Friday, July 09, 2004

WCBE 90.5 FM: "It's Movie Time" - "The Clearing," "Coffee & Cigarettes"

“It’s Movie Time” with John DeSando & Clay Lowe
“The Clearing,” “Coffee & Cigarettes"
Taped: 3:30 pm, July 7, 2004
Air Time: 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm, July 9, 2004
Streaming live on the web at

“The Clearing” is a kidnapping misfire . . .

"Coffee & Cigarettes" should be banned in all public places. . . . . .


It's Movie Time in Mid-Ohio with John DeSando and Clay Lowe . . .


I'm John DeSando

John (“The Clearing”)
Robert Redford is a brave actor: He allows multiple close-ups of his weathered and saggy 60 something face to play a kidnapped husband and father in “The Clearing.” ( At the same age, you look like Clay Akin next to him!)

"Clearing" is a garden-variety kidnap movie whose distinctions are its splendid photography by Denis Lenoir and actorly moments between Redford and his captor, played by Willem Dafoe.

As the “action” moves to the conclusion, a sentiment about the riches of love saves the film from imitating most made-for-TV movies: “If you love me, I have everything, ” Redford exclaims in the denouement. The couple’s observable worldly wealth is the litmus for their inner wealth, and the latter is the winner. Until the “clearing” of their life down to its essentials, they can't know what “everything” is.

In the end, “The Clearing” is not worth the ransom of a box office ticket if you’re interested in a creative kidnapping film.

Clay (“The Clearing”)
John, THE creative kidnapping film, was, of course, Neil Jordan’s “Crying Game.” Unfortunately in “The Clearing,” first time director Pieter Brugge fails to dramatically cash in on this genre despite his brilliant casting of Willem Dafoe, as captor and Robert Redford, as the captured. Why? Because great acting is never able to rise above mediocre direction and an inadequate script.

Dafoe’s “Arnold” is prissy, full of insecurities, and resentful that Redford’s wealthy Wayne Hayes has had it all. But instead of playing on these contrasts, Brugge has Redford’s character adopt a dismissive attitude toward him, leaving nowhere for their relationship to go.

The same can be said for the emotionally bereft relationship between Redford’s character and his wife (Helen Mirren). If no one in the movie cares about each other, and they don’t, why should we?

John (“Coffee & Cigarettes”)
Maybe because we’re film critics! Well, here’s a case of where I don’t care:

There may have been thoughtful, mirthful moments in civilization when coffee and cigarettes promoted excellent conversation; in Jim Jarmusch’s film of the same name there are 11 vignettes only a couple qualifying as literate or humorous. The series began in 1986 with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright in a sketch called "Coffee & Cigarettes" (Here it’s "Strange to Meet You"), a silly affair about a man who goes to the dentist for a man he just met. It figures Benigni’s segment would be vapid. Yet most others are no better.

Except for Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan playing themselves in a vanity game of one-upmanship. The climactic cell phone call has a nice touch of irony.

Two characters played by Cate Blanchett, one a successful film actress and the other a trailer-trash cousin, meet at a posh LA hotel-- the acting is finely tuned to the theme of the distancing celebrity brings.

Note how much plot I just gave--obviously I found little else of interest.

Clay (“Coffee & Cigarettes”)
John, for a non-smoker who claims few vices, save those of the flesh, it’s understandable why “Coffee & Cigarettes” is not your cup of tea. Why would it be?

But shame on you for not noting that the brilliance of “Coffee & Cigarettes” lies in its mundane simplicity. Eleven different scenes. Eleven different casts of famous actors or musicians. Eleven different opportunities to watch these actors being captured on black & white film by Jim Jarmusch who allows them to reveal themselves to each other as well as to us.

So, doctor, remember what we learned from Chekov: whether in bar rooms, cafes, restaurants, or lobbies of hotels, most of what we do and say may seem witless and meaningless at the time, but when we finally add it all up, it’s the stuff out of which our lives have been made.

But enough talk, stub out your ciggie, and slurp down your final cup of coffee because it’s grading time.



"The Clearing" earns a "B" for its botched but beautifully photographed story . . .

“The Clearing” deserves a “C” because it can’t hold a candle to “The Crying Game” . . .

"Coffee & Cigarettes" earns a "C" because even coffee and cigarettes can't make it interesting . . .

“Coffee & Cigarettes” gets a “B” because Jarmusch is the MASTER of BANALITY . . .

Clay, is it because you don’t drink coffee or smoke that you look better than Redford and still connect with women younger than yourself?

I'm outta here.

I do drink coffee, I used to smoke, and there are very few women out there who are NOT younger than I . . .

But thanks anyway, I’m outta here too.

See you at the movies, folks.


The Award Winning "It's Movie Time" with John DeSando and Clay Lowe is produced by Richelle Antczak in conjunction with 90.5 FM, WCBE in Columbus 106.7 FM in Newark, WYSO, etc. Reviews on the web, etc., etc.


Copyright 2004 by John DeSando & Clay Lowe