Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005). I watched Moneyball a few days before I saw this one, and it’s pretty remarkable to see Philip Seymour Hoffman’s transition from bulky block-headed baseball manager to tiny Truman Capote. Whenever Capote looked clearly shorter than the other people in the scene, I thought of how Lord of the Rings made the hobbits seem little (Capote being 5’3”, Hoffman being maybe half-a-foot taller). What was great about Hoffman in this movie is that his Capote imitation wasn’t all there was to the character. He had the voice down, he made himself smaller, and often that’s all it takes to get an Oscar nod. But Hoffman gave so much more, making it possible for us to find Capote heartbreaking and devious simultaneously. Clifton Collins, Jr. matches him scene for scene as killer Perry Smith. #149 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century. 8/10.
Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998). Listed at #14 on Jeff Pike’s Facebook Fave Fifty list. Several of my friends are fond of this movie, and I’m wondering how much it matters that you have a personal connection to the era presented here (glam rock). Bowie didn’t allow the use of his music, so we get faux-Spiders from Mars, and I don’t think the fakes are as good. The visuals during the songs are wonderful and evocative, but I kept wanting to hear the real music. Ewan McGregor in the Iggy role is better in his onstage moments than Jonathan Rhys Meyers is as the Bowie character … Rhys Meyers is one of the lesser parts of the film, his performance feels more like a Bowie album cover than like a breathing human. There is some fine acting throughout, but the Citizen Kane homage doesn’t quite work and the film’s structure is a bit of a mess (this may be intentional). Still, part of my problem may be that I preferred the New York Dolls and Lou Reed to Bowie and Iggy during the glam era, whereas the film is more of the latter. My brother Geoff said something that hit home for me, in the comments section to the Facebook post: “If the viewer's personal experience resonates with the filmmakers, the film is loved, otherwise, oh well.” Which makes Velvet Goldmine the perfect movie for Jeff Pike’s closing line, “As always with these things, of course, YMMV.” 6/10.