Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What's Better? The Insider or The Outsiders

Well, time for another blog battle. We'll do eight items this time, so we should be done in one week. We'll see how many replies we get or if everyone is bored by this yet.

Today's match features Director Michael Mann and Russell Crowe in an Oscar nominated performance. In the opposite corner we have young stars, Oscar winning director Francis Ford Coppola, and a beloved young-adult book. So web surfers, "What's Beter?": The Insider or The Outsiders?


Doug said...

Ken, I don't believe I've seen The Outsiders, so I don't know if I'm qualified to post, but I think The Insider is one of the best Hollywood films of the '90s. Sure, it paints its characters in somewhat broad strokes, but beyond that is a very compelling and provocative morality play about integrity in the corporate world. It's also a fascinating study of two people who are trying to do the right thing whether it personally benefits thems or not, and have to fight to maintain their strained relationship. How often do you see that? It's also visually very sophisticated; it could generate whole studies of its form alone--no small accomplishment in today's cookie-cutter Hollywood. Michael Mann is one of our true auteurs (although I was disappointed by the humdrum content of Miami Vice). To top it off, very engaging performances by the entire cast. It won't redefine cinema, but it's a very solid and stylish piece of work.

DanBuck said...

I know many might be tempted to go for the sentimental Jr. High English Lit staple (The Outsiders) but I gotta say, The Insider is one of my favs. And certainly Michael Mann's best work. Pacino and Crowe are superb, both when they're yelling and when they are silent.

Pacino's face when the Mike Wallace character reveals he's siding with CBS News instead of Lowell is worth an Oscar all by itself.

DanBuck said...

Interesting to see Doug and I both loving this one. As we both also love QUIZ SHOW which is very similar in its themes.

Do we share corporate angst? Hmmm.

Diane said...

Glad you're doing this again, Ken.

This one's interesting. Dan's right to bring up junior high--I read The Outsiders and saw the film back then. I even had a crush on one of the young stars. So I can feel sentimentality pulling me. (And I've never seen The Insider.)

But if you sat me down and gave me a choice between these two films now...well, I ain't 13 anymore and I got over my crush, so I know which one I'd pick.

Here's another vote for The Insider.

M. Leary said...

I do like "The Insider" quite a bit, as I am an inveterate Mann-fanboy (A Mann-boy? No... too Barbarella).

But "The Outsiders" is the clear winner here for a number of reasons:

1. Matt Dillon's best roles have only ever been variations on "Dally," who is arguably the Platonic ideal of a big brother figure.
2. It lays the groundwork for the most underrated film of the 80's: "Rumble Fish," which incidentally is in the top five list of "films that are black and white except a few frames or images." (No, "Schindler's List" is not one of them.)
3. The sheer energy harnessed by Coppola in this film is greater than anything he had previously done. This is in the early 80's, after "The Godfather 1 and 2," "Apocalypse Now," and "The Conversation" (his best films). Somehow he got together this cast of unknowns to piece together a script from a book that saunters along in slang and fragments and does perfect justice to the enlightened imagination of every high-schooler that had to read the book in English class.
4. The buddy aspect of the film was overshadowed by Reiner's "Stand By Me," which came out just a few years later. These two films read against each other in an interesting way, "The Outsiders" giving voice to the anger that "Stand By Me" Thomas Kinkades (am I allowed to make that a verb?) into a charming concluding voiceover.
5. It seems like odd material for Coppola, but it comports well with the rest of his work. It has all the rich moral overtones of "The Godfather," it riffs on the notes of alienation that sound all through "The Conversation" and "Apocalypse Now." He famously said of this latter film: "It isn't about Vietnam, it IS Vietnam." In the same way, "The Outsiders" isn't about these kids as much as it IS the death of the Greasers, forever rendered inert by Hinton's book, only to be reborn in the fawning sighs of teenage readers. I would take "The Outsiders" to be a bed-time reading version of Coppola's most treasured themes.
6. "The Insider" is not a lynchpin Mann work, but it is arguable that "The Outsiders" closes off a period that could be called Coppola's Golden Age.

T.C. Truffin said...

The glory of the "What's Better" website was the endless supply of instantaneous judgments to be made between things that seemingly had no business being compared. What's better: Molly Ringwald or Denmark?

Thus, without further ado, explanation, analysis, prevaricating, hemming, hawing, or otherwise clearing my throat,

The Insider

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

Perhaps, but I recall you posting a long post to Inklings (I could probably track it down) in which you gave indepth analysis of the random 10 items.

I was gonna vote for the Insider, but I find Leary's argument compelling, so I'm on the fence.

BethR said...

When all's said and done, I like t.c.truffin's approach:

The Insider

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

I was gonna be Nebuchandnezzer (sp?) and say to Mike, "Almost thou convincest me" and then vote for The Insider. But I see, in all likelihood, that the final tally will not be effected, so I'll cast a vote for The Outsiders, as much because I hate to see such a good argument not get any takers.

John said...

Not that it matters at this hour, but my vote goes to The Insider, for the great reason that it's 1000 degrees outside, and, well, I prefer to stay in the cool of the indoors.

M. Leary said...

It is okay Ken, it is perfectly fitting that "The Outsiders" gets no appreciation. It is kind of the point of the book/film.