Category Archives: al pacino
I was completely taken aback by the title card that preceded HBO’s Phil Spector. Here’s what it said: “This film is a work of fiction. It is not “based on a true story.” It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.”
What?? Wow. I wonder how many lawyers between HBO and Phil Spector it actually took to write that nightmare up? I understand it’s worded to keep either party from suing the hell out of each other, but it also seems like open season to make up whatever the hell they want about real people and not get sued. Wow.
The facts: Phil Spector, perhaps one of the world’s greatest music producers, shot model and actress Lana Clarkson in his home in 2003. Spector claimed it was suicide, was tried twice for murder, and finally convicted to serve nineteen years in prison.
This film: Helen Mirren plays defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden who enters Spector’s madcap mental ward world in an attempt get him out of the murder charges. Jeffrey Tambor as attorney Bruce Cutler provides occasional comedy relief.
Al Pacino plays Spector as subtle but completely insane, sort of like a sedated homeless clown person with voices in his head and a violent streak. His home is like cross between a museum, a circus, the Addams Family house, and the Psycho house. And oh, those wigs. Sadly the wigs were real.
The film’s soundtrack, like the performances of Pacino and Mirren, is one of its few saving graces. HBO’s Phil Spector is a wonderful example of a few diamonds hidden within a piece of dog crap. If I didn’t know about the case, and Spector’s career, I wonder if this movie would even made sense. It seems built for footnotes.
The film is surprisingly and unrecognizably written and directed by David Mamet. What was he thinking? And what did Phil Spector ever do to David Mamet? These are the mysteries I would like solved. I love Mamet, and this was a major disappointment.
As the tagline for this flick says, ‘the truth is somewhere in the mix.’ Unfortunately, I think that mix has been erased and taped over multiple times. This is a mess. This is two down in my book as far as HBO movies go. Between this and The Girl, I think they should stop making movies about real people, it’s just not working out. I’m dreading the Liberace biopic coming later this year now.
On the same day we lost Jack Klugman, Christmas Eve, we also lost Charles Durning, the king of the character actors. The multiple award-winning actor, featured in over a hundred films, was 89.
I first encountered Charles Durning as Detective Moretti in Dog Day Afternoon. He was the likable but straight arrow cop who negotiated with Al Pacino’s bank robber Sonny Wortzik. I love the film, a time capsule of the 1970s, that earned Durning a Best Supporting Actor nom from the Golden Globes. But it’s not his only film, before or since.
Durning’s resume also includes terrific roles in The Sting, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Muppet Movie, and Tootsie, among so many others. He was also a veteran of the Second World War, won a Tony for playing Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and had regular parts on the TV shows “Evening Shade,” “Family Guy,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” and “Rescue Me.”
Throughout his long career as an actor he was rarely not working, and was always playing memorable characters. We’ve lost another of the greats. He will be missed.