Jan. 20th, 2010

zustifer: (comics: hold on tight kids)
The Glass Key (1942), Stuart Heisler. Jan 18, 9pm. View count: One.
Up in the Air (2009), Jason Reitman. Jan 19, 6:50pm. View count: One.

The Glass Key is supposedly based on the same Dashiell Hammett book as was Miller's Crossing and Yojimbo, which is an interesting thing. It's been too long since I've seen Miller's Crossing. Anyhow, this is an early noir with a semi-baffling plot; I needed a program to list the players. The characters are clear enough, but their official roles aren't, necessarily. (I've looked them up, since, but here is what I got via a first viewing.) There's a guy called Madvig, who has some kind of dirty past, but is now doing something in politics, teamed up with another guy (in a way I didn't get) who seems to be a career politician, Henry. Madvig has a kid sister, who's dating Henry's rich gambling son, and Madvig himself wants to date Henry's daughter, who's Veronica Lake. Madvig has a right-hand man, named Beaumont, around whom most of the movie revolves. Then there's also some sort of criminal (mob?) guy, who has thugs in his employ. All of these people are very grey (except maybe the criminal, who we never get to know very well); I suppose that's Hammett for you. The greyness is what makes the movie, for me -- everyone's sort of a mess in their own particular way. Even (especially) Beaumont makes a lot of decisions that are pretty questionable, all while having very little facial expression.

It's a whodunit, structurally, and for once the Law of Economy of Characters doesn't arrive at the killer after the viewer does. It's a fun movie, with some hardcore segments; supposedly there were several unpulled punches on the set, which lends some shots additional credibility.
The ending rang false to me, but 1940s Hollywood probably insisted on it.


Up in the Air I found fairly good, with the exception of the soundtrack, which was wishy-washy indie boy blah blah containing obvious Lyrics With Bearing on the Action. It felt inappropriate for the cast and for the actual mood. I also didn't think that George Clooney's side job, the not-very-believably-popular motivational speaking thing, worked particularly well; it was too directly up the character's alley, without bothering to explain how his advice could help others (or how they could believe it could help them, really).

Otherwise I found it a reasonable piece, seemingly about the importance of hope. I've read a bunch of people's reviews, and I haven't noticed anyone taking this viewpoint, but I think that's as close as I can come to the heart of the matter.

[Spoilers] )

Overall, the movie was a little muddy, with some things tending to happen for unknown reasons, but it's not a bad final product.

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Karla Z

February 2012

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