MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

Southern Belle Savannah

Adapting a book to the screen is always a risk, and adapting a successful book particularly so, especially if it is a nonfiction book and the story has already made news (or been the subject of gossip, which in this instance doesn’t seem to make much difference) long before the book was ever written. There will always be those who claim that you didn’t do the book justice, or that you didn’t do the real events justice, or both. But let’s face it, folks, the vast majority of us weren’t witnesses to Jim Williams’s record four trials, nor did we attend any of his famous Christmas parties, nor did or do we know Mr. Williams or any of the other inhabitants of Savannah featured so prominently here (even if Jerry Spence – not the attorney, the hairdresser appearing as himself in the movie – insists that ever since the publication of John Behrendt’s book people have been asking him to sign their copy). All that most of us did was read the book … yes, so did I, and I enjoyed it immensely. And maybe some have taken a trip to Savannah and gone on one of those Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil bus tours. (No, haven’t done that myself yet. Savannah’s on my list, though.)

Granted, condensing four trials into one, adding a fictional reporter (John Kelso alias John Cusack) as a stand-in for Mr. Berendt whose book is a first-person account, and making Mandy Nichols (director Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison) the reporter’s love interest, meant altering the facts as related in the book. But let’s not forget that the latter covers a period of eight-plus years and is jam-packed with a shooting, four trials, a host of social events and a cast of more memorable characters than many a novel; all of which is near impossible to transform into a movie if you neither want to skip over half the important details and move the action at breakneck speed, nor turn the project into a ten-part TV series. These changes were probably necessary byproducts of the screenwriting process. But the core elements of the story have been maintained, and apart from the relationship between Mandy and John Kelso / John Berendt, the cast of main characters strikes me as pretty faithful to the book.

Most importantly, the person at the center of the story: antiques dealer, art lover, restorer of historic mansions and sun of Savannah’s genteel society, Jim Williams, is exactly the kind of man you imagine after having read the book – portrayed by Kevin Spacey with all the charm, grace and slightly condescending noblesse you would expect from a textbook Southern gentleman, with that “coastal accent … soft and slurring, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants” as John Berendt writes, quoting Gone With the Wind; making you forget that neither did Mr. Williams actually come from “old money,” nor did Kevin Spacey grow up south of the Mason-Dixon line. And Savannah, of course, is Savannah … city of grand old mansions surrounding its 21 squares, cotillon balls (including a black one), a Married Women’s (Card) Club, lush vegetation, shady trees, Spanish moss and sultry heat radiating from the pages of John Berendt‘s book as much as it does from the movie screen in director Clint Eastwood’s interpretation. The movie was shot on location, including and in particular in and around Williams’s Mercer House, on Monterey Square and in Bonaventure and Beaufort Cemeteries; giving it that feeling of authenticity which is virtually impossible to replicate in a studio. In addition, almost all of the Savannah residents vital to the story readily participated in screen tests; with the glamorous Lady Chablis (in all her eccentricity more lady than many a born one, Southern or otherwise) emerging in a starring role and Williams’s attorney Sonny Seiler portraying the trial judge. Even bulldog Uga, the famed mascot of the University of Georgia’s football team, traditionally provided by the Seiler family and as important a member of Savannah society as all its human residents and as Patrick, the long-deceased dog still symbolically being walked by its former caregiver, was not left out … with the minor imperfection that because Uga IV, the star of the book and the real events it describes had already followed his ancestors Uga I – III to dog heaven when the movie was shot, he had to be portrayed by his son, Uga V. And more authenticity is added by the use of several songs written by Johnny Mercer, Savannah’s famous son and great-grandson of the general who built the mansion restored and inhabited by Jim Williams.

