SHATTERED GLASS (2003)

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Christopher

I had never really heard of this movie so I was down when Elizabeth got really excited saying we needed to watch it. The movie is extremely intense in a great way because you don’t necessarily like or trust the protagonist. I find that pretty interesting because it kind of turns the main character’s enemy as the real hero of the film, Peter Sarsgaard, who is a complete badass in this film. I guess I really don’t know Sarsgaard from a lot so it was nice seeing one of his most memorable roles. I think this is a film I’m glad I watched when I was older though because I don’t think I would have been as into it when I was younger. I think I would have seen Stephen Glass more as a victim than the annoying kid he is.

If you have not seen this watch it now!
Elizabeth

Recently Chris and I were having some kind of conversation about movies that are really good at having tension and Shattered Glass was the very first movie that came to mind, even though I hadn’t thought about it in a while. Thinking about it made me get excited about it, so we watched it almost immediately. IT IS SO GOOD.

It’s a true story about Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a young journalist who writes for The New Republic and how a big story (and many, many others) of his turned out to be a complete lie. I saw it when it first came out, when I was a sophomore in high school. It had a real impact on me. I felt like I could feel what Glass was going through so well; not in a sympathetic way, but in that it made me physically nervous to watch him go through the process of getting caught. I’ve never plagiarized or been accused of plagiarism, but my 10th grade English teacher did ask to see a book I cited for a paper, I assumed to verify that it was real. And even though I had the book at home, I was so overcome with anxiety that maybe this teacher thought I might make up a source that I brought him the book and also offered to take out the whole section of my paper that cited it. He obviously didn’t think it was that big of a deal because he flipped through the book once and said everything was fine. But that feeling was very strong and when I watched Shattered Glass for the first time it was like watching that feeling play out in front of me. I can take or leave Hayden Christensen in almost everything, but he’s perfect as Stephen Glass, mostly because Stephen Glass is portrayed as kind of a pathetic kid in the end.

Shattered Glass also introduced me to Peter Sarsgaard (I’m not counting Boys Don’t Cry because that movie did not make me want to have anything to do with him). Hayden Christensen is good here, but Peter Sarsgaard is incredible and given the subject matter of the movie (sounds kinda boring) it might seem like I’m exaggerating but I’m reallyyyyy not. He plays Chuck Lane, Stephen’s co-worker who then replaces Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria_ as the editor of The New Republic. Michael Kelly is so beloved by his staff that it makes it impossible for Chuck to get any kind of respect or camaraderie out of the staff when he replaces Michael. A rival magazine finding holes in one of Glass’ stories happens as Chuck is just beginning to find his footing as an editor and the subsequent investigation into Glass’ work puts Chuck against the entire staff because they all love Stephen Glass, too. It’s just beautiful watching Chuck’s character evolve through Sarsgaard; the first mention we hear of any suspicion from him is when he casually knocks on Stephen’s office door and asks if he can see copies of his notes and sources, not an atypical request from an editor like that. Immediately Stephen says “Are you mad at me?” clearly expecting the kind of response he would get from Michael Kelly, one that would reassure him. Instead, Chuck seems totally put off by the fact that this grown man, his employee, so quickly starts acting so defensive and childish. It’s a small moment that makes Chuck stand out as a realistic guy, someone who’s trying to be a good editor, not someone’s dad. And the best part is that Chuck wants to believe Stephen. Although Stephen pretty much hates Chuck, we get the impression that Chuck actually really likes Stephen and wants him to succeed, not to mention the fact that he wants Stephen to be right for obvious reasons. But eventually, the evidence against Stephen is so great that Chuck has to completely abandon personal feelings and just be Stephen’s boss, even if it means yelling at him while Stephen cries, even if it means his staff hating him, and even if it means firing Stephen. Because as he tells Chloë Sevigny in a great speech after he fires Stephen, they’re journalists first and if they took one look at Stephen’s work with their own journalistic eyes it would be so clear that he was lying and it’s something they’re all going to have to answer for. She really can’t refute that.

