David Mamet

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domino harvey
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Re: David Mamet

#26 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:44 pm

FYI Spartan is available new on WBShop.com for $3.59 and free shipping right now, so the risk is very low for anyone reading this to take a chance

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Re: David Mamet

#27 Post by Titus » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:09 pm

Spartan was also apparently released on Blu Ray in Germany around a year ago. This is all I could find about it.

I feel like Mamet's filmmaking took an enormous leap forward with Spartan (and again with Redbelt). It's a really assured, impressive work.

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Re: David Mamet

#28 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:06 pm

oh yeah wrote:Also, this is a little tangential, but part of what I really like about those two films is the increasingly surreal plot where the protagonist (whom we know no more than) is taken on a wild goose-chase into deeper and deeper "hidden" worlds -- there is a hint at least that the whole thing is merely a charade, but it feels dangerous -- at the end coming out a different person. If this could be considered a sub-genre, it'd be one of my favorites; I'd also include After Hours, Eyes Wide Shut, The Game (which I find quite flawed but still a great ride), Blue Velvet, and maybe De Palma's Body Double (though maybe my mind's clouded from being obsessed with that film lately). This could be a thread of its own, but if you have any other suggestions of films that fit this somewhat vague description, feel free to add.
Track down The Parallax View without delay (but don't expect any last minute uplift).

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Re: David Mamet

#29 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:(and maybe the Winslow Boy)
People don't believe me when I tell them, but The Winslow Boy is a really fantastic film, and if you want to understand Mamet's strengths as a director, rather than a writer-director, then it's essential viewing.

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Re: David Mamet

#30 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:28 pm

domino harvey wrote:I think Oleanna is his only bad film (and is the only time he adapted one of his own existing works, which might also have something to do with it) and the brunt of it falls on the lead actress. I have no idea why Rebecca Pidgeon wasn't cast, as she originated the role with Macy in the first productions, but the casting of Debra Eisenstadt is a disaster, and rather than playing with the film's shifting allegiances and unsure relativity of impressions, it makes it very easy to just side with Macy against her (and I think Mamet is in some part culpable for hiring her and directing her in this fashion). The end result then misses the point of the play (arguably his best) and becomes tedious and, frankly, a bit obnoxious.
Well put, Domino. I watched "Oleanna" last night and the casting of Debra Eisenstadt scuttled the film for me. Eisenstadt's portrayal makes Carol seem dense and something of a rube during the first act, so much so that I felt a lot of sympathy for Macy who struggled to make a point to his student but grew increasingly frustrated at her ignorance and combative nature. The second act jarred me even more when Carol returns as an assertive and intelligent woman in a tailored suit, a complete character change from my first act interpretation that made me question if she played dumb during the first half for some malicious reason. Rebecca Pidgeon exudes intelligence that even imagining her in the role immediately clarified my understanding of the text and how it shifts the dynamic of the first act, particularly in the way Macy could come off as elitist and domineering in the same scene when given someone more engaging with whom he can spar.

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Re: David Mamet

#31 Post by John Cope » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:41 pm

zedz wrote:
domino harvey wrote:(and maybe the Winslow Boy)
People don't believe me when I tell them, but The Winslow Boy is a really fantastic film, and if you want to understand Mamet's strengths as a director, rather than a writer-director, then it's essential viewing.
In all seriousness, could you or someone like minded please expand on this a little. I've seen the film at least twice that I can recall--once upon its release and then again about a year ago. Neither time was I particularly impressed by it. I didn't hate it and I would genuinely like to know what someone else may have found successful about it. I get that its real themes circulate through and operate on a subtextual level and usually I prefer that. But here, for whatever reason, it fails to connect with me. The obvious themes and ideas I'm getting from it just underwhelm frankly. The best I can get from this is that it's admired because it's quite capably done atypical Mamet with a serious moral investment, well defined characters and a stately aesthetic quality befitting the material. Maybe that's enough but for me it remains underwhelming.

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Re: David Mamet

#32 Post by oh yeah » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:05 pm

zedz wrote:
oh yeah wrote:Also, this is a little tangential, but part of what I really like about those two films is the increasingly surreal plot where the protagonist (whom we know no more than) is taken on a wild goose-chase into deeper and deeper "hidden" worlds -- there is a hint at least that the whole thing is merely a charade, but it feels dangerous -- at the end coming out a different person. If this could be considered a sub-genre, it'd be one of my favorites; I'd also include After Hours, Eyes Wide Shut, The Game (which I find quite flawed but still a great ride), Blue Velvet, and maybe De Palma's Body Double (though maybe my mind's clouded from being obsessed with that film lately). This could be a thread of its own, but if you have any other suggestions of films that fit this somewhat vague description, feel free to add.
Track down The Parallax View without delay (but don't expect any last minute uplift).
One of my favorite films!

In some ways, Blow-Up might be a blueprint of sorts for the kind of film I'm describing. But I'll try to end this off-topic madness.

Re: Homicide, another thing I liked is the Baltimore setting, but how it doesn't call attention to itself at all; it might as well be Philly, or Chicago, or Boston, etc. But, from my years of Wire-watching, I instantly thought "Baltimore!" when those inimitable row-houses are glimpsed through car windows in one scene.

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Re: David Mamet

#33 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:38 pm

John Cope wrote:
zedz wrote:
domino harvey wrote:(and maybe the Winslow Boy)
People don't believe me when I tell them, but The Winslow Boy is a really fantastic film, and if you want to understand Mamet's strengths as a director, rather than a writer-director, then it's essential viewing.
In all seriousness, could you or someone like minded please expand on this a little. I've seen the film at least twice that I can recall--once upon its release and then again about a year ago. Neither time was I particularly impressed by it. I didn't hate it and I would genuinely like to know what someone else may have found successful about it. I get that its real themes circulate through and operate on a subtextual level and usually I prefer that. But here, for whatever reason, it fails to connect with me. The obvious themes and ideas I'm getting from it just underwhelm frankly. The best I can get from this is that it's admired because it's quite capably done atypical Mamet with a serious moral investment, well defined characters and a stately aesthetic quality befitting the material. Maybe that's enough but for me it remains underwhelming.
For me, the film has a sharpness and dramatic intelligence that most other costume dramas miss. The period trappings never get in the way of the drama. In addition, it's a very modest, but very deft adaptation of a stage play that isn't plagued by 'opening up' anxieties or by special pleading for contemporary relevance. I think the 'serious moral investment' that you identify might be the key to this: it's a film that treats its subject matter and source material with exactly the right amount of respect, and that's an exceedingly rare quality.

In terms of its Mamet-ness, I think we can see in this film that he's an excellent director of actors even when they're operating outside his standard mode, and this film allows him to explore a lot of different colours in his palette. The dialogue is in an entirely different register from regular Mametspeak, but it's nevertheless as precisely honed as his own material, but calibrated for the screen, not the stage. It's a great example of how a reasonably straight stage adaptation can work brilliantly in cinematic terms.

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Re: David Mamet

#34 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:27 pm

Spurred on by my viewing of Homicide, I read three Mamet plays this weekend. Some casual thoughts (in the order that I read them):

American Buffalo: My first Mamet play (after having seen some of his film(ed) work). Intensely verbal. Mamet's work seems filled with incessantly creative talkers hovering somewhere close to desperation. Would like to see a performance as I suspect the rhythm--especially the recurrent pauses in the stage directions--carries a lot of the meaning.

Oleanna: Wraps the reader in so many perplexing layers that, whoever may be right, wrong, guilty, innocent, it's clear that the politics of power have distorted and poisoned everything. Whether you can come to any other definite conclusions about the specific claims made by the characters is another question. The play is an endless provocation. It's organized so that whoever has power on their side at a given moment is the person we (or just I?) are most inclined to side with. You can also side with no one, but then the mood of the play provokes you to question even that--if it's too easy, if it, too, countenances certain abuses of power. And then you find yourself twisted into knots all over again.

Boston Marriage: Constantly threatens to erupt into elaborate farce only for each carefully prepared shenanigan to evaporate, leaving us with another verbally-driven Mamet play of inaction. The banter and Victorian setting will draw comparisons to Wilde, but the only way it really resembles The Importance of Being Earnest is in its playful showing-up of the overwrought mechanics of its genre, the drawing-room farce. Otherwise, this is a slight but ceaselessly entertaining play about two women whose pretensions to sophistication are flimsily propped up on nothing but elaborate verbal games.

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Re: David Mamet

#35 Post by knives » Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:42 pm

I highly recommend the Hoffman starring version of American Buffalo.

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Re: David Mamet

#36 Post by domino harvey » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:55 pm

Yes, the Mamet-adapted (but not directed) 1996 adaptation of American Buffalo is great, thanks in large to a refusal to open it up (at least not much-- there are a couple shots outside of the shop, but it's not like we see Grace and Ruthie or anything) and the three central performances


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Re: David Mamet

#38 Post by LavaLamp » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:14 pm

Big DM fan from way back, and this thread has gotten me re-interested in his films. I recently re-watched Oleanna & felt it was great. Not sure why this film gets so much vitriol. Note I have not read the play, so may have felt differently about the film if I had.

As it stands, however, I felt the casting was amazing; and, for a film that was simply pure dialogue between two people, quite compelling. Part of the brilliance of this film was that I wasn't sure who to root for - i.e., was the disgruntled young student just upset that she got a justifiably bad grade in the class & therefore got an innocent, hapless professor in trouble because of this? Or, was the professor really harrassing her & other students in the class? I can see how the professor's actions could have been misconstrued, but I'm not sure he deserved to lose his job over this...

Also enjoyed the light-hearted collegiate song at the very beginning & very end, which was intentionally ironic considering the seriousness of the film....
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The blow-up by the professor in the finale was startling but not unexpected.

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Re: David Mamet

#39 Post by LavaLamp » Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:44 pm

Re-watched Spartan for the first time since seeing in the theatre back in '04. Great suspense/thriller, and one that needs to be seen at least twice to be fully appreciated. I liked the typical Mamet-ist twists & turns the story took, and it was also somewhat more epic in scope than his earlier films - i.e. the political & espionage angles were very pronounced.

Also re-watched The Spanish Prisoner. Another excellent film; it was interesting to see Steve Martin in a non-comedic role here. The scam here was, in typical Mamet fashion, somewhat tough to follow at first - though, everything came together in the end.

It was interesting to see Ed O'Neill in both films; I also think it's unfortunate that he got type-cast because of his TV role in MWC - he's a great actor, and deserved more roles like this.

Also, I would really like to see Mamet's The Winslow Boy re-released; IIRC, the DVD is long OOP. I can't remember if I've ever seen this, but if so it's been years...

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Re: David Mamet

#40 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:19 am

I finally watched the copy of Spartan I bought way back when Dom recommended it, and spent the first half hour being really annoyed with Dom- it felt like Mamet trying to do Michael Mann, the best of the best doing their job professionally, only less elegantly put together and a lot more torturey- one scene after another in which someone is caught, that person is interrogated with violence, information is gathered, rinse and repeat. About half an hour in, though, the movie changes form significantly, and while it still has sort of a Michael Mann feel, it becomes much more something that feels like it comes from the Mamet I like, the intelligent tricky one whose screenwriting and filmmaking belie his own reductively stupid politics. By the end, it still wasn't anywhere near the top of my personal Mamet list- which remains House of Games, without much competition- but it was nonetheless a solidly entertaining and movie, one that felt like it was more about self conscious genre work than trying to make big statements about much of anything (trickily so, because big statements start flying left and right.)

It also, along with the wildly entertaining Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, made me miss Val Kilmer, whom I never actually liked that much in his 90's heyday.

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Re: David Mamet

#41 Post by zedz » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:35 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:It also, along with the wildly entertaining Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, made me miss Val Kilmer, whom I never actually liked that much in his 90's heyday.
He's still around. It's the pictures that got small.
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Re: David Mamet

#42 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:51 pm

He is a riot in the future cult classic Twixt

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Re: David Mamet

#43 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:34 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:About half an hour in, though, the movie changes form significantly, and while it still has sort of a Michael Mann feel, it becomes much more something that feels like it comes from the Mamet I like, the intelligent tricky one whose screenwriting and filmmaking belie his own reductively stupid politics.
In what ways does Spartan reveal Mamet's "reductively stupid politics"? It's a bit like saying State and Main reveals his long-present hatred of small towns if we'd heard he'd gone left-wing instead!

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Re: David Mamet

#44 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:38 pm

Doesn't Spartan predate his conversion to neo-conservatism by a good number of years?

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Re: David Mamet

#45 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:40 pm

Yes, though again, I don't know too many people who would have ever mistaken Mamet for a liberal!

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Re: David Mamet

#46 Post by Jeff » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:13 pm

domino harvey wrote:
matrixschmatrix wrote:About half an hour in, though, the movie changes form significantly, and while it still has sort of a Michael Mann feel, it becomes much more something that feels like it comes from the Mamet I like, the intelligent tricky one whose screenwriting and filmmaking belie his own reductively stupid politics.
In what ways does Spartan reveal Mamet's "reductively stupid politics"? It's a bit like saying State and Main reveals his long-present hatred of small towns if we'd heard he'd gone left-wing instead!
Isn't matrixschmatrix saying that Mamet's "intelligent... screenwriting and filmmaking" contradict his "reductively stupid politics?"

Not that I necessarily agree, but he seems to be saying, "for a dumb guy he sure makes smart films."

