November 29, 2011 5:33am EST
Even while defying modern filmmaking techniques with a monochromatic palette and soundscape of silence The Artist is as conventional as they come. That's not entirely a gripe—director Michel Hazanavicius' takes a simplistic approach to storytelling paving the easiest path for his cinematic playground. The movie wears its intentions on its sleeve—The Artist is a technical exercise first movie second—but the result is undeniably pleasant. Few will be safe from the movie's bombardment of silent but deadly charm.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a film actor working in 1920's Hollywood. He's a regular Douglas Fairbanks—a swashbuckling hunk who can smirk swagger and dance his way through any motion picture. His boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) can't get enough of him his current co-star Constance (Missi Pyle) can't steal his spotlight his fans fill the red carpet clamoring for just one lucky snapshot and he's got a dog friend that might just be the most adorable thing on the planet. At that moment in time Valentin can't be topped.
But like all good things in a straightforward dramedy Valentin's cloud nine career slowly begins to fall apart. He meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) a budding actresses to whom Valentin quickly takes a liking. Their relationship grows professionally and romantically (albeit with distance—Valentin does have an unhappy wife after all) but as the era of silent pictures wanes in favor of talkies so does Valentin's popularity. Peppy becomes the next big thing and her success leaves Valentin broke and in the dust.
Hazanavicius creates a Frankenstein's monster out of his film history knowledge employing every trick in the silent film book to make The Artist shine. The writer/director digs just deep enough into Valentin's plight—a bumpy road intrinsically connected to its the medium—then lets whimsy of nostalgia do the heavy emotional lifting. Ludovic Bource's bouncy orchestral score and Guillaume Schiffman's cinematography add to the general niceness of The Artist complementing Dujardin's irresistible smile with their own intangible artistry.
And Dujardin deserves a real tip of the top hat delivering the heightened movements of Valentin with the utmost precision. His English co-stars don't have a terrible amount to do other than stand around wagging their fingers (one of the limitations of the medium) but Goodman Bejo and James Cromwell as Valentin's faithful driver Clifton are as good as thespian finger-waggers come. But even with all the happy-go-lucky antics and memories of a time forgotten The Artist remains lean. The movie's unable to overcome the technical constraints and cookie-cutter plot line to imbue any character—Valentin included—with anything remotely human. Each character is just a pawn Hazanavicius stylistic scheme.
The Artist is 100 minutes of toe-tapping entertainment a sugary sweet treat that feels all the more fresh in the current hyperactive cinema-scape. Though much like the silent era itself once the curtain closes on The Artist your attention may quickly turn to the next big thing.
November 28, 2011 12:01pm EST
It's been nearly eighty years since anyone tried to pull off what director Michel Hazanavicius and leading man Jean Dujardin do in their new film, The Artist. Why? Well back in the early part of the 20th century, filmmakers didn't have much of a choice.
The Artist tells the story of down-on-his-luck silent film actor George Valentin (Dujardin) in the most logical way possible: as a silent film. The movie features no dialogue, a crisp black and white picture and a toe-tapping score to keep the pace. If you didn't know beforehand, you'd think Dujardin was just another dashing star alongside greats like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks or Buster Keaton. And without the constraint of language, Hazanavicius was able to enlist a handful of familiar faces for Valentin's story, including John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Berenice Bejo and Missi Pyle. The experience, as you may imagine, is something unique and magical.
I had a chance to speak to Hazanavicius, Bejo, Miller and Dujardin—who's generating tons of Oscar buzz for his work in The Artist—regarding the film's atypical style and whether or the release could spark a new wave modern silent films. Check it out below!
The Artist is out now in limited release.
Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo
Penelope Ann Miller
November 24, 2011 5:49am EST
Few directors have eclectic enough resumes to be deemed truly unclassifiable, but that's John Landis. In his 30+ year career, he's directed some of the scariest horror movies (American Werewolf in London) and funniest comedies (The Blues Brothers, Animal House) of all time. Landis has a passion for filmmaking and movie-watching—and he hasn't been shy in playing with some of his favorite genres during his lengthy career.
Coinciding with the Blu-ray release of his 1986 Western comedy ¡Three Amigos!, I had a chance to sit down with the director and discuss the movie, the zounds of extras featured on the new disc and explore the bumpy road Landis has faced working in the Hollywood scene:
I got to check out the ¡Three Amigos! Blu-ray last night. It’s a phenomenal disc. There’s so much stuff on it that I didn’t realize was missing from the original movie.
John Landis: Well, it’s not really missing. When you make a movie, you always—I can’t think of any movie but [Hitchcock's single-take film] Rope where they didn’t cut stuff out of it.
