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.
If you’re anything like me, the only reason you ever watched something like American Idol is the fact that it practically begs you to form irrational opinions of complete strangers for a few hours a week, and to brew the ridiculous opinions for months until they boil over and you flip back over to complete and total apathy by the time the finale comes around. If, however, you’re unfortunate enough to be like me and you’ve managed to watch entire seasons of Idol, then I’m sorry, because it hasn’t been that fun, until now. This season, one man’s ridiculous antics brought a tired show out of the doldrums of its old age and unleashed an element of pure fun that was missing in the first place.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a ridiculously dedicated Idol fan. I like the contestants and I’ve enjoyed the journey, but I certainly view it as an entertainment experience, rather than a serious vehicle to fuel my veracious need to form opinions about people I will probably never actually meet. And now, I’m inching closer to becoming an actual fan. How did this happen? I think I have an idea. And now, to mark the fact that the season is coming to a close, here is the breakdown of how I learned to enjoy American Idol and why Steven Tyler is completely responsible for that almost incomprehensible fact.
1. Animalistic screaming may erupt at any given moment
Tyler is a bit of a wake-up call on a show that I don’t think held up much without at least a little personality to carry it because he’s constantly having fun and we know it. When he hears something he loves, it’s obvious because he starts screeching or yodeling like Xena: Warrior Princess, and often times it’s his reaction that’s more entertaining than the singers themselves.
2. Out with the mean, in with the crazy
Another thing I love about Idol’s favorite rock star is that he’s completely nuts. When Idol made the announcement that Simon Cowell would not be returning this season, I too thought the show was going to nose-dive into obscurity. I thought we needed Simon to help reinforce our harsh opinions of the singers we didn’t like and that we needed his presence to heckle when criticisms were hurled at our favorites, but now that we’ve entered the age of Tyler, I can see the error of my ways. We were confusing being harsh with providing entertainment. Tyler’s brand of insanity is simply entertainment and for me, when I'm watching a show like Idol, the less gravity, the better.
3. He gets us with those insane one-liners
The only reason I made it through the audition process, which usually gets old for me right around midway through, is because Tyler added something hilarious to every set of contestants and most of the time, it doesn’t make any sense. Rather than describe the sorts of things he said, I’ll just give you a few of my favorites:
“Well, hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck and see what hatches.”“That’s the goop great stuff is made from.”“I’ve never heard anybody squeeze that song, but you squeezed it so slow it sound liked vanilla fudge singing ‘Eleanor Rigby.’”“You don’t look a day over fabulous.”“One hand clapping!”“Coach, did you ever paddle his ass?”“Dawg’s gonna turn into a pussy cat here.”“What’s with those joo-joo-bies on your oo-oo-bies.”“You oughta be arrested for that voice…you have handcuffs?”
4. He’s basically the full embodiment of the little voice in my head at any given moment
I honestly think Steven Tyler has no inner monologue. He just says exactly what he’s thinking. As I’m sitting on the couch, watching auditions or performances and thinking something awful or snarky, he comes out with something like, “Your outfit was slamming and I really liked your voice….JOKING,” and I die laughing because someone actually said it. Sure, it’s not nice, but when has American Idol ever been nice?
5. He makes uninformed technical comments and probably has no business judging this competition, but most of us don’t care anyway
He latches on to musical-sounding words like “musicality” or “melodic sensibilities” or the completely Tylerian “isms and wasms” and uses them in all the most nonsensical ways, yet we still get where he’s coming from. That’s because for the most part, the average viewer doesn’t know about these technical issues. Most viewers know what they like. They don’t pick up a Rihanna album because they’ve analyzed her pitch and tone and they’ve decided that she’s worth listening to. They pick her because they like her. That’s why when Steven says someone’s “isms” are amazing and it essentially means nothing, a lot of us are on board, because when it comes down to it, we just need to know that something about that was awesome and we want to hear more.
6. His scandalous and uncomfortable commentary keeps it interesting
Okay, so I know some parents are probably not stoked about this bit. I get that. Idol is a family show and when Steven lets loose telling 16 year old girls they’re showing the right amount of skin and letting one contestant know how attractive her lips are or spewing double entendre or flat-out cursing on television, people get upset. I, however, found this little game of waiting to see when Steven would say something he shouldn’t wildly entertaining and it is supposed to be an entertaining television show, isn’t it?
7. Steven makes it okay for the judges to be useless
Tyler either loves everything, hates it vehemently, or does this little dance around the piece that doesn’t work for him. Essentially, he doesn’t really have a point of view; he’s just all over the place. So how is his commentary helpful? Well, in truth it isn’t actually helpful in developing an opinion, but that is exactly how it aids the show. The mundane commentary from Jennifer and Randy combined with Tyler’s infinitely entertaining insanity allows us to ignore the judges completely. It helps us find a place where the judges are little more than fun little lampposts in between performances. They’re like that jar of coffee beans they hand you in perfume shops to cleanse your palate before you sniff the next fragrance. Randy and Jennifer lull you sleep, then Tyler is like a swift kick that preps you for the next voice, but they have no real bearing on our opinions and I think that makes the competition a lot more interesting, considering that our opinions are the ones that matter and most of us were never listening to the judges anyway.
8. It's hard not to love him
It really is. On that note, let's end on one of my favorite Steven moments featuring one of our finalists, Lauren Alaina.
The awards, which honour excellence in TV programming outside the U.S., will see BBC spy series Spooks compete in the Best Drama category, while Harry Potter star Julie Walters is in the running for the Best Actress trophy for her turn in A Short Stay In Switzerland.
Reality TV show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! has been nominated for the best Non-scripted Entertainment prize.
Other countries to garner nominations include Brazil with five nods, and the Philippines, Germany and Mexico with three apiece.
The Netherlands, Denmark, Argentina, Japan, China and France all have two nominees, while Thailand landed its first nod for children's programme Lharn Poo Koo E-Joo.
British TV legend David Frost, whose interviews with former U.S. President Richard Nixon were depicted in the Oscar-nominated film Frost/Nixon, will receive the International Emmy Founders Award at the ceremony in New York on 23 November (09).