Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Glengarry Glen Campbell

First of all, before we go any further, I would like to apologize for the title of today's post.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

That out of the way, over the weekend I saw HBO's Phil Spector movie, which as you may know was written and directed by David Mamet -- a horrible horrible person who has gone, apparently irrevocably, over to the Dark Side of the Force, but Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of melba toast, can that evil SOB ever do dialog.

Short version: Al Pacino's great, Helen Mirren is even better (seriously -- she's completely unrecognizable in the part of one of Spector's lawyers), and the whole thing is terrific fun, even if it plays, shall we say, somewhat fast and loose with the facts of Spector's actual murder trial. If you have HBO, I highly recommend you check it out, and if you don't, I'm sure it's streaming somewhere.

That said, this bit, from the L.A. Times review of the film, written by one of the paper's legal reporters...
"Our culture's relationship with fame is ripe for comment, but it's unclear why Mamet chose Spector as his vehicle. When his case first went to trial in 2007, Spector wasn't exactly Kim Kardashian. He hadn't produced a hit in decades and was less a celebrity than a tricky "Jeopardy!" question."
...and which was echoed by just about every other piece I read about Phil Spector, kind of took me aback.

Because it's just plain wrong.

First of all, the Spector-Kardashian comparison is really stupid; Spector is a major figure in post-war pop music history. It's like saying Elvis Presley is the equivalent of Honey Boo Boo.

Secondly, in point of fact in late 2003, just before the murder, Spector had charted with a new song -- specifically, this characteristic production of Starsailor's "Silence is Easy" (Spector's daughter is apparently a big fan of Starsailor).

Which went Top 10 in England.

Okay, it's not "Be My Baby," but it's actually a pretty nice record if you like crappy earnest post-Coldplay Brit bands.

In any event, a hit is a hit. Just saying.


Gummo said...

Whatever one's opinion of Spector, that reviewer's comments are utterly ignorant in so many ways.

Spector is an historic figure and his trial got extensive coverage everywhere. How does that possibly make him the equivalent of a famous-for-fame's-sake neocelebrity?

However, yours is the only positive review I've read of this movie.

cthulhu said...

Steve, I share your appreciation of Mamet's skills at writing dialog - not since Raymond Chandler has it been done so well.

My main gripe with Mamet is that he divorced the perfectly marvelous Lindsay Crouse, and not only took up with the vacuous Rebecca Pidgeon, but started casting her as the female lead in his movies. The horror! The horror!

And indeed those who dismiss Spector are clueless - the man was a bona fide rock genius, and to me the whole l'affair Spector is a genuine tragedy in the Shakespearian sense. Just sayin'.

Brooklyn Girl said...

The movie was very entertaining, and the performances were terrific. Too bad it apparently had no relationship with reality.

But, under any circumstances, comparing Spector to --- well, just about anyone --- is beyond ignorant. He created a sound nobody had heard before. How many other producers have done that?

Alex said...

The Spector movie left me scratching my head. Pacino was fun to watch (although so routinely over-the-top that it kept taking me out of the movie) and Helen Mirren was fantastic. And the dialogue was great.

But what was the point? It didn't have much to do with reality and it wasn't able to make any kind of larger point that made any sense.

It just seemed like an enormous waste of talent (Pacino, Mirren, and Mamet) and energy.

I'm sure the dialogue would be great if David Mamet wrote an episode of Two & A Half Men, but wouldn't we all think that was a huge waste of time too?

steve simels said...


True fact: Joseph Heller, of "Catch-22" fame, actually wrote an episode of "I Dream of Jeannie."

I'm sure it's not his best work, but I still think it's kinda cool, conceptually.

Alex said...


Mind officially blown.

Yes, very cool conceptually!