Ain't It Cool News (


The world we live in is filled with cynicism and hate. So many that believe in nothing. People that are moving forward each day of their life without so much as a progressive step.

They spend their day in the mine, chipping away at the wall, not hoping to find gold, not looking for a diamond... Just hoping that by swinging that pickax they can pull down enough to pay the rent, take care of medical and sock away enough for the future... whatever that may be.

Have you made plans for retirement?

You don’t want to be doing whatever it is you are doing for the rest of your life... right? Well, make sure you invest in a wise plan to make the most out of your twilight years.


The practicality of living life. The pickax may be a pen, a keyboard or a telephone, but everyday we lift it up, swing it back down, and file out only to return the next day.

I go out a lot. Frequent favorite restaurants. And often times I see families eating, couple eating. And they do not speak. They spent an entire day and came away with nothing to really talk about.

“Hey did you hear Warren Beatty may run for President?”

“Oh really?”

“Oh yes.”

Eat eat eat. The brief outbursts are about other people, the tedium of work or how tired one may be.

I often wonder about these people. Does the dysfunction stop just at the restaurant, or do they take it home with them. Do they enter the house, wear paper thin veiled smiles and snuggle only with their pillows.

Is there no romance or passion? What happened to living life? And does this happen to everyone?

So many are so unhappy doing whatever it is that they are doing.

What got me thinking about these things?

Quite simply a remarkably brilliant film called AMERICAN BEAUTY.

I don’t expect many will see it. It’s not the type of film that becomes number one at the box office. It’s not a real water cooler movie. But it’s easily one of the best films of the year.

Moriarty and I were out combing the beach for babes. You see, the dear professor has this fetish for having his gray hairs plucked by nubile g-stringed gangly legged dwarves... A weird fetish, I know, but evil geniuses are eccentric you know.

Well, while driving Ocean in Santa Monica, I spotted a seven foot tall Walrus handing out flyers of some sort to rollerskaters along the beach.

Now, coming from Austin, the sight of a 7 ft Walrus handing out flyers piques my interest something fierce. I signal the old man to pull over, and I get out to approach the Walrus.

“How do you do Mr Walrus?” I say cheerfully.

“A Har Har Har my friend A Har Har Har. You want to see AMERICAN BEAUTY?”

Well... When a Walrus invites you to see a movie, you do what the Walrus asks, cause I’ve seen what angry Walruses can do... Just ask Patrick Wayne.

When I stepped back into Moriarty’s Stanley Steamer, I noticed this peculiar bald spot in his goatee, I turned and caught out of the corner of my eye, a group of 3 gangly legged dwarves running off with a handful of Moriarty’s salt-colored hairs.

Strange fellow he is.

Now I didn’t know much about this AMERICAN BEAUTY movie. Didn’t know much at all.

I had retained the knowledge that it was a Kevin Spacey film, but that was about it. I had written a piece about how you folks could score free tickets to the movie if you lived in one of about 50 towns, and ya know... I’m proud as can be that I pointed those of you that are scoring tickets to this movie, to this movie.

You see, this is one of those impossible films to market. You have a film that if you were to boil it down to the basic plot elements would be about a middle age man wanting to fuck a high school cheerleader, a film that has a pot-dealing teen as a hero, a film about dissatisfaction with normalcy. A film with severe gay bashing. And sort of encourages teen runaways.

Not something you can really sell. But then, those are just the surface levels of this incredibly complex story that really... at it’s core... is about the beauty of life around us.

Through all the ugly places it takes us, we come back to something beautiful.... living your life.

At the start of this film every character is simply going about the motions of life.

Go to work, go to school, start supper, eat supper, watch television and go to sleep. Everyone is bored with their lives and is asleep... but slowly they each begin to wake up. Open their eyes, and see the simple beauty of living their lives.

Now... it’s not a feel good film strange enough. It isn’t a movie that makes you comfortable. Instead, it’s a movie that right up front has Kevin Spacey telling you that this is his town where he lived his miserable little life, and that’s the miserable little street he lived on, and this is the last year of his life.

Point blank they tell you LESTER IS GOING TO DIE.

Lester is going to die in this film. And at the beginning of this movie, ya know... That might not be a bad thing. But over the length of this movie his character wakes up, becomes alive. Thrilled with living, high on life and many other things. But... we know he’s going to die. He told us so... at the very start of the film.

It’s not a spoiler. It is the initial plug of the film. You know this fact 3 minutes in. It would sort of be like telling you that Glenn Close is in a coma in Reversal of Fortune.

As a result, the entire time you see this soul reborn, you know it is in it’s twilight hours of existence. It’s the classic suspense device that Alfred Hitchcock illustrated with two people sitting at a picnic table. We can see the bomb ticking away underneath the table, but they don’t know. They talk, they laugh, they live not knowing death awaits them... just under the table.

As a result the movie is a strong force for expressing just how dear and precious life is. How we have to make the most out of it. That we shouldn’t hold back just for the ‘twilight’ years and play it safe. Today might be the last day of your life. Find something you love to do. If you can afford it, get that thing you’ve always wanted. Make love with the person you love. Don’t drone on another day.

In a way this is a look at the exact same issues of BRAZIL. There was a girl, a dream girl... An ideal, something that one wants. And as an excuse he uses her to break out of the doldrum like existence he had pigeon-holed himself into.

In a way you can draw parallels to Bill Murray’s character in RUSHMORE or Matthew Broderick in ELECTION... but... Watching what Kevin Spacey does in the role... well.. Remember when you thought masturbation was just the best thing in the world? Remember when you had your first bout of good sex? Well... for me, Murray and Broderick are the clenched fist, and Kevin Spacey is the best piece of ass in town. His character of Lester is quite simply a work of brilliance. And this is easily the best performance I’ve seen thus far this year.

However, Kevin Spacey is not the only fantastic performance in this movie. Annette Bening is... Well, this is my favorite character I’ve seen her play thus far. Her Caroline is a modern empowered woman, and her portrayal is... scary. She has become the property of her possessions and the slave of her own expectations. There is an utterly heartbreaking scene between her and Spacey towards the end on a sofa that... Well, it’s the saddest look at a dysfunctional marriage I think I have ever seen. Then her day trying to sell a house... Well, the frustration and aggravation. The continual self-affirmation. The way she psyches herself up. Her breakdown. This character is so completely realized and different from anything I’ve seen Annette do that I was heartbroken by what had become of what we know was a once vibrant and living woman.

Their daughter played by Thora Birch... Well, she is... and I know I sound redundant, but this really is a great movie... wonderful in a role that reminded me of the best work I’ve seen from Christina Ricci. I’m used to her being Harrison Ford’s cute little daughter. When the heck did she grow up, God I guess I’m getting a bit older. She’s disillusioned, continually brow-beaten and has the self-esteem of a potato under the sink. She feels ugly and awkward. She has reached that point where she needs someone to see her as being beautiful because...

Her friend, Mena Suvari... you remember the girl from AMERICAN PIE that was in Choir... who plays the oh so cute and beautiful cheerleader that lights up and ignites Kevin Spacey to live again. This is one of the most frightening portraits of a young girl that has completely fooled herself into a psychotic state of self-importance. Her own importance is measured by her desirability to others. If others want to fuck her... well that means she’s beautiful. And of course there is nothing worse than being plain.

My god it’s a sad statement. But wait... there are other great characters.

The best, yet sickest, father / son relationship I’ve seen in film in a good long while exists between Chris Cooper and Wes Bentley. Chris Cooper plays a retired military Colonel that is intolerant of any and all other lifestyles. He wants his son to be a manly man... Willing to fight back and kick ass. He simply is not built for raising a son. He can’t accept anything other than a younger version of himself... and Wes is not that. He’s an artist, an aspiring filmmaker. He’s looking and searching for the beauty in life. Someone that studies life, be it through a window or along a sidewalk. In a back alley or atop a tree. He searches for beauty in the places people avoid. I love his character, a survivor. A person who simply exists and fights to survive. There is an exchange in the car between his father and him, where his father tells him not to pander to him like he does to his mother... and folks. If his response doesn’t just impress the hell out of you. Well... Damn I’m sorry I recommended the movie to you, but folks I was blown away.

This movie has all the power of a great personal film, yet the ironic humor of the best black comedies. The film walks a tightrope high above the tent floor without so much as a net to catch the stars if they fall. Noone falls. The movie is as solid as they come.

If what you seek in a film is great performances, complex characters, and a plotline that does not do what you think or want it to do... then this is a film up your alley.

Sam Mendes should be watched like a hawk. The idea that this is a first film is scary. Sure he has a background in theater, but this film is so boldly visual and cinematic as well as being personal and crafted that I was left gasping at some of the work I saw.

Also, the screenwriter Alan Ball should be followed. This is a tight as hell, complex character driven film that is not in any way typical or redundant. This is the sort of filmmaking I wanted to see come from DREAMWORKS. Unique personal visions given life. It’s the dream I had when they announced the formation of the company, and this is the first film I’ve seen them deliver that completely lives up to what I think a lot of people wanted to see come out of that company.

The word is Steven outbid 3 independents to get this script... Well done. Let’s see more of this sort of work come from DreamWorks. Personal Visions given the ability to flourish...

Let’s hope this isn’t the rare one that slips through the cracks, but is rather the start of a trend of filmmaking from them.

Go see this movie... There is not a single weak performance or link. It’s beautiful.

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