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American Beauty


Mac_the_Nice
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Love it or hate it, suddenly, it's available on InstantPlay from NetFlix, and so I have now seen it for about the third time. And just as it's been upon each previous viewing, I see more to love and admire about it, laugh my butt off, shed a tear over, than both times before. 

Nothing on film has ever as yet better expressed a nostalgia over the lost ethos that enlivened so many a heart and mind during the 'coming of age' era of every other "Lester & Carolyn Burnham" who may better come to know and remember themselves, upon seeing this movie--about the 'way we were'. 

Surely those who would condemn Nabokov and Kubrick for "sensationalizing" the unquestionably transgressive sensibilities of a "Humbert Humbert" will do unto American Beauty as they have done unto Lolita. And it would not be my desire to enter into a cat & dog fight with those who do feel that way about Alan Ball & Sam Mendes in the making of this film. 

So, I won't be minded to argue over it, getting fingers burned by all the hot buttons this movie so exquisitely does push. I should just like to note that a majority of leading critics (men and women alike) shared a shocked delight to find themselves able to empathize (in hilarity or pathos) with Lester, or even with poor Mr. Fitts next door, let alone Carolyn and above all the two young lovers, and of course, Angela--because it only goes to show the depth of humanity, the benevolent, nonjudgmental sensibility that inspired the creation of those characters. 

There is no perversion in this movie. It never happens, even so close as it comes, Lester discovers that he is not, after all, Humbert Humbert. It was the beauty of Angela by which he'd been captivated, the same beauty that keeps bringing young Rickie to the verge of tears; a beauty so inextricably, so mystically bound up with freedom of the human spirit, that it's all just one big blooming blossom--what this movie is, how it unfolds so excruciatingly "spec-ta-cular" in beauty from first frame to last. 

American Beauty is the nearest I've ever seen a motion picture come to what I would see as cinematic perfection.

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Thanks for posting your thoughts on American Beauty, Mac. And you do have a lot of thoughts about it- some of which I'd never considered before.

I must admit, I've only seen the film once, around the time it came out. I liked it very much- although was saddened by the ending (still, it's a good ending). Despite my liking it, I've never seen it since. Maybe I'll rent it and watch it again.

Just about anything Kevin Spacey is in is good, or at the very least, interesting. Aside from anything else, he's got a great face, I like watching him.

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Miss Wonderly: "I must admit, I've only seen the film once, around the time it came out." 

Well then, Ms. Wonderly, all the more reason to see it again, and again. Maybe that's what it takes with a film so finely crafted as this, for a person to absorb all, or at least more, of its nuances. 

It's quite something to hear Sam Mendes speak of the day, upon post-production, he was nervously pacing in the corridor outside a screening room at Universal, waiting like an expectant father on the news from Spielberg. He remembers the moment when the man from Dreamworks at last came out to grasp his director by the shoulders only to say, "You have made a classic." 

That's quite a choice of words. It's what another producer might well have said to Robert Rossen as he holds in that 35mm can, the master copy of The Hustler, or as The Third Man had come from Carol Reed and Graham Greene into the hands of Alexander Korda and Selznick. 

"I liked it very much-although was saddened by the ending (still, it's a good ending)." 

Agreed. But, as Alan Ball reveals, it's not the ending that was in the original screenplay. It's something he and Mendes brainstormed together--"What this movie is telling us it wants," in Sam's words. There's the meaning of 'classic' in the collaborative art of motion pictures for you.

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