Tag Archives: Catherine Keener

The Set of 400: #248 – My Favorite Jewel Thief

Today! Because nobody’s looking for a puppeteer in today’s wintry economic climate –

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Directed by Spike Jonze

Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener (x2), John Malkovich (x2), Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen (x2), Willie Garson (x5), W. Earl Brown (x2), Octavia Spencer (x2)

Featuring the greatest single performance where someone is credited playing himself, Being John Malkovich’s crazy premise could’ve easily overwhelmed the movie. Seriously, it feels like this film was one casting misstep away from Being Charlie Sheen, and who knows how it would’ve played out. Hey, maybe great – maybe that’s all Sheen would’ve needed to re-jumpstart the film career, never do Two and a Half Men, never have catastrophic public meltdowns, and would now be regarded as one of the pillars of the acting community. Instead, he starred in a sitcom on FX for a few years and lost his damn mind. This is all speculation about what could’ve been, of course.

Instead…

By all indications, it was Being John Malkovich the whole way across, and we are better for it as a people. Wildly creative, and surprisingly touching, this movie bends reality to the near breaking point while still grounding it in a believable-ish reality. Finding a door that leads into another person’s head! And making the decision that not only is it a famous actor’s head, but have them gamely play themselves and in such extraordinary fashion as to blur this 4th wall (5th wall?) and create something so indelibly new and unpredictable. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #358 – My Favorite Genital Surprise

Today! Because you’ve got to be a fucking Rembrandt to put on makeup –

Switch (1991)

Directed by Blake Edwards

Starring Ellen Barkin, Jimmy Smits, JoBeth Williams, Lorraine Bracco (x2), Tony Roberts, Perry King, Lysette Anthony, Catherine Keener, Bruce Payne, Jim J. Bullock, Tea Leoni, Michael Badalucco, Victoria Mahoney, Basil Hoffman

Not to be confused with the Bateman/Aniston film of the same name plus a TheSwitch was another cable staple of mine from the early ’90s, and man, the characters largely do not hold up. It’s a bunch of ’80s chauvinist dudes and vengeful, bitchy women thrown into a light-hearted Blake Edwards romp. It’s as 1991 as a movie can feel. Oh hey, and our second jaunt through ’91 in three days! I told you it’d get some love!

So while a lot of the antics are dated and borderline offense in retrospect, the reason this movie retains a spot on this big list is wholly Ellen Barkin’s tremendous performance, as the murdered jerk Steve reincarnated (that’s not really the right word – transmogrified, I guess?) as a woman, in order to find any women who liked him, and thus get into heaven. Don’t worry about the plot, it wildly doesn’t try to make sense. And while it does pay some quick service to how hard it is to be a woman in this asshole-prism of a man’s world, this is mostly an excuse for dude-trapped-in-a-hot-woman’s-body hijinks, of which there are many. The early promise of Barkin’s career never totally panned out – even though she’s had a fairly solid run in movies and TV, by and large – but I’d have to say this is her best overall performance. And it carries this film through its awkward twists and turns and bar fights. Continue reading

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