David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association handed out its eighth annual Critics' Choice Awards Friday, and Chicago was the night's big winner.
The musical was honored for best picture and best ensemble acting, while Catherine Zeta-Jones took home the best supporting actress award.
Chicago's star, however, Renee Zellweger, was passed over for best actress. The BFCA instead honored Julianne Moore for her role in the 1950s melodrama Far From Heaven.
On the men's side, Gangs of New York star Daniel Day-Lewis and About Schmidt's Jack Nicholson tied in the best actor category. Chris Cooper won best supporting actor for Adaptation.
Veteran Steven Spielberg received the best director award for Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can.
The 187-member BFCA is made up of television, radio and online critics from the U.S. and Canada. In the past two years, 78 percent of the BFCA's nominees also become Academy Award contenders.
The BFCA traditionally nominates 10 films for best picture, creating a National Critics' 10 Best List. There are three nominees--or four in the case of a tie--in each of the 16 other categories.
Here is a complete list of winners:
Catch Me If You Can
Far From Heaven
Gangs of New York
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Road to Perdition
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York Winner! (TIE)
Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt Winner! (TIE)
Robin Williams, One Hour Photo
Salma Hayek, Frida
Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Diane Lane, Unfaithful
Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven Winner!
Best Supporting Actor
Chris Cooper, Adaptation Winner!
Alfred Molina, Frida
Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
Meryl Streep, Adaptation
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago Winner!
Best Acting Ensemble
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Roman Polanski, The Pianist
Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York
Steven Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can/Minority Report Winner!
Charlie Kaufman, Adaptation/Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Winner!
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, About Schmidt
Nia Vardalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Best Young Actor/Actress
Kieran Culkin, Igby Goes Down Winner!
Tyler Hoechlin, Road to Perdition
Nicholas Hoult, About a Boy
Best Digital Acting Performance
Dobby, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Gollum, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Winner!
Yoda, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones
Best Animated Feature
Lilo and Stitch
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spirited Away Winner!
Best Family Film (Live Action)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Winner!
Best Picture Made for Television
Door to Door Winner!
Live From Baghdad
Martin and Lewis
Best Foreign Language Film
Talk to Her
Y Tu Mama Tambien Winner!
Bowling for Columbine Winner!
The Kid Stays in the Picture
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
"Father and Daughter" from The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Paul Simon
"Hero" from Spider-Man, Chad Kroeger
"Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile, Eminem Winner!
Philip Glass, The Hours
Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
John Williams, Catch Me If You Can/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/Minority Report Winner!