Shattered Glass is incredibly paced and is seriously one of, if not the most tense movies I’ve ever seen that doesn’t have to do with horror or war or anything crazy. The first time I watched it I identified with Stephen, this kind of weak seeming, well-liked young writer. Watching it now, I identify with Chuck and how satisfying it is to see him stand up and take care of business. Especially now that I have a job where I have to manage people, seeing Chuck be such a badass, awesome boss is actually kind of inspiring, as cheesy as that sounds. I feel like Shattered Glass isn’t talked about much, but it is insanely good.

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THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

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Elizabeth

After the depressing horrible-ness that came on Sunday, I felt like I was in a movie funk. I just wasn’t really in the mood to watch anything. Luckily, weeks before we got tickets to a special screening of The Birdcage in honor of Nathan Lane’s birthday. It was a much-needed pick me up.

I had never seen it before, and while I knew The Birdcage would be funny, I had no idea just how funny it was. What I love most is the way the characters contrast. You have the two main characters, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), flamboyantly gay partners. Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman) is getting married to Barbara (Calista Flockhart), the daughter of an ultra conservative senator, Kevin (Gene Hackman) and his extremely mild-mannered wife, Louise (Dianne Wiest). It might seem obvious to have the antagonist be a Republican senator when the protagonists are gay men, but it’s not that simple. Armand and Albert might be a bit stereotypical (Armand owns the drag club, The Birdcage, where Albert performs), but they’re not really an average gay couple. They’re way overboard, between where they live and what they wear and how they talk, it’s all totally over the top. But on the flip side, you have Kevin, who is so comically conservative that he’s way overboard, too, almost a caricature. It’s not about having contrast to create conflict, it’s also about showing these characters as equally ridiculous. Is it ridiculous that Albert meets Kevin and his family in drag, pretending to be Val’s mother (whom Val has never met)? Completely. Is it ridiculous that Kevin would say that he doesn’t agree with killing abortion doctors, but he agrees with the outcome it brings? Totally! This movie just makes everyone look insane, which makes all the interactions that crazier, that funnier.

I need to make a special point to talk about how incredible Hank Azaria is in this, too. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are totally on top of their game, comedy-wise. Gene Hackman is his usual amazing self, and is really particularly funny and perfect for his role. Hank Azaria plays Agador, Armand and Albert’s “houseboy.” I sort of love that they don’t really explain Agador; we first see him trying to help Armand get Albert to go on stage for a show, and he acts as their sort of maid for the rest of the movie. He’s apparently Guatemalan with the most absurd accent that no one questions. He has this one line . . . one line that made both Chris and I die laughing. Val tells Agador that he needs to get ready and put his shoes on because Barbara and her family are almost there, and Agador is dressed but barefoot. Agador very matter of factly explains to Val that he does not wear shoes because they make him fall down. What is that?? That was the last thing I expected him to say, and I know it doesn’t translate all that well to text, but it was so fucking funny. And of course, so was the inevitable shot of Agador falling on his face because of his shoes.

The Birdcage is great because its sensitive. Armand and Albert are overwhelming, but they’re also obviously in love and have quiet, sweet moments together. I never got the impression that this film is supposed to be some kind of commentary on homosexuality, mostly because it focuses so tightly on just a few characters. I also never got that impression because if you do think that this movie is a critique on homosexuality, then it’s just as much of a critique (if not more) of conservative Americans. It is so great.

Christopher

I remember watching this a few times as a kid and thinking it was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen. It was a good feeling when we went to see this and it was still great! I think I got most of it as a kid but as an adult I definitely got a lot more of the jokes. For example, as a kid, I don’t think I got the craziness of Gene Hackman’s character. I think I just always thought of him as a normal adult? But looking at that now, that kind of makes me look like I thought all adults were insane. This movie is so funny and if you have not seen it, please do it now! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original but based off of Elizabeth’s reaction to the film I think we might be seeing that soon.