Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who is George, anyway?

To love Clooney, or to not love Clooney, that is the question.

Surrounding the imaginary water cooler of my inner world – I don’t hear dead people yet – the chatter about “Michael Clayton” is all about George Clooney.

Some seem to dismiss his star persona because it’s “always the same.” Like Warren Beatty or Harrison Ford, some think they know exactly what they are going to get when they see a Clooney movie: same likeable guy, different lines, and same reliable performance.

The dismissive argument against him is the age-old: “No matter who he’s playing, he’s always George Clooney.”

That, to me, is what’s brilliant about the casting of him in the lead of “Michael Clayton.” For three-quarters of this legal thriller, we have no idea who this “fixer” is. Good? Bad? Greedy? Broken? Struggling dad? Good driver? An agent of corporate evil? A man doing dangerous penance? Ultimately, he reveals himself to be a little of everything, and that’s a huge feat.

In “Michael Clayton,” Clooney divorces himself of the calm-and-collected façade and shows us a man on the brink of moral collapse.

It reminded me of some of the best performances of Harrison Ford in movies like “Blade Runner” and “Frantic,” and some equally great work by Beatty in “Parallax View” and “Bulworth.”

What say you? Is “Michael Clayton” all smoke and mirrors, or does it deliver the goods?

PHOTO: George Clooney appears in a scene from the motion picture "Michael Clayton." (Gannett News Service, Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros. Pictures)


bigmoneygrip said...

"The dismissive argument against him is the age-old: “No matter who he’s playing, he’s always George Clooney.”

So? You could say that about some of the best actors of all time. Two that come to mind are Jimmy Stewart and Michael Caine.

Anonymous said...

"Michael Clayton" is ALL smoke and mirrors. As far as I am concerned this is the flick that stands out in this category as being wholly undeserving. Sure, viewers may be unclear as to whether Clooney is the good guy or not. But at the end of the day it IS Clooney. And that, my friends, is the problem. Like Alexandyr said in the original post, Clooney is an actor that most people (myself included) see as one-dimensional. Not in a bad way, mind you, but rather in the it-will-be-good-but-nothing-special manner.

The only reason this flick got a nomination was because it is a George Clooney picture. Let's not kid ourselves...that is the sole reason. Well, there may be one other reason. Because it portrays corporate America as evil the Academy voters likely felt the need to reward a "statement" flick. But I am tired of those. That is why none of the antiwar flicks got a nod (thank goodness). This is a way to please themselves without appearing to be too out of touch.

Now, having said all of this I admit that "MC" is not a bad flick. But it would never appear in my top five. Or my top ten. Or even my top 50 from last year. But I will not fault anyone for seeing otherwise. I see it has merit, but I just can't see how it has more merit than the other four nominated flicks (which is why it ranks lowest of all the nominees, in my humble opinion).

See you all tomorrow!

Alexandyr Kent said...

Given Clooney's most recent work, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to look at this guy as one-dimensional. "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Syrania" are just two that stand out, not to mention his comedic work.

My point is that Clooney transcended the "just a star" or "just a pretty face" label years ago.

His star power is a big reason why his films get noticed, no question. But to say MC only got recognized because of Clooney? I think that too quickly dismisses Gilroy's chops as one hell of screenwriter. It's a brilliant script -- it opens with a voicemail message, right? -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see this flick remade 30 years down the line.

And look at this flick's treatment of murder? Super, super smart. Just a shot between the toes and boom, he's dead. That's it. Gone. No more. The simplicity of it was sinister supreme.

Alexandyr Kent said...

And was it a voicemail message or deposition tape or something else? My memory's full. Need to go back and watch again.

Anonymous said...

Our first big disagreement! I am a bit excited...

I will amend my post slightly. There is only ONE "comedic" performance where I felt George Clooney transcended, well, Clooney. That was "O Brother Where Art Thou?" Other than that he is just a star. He is just a pretty face. Is he better in films than on television? Yeah. He has transcended broadcast TV, but that is about it.

And I am sorry, but "Syriana" was mediocre at best. I still have trouble trying to see any redemptive value of that flick. And "Good Night..." was a movie that tried too hard to be important. It had so much potential, but it stumbled over itself trying to be something it could never be.

Now, as far as remaking "Michael Clayton" in the future is concerned, I would think "Cabin Boy" and "The Burbs" deserve a second look first. Then again, they could shoot George Clooney sleeping under a park bench and people would try to nominate it as best picture (yes, I am kidding --- but you never know what the Academy voters might do!).

Anonymous said...

I loved every single member of the cast of this film...having said that, I also hated every single minute of this movie. Despite the great performances,it was formulaic, badly paced, badly edited, and just plain boring. I love a thinking man's drama as much as the next guy, but this was a thinking man's movie for stupid people. It was so predictable I could always determine what was about to happen pages ahead of time. And the cookie cutter chracters made me ill...Clooney could charm anyone in any role,and Swinton is fascinating even reading from a phone book, but that's no reason to give them crap...Swinton was maybe in a total of a half hour of this film...You cant root for or against the bad guy if they're barely even in the damn movie. One of the previous commentors said it best...this film is very undeserving of all it's acclaim. It's a rehash of all the legal thrillers before it, with a lot less thrill and way too much talk.

Anonymous said...

OK.... I think "Michael CLayton" has hit a nerve!

I will agree that "MC" is a thinking man's flick. But, as much as I disliked the film, I have to disgree that it was completely formulaic and badly edited, etc. It wasn't the worst thing of the year (Redacted, anyone?), but it is certainly not one of the five best. That, my friends, is why I stand by my statement that it is wholly undeserving.

Now, I will completely agree with nitejonboy24 that Tilda Swinton reading a phone book would be fascinating. Couple that with my facetious remark about Clooney sleeping under a park bench and even I might pay to see that flick!

Baily said...

I saw this movie quite by accident. The ticket person gave me the wrong tickets, so I just went to see MC anyway.

I love George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton. I think they are amazing.

All I can say is, I didn't hate this movie. I would agree with the mediocre at best sentiment.

But, since I walked into the film with absolutely no expectations, it didn't leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

And I like Clooney as an actor. I like him in the same way I like Jimmy Stewart, Michael Caine, and all the other actors that get beef for being instantly recognizable. Oh, and I especially like his pretty face.

Chris Jay said...

In my totally unqualified opinion, Tom Wilkinson does as good of a job impersonating Howard Beale's character from Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" as anyone has ever done in "Michael Clayton." And I enjoyed the pace of the editing, it reminded me of last year's "The Lives of Others." But other than that, I can't see what all of the fuss is about. Its atmosphere is a thing to behold, but atmosphere doesn't necessarily make for a good film.

Alexandyr Kent said...

Totally unqualified opinion? Too modest, Chris Jay. Or are you just preparing for that milkshake to be drunk?

Folks, C.J. and I are talking Oscars tomorrow afternoon on Red River Radio. I don't know when it will air, but I'll update ya.

And I promise to try to sneak in my impression of Daniel Day-Lewis.

magnolia_mer said...

I'm glad to see two references to "Network" and "The Parallax View," because I kept thinking about those movies while watching this one. It has some of the same feel.

I loved the movie. I watched it primarily for George Clooney but loved it for the whole cast. I don't think Clooney plays Clooney all the time, and I don't think he did it in this picture.

Anonymous said...

Alex and Chris will be on Red River Radio, 89.9, at 4:44 p.m. today (2/22). They get about 5 minutes to sort out the Oscars. I fully expect these cinephiles to come with crib sheets in tow. What to do!

Anonymous said...