You’d have to look far and wide to find an actor involved in more projects lately than Alec Baldwin. He’s currently starring in 30 Rock on NBC and this weekend I saw him in two major motion pictures: The Departed and Running with Scissors. I like Alec Baldwin. I really do. His choices baffle me, though. Sometimes he picks pure winners and sometimes he picks dogs.
The Departed is amazing.
30 Rock is a perfectly mediocre television show. Tina Fey is a comic genius and the show’s concept is interesting. I’ve only seen one episode, but I don’t think I’m jumping the gun to say that this isn’t exactly a comedy on the same level as Seinfeld or even Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s a decent television show, though, and Baldwin’s character is wonderfully strange and stupid. He’s brought to the show by NBC executives to hawk the G.E. Trivection Oven, an experiment in product-placement which cannot possibly be real, but apparently is. On a five-star scale, this show gets exactly two and a half stars. I doubt it will last two seasons, but it’s not a bad show.
Now slide all the way to the end of the scale. Running with Scissors is a painfully awful film. I read Augusten Burroughs‘ book Magical Thinking about six months ago and loved it. My girlfriend has read Running with Scissors and said it was at least as good as that, the previews for the movie looked funny, and it stars both Baldwin and the delightful Annette Bening. How bad could it be? Remember when I blasted A History of Violence as quite possibly the worst movie ever made? On a five-star scale AHOV is a negative-three star film. Running with Scissors is a zero-star movie. The first fifteen minutes contain enough Royal Tenenbaums-type moments that you sort of feel as if it might be pretty good. After the first fifteen minutes I repeatedly had the urge to just yell, “End it!” in the theater. Baldwin was excellent. Bening was excellent. In fact I have to say that the acting in general was very, very good. But the movie itself was pointless and annoying. There were so many times when I thought, “Okay, now it’s going to start getting good,” but it never did. If you have a burning desire to see this, wait until it rolls around on HBO — probably in under thirty days — and don’t waste money at the theater.
And then you have The Departed. On a five-star scale this movie gets a rare six stars. It is on par with Goodfellas, Jaws, and any other absolutely fabulous flick you can imagine. I reference Goodfellas because it’s got Scorsese as a director, its topic is organized crime, and its soundtrack steals some of the same stupendous Stones songs. I reference Jaws because it keeps you bolted to the edge of your seat, biting your fingernails and rocking with suspense for 152 minutes. If you can get out of that afternoon meeting today, sneak the hell out of the office and catch the matinee. This is one you want to see on the big screen and when you watch the credits — after you can breathe again — you’ll agree that it was worth it. Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to win an Oscar for this one, and I don’t even like him. Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, and, yes, even Alec Baldwin should seriously all at least be nominated. Everything about this movie is amazing. Go. Now. What are you doing in front of the computer? Go see it! I’m not kidding.
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