Category Archives: LAMB Acting School 101
People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.
— Ron Kovic
Memorial Day was a while ago and I wanted to see the picture that nabbed Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July. I saw this a while ago, but I haven’t had the chance to write the review until now. The movie did win Oliver Stone the Best Director Oscar.
Based on the true story of Ron Kovic (Cruise), a man who comes from an extremely religious background, was a wrestler in high school and wanted to be part of something greater than himself. When a Marine Corps recruiter shows up at the school, Ron almost jumps at the chance of signing up and going to fight in Vietnam.
The action cut to Ron’s second tour when his platoon shot up a Vietcong village, but they accidentally killed women and children. They realize that it was ruse for the Vietcong to have the opening salvo on the Americans. During the confusion of sand and bullets, Ron ends up shooting one of his fellow soldiers, PFC Wilson (Michael Compotaro). Ron tries to confess what happened, but his superiors brush the incident under the rug.
In another altercation, Ron is shot in the foot and then in the upper chest, paralyzing him from the mid-chest down. He resides in a VA hospital in the Bronx that looks like a slum then a place for veterans. When he returns to his childhood home, he becomes angry that people are indifferent about the war and what it represents to the country.
The main reason for this review is for the next LAMB Acting School 101, Willem Dafoe. Willem has a small part as a confidant of Ron, Charlie, when Ron lives in Villa Dulce, Mexico. A place where disabled veterans stays, get drunk and have sex with hookers. Charlie questions Ron about what really happened to him in the war and questions everything that Ron believed in.
I was expected to be blown away with Tom Cruise’s performance. I saw glimpses of it, but not that much to keep me interested in it. I have seen a lot of Vietnam movies. It’s like all of them are blurring into one. This particular story is not that intriguing to me and I found myself bored with it. It seems shallow and it doesn’t explore what happens to a person when they come back from the war.
Judgment: I wish I had some glowing words to say about this movie, but I don’t.
Sebastian said, “Truth is the bottom of a bottomless well.”
— Mrs. Venable
After the untimely passing of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m glad that her filmography will be center stage on the upcoming LAMB Acting School 101. I was surprised at myself that I have never reviewed one of Ms. Taylor’s before now. That changed with the big screen adaptation of Tennessee William’s play, Suddenly, Last Summer. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Actress nominations for Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie at times was make making it hard to sit still.
The story takes place in 1937 where a young neurosurgeon, Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montogemry Clift) is performing brain surgery on a deranged woman at the Lions Views State Asylum. He is performing an experimental procedure called a lobotomy. He is disappointed with the lack of proper equipment at the place that he threatens to quit.
Dr. Lawrence Hockstader (Albert Dekker) gives John a letter from a would-be patron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Hepburn) who wants him to perform the experimental surgery on her niece, Catherine Holly (Taylor) who is locked away at another asylum, St. Mary’s. They agree to meet at the Venable house to discuss matters. John is caught off guard with the overgrown jungle in the backyard of the estate.
Mrs. Venable talks endlessly about her son, Sebastian that died a year earlier. Apparently, Catherine was there that faithful day when Sebastian died. The incident has driven her to madness. It was described as dementia praecox to her. Catherine is having strange hallucinations about the incident, and she is taking out her frustrations on the staff there. They want Catherine to leave soon. Mrs. Venable thinks that the procedure would cure her of her ramblings.
John goes to St. Mary’s to see if Catherine’s condition in genuine or not. As he hides in a dark corner of the room, he watches Catherine burn a nun’s hand with her lit cigarette. when John tries to questions Catherine about the death of Sebastian, she cannot remember anything. He decides to transfer her to Lion’s View where he could keep a close eye on her and try to chip away at the mind block that she had about the incident.
As John is getting closer to the truth of Sebastian’s death, the more skeletons flying out of the closet.
The movie overall was entertaining to watch, but the grandoise speeches were a bit much for me to take. Mrs. Venable going on infinitum about Sebastian was tiring to watch. I thought Hepburn and Taylor deserved their nominations. I thought that Hepburn was probably placed in the wrong category. It seemed like a supporting role to me.
