Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar predictions -- if you care

12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle duke it out for best picture. Which will prevail?
Oscar predictions. Really? I suppose that each year critics are obliged to weigh in on Oscar -- at least with predictions in the major categories.

If there ever was any real pleasure in this annual exercise, it long has vanished -- at least for me. An interminable awards season, a plethora of televised awards shows preceding the Academy Awards and non-stop chatter in the Blogosphere have taken much of the bloom off Oscar's rose.

Whebn the awards show finally arrives Sunday (March 2), it may feel like we're watching a rerun.

And I don't entirely disagree with those who argue that this year's Oscars have left Hollywood in a less than celebratory mood. A recent New York Times article by
Brooks Barnes carried the following headline: "For Your Consideration, Apathy."

Barnes' article pointed out that Hollywood's 2014 downer might have something to do with the flood of criticism directed at Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (excessive, debauched and tasteless), as wells as with a revival of charges by Dylan Farrow that she was molested by Woody Allen, her adoptive father.

The rest of the Oscar story is alarmingly familiar: Despite nine nominees for best-picture, no movie seems to have managed to spark interest across the entire moviegoing culture. And some films -- notably Nebraska -- haven't had much by way of widespread exposure. Nebraska has grossed a mere $15 million at the box office despite strong reviews and high-profile placement on the fall festival circuit.

Still, we soldier on, pretending (at least for an evening) that nothing matters more than who takes home a gold statue. Far be it from me, to mount a meaningless protest against the whole notion on artistic competition by refusing to make predictions. So, here goes:

Will win: 12 Years a Slave
12 Years has been a front runner throughout this awards season, but I don't have strong confidence that I'm right to count Gravity out: I certainly wouldn't be shocked if Gravity won. Could the top three nominees (12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle) bump each other off, opening the way for a smaller movie (maybe Philomena) to triumph? Doubtful, but ... And if voters opt for sheer enjoyment, wouldn't American Hustle be the most likely picture to triumph?
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Cuaron should win according to two criteria, degree of difficulty and his movie's overall impact.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club.
McConaughey probably has too much momentum to be unseated by the gifted Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). I suppose Bruce Dern (Nebraska) could be an upset choice, assuming voters want to honor a veteran.

Some analysts advise against dismissing Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street). He seems to have been campaigning. A DiCaprio win certainly would shake up the evening.
Will win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine.
Despite all the talk about Woody Allen's morals, I can't imagine the Academy will penalize Blanchett, who was terrific in Blue Jasmine. If there's an upset looming, look for Amy Adams (American Hustle) to claim Oscar gold.
Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Leto deserves to win. The unlikely but possible alternate choice in this category would be newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who played a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips.
Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best second bet: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle): Lawrence could triumph because of her continuing star power. Julia Roberts, who used to be Jennifer Lawrence, remains a remote possibility for her work in August: Osage County, and June Squibb (Nebraska) could score a dark horse victory. I'm going with Nyong'o, who has swept most of the awards en route to Oscar.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
This year, Captain Phillips, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street and Before Midnight will be also-rans. If they give an award for the most f-bombs, Wolf can't be challenged.
Will Win: Her, Spike Jonze
Here I'm being optimistic. I'd like to see the Academy pay homage to originality. But don't be surprised if American Hustle emerges victorious. I don't anticipate major love for Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska or Blue Jasmine.
By this time next week, Oscar will have revealed all its secrets, and the best bet you can make is that national attention will have shifted to something else. Better yet, we'll finally be able to say that the 2014 movie year has begun in earnest.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Non-stop' trades action for sense

Liam Neeson reunites with director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Unknown) for Non-Stop, a thriller set almost entirely on a jetliner that's facing a terrorist threat.

In addition to exploiting current fears about flying, Non-Stop proves laughably improbable and only moderately suspenseful.

With action-oriented movies such as Taken and to a lesser extent The Grey, Neeson seems to be on the verge of turning himself into a cliche.

Here, he's playing another depressed hero: He's Bill Marks, a Federal Air Marshal who's mired in guilt and prone to heavy drinking. We can guess from the outset that Marks is stricken by a terrible event from his past, probably something involving a daughter.

Despite his personal baggage, Bill gets a better deal than the audience. He's riding comfortably in business class on a flight to London. Once on board, he finds himself seated next to a friendly passenger (Julianne Moore) who also likes to tipple.

