HBO GO is a marvel. It gives you access to all of HBO’s stellar programming and allowed me to watch Curtis Hanson’s TOO BIG TO FAIL. The film covers recent history; the frantic days between the fall of Bear Stearns and the passing of TARP focusing on the fall and attempts to save Lehman Brothers. Despite a sprawling cast of characters and sudden plot shifts, the film steadies itself by following Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson and his team sorting through the mess and moving quickly from strategy to strategy.
The wonderful trick of TOO BIG TO FAIL lies in the actors, all familiar faces who carry the strength and gravitas to skip exposition and jump right into the chaotic events of September 2008. This mostly applies to William Hurt as Henry Paulson. His steadfast demeanor, erudite delivery, and emotional range provides the focal point we can invest in and count on. Alongside Hurt, Paul Giamatti gives a small, yet helpful performance as Ben Bernanke. Giamatti explores Bernanke’s professorial nature and sells quite dry exposition like, “As you know I am an academic and researched the Great Depression.” In Giamatti’s world weary eyes we can feel the stress these events caused on the people who knew the implications. Bill Pullman, Tony Shalhoub, and Evan Handler give short but memorable turns as CEOs Jamie Dimon, John Mack, and Llyod Blankfein adding some spice to group meetings and phone conferences.
However, TOO BIG TO FAIL gets a minor ding for casting Topher Grace as Paulson’s Chief of Staff and James Woods as Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman. Fuld ought to have been the captain desperately trying to save his drowning business. Here Woods plays him so passively as if he knows, as we do, Lehman is going down no matter what. Grace adds nothing to otherwise vital scenes of troubleshooting in Paulson’s war room and looks totally out of place. Joey Slotnick (Yeah “Boston Public) and Cynthia Nixon compensate with the right amount of nerdy-ness and ferocity to counter Grace’s misplacement.
TOO BIG TO FAIL is a faithful and most times exciting depiction of government, Wall Street, and the media trying to save and contain the credit crisis. Since we are still sorting through the mess, the film lacks a satisfying end. In a project like this, there’s an implied desire to see these barons of finance taken to the woodshed on screen. Here we mostly see them at their problem solving best. Unfortunately, the stories of sub-prime lending, deregulation and derivatives will probably never get their all star dramatic treatment. I still have to see Oscar winning documentary INSIDE JOB for the more in depth take, but I suspect TOO BIG TO FAIL may serve as a great narrative chaser to that film.
Writer, director, and humorist Nora Ephron passed away last night. It was such a shock both because of the effect her movies have had on me and knowing that she’s been writing and producing plays, including “Lucky Guy” which will star Tom Hanks next year. I love her films, especially “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally.” I find her films and her, through interviews, candid, hilarious, witty, and whip-smart.
Here’s what Nora Ephron taught us.
Men and Women can be friends or fall in love or BOTH
This is a classic scene, in a classic movie, written by a classy woman. Probably the greatest modern romantic comedy. [click for video]
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ‘em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.
Sally Albright: That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.
Men Cry At Movies Too!
I love this scene with Victor Garber and Tom Hanks from “Sleepless” when they gab at Rita Wilson’s emotional rendering of “An Affair to Remember” with their own love for “The Dirty Dozen” [click for video]
I haven’t seen “Heartburn,” but Meryl Streep is GLORIOUS in “Julie and Julia.” Sometimes I wish it was just “Julia” but I appreciate Amy Adams’ contribution. Streep never imitates the iconic chef, but imbues the role and the film with her passion for food, her humor, and the love she had for her husband.
Movies can make you do crazy, but awesome things
Annie in “Sleepless in Seattle” is a romantic, inspired by the classics like “An Affair to Remember.” I like that the film doesn’t slight her for it. Maybe it’s improbable, but hey if you love movies, you have to believe. [click for video]
Nice Guys Abound
In Ephron films, our heroine isn’t running after the bad boy or leaving a bad relationship for a better one. Usually there are two nice and decent guys in play. Take “Sleepless in Seattle” where Annie is engaged to Walter. Maybe he’s a little dull, but he’s a great guy. His only “flaw” isn’t even his fault: extreme allergies. The same can be said for Greg Kinnear in “You’ve Got Mail”. He’s a little obsessive, but a good catch. Tom Hanks is the ultimate nice guy, not bland or perfect. Hanks’ characters are genuine, friendly, and caring. He has a bit more edge in “You’ve Got Mail,” but he’s still a decent guy. Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, and Bruno Kirby all fit this refreshing mold.
Was there anything better than Meg Ryan in the 80’s and early 90’s. No!!! She’s luminous in Ephron’s films and that energy infuses other movies like “French Kiss” and “I.Q.” that had no connection Ephron. You fell for her and rooted for her.
In celebration of Women who cook and EAT
I love the scene when Paul and Julia Child discuss what she might do in Paris:
Paul Child: What is it you REALLY like to do?
Julia Child: Eat!
Paul: And you’re so good at it.
Julia: I Know! I’m improving in front of you!
"Julie and Julia" is a visual feast where Ephron shows her love for food and affection for cooking. It’s a sumptuous film that inspires you to get back in the kitchen and make everyday a lively eating experience.
Live Your Passion
Whether it’s food, small book stores, or film, it’s important to indulge in what you love and share it with others.
Thank you for this and so much more.
Rest in Peace, Nora Ephron.