Clint Eastwood’s direction evokes an only marginally modernized version of the “old South” most of which could have come straight out of a book by Faulkner or Tennessee Williams; with an eye for the atmosphere and intricacies of the place and its people that comes as a surprise only to those who merely know the one-term mayor of Carmel, CA as Dirty Harry or the Man With No Name, not as the director of The Bridges of Madison County, like this movie a book adaptation (although set in quite a different environment). And in this approach, he proves as faithful to John Berendt‘s book as in the movie’s depiction of Jim Williams and his fellow Savannahians: What on the surface is the chronicle of the trial of a prominent and rather colorful member of society for the death of a wayward, hot-tempered street hustler who happened to be his sometime lover (and that of most of Savannah’s society, both male and female), is truly a complex, beautifully shot portrayal of the city itself and its people; like in the book, the events as such are merely a vehicle to put into pictures what Eastwood was interested in most. Yet, the movie should first and foremost be taken at face value; it is more than just another book adaptation and in its dignified beauty, easily stands on its own two feet.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1997)
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Executive Producer: Anita Zuckerman
  • Producer: Clint Eastwood
  • Screenplay: John Lee Hancock
  • Based on a book by: John Berendt
  • Music:  Lennie Niehaus
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Jack N. Green
Cast
  • John Cusack: John Kelso
  • Kevin Spacey: Jim Williams
  • Jude Law: Billy Hanson
  • Jack Thompson: Sonny Seiler
  • Irma P. Hall: Minerva
  • Alison Eastwood: Mandy Nicholls
  • Paul Hipp: Joe Odom
  • The Lady Chablis: Chablis Deveau
  • Geoffrey Lewis: Luther Driggers
  • Kim Hunter: Betty Harty
  • Dorothy Loudon: Serena Dawes
  • Anne Haney: Margaret Williams
  • Richard Herd: Henry Skerridge
  • Leon Rippy: Detective Boone
  • Terry Rhoads: Assistant D.A.
  • Michael O’Hagan: Geza von Habsburg
  • Bob Gunton: Finley Largent
  • Sonny Seiler: Judge White
  • Jerry Spence: Hairdresser

 

Major Awards

Society of Texas Film Critics Awards (1997)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – Also for “L.A. Confidential”.

 

Links

Merken

SE7EN

Septenary of Horror

“At first sin is a stranger in the soul; then it becomes a guest; and when we are habituated to it, it becomes as if the master of the house.” – Tolstoy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Although not originating from the bible, the concept of deadly sins is almost as old as Christian doctrine itself. Theologians like 4th century Greek monk Evagrius of Pontus first compiled catalogues of deadly offenses against the divine order, which 6th century Pope Gregory the Great consolidated into a list of seven sins, which in turn formed the basis of the works of medieval / renaissance writers like St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae), Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faustus), Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queene) and Dante Alighieri (Commedia Divina / Inferno). And in times when the ability to read was a privilege rather than a basic skill, the depiction of sin in paintings wasn’t far behind; particularly resulting from the 16th century’s reformulation of church doctrine, the works of artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder brought the horrific results of humankind’s penchant to indulge in vice back into general consciousness with surrealistic eloquence, reminding their viewers that no sin goes unseen (Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins) and that its commission leads straight into a hell reigned by gruesome, grotesque demons and devils whose sole purpose is to torture those fallen into their hands (Bosch, The Hay-Wagon and The Last Judgment; Bruegel, The Triumph of Death, The Tower of Babel, and The Fall of the Rebel Angels).


