400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.
State of Play (240 screens) continues playing this week, and despite its lukewarm performance and reviews, something about it makes me happy. In mid-2003, I got myself into hot water with a Russell Crowe fan club. I reviewed a very minor film called The Hard Word, starring Guy Pearce, who of course had been Crowe's co-star in L.A. Confidential (1997). I took the opportunity to compare the two actors, praising Pearce for his work in interesting films like Ravenous and Memento, and questioning the much more fashionable Crowe. I did this mainly because I was irritated at the enduring popularity of two terrible films, the sludgy, brooding mess Gladiator (2000) and the manipulative Oscar bait A Beautiful Mind (2001).
I felt that Crowe went through the former film with one single expression, a glower, and through the latter with an unchanging collection of tics and actor's tricks; neither one was a particularly interesting or deep performance. Both performances received Oscar nominations, and Crowe won for Gladiator. I was also irritated that the immeasurably superior Memento, and Pearce, didn't get the same attention. In any case the Crowe fan club grabbed my review, posted it on one of their forums and went to town. I started getting all kinds of angry, nasty e-mails. The fact that I presented one, small opinion contrary to their perfect, orderly world absolutely infuriated them.