Tag Archives: Kevin Tighe

City of Hope (1991, John Sayles)

City of Hope is a raw John Sayles John Sayles movie. The camera follows the characters until it bumps into other characters, which is a simple, straightforward method, both a little more honest but also a little more amateurish. It introduces a gimmick into the film, which rarely does anything any good. It isn’t always the bumping characters–the most effective sequence is when, at the same time, separated by cuts, a bunch of characters decide to sell themselves out or not to sell out. But the bumping does pop again and it is noticeable. Maybe it’s a consequence of pan and scanning a 2.35:1 film (City of Hope, as far as I can ascertain, has never had a non-pan and scan video release). The pan and scan does hurt a little, but the gimmick would still be there, wider field of action or not. It’s not bad–films still do it today, good films, but they’re films made after Sayles (much like Sayles makes films after the Altman Nashville standard). It’s a raw artist in progress and it’s a thing sixteen years has made more noticeable. It doesn’t date the film, but City of Hope does have a visible place in Sayles’s body of work.

It’s also his most traditional story–one of the two primary storylines is Italian-Americans and their relationship to work and corruption. Sure, it’s political corruption–but the corrupt mayor is Italian. Vincent Spano’s character is also a very general lead for a Sayles film too–like I said, it’s all very raw. The other primary story, about Joe Morton’s attempt to be a successful and moral politician, is more radical. However, the Spano story, simply because Spano, and Tony Lo Bianco as his father, are so great. Joe Morton’s great too, but Sayles gives Spano a romance with Barbara Williams (who’s also fantastic). Watching certain moments in City of Hope, it’s obvious Sayles spent a lot of time figuring them out. There are some short car ride conversations he does beautifully, but also the scenes with Spano walking Williams home. Those scenes are amazing, pan and scan or not.

Where Sayles lifts the film from the norm is in the third act, when the viewer discovers it’s actually not all about people bumping into each other, or the titular City of Hope, which pops up three times at least, but is actually all about watching people corrupt themselves. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition of one woman telling her husband not to sell himself out, then congratulating him (that one’s from Macbeth, right?), with another not supporting dishonesty, after positioning herself to do so. Except every character in City of Hope, not just those four–with the exception of Williams, who’s a bit of a saint–eventually makes the choice to corrupt or redeem him or herself. Well, not redeem, but not further corrupt.

Besides the aforementioned, Tony Denison is great, so is Angela Bassett. Chris Cooper’s only in it for maybe four minutes, but in that time, it becomes clear his never becoming a leading man is a considerable tragedy for American cinema.

I’m probably less enthused about the film than I should be, but it’s only because I spent the entire time wondering how beautiful it must look in the right aspect ratio.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by John Sayles; director of photography, Robert Richardson; music by Mason Daring; production designers, Dan Bishop and Dianna Freas; produced by Sarah Green and Maggie Renzi; released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Starring Vincent Spano (Nick), Tony Lo Bianco (Joe), Joe Morton (Wynn), Angela Bassett (Reesha), John Sayles (Carl), Gloria Foster (Jeanette), David Strathairn (Asteroid), Kevin Tighe (O’Brien), Barbara Williams (Angela), Joe Grifasi (Pauly), Louis Zorich (Mayor Baci), Gina Gershon (Laurie), Rose Gregorio (Pina), Bill Raymond (Les), Jace Alexander (Bobby), Todd Graff (Zip), Frankie Faison (Levonne), Tom Wright (Malik), Tony Denison (Rizzo), S.J. Lang (Bauer), Chris Cooper (Riggs), Stephen Mendillo (Yoyo), Josh Mostel (Mad Anthony), Daryl Edwards (Franklin) and Lawrence Tierney (Kerrigan).


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Men of War (1994, Perry Lang)

Given Men of War’s blind earnestness, the daddy issues, and John Sayles being one of the credited screenwriters, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was going to be Steven Spielberg’s first war movie. I first read about Men of War when IMDb came around and I looked up Sayles. A John Sayles written Dolph Lundgren movie seemed unbelievable and I never got around to seeing it (I didn’t always have a video store carrying the Lundgren oeuvre available). Men of War is pre-Lone Star so Sayles’s connection could be anything, but the film does try to look like a “real” film, not the straight-to-video one it turned out to be. Ah ha, just looked at the ‘trivia’ at IMDb. It was originally going to be directed by John Frankenheimer, who had apparently decided to find a project with the same opening as Friedkin’s Sorcerer. I’m kidding, but Frankenheimer and Friedkin are reasonably interchangeable.

Failed actor turned director Perry Lang tries real hard with Men of War. He stretches the anamorphic image in moments of great intensity and he also does a lot of slow motion and has a lot of obnoxious fade-outs. His battle scenes are awful, but so’s the rest of it, evening out the experience. Men of War is not a good film. I could only spot one scene with any Sayles style to it and then it was Sayles-lite, like it got rewritten or was just a coincidence (if Sayles’s work was not actually on the produced screenplay). The music’s similarly awful, but worse. It’s a rip-off mostly of the Predator score (Lang would have done better if he’d been ripping someone off).

Men of War does have a few things to offer, however, which is an achievement considering it’s worse than the last bad film I saw (Battle for the Planet of the Apes). B.D. Wong is fantastic. Dolph Lundgren has visibly–in the film–become a good actor, but his role’s so flatly written, it’s not really a good performance. Tim Guinee is good, so’s Tom Wright, both as some of Lundgren’s mercenaries (oh, the film’s about a mercenary who decides to help the innocent people he’s been paid to hurt). Don Harvey, who isn’t in it enough, is decent and would be better if his role were better written. Same situation for Tony Denison. Men of War’s biggest failing, besides the direction and writing and some of the other acting (Catherine Bell is unspeakably bad and there are a number of other lame performances), is it’s lack of sense of humor. If it knew how to laugh, it’d probably be a little better. It’d be hard though, since it’s so visually uninteresting. But I’ve finally seen it… even though I’m no longer trying to see all Sayles’s produced screenplays.

But B.D. Wong is great.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Perry Lang; screenplay by John Sayles, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, based on a story by Stan Rogow; director of photography, Ronn Schmidt; edited by Jeffrey Reiner; music by Gerald Gouriet and Paul Rabjohns; production designers, James William Newport and Steve Spence; produced by Arthur Goldblatt and Andrew Pfeffer; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Dolph Lundgren (Nick Gunar), Charlotte Lewis (Loki), B.D. Wong (Po), Tony Denison (Jimmy G), Tim Guinee (Ocker), Don Harvey (Nolan), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Blades), Tom Wright (Jamaal), Catherine Bell (Grace Lashield), Trevor Goddard (Keefer), Kevin Tighe (Colonel Merrick), Thomas Gibson (Warren) and Perry Lang (Lyle).


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Matewan (1987, John Sayles)

What was that? Did anyone else see that? (Probably not, I’m watching the Canadian widescreen DVD).

Sayles actually ripped off the looking at the camera bit from The 400 Blows. He actually did it–while having the character’s future self narrate the epilogue. I’ve been dreading watching Matewan for over a year, since April 2004 in fact. I thought the dread came from my having only seen Matewan in school, but I guess I was just being smart. Matewan is easily Sayles’ worst film. It’s also one of his only “bad” ones. Matewan isn’t that bad, of course (get to that in a second), it’s just propaganda. Sure, it’s historically accurate, but it’s also propaganda. Management abusing labor is a fact and it’s a crime and Matewan is accurate in its depiction of it. But. Sayles presents one agent of management as a human being. The rest are not. The rest are villains. So, if there’s a shoot out with the villains, it’s impossible to care about them, impossible to think their deaths are at all a tragedy. Their deaths are weightless. Even Lethal Weapon 2 made excuses about its level of violence. It’s a disappointment, but Matewan is also Sayles’ first “big” film and it obviously got away from him.

There are signs of the Sayles goodness, of course. There are lots of interesting characters, but he doesn’t know what to do with them. There’s still too much of a story, instead of all the little stories that usually propel his films. There’s the Sayles cast, Chris Cooper and David Straithairn and Mary McDonnell are all excellent, Cooper the most. It’s hard to believe he didn’t become a vanilla leading man after Matewan.

I’m incredibly upset about this film… I was off movies because Stripes was so shitty, because an Ivan Reitman/Bill Murray picture was so painfully mediocre (and unfunny). What is a bad John Sayles movie going to do to me?

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Sayles; director of photography, Haskell Wexler; edited by Sonya Polonsky; music by Mason Daring; production designer, Nora Chavooshian; produced by Maggie Renzi and Peggy Rajski; released by Cinecom Pictures.

Starring Chris Cooper (Joe Kenehan), James Earl Jones (‘Few Clothes’ Johnson), Mary McDonnell (Elma Radnor), Will Oldham (Danny Radnor), David Strathairn (Police Chief Sid Hatfield), Ken Jenkins (Sephus Purcell), Gordon Clapp (Griggs), Kevin Tighe (Hickey), John Sayles (Hardshell Preacher), Bob Gunton (C.E. Lively), Josh Mostel (Mayor Cabell Testerman), Nancy Mette (Bridey Mae), Jace Alexander (Hillard Elkins), Joe Grifasi (Fausto), Gary McCleery (Ludie), Jo Henderson (Mrs. Elkins), Maggie Renzi (Rosaria), Tom Wright (Tom), Michael B. Preston (Ellix), Tom Carlin (Turley) and Jenni Cline (Luann).


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