Antonio Manetti: The circles of Dante’s Hell
(woodcut, 1506)

More recently, the seven deadly sins have been the subject of Stephen Sondheim’s play Getting Away With Murder and a ballet by George Balanchine (Seven Deadly Sins); and on the silver screen the topic has been addressed almost since the beginning of filmmaking (Cabiria [1914], Intolerance [1916]). Thus, Se7en builds on a solid tradition both in its own domain and in other art forms, topically as well as in its approach, denouncing society’s apathy towards vice and crime. Yet – and although expressly referencing the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer and Dante – David Fincher’s movie eschews well-trodden paths and grabs the viewer’s attention from the beginning; and it does so not merely by the depiction of serial killer John Doe’s (Kevin Spacey‘s) crimes, which could easily degenerate into a mindless bloodfest that would defeat the movie’s purpose. (Not that there isn’t a fair share of blood and gore on display; both visually and in the characters’ dialogue regarding those details not actually shown; but Fincher uses the crimes’ gruesome nature to create a sense of stark realism, rather than for shock value alone.) In addition, Doe’s mindset is painstakingly presented by the opening credits’ jumpy nature, his “lair”‘s apocalyptic makeup and his notebooks, all of which were actually written out (at considerable expense), and whose compilation is shown underlying the credits. The movie’s atmosphere of unrelenting doom is further underscored by a color scheme dominated by brown, gray and only subdued hues of other colors, and by the fact that almost every outdoors scene is set in rain. Moreover, although screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker explains on the DVD that the story was inspired by his observations in New York (and the movie was shot partly there, partly in L.A.), it is set in a faceless, nameless city, thus emphasizing that its concern isn’t a specific location but society generally.

Central to the movie is the contrast between world-weary Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who, while decrying the rampant occurrence of violence in society, for much of the movie seems to have resigned himself to his inability to do something meaningful about this (and therefore seems to accept apathy for himself, too, until his reluctant final turnaround), and younger Detective Mills (Brad Pitt), who fought for a reassignment to this particular location, perhaps naively expecting his contributions to actually make a difference; only to become a pawn in Doe’s scheme instead and thus show that, given the right trigger, nobody is beyond temptation. As such, Somerset and Mills are not merely another incarnation of the well-known old-cop-young-cop pairing. Rather, their characters’ development over the course of the film forces each viewer to examine his/her own stance towards vice.

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt perfectly portray the two detectives; while Freeman imbues his Will Somerset with a quiet dignity, professionalism and learning, muted by profound but not yet wholly irreversible resignation, Pitt’s David Mills is a brash everyman from the suburbs with an undeniable streak of prejudice, a penchant for quick judgment and a thorough lack of sophistication, both personally and culturally. Notable are also the appearances of Gwyneth Paltrow (significantly Brad Pitt’s real-life girlfriend at the time) as Mills’s wife Tracy and ex-marine R. Lee Ermey as the police captain. Yet, from his very first appearance onwards, this is entirely Kevin Spacey‘s film. Reportedly, Brad Pitt especially fought hard for his casting; and it is indeed hard to imagine Se7en with anybody other than the guy who, that same year, also won an Oscar for portraying devilish Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects: No living actor has Spacey‘s ability to simultaneously express spine-chilling villainy, laconic indifference and limitless superiority with merely a few gestures and vocal inflections.

While Se7en can certainly claim the “sledgehammer” effect on its viewers sought by its fictional killer, the punishment meted out to Doe’s victims – taking their perceived sins to the extreme – pales in comparison to that awaiting sinners according to medieval teachings. (Inter alia, gluttons would thus be forced to eat vermin, toads and snakes, greed-mongers put in cauldrons of boiling oil and those guilty of lust smothered in fire and brimstone.) Most serial killers also have decidedly more mundane motivations than Doe. And after all, this is only a movie.

Right?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Sin … engenders vice by repetition of the same acts, [clouding the conscience and corrupting the judgment.] Thus sin tends to reproduce … and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)

 

Hieronymus Bosch: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (c. 1500)

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: New Line Cinema (1995)
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Executive Producers: Anne Kopelson & Dan Kolsrud
  • Producers: Arnold Kopelson & Phyllis Carlyle
  • Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
  • Music: Howard Shore
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Darius Khondji
Cast
  • Morgan Freeman: Somerset
  • Brad Pitt: Mills
  • Kevin Spacey: John Doe
  • Gwyneth Paltrow: Tracy
  • R. Lee Ermey: Police Captain
  • Andrew Kevin Walker: Dead Man at 1st Crime Scene (as Andy Walker)

