Sunday, April 12, 2009

Culture, Low and High (You Decide)

One of my favorite movies of all-time is Shoot the Piano Player. It's a mini-history of film genres - gangster flick, love story, musician's triumph, hooker with a heart of gold, comedy. Truffaut is at his best, showing off his Cahiers du Cinema background, but never letting the film critic in him stand in the way of making an enjoyable picture. (Think Roger Ebert and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). Watching it again two nights ago only confirmed its brilliance.

Doubt. Wow! Interestingly, in this AM's New York Times Mike Nichols talks about how a great film leaves an audience in silence. That's exactly how I felt last night watching this movie. The performances are riveting. In the world of actors, it can be tough to arrive at the number one. It's almost certainly Brando, but others come close - DeNiro at his best, Norton, Hoffman, Dustin. But Streep is unapproachable. The ease in which she inhabits characters is uncomfortably real. Her accent is subtle and true. Hoffman, Philip is deep, as always, and when he puts on Streep's voice in his sermon on gossip it hearkens to one of my favorite film moments, when Anthony Hopkins nails Jodie Foster's voice in Silence of the Lambs, a moment which caught Foster by surprise, and it shows. Doubt is thrillingly smart, and each and every character from the leads to the bit players, has a depth that shows.

Flipping through the $1 albums at Last Vestige in Albany, I was struck dumb by the sight of the Dark Shadows album. I was a big fan of the show. It was must see viewing upon returning home from school. 4 PM on Channel 7, Monday through Friday. I had the trading cards, the olive green covered paperbacks, maybe even a lunchbox. Sadly, none of those remain, but the 45 RPM "Quentin's Theme" does. To have my hands on the LP was a beautiful thing. On the cover, the tantalizing offer of a Barnabas Collins and Quentin poster was too much to fathom. Usually, those kinds of things never stick inside the cover. A recent repurchase of a Partridge Family album left me sadly without the promised book cover. Oh well. But wait, is that a poster folded up inside? Why yes it is! The poster has Jonathan Frid in a casual shot and then as the vampire Barnabas. David Selby is shown as the normal actor and the zombie Quentin. There is very little apparent difference between the two pictures of each man. Perfect casting!

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