17. It strikes me as the most arbitrary and, yes, homophobic decision the MPAA has made in recent memory. There are some scenes with some very direct sexual material, but it’s all suggested. There’s no frontal nudity in the film at all. The only possible reason they could have given the film this rating is because there are gay sex scenes. Context should count, and beneath the hyperslick thriller surface, this is a film about guilt, fear, and, yes, homophobia.

Enrique Goded (Amenabar regular Fele Martinez) is a successful young writer/director who finds himself between projects. He’s cutting stories out of tabloids, trying to find something that will inspire his next film. All of a sudden, inspiration walks into his office. A young man (Gael Garcia Bernal), claiming to be a childhood classmate named Ignacio, gives Enrique a short story he claims to have written. The story affects Enrique very deeply, since he lived through some of it and only suspected the rest, and he decides to make it his next film, never dreaming where this particular artistic journey is going to take him. As the events of the story play out and we watch the film be made, reality becomes more and more elastic. Bernal also plays Zahara, a striking drag queen with secrets and an agenda, the main character of the story. Much of the seductive pleasure of the film comes from the way these stories inform one another, contradict one another, and then finally, tragically, become one another. Everything spins off of the actions of Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) and his failure to control his lust for a boy he should have been protecting and teaching.

In a way, this is the flip side of MYSTIC RIVER. I never believed that Tim Robbins was really carrying the scars of that character, or that he could be driven to do what he did in that film. MYSTIC RIVER wanted to play things realistic, but ultimately succumbed to its own broadest melodramatic impulses. Here, the entire film is drenched in the conventions of film noir and melodrama, but it gets to some core truths about the saddest corners of human behavior. Overall, I run hot and cold on the work of Almodovar. The films of his that I like, I tend to like a whole lot, and that’s the case this time. The cast is great, and this seems to cement Bernal’s place at the top of his generation of actors. Between this and THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES this year, he’s shown amazing range, and he seems fearless. He also seems to be incapable of dishonesty. Everything he does reads real, no matter how outrageous. He grounds Almodovar’s most outsized camp instincts. Cacho plays a complicated monster, and he does and impressive job of playing him at two ages, at two totally different crossroads in his life. Nacho Perez and Raul Garcia Forneiro play Ignacio and Enrique as kids through some very harrowing scenes, and they both do tremendous work. Special mention must be made of the work by Jose Luis Alcaine, whose cinematography manages to evoke the most dramatic film noir without ever smothering the real emotion of the piece. To a certain degree, this is a style exercise, but when you’re dealing with a stylist as in command as Almodovar seems to be right now, that can be enough.

I’m going to keep posting articles all week, and I’m already working on reviews for SIDEWAYS, HOTEL RWANDA, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, THE AVIATOR, FINDING NEVERLAND, THE ASSASINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, BEYOND THE SEA, SPANGLISH, OCEAN’S 12, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, THE WOODSMAN and more. Mainlining movies like this has got me feeling drunk, so for now, I’ll go sleep it off and then get back to it in the morning. It’s been nice to finally be able to get at least some of this off my chest, and like I said... best wishes to all of you.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback

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  • Dec. 28, 2004, 5:16 a.m. CST

    Fire! Fire!

    by Huneybee

    Too bad about the computer issues, but it's good to hear you and the Missus weren't harmed. And congrats on the project in development...good luck and expect to go overbudget, though. -- Closer, Million Dollar Baby and Bad Education (if I can find it, which is doubtful) all sound good and I'll catch them on DVD if need be. Thanks!

  • Million Dollar Baby seems like over hyped nonsense to me as well but that still doesn't justify your idiotic comments regarding Morgan Freeman. Freeman is a brilliant talent, easily one of the best actors working today, and the fact that you personally think the man's range has been played out really doesn't amount to much considering you're a fucking hack and he's Morgan Freeman. What planet are you and Harry from, anyways? Both of you assholes have become quite the critics of late, not merely critiquing the work in front of you but making broad, often nasty statements regarding talented people as if either one of you posers has contributed anything to the creative community in any capacity. If you didn't like the film, fine, but why in the name of god would you make a statement like that about Freeman? Does it make you feel like a bigger man than you are, inflating that ego another few sizes? Do you think yourself witty and auteur, a true connoisseur of cinema and possessing such refined tastes and knowledge of film that you have the right to insult people who have molded the face of cinema for decades with their talent? You know, I liked this site so much more when it was a place to come and appreciate films. Now look at you and Harry: A couple of elitist wannabes. I really am looking forward to seeing you and Harry's projects eventually released. What I'm looking forward to even more is you personally getting a large dose of your own nasty, foul tasting medicine. Karma is a bitch and I have a feeling it will be gunning for you strapped with a 20-inch metallic dildo and intending to ram it up your smug ass.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Cry Me A River

