Thursday, February 12, 2004


...and I mean nothing...

...in Sofia Coppola's performance in Godfather III suggested subtlety. Or talent. Or entitlement to any accolade greater than "has opposable thumbs and uses them competently" or "as with other mammals, Sofia has hair."

And worse, she only got the role because of the famous nepotism of the Coppolas, and there is very little in this world that I hate more than nepotism and mortmain. I despise the "entitlements" of birth. So I took a fanged pleasure in her failure.

So how did she make one of the most subtle movies I've seen in a long time? How did she write such a wonderfully gentle and insightful screenplay? How did she shepherd what could have been a wacky fish-out-of-water comedy or a dime-store romance into such a carefully crafted, thoughtful comment on humanity? How did she manage such an unerring sense of rhythm and yet include the slow moments where she invites you to drink in the entire screen?

I don't know, but as someone who has ruthlessly mocked her valley-girl Godfather III performance -- "Dad? Dad?" -- I hereby give Sofia her due as a brilliant artist worthy of respect in her own right. Far more so than anything her acclaimed father has done in the last 30 years (since 1974, the year of The Conversation and Godfather II).

The key to what made the movie so excellent can be seen in the "conversation with Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray" on the DVD, which should only be seen after the film. Bill Murray identifies the key to the whole movie (which makes sense, because his performance clearly demonstrates that he understood what made the film work so well). He describes a certain critical scene as "the scene where the audience finally likes the film" because Coppola refuses to follow the usual formula. He's right. It takes a while to warm up to the picture -- to get into its rhythm, to trust that it really is going in the direction that it seems to be going -- but once you give in, it rewards you fully.

The film will not win Best Picture -- "Return of the King" will. Nor will it win Best Director -- they've already engraved Peter Jackson's name on it. But it should win Best Original Screenplay, because if the Academy is going to reward a deserving movie, it does it through the screenplay awards.

And Bill Murray, who gave a performance that is absolutely stunning in its delicacy and subtlety, who will be remembered for this performance when he dies, will have absolutely no chance of beating Sean Penn. Though he communicates the full depth of human emotions through his basset-hound eyes, he never raises his voice, and you have to raise your voice to "act" in the Academy's view.

In short: an emphatic, urgent, yearning recommendation for Lost in Translation, the best movie of 2003 (as announced by a guy who saw few films this year because he has a one-year old).

 4:53 PM

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