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:
- 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…
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.
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).
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?
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…