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

Where do I begin to discuss Rod Lurie's new film THE CONTENDER, starring Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott, and Christian Slater? Do I start with what's right? Do I start with what's wrong? Or do I take the uncomfortable leap and discuss the film's effect on me personally?

Hmmm... let's start safe. Let's start with the synopsis. What is THE CONTENDER about? You've probably seen the poster with the provocative line "Sometimes you can assassinate a leader without firing a shot." It's a classy piece of design. It's stark, with a black and white panel photo of Joan Allen's eyes. Or maybe you've seen the omnipresent TV spots and theatrical trailers, all of which seem to promise a heated movie along the lines of an ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN or even THE GODFATHER, an exploration of power and what it can do to people, either in the pursuit of it or the exercise of it. That cast was certainly promising, and so was the fact that Dreamworks picked the film up. It was originally shot as an indie, and Dreamworks threw their weight behind it. I didn't see Rod Lurie's first film, DETERRENCE, but I'm well acquainted with his work as a film critic.

Therein lies one of the most basic attractions to the film for me. Anytime someone who writes about film crosses over and actually makes a film, it's fascinating. We've all heard the adage "those who can't do, teach," and the same seems to be assumed about those of us who write about film. I know it's one of the common shots people take at me. The thing is, I don't claim to be the world's foremost expert on film. I am the result of the proliferation of cable and video in the American household. I'm a kid who grew up soaked in media, soaked in movies, overloading on them like some American kids overload on Twinkies. I didn't just absorb as many movies as possible, though; I also absorbed all the writing about movies that I could get my hands on. I went through whole sections at libraries before moving on. And when there's a Francois Truffaut or a Peter Bogdonavich or an Oliver Assayas or an FX Feeney, I'm interested. I root for these guys to be able to put their knowledge, their accumulated experience as a viewer, to the test. After all, that's what brings every director to the medium, right? A belief system about film, a philosophy about the way things are supposed to be. A good director knows the answer to every single question he's asked. He knows without hesitation. I've watched filmmakers, great filmmakers, at work on a set, and I'm always struck by the confidence they possess when they're in a groove. It's remarkable to watch this whole world spin out of the head of one person. I hope I am that person at some point. Until then, all I can do is theorize, watch and react, and embrace the art that others create. Rod Lurie's doing what I hope to do, and for that reason alone, I went into THE CONTENDER hoping for a home run.

Instead, what I got could be called a frustrating double at best. There's moments in THE CONTENDER that are very, very good. These are wonderful actors, and they find some honest ground to share. Lurie's got a good natural visual sense at times, working almost invisibly. There's some strong smart adult dialogue from time to time. On the page, this thing looks like it should work. The opening scene is strong, too. William Petersen, an undervalued gift of an actor whose work in TO LIVE OR DIE IN LA and MANHUNTER should have made him far more famous than it did, plays Jack Hathaway, a Democractic Senator who is giving an interview to a reporter while fishing. There's a car accident on an overhead bridge, and a car plunges over the side right in front of them. Without thinking twice, Hathaway dives in and tries to save a girl who is trapped in the car. They stare at each other, him unable to open the door, as her air slowly runs out. They're separated by a thin pane of glass, but there's nothing he can do. It's a haunting moment, and anyone familiar with Chappaquidick and the terrible shadow it cast over Ted Kennedy's career will shiver at the echo. The reporter turns Hathaway's selfless response into major headlines, and Hathaway finds himself summoned to the White House, where President Jackson Evans (Bridges) is considering choices to replace the Vice-President who died three weeks earlier.

So far, so good. This material is all well-handled. Lurie introduces the cast casually. There's no grand entrances. This is a very outwardly human President, and Bridges plays him with a disarming charm. He's all smiles and quirks until he's pissed off, and then there's real steel underneath that Bridges flashes in a few choice moments. Sam Elliott plays Kermit Newman, the President's closest advisor, and he's always present. He's the one who gets angry so the President doesn't have to. He's also the one who actually delivers the bad news. For example, he tells Hathaway that they're not going to choose him to be Vice-President. He's crushed, but he accepts it. They don't tell him who they're choosing instead, but we learn quickly enough.

