Anatomy of a Scene

The Cooler (2003)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary
6.2
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Title: The Cooler (2003)

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Frank Hannah ...
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Jim Whitaker ...
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2003 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

Self-delusion 101
7 October 2011 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

Whether or not you were impressed with the William H. Macy/Alec Baldwin film THE COOLER, it's pretty embarrassing what transpires in this lame "making of" special cranked out for The Sundance Channel.

Filmmaker Wayne Kramer and his partners in crime have a "gee whiz" approach to their craft which might interest a wannabe film school freshman, but was simple-minded to the point of being ridiculous. At one point Kramer goes on at great length how they found a song (it's a standard we've heard hundreds of times before) that so beautifully underscored and counterpointed a scene, as if this were some amazing achievement. If it had been original music or an obscurity -fine, but to pat oneself on the back for such a trivial choice is absurd.

Making matters worse, the talisman song for the film "Luck Be a Lady" was way too "direct" a choice, and overly familiar - how about something offbeat? When it begins playing in the movie I think of GUYS AND DOLLS (natch) and was diverted into Sinatra land, Damon Runyon and NYC, not the intended Vegas -old & new - connection intended. Just a very poor choice.

Elsewhere they and the cast merely belabor the obvious -the film's plot and characterizations. I'm on record in principle objecting to these spoon-fed/mickey-mousing "extras" now present on most DVDs or Blu-Rays, but at least one usually learns a morsel or two of information. Not with this one -we're told they were lucky to find a casino under renovation that they could use as a set ("we probably saved a million dollars") -as if that was the first time in history existing buildings or businesses were used for filmmaking instead of building from scratch. This is the level of nonsense presented in yet another "rah rah" documentary.

Praising Alec Baldwin is de rigeur, but an annoying "sidelight" has Kramer verbally (and amplified with film clips) showing how an untalented actor's poor line readings in a scene where Baldwin inadvertently wins a big payoff at his own slot machine turned out to help Baldwin, making him more annoyed as he was reacting to Macy in the same scene. Kramer came off as the epitome of an incompetent rookie director in this case -so proud of himself for tweaking Baldwin's performance, but retaining an amateur-night turn (by the poor guy he's belittling) in the finished film.

The "big scene" they focus on is a trite, seen it a million times climax where loser Macy gets hot at the craps table (through the power of love). Director Kramer tells of his choice of distorting lenses and a gimmick of substituting larger dice in one shot to increase the impact. Again, this trivia, and the editor chiming in how they had tons of random shots of dice play to edit into the scene, is pure self-delusion: these folks apparently thought they were making CITIZEN KANE rather than an ephemeral and in my opinion silly little picture.


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