Review: Capote (2005)

The opening sequence of first-time director Bennett Miller’s Capote is of a quiet farmhouse in Kansas. A teenage girl walks into the house only to discover that her best friend has been brutally murdered. Meanwhile, in New York City, author Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is doing what he does best: drinking, partying, and telling stories. The next morning he opens The New York Times and reads about the murder of the Clutter family in Kansas. He decides that this will be the focus of his next piece for The New Yorker.

Along for the ride is the always magnificent Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She joins her childhood friend as a research assistant and is the person who keeps him grounded.

To say that Capote is just a good movie would be a major understatement. Philip Seymour Hoffman dives into the role of Truman Capote head first and delivers the greatest acting performance in recent years. From his voice and insecurities to his facial expressions, sense of humor and undeniably charming personality, Hoffman nailed the eccentricities of Truman Capote.

While this movie is about a brilliant author and his landmark literary achievement (In Cold Blood was the first nonfiction novel), it is also about Truman Capote’s faults and unlitmate demise. The author develops a close relationship with convicted murderer Perry Smith (played perfectly by Clifton Collins Jr.) and this relationship becomes the death of Capote, figuratively and literally. After the publication of In Cold Blood, Capote never completed another novel. Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman portray this literary icon in the best years of his life entering a sudden decline is a treat to watch. It is safe to say that Hoffman will win the Best Actor statuette.

Updated October 10, 2010

An Oscar Analysis

I finally found a good analysis of the Academy Award nominations. Yes, I could easily give my own, but I feel that the opinion of someone who actually gets to vote for the Oscars could explain the nomination hoopla better than I can.

But, I will say this…

I kind of hope that Crash wins Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain. It won’t happen I know. Instead, Crash will probably win Best Screenplay, because that is how the Academy awards equally good films.

Also, I will be very ticked if the Hamas election ruins Paradise Now‘s chances for the Best Foreign Language Film oscar. While movies can be about politics, politics should not influence voters when choosing the most deserving film.

Now onto the analysis.

Nommie Nommie by Jeffrey Wells Hollywood Elsewhere

A hearty yee-haw for the eight nominations that went to Brokeback Mountain this morning. This pretty much certifies that Ang Lee’s film has the Best Picture Oscar in the bag. Someone tell me how this won’t happen.

And a big college yell for Best Picture nominees Capote (as well as Best Actor contender Philip Seymour Hoffman, Best Director hopeful Bennett Miller and Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Dan Futterman), Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco’s Crash, and George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck.

And a confused head-shake over Munich taking the fifth Best Picture nomination.

I understand the reasoning, I think. Why shouldn’t a movie that appalled a significant portion of film cognoscenti the world over with that ludicrous cross-cutting between Eric Bana schtupping his on-screen wife and a reenactment of the 1972 shoot-out between Black September kidnappers and German police at Munich’s Furstenfeldbruck air base…a film such as this is surely a finer and more worthy achievement than The Constant Gardener, Walk the Line or Match Point.

Three and a half hours ago (around 7 am) I received an e-mail that said “Steven Spielberg says fuck you,” and I guess I deserved that.

Read the entire post here.

Harper Lee

The lives of real-life characters are constantly turned into biopics. This year the stories of Truman Capote, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents), Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron in North Country), and Edward R. Murrow, were all translated for the screen.

Author Harper Lee is also included on that list. The release of Capote has renewed interest in the author (she was childhood friends with Truman Capote). Catherine Keener (in an Oscar-nominated role) plays Lee in Capote and Sandra Bullock will portray the author in Infamous, another release about Truman Capote.

Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day
By Ginia Bellafante Published: January 30, 2006 NY TIMES

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Jan. 27 — Of all the functions at the president’s mansion of the University of Alabama here, none has acquired the mystique surrounding a modest annual luncheon attended by high school students from around the state.

They come with cameras dangling on their wrists and dressed, respectfully, as if they were about to issue an insurance policy or anchor the news. An awards ceremony for an essay contest on the subject of To Kill a Mockingbird, the occasion attracts no actor, politician or music figure. Instead, it draws someone to whom Alabamians collectively attach far more obsession: the author of the book itself, Harper Lee, who lives in the small town of Monroeville, Ala., one of the most reclusive writers in the history of American letters.

With more than 10,000,000 copies sold since it first appeared in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird exists as one of the best-selling novels of all time. For decades, Ms. Lee has remained fiercely mindful of her privacy, politely but resolutely refusing to talk to the press and making only rare public appearances, in which she always declines to speak. She has maintained her resolve despite renewed attention in the wake of the film Capote, in which Ms. Lee is portrayed as the moral conscience of her childhood friend Truman Capote; the coming Infamous, another Capote movie in which Sandra Bullock plays Ms. Lee; and a biography of Ms. Lee scheduled for May.

continue reading the article

Fall Movie Preview:Capote

opening September 30

starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr., and Chris Cooper
Directed by: Bennett Miller

This is the story behind the story of In Cold Blood and if you haven’t already heard it’s supposed to be brilliant and a knockout. Instead of focusing on the true-murder story of a Kansas family in 1959, the movie focuses on the friendship Truman Capote formed with the two convicted murderers in order to write his nonfiction novel.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Capote. “Its not a biopic, and it’s not a greatest hits his life.” says Hoffman. “It takes place prior to his becoming the raconteur he became, before he was just an eccentric personality.” For this portrayal of Truman Capote, Hoffman has been named as one of the early oscar favorites of 2006.

Catherine Keener costars as Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Capote’s close friend. Her role is crucial because Lee helped Capote research In Cold Blood. Together, the two writers charm Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the detective in charge of the case and his wife (Amy Ryan) giving them immediate access to the case.

Other costars include Mark Pelligrino and Clifton Collins Jr, as the two killers. There is no doubt that Capote exploited these men for his book, but what the film also shows is the connection Capote felt to Perry Smith (Collins Jr.). Collins is mesmerizing and haunting as the killer, Smith.

But there is no doubt that this film belongs to Hoffman, who gives an unmissable and unforgettable performance. According to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, “Hoffman gets the flamboyantly gay public image of the whiny-voiced gadfly…But his real triumph is inward, the way he fins the stillness in Capote, and the emotions roiling in his eyes what he sees in the world reduces him to awed silence.”

A definite must-see.

quotes: Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, October 6, 2005
Premiere Magazine: Fall Movie Preview, September 2005