Monday, October 09, 2006

The Departed

This is what I want to know: how did Mark Wahlberg get all the good lines? Okay, not all of them, but most of them - and for sure the best ones. "I'm the guy doing his job - you must be the other guy." Come on. Wahlberg may be one of the most watchable actors to come along in a long time. The screen lights up when he and Martin Sheen are up there, sparring and volleying, tossing jabs and punches to the poor schmo on the other side of the desk.

But that's the only time the screen really lights up. The cast in this movie is ridiculous, bordering on the sublime - Nicholson, Damon, DiCaprio, Sheen, Baldwin? Ridiculous. And amazing. And even so, not quite enough. The chemistry is missing. It's an odd, ephemeral thing, chemistry. Remember DiCaprio and Hanks in "Catch Me if You Can"? Baldwin and Kidman in "Malice"? Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in "Good Will Hunting"? (Ok, maybe that's not fair, but it was there.) How about Sheen and Douglas, Douglas and Bening, Fox and Sheen, the whole damn cast really, in "American President"? "The Departed" just doesn't have its necessary share of this magical movie ingredient.

The twin focal points (is that an oxymoron?) of the movie revolve around the two young policemen, played by DiCaprio and Damon, both undercover on opposite sides of the law. But while DiCaprio's performance is translucent, even transcendant, Damon's characterization is muddy. Damon's character, Colin Sullivan, should be the (a)moral epicenter of the movie; instead, his character seems never to settle into place. Never quite angry enough, or venal enough, or cold enough, Sullivan drifts along, seemingly run by the criminal hand of Nicholson's mob boss. But that level of aimlessness doesn't make sense - Sullivan, to be where he is and do what he does, needs to be driven from the inside. He needs to feel greed and fear, he needs to be remorseless and cold. And he's not. As presented by Damon, Sullivan is, well, he's like a criminal Charlie Brown. Wishy-washy.

Nicholson is magnetic; he is ruthless, acerbic, capricious. But even that can't support the lack of the ineffable something that would make his devil's bargain with Damon make sense. It is logical to think that Costello is a father figure for Sullivan - and if you didn't get that all on your own, Costello even calls him "Dad" when making his tip-off calls from the station house. But the magic chemistry to drive the love/hate relationship is missing. And without that, Damon is left twisting in the wind, aimlessly.

A great screenplay, great performances and the incredibly sure hand of Scorsese make this movie more than watchable, and I wouldn't miss it. Unfortunately, it's just not great. It's maybe a hair too long. Maybe a hair too slow. Most of all, however, the screen just doesn't light up enough.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If you can't make your legs longer, make your ceilings taller

For those of you living in, ahem, smaller spaces than you might dream of - here's a tip: mirror the walls. You've heard it before, I know - mirrors reflect light, reflect the opposite wall/window/whatever, all in all they "expand the space in a room." This is all true and incontrovertible, honest.

But today, think about this: mounting a mirror close to the ceiling (and I mean inches away) will draw the eye up, bring more light to the ceiling, double the space and adorn the wall. Instant height, interest, glamour and style. Not bad for a piece of glass and some picture hooks, hmmm?

And, if one giant mirror seems like a little too much reflection (internal or external), mount a bunch of smaller mirrors. You'll get all the benefits of light and reflection, without necessarily having to stare at yourself from across the room all day long - though if you're into that, go for it.

Glamour, glitter, light, luxury - if your room seems small or dark, or the walls look a little bare - take it from the Evil Queen: mirror, mirror, on the wall...