Love Letter to Alexander Payne

16 reasons not to give up on American cinema

Dear Alexander Payne: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. You made Election and About Schmidt, two hilarious, probing comedies about suburban anomie and human angst.

2. You followed these with Sideways, transporting the same deep humor into a totally different milieu and combining a loser-buddy pic with an homage to the central California coast.

Alexander Payne brought pleasure to moviegoers in 2004.
Alexander Payne brought pleasure to moviegoers in 2004.

3. You cast Paul Giamatti.

4. You cast Virginia Madsen.

5. You turned down George Clooney -- who wanted the part of has-been actor Jack -- because nobody would believe he was a has-been.

6. Instead of Clooney, you went with Thomas Haden Church, an actual has-been, who aced the role.

7. You refused, in short, to sell out.

8. Even though your money was coming from a studio.

9. You knew how to maintain control, including in the casting.

10. And you trusted that your vision was superior.

11. Finally, you stayed intimate, resisting the temptation to make a grand, Hollywood-style epic with Big Themes.

12. Unlike some directors I could mention, but won't.

13. Okay, it's Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose films are getting successively worse.

14. What is A Very Long Engagement? It is an overhyped, overly sentimental rehearsal of a thousand films we've seen before.

15. But enough about him.

16. Thanks, Mr. Payne. I love you.

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