Friday, January 04, 2002

SHARPENING THE CINEMATIC STEAK KNIVES: When I heard the soundtrack to I Am Sam was all Beatles covers, and that it was about a handicapped guy who was obsessed with the Beatles (or something), I knew we were in trouble. Now Charles Taylor in Salon has the proof:

I don't know the last time I've seen so disgraceful a display from a talented actor. It used to be that actors playing the mentally retarded suffered from a discretion that was its own kind of bad taste. They tended to downplay mannerisms and distortions of speech, and the unintentional message was that retarded people are unpleasant to watch. Penn delves into mannerisms and vocal distortions with an appalling eagerness. He makes the classic mistake of playing the handicap instead of the person. played by Penn, he's no more than a device for an actor's display of technique, lumbering gait, distracted affect, galumphing, open-mouthed laugh and the nasal utterances of whatever strays into his brain. An actor affecting this demeanor to make fun of a retarded man would be pilloried. Penn's portrayal strikes me as equally insensitive. It's the nightmare performance of 2001.

To paraphrase that Cracker song, the worlds needs another famous actor playing a mentally handicapped person like I need a hole in the head.

Speaking of Beatles covers (and Salon), David Talbot made the point yesterday about Neil Young doing a cover of "Imagine" at that celebrity telethon and then releasing "Let's Roll." Which is a pretty bizarre contrast, but my own angle is that on the Neil Young version I can hear the lyrics a lot better than on the John Lennon original, where all you hear clearly is "Imagine there's no heaven" and then mumble mumble mumble. So I finally understand, now, that John Lennon was saying a world without religion would be the ideal one. Which as a part-time Jungian I have to sneer at, man being the religious animal and all.

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