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In the Bedroom (2001)
Todd Field's directorial debut is a triumph of atmosphere and mood. However, it perhaps works best as a showcase for some phenomenal acting. Tom Wilkinson is brilliant as Matt; his journey goes on an emotional roller coaster throughout this film and you're there with him for each up and down. Sissy Spacek is excellent as his wife, who sinks into an embittered, denial-induced funk after the "key plot twist" (which I won't give away). Marisa Tomei, an actress hitherto I've never thought much of, gives a honest, at times emotionally naked performance. All three should be remembered come Oscar time.
A great performance
This is a murky, unfocused little film. It is clear that Audrey Wells is a talented writer-director, but I felt a lack of assurance in the execution of her story. However, Jean Smart delivers a brilliant performance that enriches the film, making it memorable. She nails every single SECOND of the film she's in; her monologue towards Rea is a devastating piece of acting that was shamefully overlooked by the Academy. This woman is one of the best actresses of her generation, and if you saw her hilarious, Emmy-winning spot on "Frasier" you know she's got strong comedic chops, too. Give Jean Smart better roles!
You Can Count on Me (2000)
Ken Lonergan's "You Can Count on Me" is a great film; one of the most emotional filmgoing experiences I've ever had. The film broke my heart in places and had me roaring with laughter in others. The laughter was genuine and very satisfying; like laughing at a friend's incorrigible habits rather than a funny one-liner. Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are extraordinary...there isn't a second when you don't think they are brother and sister. The screenplay is beautiful and is full of amazing observations, not just about brothers and sisters but people in general. "You Can Count on Me" is a must-see film; wise, funny, perceptive, and deeply moving. It deserves to be a classic.
Franciosa's best performance
Dated, though still packing a dramatic punch, "Career" best serves as a showcase for some terrific acting. Anthony Franciosa's gives the best performance of his career; he appears to really be pouring himself into this role. Carolyn Jones is exceptional as his lonely agent; who self-destructively hides her affections for him. Their two performances alone make this worth viewing, but it's still a worthwhile film.
The Big Heat (1953)
A sadly forgotten classic
This is one of the very best film noirs ever...right up there with "Double Indemnity". The dynamite dialogue and acting propel this one, with the legendary Gloria Grahame giving the performance of her career as Debby Marsh. Lee Marvin is impressive as well. This is an extremely well-executed film...the coffee-hurling scene is in my top 10 most memorable scenes ever. Don't miss this one.
The Man Who Came to Dinner (2000)
Lots of fun
What a wonderful, witty comedy this is. I was so glad PBS broadcasted this terrific stage production. Beautifully directed by Jerry Zaks. I loved all the performances, but Jean Smart was especially fabulous as the ridiculous Lorraine Sheldon. The dialogue in this play is so good that even if you don't get an opportunity to see it, you'll get a good chuckle out of reading the script.