Oh, this is painful. I hate doing this. I hate it when I want to like a movie and I don't. The first inkling of trouble is in the oh-so-coy way Lurie introduces their first choice. We hear the name: Senator Hanson. We cut to a couple fooling around, clothes askew, and a phone ringing. The guy answers the phone and stands up. He's got no pants on, but he's still wearing his jacket and his shirt, and she laughs as she notices. He tries to sound serious as he talks to someone on the phone. At first it sounds like he's being asked himself, but then Lurie pulls the old switcheroo and has him hand the phone to his wife. She rolls over and we see it's Joan Allen. I don't mind the switch. Lurie really seems to like cute intros for his characters, something that's a wee bit grating in what purports to be a serious character drama, but it's not a major thing. The sex is. It's a bait and switch of a much larger degree, and it's part of my major problem with the film. Joan Allen's character is introduced having sex. The whole scandal that blows up is about sex. So she could have done it, get it? Lurie lays it on a bit thick from time to time, getting worse as the film goes, and it's touches like these that finally drown the good intentions that are so apparent.

Joan Allen is named as the White House's choice, and a committee to approve her appointment is put together under the supervision of Shelly Runyon. When he first appears, he might just as well have a sign hung around his neck that says "EVIL." He might just as well be named Senator Ima Badguy. He is so troll-like, so ugly on the outside, and so transparently slimy from the first scene he's in to the last that he immediately tips the film's delicate tone from smart to smarmy. He corrupts a good young Congressman named Reginald Webster (Christian Slater) by putting him on the committee and using his young enthusiasm to help destroy Allen's character. He is friends with Hathaway, a point that's made over and over, so he's got a real investment in destroying Allen. On top of all that, she's a Democrat and a woman, and he's a Republican and Satan. You do the math.

Make no mistake. This movie wants to push your buttons politically. It riled up certain members of the crowd at the all-media screening I went to on Friday night. In particular, there's one scene where Allen and Oldman debate abortion in front of the cameras, and Oldman makes a speech that sounds something like, "You're a baby killer because you KILL babies, you BUTCHER who likes to MURDER CHILDREN because you're a babykillin' babykiller, you murderer of children who aren't born because you MURDER THEM!!" Something subtle like that. And there's one guy in the middle of the theater who begins to applaud after everything Oldman says. "BABYKILLER!" One guy clapping. "MURDERER!!" One guy clapping. A few people (myself included) hissed at him to stop it, but he just got louder. Finally, a particularly venomous voice from a few rows back said, quite loudly and clearly, "If you don't cut that shit out, I'm going to come down there and abort you." And the applauding guy responded, "I'd like to see you try it, Nazi." Take note, MPAA. There wasn't a minor in the place. When your ratings start protecting me from both of those morons, then I'll consider them successful.

But I digress. I digress because the film does. It loses focus fairly quickly, and becomes a pretty predictable ride. Gary Oldman and his big evil committee pull out some really nasty sex rumors about Joan Allen and try to smear her as the hearings progress. She won't fight back because "it's not okay for them to ask." She says this pretty early on in the film, and then sticks to it. Her character says this so many times in the film, actually, that it should have been the freakin' tag line just to make the point A LITTLE FREAKIN' CLEARER!! No matter what they throw at her, she just sits there, stoic, letting them do it. She argues issues, but she refuses to address the personal. The only time she does is when they bring up an unrelated hurt she caused to an old friend (played by Muriel Hemingway in a cameo), and she apologizes, then moves on. And they keep attacking and she keeps refusing to fight back. And then a lot of people make speeches. And that's the end.

Oh, but those speeches. When they started rolling in, I shrunk into my chair. All my worst fears were coming true. The film that started so well, so loose and smart and honest, was winding down into endless soapboxing and easy stereotypes. As a portrait of the political process, it's shocking naiive. Everything gets wrapped up in nice neat bows. No one is allowed to show a single shade of grey. We're moving into spoiler territory now, so skip two paragraphs down if you want to avoid a few of the bigger secrets. If you think Lurie's going to let any of his good guys be imperfect, you're wrong. He doesn't have the courage of his convictions. He can't tackle the idea of Joan Allen being a woman with a genuinely shocking sexual past who also happens to be the best qualified person for the job of Vice-President. That's too difficult. That requires real answers. Instead, we're let off the hook. Joan didn't do anything she was accused of. She is allowed to remain pure and perfect, sainted by her silence. It's not okay to ask the questions because they're lies. If Lurie had given her a real past, something that points up the double standard of what's acceptable in men and women, then he would have genuinely been provocative. If a man was accused of having sex with two women at once while in college, it wouldn't cost him a vote. Not one. But with a woman, it could cost her a career and a public life. The film's refusal to play fair made me turn against it.

