Friday, July 29, 2011

I love you Peter Sarsgaard


I’ve been in love with Peter Sarsgaard for years.  I think the man is a genius.  I know that a lot of my fellow cinephiles feel he’s been pigeonholed into one particular ‘character’ thanks to his knack for lathering on a sort of sleazy charm (but good god, who wouldn’t fall for it), but I find Sarsgaard to be an incredibly layered actor; one who possesses undeniable range.  When watching Almodovar’s ‘Tie Me Up!  Tie Me Down!’ yesterday (not starring Sarsgaard) I was reminded of this picture I have of Sarsgaard on my computer (don’t judge me) and so I just wanted an excuse to post it and talk about him, so, well…here I am.



I remember when I first saw Sarsgaard.  It was in 1999’s masterpiece, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.  I was completely consumed by his character John and the control he had over everyone else in the film.  You could feel the evil racing through his veins and yet you couldn’t help but feel drawn to him.  Sarsgaard was savage and never once dropped character.  He looked at me and my skin began to crawl; he was that effective.

Where is his Oscar nomination?

His star continued to shine brightly, but it was really in the early to mid aughts where he became somewhat of an obsession for me.  Starting in 2003 with his electric performance in ‘Shattered Glass’ and continuing through 2004 (with both ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Garden State’) and finally culminating into one of my favorite supporting performances of the aughts, his brilliant performance in 2005’s ‘Jarhead’.  For three years I could think of nothing but Peter Sarsgaard.  For anyone who says he lacks range, I challenge you to watch these four films (or five if you include ‘Boys Don’t Cry’) and tell me again that he lacks range.  He delivers such complexities in each performance, and not one is like the other.  In ‘Shattered Glass’ he just simmers on ever frame with this ever-building understanding of his circumstances.  Sarsgaard’s transformation, that gradual grasp of the situation, creates such bottled tension that the climax bubbles over with such dynamic power.  He nails it.    His portrayal of Kinsey's lapdog Clyde is phenomenal as well.  His lusting for Kinsey is desirable and believable; his tenderness as a friend and lover is endearing and his frustrated feeling of betrayal is heartbreaking.  And then there is his "would you like to?" line to Kinsey in the hotel room; the single greatest line reading of the entire year.  That scene took my breath away, and that is not too easy to do.


Yes, I want to.

And then we have ‘Jarhead’.

This is my favorite performance by Peter and truthfully one of the best supporting performances of this past decade.  He has such power and control and dynamic character development.  What is so wonderful about this performance is that he truly plays ‘supporting’ very well.  Throughout the first two thirds of the film he almost disappears behind the man that is Gyllenhaal, allowing the film to really root in Swofford’s character.  He makes a statement, sure, and he becomes that secondary character you want to learn more about, but he never crosses that line with showy actorly acrobatics.  And then the sniper scene comes and this man crumbles and I was literally BLOWN away (seriously, best single sequence of acting in the year that was 2005).  Everything that he has been gradually building up to just unloads in a single breathtaking scene.  This mans entire existence shatters and leaves us with a devastating climax.

UGH, so much ‘awesome’ from one actor, and he just continues to give us the goods.  Even his recent fare (‘An Education’, ‘Year of the Dog’, ‘Rendition’) has been bolstered by his presence.  Sure, he plays creepy well, but that is not all he does and that’s far from all he’s good at.

And just look at him.


I mean…


Double gulp.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review of 'Two Lovers' and, more importantly, Vinessa Shaw's performance!

In rummaging through some of my reviews on Amazon I came across one that I wanted to post here (mostly because I really need to start blogging more).  The film is Two Lovers, and quite honestly the review is more about Vinessa Shaw than anything else.  I wrote this last year, but I still feel exactly the same way.  God, Shaw was just sensational, and on some days I actually think she was better than Mo'Nique!

So, here is the review:

Over at ‘The Film Experience’, Nathanial Rogers (possibly the best Oscar internet blogger out there) has been posting a “Best In Show” column for certain actors (or actresses) in films and while watching ‘Two Lovers’ I felt inspired to write my own.

When considering the film ‘Two Lovers’, first time viewers may immediately suspect that the two Oscar names (Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow) would be the obvious choices for ‘best is show’ praise, but upon the actual viewing it is apparent that there is one performance so subtle yet so alarmingly in tune with her character that one cannot help but obsess over her.

Yes, I’m talking about Vinessa Shaw.

Vinessa plays Sandra, a young and kind hearted woman who seeks out a relationship with Leonard.  Sandra’s father has recently conducted a business merger with Leonard’s father, and after a brief observance (Sandra sees Leonard asking his mother to dance while at work) she asks her father to set up a meeting between them.  She thinks he is cute.  Leonard has problems (serious ones that involve the cancellation of a wedding and multiple suicide attempts) but these are aspects of his tortured soul that intrigue Sandra.  She wants to help him, to heal him.

When they first meet her candor is endearing.  She is not as shy or reclusive as Leonard, but she has a natural unnaturalness about her demeanor.  When she feels that maybe her advances are not being met with approval she immediately recants, pulling back and apologizing for him, basically telling him not to worry about not wanting to ‘date’ her until he leans in and kisses her and she is consumed.



“Oh my god.”  Those were her words.  She utters that phrase twice in the film and both times carry so much internal weight.

As their relationship grows you can see a spark in Sandra, but that spark is corroded by a ‘knowing’, a sixth sense if you will, that something is not right.  When Leonard is getting strange phone calls and becoming more and more reclusive, pulling away yet never saying what it is that is truly on his mind, you can see that Sandra knows, but she is unwilling to confront it for fear of losing him.  She doesn’t want it to be real.

That’s why the second “oh my god” carries so much weight, because you can tell that she isn’t quite sure she believes her own eyes.

While ‘Two Lovers’ is, sadly, more about one lover (that lover being Michelle, the generically clichéd ‘troubled girl’), the one who stays with you through every frame is Sandra.  Sure, she is vanilla while Michelle (Leonard’s drug addicted neighbor who is shacking up with a married man and almost instantaneously becomes Leonard’s sole obsession) is certainly not, but the textural approach that Shaw took to this character makes her scream to life.  She understands how to make Sandra’s love for Leonard seem real and sincere.

Now that I’ve devoted much of my praise to a singular performer, I guess I should weigh in on the movie itself.  While I found it stirring and most defiantly engaging, there are things about ‘Two Lovers’ that felt off kilter.  Leonard as a character is a little two unstable and underdeveloped.  We know there is tragedy there, and Phoenix does a remarkable job of balancing his characters ‘new life’ with the ‘old one’ (this is far from a melodramatic downer), but the script doesn’t really allow for us to KNOW who Leonard really is or understand why these women are so into him.  I felt that shifting focus to the relationship between Leonard and Michelle was a mistake, for the real emotional crux of the film is between Leonard and Sandra.  The ending, while not surprising (I totally saw that coming) can read a little false, but it also was one of those moments where, upon reflection, probably says more about Leonard as a person than any other moment in the film.

He doesn’t really know what he wants.

The film is flawed, but it is also memorable.  It is quiet yet it has moments that sting and stay with you.  It also has Shaw.  Oh how I weep for her lack of awards attention last year.

I gave this ****/***** or a B.  It's pretty good, but outside of Shaw there isn't anything brilliant here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Rest (of my updated Oscar predictions)

I've prolonged this long enough, and honestly...I'm overthinking it!  So, without further ado, here is the final predix in all remaining categories. 

Enjoy...

Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud
  3. The Ides of March
  4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  5. The Descendants
~
  1. Moneyball
  2. War Horse
  3. A Dangerous Method
  4. The Skin That I Inhabit
  5. Carnage

Original Screenplay:
  1. J. Edgar
  2. Beginners
  3. Contagion
  4. The Artist
  5. Martha Marcy May Marlene
~
  1. Midnight in Paris
  2. Take Shelter
  3. Rampart
  4. Like Crazy
  5. Win Win


Editing:
  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud
  3. J. Edgar
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Super 8
~
  1. War Horse
  2. Contagion
  3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  4. The Artist
  5. Melancholia

Cinematography:
  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2
  3. The Tree of Life
  4. War Horse
  5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
~
  1. The Artist
  2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  3. J. Edgar
  4. Melancholia
  5. Super 8
Art Direction:
  1. My Week With Marilyn
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. J. Edgar
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  5. War Horse
~
  1. The Tree of Life
  2. The Artist
  3. Super 8
  4. Jane Eyre
  5. Water for Elephants

Costume Design:
  1. J. Edgar
  2. War Horse
  3. My Week with Marilyn
  4. The Artist
  5. Jane Eyre
~
  1. A Dangerous Method
  2. Immortals
  3. Albert Nobbs
  4. W.E.
  5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Visual Effects:
  1. Super 8
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2
  3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  4. Cowboys and Aliens
  5. The Tree of Life
~
  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  2. Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
  3. X-Men: First Class
  4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger

Makeup:
  1. Albert Knobs
  2. The Iron Lady
  3. War Horse
~
  1. A Dangerous Method
  2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  3. My Week With Marilyn

Sound Editing:
  1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Super 8
  3. War Horse
  4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
~
  1. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
  2. Contagion
  3. Thor
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Cowboys and Aliens

Sound Mixing:
  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Super 8
  3. Contagion
  4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  5. The Tree of Life
~
  1. War Horse
  2. Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
  3. Cowboys & Aliens
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Original Score:
  1. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. War Horse
  4. The Artist
  5. J. Edgar
~
  1. One Day
  2. The Tree of Life
  3. Super 8
  4. Rango
  5. Jane Eyre

Animated Film:
  1. Winnie the Pooh
  2. Rango
  3. Chico and Rita
~
  1. Happy Feet 2
  2. Cars 2
  3. Kung Fu Panda 2

I’m not predicting Original Song and Foreign Film or Documentary and those pesky shorts ATM