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theoddone33

American Beauty (again)

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I guess I'm glad I wasn't here for all the American Beauty discussion, since I regard it to be the best American film in the last decade or more, and many here apparently do not share that view.

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I guess I'm glad I wasn't here for all the American Beauty discussion, since I regard it to be the best American film in the last decade or more, and many here apparently do not share that view.

Don't worry, I'm sure it will heat up when the debate starts over changing the Top 100. There are those here who want to lose it. There are others (myself included) who plan to put up a fight.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I guess I'm glad I wasn't here for all the American Beauty discussion, since I regard it to be the best American film in the last decade or more, and many here apparently do not share that view.

Don't worry, I'm sure it will heat up when the debate starts over changing the Top 100. There are those here who want to lose it. There are others (myself included) who plan to put up a fight.

Whoohaa. American Beauty cannot possibly stand in the top 100x of anything--with all due respect to the massive talent of Mr. Spacey and with most respect to every person who loves it--it is not a good film. Not a real bomb but entirely without charm, hope, respect, love and humanity. It was like watching slow painful dental surgery--it may be part of the human experience but film is not reality, it just pretends to be real.

There was oportunity for great things in this film but at end it feels like you have been chewing on tin foil the whole time.

I'm no flossy for human drama but this thing stands hollow.

I'll take all shots with good grace and a hopeful smile.

Regards! blush.gif

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entirely without charm, hope, respect, love and humanity

Are you talking about the same film I am? I think it is an amazing look at the human condition. The hope is that life actually is meaningful and beautiful, even if it is only discovered after the fact. It is a film that has joy mixed with pain. The film is sort of like the soaring plastic bag. It may look like trash, but if you let it come alive, it is an amazing piece of art and insight.

The beginning of my defense of AB


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The hope is that life actually is meaningful and beautiful, even if it is only discovered after the fact.

Yes. Unfortunately, it looks for meaning and beauty and joy in an inhuman way, divorced from ordinary human affections and responses.

For example, when you and your girlfriend find

the shattered head of your girlfriend's father in a pool of blood on the kitchen table

, you should see the beauty in that. You should not have any ordinary human reaction in this situation, such as

"Here is my girlfriend being scarred for life by discovering the gruesome remains of her murdered father"

-- let alone anything so banal as

"Dear God, a murder has just been committed!"

That would be too, too bourgeois, and would show that you have not yet realized that despite the fact that we live in a world of dehumanizing corporate practices, lust and masturbation and adultery, child-beating and statutory rape, homosexuality and homophobia, intolerance and even murder, none of that really matters, because look at this plastic bag blowing in the wind. That's deep, man.

Oh yeah, and who was it (Russell?) who said that the only reason Lester

doesn't actually carry out his fantasies with Angela is not because he finally realizes that a middle-aged man should not be sleeping with his teenaged daughter's friends, but only because Angela turned out in the end not to be the experienced slut she pretended to be, but was actually a nervous virgin, and that had she been a capable and willing partner Lester would cheerfully have gone through with it


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Stef, why don't you tell Theo about your "doll hypothesis" critique of American Beauty...?my review

That was Pleasantville, but you've got the right idea.

I'm in a constant state of flux over American Beauty, the filming of the paper bag schtick was el lamo. Since it's been a few years and since I've certainly changed regarding many of my film habits, I'd actually like to see it again, if only to find out what a relativist I've actually become.

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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SDG, that was my favorite spoiler post of all time. Let the games begin!

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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That was Pleasantville, but you've got the right idea.

I shall now crawl under a rock and, not die, but shrivel up into a deathlike state for a few hours in abject self-reproach for having confused the topic of that classic thread that should be committed to memory.
SDG, that was my favorite spoiler post of all time.

Hm, well, partially redeemed then. Perhaps I will just throw rotten tomatoes at myself for a few minutes until I feel better.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Here's a problem I struggle with, SDG. I agree with many of your points regarding the film. But these are similar to the same points you use to argue against The Magdalene Sisters, a film that made my Top 10 in 2003 -- that there are unfair and (as you see it) biased classifications being made in the film. I'm still trying to find my place in this kind of logical/moral way of looking at film, I guess I'm more image/emotion oriented. American Beauty though, like Pleasantville, really struck me the wrong way at the time, like a values system in reverse. Some films are just easier to perceive.

I am somewhat ambivalent regarding Vera Drake, for many of the same reasons: "Oh, look at the poor, poor abortionist! Feel sorry for her plight! Notice how she only wants to help every lost and lonely single pregnant female! Notice her warm heart and tender care!" I can't say that Mike Leigh was saying that for sure, in fact I can't say what anyone, anywhere is intending to say, other than to note a general attitude that comes across in the story itself, I guess.

A similar question comes to mind as to exactly what Mendes was trying to get at with American Beauty.

