295. Being John Malkovich

Movie: Being John Malkovich

Release Date: October 29, 1999

Director: Spike Jonze

Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen, John Malkovich.

Tag Lines: “Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can.”

“Ever Wanted To Be Someone Else?”

“Be All That Someone Else Can Be.”

Relevance: Once every so often a movie comes along that everyone is talking about, even if they haven’t seen it. ‘Being John Malkovich’ was one such movie. It was getting huge critical acclaim, the trailer was odd, quirky yet intriguing and it became the ‘it’ movie to see that year. Unfortunately the widest release that the movie ever saw was a little over 600 screens and most people didn’t get to see it. I was one of those people. Where I was working and living at the time as well as my work schedule prohibited me from getting to see it on the big screen.

The movie did make over $30 million in the box office worldwide versus a $13 million budget which rendered it a hit. It was finally released for rental in early 2000 and that was when I had the pleasure of watching it for the first time. I was entranced the entire length of the movie. The plot was intricate yet not confusing thanks to a brilliant screenplay that was original, funny and very moving. Director Spike Jonze, known at the time for directing music videos, created a believable world out of an absurd idea. A tremendous feat for a seasoned director, he accomplished it on his feature film debut. Every single actor, especially John Malkovich himself, gave incredible, nuanced performances. I became obsessed with the movie. I absolutely loved it, bought it, watched it over and over again and talked about it for months.

The themes of ‘Being John Malkovich’ are what intrigued me the most about the film. It’s probably why I kept watching it numerous times and why I wanted to talk about it so much. The idea of not being comfortable in one’s skin and the idea of wanting to be “someone else” was a very prevalent notion for me in early 2000. I had only come out as gay in 1998 and unlike some who burst out of the closet door riding a rainbow colored unicorn, I slowly crawled out. I was even dragged out of the closet in some instances. I wasn’t comfortable with my being gay for many years. So when an art piece that presented ideas of wanting to be someone or something else, or try to be your true self or simply accept what you have to offer to the world comes along, it resonated with me. It resonated a lot.

“There is truth, and there are lies, and art always tells the truth. Even when it’s lying.”

Today’s Thoughts: “Malkovich?” “Malkovich!” “Malkovich.”

I love this movie. I hadn’t seen it in its entirety for years and thoroughly enjoyed watching it again today. It’s just as odd, quirky and funny as I remember.

I can’t say enough how great the actors are in ‘Being John Malkovich.’ Everyone from John Cusack and Cameron Diaz to Catherine Keener and Orson Bean. But for me, the pièce de résistance is John Malkovich playing many different versions of John Malkovich. It’s nothing short of spectacular. He is so good in this movie. Even those who can’t buy into the premise, first of all get over that, but secondly and most importantly watch it for his performance. He is outstanding.

And hello Octavia Spencer. I love re-watching movies and finding now famous actors getting their careers started in a film I didn’t even know they were in. As “woman in elevator,” her fifth movie role, Ms. Spencer was delightful in her one minute scene with John Cusack. Now I want a spin-off movie called “Woman in Elevator” starring Academy Award winner, Octavia Spencer. I’m just putting that out there in the universe. Let’s see what happens.

I also forgot that Charlie Sheen was in the movie. Of course he is playing the only role he could ever play, himself. I think I groaned out loud when he showed up on screen. But I love the movie so much, I overlooked it. And it is somewhat comical to see him “balding” near the end of the film. At least he seemed to have a sense of humor about himself at the time. Now he is just batshit.

And did I see another penis? It’s hard to tell (pun not intended for once), but if you look closely when Cameron Diaz’s character enters John Malkovich for the first time, I believe you see “Malkovich wiener.” That takes the official count to six for “penis on film” as far as this list is concerned. And back to back as yesterday’s movie showed male full frontal nudity as well. (see 296. Wildcats)

I am still in love with all of the themes that this movie explores. Even though I am extremely comfortable in my own skin now, they still resonate with me. And they probably always will.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Catherine Keener (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Spike Jonze, Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Charlie Kaufman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Cameron Diaz (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Catherine Keener (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Charlie Kaufman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Original, Charlie Kaufman (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Cameron Diaz (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Eric Zumbrunnen (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Cameron Diaz (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Catherine Keener (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Breakthrough Artist, Spike Jonze (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (nomination), Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Spike Jonze (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature Film (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, Cjharlie Kaufman (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Male LEad, John Cusack (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Charlie Kaufman (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, John Malkovich (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay, Charlie Kaufman (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, John Malkovich (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, Catherine Keener (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (nomination), PGA Award for Vision Award (winner), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Michael Stipe, Sandy Stern, Steve Golin, Vincent Landay (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Charlie Kaufman (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.

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