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gigi
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So I made it to the press screening. Why on earth do they subject the press to evil 9am showings? I was so bleary-eyed through the first 20 minutes that it took me ages to catch up with the various character loops in this.

Essentially, the film focuses on several individuals staying at the Ambassador hotel the night Robert Kennedy was assasinated. The individual stories vary from quite political to just plain old melodrama. In this, director Estevez's assesment that the film is more of a "grand hotel" narrative than a political biopic is entirely correct. The three more political strands revolve around the Mexican & black kitchen staff and their racist boss, a Czech reporter trying to get an interview with Kennedy, and a young couple who are getting married to avoid the man from being sent to Vietnam (married men were sent on a tour of duty to Germany).

Some of the performances are spot on. Demi Moore stood out above everyone else by far as a an alcoholic singer. Martin Sheen was pretty darn fine as per usual but his & Helen Hunt's roles were the ones that felt like they were just tagged on (which is amusing considering that Svetlana Metinka's actually was - the producer insisted that she be included. She's his wife. Her role actually fits quite well though.) Freddy Rodriguez delivered a sturdy performance and his character more or less holds the film together. Slater is perfectly cast as the racist kitchen boss.

I'll stop there because it will just get confusing if I list the 22 characters. The film actually manages to hold it together relatively well, although at times it does plod along and veer too far off track (Ashton Kutchner as a dealer, for example). However, the ending does work well and there is a build up of emotion come Kennedy's assasination. The choice of focussing on the people in the hotel rather than Kennedy works quite well in that RFK is often referred to as the moment of the turning of the tide in US politics (loss of hope and the coming of cynicism & dissolusion with the political process); this is Estevez's theme and it plays out well.

Anyway. I've got to write a big review on this so I'm sure given a little while, I'll link to my more detailed thoughts. Just wanted to get the ball rolling. Insights would be much appreciated (for obvious reasons).

Fran

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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gigi wrote:

: Why on earth do they subject the press to evil 9am showings?

FWIW, they generally start at 10am in my neck of the woods, though a certain theatre seems to insist on 10:30am instead, which I don't care for much because then the movies eat into my afternoon.

BTW, this is at least the second thread on a film that you've started in the 'Film Criticism and Appreciation' forum, rather than the general 'Film' forum; I believe this is a category mistake, since this forum is for broader criticism of films in general, or for broader discussions of critical theory.

Plus, in this forum, we can't "rate" the films. :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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BTW, this is at least the second thread on a film that you've started in the 'Film Criticism and Appreciation' forum, rather than the general 'Film' forum; I believe this is a category mistake, since this forum is for broader criticism of films in general, or for broader discussions of critical theory.

Plus, in this forum, we can't "rate" the films. :)

Thanks for pointing that out Peter. I don't usually use the forums as I tend to move about using the 'view new posts' link. Could someone kindly move this (and whatever the hell else I've put in here that shouldn't be)?

Thanking you kindly in advance.

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not interested in discussing the film as much as the man it's named for, so I'm holding to this thread. If there's a more appropriate place for the post, my apologies in advance.

Demi Moore stood out above everyone else by far as a an alcoholic singer. Martin Sheen was pretty darn fine as per usual but his & Helen Hunt's roles were the ones that felt like they were just tagged on (which is amusing considering that Svetlana Metinka's actually was - the producer insisted that she be included. She's his wife.

Oh, I can't resist a couple of comments: First, I thought the woman who played William H. Macy's wife was the strength of the film. Moore did have a couple of good moments. But Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen? What's the age difference there, and shouldn't we all find it rather uncomfortable? Watching it, I was thinking of Hunt being paired up with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets (that's the movie, right?). Who's her next on-screen lover, Ricardo Montalban?

RFK is often referred to as the moment of the turning of the tide in US politics (loss of hope and the coming of cynicism & dissolusion with the political process); this is Estevez's theme and it plays out well.