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I liked the bag scene--but that's the only thing I liked about the movie, and I remember it completely out of context. I liked it because of the content of the monologue in relation to the simplicity of the performance juxtaposed with the intercutting of the girl's reaction, the video footage and the boy's delivery.

The rest of the film was utterly forgettable for me.

SDG, your spoiler post = sweet.


[iNSERT SIGNATURE HERE]

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Here's a problem I struggle with, SDG.  I agree with many of your points regarding the film.  But these are similar to the same points you use to argue against The Magdalene Sisters, a film that made my Top 10 in 2003 -- that there are unfair and (as you see it) biased classifications being made in the film.  I'm still trying to find my place in this kind of logical/moral way of looking at film, I guess I'm more image/emotion oriented.  American Beauty though, like Pleasantville really struck me the wrong way at the time, like a values system in reverse.  Some films are just easier to perceive.

Wow. That's a connection I never would have made in a million years. To me, the only common link between my critique of American Beauty and my critique of The Magdalene Sisters is that [a] they're both mine and I didn't like either film very much.

I don't think what bothers me about American Beauty -- at least, as regards the points I highlighted in my spoiler post above -- has anything to do with "unfair or biased classifications" such as one finds in The Magdalene Sisters.

Well, okay, that the stereotyping of Col. Fitts as the abusive hypocritical ex-military Nazi-sympathizing homophobic

represeed honosexual

conservative who is nothing but evil maybe has something in common with the abusive hypocritical misogynist money-grubbing and in at least one case sexually abusive nuns and priests in The Magdalene Sisters.

But fundamentally they are two very, very different films with two completely different agendas and two completely different sets of flaws. The flaw with The Magdalene Sisters is that it is ham-fisted agitprop. The flaw with American Beauty is that it presents a stunted and amoral vision of the meaning of life. I can't say it would ever have occurred to me to talk about them in the same breath.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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entirely without charm, hope, respect, love and humanity

Are you talking about the same film I am? I think it is an amazing look at the human condition. The hope is that life actually is meaningful and beautiful, even if it is only discovered after the fact. It is a film that has joy mixed with pain. The film is sort of like the soaring plastic bag. It may look like trash, but if you let it come alive, it is an amazing piece of art and insight.

The beginning of my defense of AB

Well said Darrel and I agree.

I like this review -- http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/americanbeauty.htm

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I don't think a movie has to follow logical human behavior to ring true with me. Overall in that scene (Lester laying there) it is finding beauty in everything. I don't think the film even condones anything Lester does and we're only supposed to think it's wrong to do what he's thinking. It gets into the mind of MANY people in this culture of ours. Dead end job, lifeless marriage, and fear of losing one's youthful vigor and attractiveness. It may not be our reality, but it's common thought for many in the culture. It's one of my favorite movies of all time and THE movie that made that first connection with me that drew me to God/spirituality is a real and true way and showed me the spiritual possiblities of film.

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I can't say the ending that bothers SDG so much bothers me in quite the same way, if at all, since I don't view the characters or situations in this film as remotely realistic, and thus I don't look to moments like that for remotely realistic reactions to things. What bothered me most about the film was the way it was presented (at the time, anyway) as some edgy, radical, mind-blowing, liberalizing thing, when in fact it was one of the most conservative films of its day, playing it safe and having-its-cake-and-eating-it-too in every way.

One good place to start critiquing the film is with this February 2000 column by Robert Fulford, written when the film's Oscar campaign was in full swing:

Good sex won't make you less of a hack

Despite the praise being showered upon it, American Beauty is really just a '50s satiric melodrama, right down to its central, tired premise

Robert Fulford, National Post, February 22, 2000


"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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American Beauty is trite, and there are at least a dozen movies from Hollywood, even, from the last ten years, even, that make its points better than it does. I'll open the bidding with The Ice Storm.

Rather than watch it again with my buddy stef, I'd rather have the film's signature image, that stupid plastic bag, tied around my head.


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AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999, USA)

That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it... and my heart is going to cave in.

In a letter Saint Paul wrote to the Philippians, he gives some good advice: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things." So it's easy to see why many Christians, recognizing the wisdom of those words, avoid AMERICAN BEAUTY. An angry, self-preoccupied man sneers at his wife, blackmails his employers and lusts after his daughter's girlfriend. His wife commits noisy, gymnastic adultery in a motel room. Parents subject their children to physical and verbal violence, profanity proliferates and breasts are bared. And when the film offers us transcendent wisdom, it is in person a drug dealer.

Why, then, does this film mean so much to so many people of faith? Could it be that AMERICAN BEAUTY is just the sort of movie Saint Paul is advising us to see? And not only to see but, just as importantly, to think on? For this is a richly detailed film that yields much through conversation and close, thoughtful viewing.

Paul's list begins, of course, with truth


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Rather than watch it again with my buddy stef, I'd rather have the film's signature image, that stupid plastic bag, tied around my head.

