L.A. Confidential (1997)
Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite Hollywood personalities, and I have a soft spot for his films. Therefore, I thought I would check out two more that I hadn’t seen–and both set in the 1950’s, at that–L.A. Confidential and Beyond the Sea.
In the world of sleazy tabloid journalist Sid Hudgens (Danny Devito in a minor role), nothing about the City of Angels can remain confidential. So when LAPD officers Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Ed Exley (a fantastic Guy Pearce), and Bud White (Russell Crowe, think American Gangster) and captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) begin digging deeper into a mass homicide at a coffee shop, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed. Soon, corruption, deceit, and lust have their way with the department, leaving the men fighting for justice…or fame. In this city, the tabloid will plaster you on the front cover for a few big bills. When a hooker, Lynn (Kim Basinger in an Oscar-winning performance) is thrown in the middle of the scheme, Ed and Bud will have to pocket their libidos and clear their heads. In the end, it takes a shoot-em-up gun fight to decide if this mystery will be solved in time for tomorrow’s news. And I wouldn’t spoil that for you. A perfect ensemble makes this crime thriller one of the best of all time (tied for 8th on IMDb’s “Top 250” for crime, t-6th in the thriller category, and t-4th best “mystery”). Spacey is splendidly slimy, Pearce and Crowe are a perfect tag-team, and Cromwell is flawless in his shady performance. With minor successes in cinematography, director Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential looks as good as it reads (winner of the 1997 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, one of its 9 nominations). It’s a cult classic, a riveting guilty pleasure that you won’t be able to pause.
Beyond the Sea (2004)
This 2004 Bobby Darin biopic is as entertaining as it is eye-opening. Starring as the Academy Award-nominated actor, jokester, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Kevin Spacey is sensational—singing hits like “Mack the Knife,” Splish Splash,” and “Beyond the Sea,” Spacey joins that list of stars (Bridges in Crazy Heart, Butler in Phantom of the Opera) that brought their own impressive vocals to the silver screen. Starting from the very beginning, Darin recalls his life’s most shocking details, from his family turmoil, his irresistible relationship with wife Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth), and his career’s decline in the hippie era. As actor/writer/director, Spacey steals the show (and earns himself a Golden Globe nomination in the process). And I’ve never been terribly impressed with Bosworth as an actress, but in roles like this she can pull off enough charm to make it enjoyable. The whimsical style likes to keep it light and fun as it bounces around and stays colorful, dreamlike, and fantastical. I loved it. Take (500) Days of Summer and throw in the parade scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and boom! You got it. With lively choreography by Rob Ashford, the dance scenes are entirely entertaining. Darin isn’t famous enough for audiences to know his story, but he’s famous enough for us to care. And his story is as compelling as any biopic I’ve seen in a long while, Darin’s life supplied enough twists and turns to keep the plot moving. It’s funny, it’s cute, it’s exciting…and there’s music! Beyond the Sea is the greatest musical biopic you’ve never heard of.