Enright and Berkeley, Garbus, McQuarrie, Van Sant

Promised Land (Gus Van Sant, 2012). This is exactly the sort of appalling earnest, dramatically inert fare that makes many rightly cringe when they think about the sort of medicine-tinged movies Oscar season might bring. With a story credit for Dave Eggers and a shared screenplay credit for Matt Damon and John Krasinski, who also start in the film, Promised Land takes the issue of fracking and tries to spin a sort of Capraesque fable with a dose of twenty-first century cynicism and a gotcha plot twist for good measure. Damon plays an ambitious employee of a global energy concern who … Continue reading Enright and Berkeley, Garbus, McQuarrie, Van Sant

Conway, Garbus, von Sternberg, Weir, Yates

The Hucksters (Jack Conway, 1947). Based on Frederic Wakeman’s novel from the previous year, The Hucksters burrows into the intersection between advertising and media as a sharp-witted, upstanding man returns to the former field after years away. Clark Gable plays Victor Norman, a crafty operator who views his soap company overlord largely with sardonic superiority. The portions of the film that survey the ever-shifting terrain of the radio environment are uniformly strong, thanks in no small part to the boisterously effective performance of Sydney Greenstreet as the corporate bigwig who sets everyone but Gable’s Norman aquiver. The stretches that deal … Continue reading Conway, Garbus, von Sternberg, Weir, Yates

It’s just another movie, another song and dance

Swing Vote (Joshua Michael Stern, 2008). Stern builds his soft political satire around the notion of a contentious U.S. presidential election coming down to one vote, an entirely ambivalent, freshly unemployed middle-aged scamp. That role, as it must, goes to Kevin Costner, who tries to find a new side to the die he’s been casting periodically ever since Bull Durham. It doesn’t work, in part because he can’t quite get a handle on how this guy’s charm should be balanced against his more problematic behavior. It’s mostly due to the tepid script, though. The raw material is there to tackle … Continue reading It’s just another movie, another song and dance