 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Tower of Babel (c. 1563)

 

Major Awards

National Board of Review Awards (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for “The Usual Suspects.”
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Awards (1996)
  • Top Box Office Films: Howard Shore
MTV Movie Awards (1996)
  • Best Movie
  • Best Villain: Kevin Spacey
  • Most Desirable Male: Brad Pitt

 

Links

 


Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562)

 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder: The Triumph of Death (c. 1562)

 


Hieronymus Bosch: The Last Judgment (c. 1482)

OUTBREAK

Casualties of War

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” – Aischylos.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In 1989, a secret U.S. Army SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team was called in after an Ebola outbreak among monkeys in a Reston, VA lab; a mere ten miles from Washington, D.C. They eventually determined that this particular strain wasn’t contagious for humans – others, however, are; capable of producing a 90% mortality rate within a matter of days. The Reston incident produced Richard Preston’s bestselling book The Hot Zone, on which this movie is loosely based (another project involving Robert Redford and Jodie Foster eventually folded).

Like the Reston Ebola strain, the (fictitious) Motaba virus at the center of Wolfgang Petersen’s Outbreak is brought to the U.S. by an infected monkey, caught near a village in the Zairean (now: Congolese) Motaba Valley. Unlike the Reston Ebola it is contagious for humans, with a 100% mortality rate within a single day. And, again unlike the Reston strain, it is airborne, i.e., not only transmitted by direct human-to-human contact.

Officially nobody has any prior knowledge of the virus at the time of its apparent first hit. In fact, once they’ve overcome their shock about its gruesome effects, USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his assistants, Majors Schuler and Salt (Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr.) – in Zaire to provide medical assistance – are downright ecstatic to have discovered a new virus; a once-in-a-lifetime event for most scientists, if it happens at all. What they don’t know is that their own superiors, Brigadier General Billy Ford (Morgan Freeman) and Major General Donald McClintock (Donald Sutherland) have encountered this virus before, albeit non-airborne, in a mercenary camp in 1967 … and on McClintock’s orders, firebombed the camp to secretly develop a biological weapon. Now McClintock insists that their knowledge remain secret even after a first Motaba outbreak in Boston, brought about by the Californian animal lab worker (Patrick Dempsey) who has unwittingly smuggled the carrier monkey out to sell it to a pet store; and after another outbreak in Cedar Creek, CA, transmitted through the pet store owner and a lab technician infected by his blood. McClintock’s solution is the same as 30 years earlier: Firebomb the contaminated area and everybody in it, keep your weapon and be done with it.

But unlike 1967, complete secrecy is no longer an option, as not only Colonel Daniels’s team but also his ex-wife Robby (Rene Russo), who is now with the CDC and has helped contain the Boston outbreak, is aware of the virus’s presence. Thus, McClintock opts for the reverse strategy, obtains a presidential OK for his “Operation Clean Sweep” – after a dramatic presentation to the assembled cabinet resulting in the conclusion that the “bug” is capable of spreading to the entire country, including D.C., within a mere 48 hours; and the admonishment “Be compassionate, but be compassionate globally” – and orders Ford to get Daniels out of the way and keep him “in line.”

Daniels, however, who has long earned a reputation for following orders rather selectively, rushes to Cedar Creek, to work alongside Robby and her team trying to contain the virus. In short order Ford and McClintock show up as well, and soon the town is crawling with soldiers, who seal it off to the outside world and implement a curfew, to prevent a further spread of the virus but also in preparation of “Operation Clean Sweep.” A frantic race ensues; pitting Daniels and Salt, who set out to search for the host animal to develop an antiserum, against their own comrades.