    by drew mcweeny

    Oh, no, I made an actual critical comment regarding someone who plays the same roles over and over and over and over. Oh, no. Quick, the sky is falling. I'm sure Morgan Freeman's fragile ego will survive the fact that I think he's become lazy casting as of late. You'd think I had killed one of his children and eaten them based on your talkback. Seriously... were you just waiting for my return to the site to give you something to cry about?

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 7:12 a.m. CST

    Whaaaaa?

    by Captain Opus

    I disregarded your opinion once you called A Perfect World weak. Maybe you should give it another look.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 7:34 a.m. CST

    So what about those Rambo/Lynch dvds you were giving away?

    by Son Of Batboy

    Did they burn up in the fire? Never saw one frick'n word about the winners since the thing finished last month

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Some Actors Always Play The Same Roles

    by Dog Of Mystery

    And some play diverse ones. I can't see Morgan Freeman playing The Grinch, but that doesn't mean he's a poorer or lazier actor than Jim Carrey.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 8:17 a.m. CST

    Natalie Portman;s CUNT TASTES LIKE HEAVEN.....

    by MentallyMariah

    I really hope sweet Natalie gets a nomination, she really deserves one. She is such a gifted actress and I mean in both films this year, she has the ability to break your heart and make you smile at the same time. There is one scene in the briliant Closer when she tells Jude Law that he had a choice...She cries and in a second, she breaks your heart...now back to her cunt....yes I love that line in the Strip Club when she tells CLIVE her Cunt tastes like Heaven...One of my fave scenes of the year is Miss Portman playing mind games with Mr.Owen...Props to Mike Nichols, I ran home after watching Closer and rented Angels in America! WOW! 6 Hours of Masterpiece and Genius!!! If you have seen either, go out and watch them!! Closer ROCKED!!!

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 9:13 a.m. CST

    Portman

    by Itchy

    I still haven't gotten a straight answer - does she show ANYTHING in that movie ? Teasing us with alleged beaver shots that didn't make the cut is just cruel.

  • Because I do think he's a great actor, I don't think we've seen all his tricks, but I think he's been playing the same basic part over and over again. Trouble is, I hate it when he has faults in a movie. Remember Nurse Betty? That hurt when he ended up dead, he has a presence that makes you want to believe in him. I've never seen him in his break through role as the pimp in Street Smart though, so maybe that's all I need to do. Of course, Mori, you know just because you said it don't make it true either. I think you can live if someone bitches about your review on the net.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 10:01 a.m. CST

    beaver shots

    by gredenko

    if you see the film, you'll be glad the 'beaver shots' were cut. the scene is hard enough to watch as it is. and yes mori, please get that sideways review up pronto--lord knows we have all been waiting for a review of a movie that's been out for a couple months! here's a tip: look at these lists of things you say you are going to do at the end of every column and cut out 2 or 3 of them each time because they are dated or irrelevant and then you won't leave people thinking that you never accomplish any of them.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 10:23 a.m. CST

    I agree with Vash

    by devil0509

    Moriarty's reviews come with such self-importance and ego, you'd have the believe it was someone writing in who had actually succeeded in the movie business. But no, it's just a web site hack, who's reviews don't even qualify for the "cream of the crop category" over at Rotten Tomatoes. If Morgan Freeman never works another day in his life; if, even worse, he spends the rest of his life doing Wayans bros movies, he will have contributed more to film than Moriarty could ever hope to. Feel free to criticize a performance you don't like, Moriarty, that's what you're supposed to do in a review. But go back and read your reviews over the last couple of years. You haven't done enough to merit the ego with which you write. Even your talkback name - "the real moriarty" - shows your arrogance. What, are there moriarty impersonators out there? Are people desperately trying to pass themselves off as you? Get over yourself.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 10:41 a.m. CST

    A Sideways review? Thank god!

    by Garbageman33

    What's next? Pretty Woman?

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Mori you nailed it!

    by Gilkuliehe

    About MYSTIC RIVER, I mean. That's EXACTLY how I feel about that movie, and I'm so glad someone outthere thinks the same. Really, I feel less alone in the world now, and that's something. On the other hand, since when is Fele Mart

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 10:59 a.m. CST

    does anyone promise more than mori and never come thru?

    by ZO

    seriously.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 11:35 a.m. CST

    Why all the hate for critics?

    by abcdefz1

    It would be interesting to know why people hate critics so much (but also read them so much). Of course, there's a certain amount of arrogance in believing your opinion is worth putting out there for all the world to see; is that news? Criticism is not imposed upon anyone; it

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Not Eastwood's last movie, by the way

    by abcdefz1

    ...at least, he's planning his next movie, according to IMDB. Quote: "The Oscar-winning director is determined to maintain historical authenticity when he casts World War Two epic Flags Of Our Fathers, about the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, early next year...."

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Where's the love for A Perfect World?

    by Lou C.

    A HIGHLY underrated Eastwood film with one of Costner's best performances. Deserves better than it gets. Now, to follow up: 1) Seriously. No one answered the question: Do we see Natalie's boobies or fucking not? Damn! 2) I LOVE Morgan Freeman and, yes, he does play a lot of similar characters, but he does it better than anyone else. 3) Sorry, Moriarty, but they're right. You do promise a lot and never deliver. 4) Chill the fuck out. If you people don't like how he writes his reviews, don't fucking read them. 5) Is NATALIE PORTMAN NAKED OR FUCKING NOT? YES OR NO. SOMEONE ANSWER. HOLY SHIT!!!!!!

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 12:16 p.m. CST

    portman

    by gredenko

    no, she's not naked... not in any way you can see. but then, if you think the movie will be titilating, you are in for a rude surprise.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Not Eastwood's last

    by AshFett

    Eastwood's next movie (the Iwa Jima project mentioned by another talkbacker) was talked about in the cover story about him two weeks back in LA Weekly. Not sure where you are getting these "last movie" rumors from.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Congrats Moriarity family!!!

    by Darth Thoth

    That's great news. God bless you all and thanks for the column!

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Have to agree...

    by Childe Roland

    ...about Moriarty's tendency to come across as smug and superior without any real basis for such an attitude. Sure, he is one of the better writers on this site, but that's not really saying much. And his facility with the language is undermined by his continual references to who he knows and what he's working on, as if his having the possibility of participation in some entertainment related project somehow elevates his opinions beyond the range where we, his audience, can truly comprehend much less question them. Here's a clue... a good writer doesn't need to inject his resume and references into everything he (or she) writes to be taken seriously. If the writer is good, it comes across in the writing itself. If the writer's opinions are well formed and conveyed, the audience will understand and perhaps even relate to them, and the writing can be considered successful. This is especially crucial in critical writing, where you are essentially recommending or debunking another writer's (and directors and actors') efforts. Simply saying "I almost work in the industry so I know what's good and what's not" doesn't qualify you to make a value judgment. You need to persuade us of the validity of your opinions based on what you saw or read and how it affected you. That's going to be awfully tough to do if you're busy shoring up your own insecurities as a writer by trying to talk down to us. You're obviously in Harry's cool book. That's why your writing is featured on the site. It's a simple fact that doesn't need constant reinforcement through your continued assurances that you do, really, know what you're typing about. Just give us the reviews and save the condescension and justification. Leave that sort of thing to the Gallos of the world. Oh... and it might help your credibility some if you actually gave out any of the DVDs you offer up as prizes to the masses. I know I never got my copy of The Producers from last year and it sounds like more of the same with your last giveaway.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 1:11 p.m. CST

    best line in Closer: When Owen is bawling his heart out to Portm

    by Tall_Boy

    that and "Thank you for your honesty, now fuck off and die." Great very mean little movie, reminds me of being in love. Go see it kids, if for anything just Portman in a thong.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 1:18 p.m. CST

