You are here

Biography

Hoax, The

dir: Lasse Hallstrom
[img_assist|nid=147|title=Would you buy anything from these men?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=500|height=325]
I’m no fan of Lasse Hallstrom’s films (spits to the side) or of Richard Gere in any capacity (spits twice), but I was very interested to see this film. I find almost anything about crazy, dead American billionaire Howard Hughes fascinating, and the story of one of the most impressive literary hoaxes of recent vintage even more so.

Clifford Irving (Gere) is a hack, a plagiarist and a compulsive liar. He tries to palm off rip-offs of Philip Roth novels as his own in his desperate desire to be taken seriously as a writer and to make some of the sweet do-re-mi that he so craves. His Swiss wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) has forgiven much of his lying and infidelity in the past, but, as an artist herself (not of the bullshit variety), she has a high tolerance for even more of the same.

With the rejection of his rip-off of Portnoy’s Complaint (which he stupidly calls Rodrick’s Problem - subtle, that) by illustrious publishers McGraw Hill, Irving hits upon an idea fiendishly foolproof in its intricacies: a fabricated autobiography of reclusive billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes.

Rating:

Factory Girl

dir: George Hickenlooper
[img_assist|nid=776|title=Inside, I am already dead|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=250]
With no intended slight against the girl herself, I can’t think of a figure less worthy of cinematic biographical treatment than Edie Sedgwick, solely based on this flick here.

The only reason I ever knew anything about her was because of a song by The Cult back in the late 80s that was presumably about her called Edie(Ciao Baby), which featured a video where long-haired hair bear lead singer Ian Astbury was smashing a pool cue on a table for no discernable reason. And then there’s all those Warhol films and Chelsea bloody Hotel references.

In other words, she was a person who was famous for being famous for knowing famous people. This flick goes no way towards disabusing viewers of such a notion, nor does it presume to give her even any basic semblance of humanity or interest.

Who’d have thought that being the alleged most notorious party girl of her day, and being a hanger-on to the likes of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan could be so dull?

Rating:

Infamous

dir: Douglas McGrath
[img_assist|nid=793|title=My gods, I can't tell them apart|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=293]
The makers of this flick must have been sooooo pissed off when Capote came out, with Philip Seymour Hoffman being lauded to the high heavens and beyond. It guaranteed that no matter how splendiferous Infamous turned out to be, it was always going to be seen as an also-ran, as a bandwagon-jumper, as opportunistic.

I’m talking about amongst critics. The general public wouldn’t care, because the general public never went and watched Capote in the first place. The general public couldn’t care less about Truman Capote, and probably think that if he isn’t the president who dropped the bomb on Japan, he’s the guy The Truman Show was based on.

Even if In Cold Blood is still a book that appears on the syllabus for many a high school student, an investigation into the life and times of its author hardly seems like a timely endeavour. The fact that two such films came out in such close proximity shouldn’t point to a resurgence in Capote-mania. It’s probably more a case of one studio hearing about another studio going for the prestige market, and deciding they’d get theirs out there too. Kind of like an Armageddon/Deep Impact, Dante’s Peak/Volcano, Triumph of the Will/It’s a Wonderful Life type situation.

Rating:

Last King of Scotland, The

dir: Kevin McDonald

You might be under the mistaken impression that this is a biopic about the tyrant Idi Amin, or about a real guy. Especially since Forest Whitaker won the Academy award for his portrayal of the murderous dictator. He’s such a big, cuddly, googly-eyed teddy bear, isn’t he?

But this flick is pretty much a fictionalisation of events that went on during that time, Uganda in the 70s. There was no young idealistic doctor who was seduced with the best of intentions by a charismatic leader who ended up turning a blind eye to his own complicity in the atrocities that ensued. So Dr Nicholas Garrigan is a complete fabrication. He’s tenuously based on a guy called Bob Astles, but that guy was no vestal virgin in the first place, so such a story doesn’t fly.

[img_assist|nid=811|title=Hmm, I feel like some lunch. Where's my treasurer at?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=247]No, Astles was an ex-British Army wheeler and dealer who held positions of power in the Ugandan government way before Amin came to power.

The film is based on the book by Giles Fadden that creates this Faustian dynamic between an idealistic young Scotsman (played ably by James McAvoy) and a larger than life leader who was too large for many other people’s lives as well. It shouldn’t be mistaken for a history lesson with any degree of accuracy.

Rating:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

dir: Dito Montiel
[img_assist|nid=827|title=The saints can't help you if you watch this movie. But they will hate you.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=669]
This is a film by Dito Montiel, about the life of Dito Montiel, based on the book written by Dito Montiel. Wow, this Dito Montiel is some kind of wonderful guy to want to bring Dito Montiel to the attention of millions, isn’t he?

After all, Dito Montiel won the Nobel Peace prize for solving the Sonny and Cher crisis back in the 70s, and also won the Nobel Physics prize for inventing the tubes that power the internet. He cured all cancer, discovered the clitoris and came up with a tasty breakfast cereal high in fibre but low in sugar to boot.

If it wasn’t for those obviously fabricated highlights of Dito Montiel’s life that I just made up, we wouldn’t have any clue why we’re watching a film about Dito Montiel’s life. Having watched the film, I still have to ask myself why anyone is supposed to give a good goddamn about the fucker.

Dito, played by Shia LaBeouf in the 80s, and Robert Downey Jr in the 2000s, hasn’t really done anything worthy of note that I can figure out apart from write a book about himself and having directed a film about himself. These are achievements, don’t get me wrong, I just can’t for the life of me see what in his life justified such endeavours or why we should be interested.

Rating:

Hollywoodland

dir: Allen Coulter
[img_assist|nid=830|title=Hollywoodland. Bad things happened there, apparently|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=269|height=400]
There must be, somewhere, someone who was desperate to find out about the fate of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on tv before most of us were born. Hasn’t it been keeping you up at night? “George, George, what happened to you, you bright, shining star?”: isn’t that how you cry yourself to sleep each night?

Maybe he was mentioned around the time when Christopher Reeves, who played the cinematic incarnation of the Man of Steel, snapped his unsteely spine or when he died. The Superman Curse, people intoned in hushed voices. The hubris of playing a guy who is invulnerable calls down the anger of the gods to punish the idolater, in the same way that playing Jesus tends to crap out most actors careers. Just ask Jim Caviezel.

Who? It doesn’t matter. This is, after all, about a different fantasy character that we’re talking about.

I have a dim recollection of the show being played on telly when I was a kid. Black and white, initially, but then again, the telly was a black and white one anyway. The Richard Donner Superman movie had already come out as well, so watching the tv serial was anachronistic even then. It was like watching something from vaudeville, from the visual Stone Age. That’s where it derived its charm from, at least for me.

Rating:

Marie Antoinette

dir: Sofia Coppola
[img_assist|nid=842|title=You're all class, Marie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=275]
It’s not often that a film gets more press and probably more viewers because it was booed at the most recent Cannes film festival. People who were eagerly awaiting the next Sofia Coppola film after the success of Lost in Translation were momentarily taken aback by the news of the audience reaction to a film that became notorious overnight as one of the biggest and most redolent cinematic turds of recent memory.

Having just watched Marie Antoinette, I have to wonder what flavour and quality of crack the audience members who acted like boorish slobs were smoking. The film isn’t brilliant, but it is hardly a cinematic atrocity that deserves people booing the flick when the director is sitting in the audience. That’s just rude, even if that same director was also one of the main reasons why people hate Godfather III to this day.

I saw a film with a novel premise: that Marie Antoinette was the Paris Hilton / celebutante of her days and age who lived a decadent life oblivious to the societal circumstances outside until it was way too late. And whilst watching it was a profoundly banal experience, akin to eating a kilo of fairy floss at a carnival, it doesn’t make me want to burn down theatres or effigies of the director.

Rating:

Notorious Betty Page, The

dir: Mary Harron
[img_assist|nid=1220|title=Notorious for very good reasons|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=677]
It's a crime that it's taken this flick so long to get distribution in Australia, because this really contained probably the best performance by an actress in a film released in 2006. Sure, there's no way Gretchen Mol could have beat the murderous juggernaut that was Helen Mirren, but she deserved some recognition at least. It's only been released here yesterday (8/3/2007), and will probably have an ignominious two-week run before disappearing into DVD obscurity.

Which isn't the worst fate in the world. It's kind of appropriate, considering the subject matter. And what is the subject? Why, it's the notorious Bettie Page, of course!

Bettie Page, for her time, was probably the main lust object and idealised non-attainable masturbation aid for squillions of men, lonely and otherwise, across America. She has probably been responsible for more shameful, furtive, blind-making male orgasms than Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and the Virgin Mary combined.

But practically no-one could tell you anything about her apart from the fact that she was in millions of smutty, smutty pictures.

Rating:

Colour Me Kubrick

dir: Brian W. Cook
[img_assist|nid=1211|title=Spitting image|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=425]
Don’t, whatever you do, mistake this flick for a biography of the great Colossus of the cinema that was Stanley ‘Grumpy Pants’ Kubrick.

No, John Malkovich plays the unbelievable role of a crazy conman who used to tell people he was Stanley Kubrick, despite the fact that he looked nothing like him, didn’t try to sound like him, and didn’t even know what films Kubrick directed.

He is so bad at impersonating him that it becomes more a reflection on the people who get sucked in rather than an example of his skills as a charlatan. It is both their gullibility and their simplemindedness in the face of potential celebrity that renders them ripe for the picking.

Of course, the other element that favoured Alan Conway’s deceptions was the fact that Kubrick himself was a bit of a recluse, and there weren’t many photos of him in common circulation. Looking at the extravagant lengths to which Conway virtually begs to be caught out makes you wonder just how gullible people are out there.

This little film is directed by someone who actually knew and had worked with Kubrick in the past, which means he is eminently unqualified to make a film about a flimflammer he never met. But at least he can ensure Malkovich looks and acts nothing like Kubrick to make the illusion complete.

Rating:

Walk the Line

dir: James Mangold
[img_assist|nid=1224|title=May you be reunited in death so you can use drugs together again, June and Johnny|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
Johnny Cash. The Man in Black. An icon and a music legend. Contemporary of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, and a stack of others, influenced by and influential to them all. Could a two and a half hour film do him and his life justice? Can Joaquin Phoenix and the toothsome Reese Witherspoon do the story of the Big Big Love between Cash and June Carter justice? Or even get close?

Someone as simultaneously recognisable and mysterious as Cash needs a twenty hour film about his life. With a squillion dollar budget, all the CGI in the world, and the best actors and production people alive or dead (resurrected) to work on it. It would need a director who combines the spirit and ability of Leni Reifenstahl, Sergei Eisenstein, Otto Preminger, Carl Dreyer, John Ford, John Huston, Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir to get it right. It would need the greatest actors culled from history, put into a blender until gooey, with their DNA spliced and respliced until the mixture was just right, re-coded up into the greatest actor possible, which would then be discarded anyway in favour of a resurrected, young, vital, dangerous Johnny Cash to play the lead.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to Biography