Man About Town
Independent filmmaker Richard Linklater has had some hits (Dazed and Confused, Bottlerocket) and now he has another one: “Bernie.”
A small town mortician, Bernie Tiede, is the subject of this true story from 1996 Carthage, Texas. Linklater and magazine writer Skip Hollandsworth got together to write the screenplay from Skip’s 1998 Texas Monthly article. But the true beauty of this true story is that Linklater got Jack Black to play Tiede.
Black is only one of a star cast which includes Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. Yet, it is Black who brings the story to life and pulls all the pieces together. He has captured the essence of the likable and complex Tiede, the small town hero turned murderer.
MacLaine actually has the small role as Marjorie Nugent, the 81 year old widow that Tiede befriends after her husband dies. MacLaine does a good job as the controlling, needy Nugent; in her short time on screen, she puts into actions the possible reasons for Tiede’s actions.
McConaughey is believable as the hardcore district attorney who takes the case to a different venue to get a conviction on the lovable Tiede. He may be overplaying it some, but given that this is a Texas story, he probably is right on! Anyway, his Danny Buck is as comical in portrayal as he is in his determination to see justice done.
“Bernie” would just be a simple ‘He done it’ movie if not for these performances and a twist that Linklater added. The director’s use of actual Carthage people in a documentary style in the film is genius! They lived through this scandal and know what they felt about it. Their use gives this film an authenticity that nothing else could do. Linklater did sprinkle actors in with the townsfolk, but any way you look at them, they are a hoot!
The part of the story that jumps off the screen is Tiede’s actions after he kills Nugent. He goes to great lengths to make it appear that she is still alive; and succeeds for nine months. He is finally found out and the subsequent trial is just as much a hoot as the townspeople!
About half of this 104 minute film is leading up to the murder and there is no dull moment in this story. It is rated PG-13 for some violent images and some brief language. It was released May 4 in Austin as a limited release movie and has done well. It is in some of the art house theaters and Cinemark theaters in the Dallas area now. It has made $2.5 million toward its $6 million budget.
The Texas flavor of this story plays very well in Texas. (My theater in Plano was full; and every joke got a roar of laughter!) I don’t know how well it will play in the rest of America. It is an unusual story, so that helps. The producers are playing up the Texas angle (as in… ‘It could only happen in Texas.’), so that will help. And the performances are great and from well-known actors, so that helps, too.
Bernie Tiede, the most beloved citizen of Carthage (pop. 6,000), taught Sunday school, was in the church choir and lent a helping hand to everyone he met. Many of the residents didn’t see his ‘crime’ as such a bad one considering the personality of Nugent! So, the citizenry was divided as to his actual guilt. The ‘weird factor’ is that Tiede was only 38 years old and unmarried at the time he was accompanying Nugent on world travel and helping her with financial matters. In fact, she changed her will to make Tiede sole beneficiary! This is where is got interesting after the murder because Tiede didn’t take the money and run. No, he used it to help the people of Carthage!!!
NOTE: There is even a mention of ‘Jalapeno Tree’ restaurant like the one in Denison because this is where Nugent liked to eat in Carthage!
“Bernie” has Oscar buzz, but it may not last until next January when the ballots go out. I hope it does because Black deserves a nomination at least. He really got into this character’s mind and it shows. As part of his preparations, he visited Tiede in the state prison to get a basis for his portrayal. Wow!
This film is a dark comedy, but has great characters and actors in it………..and a killer story to boot!
The latest incarnation of “Snow White” is now in theaters; and it is far removed from the original 1937 Walt Disney version.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” puts the emphasis on a warrior princess version and the role of the huntsman. But even with (or in spite of) the twists, this film works.
‘Twilight’ actress Kristen Stewart is our ‘Snow’ in this Rupert Sanders film. She – in her first role other than Bella – isn’t Oscar material, but she isn’t the young girl with vampire love on the brain either. Stewart tackles the role with enthusiasm and does her best to bring something to the Brothers Grimm tale. She doesn’t make the film, but she doesn’t destroy it either.
The strength of this movie is the plot and the performances of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Charlize Theron (Oscar winner for ‘Monster’). Hemsworth is incredibly believable as the huntsman charged with killing Snow White. His back-story is strong and his weakness is used by evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) to force him into service. Hemsworth has a natural quality about him that meshes with screen presence to make the performance come alive.
It goes without saying that Theron is the star of this movie. She is the most decorated of the three major actors and she knows more about acting than the other two put together. Her portrayal of Ravenna is strikingly good; sometimes over the top, but always in character. She eats up the screen in every scene she’s in. This may not be the greatest movie of all time, but Theron takes it from average to near great.
The twists of the plot with Snow’s new attitude and the huntsman’s reversal of charge are what make the movie work. Writers Evan Daughtery, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini have put together a great script for director Sanders to film. The addition of the Queen’s brother, Finn, is a good device as well. Sam Spruell plays his scenes well and even has a sword/axe fight with the huntsman.
This 127 minute film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and brief sensuality.
“SWATH” has good pacing; the scenery is gorgeous and the special effects wonderful including the mirror, milk bath and cloak of crows. It is a much better movie than “Mirror, Mirror,” which was released in March. Snow White as the young heroine works better than the meek princess version.
And don’t be dismayed, the seven dwarfs are included in the story, too. Led by Ian McShane, the band doesn’t come into the action until the second half of the movie, but have significant plot elements. They are the comic relief as well as the saviors of the princess. You will not be disappointed.
As the story unfolds, the huntsman twist shows him as mentor/protector of Snow White. The scenes of Stewart and Hemsworth are good and the two have some chemistry. In the end, the huntsman has a pivotal role to play as SW regains her throne.
The theme song is “Breath of Life,” by Florence and the Machine; it is appropriate and done by a popular band very well.
The film came in a surprise first place last weekend with $56 million. The theater I was in was about three-fourths full, but this was the first showing on a Saturday. That’s not bad at all!
‘Snow White’ is a good film with great acting and special effects. The story, with its twists, makes it work, but it doesn’t hurt to have an icy, menacing, evil queen with an Oscar………………………