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16 January 2005



I couldn't agree more about the biopics. The Aviator and Kinsey were both solidly made movies, in many respects, but people seem awed by them because of their proximity to fame or importance. Neither ever really gets beyond what we already knew or guessed about their leads, and both - especially Kinsey - were, in finality, simply too blindly supportive of their subjects. Can we ever get a biopic about flaws that aren't overcome?

The only thing that resembles such a thing that I can even think of is Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was correctly hailed as brilliant and then forgotten, but that film toyed with its subject's life-story so much as to only barely qualify in the "true life" category.


The biopic by its very nature is a disaster - it is an insipid genre that is impossible reconcile its innate problems with pacing, prejudice, sentimentality, and narrative. The biopic is always life as series, strung together with no force of bond save the familiar face of the name on the marquee. Of the ones mentioned, I saw - The Motorcylce Diaries, Kinsey, and The Aviator.

The Motorcycle Diaries is the odd-man out since it as much a road movie and travelogue as much as it is a recreation of part of someone's life. That is focuses on a moment allows it to move beyond the histrionics of the average biopic, so epitomized in Kinsey. Motorcycle Diaries, as it journeys (lumbers?) onward grows ever increasingly self-important to the point where it elevates Che to a Biblical level.

The Aviator works because it has no pretentions beyond its reels. It is a movie that understands it is not re-inventing cinema, just creating a piece of visceral, powerful, and ultimately compelling action. The Aviator is basically an action movie, and Scorsese stages some of the most exciting spectacle of the year. It is pure entertainment that should be applauded because it is high quality entertainment that disavows all attachments to the insulated, intellectual left (which Kinsey is obsessed with coddling) while cutting corrupt, right wing government, equally deep.

Kinsey is the worst movie of the year for so many reasons that it is impossible to organize, so this will be a mess, I apologize in advance, but I find NOTHING servicable about this utter disaster. Kinsey's self-important, self-satisfying, self-obsessed spirit of open-mindedness uses the same twisted logic as "force to be free" and "destroy the city to save the city" as its fulcrum. Kinsey really is movie as theater, creating the stagiest of stages, complete with such an obvious screenplay that starts with childhood repression, leading to THESIS STATEMENT (this film is about...), and onwards in a sickeningly predictable fashion. The scene where Kinsey sleeps with his wife for the first time is a piece of brutal, tough filmmaking that is totally undermined by the joke that is big dick Kinsey in the following doctor's office scene. And all the while, the movie really thinks it is making some broad statement that people will stop in their tracks to hear. The movie loves itself, why shouldn't its audience? I'm sorry, but I think a lot of the praise Kinsey is getting is Blue State back patting post-election blues.


One of The Motorcycle Diaries' biggest faults is that it too quickly, too easily -- too lazily, for my money -- becomes the road movie/travelogue that Dave writes about, and, worse, a simple buddy movie as well. One person I know went as far as to re-title it: "Che and Sancho Panza Go North".


Bravo, Dave. Kinsey, the film, championed unbiased reporting of the facts and warned people not to be too quick to judge, then gave us laughable caricatures, as cartoonishly evil as they come, of both his father and his critics in Lithgow and Curry. Showing him puncturing his foreskin is supposed to allow Condon to claim that Kinsey's "issues" were dealt with, but he follows the scene with those worshipful shots of Kinsey in the woods, trying to reflect the greatness and permanence of the researcher's work. While there was some good acting, from Saarsgard in particular, and the montages were a clever way to mirror Kinsey's vast data samples, it never moved beyond serviceable technically, and was so bound up in its point of view that it didn't even think to question it.


Can we ever get a biopic about flaws that aren't overcome?

I just watched De-Lovely and I would almost say that the answer to the above question is yes, but I first need to figure out why it is that everybody hated this film so much.

A tad sentimental, but there's no final reel redemption here. I guess you could argue that after his accident, he changed his ways, but in terms of the relationship with his wife, that was never quite healed.

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