There comes a time in every filmmaker’s career when it suddenly feels like they’re coasting. They’ve made a name for themselves had some success and challenged themselves in one way or another so now it’s time to take it easy do what they do best and give the people what they want. Perhaps they’re taking a break before they try to do something big again or maybe they’re paying off the debt of a previous flop but the one thing they’re not doing is taking any risks. It’s the same-old same-old and while it might please the fans the real admirers probably won’t be pleased. It happens more often than we’d like to admit but unfortunately it does happen.
This is the case with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs the latest from the director who gave us Amelie Delicatessen and City of Lost Children (the latter two co-directed with Marc Caro). Those films earned him comparisons to Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton but Jeunet proved he had a unique and witty cinematic style that he could call his own and with the international popularity of Amelie audiences everywhere took notice granting this very talented director a lot of leeway to make films in his own style. With his next film 2004’s A Very Long Engagement he decided to stray from the style of his previous films and attempt something more dramatic and though the film was generally well-received Jeunet decided to go back to the well of whimsy with Micmacs with very mixed results. While casual fans should be pleased anyone interested in watching a filmmaker grow artistically (as Jeunet had been) will shrug and leave disappointed.
Like his fellow fantasists Gilliam and Burton Jeunet’s detractors have often described him as a stylist first and storyteller second. I’ve never subscribed to that theory until now — I always felt a connection to his offbeat characters and stories — but with Micmacs he either has failed to help us make that connection or he simply doesn’t care enough himself. Part of the problem is that the film hangs on the flimsiest of plotlines: Homeless man Dany Boon seeks revenge on the feuding weapons manufacturers responsible for the landmine that killed his parents and the bullet in his head (a result a drive-by shooting) by teaming up with a rag-tag group of other homeless people all of them with their own set of special skills. A picture like this should hook us in from the very start or it’s never going to get off the ground and Micmacs’ opening already suggests that Jeunet isn’t breaking any new ground here; whimsy for whimsy’s sake will only yield limited results especially without a real story in place. Although it’s filled with a number of the filmmaker’s patented set pieces Micmacs is never as engaging as it would like to be. Numerous sequences that resemble Rube Goldberg meets Warner Brothers cartoons are definitely amusing to watch and offer some trademark Jeunet imagery but there’s no reason to care about what we’re seeing. Boon’s plight should be a moving one but for Jeunet it feels more like an excuse to shoot his regular co-star Dominique Pinon out of a giant cannon.
Pinon’s presence represents another problem with Micmacs: although the film is very well cast almost none of these characters register with the audience. Boon’s homeless “family” is filled with faces out of the Jeunet central casting book but we never really learn who they are nor do we understand why they follow Boon’s character through the lengths that they do. Just because they’re “characters” doesn’t really give them character to portray and though the film is energetically performed by all (with special recognition going to the charming Marie-Julie Baup) they’re just figures for Jeunet’s giant Parisian play set. There’s no question that there are certain pleasures to be found in Micmacs; it looks wonderful with some great production design and cinematography by Tetsuo Nagata and Jeunet’s use of classic Max Steiner music definitely adds to the fun. But these enjoyments are really surface-level only and the film doesn’t have enough weight to hold them up. I certainly wanted to like this one more than I did and I’m sure many of you will disagree with my assessment and enjoy yourselves anyway but Micmacs ultimately isn’t the best example of what Jean-Pierre Jeunet is capable of.
When the nominations for the 74th Academy Awards® were announced today in Los Angeles, Miramax Films received a total of 15 overall nominations, the most for any studio, including a Best Picture nomination for In the Bedroom, and a Best Foreign Language Film nomination for Amélie.
The Best Picture nomination is the company's 11th Best Picture nomination over a span of the last 10 consecutive years (1992-2001), the longest streak for any company since the Academy limited the Best Picture nominees to five films in 1944.
"We are very humbled that the members of the Academy have honored and celebrated such a wide range of Miramax's films over the past ten years," said Harvey and Bob Weinstein. "It is a great tribute to the writers, actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, composers, costume and set designers, editors, sound technicians and everyone else who made these films possible."
In the Bedroom, directed by Todd Field, stars Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, and Marisa Tomei.
Set on the coast of Maine, In the Bedroom tells the story of a couple whose only child is involved in a love affair that ends tragically and the characters' evolving response to the loss.
"I am grateful to the Academy for acknowledging the film in this way, although I am reluctant to use the word I, because it is we who are grateful--my co-writer, my producing partners, and the actors, whose performances transcended my expectations for these characters in every way," said Todd Field, writer, director, and producer of In the Bedroom.
Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Ruth Fowler in In the Bedroom, for which she also won a Golden Globe and received a BAFTA nomination and SAG nomination. In 1981, Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Coal Miner's Daughter.
"I am so thrilled to be recognized by the Academy and it makes it so sweet to be nominated along with Tom and Marisa," said Sissy Spacek. "It's wonderful for a film of this nature to get the recognition and support that it has. What a gift."
Tom Wilkinson was nominated for Best Actress for his role as Dr. Mark Fowler in In the Bedroom, for which he also received a BAFTA nomination and a SAG nomination.
"I am very thrilled that all our work on In The Bedroom has been thankfully recognized," said Tom Wilkinson. "And I hope this will encourage more people to see the film."
Marisa Tomei was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Natalie Strout in In the Bedroom, for which she also received a Golden Globe nomination. In 1993, Tomei won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny.
"I am tremendously excited to be put in the company of my fellow nominee's and to be recognized for a film and a role that I loved so much," said Marisa Tomei. "I am so thankful to the Academy for honoring me in this way."
Amélie received five nominations, including one for Best Foreign Language Film, which is Miramax's 20th nomination in this category over the past 14 years. Amélie was also nominated for Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Sound and Best Original Screenplay.
Amélie is a fanciful comedy about a young woman who discreetly orchestrates the lives of the people around her, creating a world exclusively of her own making.
"I am thrilled and honored that the Academy has recognized this great team who collaborated on Amélie, said Jean-Pierre Jeunet, writer and director of Amélie.
Academy Award-winner and British legend Dame Judi Dench was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Iris Murdoch in Iris. Last year, Dench received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Miramax's Chocolat.
"I am very moved to receive this nomination," said Judi Dench. "My performance is very much due to the work of director Richard Eyre and Jim Broadbent, and Richard (Eyre) and Charles Wood, who wrote such a delicate, beautiful film."
Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the Young Iris Murdoch in Iris.
"I'm absolutely thrilled and amazed," said Kate Winslet. "I would not have received this nomination if it wasn't for Richard and his brilliant direction. It was enough of an honor to support Judi Dench in this film, and to be nominated along side her and Jim Broadbent, not to mention the other nominees in my category is like all my Christmas's at once."
Jim Broadbent was nominated for Best Actor for his role as John Bayley in Iris.
Renee Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Bridget in Bridget Jones's Diary.
"I am shocked, honored, grateful and shamelessly laughing and dancing around my apartment," said Renee Zellweger. "I am just happy--so happy!"
Sting was nominated for Best Achievement in Music (Original Song) for "Until..." from Kate & Leopold, for which he also won the Golden Globe. Last year, Sting was nominated for Best Achievement in Music (Original Song) for "My Funny Friend and Me" from The Emperor's New Groove.
"I'm thrilled and delighted by this honor particularly because it is for the song 'Until...,'" said Sting. "I was sent this film to watch shortly after September 11th at a time when we all felt numb. The movie was filled with love and optimism and inspired me to write a song that would be as romantic and positive as the film itself. I'm pleased that those sentiments have been met with such enthusiasm. Trudie and I had such a wonderful time last year at the Oscar's and I'm glad to have been invited back."