If Beale Street Could Talk
Jenkins’ decision to let the original storyteller live and breathe throughout If Beale Street Can Talk is a wise one.
Marie writes: Widely regarded as THE quintessential Art House movie, "Last Year at Marienbad" has long since perplexed those who've seen it; resulting in countless Criterion-esque essays speculating as to its meaning whilst knowledge of the film itself, often a measure of one's rank and standing amongst coffee house cinephiles. But the universe has since moved on from artsy farsty French New Wave. It now prefers something braver, bolder, more daring...
PBS's "American Masters" presents "Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel" and "Harper Lee: Hey, Boo," back-to-back documentaries about two white American women who won Pulitzer Prizes for their first and only best-selling novels, Monday, April 2 beginning at 9 p.m. (Check local listings.) Both will be available via PBS On Demand and are currently on DVD.
If you're hoping for the whirling of petticoats, a colorful Virginia reel and the coquettish fluttering of lashes on the old plantation, you might be surprised by American Master's "Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel." By rebel, director Pamela Roberts doesn't just mean Johnny Reb. On the other hand, if you hope that the author of Gone With the Wind is burning in hell for conjuring up a romantic fantasy of slavery and antebellum plantation life, you might be surprised. Mitchell was a wild young woman who did some shocking dances in her day, but eventually settled down and did good in ways that benefited the citizens of her hometown Atlanta and beyond.
What could be rebellious about a woman who romanticized a plantation lifestyle in which women were raised to be pretty ornaments and good wives in her 1936 novel of the Old South, "a civilization gone with the wind..."? Today, millions of women still live out their Scarlett O'Hara fantasies at their weddings with hoop-skirted bridal gowns, and through Civil War or Southern ball re-enactments. Not so many line up to portray slaves. The documentary uses many clips from the blockbuster 1939 movie, contrasted with photographs of Mitchell in her own wild youth. Even as one might enjoy the sweeping romance of the motion picture epic and attempt to ignore the racism, I suspect most people are more politically sympathetic with Alice Randall's 2001 parody The Wind Done Gone, which re-imagined Mitchell's story from the slaves' point of view.
Everybody hates it when they don't explain everything that happened by the time the movie is over. What we need at the end is not open-endedness but clarity, loose-end tying-up, closure. We need more movies like "Psycho" (unfortunately Simon Oakland has passed, but Larry King is still with us) and "Mulholland Dr." -- movies that take a little time to explain exactly what happened so we're not left feeling stupid all the way home. You know what they say: The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is where you end the story. Well, the same goes for the ending: The difference between a good ending and a bad ending is how good the ending is. Here are eleven of the most outrageously unsatisfactory ambiguous endings in movie history:
"Gone With the Wind" (1939) Scarlett O'Hara says, "I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day." That's not the ending of a movie -- that's the beginning of act three! Put up or shut up, Scarlett. Clark Gable has just said the word "Damn" at you and that's it? If tomorrow is such another day, then bring it on!
"Casablanca" (1942) What do you mean Ingrid Bergman goes off with Paul Henreid and all Bogart's left with is the barest hint of a homosexual future with Claude Rains? At the end he puts her on a damn plane (something about how she doesn't amount to a hill of beans) and he and Rains walk off into the fog together as Bogart says, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Whoa! What the hell happened then? What if "Brokeback Mountain" ended right after Heath Ledger threw up? What kind of ending would that be? And how does Peter Lorre figure into it?
Q. If you look carefully toward the end of "Armageddon," it appears that the same piece of film was used twice. There is a scene in the master control room on Earth as the explosive charge detonates on the asteroid, showing a jubilant crowd scene. In the right foreground an Air Policeman holds his head with both hands in joy. A few more scenes pass, and it is announced that the asteroid has been destroyed; a reaction shot of the control room is shown and we see in right foreground an Air Policeman holding his head with both hands, etc. I caught this repetition quite by accident. I have seen scenes repeated in films before, usually low-budget action films that flop the negative of a scene so the movement is reversed, but I have not noticed this practice in high-budget pictures. Have you noticed this practice--done to fill time or replace a scene that didn't work, I presume? (Tom Butters, Indianapolis, IN)