The plot arrives almost before the passengers can fasten their seat belts: Bill begins receiving text messages over a secure network. It seems that one of the passengers is a terrorist who plans to kill one passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in an off-shore bank account.

To add a further level of complication, TSA folks on the ground believe that Bill is the hijacker, a rogue agent out for a big pay day.

Bill must find the real hijacker even as he argues with authorities about his right to do so. Like most heroes, he's on his own.

Joining Moore in supporting roles are Michelle Dockery and best supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong'o (as flight attendants).

Nyong'o is entirely wasted, which may be just as well because this rising star hasn't much to gain from a mediocre thriller that throws around red herrings before we learn what's motivating the hidden terrorist.

Let's just say the explanation left me groaning in disbelief. It's brazen, contrived and about as likely as finding an empty middle seat in the center aisle of a trans-Atlantic flight.

Collet-Serra stages an explosive finale which I won't reveal here, but which probably should be avoided by travelers who tend toward white-knuckle flying.

Look, Neeson has plenty of presence, and he's become particularly adept at adding gravitas to these kinds of roles, but I look forward to the day when he finds a bigger challenge -- for him and for us.

Was Vermeer really that good?

Many conclusions can be drawn from Tim's Vermeer, a provocative documentary about one man's attempt to recreate (exactly) a painting by the 17th century master, Johannes Vermeer.

The idea stems from theories initially advanced by artist David Hockney and architect Philip Steadman, both of whom argue that Vermeer used optical devises -- notably a camera obscura -- to make his extraordinarily detailed paintings. (See Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters , Viking.)

Vermeer's purported use of optics inspired graphics expert Tim Jenison, founder of Texas-based NewTek, Inc., to carry the theory a bit further. Jenison not only used camera obscura techniques to crack the Vermeer mystery. He added a small mirror that allowed him to copy a real image with amazing exactitude -- both in terms of color, intensity and composition.

Jenison spent a total of 1,825 days preparing and ultimately producing his version of Vermeer's The Music Lesson.

As directed by Teller -- the silent partner in the magic team of Penn and Teller -- Tim's Vermeer becomes a straightforward look at the way one man follows an obsession.

It's possible that Teller's documentary (which includes an appearance by Penn Jillette) reveals more about the dogged commitment of a man who pursues an unusual interest than anything else. Despite a variety of frustrations and bouts of fatigue, Jenison remains determined.

The methodical explanation of Jenison's single-minded pursuit isn't without a measure of tedium, but this unusual documentary stands as a fascinating look at the ways in which a non-expert attempts to explain how Vermeer painted with such astonishing precision.

Needless to say, many art historians don't agree with Jenison's conclusions, and no one in the film makes a case for why Vermeer's work has so much historical importance.

Besides, how much does it matter how Vermeer painted? What if he did use optics to achieve his effects? No one told him where to direct his eye. No one told him to capture seemingly random moments in daily life.

In that sense, Tim's Vermeer is an intriguing look at something of only marginal relevance. That's why I hope that Teller's documentary will be taken more as a footnote than a definitive statement about an artist whose work peered so directly, intimately and incisively into the lives of his subjects.

Corruption in the juvenile justice system

Director Robert May's documentary, Kids for Cash , tells the shocking story of a Pennsylvania judge who funneled thousands of kids into a juvenile detention center while profiting financially from his time on the bench. Initially regarded as a tough but respected jurist, Mark Ciavarella became a focal point for outrage when it was disclosed that he received a $2.2 million payoff (a supposed "finder's fee") from the builders of a new detention center in Luzerne County, Pa. The "Kids for Cash" scandal, which erupted in 2009, took place in the wake of the Zero Tolerance attitude toward school violence that developed after the shootings at Columbine. May's documentary isn't perfect: Shots of cut-out figures of children add a needlessly arty touch, and May can't totally liberate his movie from talking-heads monotony. But the facts of the story have undeniable power: We learn about young people who did significant jail time for offenses that easily could have been handled in other ways: abusing someone on MySpace or fighting at school, for example. Ciavarella, who eventually was sentenced to a 28-year prison term himself, appears in the movie. He never expresses any real understanding that his draconian brand of justice wreaked needless havoc on many young lives. He does, howeover, admit to a lapse in judgment about the "finder's fee," saying he sought financial security for his family. If you're interested in learning more about the juvenile justice system, May's documentary isn't a bad place to start. The above photo shows a distraught mother screaming at Ciavarella. Her son's downward spiral began with Ciavarella's judgment and culminated in the young man's suicide.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

