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Old December 28 2010, 11:52 PM   #870
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Location: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Re: Movies Seen in 2010

90. Tangled (A-)
91. The Fighter (B+)
92. The Red Shoes (A+)
93. True Grit (A-)
94. Chicago (A+)
95. It's A Wonderful Life (A+)
96. Michael Clayton (A)
97. Fantasia (C+)
98. Long Day's Journey Into Night (B+)

A 1962 film adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's 1942 play, it shouldn't have existed by O'Neill's own design, since he left instructions with his wife not to publish it until 25 years after his death (1977, as it turned out). But O'Neill's papers fell into the hands of Yale University, and they had other ideas (kind of uncharitable, really). O'Neill won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama four times, more than anyone else (though he should technically be tied with Edward Albee, who was voted the prize four times, but only three times was given it), and is the only American dramatist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. This has gone down as probably his most famous work, and it's an autobiography of his home life with a disguise that isn't even paper-thin.

This would have been a TV movie if made a few decades later (indeed, a few more TV movies have been made of it) - nearly three hours long, with only four characters (plus a maid) and basically one set. It's a filmed play in pretty much every sense of the word, though Sidney Lumet does manage to move the camera around (and use it to some effect) more than in many such examples from this period. The four main characters are all pretty much perfectly cast: two elderly icons of the screen, Katherine Hepburn and Sir Ralph Richardson, as the parents, and Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell as the sons. Robards went on to win two Oscars and was a famous character actor; Stockwell never really lived up to the potential he showed here, eventually becoming a fixture on various genre TV shows in his old age.

The play/film is justly famous, and Hepburn does a great job of playing her recovering/relapsed addict (and the way everyone else reacts to her feels authentic; given that this is all drawn so much from O'Neill's personal experience, that's unsurprising). The film is basically a series of two-person conversations in just about every configuration possible, and everybody gets their moments in the spotlight. I will say, though, that it's hard not to notice that of the four, Edmund (Stockwell), who is O'Neill's avatar, is the only one with no real faults. He's suffering from consumption (the gloomy ending makes you think he's going to die, but, obviously, he didn't), but that's not a flaw of personality, which is what everyone else has (even if they're given sympathetic reasons for them). Maybe that is how it went down, but all the same.
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