Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens - Trailer

Another 'big summer movie' to get excited about.

Jon Favreau earned the excitement by turning in two perfectly fun Iron Man movies & turning down the third to direct James Bond & Indiana Jones in a movie about... cowboys. And aliens.

What's not to like?

(Anyone think the poster could have emphasised Daniel Craig's ass any more?)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interview with Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams talks about making Blue Valentine & why Ryan Gosling is 'an uncommon man':

& a short clip with Williams & Gosling explaining Derek Cianfrance's directing strategies - interesting:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blue Valentine - Review

I saw Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine a few weeks ago, and had so much to say about it, but it took my a while to get around to finishing my review.  

Before getting into the heavy stuff, the film is, aesthetically, beautiful. Andrij Parekh's loose camera work is gorgeous and draws you into the chaos and intimacy of Dean & Cindy's marriage.

Director Derek Cianfrance wanted Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear to write a score for his film. 

Scheduling problems ruled that out, but Grizzly Bear did the next best thing & handed him their entire catalogue of music to use as he pleased. As a result, the bulk of the film is still underscored by the indie cool of the Brooklyn music scene. 

These stylistic touches contribute to the swooning beauty of the outsider love story and help make the heavier parts easier to swallow.  

As for the heavy stuff, there's plenty of it. Without divulging too much plot, Blue Valentine looks at two pivotal moments in a young marriage - when it began, and when it is in danger of falling apart.

How it begins is an intense swirl of indie cool and bruised adolescence where two damaged people find each other and - under less than ideal circumstances - decide to stick together. How it falls apart is like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with indie kids - no big infidelities or secrets, just the small frustrations that become overwhelming. Heartbreaking stuff.  

It's not an easy film to watch - it is raw, unflinchingly honest and refuses to choose sides. Both characters wear their pain on their sleeves and what initially brought them together threatens to tear them apart when they are unable to put it aside for the sake of their marriage. The joy is mapped out in as much complex detail as the misery. 

Much has been made of the film's sex scenes, but Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams give performances so real & vulnerable, it feels like they are holding their souls up for scrutiny. In that context, there is nothing in the sex scenes that is any more revealing or uncomfortable to watch than in their fully-clothed conversations. Additionally, as in any marriage, the dynamics of the sex scenes are pivotal to revealing their state of intimacy, and, though uncomfortably real, the scenes are certainly not intended to be gratuitously erotic.     

It is a testament to the actors' commitment to their characters that their turmoil is so riveting to watch - these two lost souls feel so real, and their frustrations so palpable, you desperately want to pull them aside and talk them through it.

Blue Valentine is probably best viewed as a cautionary tale about letting your emotions get the better of you. By allowing us to see what their marriage becomes, and also how it started, we are able to see the seeds of what comes between them in the end - whether it's Cindy's fragile & withdrawn nature, or Dean's volatile bullheadedness, what was sweet & charming to them at the start becomes unbearable when they can't get past their own insecurities to be good to each other.

The heartbreak of the film is to learn to face up to the small things in each of our lives that can get the better of us, if we let them, and push away the people and things we love and need the most. 

One of the best written and best acted films of the year. 

Grizzly Bear - Easier, featured in Blue Valentine.

& Penny & the Quarters - You & Me - Dean & Cindy's song:

Oscar Casualties - Best Director

Lastly, who are the Directors who could have been nominated, should have been nominated, but weren't nominated?

These are the biggest misses, in my opinion:

Best Director:

Christopher Nolan for Inception

Debra Granik for Winter’s Bone

Danny Boyle for 127 Hours

Martin Scorsese for Shutter Island

Not a contender but should have been:

Roman Polanski for Ghost Writer

Sofia Coppolla for Somewhere

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Films we lie about seeing

I had a friend who once lied about having seen Lars and the Real Girl. I'd seen it, he hadn't. I wanted to watch it again, he wanted to watch something else. I can only presume he lied to stop me from renting it. I did anyway. 

About 10 minutes into the film, after Bianca has been delivered but before Lars introduces her to his brother or to the audience, my friend asks me if Lars has a real girl in there. Confused, I asked him what the heck he was on about & had he completely forgotten what the movie was about? Forgetting his own fib of 2 hours before, he calmly answered 'I haven't seen it.' A verbal beating ensued. 

A recent UK survey sought to find out which films people most frequently lie about having seen. Interesting question. The Godfather tops the list, confirming it as the ultimate movie ever. The rest of the list:

1. The Godfather (1972) - 30% 
2. Casablanca (1942) - 13% 
3. Taxi Driver (1976) - 11%
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - 9%
5. Reservoir Dogs (1992) - 8%
6. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) - 7%
7. Apocalypse Now (1979) - 6%
8. Goodfellas (1990) - 5%
9. Blade Runner (1982) - 5%
10. The Great Escape (1963) - 4%

Quite a variety of genres. I'd say the connection is that most of these films are very much part of pop culture and your general movie-goer will therefore likely have encountered just enough references to these films to leave them a) wishing that they had seen them b) feeling just a bit like they have seen them c) being able to lie about having seen them.

Silly, though.

Also, on a random note, the most popular decade to lie about having seen films from seems to be the 1970s. Makes sense. So many iconic films. 

Now my same friend who lied about seeing Lars and the Real Girl also claims to read my blog, so let's see if this post induces a comment. You know who you are. 

For nerds like me - a convenient Pie Chart after the cut: 

Thor - Trailer

You have to get excited about at least one big 'event' movie per year -with Kenneth Branagh behind the camera, Natalie Portman in front of it, awesome-looking sets & rated 93% fresh by critics so far, Thor looks like a good bet.

The Adjustment Bureau - Trailer

Looks a bit silly but plenty fun.

HappyThankYouMorePlease - Trailer

Written / Directed by & starring How I Met Your Mother's sensitive frontman / narrator-with-flopsy-hair, Josh Radnor. So this is the spiritual cousin to Zach Braff's Garden State, which is a pretty good legacy to build on. Looks a tad Oprah-soulful ('let's be people who deserve to be loved'), but nonetheless I want to go to there.

Cool alternate poster after the cut:

Copie Conforme (Certified Copy) - Trailer

Cannes winner for Best Actress.


Short clip after the cut:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oscar Casualties - Best Actress

These ladies coulda been contenders:

Lesley Manville - Another Year

In a very crowded year for Best Actress, Another Year’s National Board of Review winner, Lesley Manville was the victim either of being too unknown and British, or of category confusion. Her producers decided to push her for Best Actress, which would have been great if it had worked out (see Nicole Kidman in The Hours / Kate Winslett in The Reader), but unfortunately left her in the same place where Laura Linney's divorcing, literary Brooklyn-ite in The Squid and the Whale went to miss out on the Oscar race. If they had pushed her for as a Supporting Actress right from the outset (see Natalie Portman / Clive Owen in Closer), she would likely have been a frontrunner, and could / should have won the Oscar that went to Melissa Leo for lack of a stronger contender. 

Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
(Who Played with Fire & Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)

Noomi Rapace was 2010's breakthrough sensation as massively abused, bisexual punk hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two rushed (and inferior) sequels upped her profile, but probably not her credibility. She is excellent in all three films, though; her return from the ‘dead’ in The Girl Who Played with Fire is arguably the most startlingly powerful moment, while her eventual trial in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is rousing stuff, but I loved the guarded, unexpected emotions of her reluctant romantic interlude with Mikael Blomkvist in the first installment the most

Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right

Anette Bening got all the praise and awards for The Kids Are All Right, but endless movie-goers hailed the greatness of Julianne Moore as loopy, free-spirited mother Jules. Fans were quick to declare Moore’s performance one of her best (which is saying a lot) & raged all season long that she was so uniformly ignored, despite being as vital as Bening to the film's success. There were some last minute hopes that she would be a surprise 5th nominee, but no luck.

Anne Hathaway - Love & Other Drugs

Oscar Casualties - Best Actor

These guys coulda been contenders:

Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine

One of the best actors currently working, super talented Ryan Gosling deserved a nomination for his raw & uncompromising performance as Dean - showing all his potential & creative charm but never shying away from the volatile, self-indulgent nature that will drive his wife to desperation. It seemed that Gosling & Michelle Williams would either be nominated together or over-looked together. As it turns out, she made it in, he didn't. The movie is very much about both of them, but perhaps Michelle Williams has the more sympathetic character arc, and more heartbreaking moments. Williams' nomination has put the film on the map, but both performances will go down as classics. 

Robert DuVall - Get Low

The other actor who seemed to battling it out with Ryan Gosling for the 5th slot was veteran Robert DuVall, as Felix Bush, an eccentric, difficult old man planning to attend his own wake in bittersweet period fable Get Low. DuVall has legendary performances to his credit in Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Tender Mercies & The Apostle, to name just a few, and hasn't been nominated since 1998's A Civil Action. At the start of the season, he was considered Colin Firth's only real competition to win Best Actor, but the film didn't do as well as hoped, and DuVall soon fell off the radar. Hope he finds another baity role soon.

Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception & Shutter Island

Submarine - Trailer

From the talent-spotting Weinstein Co & Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films, 'The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade's adaptation of Joe Dunthorne's novel, Submarine, has gotten good reviews coming out of the Toronto Film Festival & had director Ayoade dubbed 'the british Wes Anderson'. High praise in my book.

Looks pretty awesome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oscar Casualties - Best Picture

One of the reasons why I started following the Oscar race is because I was always fascinated by the films and performances that were in the running, but just missed the cut. 

With the final 5 (or 10 for Best Picture, these days) often being determined by fairly random or unpredictable factors – box office, popularity, topicality, timing, serendipity – there are usually a handful of deserving shut outs that there simply was not space for - often just as good or better. These are the forgotten gems of the Oscar race, and they're often more fun to dig out. 

So here are the more significant casualties of this year's Oscar race, as I see them:

Best Picture:

With 10 slots for Best Picture, there aren't really too many movies that could realistically have been nominees but didn’t make it. In a way, it makes the race more satisfying, in another way it is less dramatic (no big Into the Wild-style shut outs). Many argue that 10 nominees is less prestigious, and they may have a point, but I would argue that it gives a better, more well-rounded view of the specific year in film. By being able to cater for more tastes and styles, they create a better snapshot of the year, and become more relevant, if slightly less prestigious.

This year’s list is pretty great & diverse, with indie favourites (Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right), art-house hits (Black Swan), Box Office brilliance (Inception, Toy Story 3) & just plain solid (True Grit, The Fighter, The King’s Speech) and topical (The Social Network) dramas. I’m not sure exactly where 127 Hours fits in – probably a little bit of all of the above.

For the coulda-been-contenders, go ahead & click :

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Music Never Stopped Trailer

Good to see Julia Ormond making a bit of a comeback. She was great in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & won a deserved Emmy (which, incidentally, she gave away to her true-life character) for (mini-series) Temple Grandin.

Also great to see JK Simmons in a more leading role, after his recent supporting awesomeness for the Coens (Burn After Reading) & Jason Reitman (Juno).

Looks pretty good.

Julia Ormond giving her Emmy to Eustacia Cutler, after the cut:

Trailer for every Oscar-winning movie ever

This is pretty funny: