Neither a Bird Nor a Plane

Finally saw Hollywoodland. It’s a very good film hidden inside a very mediocre one.

The good film stars Ben Affleck as George Reeves, the actor best remembered for playing Superman in the 1950’s TV show. It paints Reeves as a tragic figure, and a pathetic one–one of those actors who hangs around Hollywood for years, getting small roles in big pictures and big roles in serials. Then he wins fame in a kiddy TV show, rendering him impossible for adults to take seriously.

In the 1910’s, Mary Pickford discovered just how rich and famous an actor could become thanks to the new medium of motion pictures. Forty years later, Reeves learned how horribly stereotyped one could become thanks to television.

And it’s to television, at least in this movie’s view, that unsuccessful movie actors go to die. Reeves was found shot in the head, probably a suicide, shortly after the show went off the air.

Unfortunately, Hollywoodland stars Adrien Brody, not Ben Affleck. I have nothing against Brody, but in this particular movie, he plays a clichéd private detective trying to prove that Reeves was murdered. Neither Brody, writer Paul Bernbaum, nor director Allen Coulter give us any reason to care about this guy or his probably misguided quest. Every time the story cuts from Affleck to Brody, it’s a letdown.

By the way, I caught one promo for Hollywoodland when it was in theaters that described Reeves as playing “journalist/superhero Clark Kent.” Oddly enough, that makes sense. For reasons probably inspired by the meager special effects budget, Reeves spent more screen time wearing glasses than a cape.

In other news, the Sonoma Valley Film Festival runs April 12 through 15. Special events include a tribute to Pixar’s John Lasseter. As is this festival’s tradition, the emphasis is as much on gourmet food as on movies. I’m not listing a schedule for the festival on Bayflicks; their site is designed in a way that would make that task extremely difficult.

Finally, a bit of self-promotion: I spent much of February testing and reviewing Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players for PC World (that’s one reason why I was too busy in February to maintain Bayflicks properly). Movies look and sound great on these players, but I still prefer the theatrical experience. You’ll find the article here.