But it sounded like some of the footage actually ended up disappearing. Some of the stuff that you cut.
JL: Well, what happened is, that was made for a company called Orion, and Orion went out of business. So, unfortunately, when film companies go out of business, the negatives get shuffled around from lab to lab. And now the picture is owned by Warner Bros. And they had the negatives. And I had the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences store all my prints. And I had a print of the second preview. So that had a lot of stuff that was cut out. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find the outs and trims of the Sam Kinison stuff and the Fran Drescher stuff, which I was sorry about.
Yeah. Can you talk about why that didn’t make it into the original film in the first place?
JL: Mainly for time. The movie was too long. And Sam and Fran, they were sequences that you could lift out of the movie and not impact the plot.
Sure. Were they irked? Were they like, ‘Where are we!?’
JL: They were disappointed, I think. Sam I had a good relationship with, and he completely understood.
How did you come into this project? I know that Steve [Martin] wrote the movie—
JL: With Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman.
Right. And how did you get involved, and what was the hook that was really drawing you into doing ¡Three Amigos!?
JL: Steve called me and said, ‘I have a project. Would you be interested?’ And I said, ‘Send me the script.’ And when I saw it was a Western, I immediately went, ‘Yes, please!’ I mean, I love Westerns. And it’s the only Western I’ve directed. But I’ve worked on a lot of Westerns, in Spain, and Durango. And I love the genre. So, even though, it’s a comedy, it was a Western. And you get to ride around on horses. It was fun.
Did you get to ride around on horses?
JL: Sure! I used to fall off horses for a living!
At what point in your career were you falling off horses for a living?
JL: I was a stunt person for years! After Kelly’s Heroes, where I was a gofer, I went with a guy named Jim O’Rourke. We went to Spain—that’s 1969—which was right in the middle of the Spaghetti boom. And they were making—gosh, I lived in a town called Almeria, and sometimes Madrid. In Almeria, there were always at least four and sometimes as many as ten productions going. It’s a desert town, near the ocean…I worked on Once Upon a Time in the West, and A Town Called Bastard. And just a lot of Westerns!
They needed a guy to fall off horses, and you were the guy.
JL: They needed a lot of guys to fall off horses. But I got very good at it, actually.
Is that how you kind of transitioned into directing? Through stunts?
I imagine something like, 'Hey, I’m really good at falling off horses! Let me direct a movie!'
JL: [Laughs] Yeah. That’s funny. People sometimes write that: ‘I started in the mailroom, and worked my way up.’ Which makes no sense! It’s not the military! That’s not how it works! [Laughs]
Working on this movie with these three big, strong personalities, comedic forces…what was it like?
JL: Actually, this movie was a pleasure from start to finish. Because it was a funny script, and Steve and Marty [Short] and…well, Steve and Marty met on the movie, and they’re still best friends. But Steve and Marty and Chevy [Chase], they take care of one another. They’re busy topping one another all the time. [Laughs] And it was a pleasure! There were no problems on this picture. And I really wanted it to look a certain way. I wanted it to look like a big Technicolor Hollywood Western of the ‘50s. So, the production designer, Dick Sawyer, and my wife, Deborah Nadoolman, the costume designer, went to a lot of trouble to make it right. And so, that’s why I was so happy with the opportunity to restore it to the way it’s supposed to look.
What was that process?
JL: What they do when you make a Blu-ray, they scan the negative. They learned this when they started to do high-def…but I’m not going to explain this in the correct terminology. These are not the right words.
No one will scrutinize you, trust me.
JL: Basically, you know what bits of information are? Like, a gigabyte?
JL: Okay…because I don’t. When you have a film negative, you have a 35mm negative that was shot on film and developed chemically, it turns out that by chemical processing, you only got about fifty-five to sixty percent of the information that’s on the negative. So when you scan it digitally…it’s very similar to what happened when they took the old mag stripes, and then digitized them, and redid the old Beatles tunes. They discovered that you could hear conversations in the hallway of the recording studio. There was so much more information on the stripe than they knew. And in ¡Three Amigos!, it looked gorgeous if you saw it in the first run. But after a while, prints get ragged. And home video, they just took off some release print that had seen a lot of work and had scratches in it, and was faded. So, I was very happy to be given the opportunity to restore it. Make it look the way it is supposed to look. Because we were trying to make it look like old pre-strip Technicolor.
Well, it definitely pops on the Blu-ray. I’ll say that. Was it just a straight-up retransfer?
JL: No, no, no! It’s a long process! You sit with the technicians and you go through every frame.
