Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mamet, Sweet Mamet

I have just finished David Mamet’s filmography; an easy, yet satisfying accomplishment. The strange thing is after accomplishing this task within a month, I don’t find him a great director, and his writing, while amazing, can get a little overboard. In fact, I only give ONE of his films a 4/4 and even that was a bit generous.

But, I couldn’t help myself, I was glued to his style, craving more with each newly arrived red envelope. His dialogue is the type where if you read it on paper its terrible, but when it’s delivered through great actors it becomes golden.

Here are my Mamet’s rankings and favorite lines:

  1. House of Games 4/4

The film that threw me into Mamet’s con-infested world with more twist and turns than a game of Twisted Metal. Somehow he creates a universe which exists solely for the characters in the film; is it because it’s a low-budget shoot with name actors on-location? Or is it the realist style combined with cheesy, yet clever, dialogue? Probably both.

Favorite Line…

Mike: I read a book once which said this: If you're fired from your job, when you're going home, take something. A pencil... Something to assert yourself. Take a memento. Take something from life.

  1. Glengarry Glen Ross 3.5/4

Although not directed by the man, probably his most famous work. Problem is that it just doesn’t transfer too well from the play its based on, which I’m desperate to see. Otherwise, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris – you can’t go wrong.

Favorite Line…

(one of my favorite monologues of all time) All train compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don't mind it. That's the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die you're going to regret the things you don't do. You think you're queer? I'm going to tell you something: we're all queer. You think you're a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Get shut of it. Shut it out. You cheat on your wife? You did it, live with it. You fuck little girls, so be it. There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me. You ever take a dump made you feel like you'd just slept for twelve hours?

  1. The Edge

Yet again, not directed by Mamet (which may be saying something), but an amazing movie. I’ve probably seen it over ten times, and I’ll never forget when my dad first brought it home, not knowing what to expect. As the VHS tape rolled, I discovered one of my first favorite scenes of all time - where the cabin owner asks Charles what’s on the other side of the paddle.

My favorite line use to be from the above scene, but it actually changed. Come the conclusion, upon being asked what happened to his friends, Charles says, “They died saving my life.” It took me twelve years to understand this line.

4. Things Change 3/4

This was plain and simply a very warm and touching movie. It made me want to find an elderly Italian man and force him to be my best friend and/or go on a road trip with me. Considering the movie revolves around two people heading to a casino for a night on the town, it’s also where the famous line from Swingers comes from: “This is the guy behind the guy.”

Favorite Line…

IMDB doesn’t have it and I didn’t write it down, but it involves Ricky Jay telling the old man “What am I about to tell you is public knowledge…What I’m about to tell you is not public knowledge.” The entire movie is worth renting for this line alone.

  1. Heist 3/4

Why Netflix said this would be a 2.8 out of 5 stars is beyond me, but it was extremely well done. Not the best heist movie, but definitely up there. It’s one of those, “I’m getting old, so this is the last time” type of movies.

Favorite Dialogue…

Coffee Cart Man:Hey buddy. You forgot your change.

Joey Moore [Takes the change] Makes the world go round.

Bobby Blane: What's that?

Joe Moore: Gold.

Bobby Blane: Some people say love.

Joe Moore: Well, they're right, too. It is love. Love of gold.

  1. Redbelt 3/4

Mamet’s latest movie and probably most interesting. He somehow combines a martial arts picture with a philosophical drama containing Tim Allen playing a serious role. I have no idea how he pulled it off.

Favorite Dialogue…

Chet Frank: Booze, women - what in this life that doesn't get you in trouble?

Mike Terry: Turn to the side. Everything has a force. You embrace it or deflect it. Why oppose it?

  1. Spartan 3/4

This was my last Mamet film to watch and was a let down. But if you want to understand the style I’m talking about see this film. Although it contains a socially massive plot involving the President’s Daugther, he makes the movie feel like a small get together at the local tavern. Sadly, the ending and twist did not deliver well in the slightest.

Favorite Dialogue....

Curtis: I fucked up. I tried to help.

Scott: That's usually when people fuck up.

8. The Spanish Prisoner – 3/4

This was the movie I was most excited for, saving it for last. For some reason, I felt like I had seen this movie way back when it was first released in 1997. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing how strange the release date of the movie is. While The Edge was made in the same year and aged extremely well, this movie epitomizes the late 80/early 90s. Fark it, makes The Edge all the more better. Reminds me of David Fincher’s The Game, but yet again, not nearly as good.

Favorite Line…

George Lang: We must never forget that we are human, and as humans we dream, and when we dream we dream of money.

  1. State and Maine 3/4

I haven’t seen this movie in about two years so I don’t remember much. I remember I wanted to be like The Amateurs, I also wanted Philip Seymour Hoffman to dominate the screen, but it did neither. Regardless, it was pretty good.

Favorite Line…

Considering its Alec Baldwin

[after emerging from an upside-down station wagon he has just crashed]

Bob Barrenger: So, that happened?

  1. The Winslow Boy 2.5/3

Yet another movie based off a play. While Ebert’s review paints this movie to be an ultra subtle take on the nature of feminism and its drive for sex, while also praising its slick dialogue for not being all too obvious in its illustration of the sexual inclinations between Catherine and Robert, it was just a boring movie. Though it does contain an amazing scene when the “Winslow Boy” is interviewed by Robert.

Favorite Lines…

None, just the favorite scene.

  1. Oleanna .5/4

This movie was terrible and made me completely doubt Mamet’s talent. I have been undergoing a complete reexamination of his films to judge whether it’s the actors or his writing which make them good; I still haven’t reached a conclusion. This is a 90 minute movie taking place solely in a professor’s office with dialogue that dances so obscurely around the issue you wonder if Mamet even went to college. Lines are awkwardly repeated verbatim from the opposing character, indirect phrases are horrendously used in failing attempts at cleverness; this is a movie I would show on how NOT to write.

Favorite Line...NONE!

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