The final revelation at the end saved this movie for me.
Judgment: This lesser known Williams’ movie should be seen.
This business transaction, which is what this was, is over!
— Catherine Stewart
I have heard of Atom Egoyan’s latest movie, Chloe earlier this year when I saw the trailer for it. I wanted to see the movie, but it never came around my area. When it finally came out on DVD, I had to end my Julianne Moore bender with one of her latest movies. I knew that the basic premise of the movie was taken from a 2003 French film called Nathalie… This movie tried to be Fatal Attraction, but failed miserably.
A marriage that seems to be in disrepair when the wife, Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) is suspecting that her college professor husband, David (Liam Neeson) is cheating. She comes up with this because he misses his flight to come home from a guest lecture on his birthday. The next morning when he finally does come home, he tells her that he would be working late.
Her suspect ions grows when David accidentally leaves his phone behind and it rings. Curious, Catherine checks the phone to see a suspicious email from a woman thanking her husband for the good time last night. She is devastated and tries to put on a brave face to keep up the charade. Catherine meets up with a young beautiful call girl named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) who she has seen coming out of the hotel across the street from her OB-GYN office. She hires Chloe to try to seduce her husband and see what he would respond.
After the first meeting with David, Chloe reports back to Catherine about going to David’s favorite lunch spot. Chloe pretends to be David’s type, a student that is studying language. She tried her feminine wiles on David, but he was just friendly, nothing more.
Catherine is not convinced that David was not incapable of going further. She asks Chloe to go a little further with her husband and she would pay her. After the next meeting, Chloe say that David and her went on lunch date where he asked her to kiss him. Catherine’s suspicions are confirmed and doesn’t want to involve Chloe in their lives anymore. Chloe has another motives to involve herself in both of their lives.
I understand that Egoyan wanted to make a movie about longing and desire, but then it descends into another woman scorned movie that we have seen a billion times. The movie felt vapid. Devoid of any kind of depth of the subject. The biggest selling point of the movie is the pivotal sex scene. It certainly was titillating, but I thought it was tacked on. I understand that Catherine was having a thrill on the lurid details Chloe told about the trysts with David, but it was like a romance novel nightmare.
Judgment: It’s a movie with cheap twists and turns and leaves you unsatisfied.
I can’t really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can’t remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what’s left to hope for?
— Theodore Faron
I have meant to watch Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P.D. James’s novel, Children of Men. I have heard nothing but good things about this movie. It is now the 189th Film on the IMDb Top 250 Films list. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. I wondered at the end of the movie, why the hell didn’t I see this movie sooner?
The movie’s setting takes place in the dystopian world of 2027 London where the world’s population is descending into chaos after the world became infertile. The reason for the phenomenon has not been known until certain events could shed light on the plight of humanity’s survival. There is a countrywide crackdown on illegal immigrants that are brought to refugee camps.
The main person that we fellow is a former activist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) who is working soul-sucking 9-to-5 job where he was almost killed in a bomb blast getting coffee. The world is in mourning over the death of the youngest person in world who was a little over 18. He skips out on work to visit another former activist friend of his, Jasper (Michael Caine) is a hermit living in the middle of woods growing marijuana in his house.
Jasper tells Theo about “The Human Project” which is a secret government project that could help cure the infertility in women. Theo doesn’t believe a place existed. When Theo world is rocked when he is abducted by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Patric (Charlie Hunnam) and Ian (Paul Sharma) who are members of the Fishes, which is an underground guerrilla group that is fighting for the rights of the immigrants.
The leader of the group is actually Theo’s ex, Julian (Julianne Moore) who wants Theo to do a big favor for her. She wants Theo to get transit papers for a “fugee girl” that is trying to get out of the chaos of London. Theo is resistant to do it when Julian offers him $5,000 pounds, he reconsiders it. He goes to his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston) to ask for the papers. All Theo could get is joint transit papers, which means that he has to go with the girl.