'Visitors': Make of it what you will

Director Godfrey Reggio returns with another arty 'documentary.'
Director Godfrey Reggio's Visitors couldn't be more different from the usual movie fare -- even taking most art-house offerings into account. Reggio's concentrated, lingering look at a collection of human faces -- many staring directly into the camera -- makes it seem as if Visitors might be an unprecedented experiment: one in which the movie almost seems to be watching the audience.

As he did in his previous "documentaries" (Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi), Reggio teams with composer Philip Glass, this time to bring some 80 faces into our supposedly transfixed consciousnesses.

Reggio occasionally interrupts his cavalcade of faces with eerie images of an abandoned amusement park, an ominous-looking building and a few other "locations," one of them a garbage dump. The feeling can be one of desolation.

Shot entirely in black-and-white, Visitors opens with an arresting shot of the face of a gorilla, a sight that is both unnerving and unforgettable. Are we supposed to feel a kinship with this lowland gorilla? Is the beast about to pronounce some verdict on the human inhabitants of the planet?

It's probably best to regard Reggio's piece as the equivalent of an art installation that decontextualized images, allowing us to be jarred by the way the familiar can be made to feel entirely strange.

Because Reggio tells us nothing about his subjects, the entire film becomes an exercise in interpretation that either will intrigue you or have you heading for the exits.

I don't know how seriously to take Visitorsas art, but I'm glad that Reggio -- who'll be 74 in March -- is still at it, even if he works slowly. It has been 11 years since Reggio's last film, Naqoyaqatsi.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Adultery and murder, oh my!

A mostly leaden adaptation of a 19th century story of guilt and betrayal.
I don't know if there's a single way to ensure the success of a 19th century costume drama, but generally I prefer those that opt for dramatic urgency over undisguised melodrama or slavish devotion to source material, movies that arrive in theaters without a trace of musty aroma.

In Secret -- an emotionally remote rendition of Emile Zola's 1867 novel Therese Raquin -- doesn't fit the bill. Zola's story of murder and infidelity -- considered shocking in its day -- proves a boiled roast of a movie, a story cooked to near flavorlessness.

Zola's story involves betrayal and murder, carried out in the name of love -- or perhaps under the influence of unleashed ardor.

Young Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) languishes in a lifeless marriage to her sickly husband Camille (Tom Felton). Camille and Therese were raised together by their aunt (Jessica Lange), who also arranged for the cousins to marry.

After a move from the country to Paris, the family is visited by one of Camille's old buddies, Laurent (Oscar Isaac, most recently of Inside Llewyn Davis). Laurent and Therese begin their heated affair -- which consists of a lot of lunchtime trysts. It's only a matter of time until they conspire to rid the world of Camille.

A little more chemistry between Isaac and Olsen might have helped carry the movie into its even more dour second half.

Once the dastardly deed has been accomplished -- poor Camille is pushed out of a row boat and drowned -- director Charlie Stratton works to give the murderous duo their moral comeuppance. Transgression must be punished, and both Olsen and Isaac enter full suffering mode.

Olsen, terrific in Martha Marcy May Marlene, can't seem to find a handle on her character, relying on abrupt shifts in mood, pouty silences and wide-eyed gaping.

Isaac knows how to brood, and Lange gives it her all, particularly in late scenes in which a stroke leaves her character unable to move or speak. Felton -- who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies -- might be the most convincing of all.

It's never a good sign when an audience laughs at a movie's most serious moments. Laughter rippled through the audience at a preview screening when the movie reached its grim finale. So much for upping the story's tragic ante.

And truth be told, the finale was a bit anti-climactic. In Secret already had spent far too much time stuck in the visual mud of a darkened, lower-class Paris.

Savvy audiences will notice the similarities between Zola's story and many film noir plots, but even those who don't care about such things may find themselves mired in a tale that seems to be unfolding without benefit of conviction.

