Tag Archive: globes 2012


Some quick thoughts on this morning’s nominations…

Best Picture – 9 films, wow.  I called 6.  Extremely Loud and War Horse haven’t been on my ‘must see’ list, but now I feel obligated…

Best Actor – Gary Oldman, it’s about damn time!!!!! (yes I’m biased, been a fan for decades before he played Commissioner Gordon).

Best Actress – The Globes have made this more interesting than we thought it would be. Viola or Streep?  I guess we’ll see…

Best Supporting Actor – Very eclectic list, I just got around to seeing Warrior last week so it’s nice to see people remembered this movie and Nick Nolte.

Best Supporting Actress – Pleasantly surprised for Melissa McCarthy, she really did steal Bridesmaids out from under a great cast of comediennes.

Best Director – What a list!!!!  And the crazy thing is the favorite is the only name who’s not already a Hall of Famer!

Best Screenplay – Combining the two categories to ask the question, will Woody show up for a group of his most loyal fans?

Actual predictions coming as we get closer…

J. Edgar

 

I heard a lot of mild criticism when J. Edgar came out so I didn’t have my hopes real high when I finally got a chance to see it.  It’s not a bad film by any means, but against the best work of either Clint Eastwood or Leonardo DiCaprio, this film definitely falls into both men’s second tier.

The film tells the story of the rise of the F.B.I. and its controversial figurehead, J. Edgar Hoover.  This film isn’t an action flick by any stretch, so the sections about the Bureau (like the Lindbergh case) aren’t dramatically interesting until a third act revelation.  Like most character studies, this film revolves around the relationship the main character has with others.  In this case it’s Hoover’s relationship with his mother (an icy Judi Dench), and his ‘right hand man’ at the Bureau (played by Armie Hammer).  The real Hoover was supposedly a closeted homosexual, and where Eastwood’s film really shines is in exploring both why J. Edgar was repressed in his sexuality and even more telling, how living a secret life possibly opened the door to an obsession with other people’s secrets.  If you want to go all the way with it, does selling the world on one big lie make it easier to sell others (including yourself) on a hundred other smaller lies over the course of a lifetime?  It’s an interesting thought.

You can add me to the chorus of those who think Leo was miscast in this role, but can’t say it was a bad business decision.  Even with Clint’s pedigree, I doubt Warners would have signed off on Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the title character (but that would have been something!)

 

Hugo

 

I went into Hugo with literally no expectations.  It was a Scorsese picture, but definitely not a typical “Martin Scorsese’ picture.  It’s a 3D film (bleh) but Hugo is a complete family film (by far the best use for that technology in my opinion).  I came out of Hugo not overwhelmed, but pleasantly surprised that the film I thought I walked into 5 minutes in, morphed into something more ambitious by the time I walked out.

An orphan boy lives in a train station and keeps the clocks tuned.  He’s constantly at odds and on the run from a local shopkeeper (played by Ben Kingsley) who accuses him of theft, and a beat cop (played with subtle humor by Sasha Baron Cohen) whose trying to send him straight to the orphanage.  The story of how these various men (and others) relate to and are connected to each other is charming, and another tribute to the master storytelling ability of Scorsese.  Like any of us have doubted that ability for the past 30 years!

Without giving away the plot points that I didn’t know about walking in, I will say it’s interesting to wonder if this is the direction Scorsese may be going next.  The Departed got him his Oscar but to me that’s not even among his top 3 crime films; recently he’s done more documentaries which are nice change of pace pieces.  Is ‘Marty’ going to take a cue from his buddy DeNiro and start doing more family friendly fare?  Hmm, don’t know how I feel about that but I guess we’ll see.

Regardless Hugo is a nice film that at the moment seems to be stuck in a year (or an awards season at least) of several high quality films.  I guess we’ll see where it lands…

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.

The Artist

I’ll say this upfront; I won’t be remotely surprised if this wins Best Picture next year.  It’s not exactly a genre, but Hollywood loves a well done film about ‘the making of Hollywood’. Sunset Boulevard, Singin in the Rain, and the list goes on.  “The Artist” makes fairly direct references to these and other films. That’s not meant to be a slight at all; this film is probably the most charming movie I’ve seen since Slumdog Millionaire.