Oh, so this was a hands-on process for you.
JL: I didn’t do the…there’s, like, three weeks work before I get there where they remove all the scratches and blemishes. They just remove all that. Make it nice. And then—sometimes too nice! Sometimes I make them put stuff back. But then I come in and supervise the color timing, and the tonalities and stuff. And that took about two weeks.
It’s interesting to go through that process with a comedy. I think there's a mentality that comedies don't need to look sharp because they're all joke, joke, joke. But it’s a film, and it should look good. And obviously, the design of the film to echo those older films was important to you.
JL: I always feel that that stuff is important. I don’t know if you notice, but a movie like Animal House—everybody thinks it was a raucous comedy, but it also happened to be a period picture.
JL: It was [set in] 1962, and we went to a lot of trouble to make it right. And Trading Places, or Spies Like Us, all those moves. I go to a lot of trouble to make them look good. In fact, sometimes I get—I remember with Spies Like Us, which I wish they would do a Blu-ray of, but I doubt they will—but on Spies Like Us, when the picture came out, I remember so well being punished because it looked too good. Charles Champlin, he was an LA Times critic, he wrote a piece talking about profiting in Hollywood. And he used the example of the way to make a movie: Back to the Future, which was shot entirely on the lot of Universal. And that is a wonderful movie. But his point was, ‘Then there’s Spies Like Us: this stupid comedy, where they were in four countries, went all over the world…’ And, you know, what Champlin didn’t understand was, we were in four countries because it was cheaper! In fact, Spies Like Us cost, like, one fifth of what Back to the Future cost.
That’s not even a criticism!
JL: Most critics don’t…
Don’t I know it. Thinking about finding the right balance of comedy—how do you know what’s funny? Is it all instinct?
JL: That’s just, ‘Is it funny to me?’ That’s all. And the thing with the three guys, they’re playing these characters…and what I liked in the script, and what I hope I captured in the movie, is that it’s a very different type of comedy than contemporary comedy. It’s much more like Laurel and Hardy. Because they’re sweet! They’re childish! They’re not mean! There’s no meanness in it.
Do you think today's comedies are meaner? Different than what you were producing a few decades ago?
JL: No, I mean, I enjoy Bridesmaids. I thought that was funny. There are comedies made that I think are funny.
That’s a relief. But do you feel like the landscape has changed for comedy?
JL: Well, the whole business has changed! It’s a very different time. The people, the studios. One: filmmakers aren’t given the freedoms we were. And two: everything’s committee now. It’s all corporate. And it’s about marketing and merchandise. It’s really about trying to control the filmmaker. It’s a different time. It’s just a different time in the business. I mean, good movies will continue to be made. But fewer and farther between.
Sure. Switching gears—I was watching an interview on the new disc, a conversation between the three guys and some studio person doing EPK footage.
JL: I don’t know what the hell that is.
Yeah. It’s a bizarre little interview.
JL: It’s bizarre because it’s clear they don’t want to be there.
[Laughs] No one’s prepared, including the interviewer, which was pretty amazing. But it’s candid. It’s interesting. Steve mentions in the interview that a sequel seemed like an inevitable thing to him. Or that one was always planned. This was a franchise to him.
JL: I don’t know. It is true that we all had a wonderful time making the movie. It was really fun. And it was pain-free, and it was a pleasure. You know, Walter Hill once said, ‘If they knew how much fun it was to make a Western, they wouldn’t let us.’ And I had such a good cast: Alfonso Arau and Tony Plana. Jorge Cervera. Joe Mantegna. I think it’s his first movie, Joe Mantegna. And it was just so much fun. And I know that Steve and Marty and Chevy just had the time of their lives, and I think they just wanted it to keep going. [Laughs]
Would you return to directing a straight-up comedy?
JL: Oh, of course!
Is that something that you have in the works?
JL: Well, you know, I tend to like wacky stuff, and the studios tend to be pretty formulaic now.
Would you ever go indie routes outside the studio?
JL: Oh, I have!
Burke & Hare?
JL: Well, American Werewolf in London was independent. Kentucky Fried Movie was independent. And my last, Mr. Warmth, I made with my own money. You know, because no one would give me the money. So…I’ve been independent for so long!
Thankfully. Is working independently helping you bring your current projects to life? Do you have anything in the works?