The premise of Outbreak is entirely believable; as evidenced not only by the 1989 Virginia incident – after all, it was mere luck that the Reston strain didn’t prove contagious for humans –, but even more so, by the mid-2010 years’ severe Ebola crisis in several West African countries, which claimed the lives of thousands of Africans and also those of a number of North Americans and Europeans who had traveled to the countries struck by the disease.  Moreover, it has long been public knowledge that various kinds of viral strains do exist in the U.S. and other countries; at the very least for experimental purposes. While their military use is banned under the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, there still is no functioning control mechanism in place (which was also a factor in the Iraq weapons of mass destruction debate). And although the U.S. is a signatory to both aforementioned instruments and has previously stated its non-use policy, the Bush government abandoned international discussions on the issue in 2001.

So, Outbreak addresses enormously important concerns; and it does so compellingly and with a stellar cast. Dustin Hoffman imbues his Colonel Daniels with tremendous compassion but also a great sense of humor; and his snappy exchanges with Russo’s Robby Keough and his team are a delight, especially those with Kevin Spacey, who in 1995 burst into movie audiences’ collective awareness with this film, the Oscar-winning The Usual Suspects, and Se7en. Morgan Freeman brings all his sensitivity to the movie’s most intricate role, General Ford, who is caught between being party to McClintock’s scheme and realizing its profound immorality. Then-27-year-old Cuba Gooding Jr. may have been a bit young to play a Major, but he certainly stands his ground; and few actors can portray a villain as menacingly as Donald Sutherland, although the script gives him little opportunity for true complexity.

Unfortunately, Outbreak gets the full “Hollywood thriller” treatment, complete with dramatic score, two-dimensional villain, clichéd ending and reliance on a few coincidences too many. This (and some plot inconsistencies) somewhat reduces its effect, preventing a good movie from becoming a truly great one – although its ‘copter chases are pure eye candy; and it certainly helps that they were shot by Michael Ballhaus, arguably the business’s best cameraman. But for the importance of its subject alone, and its outstanding cast, Outbreak is worth all the notice it has received.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“[The Cedar Creek population] are casualties of war. … I’d give them all a medal if I could. But they are casualties of war.” “Outbreak,” Maj.Gen. Donald McClintock

“[N]o massacre has occurred … no further action is warranted.” Department of the Army: initial investigation report on the March 16, 1968 My Lai incident (Vietnam)

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1995)
  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Executive Producers: Duncan Henderson & Anne Kopelson
  • Producers: Wolfgang Petersen / Arnold Kopelson / Gail Katz
  • Screenplay: Laurence Dworet & Robert Roy Pool
  • Music: James Newton Howard
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus
Cast
  • Dustin Hoffman: Sam Daniels
  • Rene Russo: Roberta “Robby” Keough
  • Morgan Freeman: Brigadier General Billy Ford
  • Kevin Spacey: Major Casey Schuler
  • Cuba Gooding Jr.: Major Salt
  • Donald Sutherland: Major General Donald McClintock
  • Patrick Dempsey: James “Jimbo” Scott
  • Zakes Mokae: Dr. Benjamin Iwabi
  • Malick Bowens: Dr. Raswani
  • J.T. Walsh: White House Chief of Staff (uncredited)

 

Major Awards

New York Film Critics Circle Awards (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Swimming with Sharks, The Usual Suspects, and Se7en
Seattle International Film Festival (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for The Usual Suspects and Se7en
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Awards (1996)
  • Top Box Office Films: James Newton Howard

 

Links

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

The Usual Suspects (1995)Web of Evil

“Round up the usual suspects.” And so they do – and ending up in the lineup are career criminals Michael McManus, Fred Fenster and Todd Hockney (Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro and Kevin Pollack), ex-cop gone bad gone good again Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) and small-time con man Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey).

