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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

October 15, 2008
RATING: 7/10
Sixteen years ago, Robert Downey Jr. was in a very different position than the one in which he finds himself today. In 1992, the obviously talented actor had amazed critics and audiences alike in films like The Pick-Up Artist and Less Than Zero, but in the not-so-distant future lay some serious drug problems. Indeed, for more than a decade Downey's unsavory reputation - the famous incident where he fell asleep in a stranger's house, and period of un-insurability (a major issue in film production) during which directors would withhold large chunks of his salary until after production - was his claim to fame. Of course in 2008 his comeback has culminated with his current in-demand status as the title character in Ironman and Ben Stiller's comedy sidekick in Tropic Thunder. But for as much praise as he has received lately, it pales in comparison to his spot in Richard Attenborough's 1992 biopic Chaplin, based on the icon's autobiography. In that film, which suffered a bit with its paint-by-the-numbers biographical construction, Downey delivered a spectacular turn as the famous director and actor, ultimately earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (which he would lose to Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman).

The film is framed by an interview with Chaplin, who lives in exile at his Swiss home, conducted by George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins). From here, the plot flashes back to Chaplin's childhood and vaudevillian roots, as well as his troubles with his deranged mother, before his move to the western United States. It was in America where Chaplin discovered "flickers," or motion pictures as they're more commonly known. The film covers his first film work, for which Chaplin was hired by director Mack Sennett (Dan Akroyd), and also revisits the funnyman's later life run-ins with e United States government, which hounded Chaplin as being part of the Red Menace. Throughout his remarkable life, Chaplin's extreme fondness for women was a constant source of pleasure - and trouble, sometimes in the legal sense, as he had a taste for what Mary Pickford (Maria Pitillo) refers to as "jailbait." Also detailed in the film is Chaplin's strong friendship with Douglas Fairbanks, played by the excellent Kevin Kline, who unabashedly showboats his way through the role.

Even, or perhaps especially, in hindsight Downey seems a natural choice to take on the task of portraying Chaplin. As the result of an extensive preparatory immersion (in which he learned to play the violin), Downey completely takes on Chaplin's persona, especially when it comes to mimicking his slapstick foibles and classic eye twitches and gimpy walk, so recognizable from his trademark "Tramp" character. But for all the star's charms and the obvious talents of director Attenborough, Chaplin never rises above the trappings of its genre. Perhaps it is impossible to make a transcending biographical film about such an iconic artist - although Julian Schnabel would probably beg to differ, judging from his superior and more creative Basquiat.

The 15th Anniversary Edition of Chaplin contains several bonus featurettes, including a home movie of Chaplin on Catalina Island, a retrospective with David Attenborough, and two pieces on Chaplin's fame and contributions to the world of film.

SEE ALSO: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Chaplin

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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