January 2011 posts
MID-AUGUST LUNCH (2008/ NETFLIX STREAMING) Need a break from all the Awards buzz? Try this sweet and funny Italian film available from Netflix on either DVD or streaming. It’s only 72 minutes long and will leave you smiling for sure. The story is simple: Gianni lives in Rome with his aged mother (played to perfection by 93 year old Valeria de Franciscis—a friend of the writer/director) in their lovely apartment. Taking care of her is a full-time job and he’s behind on payments to his co-op. Not to worry, says the co-op’s manager—do me a big favor—take care of my mother for a holiday weekend and I’ll waive what you owe. Sounds good, right? Gianni is not particularly excited about this, but what else can he do? The plot thickens when not just the manager’s mother but also his aged Aunt arrive to stay. And then comes the doctor’s mother as well! The four elderly ladies are a real hoot. Gianni is too and the food he prepares for his guests looks so good you’ll want to go out for Italian afterwards! Be sure to watch to the end—very clever.
BTW: Gianni Di Gregorio wrote and stars in this sweet film. He couldn’t be better—wine glass in hand for most of the film. Hey—you’d be drinking too! Check out this lovely interview with him in TimeOut London.
SOMEWHERE (2010/ IN THEATERS) Sofia Coppola’s movies are not for everyone, but they’re definitely OK by me. Her latest–Somewhere–was as usual written and directed by SC. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival, it’s a slow–make that glacial– moving portrait of Hollywood as seen at the Chateau Marmont—that famously seedy Sunset Boulevard gem where actors, actresses and others go to hide, to party, and to just be themselves. As Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures said in 1939, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” Stephen Dorff seems made for the part in Somewhere as Johnny Marco, a young, good-looking actor, complete with designer stubble, who is spending his days at the Chateau just hanging—- watching a couple pole dancers (very funny! especially the second time around), dozing off, smoking, just waiting for his manager to call and say where to be next. Plenty of women are available to Johnny—more than available really. His life is just drifting when suddenly his 11 year old daughter Cleo (a fabulous Elle Fanning) appears and needs to stay a while. They jet off to Milan for a gig—and what a gig! (Be sure to catch the suite he stays in.) And then return for the “good life”–lazing around the pool at the Chateau, grabbing a burger in the lobby, Cleo making eggs benedict in the kitchen of the suite—pretty cool. The film takes a turn after Cleo goes to camp and I have to say the ending is not up to the Lost in Translation standard, but is not unexpected. It says a lot that Rotten Tomatoes gives this film a critical 74% approval, while audiences give it 49%. As I said at the start of this review, you either like Sofia Coppola or you don’t.
Grade: B. I felt the film lost much of its mojo when it became more “meaningful.”
Check this out!!
Reporter: Did you base Johnny on anyone?
SC: Oh, a lot of people (laughs). I’ve met a lot of actors who have lived at the Chateau Marmont and he’s lived there (gestures to Dorff). It was a combination of people I’ve met and stories I’ve heard, kind of all put together.
ANOTHER YEAR (2010/IN THEATERS) “I’m committed to making films that are about this world,” says Mike Leigh who famously begins with no script and allows his actors to improvise entire movies over the course of many months. This is certainly the case for Another Year, a sometimes comic/sometimes quietly tragic film which evidently evolved over a period of nine months as the actors sat around in character creating themselves and their world. Presented in four seasons, starting with Spring and ending with Winter, the film is anchored by two main characters–an older married couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Jerry (Ruth Sheen)–who have a calm and loving life together. Roger Ebert says they’re “…two people I wish I knew. I’d look forward to them every time I visited their house and be slow to leave.” As viewers we join in their routines and their normal life for Another Year. Cinematically, in each season, we see them working on their community garden plot located somewhere near their home in North London and we meet their friends and relations who come to dinner, to tea and to visit. One friend, Jerry’s co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville), in particular comes all the time and is best characterized as “needy.” She drinks too much, she’s single, and she’s desperately trying to cover over a lonely life. Mary is so real and so familiar—as she crashes drunkenly at Tom and Jerry’s house yet again, we can tell this is an all too familiar scene. Other characters are introduced through the year—Tom’s friend Ken, his brother Ronnie, Tom and Jerry’s son Joe and his new wonderful girlfriend Katie—but Mary is the one we think about as we’re leaving the theater and as the movie ends, it’s Mary—getting nowhere in life at all–who is the sad focal point and who holds the screen. Kudos to Lesley Manville who turns in an incredible performance as Mary—she has already won Best Actress from the U.S. National Board of Review and is nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting. Will she appear on this week’s list of Oscar nominations? Most of those in the know are doubtful – what a shame. Don’t miss her performance nonetheless.
Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Mike Leigh fan. My favorite of his movies is Topsy Turvy—perhaps not the most typical—but absolutely wonderful in its depiction of the creation of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, offering us a stunning portrait of London in those days. Of note, Lesley Manville played Gilbert’s wife in that film. Gilbert, of course, was portrayed by Jim Broadbent who won the acting awards that year.
BLUE VALENTINE (2010/IN THEATERS) Have you ever heard that the characteristic that most draws you to a person is usually the thing that eventually makes you hate them? Derek Cianfrance made a whole movie about this concept! And man, is it depressing! Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are just as fascinating as you’ve heard as a couple crumbling in present day, and falling in love about five years prior. You’ve overheard this couple’s tense grocery store conversation in the frozen foods aisle and tried to pretend that you didn’t. You’ve felt sorry for their cute kid and wondered what drew these two angry people together in the first place. Read more »
Rebecca: LOVED IT!
Cast your vote….I’m going on record as a supporter of Ricky Gervais and his hilarious hosting gig at the Golden Globes last night—he was totally on the mark. Re-watching his opening monologue this morning (follow the link to popeater) and then some of his supposedly offensive introductions, I say, “suck it up” you sensitive Hollywood types! What say you? Right now the “was Ricky Gervais mean?” vote on the moviefone blog is running 1,216 in the “no, he was funny” column vs. 977 in the “yes, he was over the top.” My vote is in.
I KNEW IT WAS YOU: REDISCOVERING JOHN CAZALE (2009/DVD) You might not know John Cazale’s name, but you know his face—he was poor, whiney Fredo in the first two chapters of The Godfather trilogy and crazy-eyed, tragically funny Sal in Dog Day Afternoon. He starred in just five films before his death at 42, but all were nominated by the Academy for Best Picture and are generally considered to be the finest of the ‘70s (rounding out the list are The Conversation and The Deer Hunter). Though not particularly widely known until recently, Cazale is respected in thespian circles—an actor’s actor whose name is often cited for cred purposes. (Which is how Brett Ratner became involved in producing the long-overdue film—director Richard Shepard was having a terrible time finding financing and happened to read an interview in which Ratner mentioned Cazale. Shepard contacted Ratner, who made a phone call to HBO, and a release was quickly secured—almost making up for the Rush Hour trilogy!) His characters are all quite different but share a vulnerability—he’s the forgotten middle child, or the kid who was always getting picked on but also kind of asked for it. Read more »
This Sunday’s broadcast of the 2011 Golden Globes has us pretty excited over here. Kudos to the Hollywood Foreign Press for bringing SML favorite Ricky Gervais back for a second year. Will he top last year’s hilarious Mel Gibson intro? (All the video of this is sadly gone, but you remember what he said: “I like a beer as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson.”) What will the dresses look like this year? Who will be drunk on stage? Who will get snubbed in the In Memoriam reel? It’s all very exciting. Let’s all meet back here next week to discuss the highs and lows, shall we?
PS: Be sure to tune into NBC’s always awful red carpet coverage 30 minutes before the show starts. Can’t wait to hear what hit song they’ve re-written to include movie and TV references this year! I’m going to guess something by the Black Eyed Peas.
Built in 1888, the gorgeous Hotel Del Coronado sits just opposite San Diego on the island of Coronado. The hotel has always been famous—movie stars like John Wayne and Frank Sinatra are pictured there and no less than eleven U.S. presidents have visited—but it became even more famous as the location used for all the resort scenes in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), one of the all time great screwball comedies and a personal favorite of mine. Wilder found the hotel to be the perfect stand-in for Florida—not only was it close to Hollywood but it was also in a down-turn and thus was cheap! The stories about Marilyn Monroe on the set of this movie will make you laugh….check some of them out at IMDB’s Trivia Page. My favorite quote from Wilder is this one, referring to Marilyn Monroe while making the movie: “We were in mid-flight, and there was a nut on the plane.”
Visiting the Del (as locals call it) seems more than appropriate given Tony Curtis’ death just last year—you can still picture him on the beach there, doing his wonderful imitation of Cary Grant ☺
BTW: Follow this link for more about this gorgeous hotel. Worth the visit—grab a drink and enjoy the scenery!
Come join us for a discussion of the trailers we’ve been privileged to experience over the last month or so. Are they tantalizing nuggets of the hits of tomorrow? Or harbingers of Knight and Days to come? We do not know! But we will assume that we do, because it is our way. Have YOU seen a trailer lately? Do tell. In the Comments, please—we can’t hear you from our cubicles.
Sarah: Okay! It’s hard for me to properly introduce this trailer for Hanna. It looks so weird, and the movie’s plot is not at all clear here. What is going on with this tiny assassin girl in the Arctic? Why would Eric Bana leave his daughter alone to kill someone dangerous? What, exactly, is the deal with Cate Blanchett’s hair and accent? Can I get someone to please tell me how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s first name? Whatever the hell is going on, it definitely looks like it’s awesome. Count me in.