Sunday, March 16, 2008

What I've Seen: Michael Clayton and a Couple of Trailers

Among the many benefits of watching films on DVD is the ability to instantaneously cue up a specific scene. These days, when I reach the end of a movie that I enjoyed, there are usually a couple of scenes that impressed me so much that I want to revisit them as soon as the credits finish rolling. If the scenes really impressed me, though, I'll stop mid-movie and rewatch them right away.

Michael Clayton has two of those scenes. The first of those is a pivotal, single-take shot that, for reasons of spoiler-avoidance, I should probably not say any more about. The second one is much subtler moment which occurs in an early scene, but which I didn't notice until the scene was reprised later (the movie has one of those scripts that starts off near the end, then flashes back a few days). George Clooney's titular character, a high-priced legal "fixer" (or, as he calls it, a "janitor") is being berated by one of his firm's clients, a man who has just committed a hit-and-run. In the midst of the client's tirade, Clooney's face twitches almost imperceptibly. It's a tiny thing that speaks volumes about the compromises the character has made in the film up to that point and the many things he has lost. I know almost nothing about acting; is it possible for someone to twitch like that on cue? Or was it an involuntary tic that just happened to be caught on film?

It's been pointed out many times before that George Clooney is a magnetic leading man, a modern-day Cary Grant (and, if this article by Time magazine's resident smart-ass Joel Klein is to be believed, one of the most charming and polite people on the planet). As if to illustrate his ability to command the screen, you only need to look at the final two scenes of Michael Clayton. The next-to-last scene is a climactic verbal showdown with the film's villain. It's fairly contrived, and in a lesser movie the music would swell underneath it to tell the audience how to feel, but underneath Clooney's performance it would be redundant. The scene that follows is the polar opposite: a long, static shot of Clooney in the back of a cab, saying absolutely nothing as the credits roll. The fact that he can hold your attention even without any dialogue speaks volumes about his talent.


I'm used to hearing Harry Kalas's voice in a lot of places: Phillies games, NFL films, soup commercials, Puppy Bowls, etc. Movie ads, however, are a new one. But here he is narrating the TV spots for George Clooney's (there he is again!) new movie Leatherheads.

I doubt it will happen, but I'd love to hear Harry the K get some work doing the trailers for summer blockbusters and Oscar-bait prestige pictures. Hearing about a world where hope is against the law or a renegade cop who has to make his own rules would be much more pleasant coming from that friendly voice.


A couple of things I respect about Pixar, after seeing the trailer for Wall-E:
  1. For a while, every time a Pixar movie was released, the story was how they had animated some object that had previously been very difficult to render convincingly, like fur or water. Apparently now they've managed to perfect everything and are challenging themselves on the storytelling aspect. A movie in which the title character doesn't talk, but rather whistles and beeps like R2-D2? Sure!
  2. It would have been easy to cram these trailers with current pop hits and cliched "classic" songs. Instead, they used music from The Great Escape and, in an earlier teaser, Brazil. I'm sure that marketing experts would prefer more typical musical selections, but instead they used pieces with actual thematic relevance. Imagine!

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