The Talented Mr. Ripley Movie Threads, Round One: The Talented Mr. Ripley is a knockout - stylish, creepy and a visual block-buster to boot. Don't want to say any more, as this plot is easy to give away, but this is a movie that is likely to make both Matt Damon and Jude Law into major stars. Faithful to Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name, it's a brilliant if unsettling look at the pain of outsiderness and the extent to which some people will go to get inside. Damon is outstandingly menacing and convincing. Jude Law is right out of The Great Gatsby, offering a terrific portrait of entitlement and wealth.
"Ripley" could have been a few minutes shorter, but about the only negative thing to say about it is that you might get depressed that you don't live in Italy.
Any Given Sunday
"Any Given Sunday" is Oliver Stone's take on the NFL as well as on media and culture (his twin obsessions). Through his eyes and perspective, this is much more than a sports movie, but a blunt look at race, celebrity, money and the high-cost gladiator mentality present in athletes, (and many Slashdot posters).
Stone is watching too much MTV. Too many ominous clouds are moving, and it sometimes seems as if even drunken fans are having sepia-toned flashbacks. Robbie Robertson's soundtrack is outstanding, but mournful Native-American chanting doesn't always mesh with pro football.
Still, this film strikes home on several levels. It presents a blunt look at how race permeates football, and how an increasingly corporatized sports culture has overpowered ethics, sanity and tradition, putting almost unbelievable pressure on the participants - owners, coaches and players alike.
There are few heroes or villains here, something of a step forward for Stone, who is definitely your most-issues-are-black-and-white kind of director.
Al Pacino plays an aging coach whose young new owner - played by Cameron Diaz - doubts his will to win. He can't communicate with his star quarterback, who is black. Obnoxious, blow-hard ESPN-inspired reporters drive him nuts.
By Oliver Stone standards, this is an almost gentle movie about money and sacrifice. Some of the camera work is amazing, and "Any Given Sunday" is cinematically dazzling at conveying the banging and crunching of pro football, something that doesn't come through nearly as well on TV.
Those are my opinions. Jump on in.
(Holiday Movies, Round Two: Magnolias, Man On The Moon, Cradle Will Rock - coming soon.)