Entries Tagged as 'Biopic'

“Boardwalk Empire” (2010)

Boardwalk Empire is this Fall’s new HBO drama starring Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (1883–1968), Atlantic City’s Prohibition-era Mayor. The combination of boardwalk Carney hijinks and organized crime here make this into vintage HBO — an interesting cross between Carnivale and The Sopranos . Martin Scorcese directed the 70 minute pilot.

The unsurprising thing is that it works really, really well. The Prohibition-era paradigm shift is similar enough to our own era of ascendant faith to make it relevant. The first scene features Buscemi’s Johnson speaking before a local Temperance group and the environment is as colorful and bannered as a Baptist tent revival. As colorful as Johnson’s life of whoring, dealmaking as the mayor and political boss of New Jersey’s Sin City. [Read more →]

‘The Notorious Bettie Page’ (2005)

 The Notorious Bettie Page' (2005) The Notorious Bettie Page is  good in an intellectually satisfying way, bringing order to the typically messy subject of art, pornography and when, where and how one crosses  into the other. Typically, a film like this would be done as a straight biopic, but what Mary Harron and Guinivere Turner have crafted here is no less complicated than Rashamon (1950). No, seriously.

Listen up — Turner and Harron have carefully constructed a four-dimensional portrait of a woman who was, initially, a rather innocent studio model. She was good at what she did, attractive and at ease with her body in a way that made nudity easy. She was many things to many people, even as those fantasies and figments overlapped and contradicted on another.The modelling was so easy, that distortions such as S&M, Fetishism and role-playing were a bit of a joke to her, even as she posed for pictures by the notorious Irving and Paula Klaw . [Read more →]

Short Cuts:’The Honeymoon Killers’ (1969)

Freaky. They refer to Albany N.Y. as ‘the big city’ here.

If you aren’t aware of the plot, it’s a late, experimental variation on noir , about 2 grifters in the Hustler-Older Woman game. For reasons that seem to make no amount of sense, real life con-artists/lovers Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez posed as brother and sister during their scams, their schemes allowing the 200-lb. Beck to accompany Hernandez and their target on ‘dates’ as a chaperone up to and after the ‘wedding’.

It’s an odd film, with primitive camera movements, clumsy direction and stilted dialogue. Conversation and character interaction seem to be second-thought here — almost every line is exposition. describing things that are going on off-screen. [Read more →]

‘W.’ (2008)

‘W.’ is unlike every other film Oliver Stone has made. Typically, Stone uses his biopics as a window onto American history — lived history and what those characters meant within their historical context — ‘Salvador’ was as much about the Reagan era as ‘The Doors’ was about the Johnson era and the mission creep of the Vietnam War. The thing about ‘W.’ is, is that there is neither frame, picture nor metaphor: The George W. Bush presidency is the present, there is no complete, objective view of what he has meant to the country other than $2 trillion dollars in aggregate debt and the fulfillment of Republican tropes about an ineffective and failing Federal Government and its too soon to know if the lessons of Bush II will reverberate in the rest of the culture. [Read more →]

‘Summer Palace’ (2006)

I was disappointed with Summer Palace .

That’s not to say that there aren’t impressive things going on in it — it just seems that my expectations became distorted after what seemed to me an elaborate and meticulous emphasis on direction and production design to refer to European nouvelle vague films that goes entirely nowhere.

In the disk’s promotional blurb, the film is described as a first-hand account of Tianamen Square in Beijung, c. 1989. [Read more →]

‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ (2007)

Charlie Wilson’s War’ is a tricky film to write on, because I have both a Proustian relationship with the material and a more generalized, historical appreciation for the the effort that writer Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols have accomplished.

The week before I saw ‘Charlie Wilson’, I had watched ‘ Nineteen Eighty-Four ‘ again, only to discover what seemed to be a waterboarding administered to Winston by O’Brien.

The past is prologue. [Read more →]

‘The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things’ (2004)

‘The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things’ The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things ‘ is the eponymous title of the book by fictional author JT LeRoy and the movie adapted from it by actress, writer and director, Asia Agento, the daughter of Italian horror director Dario Argento.

Based on the work of author JT LeRoy a/k/a Laura Albert and her fictional male childhood in the itinerant trailer-parks of West Virginia. Back in 1996, LeRoy became something of an overnight sensation, after the publication of several stories and two subsequent novels, ‘Sarah’ (1999) and ‘The Heart is Deceitful of All Things’ in 1999. But JT LeRoy does not exist.

Like James Frey’s ‘ A Million Little Pieces ‘, ‘Heart’ is a piece of fiction dreamed up by an author with an assumed identity [Read more →]

‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ (2005)

‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ (2005) You’re Gonna Miss Me ‘ is a 2005 biopic on musician Roger ‘Roky’ Erickson (b. 1947) ,the former front-man of the groundbreaking, late ’60′s psychedelic band, The 13th Floor Elevators (1965-69). However, the way in which the filmmakers depict him, one would assume that Erikson’s creative life is behind him, which both untrue and unfortunate.

Documentarian Keven McAllester does a satisfying enough job of tracking Erikson’s youth and early music career, before arresting his musical inquiry to dive into a disquisition on the singer’s mental illness and the 17 years he floated in and out of Texas’ Mental Health Care system and the care of friends and family.

Apparently, Erikson discovered LSD in the early ’70′s and it triggered some nascent schizophrenia that Erikson had been walking around with his entire life. At this point – the 20 or 30 minute mark – the film becomes a bit too much like Terry Zwigoff’s ‘ Crumb ‘ (1994) and the filmmakers take too much of an interest in Erikson’s schizophrenia, twenty years of institutionalization and his eccentric family, specifically his Mother Evelyn and his brother, Sumner. And this is where the documentary seems to go wrong. [Read more →]