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American Beauty

Friday the 9th of February

In Honor of the Upcoming Oscar Nominations

Last Year's Best Picture!


USA: 1999 -- Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari  (Click on names for photos!)

" ...look closer"


From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey's calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism--like Sunset Boulevard's Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.

It's an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball's first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbor (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence.

Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylized pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he's also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall's sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams' lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the color of roses--and of blood. --Sam Sutherland

Hope to see you there. I'll save you an aisle seat and some rose petals!

"I'm not obsessing. I'm just curious." --Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts

Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes How did this picture of Miles get in here?

Awards

Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey), Best Writing - Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Alan Ball), Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall)

Oscar Nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Annette Bening), Best Editing (Tariq Anwar), Best Music - Original Score (Thomas Newman)

Won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director (Sam Mendes), and Best Screenplay

Won Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress

Won British Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, ...

...and several dozen other major awards to numerous to list. More awards...


Memorable Quotes

Lester Burnham: "It's okay. I wouldn't remember me either."

Angela Hayes: It's that psycho next door. Jane, what if he worships you? What if he's got a shrine with pictures of you surrounded by dead people's heads and stuff?

Brad: [reading Lester's job description] "My job requires mostly masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men's room so I can jerk off while I fantasize about a life that less closely resembles Hell."

Lester Burnham: "This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts."

More quotes...


Trivia

This film has been described as "Death of a Salesman" for the nineties. Early in the film, Carolyn mentions that "the Lomans" just moved out of the house next door.

Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man who develops an infatuation with an adolescent girl, is an update of Humbert Humbert from the classic novel Lolita. "Lester Burnham" is in fact an anagram for "Humbert learns."

The tagline and important theme of the film, "Look closer," can be seen in Lester's cubicle at work.

The title of the film refers to a breed of roses.

More trivia...


Goofs

Continuity: In Jane's phone book, she has Lester's work phone number as 555-0195, which is her mother's work number (seen on a real estate sign).

Continuity: When Colonel Fitts breaks into Ricky's room in a rage and punches him, the blood is already on Ricky's nose before the fist makes contact.

Continuity: The lamp in the dining room disappears in the scene where Lester throws the asparagus at the wall. The picture on the wall moves from where it was before.

More goofs...


Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening The perfect suburban house