Friday, August 31, 2012

The fat lady has sung!

 
 
 
Remember last year, when there was an embarassing TWO nominees in the Original Song category at Oscar?  Yeah, that category is just pathetic and impossible to predict and just makes no sense whatsoever.  Well, apparently there have been rule changes put into place that will change all that.  This is pretty great actually, and yet I still hate this category, namely because really shitty songs get written for movies these days.  With this thought in mind, what songs do you think are notable snubs that could have benefited from this rule?  I'm sure the first that comes to mind is Cher, which was an odd snub back in 2010.  Speaking of Cher, what are your thoughts on the Golden Globe curse?  Yes, since 2000, 7 out of the 12 Golden Globe winning songs was snubbed an Oscar nomination.  It is bizarre, especially since some of those wins were notable ('The Wrestler' and 'You Haven't Seen the Last of Me' being the most notable).  What do you think this will mean for the Oscars this year? 

August is over!


Wow.  This has been the single best month A Fistful of Films has seen, and I’m really excited for where this blog is going.  Blogging has officially become fun for me, so why stop now?  So now we look forward to the month of September and all that it has in store for us.  I certainly want to build on what I started this month, so expect more from the ‘Closer Look’ and ‘Adaptations’ series, and I plan on doing a full breakdown of last year’s Oscars before awards season 2012 officially kicks off.  This month wrapped up the Fisti Awards for 2010 and 1990 and I do plan on finishing 2008 in September and possibly 1991 and 2011 (ambitious, I know).  But, most importantly is a new batch of Oscar predictions.  Awards season is almost here and I need to get at least one more predictions done before we start getting more ‘clues’ as to where AMPAS could be headed.  So, expect that this month. 

 

Any suggestions? 

 

What would you readers like to see come in the following months?  August saw us garner a new follower!  I want more though (I’m greedy) and so spread the word!  Convince your friends to follow me too!  I want to reach twenty followers by the end of the year…that shouldn’t be too hard.

 

:-D

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Closer Look: 1957 Lead Actor


It’s time for another entry in the ‘Closer Look’ series, and since I’ve been wrapping up my required viewing for 1957 I figured I’d go with that.  I’ve decided on the Lead Actor category.  As a refresher, here is what Oscar went with this year.

 

I don’t know much about the actual Oscar race, since I wasn’t alive back then, but it appears that Alec Guinness walked away with this win rather easily.  He also won the Globe, the BAFTA, the NBA and the NYFCC.  Those are pretty notable wins, and today if an actor or actress won those they would be all but guaranteed the Oscar (unless they lost the SAG, which could mean trouble).  The only other actor in the lineup with any notable wins was Anthony Franciosa, who won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival.  Yeah, I don’t get that win either.

 

So, breaking this down we’ll start at the bottom of the heap with that very Volpi Cup winner, Franciosa.  Good lord, what a hammed up exaggerated mess of a performance.  I actually kind of liked the film itself, and I LOVED Eva Marie Saint, but Franciosa merely played a gimmick and did it with horrendous overacting.  I would have much preferred his onscreen brother Don Murray been nominated, for he played his part with a beautiful subtlety that Franciosa lacked.  LOL, that is probably a good idea for a series; nominated roles that should have been replaced by a co-star.  Seriously, I’ll be doing that again in like two paragraphs.  Anyways, back to Franciosa.  I understand that there is a level of gimmick involved when portraying a drug addict with emotional issues, but there is certain level of restraint that needs to be used in order to convey it perfectly, and Franciosa is obviously of the mindset that more is more here; which it isn’t.

 

Next up we have Laughton.  This isn’t a bad performance, but it isn’t a great one either.  Actually, that’s kind of how I feel about Brando too, which is odd because Brando is usually such a powerful force.  Neither actor gives a bad performance at all, but they are somewhat forgettable to be honest.  They service their films fine, but they didn’t warrant Oscar attention.

 

While Guinness had an easy win back in 1957, I don’t think he should have won at all.  He gets my runner-up status here.  He gives a great performance, one full of nuance and restrained passion.  Still, I actually prefer his co-star William Holden to be honest.  I think that Holden offered a few more layers and actually gave his character a truly memorable arc as opposed to a truly memorable climax.  You can’t fault Guinness this win though.  I mean, he really delves into the depths of the man and remains a constant presence in the film; one that is felt with a dignity and grace.

 

Still, of the nominees, I would have easily handed over the Oscar to Anthony Quinn.  He gives a tremendous performance, and I have a feeling that if he hadn’t already won TWO Oscars by this time he would have given Guinness a real run for his money.  Guinness probably still would have won, considering that his film was better received and actually took Best Picture, but Quinn delivers a similarly styled performance and so they are truly the standouts in the lineup.  The layers that Quinn gives to his performance are beautifully laced with such authenticity.  He understands the importance of creating a man we can adore while we are supposed to detest his actions.  We understand his actions.  We see his frustrations and so this endears us to him even when we disagree with his abrasive need for control.  It’s a beautiful performance.

