ridley pearson

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PBS, BBC and Jane Austen

Masterpiece: (PBS) The Complete Jane Austen

It was hard for me to imagine a production company tackling the Jane Austen opus again. Hasn’t every one of her stories been shot several times over the past few decades? And aren’t they all rather magnificent? Kira Knightley sealed it by turning in a winning performance in the quite recent Pride and Prejudice. So what was BBC thinking trying to redo the redux?

The answer may be high-def. All the new films are shot in high definition, meaning they will find a home on television for years and years to come. Older TV films do not, and will not look good in high def. But that’s hardly a reason to take on such a project. After all, millions of dollars were at stake, and most if not all of these these stories has been screen multiple times.

The answer seems to be continuity of excellence. Starting with brilliant writers who have adapted Poirot and Sherlock Holmes and dozens of other master works, these new productions stand on the shoulders of the old and reach new heights. The direction and performances, the production values and cinematography are dazzling. The scripts are concise (90 minutes) and the abbreviation has not hindered but helped the story telling. In Persuasion I found myself holding my breath and reeling from the tension--only to realize every ounce of that tension was wrung from a love story. Not one frame of action ever reached the screen.

Me, a thriller guy, riveted. And all by careful characterization.

Now that’s good writing.

Switch over to PBS next Sunday. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Bucket List

I slept through many of the scenes in The Bucket List, a new film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, which I hope owed more to a bad case of jet lag than editorial comment. The problem with the film is three-fold: sadly, the three dramatic acts. Act 1 is the set-up, and in this case it’s mostly medical. We see who these men were, and who they are now that they’re diagnosed with cancer. There are a couple good lines, but the producers chose to put them in the trailer, so you’ve heard them approximately six hundred times prior to their delivery in the film, and so they fall flat. And that pretty much sums up the film: it falls flat. The second act is a travelogue. The third act is the predictable physical decline of one of the characters and how lives change when we die. No tears from me. Though my wife managed a few. (But she cries at Kodak ads.)

What saves the film, or did for me, are the two performances. Because I will go to any Morgan Freeman or Jack Nicholson film, and I’m not alone: the box office on this film is good. Jack is Jack, and his facial expressions never get old. He’s a master. He makes some pretty standard lines shine. And Morgan Freeman is the answer to that line: Of those still living, with whom would you most like to have dinner? For me, it’s not some Victoria Secret model, or Tom Brady. Maybe I’m getting old. But instead, it might be Steve Jobs or yes, Morgan Freeman. Okay... Nicole Kidman and Scarlet Johansson would make the list. There. Some honesty.

The Bucket List is not great film making, nor is it even fairly good writing. But it’s Jack and Morgan, and so, easily worth the ninety minutes, as long as you leave time for a few naps.

FILM - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I tried to picture the Hollywood “pitch” for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (not that there was one, this being a foreign film). “I want to make a movie about a book that’s a memoir of a guy who had a stroke and could only move his left eyelid. Think ‘My Left Foot,’ but it’s ‘My Left Eye.’”

How this film (yes: film, not movie) got funded is anybody’s guess, but we’re all the better for it. In some of the most haunting, surreal, and life-changing camera work and direction ever to hit the big screen, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly takes the viewer inside the thought of a stroke victim. It is tragically amusing. The viewer is almost ashamed to watch, the voyeurism is so profoundly upsetting. The performances are quiet and subdued; it’s really the writer and director who are performing, but the result is a powerful, sometimes magical, often whimsical, tragedy that has Oscar(R) winner written all over it.

27 Jan 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Cops: Pair wheels corpse to store to cash check
Pair wheels dead man to store to cash his Social Security check, police say
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Two men wheeled a dead man through the streets in an office chair to a check-cashing store Tuesday and tried to cash his Social Security check before being arrested on fraud charges, police said.

David J. Dalaia and James O'Hare pushed Virgilio Cintron's body from the Manhattan apartment that O'Hare and Cintron shared to Pay-O-Matic, about a block away, spokesman Paul Browne said witnesses told police.

"The witnesses saw the two pushing the chair with Cintron flopping from side to side and the two individuals propping him up and keeping him from flopping from side to side," Browne said.

The men left Cintron's body outside the store, went inside and tried to cash his $355 check, Browne said. The store's clerk, who knew Cintron, asked the men where he was, and O'Hare told the clerk they would go and get him, Browne said.

A police detective who was having lunch at a restaurant next to the check-cashing store noticed a crowd forming around Cintron's body, and "it's immediately apparent to him that Cintron is dead," Browne said.

The detective called uniformed New York Police Department officers at a nearby precinct. Emergency medical technicians arrived as O'Hare and Dalaia were preparing to wheel Cintron's body into the check-cashing store, Browne said. Police arrested Dalaia and O'Hare there, he said.

Cintron's body was taken to a hospital morgue. The medical examiner's office told police it appeared Cintron, 66, had died of natural causes within the previous 24 hours, Browne said.

"He was deceased in the apartment when he was removed by these two," Browne said.

Dalaia and O'Hare, both 65, were being held by police and faced check fraud charges, Browne said.

A call to a telephone number listed for Cintron at the apartment he shared with O'Hare went unanswered Tuesday evening. Police said they didn't have an address for Dalaia or attorney information for him or O'Hare.