Monday, December 22, 2014

Tagging Al Pacino in
"The Humbling"

by Ilene Proctor

eeting Al Pacino should be on everyone’s bucket list. He’s one of the mensch wonders of the world. Al, he of the dog day very lived-in face, the calm inky black eyes, and such a telling way with an anecdote that even Oscar Wilde would rise up in envy. When Pacino talks, everyone stops texting. 
Pacino plays an aging actor who finds it hard to distinguish the stage from his real life in one of the best films in the 74-year old actor’s career The Humbling. Pacino recalls his own humbling personal memories of facing one of an actors' worst nightmares. Botching Shakespeare when he sometimes found himself quoting lines from another Shakespeare play. “The audience doesn’t understand a thing you’re saying anymore, and neither do you. But you find yourself recovering and quickly fast tracking back to the original Shakespeare play as if nothing happened. Gee. Yeah. ”
He described the movie as a dark comedy or a tragicomedy or a tragedy with a whole lot of comedy. The Humbling, is based on Philip Roth's last novel, depicting the life and work of noted actor Simon Axler (Pacino). There's something about the movie that's both unforgiving and forgiving at the same

time. The opening sequence quickly sets the theme for the whole movie. Ungraying his grizzled beard, Simon (Pacino) is reciting Shakespeare to his mirror image

who talks back to him with observations about his personal life. When the director calls out “three minutes to curtain call” Simon rushes to the stage, gets lost and locks himself out of the theatre. When he frantically bangs on the door to be let in, the stage manager has no idea who he is and refuses him entrance. In a short time, the audience realizes this is a dream. But it is another one of an actor’s worst nightmares.
Pacino calls Philip Roth his favorite author— he's thinking about an actor losing his talent. Well, that is not quite what an actor goes through. Both Buck Henry and Barry Levinson and I got together a few times, talked. I think what we came up with, the spin being humorous, there's some fun here. There is so much of "King Lear" in this movie, but the classic line, for me, from "Lear," is when he rages, "I am a man more sinned against than sinning," and you see Simon as a man more sinning than sinned against. The screening was hosted by Sharon Waxman’s The Wrap at the Landmark theatre in Los Angeles . The audience, a whole cabbage patch of intelligent industry insiders, not overdosed on Botox and bling. was deeply appreciative and gave Pacino a three minute standing ovation.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

FOXCATCHER: The Story of John du Pont | Tag Hollywood | by Ilene Proctor


BY Ilene Proctor

From the demented mind of Richard Mellon Scaife, to the Bush Dynasty, to John E Du Pont, the subject of the new film Foxcatcher, there’s something about third and fourth generation inherited wealth that requires serious social investigation., Not only does family money get chopped apart as it passes from generation to generation, it has great potential for self-destruction. The same story plays out a thousand different ways: Hardscrabble grandfather makes the money, Junior sustains the business while living well all his days and then the Third, softened to marshmallow shallowness by a charmed life, fails in his duties as scion. “There’s a phrase: ‘Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations,’ that inevitably seems to play out in predictable repetition.

  Imprisoned by wealth, these third generation princelings appear to become, narcissistic and vicious characters of the Real Housewives franchise, we’re told that wealth is not for kind and gentle souls, but a sport for bloodthirsty animals. While entitlement and narcissism are extremely prevalent in inherited income peers, their obsession with power, prestige and vanity often serves them well in their financial life, it wreaks havoc with all the important relationships in their lives. In addition to suffering from narcissism and addictive personalities, people of wealth also suffer from “low frustration tolerance.” They want what they want and they want it NOW. They’ll pay extra for immediate gratification and haven’t the time nor the patience to wait for anything, including the time it takes for seeds to fertilize.

   In the FOXCATCHER, Steve Carell makes a stunning metamorphosis into John E. du Pont, scion of the wealthiest family in America, and a disturbed and emotionally stunted magnate. In one of the most  revealing  scenes,  Du Pont  delivers  a  wan inspirational speech to his wrestlers, spurred by the sudden appearance of his wheelchair-bound mother. His efforts are so wan and pathetic that she leaves in mid-speech.
     The film focuses on du Pont's tortured relationship with Olympic wrestling brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Despite his gold medal, Mark lives a life of constipated silence and lacks a life and identity outside of his daily wrestling practice with his older brother Dave. The two never seem as comfortable as when they're tussling, nuzzling and throwing each other around. Dave also acts as watchful father figure to his insecure sibling. Soon, du Pont extends an offer Mark can't refuse: He offers to accommodate him at his magnificent estate and subsidize his training for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
     Is homosexual attraction the reason for Du Pont’s involvement, the film refuses to go there? Mark moves onto the rural Pennsylvania property known as Foxcatcher Farms where the taciturn du Pont keeps a stable of Olympic hopefuls, assuming the role as their coach. Mostly, he wears a token uniform and creepily watches the wrestlers. His trophy room acts as a metaphor for his failed relationship with his icy equestrian mother Jean (Vanessa Redgrave). Inevitably, like with all of his relationships, du Pont treast Mark as his property, barging in on him at all hours, hit-
ting and insulting him, He invades Mark's psyche by pretending to sympathize with Mark and his inhibitions. Mark is musclebound, lumbering, inarticulate and in the shadow of his more outgoing big brother.
     In his most emotionally complex performance, Tatum nails his character's pent-up ferocity and wounded vulnerability. The magic of Magic Mike does not exist in this film. Eventually, du Pont persuades Dave and his wife Nancy (Sienna Miller) to live on his luxurious premises. Ruffalo, a consummate creator of varying characters is supurb as the gregarious Dave, a grounded, parental guy with an edge of violence. But things go terribly wrong and du Pont shoots and kills Dave in 1996.
     This is such a great feel-bad film that even though the dialogue is spare and the atmosphere depressing throughout, Director Bennett Miller's creates mounting intensity that culminates in the fatal shooting. Viewers, on the other hand, will be glued to their seats, mesmerized by the powerful performances and the tragic consequences of the demented mind of John E du Pont.