Saturday, December 18, 2010

Singing Soprano

During the past couple of weeks, I'm been spending a lot of time at home, rather than at work.

I spent a bunch of bucks at the used books store (nothing new here) on Books and DVDS.

One of the series of DVDs I have purchased lately was the HBO "Sopranos" series. I bought the Season One collection last week, because it was new to me. I don't have my television connected to Cable, only to DVD/VHS players. So I have never seen any of the series, but I have heard a lot about it via the Internet. Out of curiosity, I bought Season One of "The Sopranos" and I was surprised at the production values, and the quality of the scripts ... not to mention the quality of the acting.

Yes, much of the script and the dialogue was uncomfortable to me. The dialogue reminded me of my tenure in the US Army, where the "F-Word" served as both a verb, a noun, an adjective and an adverb. (In rare, but notable instances, it even served as a gerund ... please do not ask me for examples; we were soldiers then, and young.)

The HBO series purported to depict the lifestyle of a "Mafia Family" in New Jersey. I know nothing about either the Mafia, or New Jersey (except that N.J. is the only state, other than Oregon, which requires that the customer cannot pump his own gasoline at service stations ... and to my mind, that is a boon not granted by other states), but the episodes are a fascinating introspection of a family distraught by both a dysfunctional culture and situational madness in the individual

Still, the scripts ... by a variety of writers and not of consistent quality ... are generally better than I had expected.

And the actors are generally so accomplished that they can take a mediocre script and make it look good.

Bottom line: however much I admired the performances of almost ALL of the actors, the best performances are provided not by the star, James Gandolfini, but by one of the side-characters; Lorraine Bracco ... who played the Psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi.


Certainly, Bracco is versatile actor, who plays here a Psychiatrist and yet in a current Television Series (Rizzolli and Isles) she portrays a dysfunctional and overweight mother of one of the main characters. But she may be typical of the versatile actors who are able to lend personality and verisimilitude to almost any role. I admit that I have had a crush on Bracco ever since her 1988 role as the character "Brooklyn" (Dr. Rae Crane) against Sean Connery in "Medicine Man".

It's a rare event when a co-star can steal scenes from Connery, but Bracco managed to do it, time and again, against a background of a ho-hum script.

I think Connery must have been just a little bit in love with Bracco, to permit her such liberties And I admit that I have been too, since I first saw her in that role. (However, I have also been a little bit in love with Bracco in that move. SWMBO knew it but she never resented it.
After all, I am also in love with Linda Hunt. But who can object to an appreciation of a woman who won an academy award for her portrayal of a man?

Okay, so I like Linda Hunt because her character was a man in "A Year of Living Dangerously", and Lorraine Bracco for her character as a purported professional dingbat in "Medicine Man" ... but her character in "Sopranos" was brilliant, seminal, and central to the underlying theme of the series.

In fact, her character of "Doctor Melfi" was at least as central as Gandelfini's was as "Anthony Soprano".

I realize that I'm "running long" here. The point is that there are brilliant moments of both acting and screenwriting in the series. I'm surprised at how much I am enjoying the series. I've bought Season 1, 2, 5 and 6. The used bookstore had season 4, but it was too badly damaged by the previous owner ... so I'll be searching Amazon dot com for seasons 4 and 3. The cost is about $16 each, and considering that I have two nights of enjoyment for each season, the expense is easily worth the price.

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