This bill of goods was being sold, but I wasn't buying. I resisted it at every step, even as I wanted to embrace it. But I confess that I have nothing other than an innate suspicion to back up my reaction. Sure, Bobby Kennedy was an admirable guy, and the clips of him in the film are inspiring. But there's a sound clip of Kennedy that runs something like 5 minutes long -- that's how it felt, anyway -- at the end of the film that just pushed. me. over. the. edge.

I got it, I got it: Kennedy was a hero to all races, and to all right-thinking people in 1968. Sure, someone wanted to kill him, for reasons never stated, and there were racists throughout America -- although those folks aren't quoted as speaking out against RFK, unless I missed something.

The film wants us to believe that the country was torn asunder, and Kennedy was the man to bring it back together. This is the myth of RFK, and there's some evidence to back it up. But the portrayal of this guy -- to the extent he is portrayed in the film, which isn't fully fleshed out -- as some sort of saint just didn't sit right with me.

So, OK, I'm commenting on the film here, but it's a long way around to my main question, which is this: What's missing in this portrayal of Bobby Kennedy? Mind you, I'm not looking for dirt on RFK, but if the film wants to paint him as a modern-day messiah, then it owes us more than stock images of racial unrest and a soundtrack of too-familiar '60s tunes. It owes us a little more honesty.

Or does it? Maybe this IS an honest portrait of the man, as far as it goes.

Sorry to dig around in here. This is me thinking out loud more than anything. I was born in 1970 and came of age during the supposedly cynical post-Camelot era, so I have nothing invested in defending that time, or in excoriating it. I just wonder what I'm missing.

UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, Hunt was born in 1963, Sheen in ... 1940. (Nicholson was born in 1937).

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, Hunt was born in 1963, Sheen in ... 1940. (Nicholson was born in 1937).

And Woody Allen was born in 1935. See Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Helen Hunt: a thing for older guys? Or is this just what actresses have to do to get screen time?

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Dear heavens.

I know that the Weinsteins are good at drumming up Oscar publicity for their projects, but if there's even the slightest bit of truth to the idea that this movie might be a strong Oscar contender, I don't know if I'll be able to bear it.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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From a female perspective, and one who is substantially younger than Helen Hunt, I wouldn't have any problems whatsoever being cast opposite Martin Sheen. But then, he's one of the very very few celebrity crushes I have. The other is Martin Scorsese. Far far more interesting than your Brad Pitts and Tom Cruises (and in my personal opinion their faces have much more character too).

Seriously though, the age thing didn't rankle with me at all. Perhaps because Hunt looks older than she is in this film (the 60s make up & hair weren't helping), or perhaps because they emphasise her focus on material things which would be fitting for a 'younger' woman who is insecure with her relationship with her older intellectual husband. Is it really that unusual to find couples with a 20 year age difference?

Christian:

the hairdresser that played William H Macy's wife was Sharon Stone. And yes, a fine performance. I didn't mention her because I think she's a great actress who delivers when given the opportunity. Moore, though, is usually just a bit rubbish. That scene with the two of them was the strongest in the film though, by far.

This relates to the Oscars thing too. They really ought not to overplay this one cos I don't think it's particularly worthy of Oscars beyond the above performances. A screenplay nomination, perhaps, but it's got enough holes in it to prevent this. I also think that despite all their posturing at the Oscars, the Hollywood bunch are pretty darn conservative and its possible that if they play the liberal trump card too much for this film it will backfire loudly.

As for what you've mentioned about Robert Kennedy. Yeah, I totally agree. It's a completely skewed representation of the man which Estevez has freely admitted. He claims that he forgives RFK anything, and that he assimilates his contradictions into his later personal and political growth. It's very true, RFK was an incredibly complex figure whose actions were anything but consistent. The man who sat alongside McCarthy on the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities also stood on a platform of getting out of Vietnam; he was a vehement Catholic & black and white moralist and yet he took the anti-castro campaign (which involved various convoluted assasination attempts) under his wing; as attorney general he not only authorised the FBI to wiretap MLK's office, he later suggested setting up taps on his personal lines and yet he was the person to encourage JFK to enact a civil rights bill (admittedly reluctantly at first).

