Thursday, November 29, 2007

I have lots of movie reviews to catch up on, so look forward to musings on No Country For Old Men, Margot at the Wedding, The Savages, I'm Not There, Rendition, Bee Movie and Elizabeth: The Golden Age hopefully to be posted soon.

Gothan Awards

Into the Wild


Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Talk to Me

Craig Zobel- Great World of Sound

Ellen Page- Juno


Independent Spirit Award Nominations

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
I'm Not There

A Mighty Heart

Paranoid Park

Todd Haynes- I'm Not There
Tamara Jenkins- The Savages
Jason Reitman- Juno
Julian Schnabel- The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
Gus Van Sant- Paranoid Park

2 Days in Paris
Great World of Sound

The Lookout
Rocket Science

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (films made under $500,000)
August Evening
Owl & the Sparrow
e Pool
Quiet City
Shotgun Stories

Pedro Castanedo- August Evening
Don Cheadle- Talk to Me
Philip Seymour Hoffman- The Savages
Frank Langella- Starting Out in the Evening
Tong Leung- Lust, Caution

Angelina Jolie- A Mighty Heart
Sienna Miller- Interview
Ellen Page- Juno
Parker Posey- Broken English
Tang Wei- Lust, Caution

Chiwetel Ejiofor- Talk to Me
Marcus Carl Franklin- I'm Not There
Kene Holiday- Great World of Sound
Irrfan Khan- The Namesake
Steve Zahn- Rescue Dawn

Cate Blanchett- I'm Not There
Anna Kendrick- Rocket Science
Jennifer Jason Leigh- Margot at the Wedding
Tamara Podemski- Four Sheets to the Wind
Marisa Tomei- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly- Ronald Harwood
The Savages- Tamara Jenkins
Starting Out in the Evening- Fred Parnes & Andrew Wagner
Waitress- Adrienne Shelly
Year of the Dog- Mike White

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead- Kelly Masterson
Broken English- Zoe Cassavetes
Juno- Diablo Cody
A Mighty Heart- John Orloff
Rocket Science- Jeffrey Blitz

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly- Janusz Kaminski
Lust, Caution- Rodrigo Prieto
The Savages- Mott Hupfel
Vamaja- Milton Kam
Youth Without Youth- Mihai Malaimare, Jr.

Crazy Love Lake of Fire Manufactured Landscapes The Monastery The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days The Band's Visit Lady Chatterley Once Persepolis

I'm Not There
Director: Todd Haynes
Casting Director: Laura Rosenthal
Ensemble Cast: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bruce Greenwood

Independent Spirit\IFP West always goes to the beat of their own drum (as should be expected), but still it's a wonder Laura Linney (for The Savages) and Nicole Kidman (for Margot at the Wedding) and Molly Shannon (for Year of the Dog) were ignored, despite their respective movies being honored elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Writers Guild of American strike is in Day 2

The talk shows have already been halted into reruns-- Leno, Letterman, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, etc.-- regularly scheduled televisions will be fine until about January, and already the first half of 2008 films are either ready or will be ready, but if this strike lasts as longs as some predict (months even), the landscape of film and television may be utterly altered for the entire year of 2008. I just read online however that WGA awards will still take place.

Oscar winning writer James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, As Good as it Gets) is striking it up in Los Angeles, while Emmy winner Tina Fey (30 Rock) is in New York.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

As much as it kind of hurts to admit, I have to hand it to Ben Affleck, he of Jersey Girl, Reindeer Games, and Gigli, has directed a motion picture of intelligence and moral complexity. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), Affleck (who co-wrote the solid screenplay with Aaron Stockard) does a fine job telling the story of a missing Boston girl, the cops with their own agendas, the street thugs, and the lone guy with an idealistic conscience. A few minor directorial hiccups aside, Affleck does a wonderful job giving a slice of life in the Boston streets he obviously knows well and and has a great affinity for. He also has the good sense to follow movies like Mystic River and The Departed (all local Boston productions) and not even try to show them up, but embrace his strong story and give it it's own somewhat smaller life.
But the best thing Affleck does as a director is hiring brother Casey Affleck for the lead role of Patrick Kenzie. I'm not sure when younger Affleck became a great actor (I never really noticed anything all that special in the Ocean's film or Gus Van Sant's Gerry), but after a simply faultless performance here and another in The Assassination of Jesse James, he is obviously a quiet force to the reckoned with. I say quiet, because in both his acclaimed fall performances this year, Affleck hasn't gone in with heavy histronics, but instead profound, and seemingly precise characters maturely fleshed out.

In Gone Baby Gone, little Amanda McCready, has been kidnapped-- practically the entire Boston police force is looking for her and her mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is interviewed on television grieving a praying for her return. Helene's sister Beatrice (Amy Madigan), desperate for Amanda's capture, hire private detectives Patrick and Angie (Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) to aide the investigation. Intially the police department, embodied by Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are hestitant for their help, but as the investigation grows more complicated except the young man and his girl friday to tag along. That's the setup, and without saying more on the plot I was pleasantly surprised with the depth and tautness of the story-- the story takes a loop that's jarring and suprising with it's cleverness, and quite heart-wrenching actually.

And that's why appreciated Gone Baby Gone so much, because it was so surprising. I've already commented on my astonishment that Ben Affleck concocted such a deep and satisfying film, and that younger brother Casey is proving himself to be one of the better younger actors around, but the third surprise is a talented, little unknown actress named Amy Ryan. I saw Ryan lingering the background for a little bit of Dan in Real Life, and read her mostly rave reviews, but until I saw it for myself I wasn't sure-- she is brilliant here. Her performance of Helene is raw and exposed. Helene, first scene as worried and doting mother, is really a mess-- a frequent drug user, a drunk with a penchant of leaving her child alone as she picks up other dregs of society in seedy taverns. Yet you must respect Ryan for bracing this character, one you mostly loathe, and committing so forcefully that when a slight reversal of her character takes place it's profound. Helene is a loud, abrasive character, and Ryan goes there, but you get the feeling that it's all bravado, and it's almost what she isn't saying that is the loudest.

I have to say that this one of the better movies I've seen so far this year, and the must give credit to Ben Affleck-- may his directorial career be blissful and J-Lo free. B+

Things We Lost in the Fire

What stood out the most in Things We Lost in the Fire, Danish filmmaker Suzanne Bier's first English-language film, was that Halle Berry has quite pretty ears. The reason this reasonates mostly is because a good amount of screen time is doted on Berry's face in extreme close-ups that the film could easily be mistaken for a skin care commercial at times. The rest of the film-- just a slightly false big screen melodrama of the kinds of stories easily seen on Lifetime Television. Berry portrays Audrey Burke, devoted mother and wife living in high-end American bliss, when a heinous act of violence shatters that security. Her saintly husband, Steven (David Duchovney) is killed. Steven's only flaw was that his best friend was Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin addict and all around mess, so after the murder, Audrey (who was always resentful of Jerry) invites him to live with her as she goes through the five stages. She cries, he relapses-- it's all very predictable and a bit stagnant, when it should be simmering with feeling. The problem with the film is that it just lingers with characters, and goes nowhere. The saving grace is Benicio Del Toro. Every jesture, every line reading all feels real and is fascinating to watch in a performance that probably shouldn't work, but this fearless actor won't let his character fall into the abyss of contrivance. He makes Jerry's addiction palpable and authentic, unlike everything else in the movie.
One thing I kept thinking about while watching this film was the 2001 French film Under the Sand, starring Charlotte Rampling as a middle-aged woman who lost her husband that grapples with grief and denial in such a chilling way-- in that film you truly get a sense of her pain and are completely mesmerized by why she can't go on, and can't even come to her senses. There was nothing like that here in Things We Lost in the Fire because the characters are for thing way too broadly drawn-- Steven is such a saint, you know off the bat something bad will befall him. When I thought about what brutal honesty Rampling was showing and watched Berry grapple with the similar, there was no contest because the script (or possibly Berry) doesn't allow Audrey really go to that darker, stranger place where the truth lies. But her ears are awful pretty. C
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