Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.
If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.
Graham Greene published his novel Brighton Rock in 1938 and over the years he categorized it as one of his “entertainments.” Nobody should fall for that coyness. The novel is dipped in cruelty, wrapped up in bogus debates over faith and guilt (the Roman kind), and it is about as entertaining as being trapped in a corner by a cobra and feeling you must stare it down to avoid the venomous strike. The novel was filmed in England in 1947, with a twenty-four-year-old Richard Attenborough giving one of the best performances of his life as the monstrous Pinkie Brown.
The one day is July 15th, and in 1988, as they both graduate from the University of Edinburgh, Dexter and Emma have a friendly night together. There is sex and, on Em’s part, at least, there is love. This is still a movie in which the girl is reckoned to feel love sooner, and with more loyalty. Dex assumes he is handsome and commanding enough to be an adventurer and a flake, with a field to play and no urge to commitment. But I’ve only told you the half of it (or less than half).
He was born in Norfolk as the Great War began, and he died in Cambridgeshire at 94. He looked like someone content with English country life, a slender, bright-eyed man, handsome when young, and modest, decent, and amiable as he grew older. He had an honest humility not common in the movie business. Even in the technical pursuits or the laboring jobs, movie people like to think they own their worlds. The limo drivers have a catalogue of famous people they have driven, and the scandalous stories they have heard confessed.
Why is this film called Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Because 20th Century Fox, the producers (including co-writer, Rick Jaffa, and Peter Chernin), and director Rupert Wyatt are thinking sequels and franchise rights. They’ll probably get their wish: After all, the Apes model as established by Charlton Heston as the rudely enslaved master race goes back 40 years now, and movie monkey business regards the extraordinary King Kong (1933) as its founding father. But the filmmaking enterprise might attend a little more closely to the eagerness for compromise in its own narrative set-up.
He died well short of his own centenary, and some who knew film director Nicholas Ray (and who tried to save him from his richly endowed self-destructiveness) were amazed he got as far as 67. But, this August 7, he would have been 100. And now, for a moment, the world seems ready to take notice and offer the chronic vagrant a home. Not that “home” has much reliability in his case. What made Nick Ray valuable and important was his living forever by night, on dangerous ground, in a lonely place.
My report of seeing and being seen is a little out of the ordinary this week, and it comes without apologies. Indeed, I am happy to have the report. Explanations to follow. The Gurney Shot is one more addition to the great cavalry charge of tracking shots: on roller-skates, or a bicycle, in a wheelchair, or a studio dolly, in a car, with a Steadicam operated by Dan Gurney (no, probably not, wasn’t he a motor-racing driver?).
You hear it said, now that the final Harry Potter movie is out, that we will all miss Harry, Ron, and Hermione, along with Daniel, Rupert, and Emma, and it may be that no trio of young actors has ever had such success in a series of pictures. But, fondness aside, I’m not sure how much more of these actors we’ll be seeing. They are no longer children; as young adults, they may find themselves chained to the Rowling franchise in the public mind, and they may seem old-fashioned.
As the prison term of Casey Anthony drags on, now until July 17, is there time to reflect? On the day of her verdict, last Tuesday, she looked as nervous as any of us might have felt. She was in trial mode, in a drained pink shirt, her brown hair drawn tightly back and restrained in a pony-tail. Her dark eyes stood out, but she held herself together. No one doubts her nerve. Then, by Thursday (sentencing day), the hair was down on her shoulders. It stirred. She was prettier, and more confident—wasn’t she? Her sweater was sky blue. Was her lipstick stronger? Who can be sure?