Despite a light touch from director Peter Weir, it is hard to forget how monumental a film The Truman Show is, not just for Jim Carrey, but for the narrative expectancy of comedians adapting themselves to other genres. Now, it is a commonplace event. To see some funny guy or gal from the stage manoeuvre them to pastures new, usually in the chase for awards glory or fulfilment of a larger role. That is The Truman Show for Carrey, and while Batman Forever surely helped, it is not the critical and beloved darling that can have such a monumental impact. The Truman Show has an inherent comedy underlining it, but a deep and quite horrifying message within.
The anxious pacing and ramblings of Richard Nixon is something that, inevitably, would make for an effective film. Just to see the former President shuffle around, yelling obscenities and slightly detracting from his accomplishments, good or bad, during his time in office, would be a tremendous sight to behold. The closest we’ll get is the Robert Altman directed Secret Honor, a one-man show starring Philip Baker Hall as the former Republican President. It’s a fascinating, solo drama, one that somehow comes through unscathed by the terrors Nixon created, from Watergate to Vietnam, these topics crop up from time to time, bolstering the caricature with such horrific brilliance.
With such a promising ensemble, it’s hard to see how Magnolia could be anything other than a superbly layered character study of intertwining lives. Like Desperate Housewives, but over the course of two and a half hours, rather than an aeon. Paul Thomas Anderson’s dramatic titan sees a collection of stories, the highs and lows of a rough handful of individuals connected by chance, flimsy narratives or shady dealings. Whether it works or not, it’s hard not to appreciate how big of an ask Anderson proposes to his cast, a project that has to have the right amount of connection between roles, enough to engage an audience, but not enough to incite obvious cliché.
More or less everyone who has even the slightest interest in crime knows of the Zodiac Killer and the intrigue of his crimes that plagued America throughout the late 1960s and 1970s. Such a famous case, one littered with the unsolved mystery that will, most likely, go unanswered for the rest of time. Such intrigue leads to inevitable adaptations, and this Gyllenhaal led thriller provides more or less everything you’d expect for a biopic on such a broad topic.
Throughout the 1990s, there was such a strange influx in gangster, crime and casino-oriented films. I blame Martin Scorsese for this decade long trend. He piloted this odd niche, crafting Goodfellas and Casino within five years of each other. Other directors attempted to latch onto this success, and newcomer Paul Thomas Anderson was one of them. In his directorial debut, Hard Eight, we’re thrown into a tepid relationship between a down on his luck casino player and one stranger who looks to pull him out of the dark and build him as his protégé. It’s an interesting premise that never quite takes flight.