JL: Oh, sure. I’m always trying to…right now I’ve got a comedy I’d like to make. But you know what happens when you’re successful, when something is successful? It’s instantly mainstream. No matter how radical it is. Like, rock and roll was the 'devil’s music' and race music, until they saw, ‘Wait a minute, look at the money this is making.’ And then it became big business. It’s very similar—I’ve been very lucky, because a lot of movie’s I’ve made, which were extremely radical at the time, were successful. I mean, they were shit on by the critics, but they were very successful. And when you become successful…people don’t look back at Animal House, or The Blues Brothers, or those pictures as out there as they were. [Laugh]
I don’t think anyone could see something like Blues Brothers being made today. Then again, you made a sequel to that movie.
JL: That was my last studio picture, because I had never experienced the new studios, where they fuck with you. And they cut your movie and basically fuck it up. That was very shocking.
Was Blues Brothers 2000 not a good experience for you?
JL: Well, shooting it was fun. The problem with Blues Brothers 2000 was, I don’t think the studio…Danny [Aykroyd] and I wrote a wonderful script. And for Danny, it was all about the music. ‘We must get these people on film.’ Ironically, he’s not wrong. I look at the movie now, and so many of those guys have passed away. So, we did put them on film.
Immortalize them, yeah.
JL: And the music is awesome, and most of it is recorded live.
JL: Yeah, because we could do that with the new technologies. Ninety percent of Blues Brothers 2000 is live. What happened to us was, the management that hired us to make the movie then was ousted, so we had new people come in. And they did not want to make the movie. And they kept giving us notes. By the time they were finished with the script, John Goodman had no character. And they insisted on a boy, and then insisted on a black Blues Brother…and it got to the point where I said, ‘Danny, they just castrated this movie!’ And Danny was, ‘It’s about the music with this.’ And our producer, Leslie Belzberg said something that was true. She said, ‘If you don’t cooperate, if you don’t say ‘yes’ to every note, then they won’t make the movie.’ Which was fine with me, but Danny was like, ‘We must [make the movie].’ And I love Dan Aykroyd. He’s a great person. So, we made the movie, and then they fucked with it! They even retimed it! I mean, that movie didn’t look like that!
It doesn’t even look the way you wanted!
JL: No! Look at The Blues Brothers, look at that! One is all like a Doris Day picture, and the other is dark and gritty. But The Blues Brothers 2000 has spectacular music in it, so I’m very happy.
You mentioned that you have a comedy that you’re looking to direct. Is there anything else that you have in the works?
JL: I think that I’m going to be making this very strange little monster movie in Paris next year.
A monster movie?
JL: Yeah. In French and in English.
JL: Two versions of it.
Can you tease at all?
JL: Well, it’s not like other monster movies. It’s a monster. It’s a real monster, and it takes place in Paris…which allows me to tell you, please mention my book that I just did!
November 03, 2011 9:50pm EST
S3E6: I hate to be that person, but this season of Community seems hell bent on proving that the series’ high concept episodes are the better episodes. “Advanced Gay” wasn’t terrible, it just feels like a bit of a letdown after the fantastic “Remedial Chaos Theory” and the hilarious “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps.” That being said, the episode finally dealt with Jeff’s not so hilarious daddy issues and counter-balanced it with a few great one-liners and Troy/Abed moments, as is to be expected.
“Oh my goodness, he’s like the Abed of racism.” –Shirley
Pierce is approached by two flamboyantly gay students who ask him to sign a container of Hawthorne wipes – this leads the study group to figure out why. The reason is a music video made by a drag queen – who I believe is the real-life winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race or something, don’t hold me to that. His reaction is homophobic at first, but eventually he sees the profit potential of the boost from the video and sets up a line of “Pride Wipes” and decides to throw a “Gay Bash” to celebrate. It’s almost cute that he doesn’t realize what the party name sounds like, but he’s being “the very minimum level of tolerant” so we’ll give him a break.
Everything is going smoothly and Pierce is getting along with his new fan club, putting up rainbow decorations for the party when his father shows up in an ivory toupee – yes, like elephant tusk ivory. He tells Pierce to cancel the party, which he does, and proceeds to insult everyone in the room based on their race or ancestry.
Jeff, who first thought the party was stupid, is fueled by his own daddy issues when Pierce’s dad says he can’t throw the party. So Jeff throws it anyway and entices Pierce to stay, where he eventually becomes the center of the party…until his uncannily racist father shows up. Pierce fakes a heart attack and goes to the hospital.
I have to admit, it was kind of fun seeing the Pierce could open his mind a bit – even if the wheels had to be greased with a little higher profit to get there. He’s an easy character to blindly hate, but that can only last for so long until the audience needs something more.
“I can’t feel my pants.” –Troy
This part of the episode made me happy and skeptical at the same time. On one hand, they brought back the Good Will Hunting plumbing ability that Troy has, but on the other hand it was just a little much. John Goodman returns and is great as always, acting as the leader of the secret society of AC repairmen he’s trying to recruit Troy into, much to the dismay of Troy’s plumbing sensei. Goodman is the only reason this plot works and he takes the AC wiz, Troy, deeper and deeper into the AC school lair, treating his potential new career like it’s a post in the C.I.A. It seems Troy is an AC repair genius, though he turns down both plumbing and the repair career paths by the end of the episode.
The best thing that came out of this dilemma was the conversation between Troy and Abed at the Gay Bash, where they pretended to be each other. The only purpose it really serves is to make those of us who adore those characters get a little smiling chuckle, but I for one appreciate it. That’s the great thing about Troy and Abed – they’re our anchor. When the rest of an episode can’t manage to grab you (or at least not with much conviction), these two always pull out something hilarious and often adorable. Plus, as ridiculous as they seem, nothing they do is ever pointless, like last week’s “Halloween” costumes that they “were already wearing.” This week, in the tag we find they’re part of their Inspector Space Time (or Community Doctor Who) fort game. And leave it to Troy to be ballsy enough to dress like the Inspector’s goofy sidekick and still try to pick up girls. Pew-pew, indeed.
“Dude just told his dead dad to suck it.” –Troy
“So edible.” –Britta
“(whispers)You’re the worst.” –Troy Before we get into the morbid details of the episode’s end, let’s give three cheers for Britta being wildly uninformed and constantly misusing the word Oedipal. (In case you’re wondering, that’s what she meant by “edible.”) She’s convinced that Jeff has an Oedipal complex because she knows it has something to do with hating your dad. Well, Jeff’s issue is probably more about his father’s absence than Jeff’s desire to kill his father and sleep with his own mother. But I could be wrong.
At the hospital, Pierce’s dad is visiting and Jeff takes the opportunity to yell at the old man and tell him he’s so cold because he didn’t leave room for Pierce in his heart. Yep, that sounds like daddy issues coming out to me. This speech, however, gives the eldest Hawthorne a heart attack – which Jeff thinks he’s faking thanks to Pierce’s shining example – and dies. We end at a funeral where Pierce tells his dad, “I win, you can suck it,” and Jeff receives the ivory toupee for “killing” him.
Lastly, Britta Brittas the situation real good when she continues to try to convince Jeff that he’s acting this way because of his daddy issues. It probably would have landed better if it had been anyone else – or maybe if Britta even knew what Oedipal really means.
All in all, it was a solid episode, but we’ve seen better. Perhaps our expectations are too high, but it’s the series’ fault. You can’t deliver solid excellence for two years and expect us to think that “good” is good enough. We’re conditioned for awesomeness, unfortunately.
November 01, 2011 8:54am EST
The first ten months of the year can be a mixed bag for award contenders. Maybe you'll see a few possibilities sprinkled amongst the comic book blockbusters, the joke-a-minute comedies and whatever else Hollywood has up their sleeves over January to October months, but for the most part, studios hold off to unleash their "Best Picture" challengers until late in the game.
Now that November and the holiday movie season is upon us, we can finally take a size up the competition. What we've seen, what's coming and what movies may make it to the finish line when the Oscars roll around in February. It's anyone's game…or is it?
Get ahead of your office Oscar pool with a look into the 2011 movies that are buzzing the loudest and guesses on who might take the gold!
Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Release Date: January 27, 2012
The Buzz: Close first starred as the titular woman-disguised-as-a-man character back in 1982, when she nabbed the leading role in the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs in 1982. Now, after years of working to get the project off the ground, the cinematic adaptation is finally coming to theaters. The movie debuted at this year's Telluride Film Festival to mixed reactions, most of the compliments highlighting Close's performance.
Potential: While Albert Nobbs sports a solid cast and creative team, Close's tour-de-force realization of Nobbs may overshadow the other positive (or negative) aspects of the film. Expect the actress to land a spot in the Best Actress race this season.
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Release Date: November 23, 2011
The Buzz: Director Michel Hazanavicius is a master replicator. His films OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117 - Lost in Rio are pitch perfect spoofs of the Bond movies/spy genre, and his new film The Artist goes beyond mockery and captures the essence of a early 20th century silent film. Completely without dialogue, star Jean Dujardin lights up the screen in this lighthearted look at the evolving movie industry. The movie garnered rave reviews when it played at Cannes back in May, winning a Best Actor award for Dujardin, and has since picked up an Audience Award at the Hamptons International Film Fest.
Potential: Audience reactions to The Artist have been enthusiastic, while critical response has been favorable, but mellow. There's so much cinema dripping from the picture that it won't be ignored come Oscar time—Dujardin seems like a given, while Hazanavicius could slip into the Best Director race. The Artist is a definite contender for the Best Picture race.
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Director: Roman Polanski
Release Date: December 16, 2011
The Buzz: Legendary director Polanski rounded up four of Hollywood's best actors for an adaptation of the Tony award-winning play God of Carange. The result is a snappy, often-hilarious emotional roller coaster that builds momentum even within its singular location. The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival where Polanski took home an award for directing. We saw the movie when it played at New York Film Festival and ate it up.
Potential: The movie might feel too theatrical for most movie-focused voters, but Polanski's style is so energetic despite the restraints that he could very well pull through to the top five. With an A-List quartet sharing equal time in the spotlight, it would be hard for any of the four to come out on top. Right now, there isn't anyone championing any specific actor, so the talent in Carnage may slip by unnoticed.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Release Date: January 13, 2012
The Buzz: Master thespian/man behind Voldemort Fiennes makes his directorial debut with this modern day adaptation of Shakespeare's war and politics. The movie opened the Berlin Film Festival, and while many of the reactions were glowing, they were hushed. The movie scored several nominations alongside some other buzzed about Oscar-possibilities at the British Independent Film Awards, indicating, perhaps, that the louder buzz for Coriolanus has yet to come.
Potential: Fiennes pulls double duty in the film—no easy task, especially with the fragile work of Shakespeare. But the existing reviews of Coriolanus praise his work on both sides of the camera, which might land him a coveted spot in both Actor and Director categories (a feat only achieved twice: first by Laurence Olivier in Hamlet, second by Roberto Begnini for Life Is Beautiful). Word on the street is that Vanessa Redgrave also delivers an award-worthy performance, so she could squeeze her way into Best Supporting Actress territory.
A Dangerous Method
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley
Director: David Cronenberg
Release Date: November 23, 2011
The Buzz: Cronenberg's inside look into the battle of intellect, science and lust between famed psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung has run the gamut of award season film festivals, including Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. The movie's repressed nature and physically demanding performances weren't everyone's cup of tea—reviews range from "masterpiece" to "floundered drama"—but the pedigree is there. I saw the movie at the NYFF and found it riveting, but it's easy to see why some found it off-putting.
Potential: The pieces are there, but A Dangerous Method might be too odd, too introverted for mass audiences, and more importantly, award voters. It's a talky, tense film and while Fassbender, Mortensen and Knightley all deliver captivating performances, they feel emotionally distant (as they should). Fassbender and Knightley have potential as the two main leads, but the former has another movie to ride and Knightley is the antithesis of charming (again, purposefully).
may be Theron's best performance to date.
Potential: The pedigree might be there, but if Young Adult is too dark, too mean-spirited and puts all its chips on a character voters despise, it may not feel the love Juno saw a few years back. Then again, Theron won her first Oscar for playing a serial killer (Monster), proving that if the talent is there, so are the awards. Cody and Reitman both seem likely to nab respective nominations for writing and directing, but it'll all come down to response once Academy members see the film—which the studio doesn't seem to interested in making happen.
October 31, 2011 10:30am EST
And John Goodman snags the tie! It has been announced that Goodman, repeat offender in the Coen Brothers' filmmaking family, will join the casting of Inside Llewyn Davis. This will be Goodman's sixth Coen appearance, earning him a tying position as the most recurring Coen actor in Hollywood.
Joel and Ethan Coen are known for their casting of several actors in multiple films. John Torturro and Jon Polito can each be seen in five different Coen Brothers films—Torturro is known best in the Coeniverse as the lead character in Barton Fink, or perhaps the bizarre pederast (who can roll) Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski, whereas Polito's big Coen role was his opening monologue in Miller's Crossing.
While five Coen films is an impressive resume, Steve Buscemi tops them with six (if you include their short segment of the compilation film Paris, Je T'Aime in the mix). But winning on that technicality as the only individual to star in six full Coen Brothers feature films is Frances McDormand, whose most memorable role is undoubtedly in Fargo. But McDormand won't be the sole record-holder for long. John Goodman currently has five Coen films under his belt, and his recent casting in the developing Inside Llewyn Davis will make six.
Earlier today, it was announced that Justin Timberlake was being reached for a major role in the film. Oscar Isaac is set to star as the title role, with Carey Mulligan playing the wife of the character being offered to Timberlake.
October 26, 2011 6:44am EST
The message expressed by the new poster for the movie ParaNorman is (as you can read below), "You don't become a hero by being normal."
Good. I am an enthusiastic proponent of instilling into kids who feel "different" a sense of great appreciation for their uniquity. And I know what you're thinking, readers. You're thinking that the only reason I so passionately endorse ParaNorman and the sentiment it conveys is because I have some monetary investment in the success of Focus Features. Well, joke's on you! It's because I was lonely and picked on as a kid. So HA!
ParaNorman is the story of a young boy—a poetic outsider...aknight of the shadows, if you will—who can communicate with the dead. Ostracized for his oddities, Norman comes to use his powers to fend of supernatural forces in order to save his town from evil.
Starring as Norman in this animated film by some of the people who worked on Coraline and Flushed Away is Kodi Smit-McPhee (who can brood with the best of 'em), Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman, Leslie Mann and Vanessa Huxtable.
October 14, 2011 5:31am EST
Last night, Lake Bell visited Jimmy Kimmel Live! talk about her relentless (but unsuccessful) efforts to impress Kid Cudi, as well as all the new slang he has taught her, and an after-party the two attended with Kanye West at a Barney's clothing store.
Julianne Hough appeared on The Late Show to talk about her "need" to dance, her gold spandex-laden childhood endeavors in a family band called White Lightning, and the hippie-esque names for her many nieces and nephews.
Again on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, John Goodman talked about getting The Big Lebowski lines shouted at him, the pornographic version of the movie that was made, and trying to stay in character at a dinner theater while people were yelling about their silverware.
Finally, Bill O'Reilly visited The Late Show to discuss the only two people who refuse to come on his show, The O'Reilly Factor (Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney), and to refuse to accept David Letterman's very enthusiastic high-five offer.
September 22, 2011 10:41pm EST
S3E1: You come to expect a certain level of sheer awesomeness from Dan Harmon’s creation, especially when it returns after such a long hiatus, but last night’s Community was just alright. Granted, for an episode of Community, just alright is still damn good. We basically witness Jeff’s sudden downward spiral as a result of the whole Pierce issue. It seems a little out of left field for a premiere episode, especially for a show that tends to rely less on a continuous story and more on continuous random details – trust me, that makes sense if you watch the show regularly. Even so, we saw an enjoyable episode for the show’s return and it truly serves to make us curious about what’s in store this season.
“We’re gonna have more fun and be less weird than the last two years combined.” –Everyone’s song in Jeff’s Dream
After shirking his study group multiple times last year, Jeff is suddenly getting a little mental, obsessing over the group’s relationship and the fact that Pierce is no longer apart of it. (He didn’t sign up for Biology last year.) When Pierce returns, Jeff gives this whole speech about evolving and how they’re friends and don’t need the group in order to hang out. Of course, this only holds true as long as he’s part of the group.
When Professor Michael King (The Wire’s Michael K. Williams, no the K doesn’t stand for King, so don’t get any ideas) kicks Jeff out of Biology, Pierce gets his spot because he’s on the waitlist. Using his own “evolved” argument against him, Annie says it doesn’t matter if they study together, they’re still friends. Of course that’s not good enough for Jeff, who descends into full madness. He sees a photo on King’s desk and thinks he’s nabbed Pierce for getting him kicked out of the class, but it turns out the photo isn’t of King. Busted. Just before he tries to bring this up to the group, he follows Chang into the vents where the Dean is trying to spray for monkeys (you know, because of Annie’s Boobs) and gets hopped up on the monkey gas. This means we see Jeff go full “Here’s Johnny” on the table with an axe. After a back and forth wherein Pierce lies and says he paid King to kick Jeff out, they finally agree to let it all go, even though Jeff royally screwed up. Though Starburns’ Breaking Bad proposition gets him booted from Bio (and we an assume Jeff is back in), it would seem that Jeff’s demons will rear their ugly heads again.
It was a bit dark and a bit of a end of season episode, but there’s something inherently hilarious about seeing Jeff Winger get so wound up and rattled that it worked. The episode doesn’t quite feel complete, though that might be because we witnessed all the best parts in the commercials – apparently they do that TV shows now too.
“If I wanted to run a monkey hotel, I’d open a banana buffet.” –Dean
Somehow Jim Rash (the Dean) can make absolutely anything hilarious – even the absurd discussion about Annie’s Boobs. This year, he’s decided that things are going to be better, more serious, different. That starts with stopping the study group’s “National Lampoonery” and step one is exterminating Annie’s Boobs, who now lives in the vents. As he goes along on his mission, he pulls aside the new Vice Dean Laybourne of the Air Conditioning school annex (John Goodman), but he has no idea what he just stepped into. Though we saw basically every ounce of Goodman’s stellar and terrifying speech long before the episode ever aired, it’s an interesting addition to the Greendale dynamic.
It turns out that the AC school earns more cash than all of Greendale, which means Dean Laybourne can hold all those funds over Dean Pelton’s head. They strike a new deal, which basically results in Greendale being completely broke – he even has to lay off the security guards.
Like a little weasley angel, Chang falls from the AC vents (how appropriate) and the Dean sees an excuse to have Chang work for free as a security guard in exchange for living at the school (in the vents?).
This portion would have been more enjoyable had more of it been a surprise, but it’s great set-up for the rest of the season, so let’s hope they keep the evil Goodman coming.
“You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth; you are the opposite of Batman.” –Troy
The most enjoyable part of the entire episode was Abed finding out that Cougar Town was moved to mid-season and his subsequent pterodactyl-esque reaction. As TV fanatics, we understand Abed’s exacerbated pain – maybe not in that shrill, shrieking tone, but we feel it. When Britta feeds his addiction with a British mini-series (a thinly veiled parody of Downton Abbey) and he’s once again dropped into despair when it’s over, the group seeks a series that can satiate Abed’s unending need for serialized television. This is also known as that 2 a.m. moment where you search furiously through the recommended Netflix series on Instant Watch in hopes of some form of new attachment. Of course, none of us deal with as disturbingly and hilariously as Abed does.
Finally, the group settles on a new addition that will last Abed ages: Inspector Spacetime. (Once again, a thinly-veiled parody of Doctor Who, the nerdiest nerd show of all time.) The series is still running and it has 26 seasons for Abed to devour – which is just about perfect. Are you trying to tell us that Doctor Who is a TV nerd’s delight, Community writers? I guess it sort of is, so we’ll allow it.
The episode as a whole could have been better, but it seems that the writers are setting up various pieces for the entire season, instead of just jumping into sudden antics. Perhaps this season really will challenge the barriers of the show we know and love, and if the past has taught us anything, playing with Communty’s barriers is just about the best thing they could possibly do.
September 16, 2011 8:43am EST
Why on earth would anyone want to remake Straw Dogs? Sam Peckinpah’s original film released in 1971 is a provocative disconcerting examination of man’s basest impulses. Its violence a source of some controversy when it was released seems relatively tame by today’s standards; its core assertion – that we’re all capable of the most extreme barbarism if pushed far enough – still unnerves. But it was very much a product of its time borne out of the social unrest and political upheaval of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The appeal – commercial and otherwise – of a modernized re-telling would seem perilously limited.
In the new version director Rod Lurie (Resurrecting the Champ The Contender) partly refashions Straw Dogs as a ham-fisted allegory for the increasingly acrimonious red state/blue state divide. It is exceedingly clear which side he’s on.
James Marsden plays David Sumner a Hollywood screenwriter who moves with his actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) to her hometown of Blackwater Mississippi after her father’s death. Their stay is intended as only temporary long enough for them to prepare the family home for sale and for David to finish his latest screenplay about the siege of Stalingrad.
Blackwater presents more or less the prototypical (i.e. clichéd) Hollywood vision of a rural Deep South town populated with scruffy churlish yokels who instinctively recoil at anything resembling sophistication. Gun racks and confederate flags and “These Colors Don’t Run” bumper stickers abound. David with his vintage Jaguar credit cards and polysyllabic vocabulary incurs immediate resentment. David’s thinly-veiled condescension doesn’t help matters.
Everywhere he goes David is eyed with suspicion and made to feel unwelcome.
Hoping to ingratiate himself with the townsfolk he hires a local construction crew headed by Amy’s handsome ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) to repair a barn damaged during a recent storm. The men prove less-than-stellar workers drinking on the job leaving early to go hunting and brazenly treading about the house as if they own it. Equivocal by nature David is loath to confront them and Charlie and the boys seize on his timidity. Their provocations soon adopt a more sinister face.
Straw Dogs like its predecessor is built around a climactic final “siege” of the Sumner house when David surrounded on all sides by men intent on taking everything he has is finally driven to fight back. But whereas Pekinpah’s film filled the preceding minutes with scene after scene of troubling moral complexity Lurie’s version can only offer unremitting tedium. His Straw Dogs is more than anything else a terminal bore. At 110 minutes it is actually shorter than the original but it feels a good deal longer. Even a pivotal rape scene – in which the victim’s consent is ever-so-briefly implied – and some virtuoso scenery-chewing from James Woods playing an alcoholic ex-football coach can’t breathe much life into this empty mundane film.