Julian brings Theo to the place where the girl, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is hidden away at with her guardian, Miriam (Pam Ferris). The group, including Luke ride out to a checkpoint to get her on a boat away from the place when the car is attacked by rioters and Julian is shot. Things go from bad to worse when Theo realizes that Kee is pregnant. Now, he knows that stakes and lengths that people would go to get close to Kee and her unborn child.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of this movie because the beginning of movie was fine, but nothing exciting was happening. Then when the revelation of Kee’s pregnancy happened, I was hooked right in. It was a tense=filled ride for that time forward. I wanted characters to be all right. I was afraid when danger would come knocking on their door. I have never been so moved by an ending like I did this one.
The movie felt a lot like The Road is some respects, but this movie had hope and heart it in it. The allegories of the concentration camps, Abu Ghraib, September 11th, the war in Iraq were not lost on me. It reminded me of another movie, Blindness that I didn’t care for that much. This world felt like modern times that it eerily gave us a glimpse into a possible future. After you read this review, go and buy this movie. Watch it, experience it. You will not regret it.
Judgment: I didn’t know how could I recommend this movie highly enough?
Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It’s contrast.
— Virginia Woolf
The adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s book, The Hours garnered nine Oscar nominations in 2002 and it was won for Nicole Kidman as Best Actress for playing Virginia Woolf I haven’t seen this movie in years. I turned to it when it was on cable and watched it. I didn’t much care for it, because it was so dreary and depressing that I wanted to kill myself after watching it. I shouldn’t have been as harsh as I been, but it is not an enjoyable film to sit through.
Three seemingly separate stories from three different twenty-four hour periods that are woven together in this movie. It tells the day in 1923 of English writer, Virginia Woolf (Kidman) who is inspired to write the manuscript for her début novel, Mrs. Dalloway. It tells the story about a woman named Clarissa who is hosting a party, but she feels constrained by society’s rules that she is unhappy.
Virginia is subjected to live in countryside because of her history of mental illness and her attempts to kill herself. This worries Virginia’s husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane) to no end that he has to change his life for her. When a visit from her sister, Vanessa (Miranda Richardson) shows her what she should do to her heroine in the end of her novel.
A depressed pregnant housewife in 1951 Los Angles reads Mrs. Dalloway, Sarah Brown (Julianne Moore) as her only mission is bake a cake for her husband, Dan (John C. Reilly) for his birthday. She feels that she living someone else’s life and not her own. She tries to hide it from her son, Richie (Jack Rovello) who wants to help his mommy out with the cake. The only break in her mundane day was when her neighbor, Kitty (Toni Collette) comes by the hospital to her some upsetting news. Sarah’s only escape is the book as a key to a better life.
Lastly, in 2001 is a modern of “Mrs. Dalloway”, Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) who is helping plan the party of her longtime friend who is stricken with full-blown AIDS, Richard (Ed Harris) who is receiving the Carruther’s prize for his poetry. Clarissa is running around trying to make Richard comfortable when he is slowing losing his mind as his body deteriorates. Clarissa’s girlfriend, Sally (Alison Janney) tried to lend a hand for the preparation, but Clarissa wants to do everything herself. Trying to please Richard could drive a wedge between Sally, Clarissa’s daughter, Julia (Claire Danes) or Richard’s ex-boyfriend, Louis (Jeff Daniels).
As I said before, this movie is dark and dreary about living an authentic life when you are given the role that you have to play. I understand that the movie tried to have that “ah-ha moment”, but I feel like it wasn’t earned in that respect. Almost everybody dwells on death, depression, mental illness, heartbreak, regret that when they have a change of heart seems cheap.
Seeing this movie again, I understand that it was Oscar baity when the serious drama, having a real person in the movie, setting it in different time periods. The characters were not that interesting to me. They seemed flat. The dialogue that they were saying was beautiful, but it felt out of place for me.