No one, by the way, feigns a French accent, which might normally be a relief, except the movie feels as if it has landed in the wrong country. In Secret slogs through the major plot points of Zola's novel while managing a strange trick: It feels about as French as an English breakfast.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fathers and sons -- Japanese style

A story that uses contrivance to explore real issues.
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda transcends contrivance in Like Father, Like Son, a mind-stretching look at complicated issues about the importance of genetics, environment and love.

Like Father, Like Son deals with all of those things, but attains even more of its power as a study of character and class differences, focused mainly on a man who's torn between feelings for his son and the man he believes that child eventually should become.

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) lives an affluent life with his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and their six-year-old son Keita (Keita Ninomiya). The family seems to be doing well, although Keita doesn't entirely fit his father's notion of the ideal child.

Dad seems intent on raising a private-school achiever who shows early signs of developing the intelligence and killer instincts required to become successful in a highly competitive economy.

The movie's major twist arrives when Ryota and Midori learn that Keita is not their biological child. They're notified by a hospital that he was switched at birth with another infant, an occurrence that evidently happened with more frequency in the chaos of post-War Japan, but is almost unheard of in contemporary society.

Kore-eda then introduces us to the family that has been raising Ryota and Midori's biological son. Yudai (Riri Furanki) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki) are parents to Ryusei (Shogen Hwang) along with their two other children.

The movie underscores the differences between the two families. Ryoto's family creates an achievement-oriented environment; Yudai's' family thrives in an atmosphere that's geared to allowing kids to be kids.

Ryoto, an architect by trade, can't conceal his distaste for Yudai, a man who runs a meager appliance store and who talks with unembarrassed crassness about financial damages that might result from the hospital's mistake.

Uncertain about how to proceed, the families begin to experiment. They agree that each will take their biological offspring for weekend visits. They're told by authorities that most parents opt to reclaim their biological offspring.

Don't get the wrong impression: Neither father is reduced to caricature. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Neither is made to seem a beacon of perfection.

Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life, Still Walking and I Wish) fills in background and eventually tilts the film toward Ryota, who must deal with his own relationship with a father who re-married and with his ideas about what fatherhood actually means.

Kore-eda probably leans toward the side of nurture vs. nature, but maybe that's just my bias showing. However you read the story, Like Father, Like Son reveals a lot about divisions within Japanese society, about the irrepressible individuality of children and about the sometimes uncertain role of men as parents.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

'RoboCop' stomps into theaters

It's nothing special, but at least it avoids the junk heap.

Topical issues -- drones, the use of high-tech killing machines and the role of private enterprise in ensuring public safety -- waft through the 2014 remake of RoboCop, although they don't necessarily have much sticking power. Retooled for a new century, this remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 blockbuster also works in a reliable old standard: amoral corporate greed.

Not content with creating robots for heavy duty law enforcement in such dangerous places as Tehran, an evil corporation -- the unimaginatively named OmniCorp -- decides that the best route to conquering the U.S. domestic market is to put a man inside a machine.

The argument goes something like this: A human touch would help convince people that a sophisticated killing machine could experience pangs of conscience or -- in a worst case scenario -- be moved toward regret upon inflicting collateral damage.

Like the original, the screenplay contrives to make Detroit detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) the man in the machine. After assassins attempt to kill Murphy with a car bomb, his ragged remains are carted off to OmniCorp, where they are fitted into an imposing black suit of armor that's programmed to put him in uber-cop mode.

In one of the film's more inventive touches, we see that all that remains of Alex are his head, lungs, heart and one hand. So much for biology: The rest is metal.

Not surprisingly, Alex isn't happy to discover that he's been turned into a robot and that he henceforth will be deprived of fleshy contact with his wife (Abbie Cornish) and his young son (John Paul Ruttan).

As RoboCop, Murphy also has been deprived of the personality that he displays in the movie's early scenes, thanks in part to Kinnaman's ability to humanize cops, a skill he mastered in TV's The Killing. More about that later.

Brazilian director Jose Padilha, who created the pulsating Elite Squad movies, takes the reins, working with a screenplay that manages a bit of wit. Padilha makes amusing use of the Tin Man's refrain from The Wizard of Oz ("If I only had a heart") and of a throbbing rendition of "I Fought the Law."

But Padilha doesn't spend much time trying for tongue-in-cheek winks at the audience, aside from a recurring segment featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, host of a television show that pimps patriotism, OmniCorp-style.