Wait a minute … five criminals in one lineup? There’s something wrong here, right? Right …

In The Usual Suspects, not only every line but every gesture, every facial expression and every camera cut counts. Even if you distrust the story being told, you can’t exactly pin down everything that’s wrong with it. The plot unfolds through the tale extracted from Kint, one of two survivors of a massacre and subsequent explosion on a boat docked in San Pedro Harbor, by U.S. Customs agent David Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). And at the same time as Kint is spinning his yarn, in a nearby hospital the other survivor (badly injured and fresh out of a coma) helps a police sketch artist draw a picture of the mastermind behind the scheme – “the devil,” Keyser Söze.

You can watch this movie countless times, and you will still discover new subtleties every single time. Not only will you find that it still makes sense after the story line has been unraveled at the end (which therefore is a plot twist, not a non-sequitur). You’ll also discover nuance upon nuance in Kevin Spacey‘s incredible performance. You’ll see that tiny apologetic grin on Todd Hockney’s face as attorney Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) lists a weapons truck heist – the very act which brought them together in the initial lineup, and which they have all come to believe to have been a trumped-up charge – as Hockney’s latest sin against Keyser Söze, now forming part of the debt to be repaid by participating in the suicide mission in San Pedro Harbor. And at some point you’ll also have figured out all of Fenster’s lines (not being a native English speaker, I am relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one struggling with them at first) … although the mumbling is of course part of his character, and is as excellently delivered as every other aspect of Benicio del Toro’s acting, his lines are so funny and to the point you almost wish he’d speak more clearly so you wouldn’t miss half his punch lines the first time around.

Among a cast of tremendous actors (to name just two, Gabriel Byrne in one of his best performances and Benicio del Toro, deserving much more than just an “also starring” mentioning in the opening credits), Kevin Spacey‘s star shines brightest by far. To this day it is a mystery to me how he came to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – the only things the man supports (in fact carries, almost single-handedly) in this movie are Bryan Singer’s directing and Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay, and that alone makes him the movie’s lead character. But regardless of its title, the award was more than justified, and so was the one for McQuarrie’s screenplay. With infinite trust in the audience’s ability to pick up on little gestures, looks and inflections of his voice, Kevin Spacey displays all the many aspects of his character at the same time; and even the tenth time around, his performance still holds as true as the first time you watch the movie. Almost expressionless he tells his tale, always seeming to give away just about as much as he has to, and only raising his voice for a pointed (and exquisitely timed) expletive upon first being confronted with the name Keyser Söze, and for a wailing “Why me??” as agent Kujan tries to convince him that his own archenemy, Keaton, has been behind their failed enterprise all along and purposely let him (Kint) live to tell their story.

This is one of those movies which have you quote their many memorable one-liners forever: not only the one about “the devil’s greatest trick” has long since gone down in film history. To the extent that it cites other works, those citations pay homage, they don’t merely copy – right down to the name of the movie’s production company (Blue Parrot/Bad Hat); like the title containing a reference to Casablanca, the prototype of all films noir (or those made in Hollywood at least). It is one of the best modern examples of the genre and has long since become a cult classic – it’s a must in every decent collection.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: PolyGram (1995)
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Executive Producers: Hans Brockmann / François Duplat / Art Horan / Robert Jones
  • Producer: Bryan Singer
  • Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie
  • Music: John Ottman
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
  • Editing: John Ottman
Cast
  • Kevin Spacey: Roger “Verbal” Kint
  • Gabriel Byrne: Dean Keaton
  • Stephen Baldwin: Michael McManus
  • Benicio Del Toro: Fred Fenster
  • Kevin Pollak: Todd Hockney
  • Chazz Palminteri: Dave Kujan
  • Pete Postlethwaite: Kobayashi
  • Suzy Amis: Edie Finneran
  • Giancarlo Esposito: FBI Special Agent Jack Baer
  • Dan Hedaya: Sergeant Jeffrey “Jeff” Rabin
  • Peter Greene: Redfoot the Fence (uncredited)

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1996)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Kevin Spacey
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Christopher McQuarrie
American Film Institute
  • Top 10 Mystery Films – No. 10
  • Top 50 Villains – No. 48 (Verbal Kint)
Golden Globe Awards
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) (1996)
  • Best Editing: John Ottman
  • Best Film: Bryan Singer and Michael McDonnell
  • Best Screenplay (Original): Christopher McQuarrie
National Board of Review Awards (1995)
  • Best Ensemble Performance
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Se7en
New York Film Critics Circle Awards (1995)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Swimming with Sharks, Outbreak, and Se7en
Seattle International Film Festival (1995)
  • Best Director: Bryan Singer
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – also for Outbreak and Se7en
Edgar Allan Poe Awards (1996)
  • Best Motion Picture: Christopher McQuarrie
BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) (1996)
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Original Screenplay:Christopher McQuarrie
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Editing:John Ottman
Independent Spirit Awards (USA) (1995)
  • Best Screenplay (Original): Christopher McQuarrie
  • Best Supporting Male: Benicio del Toro
Empire Awards (Great Britain) (1996)
  • Best Debut: Bryan Singer

 

Favorite Quotes

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

“And like that … he is gone.”

Dave Kujan: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
Verbal Kint: Keaton always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Söze.”

“How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?”

“A man can convince anyone he’s somebody else, but never himself.”

 

Links

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

L.A. Confidential (1997)Hush-Hush

What is a good cop? One who joined the police force because he was unable to save his mother from being killed by an abusive husband, but who now uses violence not only against wife-beaters but whenever called for by his superior officers; be it to beat a confession out of a suspect or to discourage criminals from settling in town? Or one who joined the police force to emulate his father, a department legend; to go after “Rollo Tommasi” (the guy who thinks he can get away with anything), but who thereafter lets his career and department politics dictate his actions? Or, in the end, is it the one who has let corruption wipe out so thoroughly the reasons why he once joined the police force that he doesn’t even remember a single one of them, but who for once in his life still finds it in himself to go after real criminals, even at the risk of his own life? This is just one, although maybe the central question asked in L.A. Confidential, the movie based on James Ellroy‘s novel with the same name. And as does the book, the movie refuses to provide an answer to this and the other questions it asks.

The story is set up by tabloid editor Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), who during the movie’s opening credits gleefully sums up the L.A. clichés that still hold true today: “Come to Los Angeles! The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting, … there are jobs aplenty, and land is cheap. Every working man can have his own house, and inside the house a happy, all American family. You can have all this, and who knows, you can even be discovered – become a movie star or at least, singer. Life is good in Los Angeles: it’s paradise on earth.” Laughing sarcastically, however, he adds: “That’s what they tell ya’, anyway, ’cause they’re selling an image. They’re selling it through movies, radio, and television.” Then Hudgens proceeds to tell the story of crime boss Mickey C.’s arrest, which left the void in the City of Angels’s organized crime scene that sets the stage for this movie’s story, and concludes with his tabloid’s tag line: “Remember, dear readers, you heard it here first: Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush …”

And as indicated in these opening lines, nothing is as it seems in this 1950s’ version of a Los Angeles populated by hookers cut to look like movie stars and cops with more or less disreputable alternative sources of income. As the story progresses, its three heroes – career-driven and pseudo-correct Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), tough-fisted and golden-hearted Wendell “Bud” White (Russell Crowe) and nonchalant, corrupt “celebrity crime stopper” Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) – become unlikely allies in their search for their city’s most elusive commodity: the truth. Shades of gray abound, and even the end, which (unlike the novel’s) has at least some redeeming aspects, is not a happy ending by a long shot.