Released as a black and white film, and driven by a great sound design, “The Artist” tracks the end of the silent film era and the birth of ‘the talkies’ through its two main characters: the Douglas Fairbanks-esque George Valentin, and up and coming starlet Peppy Miller.  The love story of the film is fairly straight forward; the appeal of ‘The Artist’ comes from three great performances (yes, I’m including the scene stealing dog), a good concept, and exceptional execution.  The fact that it was made by a French director doesn’t hurt either.  Again, not a crack, just saying that it adds to the film’s ‘exotic/outsider’ appeal.

This one was fun to watch, I’m sure we’ll be talking about this one again in a couple of months…

In various interviews, I’ve heard George Clooney say that his attraction to this project was in playing a character who didn’t have all the answers.  The main character of ‘The Descendants’ is the anti-Danny Ocean so to speak.  It’s a fine line for Clooney to walk on professionally; most actors will get jaded or resentful when they’re asked to play the same type of character over and over again; but being a ‘movie star’ is selling the audience on a ‘brand’, a persona that they know they’re getting no matter what movie you’re in or what story is being told (see Smith, Will).

George Clooney is the acting community’s movie star (see what I did there?) because he makes choices like this.  In this case, playing a character who’s borderline unsympathetic.  By Matt King’s own admission, he’s the ‘understudy’ parent.  His wife has been having an affair and apparently Matt is the only one who is completely in the dark about it.  His father in law doesn’t hide his disdain for him, blaming Matt for an accident to his ‘perfect and loyal’ daughter.  The strength of Clooney’s performance in this film is in how with all of this thrown at him, you still do root for the guy.  This isn’t a revenge or ‘overcoming the odds’ story.

In a film that takes its laid back tone from its Hawaiian backdrop, Matt King has several opportunities to ‘get back’ at those who have wronged him.  But with two daughters who he’s now raising on his own, he makes the conscious decision to be the bigger man.  Anger is natural, letting go and moving on are difficult, but (ideally) when you’re gone you want people to remember the good things that you did and not the mistakes that you made.  And as an audience we get this not in a dramatic third act monologue, but as a progression.  Clooney acts it out and we follow.

Like I said, the actor’s favorite movie star.

Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network.  When you think of good, intellectual filmmaking, David Fincher may (or may not) have peers, but there isn’t anyone better.  Now let’s add The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to that already extremely impressive directing career.

Before I go on, let me say I haven’t read the books or watched the original films, so I went into this one as John Q. Public. If John Q. Public saw Daniel Craig in the trailer, and ‘A Film by David Fincher’ and said “Say nothing else, sold!”

So how do I pitch this?  OK, a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) is hired by a semi-retired magnate (the always great Christopher Plummer) to solve the oldest mystery of his family.  Along the way, the journalist needs help and he hears about the researcher who investigated him: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Rooney Mara).

If that’s not much to go on, good!  One of Fincher’s strengths if you’re somehow not familiar with his filmography, is taking the audience along for the ride as the main characters come up with their own theories and try to solve the mystery of the plot.  Not to sound like too much of an old fogey, but while I can’t say this is my favorite Fincher film (almost unfair to compare the man to his own work), I can say that as always, Fincher treats his audience like adults, and you get a quality adult film out of it.  Is this story for everybody?  No I don’t think it is.  But if you’re a fan of the works of David Fincher, I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.  Daniel Craig anchors a solid cast, and Rooney Mara brings the right amount of creepiness/intelligence/sexuality to the title character.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens next Wednesday.

Shame

So everyone knows I’m a Brando guy, and I’ve talked about how ‘Last Tango in Paris’ was a major influence on how I built the character I used in “Lady In My Life.” So when one of the first things I heard about ‘Shame’ was that it was on some ‘Last Tango’ type ish, I was instantly like “Oh Really?!?”  I wasn’t going to hold any film to that  standard but I was intrigued.  And, as fate would have it, when I literally went from the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood to the Arclight only a few blocks away to catch a screening, I was really in a “Method” mood.

So let’s start there.  By own scale of 1 to 10 for commitment to a role, Michael Fassbender went for the 10 here; all in surrender of his body and spirit for the character.  Full salute from me for that.  For those unfamiliar, ‘Shame’ is about a young bachelor in his 30s, not a bad looking dude, stable in his job and living situation, who, for reasons never explained, is both unable and frankly uninterested in building and sustaining an emotional relationship with a woman.

(Let me pause this review here because I can here a certain peanut gallery picking up their phones to text me.  To you I say, shut it.)

What the main character of this film does have a passion for is sex.  But as the title implies, his passion for sex is…off.  He doesn’t do it for social status, for pleasure, for procreation, or as noted, for emotional connection.  He just…does it.  As often as possible and in plenty of inappropriate ways and places.  One of the things that director Steve McQueen (a brother from across the pond) gets right in this film is showing you in the first 20 minutes, there is nothing glamorous in this sexual perversion.

Casey Mulligan shows up as the sister of our protagonist. Not as one of the ‘normal sweet, girl next door’ types she’s played in other films, but as a desperate, really desperate for attention seeking little sister.  It was certainly an interesting choice for the audience to get no backstory on these two siblings, one emotionally vacant and one in constant need for approval, but in my opinion at least, it kept the film from maybe reaching its true potential.  If “Last Tango” is the standard, in that film there are little moments here and there where, if you don’t know, you (as the audience) can at least infer “Oh that’s why he’s an asshole.”  The audience of “Shame” doesn’t get that luxury.  For shame. (See what I did there?)

All that said, I think it’s a good film.  And the performances by the two leads are really good.  The film is rated NC-17, which I guess is its own reference to the high degree of sexuality in the film.  But to me all that NC-17 does is remind me how with the US ratings boards you can blow off all the heads and chop off all the arms you want and get an R, but you have one too many penis shots in your film and it’s immediately X-rated.  Another debate for another day…

The Ides of March

George Clooney’s latest, ‘The Ides of March’, is about a young idealistic campaign manager who finds his ideals challenged and must make the choice of whether to stick to his guns or ‘play the game’.  It’s a good film and I’ve gone on record of being someone who drinks the Clooney Kool-Aid. But having said all that, this is my third favorite film of his as a director (behind Good Night and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). The real irony of that statement is I still consider this one of the better films I’ve seen this calendar year.  Maybe it’s because at this point the studio system only gives us five adult dramas a year, but The Ides of March was film geek crack if that’s the case.

I was in a hotel room last week when I caught Clooney having a sitdown interview with Charlie Rose.  He claims at this point in his Hollywood career, he’s just a character actor.  That’s a tragic statement that probably has a lot of truth in it from a business point of view; regardless for the film he’s made here it makes complete sense.  The cast is headlined by Ryan Gosling, who’s surrounded by Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Clooney himself. That…is not chopped liver for character actors.  At all.  So why didn’t I like this movie more?

Hard to say.  I don’t have a strong like or dislike for Gosling; right down to the name I always think of him as a more serious version of Ryan Reynolds (which is not meant as a jab at either one of them).  But maybe not having a strong connection to him hurt him in this role.  He pulled off the character arc just fine; but if my instinct is telling me that a young Matt Damon or Affleck (or others) would have killed that role, maybe that’s not for the best.  Or maybe I’m just being nitpicky cause I really loved Clooney’s other directorial efforts to this point.

More posts later in the week.

The Help

Count me among the many whose face curled up in disgust as soon as I heard the re was a movie about black folks called ‘The Help’.  I mean, really?  That was the best title they could come up with?  There’s a very short list of actors at this point who I would consider ‘dream colloborators’, but Viola Davis is on that list.  So hearing that she was in this film bought it a little bit of rope.

Next I heard that this was based on a popular book.  That and knowing all the main charaters were women sent me next to my mother to see if she saw the movie or read the book.  I’ve made reference before to my roots being in the South; so when my mother told me that the book and film gave her flashbacks to her teenage years (i.e. for a brief period of time, she was ‘The Help’), well, now I had a vested interest in seeing this film.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in the film in terms of story (‘black people really got the short end of the stick during Jim Crow’) or as a movie about racism (‘there’s the one educated white person who’s ready to tear down Jim Crow and side with the blacks).  That doesn’t mean I think it was a poorly made film either; as award season comes around I think ‘the Help’ will be remembered more for the performances than for its whole.  Emma Stone as the ‘ugly girl’, Jessica Chastain as the white trash girl, Bryce Dallas Howard actually being very convincing in the part I imagine they offered to January Jones first.  Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson in bit parts that were both very memorable.  On a side note, I half jokingly wondered if Cicely Tyson just rents herself out to ‘questionable’ projects; like a safety net to let folks know ‘if Cicely Tyson is in it, it can’t be racist.’

This is Viola Davis’ film though and to no surprise she carries it.  I’ve already heard the ‘O’ word thrown around a little bit.  I cringe a little when I think about the parts and scenes that have won black women Oscars (see Butterfly McQueen and Halle Berry), but we can cross that bridge later if it comes to that.

The film has been at the top of the box office for a minute now, so it’s worth being part of the conversation if you haven’t seen it: