Tag Archives: Willem Dafoe

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese)

The Last Temptation of Christ opens with a passage presumably from the introduction to the novel, as it’s the novel’s writer talking about his own feelings. It’s an odd choice, since it somehow removes the drive for the picture from the filmmakers and puts it on someone else.

It’s a very intentional move from Scorsese; Last Temptation is full of very intentional moves. While the film did have a relatively low budget, it still has an amazing crew–Michael Ballhaus’s photography is masterful and Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is sublime (particularly for the first half).

Scorsese and Ballhaus open with muted colors. Willem Dafoe’s narration has to carry the fantastical elements until the journey of self-discovery picks up and color finally leaks in. The supporting cast–Harvey Keitel in particular–also lend to the mundane feeling. Keitel might be playing Judas, but he’s also the stand-in for the viewer. The approach works.

The film has two major transitions. First is when Dafoe and company get to Jerusalem the first time. Instead of journeying about, Last Temptation becomes all about getting to the crucifixion. That change probably isn’t anyone’s fault… at some point it has to be about getting to the cross. Still, Scorsese could have paced it better.

Then the cross itself, when Scorsese respectfully apes 2001. The end does save the picture, but there’s definite rough road.

Great music from Peter Gabriel, excellent lead performance from Dafoe, strong supporting turns.

Even with its problems, Last Temptation’s mostly magnificent.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Scorsese; screenplay by Paul Schrader, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis; director of photography, Michael Ballhaus; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Peter Gabriel; production designer, John Beard; produced by Barbara De Fina; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Willem Dafoe (Jesus), Harvey Keitel (Judas), Barbara Hershey (Mary Magdalene), Verna Bloom (Mary, Mother of Jesus), Andre Gregory (John The Baptist), Gary Basaraba (Andrew, Apostle), Victor Argo (Peter, Apostle), Michael Been (John, Apostle), Paul Herman (Phillip, Apostle), John Lurie (James, Apostle), Alan Rosenberg (Thomas, Apostle), Leo Burmester (Nathaniel, Apostle), Peggy Gormley (Martha, Sister of Lazarus), Randy Danson (Mary, Sister of Lazarus), Tomas Arana (Lazarus), Roberts Blossom (Aged Master), Barry Miller (Jeroboam), Harry Dean Stanton (Saul), David Bowie (Pontius Pilate) and Juliette Caton (The Angel).


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White Sands (1992, Roger Donaldson)

It’s not hard to identify the problem with White Sands. Daniel Pyne’s script is terrible. His characters often act without motivation and the double and triple crosses he writes into the plot never have any pay-off. It doesn’t help director Donaldson sees himself–and not incorrectly to a point–doing a desert noir in the vein of Touch of Evil. But Sands is too big for a desert noir and Donaldson doesn’t have any tricks, except good Panavision composition, once the desert element runs out.

There are a lot of good performances in the film–Donaldson casted a lot of fine character actors–but Willem Dafoe is an ineffective lead. A lot of that deficiency is the script’s fault, but Dafoe doesn’t bring any implied depth. It’s a casting misfire (bad guy Mickey Rourke, who’s quite good, would have been a better lead).

Samuel L. Jackson, M. Emmet Walsh, Miguel Sandoval, John P. Ryan and Fred Dalton Thompson all provide texture to the supporting cast. Walsh isn’t doing anything new and Jackson gets off to a rocky start, but they’re fine. The only other misfire is Maura Tierney, who’s absurd.

As Dafoe’s erstwhile romantic interest, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is okay. If the script were better and gave her a real part (she doesn’t even show up until a half hour in), she’d do better.

There’s excellent photography from Peter Menzies Jr. and Patrick O’Hearn’s score often makes Sands seem like a better film.

With a rewrite, it would’ve been.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Donaldson; written by Daniel Pyne; director of photography, Peter Menzies Jr.; edited by Nicholas Beauman; music by Patrick O’Hearn; production designer, John Graysmark; produced by Scott Rudin and William Sackheim; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Willem Dafoe (Ray Dolezal), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Lane Bodine), Mickey Rourke (Gorman Lennox), Samuel L. Jackson (Greg Meeker), Miguel Sandoval (FBI Agent Ruiz), M. Emmet Walsh (Bert Gibson), James Rebhorn (FBI Agent Flynn), John Lafayette (FBI Agent Demott), Maura Tierney (Noreen), Alexander Nicksay (Ben Dolezal), John P. Ryan (Arms Dealer), Fred Dalton Thompson (Arms Dealer) and Mimi Rogers (Molly Dolezal).


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Spider-Man 3 (2007, Sam Raimi)

After having two decent Danny Elfman scores similar to his two Batman scores, Raimi brought in composer Christopher Young, who does a terrible job, sure, but also mimics the (non-Elfman) score to Batman Forever. The music in this film makes the ears bleed.

In theory, following the great financial and critical success of Spider-Man 2, Raimi should have been able to do whatever he wanted with this entry. And maybe he did. But if he did, his truest intent for a Spider-Man movie was to make an unbearable one.

It’s real bad. The only thing the film has going for it is James Franco. It ought to have Thomas Haden Church in the plus column too, but the handling of his character is exceptionally bad. Haden Church barely gets any screen time and the film ends without resolving whether his innocent, sickly daughter is going to die or not.

Topher Grace’s villain, the evil Spider-Man, is exceptionally lame. Have I already used exceptionally in this response? I’ll use it again. Just awful, awful writing. Grace is almost mediocre, but can’t essay the character properly; he instills too much sitcom charm.

Tobey Maguire apparently didn’t even bother getting in shape for this one. Raimi gives him an evil mop haircut at one point, for his evil scenes, so the viewer knows he’s bad.

J.K. Simmons is good and Elizabeth Banks finally gets some decent lines.

So it’s not a completely awful film, just extremely close to one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; screenplay by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent, from the screen story by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi and based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Bob Murawski; music by Christopher Young and Danny Elfman; production designers, Neil Spisak and J. Michael Riva; produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad and Grant Curtis; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko/Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), James Cromwell (Captain Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Theresa Russell (Emma Marko), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Elizabeth Banks (Miss Brant), Ted Raimi (Hoffman), Perla Haney-Jardine (Penny Marko), Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin/Norman Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker) and Bruce Campbell (Maître d’).


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Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi), the extended version

Ah, so the only other film Raimi directed Panavision was the unwatchable For Love of the Game. His Panavision composition here–with Bill Pope shooting it–is exquisite. Raimi and Pope correct, from the first scene in the film, the problem Raimi had with the original–Spider-Man 2 takes place in New York City. When a bunch of New Yorkers help Spider-Man here–regardless of if they filmed the sequence in Chicago–it’s an honest scene, not some kind of jingoistic garbage.

For the majority of the film–there are some transitional missteps when it has to be a regular action movie again, third act (but the end recovers beautifully)–it’s about a bunch of miserable people. Tobey Maguire’s miserable because being Spider-Man’s ruining his life, Kirsten Dunst is miserable because she doesn’t have Maguire, James Franco’s miserable because his dad’s been murdered, Rosemary Harris’s miserable because she’s a widow. For about seventy minutes, it’s a bunch of unhappy people being unhappy. It’s luscious.

The acting helps. Harris was barely in the first film, but here she develops into a character. Alfred Molina’s a good villain (Raimi doesn’t overuse the villain here, like he did before). Franco’s really good. Maguire’s great, sort of shockingly great. Dunst is fine. She’s effective without being good. J.K. Simmons and Donna Murphy are also fantastic.

Two problems besides the transitional stumble–there’s an awful “talking to himself” scene with Molina and then a dream sequence–otherwise, it’s perfect (except Elfman’s music).

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; written by Alvin Sargent, based on a screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon and the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Bob Murawski; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Neil Spisak; produced by Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Alfred Molina (Dr. Otto Octavius), Rosemary Harris (May Parker), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Donna Murphy (Rosalie Octavius), Daniel Gillies (John Jameson), Dylan Baker (Dr. Curt Connors), Bill Nunn (Robbie Robertson), Vanessa Ferlito (Louise), Aasif Mandvi (Mr. Aziz), Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin/Norman Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker), Ted Raimi (Hoffman), Elizabeth Banks (Miss Brant), Gregg Edelman (Dr. Davis), Elya Baskin (Mr. Ditkovich), Mageina Tovah (Ursula) and Bruce Campbell (Snooty Usher).


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