It's October and I have to admit that I'm feeling a little empty without my annual Truman Capote movie. In 2005 there was Bennett Miller's excellent Capote and then last year came Douglas McGrath's Infamous, which, surprisingly, was equally good. I mean, couldn't some enterprising filmmaker have conjured up a movie about Capote's emotionally wrenching experience writing Breakfast at Tiffany's or something? But while I'm on this subject, those two movies proved a remarkable double feature, highlighting two different approaches to the exact same subject matter. Neither movie suffered, but each did something of its own uniquely well.
That was a rare opportunity, but there are always interesting pairs of movies out there for different reasons. For example, Steve Buscemi is currently starring in two movies, Interview (4 screens), which he directed, and Delirious (1 screen), directed by Tom DiCillo. In both, he plays a kind of desperate, pathetic journalist. With his increasingly saggy, sour face, he brings a kind of parasitic feel to the job, but there's still something captivating about him. He's one of those great "ugly" actors they used to hire back in the 1970s: people who look like people instead of movie stars. He is superb at soulful cowards and failures, often with a temper, and he has graced some of the best films of the past 20 years (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Ghost World, etc.)
Michelle Pfeiffer has also returned in a double feature this year, in Hairspray (316 screens) and Stardust (181 screens), playing a kind of scenery-chewing villainess in both. These mark her return to the big screen after five years of absence (since White Oleander in 2002). Pfeiffer was a unique blond beauty for many years, playing back and forth between a tough facade and charming insecurity. She was arm candy in Brian De Palma's now-classic Scarface (1983) and earned three Oscar nominations (for Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Love Field), but she will probably best be remembered for her dazzlingly screwed up, sexy Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992). Now, at nearly fifty, she is doing what Bette Davis and Joan Crawford did before her: playing villains. The difference is that Pfeiffer is still sexy. I'll always treasure that moment after regaining her youth in Stardust in which she drops her clothes, turns around, studies her derriere in the mirror and makes an approving face.
More than just actors, it's useful and interesting to match up movies for other reasons, such as three very long movies currently playing: Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (61 screens), Ang Lee's Lust, Caution (17 screens) and Sean Penn's Into the Wild (135 screens). Critics have complained or commented upon the length of all three, each one running roughly 2-1/2 hours, but length isn't important if the pace is correct. (Consider The Godfather or Lord of the Rings films.) I know this will sound strange, but a filmmaker can kill a long film if the pace is too fast. If a long film starts off with the pace of a 2-hour film, like Lee and Penn's films do, it will grow dull. But if a long film starts with a slower pace that prepares an audience for the film to come, like Dominik's film, it can work miracles.
Looking closer, there are lots of films about writers out there to make up for the lack of Capote this year. How about a double bill of 1408 (22 screens) and Becoming Jane (108 screens) to please both guys and girls? We've also got Jason Schwartzman as a short story writer in The Darjeeling Limited (19 screens) and Jesse Eisenberg, as a journalism student in The Hunting Party (43 screens) -- though he leans more toward television than writing. Along the theme of artistic occupations, we have oral storytellers in Ten Canoes (1 screen), musicians in Great World of Sound (2 screens) and Once (65 screens), actors in I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (7 screens), painters in My Kid Could Paint That (8 screens) and even a creative baker in Waitress (14 screens).
Sometimes it's fun just to come up with weird pairings of movie titles that look funny on the marquee together: I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With and No Reservations (80 screens), or Great World of Sound (2 screens) and Into Great Silence (2 screens), or Ten Canoes and Lake of Fire (1 screen), or Across the Universe (364 screens) and No End in Sight (22 screens), or Shoot 'Em Up (108 screens) and Sicko (43 screens). I'm just playing around here. We can even pair up titles to make a better sounding movie, something like Sunshine and Stardust. I'd go see that.