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Posts Tagged ‘Al Pacino’

(A Brief Interlude In An Ongoing Series)

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You find out life’s this game of inches.  So is football. Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us.

Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino)

Even a Year In Movies as transcendent as 1999 saw its share of forgettable phantoms and rancid stinkbombs.  The purpose of Sick Desperation In Your Laugh, however, is to spotlight the standouts rather than dump on the duds.

But there’s a big game this Sunday, and over the past ten-or-so years of Super Bowls, the compelling football games are generally interrupted by bloated, clueless, click-worthy Halftime Shows.  So in honor of this Grand American Tradition, let’s take a brief intermission from the good stuff to whale on Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday.

I’ll spot the movie a field goal for its audacity.  At least it has the drive to attack the senseless greed that grapples players and owners alike, greed that often leads to things like life-shattering brain injuries, and has run even more rampant so far in the 21st Century.

Problem is, Any Given Sunday‘s attempts at penetrating such issues tend to crash and thud harder than a Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble.  The characters spout clunky ideas instead of thought-provoking dialogue. Jamie Foxx is basically My new school 21st Century shit is all about winning my way!  And Al Pacino’s all You’re a goddamn quarterback, kid!  You gotta lead with old school 20th Century teamwork and listen to more jazz!  And Cameron Diaz is like Fuck you, Pacino!  I’m the greedy bitch who owns this team and I have to eclipse my dad, who, if I haven’t mentioned 35 times already, used to own this team before he died!  (If you dare, you can sample some of the actual script by watching the ponderous, cornball motivational speech excerpted at the top.)

It doesn’t help that the movie’s an audio/visual headache.  The action’s shot in a skull-rattling style that I’m sure captures that line-of-scrimmage sensation, but I think I’d rather suffer another concussion than endure another viewing of this movie.  It’s funny how Oliver Stone keeps inserting all these shots of vintage gridiron leatherheads, because I kept wishing he would’ve drawn more inspiration from those graceful, tastefully epic NFL Films of yore.  Also, what’s with all the desert lightning and American Indian singing?  Is that supposed to be like FOOTBALL: AMERICA :: MYSTIC INDIANS : JIM MORRISON?  Meanwhile, the soundtrack’s zig-zagging all over the field, adding little more to the experience than “In 1999 we listened to lots of Moby and Fatboy Slim!”

OK, I’ll give Any Given Sunday three more points in garbage time: I did get a kick out of the touchdown celebrations.  They’re the only things in this movie I wish I’d see more of in real-life football.

“On any given Sunday,” says Coach Pacino, “you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. The point is, can you win or lose like a man?”  Well this movie doesn’t just lose, it loses like a washed-up, coked-up linebacker losing his train of thought while ordering lunch at America’s loudest Buffalo Wild Wings.

Enjoy the game this Sunday, if that’s your thing.  Now stay tuned for the second half of Sick Desperation In Your Laugh…

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(Part 18 Of An Ongoing Series)

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It has become a dramatic convention to project onto whistle-blowers our need for heroism, when revenge and anger are often what drive them.

Marie Brenner, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

…Jeffrey Wigand, who’s out on a limb, does he go on television and tell the truth? Yes. Is it newsworthy? Yes. Are we gonna air it? Of course not. Why? Because he’s not telling the truth? No. Because he is telling the truth. That’s why we’re not going to air it. And the more truth he tells, the worse it gets!

Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), The Insider

I’d officially been a Smoker for quite a while by the time The Insider was released.  So I not only knew the health hazards of tobacco, but, thanks largely to Jeffrey Wigand, I was also fully aware that Big Tobacco knew the hazards too, and had lied about knowing the hazards, and made their products more powerful and addictive anyway.  Knowing all this, I still chose to be a Smoker, and I’d never be able to blame Big Tobacco, and I was fine with that, because Teenage Rebellion and Freedom USA and all that.

I wouldn’t call myself a Smoker anymore, though I still smoke occasionally, buying and consuming about 4 packs of Big Tobacco cigarettes a year.  And even though I smoke far less than I did as a teen/early 20-something, I’m more irritated than ever about all the Anti-Smoking Noise out there.

Yes, Big Tobacco was pretty much evil in the pre-Wigand days.  Michael Mann opens The Insider with 60 Minutes journalists Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) and Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) fearlessly standing up to hot-headed, gun-toting Hezbollah maniacs- which illustrates nicely just how intimidated CBS is later on when they initially cave to the wishes of God-wealthy Brown & Williamson.

But a funny thing’s happened since 1999.  The cat’s out of the bag, and everyone knows just how unhealthy and addictive cigarettes are.  There’s only so much we can hold Big Tobacco accountable for now; everything else sits on the shoulders of those who choose to smoke.  Now it’s the Anti-Smoking movement that’s gone propaganda-crazy, and the defenders of truth aren’t guys like Jeffrey Wigand who go after Big Tobacco, it’s guys like Robert Arthur of Narco Polo who have to stick up for Smokers.

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Don’t get me wrong- Jeffrey Wigand was a hero, despite being temperamental, possibly paranoid, and morally gray- going after Big Tobacco only after Brown & Williamson fired him from his lucrative job and threatened his family.  In fact, it’s all those complexities that make Wigand (and Russell Crowe’s portrayal of him) so compelling, and so quintessentially 1999.

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