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Re: David Mamet

#47 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:23 pm

Yeah, exactly- I think his politics as he expresses them in person are extremely stupid, but that his films consistently have a complexity that doesn't fit with his descriptions of how he sees the world. In other words, I find him really irritating but I consistently like his movies. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

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Re: David Mamet

#48 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:15 pm

Jeff wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
matrixschmatrix wrote:About half an hour in, though, the movie changes form significantly, and while it still has sort of a Michael Mann feel, it becomes much more something that feels like it comes from the Mamet I like, the intelligent tricky one whose screenwriting and filmmaking belie his own reductively stupid politics.
In what ways does Spartan reveal Mamet's "reductively stupid politics"? It's a bit like saying State and Main reveals his long-present hatred of small towns if we'd heard he'd gone left-wing instead!
Isn't matrixschmatrix saying that Mamet's "intelligent... screenwriting and filmmaking" contradict his "reductively stupid politics?"
Apparently so. I usually understand 'belie' to mean to disguise or conceal the true character of something, hence my post.

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Re: David Mamet

#49 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:40 pm

Well, I had some time to kill while waiting for the UPS guy to show up (They say delivery until seven and it must be true, as he rolled up at 657!) so I picked the Secret Knowledge back up and needless to say, it didn't get any better. I'm now a little over halfway through it and there's been exactly one interesting contribution made by Mamet in recounting how he dated a girl who worked for the mob in the sixties. He'd go with her to clubs and venues at 4AM where she'd let herself in with a huge set of keys, find the vending machines, count all the money in the vending machines and then put everything back like she had never been there. It sounds like classic Mamet and is jarring because it's the first and only detail provided that isn't just obnoxious bloviating. I should stress that I don't care that Mamet is a conservative "now" or even fault his opinions and takes on the political landscape, as they've had no adverse effect on his ability to be one of our best modern filmmakers. What I fault anyone publishing them as though he could provide a nuanced or insightful or in anyway worthwhile perspective on his political worldview. Somewhat counter-intuitively though, the book has done nothing but bolster my praise for Mamet's work behind the camera and in scripts and plays, because it must take a real genius to simultaneously be that good and a colossal idiot.

Almost every argument made in the book is via bargain basement straw-men pitched to the hysterical level of a Yahoo! comment poster. My favorite so far has to be Mamet's "proof" of the foolishness of not supporting Israel unconditionally: If World War III broke out and there were only two planes leaving the country-- one to Israel and one to Syria-- everyone, no matter what they thought or said or supported publicly would get on the plane to Israel, therefore everyone secretly knows unconditional support of Israel is the "right" thing and we refuse to acknowledge this because we're all anti-Semites. If you think I'm in any way exaggerating or misrepresenting his argument, you clearly don't understand Mamet's talent here for being dense as fuck.

Take the earlier anecdote about dating the mafia girl-- he shares it in the context of defending Chicago's history of organized crime as an example of effective alternatives to traditional political governance. I shit you not-- the fucking MOB is superior and preferable to the US Government and according to Mamet, the everyday people of Chicago loved organized crime. I am making it sound like he's being satirical or possibly revealing the "conservative" tag as being Vincent Gallo-ish trolling. Nope, Mamet's completely serious. And to the earlier point, convinced of a prevalent Antisemitism with such an extreme fervor that he doesn't even notice how many times he refers to Arabs in whole as "murderers who want to kill all Jews." There is no gray here for Mamet. Amazingly, for the man in love with confidence games and trickery, everything in real-life is just reductionist, self-apparent binaries.

And of course, there's still lots of jabs at leftists who don't resemble any liberal I've ever encountered in real life or the internet, and that's about as wide a swath of lefties as probably exist in the known universe. But Mamet is like Calvin in the Bill Watterson strip, who went digging for "fossils" and reconstituted a new creature out of what turned out to be a plastic knife and a Solo cup-- pieces of trash. Mamet himself picks up whispered lunacies overheard at some right wing circlejerk and used them to form a picture of the elusive Liberal. I earlier jokingly called into question Mamet's claim of ever being a liberal, but based on what I've read so far I'm not entirely convinced he's even met one, or possibly any other human being for that matter.

And if this all sounds like fascinating trainwreck stuff, it's not. It's mostly just repetitive and dull and lacking any of the wit and spark Mamet usually brings to accompany his arrogance. And the small chapters seem like an admission that whatever non-Mamet fan reading this (ie "Oooo, another right wing book for my Shelf of True American Heroes") would have a short attention span and thus must be catered to. After all, smart people with a degree are actually stupid because they paid a lot of money and spent a lot of time just to get a piece of paper. (Actual argument from Mamet, by the way)

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Re: David Mamet

#50 Post by Numero Trois » Tue Jun 17, 2014 5:44 am

domino harvey wrote:as being Vincent Gallo-ish trolling.
I got the impression he was trolling at least part of the time with True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor. Some good passages on there, but also some passages that are at least as reductionist as his political views.

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