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Watch This! #1: Artistic Pursuits

July 26, 2010

Nia Long and Lisa Nicole Carson bond in Love Jones

Watch This! is a new weekly series where I mine the cinematic treasure chest in search of forgot (or nearly forgotten) classics. The intention is not to provide in depth analysis of the films via a specific lens, but rather to highlight some good stuff you might have missed or perhaps never realized existed. This week’s batch of films use different lenses to examine the world of fine art.

Cast: Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Ed Harris

Harris’ meticulous labor of love Pollock – he spent nearly a decade midwifing this project to screen – is a surprisingly effective biopic, managing to avoid pitfalls of the genre and present a nuanced “impression” of Jack the Dripper. Harris is always a treat, even in his bad guy roles, and the same is true for Pollck, which is propelled by the strength of his subtle performance. That said, the film belongs to Marcia Gay Harden, who has a knack for playing real life characters (i.e. The Hoax another bio-pic worth watching! Gere is fantastic as disgraced writer Clifford Irving) who earned a Best Supporting Acting Oscar for her work as Pollack’s wife, painter Lee Krasner.

Cast: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Rupert Everett, Georgianna Robertson, Kim Basinger Richard E. Grant, Forest Whitaker, Tim Robbins, Danny Aiello, Linda Hunt, Sally Kellerman, Tracey Ullman, Stephen Rea, Anouk Aimée, Lauren Bacall, Lyle Lovett, Lily Taylor and Julia Roberts
Director: Robert Altman (duh!)

A film featuring Sophia Loren at arguably her MOST fabulous, doesn’t need Cher, but hot damn, we get Cher in a wonderful cameo discussing fashion. Come back to movies, Cher!!! Altman’s 1994 send up of Paris’ fashion week boasts a clustercuss of back stabbing, intrigue, reversals of fortune and Marcello Mastrioanni as a lovable rascal who steals Tim Robbins and Danny Aiello’s clothes. The untimely death of the Fashion Minister sets off a comedy of errors which inevitable finds Loren (the minister’s wife) and Aimée (the minister’s mistress) at the center of some very unwanted attention. Aimée, who is wonderful, plays Simone Lo – a designer modeled after patron saint of the sweater, Sonia Rykiel (who has an extended cameo!) – Lo struggles to deal with the loss of her much loathed lover and protect her business from her ambitious, womanizing son, expertly played by Rupert Everett. There are too many wonderful performances to highlight, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Let’s start with the cameos:

  • The man who has been making me smell like a goth cupcake for 15 years, Thierry Mugler.
  • Harry Belafonte with his fine self.
  • CNN’s former Style correspondent, Elsa Klensch!
  • Jean Paul Gauntlier. Now, he should get his own reality show.

Stand out performances:

  • Ullman, Hunt and Kellerman as a trio of fashion editors all vying for talents of a Meisel-esque photographer played by Stephen Rea.
  • Teri Garr as a bubbly shopaholic looking for Issey Miyake outfits in either a 14 or an 18.
  • Forest Whitaker and Richard E. Grant as a pair of bitter design rivals who have an uncanny knack for showing up everywhere the other one happens to be.

Love Jones
Cast: Nia Long, Larenz Tate, Lisa Nicole Carson, Isaiah Washington, Bill Bellamy
Director: Theodore Witcher

Love Jones concerns itself with the world of educated and affluent black artists, a world Roger Ebert states, “shows a world more unfamiliar to moviegoers than the far side of the moon.” That’s an understatement. Since the film’s release in the mid 90s, I haven’t come across anything else like it. Darius (Tate) and Nina (Long) listen to music I grew up with (Prince, Cameo, Isley Brothers) and have a similar relationship to it, like artists I like and have synthesized pop culture in a manner reflective of my own. Love Jones goes beyond its humble “boy-meets-girl” origins and provides a welcome glimpse into the complexities of love, artistry and black life, without positioning itself as the final word on any of those things.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alyx Vesey permalink
    July 26, 2010 9:57 am

    So much yes for Pret-a-Porter, and thanks for the reminder to watch Love Jones.

  2. July 26, 2010 11:06 am

    I love Love Jones! I was in college when it came out and it helped shape the standard in how I like my love stories. Also, the soundtrack would be a cliche for getting busy, if it weren’t so good.

  3. July 26, 2010 11:12 am

    Alyx, I just watch Pret-a-Porter last night and it still holds up as a satisfying comedy.

    Raymond: Me too. It makes Chicago seem like a magical place for urban hipster marginalized artists. And Tate is so sexy.

  4. July 26, 2010 4:27 pm

    Why have I never seen Pret-a-Porter? Lyle Lovett? Cher? AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

    Must go…must buy.

  5. July 26, 2010 11:09 pm

    Well, I have to take issue with “Ready to Wear,” as I feel it was Altman’s second biggest miss, ever (the first, far and away, was “Popeye”). The problem, for me, was that at the time the film came out, I was actually on the fringes of the real fashion industry and I knew what was actually going on behind the scenes of the runway shows. A lot of it was pretty interesting, but none of it was in Altman’s movie. He was too concerned with sending up the scene, not really capturing what was actually there, which to me was unusual. I felt Altman usually did a pretty good job of distilling the essence of whatever he was trying to portray, but to me it seemed like he totally missed the boat this time! Granted, he got great cameos, did manage to get some good moments, but overall, I was left quite disappointed. But, then again, not every film can be “Nashville” or “M*A*S*H!”

  6. July 27, 2010 12:14 am

    Oh, and really each film mentioned here deserved its own post! “Pollack” was dizzying brilliance and couldn’t you have named Amy Madigan, a.k.a. Mrs. Ed Harris, as swiping her scenes as the irrepressible Peggy Guggenheim?

    Even moreso with “Love Jones.” I mean there’s just so much going on there… enough for two posts, at least! May I suggest one at a timing!! 😉

  7. July 27, 2010 9:08 am

    I pretend that Mrs. Harris does not EXIST. It’s how i get through my lonely life! 🙂

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