Friday, August 15, 2003

The Indians Call Him "Directs with a Leaden Hand": I see Costner's taking a bit of a critical beating for his latest horse opera, opening this weekend. NPR's reviewer thought it trite and corny, while USA today pleads for relief from its 135 minute length. This is unsurprising to me, since I was always a "Dances With Wolves" dissenter. (That that film could've won the major awards it did against "Goodfellas," Scorsese's daring, original take on mob flix [and his last decent film], astounds me.) Costner's acting is ridiculously plodding, though I'll grant him a decent amount of screen presence, which makes him a natural for light comedy like "Bull Durham." A suggestion: Can we retire the Western for the next, say, 50 years or so? Even the "revisionist" Western is too saturated with cliche to make an impression anymore. Besides, even the most revisionist of Westerns (like "Unforgiven") only scratches for obvious leftovers in the mines that John Ford's dark and ambiguous work cleared so thoroughly.

Everything else Costner has touched as a director has turned to dust, which I think furthers the point that "Dances" was a political gimme. It's long, tedious, hokey, and thematically guilt stricken. After all, it is about a white man realizing how bloodthirsty and evil his people are and joining up with the peace-loving (and environmentalist!) Indians. Blech. No wonder Hollywood loved it. Anyway, his reputation as an auteur proceeds from that movie, and the man has done nothing to solidify that rep.

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