Tag Archive: brad pitt


‘Allied’

 

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The fantastic hypothetical, ‘What would you do if you had to kill your spouse as a matter of national security?’ is the basis of Allied, the new Robert Zemeckis film that opened this week.

Two of the world’s beautiful people, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, star as the potentially doomed couple in a film that right away goes all in to its connection to Casablanca.  Playing a pair of World War II spies, the story starts in a slow burn as we’re drawn into the world these two inhabit, before the hammer of the hypothetical question is given to Brad Pitt’s character.  I’m not the first to say this, but in the special effects everything era, a story that is as good as this one is at one upping the dramatic tension for so long is welcome.  The answer to whether Marion Cotillard’s character is a double agent…I won’t spoil it for you.  I will say her ‘block’, as the beautiful woman who seems like she would randomly stab you in the chest in your sleep, she still owns that corner.  Talia Al’Ghul forever.

Don’t know how much ‘awards strategy’ is behind the release date, but either way this was a good one.

Alright, let’s look at the biggie:

Best Picture

  • Who I Want to Win: Hm.  Good movies this year, but nothing that feels like ‘I’ll stop whatever I’m doing when this comes on cable next year’.  I’d say ‘Moneyball’ but now I want to pull a ‘reverse jaded’ move (yep, made that word up) since Pitt was there after the screening to charm us up.  So let’s say ‘Hugo.’
  • Who Should Win:  To steal a phrase I’ve heard Bill Simmons say, ‘When we look back at the past 12 months, what’s the movie historically that we’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that was what happened in 2011?’  And the answer is ‘The Artist’, right?
  • Who Will Win: Yep, ‘the Artist’.

Last note for the weekend, you can expect the rare weekend post from me since it’s going to be Oscar Sunday.  I talked to my partner in crime today, and he’s down, so at the moment we plan to do one of our Martin & Lewis style, ArtFradieu live running commentaries of the show Sunday.  Hopefully the All-Star Game will be over by then!

Anyway, for some politically incorrect, bridge burning comedy, come back Sunday night!

 

And now, let’s talk about the gents…

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Who I Want to Win: The film is earning its own cult, but Nick Nolte was the heart of Warrior, and turned in one of his better performances.
  • Who Should Win: One of the rare times where who I want to win is I think should win.
  • Who Will Win: Sadly I don’t have an actual vote, so Nolte might win, but I also know there’s a lot of sentiment for Christopher Plummer in ‘Beginners’.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  •  Who I Want to Win: I made my loyalties clear early, but if anyone was due for a ‘Sorry, you should have had one of these years ago’ Oscar, it’s Gary Oldman.
  • Who Should Win:  I’m fans of Clooney and Pitt, but Jean Dujuardin drove him the thesis ‘which I believe’ that what makes cinema special is that it’s a visual medium.   This is extremely film snobbish of me to say, but you should be able to watch any (narrative) film on mute, and have a general idea of what’s going on at all times.  Another debate for another day…
  • Who Will Win:  I wouldn’t be surprised by any of these guys winning, but I’ll stick with Dujuardin.

We’ll go into the weekend with the Best Picture predictions manana…

 

Moneyball

As far as book to film translations go, Moneyball is an entertaining movie that keeps the spirit of the book.  ‘How does a small market team compete/win in the imbalanced world of modern baseball?’  Brad Pitt produces and stars as Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s GM who ‘revolutionized’ the game by incorporating new math formulas into figuring out how to build a good baseball team for little to no money.

Now, that plot description is not remotely cinematic; what the film does well is frame the story as a forward thinking man (Beane and his mathematical genius sidekick played by a still portly Jonah Hill) who comes up against friction at every turn.  The old school scouts whose years of expertise are being thrown out; the players who have been conditioned to believe they’re washed up, Beane’s own self doubt at knowing this is his ‘last chance’ to make something of himself.  I’m enough of a sports fan to know (SPOILER ALERT) the Oakland Athletics haven’t won a World Series in this timeframe.  I won’t ruin where the film ends, but I thought it was satisfying.

So does that make it a good film?  It is.  But like making a crime film, the bar is impossibly high for what makes a ‘great sports film’.  During the Q&A after the screening I attended, someone asked the filmmakers how they felt their baseball film stacked up against Field of Dreams or 61*.  Whether you feel the question was a little rude or not, the filmmakers said they only focused on making the film they were making (good answer).  And the film they made was entertaining.

Megamind

 

Wisely getting a headstart before Harry Potter takes over in a couple weeks, Megamind is actually not a bad family film.  While not as deep and three dimensional as any of the Pixar films, it’s still an enjoyable hour and a half for adults and kids alike.  Starting with the premise, “What would happen if the villain actually killed the hero?”, Megamind has fun with the ideas of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ without ever making you feel like you’re in some deep theological debate.  Featuring the voices of Will Farrell (a good rebound after Land of the Lost), Tina Fey (solid as always), and Brad Pitt (on cruise control, but I don’t mean that as an insult), I don’t know if Megamind will do gangbusters numbers, but it should do well.  There’s alot of in-references to Superman, both the hero’s mythology in general and the great movie that kicked off the superhero genre back in the late 70s.  I did some research after I got home and found out the movie had even more references to comic book heroes that went way over my head.

The cynical side to me says the only thing that matters with this film is “Did it do well enough to earn a sequel?”  The early numbers suggest maybe so, but whether it does or not, I think this film is enjoyable enough if you have little ones.  Didn’t see it in 3D, so I don’t know if that enhances the experience (I highly doubt it).

Inglorious Basterds

 

This one’s been out for a minute, but with the Oscars next weekend I made a point to check out Inglorious Basterds tonight.  I’m not a Tarantino fanboy, but as a film fanatic that man’s craftmanship cannot be denied.  The two Kill Bill movies are still two of my favorites of the past ten years.  I’ve heard a few references to Basterds being Tarantino’s best film…I don’t know about that, but it might be his definitive film.

Like I said, not a fanboy, but one thing I’ll give the man is that he’s created his own motifs over his career that you recognize no matter what story he’s telling: Samuel L. Jackson cameo, feet closeups, a cringe-worthy use of the word n!gger (spoken by Joseph Goebbels no less!), and fantastic, fantastic dialogue sequences.  As flat out silly as this film is in premise (is there such a thing as Jewspoitation?), there are some great scenes of dramatic tension and throwaway dialogue that will (sadly) inspire more copycats and second rate storytellers who will try to mimic his style moreso than create their own.

Christoph Waltz was fantastic.  He looks to be the favorite to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and he wouldn’t be the most unworthy winner.  Not that I expect him to be anything like the character he played, but he certainly made playing the Nazi looked like fun!  I think Tarantino knows this isn’t his year as far as Best Director or Best Picture goes, but give the devil his due, when people complain there aren’t enough ‘entertaining’ movies being made these days, you certainly can’t blame him, can you?

State of Play

 

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Thrillers are one of my favorite genres, bar none. The ‘newsroom thriller’ has provided some great films over the years (most notably All The President’s Men).  I read Roger Ebert’s review of this film; he thinks newspaper thrillers will continue, even if the newspaper itself dies off in the next couple of years.  I disagree on both points, but I’m guessing you want my opinion of this movie, so away we go…

The setup for this story is a pretty girl who just happened to work in the office of a young and upcoming Senator (played well by Ben Affleck) is murdered in the DC subway system.  It’s soon revealed the Senator was having an affair with the girl, and his best friend Cal (played by Russell Crowe) is constantly dancing on the line between being the Senator’s friend, and a top notch investigative reporter for the Washington Globe.  The cast is filled out by Robin Wright Penn as the Senator’s wife, Rachel McAdams as the cute blogger who represents the next wave of journalism, and Helen Mirren as the editor of the newspaper.

I’ll spare you more of the plot for two reasons.  One, it’s a thriller, and the who/what/why is the reason you go to see movies like this.  Secondly though, in my opinion, this is one of those movies that had one twist too many, so by the end, while the story was well told and I had all the facts, I was still trying to piece together who was playing who.  The easy answer is, well that’s DC politics (and it is I’m sure), but for entertainment purposes I think they could have simplified it a little.

The casting was solid from top on down.  I heard Brad Pitt was the original lead; it’s hard for me to imagine him in this role (and I’m a Pitt fan for the most part).  One person I didn’t mention in my cast rundown: Jason Bateman.  It gives none of the story away to say that, again, he steals scenes like he was born to do it.  Dodgeball, Hancock, and I’m sure I’m leaving more films out, but you want to talk about carving a niche for yourself and running with it.  I think Fred Willard is the only one who does it better than him.

Anyway, don’t let my complaints turn you completely off.  Overall I thought it was a pretty solid flick.  Not a bad way at all to kick off what’s looking like a busy summer for your neighborhood film geek…

Best Actor

 

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Here are the nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture:

  • Richard Jenkins in ‘The Visitor’
  • Frank Langella in ‘Frost/Nixon’
  • Sean Penn in ‘Milk’
  • Brad Pitt in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’
  • Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler’

What Could Happen:  This is probably, probably a two man race.  Sean Penn has won quite a few awards for his performance as Harvey Milk, and he’s won an Oscar in recent memory (Mystic River, probably my favorite Clint Eastwood film).  In the other corner is Mickey Rourke, this year’s ‘feel good/comeback’ story, for his performance in The Wrestler.  Another performance I enjoyed immensely by the way.  The irony in this category though…

What Should Happen:  is my favorite Lead Actor performance listed here is the one put in by Frank Langella playing Richard Nixon.  Frost/Nixon wasn’t a film I was dying to see, but once I got into it, I was immediately drawn in by Langella’s performance.  He’s already won a Tony for playing the same role, but that shouldn’t take away from how well he transitioned his performance from stage to screen. 

Who I’m Cheering For:  I’m sure I’m one of many who wouldn’t mind seeing a win from Penn, Langella, or Rourke.  Penn proved (again) how he can disappear into a character and make it his own; Langella took one of the most unpopular Presidents in American history, and made him a sympathetic flawed human being; and Rourke famously drew from his own career missteps to portray a past his glory days legend trying to stay relevant in a young man’s game.  If I have to choose among the three, I’ll roll with Penn.  From the outside looking in, the character he played seems the least like ‘Sean Penn’ or the characters I normally associate with him (i.e. super machismo man’s man).

 

 

My Golden Globe Pics

 

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Alright gang, the Globes is this weekend, and as you can probably guess, I’ve seen almost every nominated film and performance.  Here are my picks for the film categories:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy or Musical

I could make a case for Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia (the biggest hit) or Emma Thompson in Last Chance Harvey  (solid as always), but I’m going with Frances McDormand in Burn After Reading.  With Clooney, Pitt, and Malkovich all hamming it up, McDormand brought the comedy more through mannerisms and behavior than over the top theatrics.  Well played.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical

Not even his best work this year in my opinion, but I’m going with James Franco in Pineapple Express.  I’ve said this before, but at a pretty young age he’s shown a) range, b) he takes his craft seriously, and c) no real love affair with being a ‘celebrity.’  My kind of actor.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

If this were the People’s Choice Awards I’d easily choose Mamma Mia, but instead I’m taking Burn After Reading.  A tightly written genre piece by the Coen brothers, that’s pedigree enough without the all star cast. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

At this point, we know Penelope Cruz can be more than a pretty face.  Doubt is a good movie, but I keep hearing it’s better on the stage where it originated.  Call me biased, but I say Kate Winslet for the Reader.  With all due respect to the other four actresses in this category (and I admire and respect all of them, they were great), I feel with some rewriting Kate Winslet could play the characters that they’re nominated for.  But watch the Reader, no one else on this list could play that role but Winslet.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

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I think you and I are destined to do this forever.  (sigh…)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jolie, Streep, Winslet…there are some heavyweights in this category.  I’d cast my vote for Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married.  She’s been around so I don’t want to use the word ‘breakthrough’, but she definitely wasn’t playing the glamour girl in this role.  The Globes are more of the ‘feel good’ awards, and the timing would be perfect.  Speaking of feel good…

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Frank Langella is my dark horse here for Frost/Nixon, and in my opinion, Sean Penn as Harvey Milk was the best performance of the year.  But this is a ‘who I think will win’ column, and all signs point to Mickey Rourke for the Wrestler.  I didn’t bring as much of his past into the theatre with me as most people, but I still thought it was a great performance.  Now I’m hearing he’ll co-star in Iron Man 2.  Got to love Hollywood…

Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Motion Picture – Drama

If you want to see a fun, politics free, well crafted movie, Slumdog Millionaire is the way to go.  Written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Danny Boyle, Slumdog is way, WAY lighter than its competition (Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, Reader, Revolutionary Road).  And the way things are in the real world right now, that lightness is the perfect tonic.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is nominated for several Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay, Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director (for David Fincher), and Best Actor (Brad Pitt).  With that pedigree, you can rest assured Benjamin Button is one of the surefire Oscar picks for this year.  The story is about an ‘odd’ man named Benjamin Button who ages in reverse; he’s born as a withered newborn and regresses into youth.  The effects are impressive, but I’ll focus on the performances:

Taraji P. Henson: Playing Benjamin’s adoptive mother Queenie, Taraji (hopefully) is starting to get some of the crossover respect she rightfully deserves.  She was named one of Variety’s “10 Actors to Watch” this year, but if you’ve seen Baby Boy, Talk to Me, or Hustle and Flow to name a few, you’ve known for awhile the sister can act.  She hasn’t had a true ‘headliner’ role just yet, but somebody smart will give her the chance.

Cate Blanchett: She’s already got an Oscar to back it up, but a quick recap of her recent roles, shall we?  A convincing Katherine Hepburn (the Aviator), a convincing Bob Dylan (I’m Not There), and in this film she goes from playing a young ballerina in her 20s to a dying woman on her deathbed, with all the various ages in between.  I’m personally more of a Kate Winslet fan, but this woman right here is why Kate doesn’t have an Oscar.  For my money I’d say she’s the most talented actor in the game right now, male or female.

Brad Pitt:  More than ever, I’d say to succeed in this Industry you have to know how to play to your strengths and know your ‘brand’ (this message brought to you by malikaziz.com).  Is Brad Pitt one of the best actors in the game today?  Eh…  Is he one of, if not the best movie star in the world today?  Well, you tell me.  Paparazzi target?  (Check.)  Movie star girlfriend? (Check.)  ‘Good guy’ image? (Check.)  In Benjamin Button, Pitt plays the title character as more of an observer to his life instead of a catalyst.  He uses a slight Southern accent, but not strong enough to be distracting.  Can Brad play over the top?  Sure (the slightly underrated Snatch, Exhibit A.)  But playing to his strengths means playing to his looks and not trying to do too much.  I don’t know if he was the Best Actor of 2008, but I won’t complain too loud if he does end up winning. 

The movie runs 3 hours, and was written by the same guy who wrote Forrest Gump.  As I was watching this, that movie came to mind more than a few times.  If you’re looking for a traditional ‘David Fincher’ film (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac), um, you might want to sit this one out.  But it’s a nice family film, a decent holiday film. When Hollywood does big budget right.  Overall, PROPS for this one from me.