More spoiler stuff here, and potentially even bigger, so keep moving if you're concerned. William Petersen's character turns out to be the one character I was engaged by. He could have fueled the whole movie himself. When it's revealed that he hired the woman to drive off the bridge so he could save her, I wasn't surprised. It's pretty obvious from the beginning. But the weight of that sort of secret on a man moving through the process could have been fascinating. Petersen suggests a lot with his few scenes, and this made me determined to check out his show on CBS. I've missed this guy. Kudos to Lurie for using him. I'm sorry his role wasn't expanded, that we didn't see more of his hand on the conspiracy to oust Allen. Here's a worthy villain, a human villain with motives that we can understand and even empathize with on some level. Instead, Oldman is obvious, tired. How much more interesting would it have been to have played Oldman as a good and decent man who just happens to be doing the wrong thing for what he thinks is the right reason? What if he genuinely was outraged by Allen's behavior? What if someone was playing him and his beliefs for their own purposes?

As the film unwinds, the missed opportunities really mount up, and the eventual crushing weight of frustration is what I carried out the door of the theater. The cast isn't to blame. In fact, they almost make it worth seeing despite the film's mediocrity. Bridges has one funny scene in which he's bowling in the White House bowling alley that will make any good LEBOWSKI fan giggle. Sam Elliott's great in the film, and it's nice to see him with Bridges, another treat for LEBOWSKI fans. There's a lot of mini-reunions going on here. Bridges, Allen, and Slater from TUCKER. Oldman and Slater from MURDER ON THE FIRST. The supporting cast all does able work, too. Saul Rubinek, Philip Baker Hall, and Mike Binder are all fine. Robin Thomas, who plays Allen's husband, gives real nuance to the husband of a powerful political woman, but as I watched him, I was nagged by not being able to place where I knew him from. When I checked IMDb, I was chagrined to realize that it was from Carl Reiner's SUMMER SCHOOL, a film that was playing in a theater where I worked as a teenager. I saw bits and pieces of it over and over and over, and Thomas played the asshole principal of the school, that staple of every '80s comedy. Oh, the random crap the brain retains...

Another thing about the easy approach the film takes that bothers me is how important the subject is. In this age of instant information distribution, it is easier than ever to slander and defame someone, something I've come face to face with first-hand. Harry and I have both taken our fair share of personal attacks in the past year, and every single time, it mystifies me. I read these posts or these articles, and I am amazed at the passion and the vigor with which people attempt to demonize me. In each case, there was no wrong that was done to the authors of these hit pieces. They just decided to take shots because they had the means of publication. I found that I was criticized for not responding publicly to certain things that were said, but that was a choice I made. Instead of retaliating and causing things to escalate, I prefer to keep the focus on movies. You come here to read about films, and that's what we cover. Other people may gossip, and they may cast stones, and there's nothing I can do about that. And that's the reality of it. When the really nasty wet work is done, it's often done by the last face in the world you'd expect. There are often forces at work behind the scenes, and Lurie could have had fun tracing the means by which information works its way from one person to the next to eventual public perusal. Instead, he shortcuts himself out of everything. He simplifies it to the point of idiocy. There's a couple of jabs at the Internet in the film, and it's all very ha-ha clever in a surface way. I've seen the way information is spread over the 'net, though, and so have all of you, and this particular passage of the film is too obvious for its own good.

Will this film make money? Maybe. Timing with a political movie can help (THE CHINA SYNDROME) or hurt (PRIMARY COLORS), and it's often hard to predict. Will this film be the awards-bait Dreamworks thinks it is? Maybe for nominations, but everyone's going home empty-handed. No one does work here that they haven't surpassed before in other films. If they were anything less than very, very professional, I'd be shocked, but that's hardly reason to start writing acceptance speeches. And despite some positive early buzz, I can't believe people are really going to get suckered by this thing. I think it's going to be met by nowhere near the furor Dreamworks is hoping, and any real zeitgeist it possesses will fade almost instantly. In the end, its artifice overwhelms all merit, and Lurie does to us what all politicians do: he promises far more than he can deliver.

I'm going to try to get another article up a little later today, and then I've got a landslide of stuff for the rest of the week, god willing. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 9, 2000, 10:07 a.m. CST

    More power to Will...

    by reni

    It's not often these days I get to indulge in a little talkback. For the record, William Petersen is a fucking top actor... Will Graham was always more interesting than Clarice Starling... And To Live and Die in LA was the last time Friedkin made a great film...

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 10:14 a.m. CST

    Thanks for the review, but...

    by The Gline

    could we PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE shrink the caricature images? Not everyone out there has a 2048x1736-sized display, you know! It took me three and a half days of hitting PAGE DOWN to get past that thing!

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 10:46 a.m. CST


    by MagnoliaMan

    That guy threatening to abort someone is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. For those of you who haven't seen Deterrence, I have to say that it sounds similar to the Contender, if this review is accurate. It's an interesting film that is bound to remind people of Fail Safe and it has a hilarious supporting performance by the great, underrated Timothy Hutton. I'd recommend it but it has major problems and they're annoying Oliver Stone-kind-of flaws. If you like the Contender, though, you'll probably like Deterrence.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 10:47 a.m. CST


    by Brian DePalma

    A successful politician is one who can stay in the public eye without irritating it.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11 a.m. CST

    Wow. Pretty much nailed it.

    by Prankster

    Maybe Moriarty's a little bit too harsh...for instance, I thought Gary Oldman's character was a tad more nuanced than Morrie makes him out to be...but yeah, he's right, this movie does take the easy way out. And I'd say it was great up until about 3/4 of the way through, when the speeches begin, and the moral ambiguity that was built up gets pared away and replaced with Rod Lurie wacking you over the head with his points. And they're points that need to be made, too...but now idiots are going to start dismissing it as "liberal claptrap" and pretend that it's an excuse for Clinton or something, just because the movie says the right things in the wrong way.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11:09 a.m. CST

    deterrence ....

    by Lou C.

    can't complain about deterrence too much. it wasn't perfect, but it's still better than most of the crap that's come out this year. hutton is wonderful, and pollak gives a great play-it-straight performance. if the contender is as good as deterrence, i'm sure i'll enjoy it. ... and it's good to hear there's other William Petersen fans out there, let us not forget Manhunter. and csi looks pretty good so far.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11:12 a.m. CST

    Thank you Brian

    by voight-kampff

    Mr DePalma your wisdom gives me a bright spot everyday. Oh, and William Petersen is brilliant.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11:47 a.m. CST

    P - yer right, this does sound like "Liberal..

    by RghtWingCnsptor

    Claptrap. The moment I saw the trailor on the tele and saw that Spielberg and Dreamworks wer pushing it... "groan, puke" You are here to entertain, so look good for the cameras and deliver yer lines. Leave the preaching to preachers. I wonder what kind of movies they watch in the Lincoln Bedroom? I bet Spielberg knows.

  • Also Joan Allen and William Peterson were both in Michael Mann's 1986 masterpiece "Manhunter." All three are from Chicago. Hell, I had a class with both Peterson and Bill Murray's nieces. Moriarty, don't be so negative. You didn't actually believe that Spielberg would let anything out of his editing room with even a hint of ambiguity, did you?

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11:56 a.m. CST

    That old adage

    by rickshouse

    They say brevity is the soul of wit ... don't you guys have an editor?

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:07 p.m. CST

    Question for Moriarty:

    by superninja

    Do you think the reason the director took the easy road at the end of the day was because he didn't want to step on Washington's toes? Your review confirmed to me what I feared abou this film going in just based on the trailer. It could've had something much greater to say if Oldman's character wasn't so diabolical, but you could already see that happening in the trailers. Same with Joan Allen's character -- it would've been more shocking and affecting for her to have had the indiscretion in her youth and to try to hide it JUST LIKE REAL POLITICIANS DO. But instead, I think they're pandering to the current political climate. Why don't they just call the film "Vote for Al Gore?"

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:11 p.m. CST

    Or how about just some honesty?

    by superninja

    Why NOT have Allen's character actually having done the sex act, and Oldman's character actually having the conviction of his beliefs? THAT is the truth. That is what is going on in Washington today, not these archtypical characters that are either all bad or all good. I think in political films, it's best to show HUMANITY above all else. You don't think some of these religious-right folks don't truly believe they are fighting the good fight? Better to make the character a hypocrite than to make him a Disney villain.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:29 p.m. CST


    by Prankster

    What did I tell you? Idiots. Who haven't seen the movie, yet.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Joan Allen.....

    by RABID KIMBA anorexic.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:41 p.m. CST

    Rod Lurie's liberal claptrap...

    by Seabird

    I read an interview with Lurie in the Sunday Houston Chronicle (Zest Section) in which he said that he wanted to avoid the same mistake he made with Deterence. He said that by putting music with the closing monologue (speech) in that movie the viewers (wrongly) got the impression that the film advocated the character's monstrous point. I did not see the film, so I can't comment directly. When Speilberg suggested putting music to Allen's closing speech in TC, Lurie thought that it would appear as though the film makers were advocating her POV. Speilberg's reaction was that they *were* advocating it weren't they? According to this interview, the film makers (Speilberg at least)were trying to make a political point. Considering Speilberg's alliances with the Democratic Party I would not be surprised if this was a bunch of liberal claptrap. I'm not saying for sure that it is - just that I wouldn't be surprised.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Black and White

    by swavill

    The sad part of this is that a large pecentage of the population sees these subjects in black and white. This film will push political buttons because a lot of people see Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond or Orrin Hatch as religous fanatics and hate mongers. While an equal number of people see Bill Clinton and Al Gore and other so called lberal Democrats as a danger to our children degrading the moral fibre of our nation. When the truth is somewhere in the middle. Film ideally will evoke an emotional response and it sounds as though Lurie went for that. Unfortunately it seems he was trying for the least common denominator. Appealing to peoples base instincts instead of provoking thought.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Another old adage...

    by Zang-froid

    ...Which seems to be at play, at least in the minds of the filmmakers: "Never underestimate the stupidity of the moviegoing public." Good review, Moriarty.

  • I SAW THE TRAILER. That's what supposed to sell me on the film. I thought it looked good, but I also thought, "Hmmm...that Gary Oldman character seems awfully stereotypical, and Allen's character seems rather Bill Clintonesque." It doesn't take a genius to see that from the trailer. I'll be sure to read more reviews on the film, but I'm not of the opinion that you have to see the film in full to be able to comment on it.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 1:03 p.m. CST


    by Quetzalcoatl

    I don't really comprehend the idea behind this website and its reviews. I have never heard of Gonzo journalism, either. I DON'T THINK TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS STUPID. PS...your mother!

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 2:07 p.m. CST

    I saw it also

    by Qambient1

    {{warning im going to spoil the end of the movie in this post. Don

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 3:11 p.m. CST

    I'd like to reprint Superninja's post:

    by Prankster

    "I SAW THE TRAILER. That's what supposed to sell me on the film. I thought it looked good, but I also thought, "Hmmm...that Gary Oldman character seems awfully stereotypical, and Allen's character seems rather Bill Clintonesque." It doesn't take a genius to see that from the trailer. I'll be sure to read more reviews on the film, but I'm not of the opinion that you have to see the film in full to be able to comment on it." Well, I'm going to have to disagree. Perhaps you can comment after seeing part of the film, but not the trailer. As many problems as I had with this movie, it is NOT a movie whose point can be easily conveyed in the trailer. I'm an admirer of Moriarty's, but that doesn't mean he can't be mistaken, assign meaning that isn't there, or just flat-out be wrong about something. I agree with much of his review, but I do think, for instance, he's wrong in dismissing Gary Oldman's character as "Satan". In fact, for much of this movie's running time, I was honestly unsure of whose side Lurie was on--the Democrats had their points, but they were also portrayed as a rather manipulative bunch, and Bridges' president was just as smarmy as he was charismatic. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman seemed to have a very valid point, and to be one of the few characters who actually believed in what he was doing--it was the ends to which he would go that made him "villainous". It is, as I say, a very morally ambiguous movie for about 3/4 of its' running time. And even when Lurie reveals the truth abot Hanson's past (ya shouldn't have spoiled it, Morrie, ya really shouldn't have) you can see he's doing it for a reason, to make a point, not just to paint things in black and white. It's just that that point isn't worth turning a pleasantly complex movie into a heavy-handed sermon for. There are aspects of this movie which go far beyond the trailer, Superninja. For instance, Clinton is specifically dealt with, and not in much of a positive way, either. This isn't about forgiving Clinton, it's more universal than that. (Indeed, Bush supporters, wouldn't you apply the same logic to Dubya's dubious past? Whoa, say that three times fast.) To smugly declare that "you can tell from the trailer" is to do a disservice to any movie, unless it's by Jerry Bruckheimer. On another note, could we PLEASE stop with the juvenile Moriarty-bashing? The man mentioned himself in ONE paragraph. Critics from Roger Ebert on down are just as self-referencing. And how come Moriarty always gets far more accolades for negative reviews than for positive ones? End of rant.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 3:35 p.m. CST

    More Even-Handed Than I Expected

    by mrbeaks

    Oldman also deserves kudos for finding the shadings to his character that weren't necessarily there in the script. Then again, that's why he's Gary Oldman. As for the trailer issue..... generally, I try not to judge a film based on its marketing, but knowing Dreamworks political leanings, I don't think we should expect DUTCH: THE GREATEST CHIMP COVORTING PRESIDENT YOU'VE EVER SEEN anytime soon. That said, THE CONTENDER remains ambiguous for more of its running time than the trailer might indicate. Were it Steve's film, he might have Oldman sprout horns and sodomize the Olsen twins. Now, *there's* a pitch!

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 3:48 p.m. CST

    Response to Prankster

    by superninja

    Like I said, I was commenting on the film, not giving a thesis. I also mentioned I intended to read other reviews before making my decision. Of course you can't rely entirely on the trailer to tell the whole story, but can you dismiss the fact that they cut the trailer to make the Oldman character to appear completely villainous? Is there not a reason I should expect that going in? I understand the filmgoing experience is different for everyone, but the way Moriarty painted his review, I couldn't help but sighing and thinking, "That's what I thought they'd do."

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 3:53 p.m. CST

    But thanks anyway...

    by superninja

    To Prankster and Co. for providing an alternative POV.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 4:02 p.m. CST

    Learn them words, then use 'em...

    by moovees

    I'm always amused by people who use political terms without understanding them. The idea of calling Bill Clinton and Al Gore "liberal" democrats is absurd! I mean, seriously, anyone who actually thinks this should get a f***ing brain... or at least take a political science class or pick up a newspaper on occasion. Bill Clinton has easily been the most Republican-like democratic president in the history of politicians... NO ONE who knows what they're talking about will argue with that -- not even those republicans who impeached him.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 4:39 p.m. CST

    This flick could've been sooo much more

    by Smilin'Jack Ruby

    I walked out of this bad bastard depressed and pissed off. I wanted it to be great and it was a turkey.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Why read the reviews then?

    by Lazarus Long

    If you want to read a newspaper or magazine-type review, then buy one. The whole purpose of this site from the beginning has been to provide scoops on films in progress and more personal reviews. You should know that by now, so either don't read them or stop fucking complaining. Moriarty didn't tell anyone it wasn't worth seeing; he just thought it was flawed. Joan Allen will probably lose the Oscar to Ellen Burstyn (Michelle Rodriquez will get a courtesy nod, but won't pull a Hillary Swank). I doubt you'll be seeing an uncomprimised film anytime soon from Dreamworks, especially with Captain America running things over there. The idea that Spielberg told Lurie to keep that music in proves my point that he will never let the audience think and react for themselves. Spielberg is a fucking hack, and I can't think of any better proof than this incident. We won't discuss how he originally told Cameron Crowe to shoot the whole Untitled script and then cut 40 minutes out.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 5:03 p.m. CST

    Lazarus, I love you.

    by The Pardoner

    Spielberg is a hack. Every film he lays his hands on is further proof. Did he *actually* tell Crowe to do that? HAHAHAHAHA!!! --- Moriarty-bashers are, like people who would try to legislate women out of their bodies, entitled to their opinion. They are also like Spielberg, as previously described. Keep yapping nitwits. While nothing you say will be 1/10th as informed or informative, or 1/2 as entertaining as Moriarty's review, you're still worth a chuckle or two. --- Oh, and this film sounds horrible. It may have originally been something semi-intelligent. Senor Spielbergo may be one of the larger assheads in Hollywood, but he isn't blind: he'll always spot a good film, and ruin it. Hell, even American Beauty isn't aging well. --- Radix malorum est cupiditas.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 5:15 p.m. CST

    About that 6th project...

    by marla singer

    I hear it's fabulous.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 5:21 p.m. CST

    What? A liberal-infested crap coming out of Hollywood?

    by freexter

    Gee, I wonder how THAT could have happened. If everyone doesn't think this is lalaland's way of excusing Billy Boy's conduct in the Oval Office, go purchase a brain. VOTE NADER!

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 5:22 p.m. CST

    Oh, and one other thing...

    by freexter

    ...Moriarty's wrong when he says this one won't win any Oscars. Trust me, they WILL win. If there's one thing Lalaland loves, it's to jerk themselves off with their righteous, condescending bullshit. This movie is right up their alley.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 6:39 p.m. CST


    by X-Girls

    I haven't seen it. An indie film? no way. It was an interesting idea not to have her be a slut. The idea that she kept quiet because she believed that people's personal lives aren't for public scrutiny even if you are the president is interesting. It's moral, even, to sacrifice yourself that way, it gives her character dignity that we didn't really believe her all that time, Interesting. Nice mini-plot with the beginning scene. Good actors. LOUSY GOOD AND BAD CHARACTERS. It doesn't need to be sexy. Seems to be for all the good democratic boys and girls and trashes republicans as sexist or evil bad losers and puts them in a bad light, not that I take either of those two political stances, I don't. It takes the constantly heard popular view of who cares about even a vice president's personal life. Does it bring up the point that if a vp would lie and cheat her husband, she has no cares about doing it to the American public? The above is just my views from reading the review. Nice job.

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 10:43 p.m. CST

    Don't Knock it Moriarty, SUMMER SCHOOL rules!!!

    by Tall_Boy

    How can any with the self-respect to call himself a geek NOT love the Texas Chainsaw Masacre sequence? Scared the hell outta me when I was a kid. That shit rocks!

  • Oct. 9, 2000, 11:05 p.m. CST

    love note to Billy boy

    by Dolemite2000

    The instant I saw the trailor I new this was going to be biased crap. With bill clintons future employer Speilberg involved, there was no way this was going to be a honest movie about real people. This is just a Democratic hatchet job in an election year, a cheap shot at getting Gore elected, and a final love note to Billy boy. If this had actually tackled the issues involved seriously instead of taking the easy way out, it might have been good. How about this in the plot: Newt was having his own affair during the whole scandal. But to just say that the Gary Oldman character is evil cuz he's a Republican doesn't cut it. Over a third of the public is also Republican are they also evil? Instead of having a honest debate of issues they only show one side of the issue - what are they afraid of? Oh well, as I said I didn't expect anything less from Lala land.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 1:40 a.m. CST

    Reader Man...

    by Monkey Lord

    WEEEEEE don't want to read about what YOOOOOU don't wan't to read. Personally, I would much rather read a review written in such a personal tone than a dry piece of dung without any passion or conviction. What you are wanting is a synopsis, not a review. christ almighty... the talk back is full of salivating, red faced babies. Next time, just don't post, ok? keep it to yourself. Doesn't that suck? To have someone tell you what you write isn't worth reading? I bet it does...Good Job Moriarty. I had high expectations for this movie, and I might have gone to see it...That's too bad, had real potential. I'll see it, eventually, I'm sure...I'll wait for the video.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 2:10 a.m. CST

    Joan Allen is not anorexic!

    by METHOS

    She's one tall, good looking mama! Too bad I was only 7 when she went to N.I.U. instead of 17. Plus, she's the only actor I've seen play her blind character as sexually agressive in Michael Mann's "Manhunter." The irony of the situation is that she's seducing serial killer Francis (Tom Noonan) Dollarhyde a.k.a. "The Tooth Fairy."

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 4:15 a.m. CST

    Hollywood Cannot Make a Good Movie About Politics (anymore)

    by Boss Hog

    You could write a movie about a Democratic president that rapes his daughter and plots to kill his Vice President with a chainsaw and it will still end up coming back to that BORING ass SOAPBOX liberal speech shit that Hollywood always puts into these things. JFK, same shit. PRIMARY COLORS, same shit. GENERALS DAUGHTER, same shit. They open with all sorts of intigue and then just turn into exploitative crap with a message. I knew I wouldn't see this movie the second I heard about it.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 4:46 a.m. CST

    Gen. daughter?

    by sjmaatta

    Liberal message?? I thought it was horrible muddy crap. And it was.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 6:33 a.m. CST

    May i remind you again that this is a private site...

    by NUXX

    Moriarty and Harry could be standing out front on the Titanic announcing themselves "Kings Of The World!" for all i care...If you dont like it, go to some other site. This is not China, where there is a one-party rule. This is the internet. You have choices. Use them. Now piss off....NUXX OUT........

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 7:24 a.m. CST

    I thought so...

    by Achilles

    This looked just like another example of Hollywood lionizing Democrats and demonizing Republicans, and that seems to be confirmed by this review. Saved me 8 bucks, thanks Moriarty. Oh, and although I haven't posted anything in a while, I do want to respond to your incomprehension as to why people critique your articles. I think they are great, I have only criticized you for wasting our time with the insipid "I'm a 19th century literary mad genius" routine, filling a page and a half of unentertaining nonsense before you got to the actually review. Thankfully, you seem to have disposed of that routine here, and the film content of your article remains, as always, excellent. Harry take hits because his ego is out of control.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Muhahaha what a bunch of hogwash.

    by Fatal Discharge

    Yet again someone misses the irony in saying that they were 'demonized' by 'hit pieces' in the talkbacks when they were in fact the ones who were doing the same thing in the infamous review of "Tarzan's" movie The Cell. This is what politicians do so well, twist what they say so that they make themselves look good when in fact they ignore the facts. As for the what if The Contender eventually falls on one side of the political fence? From other reviews I've read it does give Gary Oldman some good points and is more evenhanded than pointed out here. And why complain over "all the speeches" in the film? Isn't that what politicians do all day, make speeches? If you didn't want to see a 'political' film then may I suggest Digimon The Movie which I'm sure is politically correct to all the Digimon sides.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Grrrrr... Clinton?

    by Anton_Sirius

    This has WHAT to do with Clinton, exactly? Let's recap: 1) Clinton had sex that a fair number of people disapprove of while in office; 2) Joan Allen's character in the Contender apparently DIDN'T have sex that a fair number of people would disapprove of BEFORE she held office. Oh yeah, what a shocking similarity. If you want a take a shot at the film, stick with the 'demoniztion of the Republicans' theme, because Joan's part has more in common with Jimmy Carter than your beloved punching bag Bubba.

  • Oct. 10, 2000, 9:09 p.m. CST

    It's not the fact that the movie is politically motivated...

    by Monkey Lord

    But that's it's not INTELLIGENTLY and politically motivated. In case you haven't noticed, republicans are not an evil lot....if you believe so, then you need to get out more and expose yourself to the real world instead of the slanted material you absorb through this boob-toob pop culture of ours. And despite what Mtv tells you, Democrats are not saints. Both parties have good intentions and good ideas... But it really, really is getting old seeing the same old tired anti-conservativism slant in hollywood. Very rarely do I ever see a republican in a hollywood film that doesn't seem like he should have little horns and a pitch fork behind his back. Please. It's as insulting to our intelligence as 'black-face.' Republicans are people too, for christ sakes... I swear it. I know some. :) They have good folks and bad, just like the democrats do (and believe you me, they both have some PRETTY bad ones) Show us REALISTIC people Hollywood... not silly, distorted stereotypes.

  • Oct. 11, 2000, 12:02 a.m. CST

    Congratulations, Moriarty, your review didn't make want to save

    by Samthelion

    And there's a difference between "writing about film" like Bogdanovich, Truffaut, and even Lurie did, and writing self-important, know-all reviews like this. What do you know about great films? Why can't you just talk about why it does or doesn't work as a WHOLE instead of critiquing individual scenes to prove why "I can't give it a recommendation." It sounds like an intelligent movie, which you have proved time and time again that you are incapable of watching or writing about. As long as you perceive yourself to have some kind of brain-draining power, your words will do little more than come off as pretensious and glib. There's some writing ability in there somewhere, but all you use it for is to back up your incapability for handling an intelligent, thought-provoking film.

  • Oct. 11, 2000, 11:14 a.m. CST

    Quiet! I'm trying to watch the movie..........

    by gryphon

    Yeah, Moriarty I can't stand people who talk or do shit like that during a movie. I mean.... whether you agree with the politics or not, that's fine. But don't make an ass out of yourself. I'm reminded of this guy in X-MEN that would make sure the audience new what was happening on the screen, just in case we weren't paying attention. "Uh, oh.... dey on fire!"

  • Oct. 11, 2000, 2:28 p.m. CST

    read the review again.

    by Monkey Lord

    That's exactly what Moriarty did... He told us why the move did or didn't work and what was wrong with it. SOMETIMES doing so effectively requires a little more than a 10 word sentence. "moooooooom....Moriarty made me READ! Lots! almost a whole page! waaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

  • Oct. 11, 2000, 2:40 p.m. CST

    Oh, and good Samthelion....

    by Monkey Lord

    Maybe if you don't read any more of Moriarty's reviews, you won't post on the talkback, and we won't have to read any more of your mean, cynical, callous, and crapfestive posts. You know, I'm all for censorship on this board if it will force talkbackers to be civil and SOMEWHAT kind. Asses. You all seem to think that because you're "removed" from direct discourse with someone here, you can say what you want and when you want, other people and their good intentions be damned. Asses.

  • Oct. 11, 2000, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Can't place Robin Thomas?

    by BranaghsGirl

    I can. I don't think it was covered in any of the comments posted before mine (and sorry, I don't care to read them all to make sure. I read the subjects and didn't see anything), so here goes... Robin Thomas played one of Angela's boyfriends on "Who's the Boss?" Maybe some die-hard Tony Danza fan can tell you his character's name.

  • Oct. 14, 2000, 5:13 a.m. CST

    Angela's boyfriend...

    by Dr.Drake Ramoray

    He played Jeffrey (Geoffrey?), an insurance company exec. Always loved the X-mas episode where Tony sells his old Cardinals card to buy a crystal vase for Angela, while she ends up buying his card back for him. My favorite take on the "Gift of the Magi" ever. As far as Hollywood's portrayals of the GOP, if my only source of political information was movies & TV shows, I'd think that the Republican party was the third reich. And the other posters who said they could tell from the trailer that it would be yet another "conservatives are evil, liberals are good" picture, you are not alone. I have absolutely no interest in yet another love note to Bill Clinton from Hollywood. Maybe after Jan. we can get some movies that are a little lighter on the propaganda.