American Beauty

Hey hey, I’m on vacation and free from my cube at work for a week.

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I am taking full advantage of my vacation, I guess, since I was awake at 4:30 this morning. At least that left time for me to find another podcast to listen to during my road trip to Wisconsin today.

As far as movie podcasts go I really enjoy the Indiewire episodes  and The Flop House (I really hope they review my recommendation of Career Opportunities soon) and Rotten Tomatoes is my newest fave. Each episode features various critics from the site talking about movie news, new releases and a certain genre of film before answering listener mail, you know, all of my favorite things.

I recommend the Rotten Tomatoes podcast when you can pull yourself away from Serial, but I’m really not here to talk about podcasts (as much as I love them.)

american_beauty_small1I have a lot of new (and not so new anymore) movies to write about, but then I watched American Beauty again.

It’s definitely a film that shaped my love of cinema and, unlike (at least on the surface) its characters, I think it’s a flawless movie.

The development of Lester Burnham’s character over the course of the film, primarily through his own personal realizations and interactions with his family, is what stands out from the film and shows how a simple story can be really powerful.

Lester’s (Kevin Spacey)  narration throughout the film presents the question of whether you should feel bad for him because of what happens in the end or because he seems to be happy in his life again before it happens.

The film explores the concept of happiness through all of its characters. Lester’s daughter Janie (Thora Birch) is going through the struggles of being a teenager; her friend Angela (Mena Suvari) thinks there is nothing worse in life than being ordinary when that may be what she is (and there is nothing wrong with it); and Lester’s wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) struggles in her career and has pushed Lester and Janie away through the process. Did she really want to become a real estate agent because she wasn’t happy in her family life or did that make her unhappy in her family life?

All of these questions are left open for interpretation by the viewer and that’s another one of my favorite things about American Beauty. It’s thought provoking, but doesn’t go so far as to spell out (or try to spell out) how you’re supposed to feel about the film and the characters.

Director Sam Mendes, writer Alan Ball and the cast managed to create a dark film about happiness (one that won five Oscars) and it works. It might not fall under the lighter holiday fare to watch this time of year, but American Beauty is worth another look.

Then you can watch A Christmas Story for 24 hours, I know I will be.

 

 

 

 

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