Monday, January 31, 2005

Movie: Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)

The strangest moment in Kevin Spacey’s bizarrely entertaining Bobby Darin biopic BEYOND THE SEA recreates a scene from this movie. When TCM aired it over the weekend, I had to check it out.

Darin received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a WWII pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress. He’s put under sedation by Army psychiatrist Gregory Peck and relives the crash that triggered his collapse. It’s one of those bravura acting moments that the Academy loves.

Spacey seems to be channeling Dean Martin when he reenacts the sequence. It doesn’t help that the dialogue has been compressed, so that Darin goes from talking about “balloon smugglers” to screaming incoherently in the space of 45 seconds. The scene makes Darin look like a bad actor, when in CAPTAIN NEWMAN he’s actually quite good.

As for the rest of the movie ... eh. The seriocomic tone never gels, and whatever impact the psychiatry scenes might have had has been diminished by every episode of M*A*S*H featuring Allan Arbus’ Major Sidney Freedman.

Book: Black Money, by Ross MacDonald (1965)

Shamefaced admission time. I’ve never read any of MacDonald’s Lew Archer novels. When Rara Avis, the hardboiled fiction list, chose this title as their January book, I was happy to remedy that.

MONEY may not have been the best introduction – I’ve been told THE CHILL and THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE are his finest – but I certainly intend to read more of MacDonald’s work. Archer is a wryly dispassionate observer of class differences and family struggles. And there are plenty of nice turns of phrase.

Miscellaneous: Links

Mark Evanier links to this article explaining why the lawsuit claiming that MGM defrauded DVD buyers is wrong. The pictures helped a lot. Mark also brings the sad news that producer Philip De Guere has died. De Guere was responsible for the late ‘80s CBS revival of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which featured fine episodes like ‘Her Pilgrim Soul’ and Harlan Ellison’s award-winning ‘Paladin of the Lost Hour.’

Two good pieces in today’s New York Times. Caryn James compares the revival of David Rabe’s HURLYBURLY to the 1998 film version. And a look at a company that teaches leadership skills from Shakespeare to the military. My favorite quote:

We once got Rumsfeld to wear a robe and crown. Then it took us two days to get it off him.”