We should start a Rocky Horror American Beauty trend. We will wear raincoats to late night weekend screenings that cost $18 bucks, scream various insults at the screen, call Spacey "No-Neck! No-NECK!" and chuck rotten tomatos at the rose petals covering flesh.

BEST IDEA I'VE EVER HAD!! cool.gif

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'm SO glad to see another American beauty thread. Seriously. I've been itching for it for months. Not that I have any insightful (or, at least, communicable) new thoughts myself; I've stopped trying to defend my appreciation of the film. But given all the references, both positive and negative, that are made to the film, I'm glad to see the development or reiteration of everyone's thoughts.

Thanks especially, Ron, for posting your review. It is well put.


So you ladies and you gentlemen, pull your bloomers on...

-Joe Henry

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Cool, I started a thread... I think. huh.gif

First it's always worth noting that any statement like "the best American film in the last decade" has to be taken with a grain (or shaker) of salt, since the only person who can make such a statement authoritatively, even speaking subjectively, is the person that has seen every American film in the last decade. Of course what I'm trying to say is that, for me, as an artistic achievement this film stands so far above the crowd that I find it extremely unlikely that any recent-ish American film not done by Francis Ford Coppola in the 70's could match it.

Why did I like the film? First off, Ricky Fitts. In my estimation, he's a much more important character in the film than Spacey or Benning or Suvari or Birch. He sets everything in motion... Spacey becoming discontent with his life, Birch becoming content with hers. The only character he doesn't affect is one he doesn't interact with, Benning, who just ends up in a downward spiral of her own misery.

Ricky is such an interesting character because what he believes affects both his own life and the lives of everyone he interacts with. His belief is simple... he believes in the existence of a benevolent god. The logical extension of his belief, that there's no reason to be afraid of anything, is correct. It's the same belief Paul expresses in Romans 8:28, and the way it affects Ricky's life is the exact same way it should affect the lives of Christians: a conviction that there's no reason to be afraid, ever. Just like Ricky, I need to remember.

For me, the depravity of the characters (which I do not question or excuse) is a means of juxtaposition and makes the message harder to ignore. For the Christian, I think the message taken from the film should not be that there is beauty in sin, but that there is beauty in God's response to sin. The only thing that would make this film more spiritually significant to me is a hint of remorse from or redemption for any of the the main characters.

So that's why I like the film personally. As an artistic achievement it's superlative... great acting, great script, great cinematography... but I like the film so much because it illustrates for me in a very vivid manner a spiritual truth that I need to keep in mind.

I think the weakest part of the film is Chris Cooper's

closeted homosexual leanings

, which felt more like a political statement slash plot device to me than an actual extension of his character. That, and some of Thora Birch's acting was just terrible.

So that's where I'm at.

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Cool, I started a thread... I think.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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One good place to start critiquing the film is with this February 2000 column by Robert Fulford, written when the film's Oscar campaign was in full swing:

Good sex won't make you less of a hack

A "good" place to start? That sounds like the kind of review only a person determined to find no good in a movie can write. I guess you understand what I mean... thoughtful and instructive reviews are almost never that negative.

The big hint was when he called Ricky Fitts a "nervous" teenager, when the movie goes to great pains to show the exact opposite. Did he just miss it? It was a central point of the film!

I'm all for dialogue on the film's merits, but I would call that article a very bad place to start.

Apart from the Thora Birch comment, which is simply whacked. But I'll overlook that, at least until we're no longer under seige...

I said "some"!

Actually, you started a tangent. I split that tangent off into a new thread.

It's more appropriate, I agree... I just was surprised to see my name.

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Have only seen this once and that was a long time ago. IIRC the view fI most picked up on in previous AB debates is how the film wants to eat its cake and to have it still. The opening scenes are played for laughs, Spacey "cleverly" being abusive an funny as he goes through his midlife criss. We're very much meant to laugh with him rather than at him in those scenes, but then the film wants to glorify the moment of realisation at the end.

I need to see it again really, and weigh these criticisms cos they're fading from memory. IIRC it was Overstreet who was particularly vocal about this. Let's hear your case Jeff.

Matt

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theoddone33 wrote:

: A "good" place to start? That sounds like the kind of review only a person determined

: to find no good in a movie can write.

Robert Fulford doesn't do a whole lot of "reviewing" -- he's more of a journalist than a critic, with a wide variety of interests, and this particular column was written MONTHS after the film came out, after it had attracted lots and lots of acclaim and had just been nominated for all those Oscars. So, he probably figured he was correcting an imbalance in the public opinion -- and his point was not so much to weigh the film's pros and cons, as to demonstrate that there was really nothing all that original in this supposedly ground-breaking film.


"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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I loath this film i think it is a smug peice of anti family trash that takes one man's infintile reblion and lionizeis him this is tripe this movie is tripe period.

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