I cannot understand why Nicole Kidman won the Oscar for this. I cannot be because of the fake nose, matronly clothes and floppy hats. I cannot be just that scene in the train station alone. It has to be all encompassing. I think Julianne got shafted because they seemed like similar roles. They are polar opposites. Cathy wanted to be a part of the American dream, while Sarah wants to escape it. Meryl was doing her thing. She was solid in the movie. I didn’t like Clarissa.
Judgment: The movie is like looking at a beautiful. Think about it.
Oh, Raymond, Mrs. Whitaker sounds so formal! Won’t you please… ask me to dance?
— Cathy Whitaker
Writer/director, Todd Haynes wanted to make an homage of the Douglas Dirk bedroom melodramas of the 1950s. He created Far From Heaven, which garnered Julianne Moore another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. This was my favorite film of 2002 and I still stand by it.
This story is about a typical American family on the surface. There is the breadwinner of this Connecticut family, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) who is one of the sales executives at a company called Magnatech. His wife, Cathy (Moore) is the perfect homemaker that reminds you of Donna Reed. She juggles her wifely duties as mother to David (Ryan Ward) and Janice (Lindsay Andretta). Cathy is assisted by her trusty housekeeper, Sybil (Viola Davis) who watches the kids when has an errand to run or plans a cocktail party with her friend, Eleanor (Patricia Clarkson).
During the night of one of Cathy’s planned soirees, she is pulled from attending when she receives a call to pick up her husband from the police station for an incident earlier in the evening. On the drive home, the audience realizes that there are cracks in the foundation of the Whitaker marriage. Cathy tries her best to be close to her husband, who brushes her off. She concludes that it is just stress from work.
A reporter from the Weekly Gazette, Mrs. Leacock (Bette Henritze) comes by the house to interview Cathy for the couple being named Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech 1957. Cathy’s attention is distracted when a strange man is lurking in her backyard. She goes to see Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of their old gardener who recently passed away. He is their new gardener and they introduce each other.
Frank pulls himself away from his family by diving head first into a big project that he has to do for work, going to the movies or hanging out in back alley bars. Cathy is jealous that her girlfriends could be intimate with their husbands and hers barely shows her any affection.
During another late night working for Frank, Cathy decides to take his dinner over to his office. When she arrives, she is in for the shock of her life when she sees Frank kissing another man. She is devastated as her seemingly perfect life is crumbling down around her.
Can I say that I love this movie? I love this movie. I’m not familiar with the bedroom melodramas of Sirk’s, but this movie makes me want to visit those movies that inspired this one. Todd Hayes created a fantastic movie with the classic title sequence and end credit, the luscious cinematography, the marvelous score by Elmer Bernstein, Sandy Powell’s costumes, the vibrant colors and the type of film Hayes used. It feels authentic, like it was a lost movie from that time. The subjects addressed in this film would be too taboo for audiences to see.
I want to highlight Haynes words. His original script was very nuanced. No word felt out of place. Being delivered by these wonderful actors is something to marvel. Moore was radiant. She portrayed Cathy as a typical housewife, but she has progressive feelings for the Negroes or women’s rights. With Cathy’s world was crumbling around her, she put on a brave face covering her inner pain. Moore was subdued in her portrayal of Cathy that I was rooting for her to win the Oscar, but she was denied.
A special mention has to go Dennis Quaid who I thought was robbed for a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and I continue to talk about the egregious error to this day. He was so good playing a tortured husband torn between the way society wants him and how he is feeling on the inside.
Judgment: Bravo, Todd Haynes for creating this very skilful work for us to revel in.
I’ve only made two promises in my life. One was to marry Henry, the other is to stop seeing you. And I’m too weak to keep either.
The next movie that Julianne Moore was nominated for an Oscar, this time for Best Actress for Neil Jordan’s take on the Graham Greene novel, The End of the Affair. Researching this movie, I didn’t know that this was a remake of a 1955 Edward Dmytryk film that I have never seen. I have heard of the movie. It was in the back of mind to see it, because I never had the chance to do it until now. Having watched the movie, I wished that more of the movie then the longing and unrequited love.
As the title suggests there is an affair that ends. Pretty self-explanatory. Who are the two people that are having the affair? A mild-mannered husband, Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) seeks out the advice of his friend and neighbor, Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) that his wife, Sarah (Moore) might be having an extramarital; affair. Henry holds a card for a private investigator to track his wife’s nightly activities, but he doesn’t want to know the answer. Maurice offers his services to see who Sarah is seeing.
What Henry doesn’t know is that Maurice and Sarah had a torrid affair during the height of the fighting in WWII. They first met in 1939 during a cocktail party in the Miles’ house. They are equally taken with each other. Maurice takes Sarah to the movie-house to see a movie that was based on one of his novellas. During dinner, Sarah confesses that she is unhappy with her decade long marriage to Henry that equates to a platonic relationship than a passionate one. They begin their affair.
Sarah begins to fall in love with Maurice for being boring like Henry. Maurice is a jealous man who is envious that Henry is married to Sarah that he is not. It’s tears himself up inside. He begins to questions her intentions until she cannot take it anymore.
Years later, the old wounds come back when Maurice visits with the private investigator, Parkis (Ian Hart) to see who has Sarah’s affections like he did when they had their rendezvous. Maurice becomes consumed in a way about the way that Sarah is deceiving everyone in her life. Things are not what they seem when Parkis gathers up his evidence about Sarah’s whereabouts.
The movie on the surface is relatively simple. A love story that could never be because of the circumstances of being in a loveless marriage, being in love with a struggling novelist. She would not have the stability and security that she needed. The movie is not a straight up linear narrative. There is a lot of recollections and revelations that breaks up the narrative, which I quite liked.
The strongest part of the movie was the middle, which I can’t say why because it was spoil it. The middle of the movie was fantastic, especially for Sarah’s character. The beginning of the movie felt disjointed with the affair happening right away. There were no wooing or a build up to the affair. Maurice’s character felt so bland and uninteresting. By the end, I didn’t care for him. Speaking of the end, it was the biggest letdown, because I knew what was coming and if Julianne Moore was nominated for Oscar for this then I would know what it was.
Judgment: If the movie focused more on the love between Maurice and Sarah, I would have liked it better.
You don’t know what I can do! You don’t know what I can do, what I’m gonna do, or what I’m gonna be! I’m good! I have good things and you don’t know about! I’m gonna be something! I am! And don’t fucking tell me I’m not!
— Dirk Diggler
Since Julianne Moore has been wisely picked as the next LAMB Acting School 101, I thought I would revisit some the movies that she has made that made us fall in love with her onscreen. First is the movie that nobody thought would get made because of the subject. Nobody has a made a Hollywood mainstream picture about porn before. Julianne was nominated from an Oscar for her supporting work as well as Burt Reynolds and director Paul Thomas Anderson for his script for Boogie Nights. This movie is still memorable to watch and it is not because of the last shot of the movie. Get your minds out of the gutter.
The movie borrows the life story of legendary porn star John Holmes and his involvement in the Wonderland murders in this movie to a certain point. Recast in the role of John Holmes is 17-year-old high school dropout, Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a down on his luck young man who is blessed with a tripod in his pants. He works for Maurice TT Rodriguez (Luis Guzmán) at his club, Hot Traxx as a bus boy.
Major porn director Jack Horner (Reynolds) spots Eddie and wants to put him in his upcoming movie that he is shooting soon. He considers the offer. Looking upon the coiled snake in his briefs, Eddie thinks that is his ticket out of his humdrum life in Torrance with his ice queen of a mother, (Johanna Gleason). Jack decides to thrown in a ringer with the willing mouth of Rollergirl (Heather Graham), which prompts him to further audition with Rollergirl in home he shares with motherly Amber Waves (Moore).
Decided to go under the tutelage of Horner, Eddie meets some of his co-workers like the man who tries to be hip, but fails miserably, Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), the black superstar, Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker), the everyman, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Little Bill (William H. Macy) who has to keep tabs on his cheating wife (Nina Hartley), the cameraman Kurt Longjohn (Ricky Jay) and the sound guy that develops a crush on Eddie, Scotty J (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
The producer of Jack’s films, The Colonel (Robert Ridgely) asks Eddie to change his name into something that he is comfortable with. He decides on his name from a dream that he had, Dirk Diggler. On his first day on set, he is natural having sex in front of a room full of people with Amber. Dirk quickly becomes the number one male porn star in the business with the fancy clothes, polished cars and the awards. As is customary with stardom, what goes up must come down. This is all about Dirk’s tumultuous journey in the industry.
The movie is playful with the bad porn dialogue the actors have to recite, but there is also some touching moments Rollergirl gets called out in during the exam, Amber trying to talk to her son or Dirk’s downward spiral were devastating to me.
I loved the performances from Mark Wahlberg’s first leading role in a film was beyond what I expected from a former pants-dropping rapper, Burt Reynolds was calm, cool and collected and of course, Julianne Moore looked like she was in 1970s with her fiery red hair, freckles on her porcelain skin and her demeanor as Amber Waves. It was her laid back presence that give her notice during the 1998 award show season.
Judgment: This is the best movie about the porn industry ever created.
I’m a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience.
— Col. Claus von Stauffenberg
Since Tom Cruise is the latest person to be in the LAMB Acting School 101 this month, I thought I would revisit a movie that was largely dismissed WWII drama, Valkyrie. There was a lot bad buzz around this movie with the numerous release date changes and even the possibly of changing the title of movie. A movie about killing Hitler, it’s a no-brainer about what the ending is. This movie is something different to offer about the SS.
The film starting in North Africa during the last years of the war where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is conflicted with serving his country and standing up to the atrocities of what Hitler has done to Jews and his people. He is tries to find somebody that would rise up against the Third Reich. Just then his unit is attacked by the Allied forces.
Losing two fingers in his left hand, left eye and right hand entirely, Stauffenburg is held up in a Munich hospital where he is visited by his wife, Nina (Carice van Houten). He has to return to Berlin to await further instruction from the Fürher (David Bamber).
Meanwhile, there have already been plots to assassinated Hitler mainly with Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) trying to kill Hitler with a bomb that did not go off on the plane with him or Colonel Heinz Brandt (Tom Hollander) who unknowingly carried the package into the plan in the first place. After he botched attempt, Treschow returns to High Command to get it back. Tresckow’s co-conspirator, General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy) lets him know that their plan might be exposed when another defector is arrested. They would need another person to lead the uprising.
When Stauffenberg comes back to Berlin, he is recruited by Olbricht to lead the resistance. Stauffenberg is surprised that many people want to overthrow their tyrannical leader like Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) who tries to find a way to destroy Hitler from the inside out.
Stauffenberg suggests that somebody should infiltrate Hitler’s inner circle. He also suggests that they initiate Operation Valkyrie, which is a plan for when Hitler is dead; the reserved army would be active to help with civil unrest. They want to stage a fake coup to arrest the SS soldiers that take over the government. As Beck said in one conversation, “This is the military. Nothing ever goes according to plan.” Truer words were ever spoken.
The rest of the movie chronicles the failed attempt to kill Hitler. This is history. Everyone knows that Hitler didn’t die until 1945. Knowing the end of the movie was a bit anti-climatic. The movie is not awful. It got a bad rap for something that was the studio’s fault.
Hearing Tom Cruise in his Americanized German dialogue was very distracting to me, except for the guy, Christian Berkel playing Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim. Was he in the same movie? He did dinner theater level acting. Just god-awful. Hearing everybody’s British accents and the lone American – Cruise – made me think that these guys were playing Nazi dress up. I couldn’t buy it all the way. At least, have some slight German accents. Oh, well.
Judgment: What’s the point? Hitler doesn’t die at the end. Oh, spoiler. Sorry.