There are endless contradictions, and the film doesn't take any of these into consideration. In my view this takes away half of what is fascinating about RFK - his own process of growth and, alongside it, the growth of his vision of American democracy which became incredibly complex. If you're interested in finding out more, I can recommend Evan Thomas' biography which, despite occasionally stooping to reductionism and sensationalism, is generally commendable and does allow the man his many contradictions.

Anyway, back to the film. I don't think it is in any possible way an attempt to look at Robert Kennedy's legacy so much as it is trying to evaluate this moment in American history and use it to reflect on [y]our position today. It is in no way a biopic, and because of this it allows itself much more freedom to be politically biased. I think that the two canvassers are indicative of what Estevez is trying to say in this, they represent the turning point: two young intelligent white middle class males who prefer to drop acid than be involved in America's political process. Does democracy change if half the people it purportedly represents no longer care to take part in the process? Does its meaning change?

They're questions that need to be asked and I think Estevez is deliberately manipulating RFK's image (no more than RFK did himself, or his family subsequently) and positing him as a liberal ideal/the lost hope to broach these contemporary issues.

Finally, in case you're unaware, RFK's assasin Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian, stated that RFK's support of Israel during the 6 day war as his reason for killing him. 24 at the time, he was also clearly mentally unstable and had obsessed over RFK for years. He was denied parole for the 13th time earlier this year.

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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That's a great summary, Gigi. Thank you.

Sharon Stone! I had looked over the credits ahead of the movie, and I remember waiting to see Stone onscreen.

I knew that the actress playing Macy's wife was probably someone whose name I'd recognize once I returned to the list, but I hadn't gotten around to revisiting it yet. Now that you point out that it was Stone, I am nothing less than blown away.

I remember when Stone was nominated for an Oscar for "Casino." Our local critic had raved and raved about her performance, and such a view was kind of goofy at the time, although subsequently validated by the Academy. (This critic also convinced me that Stone was brilliant in the American remake "D'abolique." I saw it on his recommendation, and concluded that the critic was insane.) But this performance leaves "Casino" in the dust. I'd count this as a huge comeback for Stone. I wonder if others will agree.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Hmmm... I hope I wasn't being overly pedantic. I'm still reading up on the fella myself and formulating opinions. I'm currently in the middle of "In His Own Right" by Joseph Palermo which, so far, is by far the best researched book I've read on Kennedy. It focuses on his 4 years as senator, with a particular focus on his role in the anti-Vietnam war movement. It is an incredibly balanced portrait that takes into account the personal, political and social impulses behind Kennedy's decisions. It also consistently provides clear evidence of these, whereas other books rely heavily on speculation.

At present it has me convinced that Kennedy's politics developed substantially during his years as senator. I'm not willing to form conclusions beyond that just yet...

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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My goodness, what a set of reunions this film is.

Martin Sheen and Laurence Fishburne -- together again for the first time since Apocalypse Now (1979)! (Though I don't think they share any screen time.) (And, okay, they were in one or two other things in-between.)

William H. Macy and Heather Graham -- together again for the first time since Boogie Nights (1997)!

And so on.

And of course, the film stars Sheen, who has played JFK, and Anthony Hopkins, who has played Nixon -- both of whom are seen in some of the archival photos, here.

But the biggest surprise for me was that ex-fiancees Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore -- remember how they were engaged in the mid-'80s, around the time they co-starred in St. Elmo's Fire (1985) and Wisdom (1986), before she called it off and married Bruce Willis instead? -- play a squabbling married couple in this film! And just to make things even more interesting, Moore's current husband, Ashton Kutcher, has a small role in this film, too.

Yes, I find this thing sort of distracting, when watching films like this.

Oh, and about the "myth" of RFK -- the film does lay it on pretty thick, and since I saw The Queen so recently, with its allusions to Tony Blair's eventual fall from grace in the public eye, I cannot help but think that RFK would have similarly disappointed his many followers if he had been allowed to live.

In the meantime, I find myself wishing that they had hired the guy who played RFK in Thirteen Days to play him here, too. I mean, it's been six years since that film, and there were six years between the Cuban Missile Crisis and RFK's assassination, so it all fits! :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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