    not hating critics

    by devil0509

    There's no hatred of critics as a group intended in my post, nor even a hatred of Moriarty. I don't tend to hate people I've never met - he could be the nicest guy in the world for all I know. However, it's my opinion that his writing exhibits a tremendous degree of arrogance which, as far as I can tell, is unsubstantiated. I don't actually think posting your opinion on a website is arrogant, otherwise I'd be arrogant posting my opinion of Moriarty's writing. The job of a movie critic is to criticize, to inform me before I spend my money on a ticket as to whether or not the critic thinks the movie is good, bad, or somewhere in between. I read the review because I'm curious about Closer, and Moriarty usually has worthwhile things to say about the movies he reviews. I continue to read his reviews because the information he gives makes it worth wading through the name dropping and putting up with the "I'm-so-much-better-than-the-guys-actually-making-the-movies" attitude he tends to have. I don't read Harry's reviews because, even though Harry tends to be more down-to-earth, he rarely gives me worthwhile insight into the movie and his writing, frankly, ranges from bad to offensive. Quint, Capone, and several other regular reviewers on this site are actually pretty good at writing a review. So, I don't confuse actually daring to post a review with arrogance - it's a service I appreciate. But Moriarty's writing, to me, comes across as arrogant. Feel free to disagree.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Any red-blooded man out there...

    by BancaRota

    who would throw over Natalie Portman for Julia Roberts? Huh? Nobody? Didn't think so.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 2:16 p.m. CST

    Absolute agreement - Portman over Roberts any day (and twice on

    by devil0509

    Portman is just absolutely hot as balls. Roberts never really was. Sorry, Julia.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 2:48 p.m. CST

    Congratulations Moriarty

    by 007-11

    That's great news.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 4:05 p.m. CST

    You Missed The Point

    by vash666

    I have no doubt that Freeman can take the insult. That really isn

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 4:31 p.m. CST

    Portmania

    by Itchy

    Sorry gredenko, I'm titillated over anything starring Natalie. Can't explain why. I don't care how mean, depressing, bastardly of a flick it is - when she says she tastes like heaven, I believe her. I'm more than willing to turn the sound down to get off on a film (see Prozac Nation, Brown Bunny, Bully, etc)

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 6:47 p.m. CST

    Every one of the pinheads knocking Moriarty here is the pot call

    by FluffyUnbound

    I mean, seriously. I recognize most of these names and there isn't a one of you who won't wander into a talkback and drop bombs on something you don't like. It seems like you're saying, "Since we have no connection to the movie industry at all, it's OK for us to give our opinion on everything. But since Moriarty is slightly connected to the movie industry, if HE gives HIS opinion, he's secretly saying that he thinks he's better than all these other people, and that's arrogant." If you didn't know the review was written by Moriarty, but it was signed by Mr. X or something, the question of arrogance wouldn't come up. His reviews would just be reviews. But because Moriarty is a screenwriter, somehow his reviews aren't just reviews, but are the written equivalent of pulling his dick out and hitting Morgan Freeman in the face and ears with it. Whatever.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 9:21 p.m. CST

    Whatever, Play D'Oh, you worthless cunt.

    by FluffyUnbound

    Maybe if any of your posts ever showed evidence of literacy or intelligence, I would be concerned by your opinion. Luckily, they haven't, so I can safely disregard you as the insect you are. You fucking piece of maggot-ridden, menstrual-blood-smeared garbage.

  • Dec. 28, 2004, 9:54 p.m. CST

    Oh poor Play D'oh

    by Junior Frenger

    Play D'oh is probably the most infantile troll haunting these talkbacks. It's not really worth the time to respond to him...yet its so tempting considering his obvious lack of IQ points. Kinda like shooting fish in a barrel. Cheap and easy, but it still kind of feels good anyway.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 2:27 a.m. CST

    My Final Word on the Matter

    by vash666

    Either this site wants to be place where people can share their enthusiasm for cinema and trade opinions and perspectives or it can continue to be this festering shit hole where everything is negative and tempered by whiny, petty nastiness. I used to defend this site and Harry on a regular basis but lately that is becoming pretty goddamn difficult to do. Practically every review posted by Mori or Harry contains some nasty little jab at somebody, as if everything posted here must be built upon the pretense of negativity. The constant stream of shit talk that flows from the pens of these two has become excessive and self indulgent to a point where they are quickly losing any credibility they might have once held. Ultimately, the ball is in your court gentlemen. There is a fine line between thoughtful criticism and arrogant, unsubstantiated insults to well established talent. While you two may find it amusing to constantly slam directors and actors who have influenced and shaped this art form in ways you never could even if you lived ten lifetimes, many, many people are going to take issue with such attitudes and it certainly will do nothing to boost your sagging credibility. Learn some humility and remember that unless you can match or exceed the talents of those you thrash in your editorials, perhaps you should be more careful in what manner and tone you deliver criticism.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 2:57 a.m. CST

    No Love Actually

    by HallowedBThyName

    Great headline for a Closer review.*****Also: A Beautiful Dirty Mind -- Kinsey.*****Thanks folks, I'm here all week.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Moriarty is the Man

    by Cottonwood

    1) Moriarty, congrats! Mrs Cottonwood and I are expecting as well, sweet. I'm claiming Dash as the name for ours. 2) Moriarty is a mighty, mighty fine writer, keep it up dude. 3) Gentlemen, please - a review reflects an opinion and how the hell is that ever arrogant? 4) All you righteous assholes talking about Moriarty judging an actor, and all you wankers can come up with yourselves is the question of Nathalie Portman's dresscode - pretty insulting if you ask me, and quite silly as far as talking movies goes. 5) BUT: where's my deservedly won Riddick DVD?

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Hmmm

    by Dog Of Mystery

    I thought these Scorched Planet idiots were dead. http://www.mysterydouchebags.com/squirt/viewtopic.php?p=3139#3139 Some of them in this talkback I shouldn't wonder.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 9:38 a.m. CST

    Please....

    by BancaRota

    Moriarty expressed an opinion concerning the arc of Morgan Freeman's career. All of you agree that he has been playing the same role far too long. The man is a great actor and has been phoning it in. You're just jumping on Mori cause you didn't say it first.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Moriarty's arrogance

    by devil0509

    1) Moriarty is a good writer. 2) Moriarty frequently has excellent insights into movies and his reviews are well worth reading. 3) Moriarty has, in my personal opinion (clearly many of you disagree, fair enough), showed arrogance in many reviews. His comments about Morgan Freeman actually didn't register as arrogant to me, but I agree with Vash's original point that his reviews have displayed arrogance in the past. Probably what rubs me wrong about Moriarty, more than anything else, is how seriously he takes himself. It's emblematic of the same problem running throughout Hollywood. This group of entertainers has come to believe that what they do actually has importance. There is nothing important about the vast majority of movies. Yet entertainers act as if they are contributing to society in some meaningful way. They reward themselves with ostentatious award galas. They sermonize on subjects and push political agendas they don't understand. Hollywood is the ultimate hypocracy. Moriarty, with his ridiculous name dropping, self-aggrandizing statements, and pompous proclamations, is the AICN poster child for Hollywood's attitude. The people in that industry need to step outside of their self-absorbed "reality" and realize that basically what they do is popcorn, fluff, cotton candy, and cheap thrills. There's nothing wrong with that, but they need to stop pretending that it actually matters. Since I know that those of you rabidly defending the Evil Genius will read this and say, "Jealous", I'll cut you off at the pass. I am jealous of the money and life of ease of the Hollywood establishment, and if you're not then you've never been poor. I'm a doctor, work my ass off with my day job plus 3 different nighttime moonlighting jobs to make my family comfortable. I'm not underpaid, but I figure I'm not overpaid either. I look at the money and arrogance floating around the entertainment industry and it makes me sick, because people I work with every day (nurses, social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists, residents, etc.) work harder, do more for society, and get paid less in a year than some Hollywood twit throws for a birthday party. Every school teacher, cop, fireman, EMT guy in the country can say the same. So Moriary wants to drop some names to show he's "in" the Hollywood circle - it doesn't begin to impress me. Moriarty wants to give reviews about movies, great. I like movies, and before I spend my time and money on one, I'd like to know if it's any good. I appreciate Moriarty's reviews for giving me that information. He, along with the rest of Hollywood, just needs to take a reality check and drop the attitude. As in, thanks for the entertainment, now take your money and fuck off.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 4:23 p.m. CST

    Drew, it's official...

    by StudioPlant69

    You suck! Not really, just joshing. I for one enjoy your review, your opinion, what you thought of a particular film. It's all about you baby! GFY

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 4:43 p.m. CST

    In defense of Moriarty (sort of)

    by Garbageman33

    I don't think Moriarty is arrogant. He's just passionate. There's a difference. Although in this particular case, I think he's lost sight of the bigger issue. Actors are only as good as the parts they're given. And, these days, there are precious few well-written parts. Especially for black actors. Think back to Morgan Freeman as Fast Black in Street Smart. Now, he's relegated to crap like Dreamcatcher. And someone like Samuel L Jackson who was so great in Jungle Fever (and, of course, Pulp Fiction) is reduced to playing Coach Carter (which I just assume sucks). But what choice do they have? How many great roles have there been for black actors this year? Two? And yet, there are all these really good people out there like Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Don Cheadle, Djimon Hounsou and, well, the list goes on and on. So no, I don't think Morgan Freeman has lost his fastball. He's just lost the chance to use it.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 7:26 p.m. CST

    wow, Garbageman, that's a bold friggin' statement

    by Lou C.

    ... and I ain't bein' sarcastic. I can't say I agree with it AT ALL, but it's bold. You're telling me that the reason Sam Jackson and Morgan Freeman have lost their mojo is for a lack of good parts? Are you high? There's no one in Hollywood that wouldn't work with these guys, and THAT's the problem. They do TOO MANY movies. They'll work with any hack, any time. Just look at a guy like Don Cheadle, who I think is one of the best actors of his generation. He glides from mainstream fare to top-notch indies all the time. When was the last time Freeman and Jackson did a true indy film? You're telling me some nobody snot-nosed director with a great script wouldn't hire these guys for their little movie because they're black? Not buying it.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 10:12 p.m. CST

    It's not a race thing, don't get me wrong

    by Garbageman33

    I just think there's a lack of decent parts out there in general. Are you telling me that if someone played the crap out of a role like, I don't know, the love interest in Chasing Liberty that he'd win an Oscar? No, because the role itself is shit, no matter who plays it. As for Morgan Freeman taking on too many parts, I agree. But hey, if someone kept waving six or seven million bucks in front of your face, would you say "No, thanks, I'm looking for a role that challenges me"? I think not. Unfortunately, both Morgan Freeman and Samuel Jackson have been successful playing stock Hollywood characters (especially Morgan Freeman) so those are the kind of roles they're going to be offered. And now, it's gotten to the point where I'm afraid directors have forgotten how great they can be in a well-written part. Long story short, they've been typecast. But hey, that's just one man's opinion.

  • Dec. 29, 2004, 11:18 p.m. CST

    point taken, but i still don't quite buy it...

    by Lou C.

    ... because there's a lot of actors who avoid typecasting by choosing quirky parts and trying different things. But for every Billy Bob Thornton, you have 10 Harrison Fords and Morgan Freemans. ... everyone always talks about the lack of good film roles, but more movies are getting pumped out than ever, especially at the independent level. And there were just as many bad movies being made 30,40,50 years ago as there are today. It's a matter of seeking out roles, and some of these guys, I suspect, just aren't willing to do that.

  • Dec. 30, 2004, 7:16 a.m. CST

    Million Dollar Baby

    by Evil Chicken

    That's a great story about the screening of "The Rookie." It showed the character of both people involved

  • Dec. 30, 2004, 9:41 p.m. CST

    Freeman plays the same part because that's all he's offered.

    by BigTuna

    He's been typecast and I refuse to hold it against him. He's a great actor and he's proven it time and time again.

  • Dec. 30, 2004, 10:50 p.m. CST

    Actors vs. Movie stars

    by Garbageman33

    I actually think it's harder for established stars to be totally convincing in a role. Which may be why people like Morgan Freeman don't get offered better parts. And by better, I mean more award-friendly. For example, my favorite movie this year was "Maria Full of Grace". I thought the actress in it was amazing, much like the kid in Whale Rider last year. But I think part of what made them so amazing was that they were indistinguishable from the parts they were playing. Probably because I didn't know them from anything else. Contrast that with, say, Tom Cruise in Collateral. Yes, he was great. Really great. But I never forgot I was watching Tom Cruise. So he had to work that much harder to keep me from thinking that Joel Goodson was running around shooting people.

  • Dec. 31, 2004, 12:42 a.m. CST

    HAHA

    by MiltonWaddams

    moriaty totally got smashed in the face and came back with a total lame ass burn. good show.