Archive for July, 2009

31
Jul
09

He Was In That!?!?!

michaelshannonI just saw Shotgun Stories, and now find myself very intrigued by the actor Michael Shannon. Not in a “isn’t he so good-looking” kind of way because the guy at first glance seems a little off-balance with those unusual good looks (are they handsome or frightening?) and an acting style that can easily go from seething beneath the surface to all-out insanity.

However, my assessment is solely based on Shotgun Stories, Bug, and his Academy Award-nominated performance in Revolutionary Road. What I hadn’t realized is that I had seen Michael Shannon before – I just didn’t know it – in surprisingly mainstream movies, such as World Trade Center, Pearl Harbor, 8 Mile, Vanilla Sky, Kangaroo Jack, and Bad Boys II. Born in Kentucky in 1974, Shannon got his start on the Chicago stage, including at the Steppenwolf company, and appeared in the original West End stage version of Bug in 2004.

02
Jul
09

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Alice Doesnt Live Here AnymoreThe “woman’s picture” and director Martin Scorsese, known for his films’ masculinity, violence, and ambiguity toward women, usually don’t go hand-in-hand, but they fit nicely in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974). In Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, housewife Alice (Ellen Burstyn in an Oscar-winning role) and her son Tommy embark on a new but uncertain life after her abusive husband unexpectedly dies. Struggling for the first time as both a breadwinner and single mother, Alice must not only juggle caring for her son but protecting herself – she’s never been without a man before – from the different men circling around her.

After the Sirkian opening credits announcing the woman’s picture connection, the film’s first half presents most of the male characters in a negative light: Alice’s husband, the seemingly charming cowboy (Harvey Keitel), and her various lecherous potential employers. The exceptions are the bar owner who eventually gives her a singing job and her son, who is in desperate need of a positive male role model. When he is left in the motel room alone while Alice works, Tommy watches an old movie in which a female singer is exploited by a male character. Without stating it overtly, Tommy has connected this woman with his mother and it will affect how he sees her. This Madonna-whore complex is interesting to compare with other male characters’ perceptions of women in other Scorsese films, such as Raging Bull (1980), Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and The Age of Innocence (1993).

The film’s second half finally introduces a positive male figure in David (Kris Kristofferson), who is able to be kind, sensitive, and polite toward Alice without sacrificing his masculinity. He owns a ranch, wears a bushy beard, and exposes Tommy to much-needed skills and discipline (although Alice must stand up to his extreme discipline at one point, recalling her husband’s abuse, against which she did not speak out).

A couple of side notes: Jodie Foster appears as Doris, a tomboy whom Tommy befriends. She is a manifestation of what Tommy might have become had his father lived: Doris’ mother is a prostitute, his father left the family, and she steals and drinks, trying to get Tommy to join in. But it’s interesting that she is not a male character, which would have been much more obvious. Scorsese also nicely portrays female friendships, which is very rare in his work: Alice and Bea, Alice and Flo, and Alice and Vera.