Friday, March 21, 2008

A Loss

The writer and director Anthony Minghella died the other day from complications of surgery to remove cancer of the tonsils and neck. He was 54 years old.

When you think of the great filmmakers of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of this one, Minghella is probably someone you overlook but shouldn't. Between 1990 and 2006 he made seven films which were nominated for a total of 24 Oscars, winning ten. The biggest of the bunch was The English Patient for which he won best director. He also directed Cold Mountain and the not yet released The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. That's not a bad track record for the son of ice cream factory owners from the Isle of Wight.

My favorite film of his is The Talented Mr. Ripley which felt as if it could have been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which is no surprise because the Ripley was adapted from the novel by Patricia Highsmith who wrote Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. The common thread of all the Minghella films mentioned here is that they were adapted from novels and not originally created for film. This is ironic because Minghella was a great writer, his first film Truly, Madly, Deeply was from his original screenplay and is perhaps his most personal work.

He will be missed.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

I can't believe it has been two weeks since I last posted. It must be the late winter, spring will never come to Chicago, doldrums.

When I think of young, contemporary American filmmakers Ben Affleck is not a name that immediately comes to mind. However, he owns an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting and he directed the terrific, yet hard to watch film Gone Baby Gone. He is someone I have to take seriously as a filmmaker.

Gone Baby Gone is one of those films that when it's over you have a debate about the character's actions. Are the choices Patrick (Casey Affleck, great as a serious lead) makes the right ones? You can argue both sides of it forever and that to me makes a great film.

Gone Baby Gone is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Mystic River, which Clint Eastwood (another often overlooked American filmmaker) made into an excellent film. Lehane's milieu is the dirty, underside of Boston- the Roxburys and Dorchesters, far from Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Copley Square. He creates these morally ambiguous characters, yet fills them with depth and dimension.

It's a excellent film well worth checking out- and I haven't even mentioned Amy Ryan's Oscar nominated performance as the mother whose missing daughter starts the plot in motion.