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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas was a low budget movie - it was shot in the 16mm film (used mostly for art movies) instead of the standard 35mm films due to cost reasons. However, it was one of the movies that go onto win acclaim, being received very positively by critics, and being a moderate success at the box office, and a much bigger success on the movie rental scene. And the Best Acting Oscar going to Nicholas Cage for his portrayal of the heading-towards-death drunk added more glory to the movie (a movie getting 4 Oscar nominations including for the Best Director adds tremendously to the attraction of the movie on the box office and the post-release rentals). The film was based on a semi-autographical novel by John O-Brien, who would go onto commit suicide just 2 weeks after the movie had started production (the movie was briefly halted, but it was decided that to make the movie would be a sort of memorial to him, so the project continued).

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

The movie was released in 1995 to a small release, having a wider release in February 1996 (even then it did not get much promotion, and hence it was never as much of a hit at the box office; over time however, the sheer character of the movie, the great performances, all of these made the movie a much bigger hit on the post-release tape and DVD circuit). The movie can be seen as depressing, given that it is a movie about an alcoholic and a hooker (and their story, while beautiful, does not go towards a happy ending); however, their interaction, and their friendship helps make sure that this is a movie worth admiring.
The movie is about this ex-Hollywood agent called Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage). He is shown in the movie as an alcoholic who cannot stop drinking. He has lost his entire job, his family, and the only thing he has left is his drinking. He then gets a death wish - he gets rid of all his possessions (dumping some of them in a fire), and decides to head towards Las Vegas where his resolve is to die by drinking. When in Vegas, he meets this prostitute called Sera (Elisabeth Shue). She is run by a pimp, and is the usual worldly-wise, cynical person. However, when Ben books time with her, and does nothing but talk, she is surprised. Over time, a great friendship (akin to love) develops between them, but there is no sex. And they resolve not to try to change each other's life, with Sera not trying to prevent his alcohol abuse, and Ben not trying to prevent her from leading the life of a hooker.
However, things cannot last like this. Ben is going steadily downhill due to his drinking, and when Sera tries to reform him, he gets furious and brings another hooker to his home; at this Sera throws both of them out. They separate; soon after, she is raped and with her identity as a prostitute exposed, she is thrown out of her home. Then she gets a call that Ben is on his deathbed (having gone too far in his abuse of alcohol); this is the time that they have sex for the first time; he dies soon after.

Oscar Nominations:
Academy Award for Best Actor: (Nicolas Cage) (Won)
# Academy Award for Best Actress: (Elisabeth Shue)
# Academy Award for Directing: (Mike Figgis)
# Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay: (Mike Figgis)

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