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Old 10-09-2001, 09:12 AM   #1
250
Horus - Egyptian Sky God
 

Join Date: March 4, 2001
Location: either CA or MO
Age: 36
Posts: 2,674
quote from amazon.com:


From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey's calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism--like Sunset Boulevard's Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.
It's an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball's first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbor (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence.

Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylized pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he's also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall's sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams' lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the color of roses--and of blood. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to the DVD edition.

Additional Features
The Awards Edition contains 80 minutes of extras on a second tape. The first is an exclusive segment on the film's storyboards with commentary by director Sam Mendes and photography director Conrad Hall. A featurette called "The Making of American Beauty" is also included.


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One of the most discussed and debated films of our time, October 2, 2001
Reviewer: Zayne Reeves (see more about me) from Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
And that, if nothing else, makes it an essential film for everyone to watch at least once. Pauline Kael (RIP) hated it and dismissed it as a pandering lightweight. It made over $100 million dollars at the box office and won 5 Academy Awards including Picture, Director & Actor. Some swear by it as the definitive take on the phenomenon known as the American Dysfunctional Family and have seen it 14 times. Others think that films such as Election and You Can Count On Me tackle such topics as infidelity, homosexuality-as-a-hot-button-issue, love, hate, sex, death and middle-America inertia better and without the bluster and distressingly sitcom-y tone of American Beauty.

Personally, I could never see my way to hating a film so well acted and directed. The performers, especially the supporting cast, are completely invested in their roles and make strong, bold choices as actors. Sam Mendes, a very gifted & successful
stage director prior to this, keeps the story moving at a nimble pace and manages to establish the world the characters live in vividly so that nothing ever comes across as inconsistent or jarring in terms of Alan Ball's script....which does veer wildly sometimes. It's a shame that Mendes didn't also direct some of Six Feet Under's first season episodes as well. While some refer to the show as "American Beauty Part II: Electric Boogaloo" or "American Beauty Without The Uplift" it does a far better job addressing issues close to Alan Ball's heart and creating more complex characters to represent those views. Unfortunately, their hasn't been a consistent tone with the show yet and the characters behave in ways that suggest that the writers, Ball included, haven't figured out PRECISELY who each character is.

Back to Beauty. One of my problems with the film is its depiction of Benning's character. Essentially, Spacey and Benning's Lester & Carolyn behave very badly towards each other and act irresponsibly throughout. Yet the film sides with Lester's sudden awakening and seems to want to punish Carolyn for having ambition. Lester quits his job, buys pot from a next door neighbor and wants to sleep with underage girls. If you knew this person, you would place him under citizen's arrest or assault him. Carolyn has an affair with a real estate broker and learns how to shoot a gun. I think the film would have been better if it had been less harsh on Benning's character and a lot more on Lester. Benning, being the kind of actress she is, is perfection in the film. In every single scene she plays her characters' intent and motivation with laser beam intensity. The quality of her acting only makes it even more clear how unfairly she is being treated. Spacey is more problematic. Throughout the film I kept wondering what it would have been like with Peter Gallagher or Chris Cooper in his role and Spacey as either the Colonel or "The King." As Lester, Spacey seems to be doing his Greatest Line Reading Hits. He delivers each syllable with crisp, tart intelligence. But he never seems like a real person. Just a very clever actor riffing on punch line variations. Cooper manages to make a very bad cliche that desperately needs to be retired somehow convincing and very frightening. Yet he too throws the balance off by being a real adult. You believe he has led a life outside of the camera frame. Gallagher steals it as a vain, small time businessman with a bemused smirk plastered on his face. As the three teens; Thora Birch, Mene Suvari and especially Wes Bentley give performances that could not be improved upon. As Jane, Lester & Carolyn's daughter, Birch is essentially playing the Christina Ricci role except that their really is something sour and unhappy about her Jane. Birch's line readings are always a little bit sleepy and at first it seems like she is doing a poor job until you realize that she is nailing the part dead on. Disaffected teens DON'T deliver Seinfeld-quality timed zingers. There's something always off about her and it was the best choice for Birch to make as an actress. Mene Suvari is the counter to that. Her character is a performance up until the end and Suvari skillfully shows the real character behind the well-executed performance that she is always giving to her friends and to boys. Bentley should have won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. End of story.

An interesting, if deeply flawed, film that time will tell whether it continues to find new admirers and critics or if it will just fade away like Gentleman's Agreement and other well

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Old 10-09-2001, 09:24 AM   #2
250
Horus - Egyptian Sky God
 

Join Date: March 4, 2001
Location: either CA or MO
Age: 36
Posts: 2,674
The basic story is a failed marriage and the plot revolves around three homes in a "peaceful" little neighborhood. The film is narrated by Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) who is married to Caroline (Annette Bening). Their daughter Jane has a friend (Angela/Mena Suvari) who objects to Jane's relationship with the neighbor Ricky (Wes Bentley) but seems to not mind thinking about sleeping with Jane's father.

If you are a keen observer of life, you will recognize a great number of problems in life that are displayed in one story. The following ideas are portrayed in this movie:

Men in the Military and religious people are portrayed as wacko
Obsession with beauty and youth
Parents don't understand teenagers
Teenagers are self-absorbed and shallow
Drinking and Drugs are the way to escape
Irresponsibility is portrayed as something honorable
Disrespect for authority
Parents trying to be just their kid's friends instead of a guide in life
Teenagers who dress too sexy for their age
A fascination with death and the grotesque
Voyeurism and out-of-control fantasy
Kids making money the easy way.....lack of values
Lying to Parents
Denial that there is a problem
Contempt for Authority, in your face attitude
Parents distrusting their children
Divorce and Adultery
Blackmail and Sexual Harassment
Making other people pay for our irresponsibility
Alternate lifestyles are presented as so very stable, which can be disproven
Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Base beliefs on experiences instead of truth
Teenage sex and rebellion is not frowned on
Addiction to the "F" word
Psychotic Behavior and uncontrolled Violence
Disrespect for property
Generation Gap
You can't count on anyone but yourself
Unhappiness
Domestic Violence
Material Possessions are a priority
No shame of nudity or of being filmed nude
Parents spying on their children and neighbors
An obsession with talking about sex
Suspicion
Prostitution
Children leaving home because of physical abuse
Verbal Abuse
Selfishness
Assumptions
Man relying on himself instead of God
Giving alcohol to minors
Anger, Confusion, Frustration, Suicide
Parental Abandonment
Sarcasm
The Inevitability of Death

Wait? Did I miss anything? What a list!

The pieces of this story in fact do fit together in the story of a life ruled by secular humanism. An interesting look at how I don't want to live my life. Maybe people were so shocked that a movie actually made them think that they awoke to a new awareness. Either you will love or hate this movie.

Basically, I think morals have just slid down the drain and all the movie floodgates have just opened. This is an ugly portrayal of a life not worth living. No one is really happy in this movie. Has anyone noticed that? The characters also seemed to be without souls. Just bodies following every desire or impulse with no guiding principles.

Maybe what we want isn't really what we need and maybe what we need is what makes us happy. A profound movie? No, but thought provoking with a shocking ending.

Art? Yes, a few rose petals, but that doesn't make it art. This is more like a painting that has black ink splattered all over it and it is falling off the wall. Not the movie, but the ideas presented. There are "erotic" scenes of beauty, but it isn't quite an art film. For that you might want to see a French film like "Blue."

The sickness of spirit without a higher power/God is very apparent. You can't find joy from only living for yourself. Living a fulfilling life requires an effort on your part and a dose of healthy morality. Society can't exist without it for very long. When you start pulling out the threads of morality that run through the quilt of the American Dream all you end up with is some tattered threads, some ruined lives and unhappiness.

The most depressing movie I have ever seen and I felt no sympathy for any of the characters as they were all too bizarre.

Your reaction to this movie says more about you than you will most likely want to know. On the one hand I want to say I am glad I watched this, on the other hand, I feel sick to think that anyone lives that way.

What a wasted life when you just live it for yourself.
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Old 10-09-2001, 09:57 AM   #3
Lifetime
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Join Date: March 3, 2001
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Posts: 1,503
Actually 250, I thought it was a work of art. Depressing but thought-provoking. And thats a zoned-out example of how people live day-to-day. Sad but true. And I didnt read the whole post too damned long..

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Old 10-09-2001, 10:03 AM   #4
250
Horus - Egyptian Sky God
 

Join Date: March 4, 2001
Location: either CA or MO
Age: 36
Posts: 2,674
Quote:
Originally posted by Diogenes Of Pumpkintown:
It was a great movie. That reviewer is a dumbass.
lol, dumbass? hmmm.....
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Old 10-09-2001, 10:03 AM   #5
DragonMage
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Join Date: September 6, 2001
Location: The lighter side of life, a.k.a. Newnan, Georgia
Age: 49
Posts: 2,767
I didn't go see it in the theaters because I didn't think I'd like it.

Now I wish I had. I really got into this movie. It showed a 'normal' side of our everyday lives that they don't normally make movies about. I thought it was great.

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Co-Owner/Operator of the Evil Petting Zoo and devout member of the HADB clan.
Commander of the Dragon Fleet, IW Peacekeeping Force
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Hopeless Romantic *sigh*
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Old 10-09-2001, 10:12 AM   #6
Lifetime
Red Dragon
 

Join Date: March 3, 2001
Location: Scotch College, Melbourne
Posts: 1,503
Actually 250 the Bold Italics make it an eyesore to read

Its a "beautiful" movie. I loved the ending because of the way everything fell together in the end. You sorta get the feeling that Kevin Spacey's character had the "I could die now and die happy because I finally know the truth" mentality. And then you realise that his psycho-wife actually did love him. I really wouldnt be surprised if it turned out to be a true story because its just so damn believable.
You dont get all the intro-climax-ending thing after the movie's over because it just sticks with you.
I do agree about the bit about the people in the movie being soulless and purposeless though. Its supposed to be a dramatic potrayal of a life that's anything but dramatic, and it sorta reflects how people are: soulless drifters every now and then..

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Old 10-09-2001, 10:13 AM   #7
250
Horus - Egyptian Sky God
 

Join Date: March 4, 2001
Location: either CA or MO
Age: 36
Posts: 2,674
Quote:
Originally posted by Lifetime:
Actually 250 the Bold Italics make it an eyesore to read

Its a "beautiful" movie. I loved the ending because of the way everything fell together in the end. You sorta get the feeling that Kevin Spacey's character had the "I could die now and die happy because I finally know the truth" mentality. And then you realise that his psycho-wife actually did love him. I really wouldnt be surprised if it turned out to be a true story because its just so damn believable.
You dont get all the intro-climax-ending thing after the movie's over because it just sticks with you.
I do agree about the bit about the people in the movie being soulless and purposeless though. Its supposed to be a dramatic potrayal of a life that's anything but dramatic, and it sorta reflects how people are: soulless drifters every now and then..

what? his physco wife LOVE him? how so?
and what truth does this man know at his death moment?
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Old 10-09-2001, 10:37 AM   #8
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Horus - Egyptian Sky God
 

Join Date: March 4, 2001
Location: either CA or MO
Age: 36
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well, Lifetime?
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Old 10-09-2001, 10:58 AM   #9
Epona
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Join Date: March 1, 2001
Location: London, England
Age: 47
Posts: 5,162
I quite liked the film - it was more 'down to earth' than the usual offerings, and in that respect was more similar to the tradition of British film making - I don't know if Mike Leigh or Ken Loach films get much cinema time in the states... Although the wry humour was different to that of Leigh, and the issues not as political as Loach, but still I thought there were vague similarities.

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Proud winner of the 'Most Useless Post 250 Has Ever Seen' Award 2001. "I'd just like to thank my friends and family, without whom none of this would have been possible..."
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Old 10-10-2001, 02:33 AM   #10
Lifetime
Red Dragon
 

Join Date: March 3, 2001
Location: Scotch College, Melbourne
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Actually 250, the movie ends with him looking at a picture of his family. The whole movie seems to be about his struggle against his family UNTIL that point, where he speaks to his daughter's friend and realises that "everything's great".
He realises that he DOES love his family, and that all he needs to do is look at life from another angle. Thats why you see him die with a smile on his face.
His wife, so ready to kill him, breaks apart when she sees him dead. You get the feeling that she's not just shocked at a dead body;she was ready to kill him herself. But she's overcome by remorse because reality hits home.
Its a very well-crafted movie.

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