 

So, for me:

 

1)      Quinn

2)      Guinness

3)      Brando

4)      Laughton

5)      Franciosa

 

And then, we think of their careers.  In unfairness to the rest, I’ve seen far more of Brando’s career than anyone else.  I guess that’s to be expected, since he’s the most famed actor in the world and his career lasted for decades and continued to be lauded, even after his prime.  He didn’t really have a prime.  His career was his prime.  Guinness was a superb actor, and one thing I really appreciated about his career was that he was able to transition from comedy to drama rather effortlessly.  His comedic performances were nearly all outstanding, so it is kind of sad that a comedian has to convert to Drama in order to actually win an Oscar.  Why can’t Oscar appreciate comedy?  Laughton was a good actor, but outside of his stunning performance in 1939’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, I was never truly struck by his abilities.  He was a fabulous director though, and his work on ‘Night of the Hunter’ was remarkable and holds up as one of the best directorial debuts, like EVER.  Quinn had a very long and lauded career.  I haven’t seen many of performances, but from what I’ve seen I really liked him.  The funniest thing about Franciosa was that I’ve only seen three of his films and they are all from 1957.  I liked him a lot in Wild is the Wind, but year…he has nothing on Quinn.  He was somewhat forgettable in A Face in the Crowd and he was atrocious in A Hatful of Rain.

 

Go figure.


So, with my limited scope of their full careers, I’ll rank them like so:

 

1)      Brando

2)      Guinness

3)      Quinn

4)      Laughton

5)      Franciosa

 

Now, as far as my Fisti Awards are concerned, I’m not entirely finished.  I still have three films I’m waiting on seeing before I finalize anything, but at the moment these are the twelve actors/performances that I’m considering for my final lineup.


Oh, and Tony Curtis is winning this in a landslide, so really I’m just trying to figure out the other four nominees.

 

 

James Cagney/Man of a Thousand Faces

Tony Curtis/Sweet Smell of Success

Kirk Douglas/Paths of Glory

Cary Grant/An Affair to Remember

Andy Griffith/A Face in the Croud

Alec Guinness/The Bridge On the River Kwai

Van Heflin/3:10 to Yuma

William Holden/The Bridge On the River Kwai

Marcello Mastroianni/Le Notti Bianche

Toshiro Mifune/Throne of Blood

Robert Mitchum/Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Anthony Quinn/Wild is the Wind

Guess who's getting naked...


LOL, so between this and the Nymphomaniac news I posted the other day, you'd think that I'm all about on-screen nudity or something (which I am, but that's not really the point).  So, I stumbled across this article on The Gothomist that informed us that DiCaprio is about to get naked for his craft.  I've briefly mentioned Scorsese's current project, The Wolf of Wall Street, and I think the exact word I used was 'BAH'.  Yeah, another Wall Street movie sounds like a great idea.  Not really.  B-O-R-I-N-G.  But, this latest news has my interest peaked a bit.  I mean, not that an explicit sex scene makes all the difference, but it looks like this movie has more 'meat' on its bones than mere stock trading and money making.  Anyways, apparently DiCaprio is getting himself in bed with three other men and some 'very hot' chicks.  Sounds like fun.  My only question is...is one of those other guys Jonah Hill?  Is it weird that I kind of hope one of them is Jon Favreau?

I will say this...DiCaprio really needs to stop messing up his face with horrible makeup.  Like, this is gross.


What do you think?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Link'in to a fantastic read...



Over at Southern Vision there is a write up on the New Wave brilliance that was Jean-Luc Godard.  I've made mention here that Godard is my favorite director of all time, and that is because of his New Wave films (considering that his 60's work is all that I've seen) and so I thought I'd link it here.  Have a gander, and if you haven't yet tasted the fruit that is Godard's genius then please use this as a roadmap to doing just that.


(for those of you wondering, the above dance sequence was the dance sequence I noted as one of my top three favorite film moments back in the movie questionnaire post)

Ryan Gosling; the man of many talents...



So, apparently Ryan Gosling is going to make his directorial debut soon.  I'm highly anticipating this, and I literally just read about it three seconds ago.  The idea of a modern adult fairy tale is one that excites me, and has for a while.  I am often drawn to books and movies that try and incorporate this fantastical idea, but it is very tricky to do right.  You can't completely submerge yourself because then you lose the maturity.  You have to strike a balance and really meld the two worlds together, which is something that it appears Gosling is intending to do with this.  The film stars Christina Hendricks as a single mother “swept into a macabre and dark fantasy underworld while her teenage son discovers a secret road leading to an underwater town.”  Sounds pretty interesting to me!

Random Celebrity Couple News...


I actually lost sleep last night.  I know, I know, it's really stupid but I'm kind of obsessed with Teen Mom and the finale was on last night and the promo for the Dr. Drew tell all came on afterward and Maci says that her and Kyle aren't together anymore and my heart dropped and it even looked like she said he cheated on her and I WAS DEVESTATED.  UGH, I know they aren't movie stars, but they are celebrities sort of and they are so freaking cute together.  I feel like a teenage girl right now.  Not sure why I care so much, but I do care because with a show like Teen Mom you kind of feel like you get to know theses PEOPLE and they are just perfect for each other.  So, I was upset.  My wife laughed at me and tole me I was retarded, but I was seriously concerned.

So I got up this morning and had to buzz the internet on more information.  Thankfully, Kyle didn't cheat.  That was the first bit of good news.  Then I was happy to learn that Kyle still sees Bentley!  That made me really happy.  I saw hope for the two of them afterall.  Then I read that Maci sees a future for the two of them, and I smiled a little.  But, I actually jumped for joy (not really, but inside I did) when I saw that they are actually BACK TOGETHER!!!

LOL, so...that was my day so far.  At least it had a happy ending!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fisti Update

Yay for me, I've finally finished the 2010 Fisti's.  I had to.  I've only got like three more films to see before I can post the 2011 Fisti's and I needed to have 2010 done first.  Great year and I'm particularly pleased with how they panned out.  Check out the page and let me know what you think.  I'm interested in your thoughts and opinions.

Monday, August 27, 2012

F***ing Lars von Trier!

Literally.



So, I'm a little late to this party, but MTV is reporting that Shia LaBeouf is willing to have sex with Charlotte Gainsbourg if Lars Von Trier asks him to.  LOL, not in those exact words, but they both are reported to be starring in Lars's latest cinematic offering, 'The Nymphomaniac'.  If you are familiar with Lars's work, then you will know that he is not shy when it comes to graphic sex and nudity and some of the most nauseating depictions of such.  I mean, 2009's 'Antichrist' alone was gut-wrenching in its portrayal of a woman going as far as to actually snip off her clitoris.

 

Seriously.

I'm anticipating this since I anticipate everything from Lars, even when I wind up partially hating it (the lack of depth in 'Antichrist' personally negated the shock value) so I'm all in for this, and despite popular belief, I actually think that LaBeouf is a promising actor, so yay for him working with someone as important as Von Trier.  Besides, 'Melancholia' was a surprise masterpiece so he's back at the top of his game for now.

What do you think of this news?

How the f*** did this happen?

Happy Monday everyone.  I hope you had a wonderful weekend filled with great movies from yesterday and today that made you smile.  I, unfortunately, didn't.  LOL, I watched two films (I know, such a low number for a weekend) and wasn't a fan of either.  Last night in particular was rough.  I decided to indulge in some Marilyn Monroe, who I  happen to adore, and so I put on 'Bus Stop', a film that is largely considered one of her finest cinematic moments.  She personally considered it a film that legitimized her as a serious actress and so I was anticipating something special.  From the very first scene I knew that this was going to be a hot mess.


That name didn't mean much to me at the moment, since I recognized it but could place any actual performance with the name, but then he started speaking and I felt vomit and bile coming up from the depths of my stomach. 

Murray doesn't seem to have an off switch.  He doesn't even seem to have a lower speed.  He is a one note cowboy who merely screams from the films opening to the films closing (or like five minutes shy of closing).  His final moment with Monroe was touching and perfectly played, but until that point he's an obnoxious ball of energy that made my face literally cringe.  Honestly, the only thing I could think of while watching this movie was...



After the film concluded, Robert Osborn informed me that Murray received an OSCAR NOMINATION for this performance.  Now, seriously, HOW THE F*** DID THAT HAPPEN?  Really, this instantly lands on my list of one of the WORST Oscar nominated performances ever.  I'm just baffled that anyone, at the time or now, could consider this a good performance, let alone Oscar worthy.  I've seen some nominated performances that made me scratch my head, but this one takes the cake.  He's loud and abrasive and just plain stupid and his antics, while played with conviction, make him appear like the biggest idiot in film history.  The film's failure lies not only in Murray's terrible one-note performance but in the ridiculous scripting, which took an interesting premise and turned it into an eye-rolling tragedy.  Poor Monroe tries really hard to stretch herself here, and she nails the emotional layering of the character (her character is the most complex) but her accent grows more and more obvious as the film progresses and actually takes away from the impact she's making.


Yeah, I rather hated this film.

I read something interesting on IMDB about Virg and the idea that he could have been gay or bisexual and had a longing for Bo.  I actually support this in a way because of the very arguements presented by dmnemaine.  Sure, he's accused of trying to read too far into the film, but I think that anyone should be alloted that ability since film is made for personal interpretation.  The thing is, I noticed it while watching the film, before ever visiting the IMDB page.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Adaptations: The Sweet Hereafter




It's hard to write a review for the film and the film alone, for if you've read the brilliant novel they really mold into one amazing experience. Both the novel and the film add so many layers and compliment one another so well that I'm almost forced to advise everyone who has seen this film to read the novel and visa-versa. It's only in that way that you'll get the whole experience. That's not to say that either is incomplete but that each one is so well-rounded, so well fleshed out and so in tune that it's almost a continuation rather than an adaptation. I guess that kind of makes this a perfect vehicle for this particular series, since the whole point is to compare film to novel; and this is one where both are SO RIGHT.


First I want to point out that Atom Egoyan is a masterful director. This was the first film of his that I had seen and I was so impressed that I was moved to rush to the side of some of his other work. His style is so calm and relaxed; it perfectly fit the atmosphere of the story. Some have mentioned this being boring or slow paced. It's far from boring in my humble opinion, but the slow pacing is essential to the feel of the film. It helps you to get inside the aftermath of the tragedy by fully understanding the mindset of the town. If you've read the novel you'll understand better, for Banks' also was able to brilliantly capture that pure unsettling serenity with every page.

The story focuses around the small town of Sam Dent after a tragic bus accident leaves 14 children dead, the bus driver, Dolores Driscoll, and a 14 year old student Nichole being two of the only survivors. The film shifts its focus between a few key characters, Nichole, Mitchell (a lawyer) and Billy Ansel, a widower who lost his two children in the wreck. The story follows Mitchell as he tries to persuade the town's people to file a negligence suit against the town of Sam Dent. There are conflicting opinions in regard to the suit, to the money and to the accident as a whole and those opinions are fleshed out so well before us. Each of these human beings has so much history, so much baggage, yet Egoyan's superb film never gets bogged down. That is due in large part to his calm and tranquil pace.




For some novel and film comparisons...

To me the novel excels in really exposing Mitchell Stephens, for the man he really is. He's troubled by the wayward course his only daughter Zoe has taken and this affects his almost every move. It's almost as if he's fighting for her with every breath, every case, as if she was his only motive. I feel that film adaptation excels in really exposing Nichole's character. That's not to say that Banks doesn't breathe life into the soul he created, but Egoyan's film effortlessly makes her the star, giving her so much substance and character and really fleshing her out in all due subtlety to make her relatable and heartbreaking, the moral center of a tragic accident. The book brilliantly relates Dolores Driscoll's account of the accident as well as the post-accident life in the small town, her treatment by the town's people before and after.

Somewhere where the novel and the film seem to tie or at least both deliver valiantly is in the case of Billy Ansel, the Vietnam-War Vet widower who loved his kids more than anything, the man who was trailing behind the bus waving to his children when he lost his whole world with the sight of a crash. His story is heartbreaking. The book though really delivers with its final chapter, something that is not delved into with the film, and it adds a few more layers to both Ansel and Driscoll. But, speaking of finales, the film takes a different approach, centering more on Nichole's character, with the inclusion of the children's story `The Pied Piper of Hamelin'. This poem when analyzed really helps flesh out Nichole's character and delivers such a powerful finale I was literally in tears. So, this is why I can't help but recommend both in the same breath. They both add so much and deliver so well that you truly must read and then watch or watch and then read to grasp the magic in its entirety.

Some random movie stuff...

Alright, so this is the post where I can dump some thoughts I have on some recent movie related news.  I don't have much to say on either subject and so they don't really warrent their own posts, so let's just get on with it.

First up, for all you De Palma fans, a teaser trailer for his latest film 'Passion' is out.  The film is premiering at TIFF and so this is the official TIFF trailer for the film.  It looks steamy, that's for sure.  I'm not entirely sold, considering that I'm not a giant fan of anyone involved here.  The last thing I would call myself is a De Palma fan, but I do respect his approach and have really enjoyed some of his classic films, but he can veer on the trashy side at times and this certainly is ripe for that to happen.  McAdams has been supposed to 'happen' for a while now, and she just never has.  Rapace is new to this game.  I loved what she did in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' series and so I'm excited to see what she can do here, but there is something about the tone of her voice that doesn't read sexy to me.  I mean, it reads SEX, just not sexy.  I want to see this.  Some of my friends who have an objective view of De Palma say this looks like a return to form and like serious fun, so I'm game.



How about you?

Next up are these god-awful pictures from the set of that needless remake of De Palma's classic 'Carrie'.  LOL, how was that for a segue?  Anyways, I was very vocal before about my feelings on this happening, and these images don't instill any more confidence in me.  Seriously, why is this happening?  Moore looks particularly atrocious here.  She looks like a zombie, and that hair is as dull as the expression on her face.  She looks like she walked off the set of 'Blindness' and onto this one.  Sorry, two VERY different films.  Please tell me that they are making this a camp film (judging from Moretz picture, that could be the case) and maybe I'll be more excited.  I'd rather have them try to ruin it then ruin it accidentally.



And please stop trying to make that Chloe Moretz creature happen.

Oh, and then we have the poster for 'Lincoln'. 



I'm not really excited about this mainly because it sounds like it could be a tad boring, and Daniel Day-Lewis is maybe too right for the role, if that makes any sense.  There just doesn't seem to be much imagination here and usually, when a biopic is too obvious, it becomes stuffy and lifeless and dull.  Still, this poster is magnificent and really eye catching.  One thing this does tell me though is that the push for Day-Lewis come Oscar time is probably going to overshadow his co-stars.  I mean, this movie is apparently all about one thing, getting Day-Lewis another Oscar.  Sorry Sally, sorry Strathairn...I don't think you're happening this year.

And last but not least, apparently Martin Scorsese is getting sued.  I kind of LOL'd at this mainly because I have heard so much bitching over the fact that Scorsese has been sitting on this project for years now and finally apparently more important people are pissed about it too.  I have not read 'Silence' and really know nothing about it, but apparently the novel is amazing (I just ordered it from Amazon) and many cinephiles are aching for Scorsese to direct this.  Maybe this will push him to do so, although he has that boring sounding Wall Street DiCaprio project lined up next. 

Blah.

Crimes in Oscar Snubbery, Part II…


So, last year before the 2010 Oscar nominees were announced I posted a plea to get Leonardo DiCaprio a nomination for his stunning work in ‘Shutter Island’.  Obviously, I know that I have absolutely no pull whatsoever.  At that point I think I only had like five followers.  With twelve, I think my pull is about the same, and last year’s Oscar race is completely over so there is really no need for this entry other than to discuss something that happened to me last night and completely blew my mind.

 

Walking into ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, I was well aware that the film itself would have to work extra hard to earn my respect.  I don’t really care much for courtroom dramas, and I find Matthew McConaughey to be a really dull presence on screen.  I know that everyone swoons over him and talks about his ‘Southern Charm’, but I just don’t buy it.  On top of that, I just don’t find him to be a convincing actor.  I don’t see layers in his work; I merely see a lazy approach to telling the same character over and over.  There has been a lot of talk of the sudden upswing in his career, starting with this particular film and moving right on into his string of successful turns this year.  Much has been made of his Oscar chances for ‘Magic Mike’ and he’s getting career best notices for the savage drama ‘Killer Joe’.  Needless to say, I didn’t care much.  I have yet to see any of his films from this year and I wasn’t really anticipating them much to tell you the truth.  When I hear the name Matthew McConaughey I don’t expect much.

 

So, last night I settled in to catch up on my DVR recordings and I noticed that I had ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ on my DVR.  I didn’t record it, must have been the wife, but I wasn’t really in the mood to think and so I decided to give it a whirl, since I expected it to be ‘good’ at best and hardly something I’d feel compelled to dissect.

 

I have to learn to stop judging every book by its cover.


As a film, ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ is riveting and kept me glued throughout.  I was stunned.  The plot twists are engaging, and while the obviousness of the ‘villain’ is a little too on the nose from the start, it becomes an easily forgivable offence since they aren’t really interested in keeping his innocence ambiguous for very long.  The progression of the plot is well done and expertly paced by director Brad Furman, who holds onto the tension efficiently.  The final courtroom scene is pulse-racing for sure, and basically exemplifies everything that a courtroom drama should be.  In fact, I loved the fact that I never knew what Mick’s next move would be and why he was making it, but when it all fell into place it made perfect sense.

 

And that brings me to Mick, or should I say, Matthew McConaughey.  Why do I call this a case of Oscar snubbery?  I don’t know if I’d personally nominate him, considering that last year was ridiculously strong, but a very solid case can be made for McConaughey being a snub because this role is every bit a perfect one to garner a star their first Oscar nomination.  What McConaughey does here is actually quite remarkable, and I don’t say there merely because he took me by surprise or because I expected him to fail.  Any other actor in the role doing what he does would have garnered the same response from me.  I am not one to shy away from eating crow, and that is what I must do here.

 

Something that I have always accused Matthew of doing is giving us a surface performance, with no actual depth.  I understand that in the beginning of his career he tried the whole ‘soul searching drama’ stuff, and he did do ‘A Time to Kill’ and yet I didn’t care much for what he did in that film and so it doesn’t count for me.  I’ve never felt that he has ever gotten under the skin of the character much at all; until now.  As Mick Haller, McConaughey layers so much on this man it’s ridiculous.  In fact, the more I think about it the more stunned I am by the scope of his performance.  Mick is suave and under control and possesses that ‘Southern Charm’ and sheer confidence that makes him a firm presence in any room.  That is something that McConaughey should be able to handle in his sleep.  But it is the tiny layers of panic that ride through his face when no one is looking that took me by surprise.  Mick wasn’t just a stone, and as this ‘case’ took over his personal life and threatened him in the severest of ways, you saw those cracks.  McConaughey let us in to see the inner turmoil, but then batted an eyelash and firmed up his stance and delivered a ‘performance’ for the rest of the room that read otherwise.  Mick is a showman, and McConaughey mastered that aspect of his persona with ease.  The way he plays his part in the courtroom or the way he betrays his own panic by laying a threat of confidence out on his ‘client’ is compelling and 100% believable.  The anger that floods his motives is also stirring and he sells his biggest moments with such authenticity.  I appreciated that he never overacted here, and there was place for it.  Instead, he displayed an honest depiction of emotional outbursts that stayed true to the man he was portraying.

 

When all is said and done, Mick Haller may be human, but he is one cool cat.

 

So, I give this very high marks.  The film is intriguing and engrossing from start to finish.  It has the ability to veer into ‘television courtroom drama’ territory, as do a lot of films in this genre, and yet it pulls back with a glossy treatment and a plot that thickens rather well.  It’s more ‘CSI: Miami’ than ‘Law & Order’, but Matthew McConaughey delivers a star performance that puts David Caruso to shame.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Closer Look: 2010 Lead Actress


Alright, so next up in the Closer Look series is the 2010 Lead Actress Oscar race.  Yes, this is a recent one!  Now, before I get into tearing a few things apart, I want to say that Oscar really did a great job here.  This is a remarkable commendable lineup, even the performances that I’m not really in love with, and it is probably the strongest collective lineup that Oscar has turned out in quite a long while.  There is range in their selection that is nice to see, and even if I wasn’t completely sold on all of the performances considering that pool we had to choose from (I personally only nominate one and only two land in my top twelve) I still can’t help but appreciate the talent portrayed on the screen in all five of these performances.

 

So, here is the actual lineup:

 

Starting from the bottom of the pack, I’ll talk about Jennifer Lawrence for a minute.  I like her, I guess.  I mean, she’s turned in at least two performances that I was intrigued by (‘The Burning Plain’ and ‘Like Crazy’) and so I know that she has something there; a bit of an allure and some raw talent.  Sadly though, I don’t get the apparent ‘it girl’ status she’s adopted and she actually strikes me as somewhat dull and rehearsed in her big turn here.  She has moments of pitch perfect realism (look to the scene I chose for her picture above) but then there are more than a few scenes where the green-state of her ability shows through.  You can see her acting through the film, and so it took you out of the atmospheric vibes created otherwise.

 

Next we have the Oscar winner, Natalie Portman.  Before everyone goes all crazy and calls me an idiot for having this so low, know that the performance and the film have grown on me.  I don’t view it with the same apathetic view I had back upon my initial viewing.  Still, one cannot ignore the glaring obviousness of the whole thing.  Portman is a talented actress.  I’ve been a supporting of hers for years and have really enjoyed a lot of her work.  A glance over at the Fisti’s of the Aughts page and you’ll see that I nominate her twice last decade (for ‘Cold Mountain’ and ‘Closer’) and truly love those performances.  Still, for about two thirds of ‘Black Swan’ Portman basically plays Natalie Portman and then she goes crazy.  She sells crazy very well, but she also is rather one note here and so I can’t consider it the best in the bunch. 

 

I’ve stated before that I was not a huge fan of Annette Bening.  I like her, and I find some of her work (‘The Grifters’ and ‘Being Julia’ to be exact) to be rather remarkable, but other times I just find her too big for her own good.  In ‘The Kids are All Right’ she finds a beautiful subtlety that I didn’t expect.  I was totally shocked at how grounded this performance was, how real and believable it was.  Look at the rapport she builds with Julianne Moore.  I mean, the sharp quips, the longing eyes, the embittered remarks; they all add up to a relationship that feels ages old and completely lived in.  This is something that Portman didn’t do.  Bening builds a backstory without having to actually spell anything out for us.  Still, I actually preferred her co-star, Julianne.  Moore, found more layers of expression and was saddled with a more difficult role to actually get right, and she nailed it.  Still, I was rooting for Bening to win the Oscar, considering that the two best performances in the lineup were SOL in that department.

 

So, for me it really is all about Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman.  They have the heaviest roles, emotionally.  Williams is selling us on the deterioration of her marriage and Kidman has to tackle the harsh reality of a woman who has lost her child.  Both performances are so internalized and heartfelt.  When they breakdown, we breakdown because we feel that emotion.  Kidman understands the importance of layering her despair with an aggression and bitterness that makes her feel real.  The loss of a child is heartbreaking, soul-wrecking even and you can see the way she shies away from those around her because they simply cannot understand that pain.  Thankfully, Kidman really understands how to convey it.  Williams takes us a little deeper, maybe because it is slightly easier to convey the pain associated with a relationship than that associated with the death of a child.  Nevertheless, it is Michelle’s performance that stays with me longer than any other from Oscar’s lineup.  What struck me so much was the intimate nature with which Michelle painted her every scene.  There were times where I actually felt intrusive while watching it, like I was imposing on her actual life.

 

So, to be clear:

1)      Williams

2)      Kidman

3)      Bening

4)      Portman

5)      Lawrence

 

So, now we get into their careers thus-far.  It’s easier this go around since I’m pretty familiar with all of these actresses.

 

Should I start at the top or the bottom?

 

Let’s talk about Nicole Kidman.  My god, she was something, wasn’t she?  I mean, her early career was astonishing, and her string of hits toward the mid-late 90’s was exceptional.  I’ll never forget her deft comedic timing in ‘To Die For’, a film that solidified Kidman as one to watch for.  The way she carved such a strong and malicious young woman, keeping an evil eye and yet always keeping up with the comedic tones was exceptional.  She kept up that consistency for years, delivering ‘Portrait of a Lady’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Moulin Rouge!’ and ‘The Others’ showing immense range of talent along the way.  Then she fell, and continued to fall.  Kidman is one of those rare breeds of actress who handed us so many fantastic performances but never failed to hands us a slew of shittier ones.  I mean, what happened to her and why in the world did she agree to do films like ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘Bewitched’.  All her remakes were certainly ill-advised and she definitely paved the way for other actresses like Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts to dethrone her as the queen of quality.  Still, her early work is undeniable, and her work in ‘Rabbit Hole’ proves that she still has the ability to give us something stunning.

 

I’ve said what I have to say about Bening here.  I don’t know if I can really add anything to that.

 

Portman, like I said, is an actress I’ve supported for a long time.  She has this undeniable spunk and natural awkwardness that I kind of adore, but she also knows how to strip that away and give us something so removed from herself.  Her work in ‘Closer’ was remarkably deep, full of a quiet fierceness that takes the audience by storm.  She’s built a nice career for herself, working with a slew of notable directors (Minghella, Burton, Nichols, Aronofsky, Kar Wai, Malick on the horizon) and she’s dipped her toe in mainstream films, romantic comedies, action flicks and Oscar caliber dramas.  She doesn’t always hit (her work in ‘Star Wars’ was embarrassing, and her string of sub-par dramedies in the early aughts were unfortunate) but she has proven she has the chops worthy of her success.

 

Lawrence is a newbie and so the true extent of her talent is yet to be seen.  I think she sells better her smaller roles, where she doesn’t have too much screen time in order to show her glaring flaws as an actress.  Her work in ‘Like Crazy’ was short and sweet and truly memorable, but like I mentioned, her Oscar nominated work here shows that she has a lot of growing yet to do.  Her work in ‘First Class’ was bland and while I thought she was good in ‘The Beaver’, her character was unnecessary and her final speech was horribly sold.  Still, she is helming a huge franchise now and is getting plum roles let and right, so I’m sure she’ll make time to prove her worth to me eventually.

 

And then we have Michelle Williams.  I love this woman.  I really think she is poised to be one of the greatest actresses of all time one of these days.  In fact, what she is doing now is establishing a resume that is reminiscent of early Winslet and Kidman; varied and wholly engaging.  Her Oscar nominated performances are all compelling, and she understands how to expose vulnerability remarkably well.  She uses her features (especially those eyes) to full effect and knows how to layer her nuanced approach in such a way that she never has to dramatize anything, for her eyes and her face do that for us.  That said, with as much as I love her recent work, I haven’t seen anything she’s done pre-‘Brokeback Mountain’.  I can’t believe it myself, but looking over her IMDB page I see that eight of her films.  So, with the talent she possesses I firmly believe that in a few years she’ll be one of my favorites of all time, but right now I’ll just say that she’s one of the best working today.

 

So, I’ll clear up this mess:

 

1)      Kidman

2)      Williams

3)      Bening

4)      Portman

5)      Lawrence

 

And, because I just posted ALL of the acting nominees on my 2010 Fisti page, here is my lineup for 2010.

Gene Kelly turns 100 today!



Hurry!  Turn on TCM!!!  They are having a 24 hour marathon in remembrance of Gene Kelly and we all must devote today to viewing it!  Yes, today would have been the 100th birthday of the legendary performer, and sadly I don’t think I’m the only one who is staggeringly UNDER-educated in his filmography.  Of all his films, I’ve only seen four.  Can you believe that?  Granted, the four that I’ve seen (‘An American in Paris’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Les Girls’ and ‘What a Way to Go’) are great films and all offer up great Kelly performances, but he was in so many classics and I’m ashamed to not have seen them.  So, my DVR is set to cement Kelly in my memory forever.  What film should I be most excited about seeing?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Movie Questionnaire

I love these things.  I mean, anything like this is just a blast.  Ask me anything and I'll give you an answer.  Yes, I'm one of those retarded people who fills out those 100 question forwards that all your 'friends without lives' send you once a month and even though it is the SAME BATCH OF QUESTIONS EVERY MONTH, I still have a blast filling it out.  So, I stumbled across Cinematic Reviews doing one of these on their blog and they requested that we all post our answers on our personal blogs as well, so I encourage you to do this!

Here are my answers:

1. What’s your favorite movie?
Jules et Jim

2. Least favorite movie?
LOL, like...I have no idea.  Blood Diamond comes instantly to mind and yet, is that really the worst movie I've ever seen?  Probably not.  It has to be something with Adam Sandler, like Little Nicky and yet I really want to say Gran Torino just for the shock value.  Ew, maybe Evita.

3. Name one movie you loved upon initial viewing but eventually grew to hate (or vice-versa).
This happens a lot, right.  I'm going to go with GoodFellas on this, mainly because when I first saw it I didn't hate it but I thought it was highly overrated and then I saw it again and was completely entranced. 

4. Name your biggest “guilty pleasure” film.
Wild Things, easy!

5. Favorite quote from a favorite actor/actress (must be a line from a movie)?
"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." - Russell Crowe/Gladiator

6. Favorite quote from a favorite actor/actress (must NOT be a line from a movie)?
"The most repulsive thing you could ever imagine is the inside of a camel's mouth. That and watching a girl eat octopus or squid." - Marlon Brando (but really, he's a bounty and I could have easily went with one of like fifteen other quotes from him)

7. Three favorite movie scenes?
Library love scene / Atonement
Dance scene / Band of Outsiders
Opening scene / Inglourious Basterds

8. Four films that should NOT have won Best Picture?
LOL, like...90% of them.

For the sake of this questionnaire I'll go with The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Braveheart & Rocky.

9. Top five of the year (currently)?
Bullhead (I'm counting this as a 2011 release because it was nominated for an Oscar, but it is technically a 2012 release)
Brave
Declaration of War
The Dark Knight Rises
Michael

10. Bottom three of the year (currently)?
Big Miracle
Brave (this is on both lists because I haven't seen enough from this year, sadly)
Mirror Mirror

11. What film gets your vote for the worst or most pointless remake?
Gus van Sant’s Psycho

12. Is there any film you think is actually desperate for a remake?
Hitchcock's Stranger's on a Train would get my vote.

13. Name your three favorite film heroes.
Can I just say Angelina Jolie, since that's like all she's good for these days?  Eh, how about John McClane, Batman and Indiana Jones.

14. Name your three favorite film villains.
Norman Bates, Patrick Bateman and Darth Vader

15. Best sequel?
The Godfather Part II, without question; right?  I mean, I don't know if you can really say that 'In the Mood for Love' is a direct sequel...can you?

16. Worst sequel?
LOL, um...Quantum of Solace for the sheer fact that Casino Royale was SOOOOOOOOOO good.

17. Best trilogy?
Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, at the moment.  I mean, Wong Kar Wai's marvelous Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love & 2046.

18. Worst trilogy?
Usually, if the first two suck I don't watch the third, but I have seen all three Focker movies and yes, it is a terrible collection of repetative crap...and I actually really liked the original.

19. What’s your favorite word to use in a movie review (if your film blog does not feature reviews, substitute “review” with “-related post”?)
Masterclass.  I don't use it often, but when I do it's because I really, REALLY mean it.

20. Anything else?
Yeah, this is too vague for me.  But is it?  Can I think of ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?  How about my favorite film decade...which is the 60's, easily!  Oh, and Jean-Luc Godard is GOD.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let's review something: Wild is the Wind


‘Wild is the Wind’ was an unexpected delight for me.  I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get.  I’m not entirely familiar with Anna Magnani as an actress, and while I have really liked Anthony Quinn I never truly got into his work.  That, and the fact that this is somewhat of a Western had me standoffish to say the least, but I wanted to see it for the mere fact that both Magnani and Quinn were up for Oscars in 1957, and their performances have been raved on every film site I frequent.

I love this movie.

Powerful in its sheer subtlety, ‘Wild is the Wind’ tells the story about the conflicting worlds of two people drawn together by tragedy and convenience and the inability to compromise.  Gino is a widower who is still grieving the loss of his wife.  In an attempt to find a slice of normalcy and just move forward with his life, he marries his late wife’s sister, Giola.  Giola is a very spirited woman who just wants to find someone who loves her deeply, but her persona is sharply contrasted by that of Gino, who is controlling and regimented and rough around his edges.  They clash, routinely, and their relationship begins to spiral further out as Giola catches the eye of Gino’s ranch hand Bene.  Bene happens to be very close to Gino and is assumed to marry Gino’s daughter Angie one day, but Bene has fallen in love with Giola and Giola with him. 



With depth and restraint, Cukor directs this beautiful story with so much heart and authenticity.  The intricacies of marriage are given a sharp underlining as Cukor uncovers so many details that make this story in particular so engaging.  These two people are so different in their approach to life and love that they can’t help but butt-heads but as Giola notes herself, the intentions are good.  They just don’t understand one another, and sadly they are unwilling to meet each other half way.  I particularly loved the film’s conclusion because, for me, it highlighted the beauty of love and companionship by allowing these two opposites to grasp the culpability that they themselves must account for, without devastating the core of the film in the process. 



The performances by Magnani and Quinn are epic in themselves and really convey so much inner emotion and prove to be highlights of acting.  Magnani in particular is outstanding, and the complexity she brings to her character’s emotional troubles is sensational.  Quinn dwells in his character with such bridled intensity and then explodes in his confrontation scene with dynamic energy.



For me, this is one of the best films of 1957, the same year that sported some true stunners.  It is an unexpected triumph, one that many may pass over with a mere shrug, but it should be seen.  Sadly, it’s a hard film to get a hold of, but if you can snatch it up then I urge you to do so!

Fisti Awards Update

Well, I've finally finished the 1990 Fisti Awards.  They are all there waiting for your consideration.  Feel free to browse over them and comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, August 20, 2012

More issues on the Gatsby front.

I totally understand that this film may be a giant mess, and most movie watchers are kind of expecting it to be just that, but I was really, really looking forward to this.  Moving it to next year was a sore spot for me, because I basically planned my entire Christmas around the release of the film.  So, now there are more issues noted.  Apparently Baz needs more money and he's not getting it unless he raises it himself.  JUST LET HIM MAKE THE DAMN MOVIE PLEASE!  If this gets scrapped 'Margaret' style and it takes like six years for me to see this I'm gonna be pissed.  This day is making me angry.

'An Education' on falling in 'Love in the Afternoon'


In 2009 my world was opened up to the amazing Carey Mulligan, and for that I will always be grateful.  The young actress is one of the greatest finds in recent years and would probably rank as my favorite individual ‘breakthrough’ of the aughts, and that is saying a lot considering that it is the same decade that gave us Marion Cotillard, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley (Scarlett Johansson and Peter Sarsgaard don’t count since they had big breaks at the end of the 90’s).  Yes, Carey Mulligan is one of the most versatile and completely compelling actresses working today.  No matter what film she’s in, my eyes are always drawn to her. 



She is magnificent.



Back in 2009, when she was blazing the awards trail with her impeccable Oscar nominated turn in ‘An Education’ there was a lot of comparisons being made to Mulligan being the next Audrey Hepburn.  Hepburn’s Oscar winning performance in ‘Roman Holiday’ was being mentioned left and right as a good indicator of Mulligan’s own chances at the gold.  Sadly, despite deserving it by a ridiculous margin over the other nominated performances, Mulligan lost out to Sandra Bullock on Oscar night.  That being said, those Hepburn comparisons never faded.



Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of ‘Roman Holiday’ or Hepburn’s performance in the film.  I actually find it one note and uninteresting and feel that the only redeemable aspect of the film is Gregory Peck’s surprisingly fluid performance (he could be so stiff).  So, needless to say, I didn’t get nor approve of the comparison.  I don’t want this to come off wrong, and so I feel the need to clarify right now that I am a gigantic fan of Audrey Hepburn and always have been.  My feelings on that particular film and performance are not reflective of my overall feelings on the actress herself.  I have always found her endearing and compelling and I could see why someone may compare her screen presence to the luminous Mulligan (although, I will also add that Mulligan has shown a range that Hepburn never truly found) and so it wasn’t that part that I disagreed with, it was the particular film performance being noted that I found questionable.



The other night I happened to stumble across a Hepburn film I had yet to see.  It was directed by Billy Wilder (a director I worship) and so I decided to give it a go.  What happened next was a revelatory experience of sorts that completely took me by surprise.  I fell even deeper in love with Audrey Hepburn and began to see what all this ‘Hepburn/Mulligan’ talk was all about.



Why couldn’t Hepburn have won her Oscar for ‘Love in the Afternoon’?



In fact, the film itself and her performance within it are so similar in depth and scope and construction to that of Mulligan and her big breakout film, ‘An Education’ that I’m surprised people were going to ‘Roman Holiday’ with their comparisons back in 2009.  What Hepburn and Mulligan do with their work in these respective films is glorious.  The way that both Hepburn and Mulligan captured the naivety and childlike curiosity of their young characters in love with the wrong type of man was stunning to watch.  Hepburn’s infatuation with the dangerous (and much older) Gary Cooper was so believable and so engaging.  The way she flirted in such an innocent and unknowing manner; you could completely understand why Gary Cooper’s womanizer was smitten to the point of instability.  Mulligan also used this technique to rope in her audience, as well as the aggressive pursuit of Peter Sarsgaard’s creep of a suitor.  Her eye contact with the audience was crucial because she said so much with her face.  The way that smitten, love-sick captivity floats all over their being is beautifully tailored to the direction the film is taking and the way that they grasp their character’s own advancement in maturity as the film progresses is rich with subtle authenticity.



Anyways, a long story short; I love these two performances and the movies they enliven.  These are two star turns that make a serious impact and show such depth in restraint as these two luminous creatures create real young women lost in the trance of love yet shaken by the realities of life.