A strong supporting cast adds some of the color that has been drained from Murphy's personality when he becomes RoboCop: Michael Keaton portrays Raymond Sellars, the villain who runs OmniCorp; Gary Oldman signs on as an OmniCorp scientist who hasn't entirely lost his moral bearings; Jackie Earle Haley has a nice turn as an OmniCorp enforcer, and Michael K. Williams appears as Murphy's human partner.

Not surprisingly, Padilha sometimes subordinates story to action, which he films in the typically chaotic style of today's movies. This means that aside from blasts and flying bullets, it's not always possible to tell what's actually happening.

If you've seen The Killing, you know that Kinnaman plays one of the more unusual cops ever to appear on TV, a hip Seattle detective with drug problems in his past. It would have been a stroke of real genius to allow Kennaman to retain a similar personality inside his black RoboCop suit.

To be fair, Kennaman does what he can to embody Robo's inner battle: Does Murphy retain enough of his humanity to counter the programming that guides his actions? Does anything of Alex Murphy remain or is he all RoboCop?

The screenplay tries build emotion by having RoboCop pine for his wife and son. Can he go from being a lethal weapon to a credible RoboDad.

RoboCop isn't as strapped for ideas as real-life Detroit is strapped for cash, but it can feel messy and noisy, which -- come to think about it -- may be just what folks are looking for with a remake that's willing to try lots of things, perhaps in hopes that some of them actually will work.

Amazingly, some do. RoboCop may lack the high-impact clobber of the original, but it manages to avoid the junk heap. I guess that's something.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

'Monuments Men' misses the mark

Intriguing subject short-changed in Clooney-directed movie.
In his sixth directorial effort, George Clooney has made a middle-of-the-road movie about an intriguing subject, the attempt to rescue priceless art seized by the Nazis during World War II.

The Monuments Men of the title are a group of aging academics and art specialists charged with saving paintings, sculpture and monuments from Hitler's rapacious legions. Upper-echelon Nazis wanted to appropriate most of western art for a gargantuan museum to be named after the Fuhrer. Pieces that didn't make it into Hitler's art mausoleum would find their way into the private collections of Nazi bigwigs.

Clooney also stars in the movie: He plays Frank Stokes, an art historian from Harvard's Fogg Museum: Stokes leads the culture-saving effort after assembling his team in what amounts to a subdued Dirty Dozen style.

Matt Damon plays James Granger, an art expert from the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York; Bill Murray portrays architect Richard Campbell; John Goodman appears as a sculptor; Jean Dujardin portrays a French art dealer; and Bob Balaban plays Preston Savitz, a character whose professional skills weren't entirely clear to me. British actor Hugh Bonneville takes on the role of a British art expert who's trying to rehabilitate his reputation as a drunk.

Cate Blanchett has a smaller role as Claire, a French woman who works at a Paris museum, and who has been forced to assist the Nazis in their pilfering. It takes a while for Damon's character to convince Claire, who also has ties to the Resistance, to help find hidden art treasures: She's fearful that the U.S. will appropriate masterpieces in much the same way as the Germans have done.

A couple of major tensions break through the movie's somewhat frozen surface. First, there's an on-going argument about whether any piece of art is worth a human life. That raises additional questions about the importance of culture, even during war-time duress.

Early on, Clooney's Stokes asks President Roosevelt -- a leader for whom art was not a top priority -- what the war will have meant if, at the end of it, Michelangelo's David has been reduced to rubble.

The Monuments Men also race to keep important art objects out of the hands of the advancing Russians, who are portrayed as eager to get their hands on landmarks of Western civilization.

As it turns out, much of the stolen art was hidden in German mines, but the movie's discoveries have a plodding feel. The men's various missions proceed without much vigor.

That seems a major miscalculation: The Monuments Men is like a caper movie -- only without the caper.

The screenplay by Clooney and Grant Heslove (based on a book by Robert M. Edsel) makes some attempts at humor, most of it italicized by one of the most disappointing musical scores in recent memory, a shock since it was written by the gifted Alexandre Desplat, whose work I've almost always admired.

The movie attempts to differentiate among the characters in broad ways, but, as depicted here, these are not the most interesting group of people. Moreover, Clooney doesn't find enough ways to demonstrate either the men's passion for art or their expertise.

Ironically, the movie could have benefited from more talk about art. Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges turns up, as does a famous Ghent altar piece, but for a movie about the enduring importance of art, Monuments Men pays too little attention to it.

Oh well, call it a miss by some very talented people: This little-known and clearly fascinating story deserved more than the shrug The Monuments Men induces.

Looking for love -- after 50

The Chilean film Gloria has plenty of verve
In the Chilean movie Gloria, actress Paulina Garcia wears over-sized glasses that may have the unfortunate effect of reminding American audiences of Dustin Hoffman's look in the gender-bending comedy Tootsie.

Safe to say that director Sebastian Leilo has something else in mind. The glasses, I think, have thematic significance. Despite the size of her glasses, Gloria -- a 50-something woman who has been divorced for more than a decade -- doesn't always see clearly, and we're not talking about her ability to read an eye chart.

It's a bit cliched to say, but Gloria spends too much time looking for love in all the wrong places. She bar-hops and goes to discos. When she's not immersing herself in Santiago's nightlife, she's at home in an apartment where she's tormented by a noisy neighbor who seems to be having a non-stop argument with himself. To make matters worse, the neighbor's hairless cat keeps wandering into Gloria's place.

Gloria isn't completely alone. She has grown children -- a son and a daughter -- but like most grown children, they're busy with their own lives.

The question of Gloria's vision (perhaps judgment might be a better word) comes into sharp focus when she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a retired Navy man who seems to want more than an evening's sexual release.

Rodolfo is also divorced, but he feels the tug of need from his two grown daughters and from an ex-wife who apparently won't let go. And perhaps Rodolfo doesn't want his daughters or his former spouse to let go. For all his complaining, he's obviously nourished by their dependancy.

Beyond domestic entanglements, Rodolfo's occupation suggests a certain immaturity. He runs a theme park where visitors can bungee jump or play paint ball.

Leilo should be commended for creating a portrait of an older single woman, and you can have fun speculating about how Hollywood might have treated the same subject -- presuming it even bothered with characters who carry lots of personal baggage with them as they age.

A scene in which Gloria invites Rodolfo to her son's birthday party (her former husband and his young wife also attend) shows that Rudolfo can't deal with outsider status. For their relationship to succeed, Gloria and Rodolfo must accept the fact that not all of their history can be shared.

I've seen the movie described as joyful, but that's not a word I'd use in connection with a film about a woman's attempts to battle loneliness. Garcia creates a vibrant chaacter whose persistence and liveliness keep the movie's wheels spinning, but Gloria has moments of despair that play against its comic thrust.

By the end of the film, we get the feeling that Gloria will persist -- even if if she has to go it alone. Still, there's a lingering question about whether she'll ever find the companionship for which she yearns.

Dance, in this case to a Spanish version of the disco song that may have given the movie's title character her name, becomes the operative metaphor for Gloria's ability to survive. Metaphorically, it's important to keep dancing. The question for Gloria -- and for everyone else, I suppose -- is how to keep dancing, even after the music stops.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Yes, he was great. What else to say?

Maybe later.

Maybe later, I'll write a longer piece about Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead in his apartment Sunday of an apparent drug overdose.

Maybe later, I'll say something about Hoffman's memorable work in movies such as The Master, Capote and Doubt. Let's defer talk about the way he made many different kinds of movies or about how he always seemed to be the most adventurous of actors. (See Synecdoche, New York. )

Maybe later, I'll try to remember what it was like to interview Hoffman at The Telluride Film Festival, where Capote showed. Maybe later I'll talk about all the other actors I've interviewed who've had nothing but the highest praise for him.

Today, the sun is shining in Denver. We're a few hours away from the Super Bowl, and it's enough to say that many actors are talented and good, but not all of them deserve to be called artists. He did.

I never thought of the 46-year-old Hoffman as being in any way dissolute. I didn't read last May's Variety article about Hoffman completing a detox program. I only dimly remember that in 2006, he appeared on 60 Minutes, where he said he'd been sober since he was 22.

I don't have a clue about what happened to Hoffman, but I know for sure that something has happened to us. We've lost an actor who enriched our culture.

So maybe later we'll talk more about Hoffman's career. For now, it's probably best to say little. If you know anything about movies, you hardly need reminding that Hoffman could dig deep.

All that can (and maybe should) be shared at this moment are feelings of shock and sadness. That's all I've got -- that and the knowledge of a major loss.