Just when many people longingly remembered the days of The Maltese FalconThe Big Sleep or, for that matter, Chinatown, proclaimed “they don’t make ’em like that anymore,” and were ready to announce the death of the noir genre, along came a group of new directors and screenwriters and breathed new life into patient. The Usual Suspects (which not coincidentally likewise stars Kevin Spacey) is one excellent example, this one is another. Unlike other noir stories’, this tale’s heroes are no private detectives; but all the classic elements of a film noir are there, from a damsel in distress (Veronica Lake-look-alike hooker Lynn Bracken, award-winningly portrayed by Kim Basinger) to crime, corruption and abuse of power, and to dimmed lights and hard boiled dialogue with many memorable one-liners. In a year overshadowed by the success of the vastly overrated Titanic, L.A. Confidential managed to at least collect the Academy Awards in the best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay categories (Kim Basinger and Brian Helgeland/Curtis Hanson, respectively; the movie had also been nominated in the best picture, best director – again Curtis Hanson –, best original score – Jerry Goldsmith –, best cinematography, best art direction and best editing categories). And while the 1990s have seen a revival of the noir genre, this one is a standout even among the new films noirs which that decade has brought us. It made the careers of its writers, director and two of its stars (Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe), and boosted those of several others of its cast members (Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey, to name just two). I am sure it will find its eternal place in the annals of Hollywood, alongside its famous predecessors. There are way too few movies like this these days – if you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favor and remedy that soon. This is modern noir at its finest.

 

Production Credits /
Cast and Crew

Production Credits
  • Studio: Warner Bros. (1997)
  • Director: Curtis Hanson
  • Executive Producer: Dan Kolsrud
  • Producer: Curtis Hanson
  • Co-Producer: Brian Helgeland
  • Screenplay: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson
  • Based on a novel by: James Ellroy
  • Music: Jerry Goldsmith
  • Cinematography / Director of Photography: Dante Spinotti
  • Editing: Peter Honess
  • Art Direction: William (Bill) Arnold
  • Sound: Terry Rodman / Roland N. Thai / Kirk Francis / Andy Nelson / Anna Behlmer / John Leveque
Cast
  • Kevin Spacey: Jack Vincennes
  • Russell Crowe: Bud White
  • Guy Pearce: Ed Exley
  • Kim Basinger: Lynn Bracken
  • Danny DeVito: Sid Hudgens
  • James Cromwell: Dudley Smith
  • David Strathairn: Pierce Patchett
  • Ron Rifkin: D.A. Ellis Loew
  • Matt McCoy: ‘Badge of Honor’ Star Brett Chase
  • Paul Guilfoyle: Mickey Cohen
  • Paolo Seganti: Johnny Stompanato
  • Graham Beckel: Dick Stensland
  • Amber Smith: Susan Lefferts
  • Darrell Sandeen: Buzz Meeks

 

Major Awards

Academy Awards (1998)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Kim Basinger
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson
Golden Globe Awards
(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) (1998)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Kim Basinger
National Board of Review Awards (1997)
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
Writers Guild of America Awards (1998)
  • Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson
Screen Actors Guild Awards (1998)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Kim Basinger
    Tied with Gloria Stuart (“Titanic ,” 1997).
National Society of Film Critics AWARDS (USA) (1997)
  • Best Film
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (1997)
  • Best Film
New York Film Critics Circle AWARDS (1997)
  • Best Film
  • Best Director: Curtis Hanson
  • Best Screenplay: Curtis Hanson & Brian Helgeland
TIME Magazine (USA) (1997)
  • Best Film of the Year
Los Angeles Times (2008)
  • Best L.A. Film of the Last 25 Years
Society of Texas Film Critics Awards (1997)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Spacey
    – Also for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.
Edgar (Allan Poe) Awards (1998)
  • Best Motion Picture: Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland
BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) (1998)
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Editing: Peter Honess
  • BAFTA Film Awards: Best Sound: Terry Rodman, Roland N. Thai, Kirk Francis, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and John Leveque
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music: Jerry Goldsmith
London Film Critics’ Circle (2009)
  • Top 10 Films of the Last 30 Years: No. 7

 

Links

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken