Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: American Beauty

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

American Beauty
Directed by Sam Mendes
Released October 1, 1999

I had the pleasure recently of re-watching what I consider to be my favorite film, the 1999 Oscar winner for Best Picture, “American Beauty.” At this point, I’ve attended a talk with director Sam Mendes and participated in roundtables with writer Alan Ball and stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening for subsequent films, permitting me to appreciate their talents all the more. This brilliant film is so carefully constructed and skillfully acted that it’s hard to find anything wrong with it. To learn that this is a film from a first-time director and a first-time filmmaker is absolutely amazing. More than that, though, it’s evident in just about every scene the high level at which the actors, especially Spacey, Bening, and Chris Cooper are performing. Each line of dialogue is uttered with such precision and care that nothing goes unnoticed or unemphasized, making the entirety of the film fully relevant and fascinating. Joining the veteran actors listed above are (at the time) young newcomers Wes Bentley, Thora Birch, and Mena Suvari, all of whom are excellent. It’s hard to find just one clip to represent this film, and therefore I’m pleased to have found five. The first is the film’s theatrical trailer, which does a terrific job of capturing the movie’s sedated feel and its sharp edge. The second is when Spacey’s Lester Burnham first lays eyes on Suvari’s Angela Hayes and instantly falls for her while he’s supposed to be watching his daughter’s cheerleading performance. Next up we have two fabulous scenes capturing the banter between Bening’s Carolyn Burnham and her husband Lester, one in the bedroom and the other in front of their daughter at dinner (how Bening didn’t win an Oscar is a mystery). Finally, enjoy that classic plastic bag scene, emblematic of what this movie is all about and why it’s so good every single time.

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