With the impending release of Miami Vice, which I'm quickly getting moist about (it's all DV Collateral like and Colin Farrell's hair sluices water like a duck), I thought it might be an apt time to discuss something close to my heart, namely, Manns. I like men, sure, with their strange odors and fantastic ability to chant in unison, but Manns add something extra, usually a breathless chase sequence, a liquid camera movement, or a bracing bit of unexpected violence that exposes the fragility behind our Mannliness. The Manns I'll be dealing with are Michael, Anthony, and Delbert, but there are so many more out there yet to be discovered (Hummie Mann, for example, wrote the score to Robin Hood: Men In Tights).
This Mann has a receding hairline, sure, but isn't his stare disarming - is there not a shadow of a grin on those lips, communicating his superiority to all other Manns? Since he is Anthony, king of Manns, he can do whatever he damn well pleases. I'll be forever grateful to those uppity Lincoln Center folks for their retrospective of the king's work two years ago- this treasure was Manna from heaven. I became a Manniac, if you will. Most are aware of his superb series of Westerns with Jimmy Stewart, composed of death dealing landscapes, imploding psyches and the bravura meltdowns of Stewart (my personal favorite at the moment is The Man From Laramie, which is in ravishing CinemaScope, and that has dastardly Anthony Kennedy, the most underrated character actor ever). What truly knocked my tights off though was Men In War, an unremittingly bleak Korean War drama with the always resigned Robert Ryan and an obsessive Aldo Ray, desperately trying to keep his catatonic colonel alive in the midst of enemy territory. Death seeps in everywhere. Why isn't there a decent release of this anywhere. My impressions are fading. Anyway, it's Manntastic!
And then there's Delbert. A lesser Mann but still a Mann. A TV Mann at heart, he birthed the phenomenon known as Marty, directing the TV and film versions and bringing himself home an Oscar. One tremendous scene in the TV version, where Borgnine is dancing with dour Nancy Marchand at a nightclub, their duo in the eye of the hurricane, for once they venture outward the maw of insecurity awaits. But D-Mann is here for another reason. My father called me a few weeks ago to let me know he had watched something called Mr. Buddwing on AMC. He said it involved James Garner waking up as an amnesiac in Washington Square Park and wandering around the area trying to piece things together. He also said Angela Lansbury plays a floozy. His enthusiasm was palpable, the film airs on TCM on August 1, and it truly sounds Mannly. He also directed a few Doris Day vehicles, like Lover Come Back and That Touch of Mink. Not Mannly, but Doris Day was cute, so we'll forgive him.
And there's of course our beloved Michael. Thief is a modest sized gem about an obsessed professional (and a psychotic James Caan), Heat a gargantuan sized police procedural about obsessesd professionals, and Collateral a small-scale thriller about obsessed professionals and the city of L.A. They're focused even when the plot is sprawling, and the sense of place is never left behind (which is why I'm fascinated to see how Miami turns out). The Insider is gorgeous and contains Russell Crowe's finest performance, while Ali... I don't remember much about Ali except I thought it was underrated at the time. Also Will Smith nailed the role. He's one of the few auteurs we've got left in Hollywood - so let's enjoy him shall we?