Apparently, New York’s unbridled derision for its sister state to the south dates back at least as far as the 1920s — as Manhattanite Arnold Rothstein tells Atlantic City resident Nucky Thompson early on in this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, “New Jersey [is] a state I have little interest in or affection for.” Prohibition might not have lasted, but that sentiment sure did.
Rothstein is none too pleased with Nucky due to the events that closed out last week’s Boardwalk: Gyp Rosetti’s seizure of Jersey’s Tabor Heights, an important stopping point on the route of alcohol delivery between Atlantic City and New York City. Nucky begs for Rothstein’s help in disposing of Rosetti — initially, Rothstein is unwilling, due to the various parties to whom Rosetti links him presently; still, he seems to appreciate Nucky’s point that the man is hardly a reliable business associate. Or at all an entirely stable human being.
In fact, we get a glimpse into Rosetti’s off-kilter personal life this week: in addition to making hyper-aggressive catcalls at small town waitresses, Rosetti enjoys his share of sadomasochistic extramarital affairs, relishing in a painful choking. Depiction of this pastime, which bookends the episode, becomes his undoing towards the end when a screaming-like-a-banshee Bugsy Siegel (on Rothstein’s command) busts in on the incapacitated Rosetti and shoots up his entire Tabor Heights residence. Both Rosetti and Bugsy make it out alive, but several of the former’s men (not to mention his lover and an innocent paper boy) are killed. A man of passion if nothing else, Rosetti does seem to take personal issue with the murder of the paper boy, whom he had met and “befriended” (in his own horrifying way) earlier on in the episode.
So now that Rosetti had pledged an inevitable vengeance against the regimes of Nucky and Rothstein, Boardwalk’s leading man is in for his share of professional, and mortal, conflict. Adding of course to the marital (and extramarital) troubles Nucky has been having of late: Nucky’s affair with vaudeville actress Billie Kent is brought to the attention of Margaret this week when she walks in on the two of them shopping at the fancy garments store where she used to work. In a subsequent conversation, Margaret highlights the reason why Nucky might have a bit more difficulty working things out with this one: she’s independent and self-made — not in need of his rescue. But that doesn’t sit well with Nucky, whether he’s up to admitting it or not.
A Schubert play in which Billie is set to star has two problems going for it, in the eyes of Nucky Thompson: it’s destined to fail, and it casts an overly handsy actor in a romantic role opposite his girlfriend. In order to kill two birds with one stone (in a rare turn for this show, that’s just a metaphor — no killing is involved), Nucky arranges it so that the famed stage actor Eddie Cantor will usurp the male lead. At first, Cantor tells Nucky he is unwilling, due to a previous commitment to a New York production. But as we all know, when someone on this show says, “I knew you’d understand,” it’s likely that the person he or she is talking to doesn’t exactly understand at all.
Nucky sends Chalky and Dunn Pernsley to pay Eddie a visit, tacitly endorsing the breaking off of the actor’s New York commitment and the joining of Billie’s show (to keep it running and box out Mr. Handsy). And so, Nucky can view himself a damsel in distress’ knight in shining armor once again. But as Eddie ominously tells Billie at the end of the episode, getting romantically involved with Nucky is hardly permanent, and is always trouble, citing the long-gone Lucy Danziger as proof.
But it's not as though Margaret is entirely innocent in this area either: lest we forget her affair with Owen Slater, or ignore the new longing in her heart: one for Dr. Edward Holt, the House-ian physician who begins teaching Margaret's prenatal care classes this week. As he is just about the only other enlightened human being at the hospital, and one who finally drops his gruff exterior to extend appreciation for Margaret's dedication to the teaching of women, she is visibly disheartened to learn that he is engaged. He might be Dr. House, but this hospital love triangle in the making is straight out of Grey's Anatomy.
Over in Illinois, it seems as though Van Alden’s former life is catching up with him — with “seems” being the operative word. That fed he met in the bar a few weeks back has taken to leaving Van Alden his business card, both at his office and at his apartment, haunting the former detective with ideas that he might have been found by his old administration. Van Alden tries to warn his wife Sigrid about what dangers might come, but she insists (through her broken English) that she knows the truth: he was a good, innocent man who got caught up accidentally in the doings of criminals, and had to move out to the Midwest to avoid their wrath.
Her devotion shines through the episode when the speakeasy fed comes to visit Van Alden, revealing his true intentions: Van Alden sold him a faulty iron, and he simply wants reimbursement — but what he gets instead is clocked in the head with a frying pan and suffocated to death when Sigrid misunderstands his reason for coming, assuming that he is one of the “bad men” — an idea she maintains after the married couple disposes of the threat (through the help of the florist whom Van Alden befriended in the season premiere).
Finally, we actually see a bit of humanity in the most unexpected of places this week: Gillian Darmody, who seems to be clinging desperately to the idea that Jimmy is alive. Not only on the surface, to keep up appearances, but behind closed doors — Gillian can’t handle the idea that her son has been killed. The sage prophet Leander Whitlock visits Gillian, explaining that her whorehouse is costing more money than it is earning. Gillian suggests that she will mortgage her home, but Leander says she can only do this by declaring her son (the house’s owner) legally dead… something she refuses to do. As such, Gillian drops her strict codes about business and does everything she can to earn the necessary funds — even if it drags her down, she will never admit that Jimmy is truly gone. As sick and twisted as she may be, as much of an anchor she might have provided to her son’s life, she clearly does care for him.
Overall, this stands as one of the stronger episodes of the season so far, if only for its interesting examination of each of the characters: Nucky is desperate to see himself as a hero, Van Alden is desperate to keep his old life behind him (at any cost), and Gillian is desperate to believe that she is not alone. Sensing a pattern?
[Photo Credit: HBO]
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Erika is a gifted pianist in her 40s who teaches at a prestigious music school in Vienna. But her private life is far from gilded. She lives in a cramped apartment with her overbearing mother and secretly visits the local porn parlor to watch hard-core movies. She is also masochistically driven to inflict harm on her own body and to be a Peeping Tom at the local drive-in where she watches a couple making love in their car. After she reluctantly supports the acceptance of handsome young pianist Walter as a student at the conservatory they enter a twisted and abusive sadomasochistic relationship in spite of Walter's apparent genuine love for the older Erika. The piano teacher's pathology is so extreme that she surreptitiously puts cut glass into the coat pocket of another student who then ruins her playing hand when she thrusts it into the pocket. This disturbed and sadistic heroine's despicable and graphic behavior resonates way beyond the film's wonderful music and great performances bringing down what would otherwise be a quality movie.
Isabelle Huppert one of France's greatest and most prolific film actresses is extraordinary in what can only be described as an extraordinarily challenging role. She gives a terrific and convincing performance as does Benoit Magimel as the handsome young piano student who falls under her diabolic spell and into her sick and manipulative web of erotic shenanigans. An intense turn from French legend Annie Girardot as Huppert's controlling mother is also top-notch.
German director Michael Haneke does a fine and convincing job directing the peculiar goings-on but must also take the rap as having anointed himself the adapter of this strange novel by Elfriede Jelinek. Haneke directs his actors convincingly and intriguingly and his adaptation also convinces more thanks to the actors than to direction or the underlying material. Haneke's evocation of the world of classical music and training including a soundtrack rich in the music of such masters as Schubert Bach and Beethoven and shots of musicians performing these beloved works is effective especially as counterpoint to the far-from-lofty teacher who is an ironic cog in this sublime process.
As the 300 guests at the Salon des Ambassadeurs dined on a Mediterranean fish plate with assorted mushrooms, Piper-Heidsieck champagne and a Palme d'Or strawberry delight, the 54th Cannes International Film Festival handed out its top honors Sunday.
Jodie Foster, who bowed out earlier this year as jury president, fulfilled her obligation as the closing ceremony's host. The awards were characterized as oddly conventional, with the 10-member jury sticking to more established filmmakers rather than the fresher talent from the 23 films in competition. In contrast, last year's jury came under fire for giving the top prize - the Palme d'Or - to Lars von Trier's controversial and divisive Dancer in the Dark.
The Italian film A Son's Room, about a family that is torn apart by the death of a child, took home the Palme d'Or, representing the first time that an Italian movie had taken the top honor since 1978. Its director and star, Nanni Moretti, raised both fists in the air in victory.
"I have often been told that this film represents a turning point in my career because it is a more adult, mature character. Maybe I'm not interested in caricatures any more," Moretti said in a news conference earlier this week, as reported by Reuters. Moretti has been nominated for the Palme d'Or four times and previously won the award for best director in 1994 for his comedy Dear Diary.
The other big winner of the evening was Austrian director Michael Haneke's film The Piano Teacher, a controversial tale about voyeurism and masochism. French actress Isabelle Huppert won the award for best actress for portraying a cold and sexually repressed woman who is titillated by one of her students, played by Benoit Magimel, who also won for best actor. The film won the Grand Prix award-runner up to the Palme d'Or.
"There are films that frighten you. You think they will take everything away from you, but they give you everything," Huppert said when she accepted her award. "I thank Bach, Schubert and Mozart."
It was not a stellar night for the Americans. The only big win for the United States was the shared award for best director by David Lynch and Joel Coen.
Lynch, whose 1990 film Wild at Heart won the Palme d'Or, picked up the director's award for his moody, noirish drama, Mulholland Drive, originally penned as a TV pilot a few years ago. Starring a cast of unknowns, the story centers on a woman who loses her memory after an accident on the famed winding road in Los Angeles, and finds help in the most unusual places. The concept was a tad too bizarre for television.
"At a certain point you realize you're in with the wrong people," Lynch told the The New Yorker. "Their thinking process is very foreign to me. They like a fast pace and a linear story, but you want your creations to come out of you and be distinctive. I feel it's possibly true that there are aliens on earth, and they work in television."
Coen is a Cannes darling who has won two previous director awards, one for the 1996 Fargo and the other for the 1991 Barton Fink, which also won the Palme d'Or. He scooped up his third director's award for his moody, noirish drama, The Man Who Wasn't There. Starring Oscar winners Frances McDormand and Billy Bob Thornton, this tale, shot in black and white, revolves around a hairdresser whose life is fairly mundane until he discovers his wife is having an affair, and he decides to blackmail the lover. Things appropriately go haywire, as they tend to do in a Coen film.
"Curiously, almost everyone in the movie wears a wig, or a hairpiece," Coen said. "So Thornton, who plays the principal character, is wearing one, James Gandolfini wears one, Tony Shalhoub wears one, Jon Polito wears one ... So the overall effect is that it really transforms the appearance of the actors. You almost don't recognise them."
The opening night extravaganza, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, enjoyed major popular and critical success. As did the Dreamworks' animated film, Shrek, now destined to become an animated classic. Neither film was seriously in contention for the top honors.
If the Americans received little in the way of accolades, the Asian contingent at the festival fell flat on its face. Even though there were seven features alone in the Official Selection, only a technical award was bestowed on the Taiwanese sound engineer, Tu Duu-chih, for his work on the two Taiwanese entries, Millennium Mambo and What Time is it There?.
In fact, some festival attendees felt the best films were either made 22 years ago, the director's cut of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalyspe Now, or still in production, based on the 25-minute product reel for the upcoming Lord of the Rings.
Jury president Liv Ullmann hinted at some tough times during the selection process during her introductory speech at the ceremony, as reported by Variety. Noting that unanimity did not always prevail, her fellow jurors "fill[ed] me with anger." But she added, "we in the jury are still friends." It was reported that jury discussion sessions, which occurred daily, would last several hours, as each juror was required to elaborate on their interpretations of the films in competition.
Melanie Griffith won a lifetime achievement award, which took on a bittersweet quality when a few days before her father had died. In a tearful acceptance speech, she said, "It's hard not to see you out there the proud face of my father. Somehow, I know you're here, Dad, and I know your smile is big and, you old cowboy, I know you're up there saying, 'Why are you wearing that dress?'"
In the parallel Cannes awards, the French film Amour d'Enfance (Childhood Love) won the best film award for the Un Certain Regard sidebar and the Iranian film Zire Noure Mah (Under the Moonlight) won the Critics' Week Grand Prix. Sandrine Veysset's Martha … Martha won the Directors' Fortnight.
Cannes still remains a favorite of Jennifer Jason Leigh, at Cannes to promote her film, The Anniversary Party, in which she co-wrote, co-directed and costarred with Alan Cumming.
"It's the only time I think as actors today you get a sense of what it would have been like to have been a movie star back in the '30s and '40s, when the premieres were really big, and you walk up that red carpet or that blue carpet, and it's just incredible," she told The Associated Press.