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American Beauty, Bowfinger, Breakfast of Champions, Happy, Texas

capsule reviews

American Beauty

Another highly anticipated release for me. Kevin Spacey is a personal favorite, and I've been a fan of Thora Birch since the very earliest days. I'm always tremendously excited to see my favorite young stars continuing to make a name for themselves in "real" movies as they grow up. Of course, it goes without saying that I really loved this film. The script and characterization were magnificent, and the performances were absolutely spellbinding. The direction (and I suppose cinematographer Conrad Hall gets credit for this too) was visually orgasmic. Mendes's theater background really brings a strong sense of the visual and all the rose petal imagery is just amazing. Throughout the film, I was constantly delighted by new and beautiful turns. It's really a film that doesn't talk down to its audience, and I respect that greatly.


I finally caught this film just before it left theaters. I have been a huge fan of Steve Martin, nearly since birth. He was a big favorite of my Dad, and a lot of my Dad's sense of humor–and mine as well–come from Steve Martin's influence. Again, it's always fun to see great comedians poking fun at Hollywood, and Martin (as in L.A. Story) really has the perfect touch. Deeply involved in Hollywood as he is, he still has an outsider's perspective on the strange culture of this industry town, and he really shines in this film, both as a writer and as an actor.

Breakfast of Champions

I really like the few Vonnegut books that I've read and I had heard great things about Breakfast of Champions, despite the fact that I couldn't find time to read it before this film's release. I was pretty disappointed by the bizarre style of Breakfast of Champions, which made it really hard to follow the film at all. I enjoyed Bruce Willis's performance–it's always fun to see him making bold and crazy moves–and I felt that Albert Finney was perfectly cast as perennial Vonnegut alter ego Kilgore Trout. However, the rest of the film, particularly Nick Nolte and his bizarro role, left me bored and anxious.

Happy, Texas

This was a film that began with a great premise and, in Steve Zahn, an amazing comic actor. It derailed, but it managed to keep me interested because of the power of the supporting players. Unfortunately, Zahn was relegated to such a supporting position, as Jeremy Northam and his love interest Ally Walker soaked up all the screen time. Still, when we do get a glimpse of Zahn or William H. Macy as the town's nervous, bumbling homosexual sheriff, we enjoy a rare treat. Even the chemistry between Northam and Walker is fun, or at least distracts us from leaving the theater, but the problem is that their love story steals so much from the story of the pageant which is what we really tuned in for. In the end, when the pageant returns to center stage, the film begins to shine again. Certainly flawed, Happy, Texas was still a fun experience.

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