January 2013 posts
Last night’s SAG awards were rather boring and unflatteringly attired, but they did provide some stuff for the Internets to talk about today. Highlights for me were acting wins for Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on this, the last week ever for 30 Rock. (Best joke of the night: In her acceptance speech, Fey shared the award with fellow-nominee Amy Poehler saying “I’ve known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham.” Love those two.) Voting for these awards actually overlaps more with the Oscars than the Globes voting does, so I’ll be interested to see if last night’s wins for Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress) and Tommy Lee Jones (Best Supporting Actor) carry over to The Big Show.
Vulture wonders if Argo’s win for Best Cast means it’s a stronger bet than previously thought for Best Picture over Lincoln:
The full list of winners: http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/sag-awards-2013-winners-list.html
And, most notably, dresses:
ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012/IN THEATERS) Up for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Original Screenplay, it is still shocking to think that Kathryn Bigelow was left off the Oscar Best Director nominee list. Of course, the common assumption is that she is being punished by liberal Hollywood for including realistic (and very uncomfortable) scenes of Americans using torture in her picture. Depiction is not endorsement, says Bigelow, most recently in her LA Times Op Ed. Why not focus your disapproval on our government that even now allows some level of “enhanced interrogation” in the continuing war on terrorism. Bigelow stands by her film, scripted by former journalist Mark Boal who also wrote the screenplay for their previous Oscar winning partnership on “The Hurt Locker.” Of note, the two had originally been working on a film about the search for Bin Laden, centering on the December 2001 failed Tora Bora effort and in fact, were about to begin filming when news broke that he had been killed in Pakistan. They quickly redirected their focus and created a film as intense as anything you will see in the theater and completely absorbing. The 157 minute movie basically breaks into three parts, all anchored by the character of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a tough as nails CIA analyst who just won’t take no for an answer. It’s the opening portion that introduces the audience to torture and to Maya, who looks slim and frail but quickly reveals her steely self.
“Washington says she’s a killer,” says one of her new cohorts in Afghanistan. Working with a seasoned analyst named Dan (Australian Jason Clarke), Maya soon becomes a major force on the Bin Laden team. Joining her at the table is Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), another woman who has been working hard to find the needle in the haystack….and that’s what this movie really depicts so well. My favorite part is right in the middle of the film, when a ground crew uses a cell phone signal to track the courier who will eventually lead them to Bin Laden himself. As the CIA ground team drives literally in circles trying to spot someone they have never even seen, the camera pulls back to reveal the chaos of the marketplace. It’s an effective reminder of just how difficult this task was and how impressive the ultimate CIA effort was. The final part of the film is equally effective, re-enacting the raid on the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was located and killed. The Seal Team 6 guys are portrayed as focused but still human and the use of night vision green makes it all seem real. It’s hard to think of any way that this film could be better—I highly recommend it. Kudos to Bigelow and Boal—they are every bit as tough as their heroine Maya.
Jodie Foster, what? The real story about last night’s Golden Globe Awards is that Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler KILLED as hosts. They should be all-time hosts of everything from now on. Done. Stay home, MacFarland. Don’t even try, seriously.
Here’s a sampling of what the Interwebs are saying about the highs and lows of the show and the dresses…
THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012/IN THEATERS) Based on a true story, this film presents the harrowing experience of one family who happened to be vacationing in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit. While the real life family is Spanish, in the film they are British and enjoying a Christmas beach holiday. The tsunami, as you may remember, hit with literally no warning on December 26th (Boxing Day) when the Thai beaches were overflowing with European tourists, many of whom died. The event is depicted in an incredibly realistic fashion…and it is truly horrifying. As the movie opens, we meet Maria (Naomi Watts) and her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor), who are flying in with their three boys: Lucas (Tom Holland), the oldest at 10 years; Thomas (Samuel Joslin), the middle child, a bit of a whiner, is 7 1/2; and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), the youngest, is 5. We see the family as they arrive at their beachfront hotel, which looks lovely and boasts a nice swimming pool. Christmas arrives, presents are opened and everything is going great until tragedy strikes—and it strikes so quickly and so devastatingly. If you’ve seen the preview, you’ll remember the wave hitting as the family is enjoying their morning in the pool. The impact is unreal…with water destroying everything in its path. When we finally see Maria again, she is holding onto a palm tree for dear life. Amazingly she sees Lucas floating by and begins to yell for him and to swim toward him. The two eventually manage to pull themselves out of the waters, though by this time, Maria has been stabbed deeply in both her leg and chest by a sharp plant and is bleeding, while both are beat up by the debris that swirled in the tsunami waters. Luckily a group of local individuals transport them to the nearest hospital—which is itself a chaotic scene of injured and lost individuals.
Meanwhile, Henry has found the two youngest boys and is desperately searching for Lucas and Maria—we feel his growing panic. The bulk of the film actually deals with the miracle of uniting all five members of this family and of the increasingly desperate condition of Maria—an incredible story and the telling of it is extremely well done. Kudos to Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and to Sergio Sanchez, who created the screenplay which is based on Maria Belon’s story — thankfully she survived to tell her tale. Naomi Watt’s strong and realistic portrayal of Maria has been nominated for a serious trifecta: an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award. Good for her, I say, and well deserved. But my personal favorite actor in the movie is young Tom Holland (Lucas) who has already been nominated for a number of “break through” awards. Let’s watch for more from this talented young man.
LES MISERABLES (2012/IN THEATERS) Who would have thought that turning Victor Hugo’s lengthy 1862 French historical novel into a musical would have had such long-lasting results? If you’ve never seen a stage production of Les Miserables, you have missed a definite phenomenon. Referred to as a “sung through musical play,” Les Mis was originally performed in French in 1980, with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. However, the French production closed after only three months. At the request of Peter Farago who was a fan of the French work, Cameron Mackintosh, who had developed “Cats,” assembled a production team to adapt the French musical for a British audience. After two years in development, the English-language version opened in London on October 8, 1985, at the Barbican Centre—and has been running continuously worldwide ever since. Ironically, the original musical—even in English–bombed with the critics but was saved by audience popularity. This mirrors a bit the reception to the new film version, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), which has garnered only a 58% Rotten Tomatoes rating from top critics yet is already a box office success with an 85% audience rating.
My opinion? The movie feels very long at 2 hours, 38 minutes, and I missed the Intermission desperately—especially that glass of something alcoholic I would have enjoyed. However, for fans of the musical, this film will be more than welcome. The cast is strong, with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, the hero of the piece, who wills himself to live a better life after 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. Russell Crowe is his nemesis as Inspector Javert, determined to arrest him again after Valjean jumps parole and creates a new identity. Anne Hathaway is certainly poignant as Fantine, the embodiment of the French poor during the Revolutionary period. Her demise from simple seamstress to debased whore seems to happen very quickly on screen but is in fact quite true to the original version. As you surely know, Valjean swears to the dying Fantine that he will find and care for her daughter Cosette, who is under the dubious care of two innkeepers. These are Monsieur and Madame Thenardier who bring desperately needed comic relief to all this tragedy–at least they did in the stage version I saw. Unfortunately, they are not as funny in the film, despite being played broadly by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Others in the cast are quite good, particularly Eddie Redmayne as Marius, one of the band of student rebels who take up most of the second half of the production. Marius falls for the older Cosette (a worthy Amanda Seyfried) while Samantha Barks, a veteran of London’s 25th Anniversary production of the musical, is also strong as the older Eponine, daughter of the Thenardier’s and desperately in love with Marius. No wonder the film seems long! There’s lots of plot, endless singing (truly) and also endless close-ups and continuously moving camera work, reminding us that we’re watching a “big production.” I found I missed the distance between stage and audience, as well as the wonder of the stage sets. Given a choice to see this musical again, I feel I would choose the stage. But judge for yourself—this is definitely a movie to see before the awards season kicks into high gear and the songs really will linger with you for days.
Django Unchained (2012/In Theaters)
Sarah: Kim! OK so um Django. We saw it. We sure did. I’m not so sure about this one. I am a fan of Tarantino and went in with pretty high expectations. But for me, Tarantino’s usual skillful balance of brutality and levity was off on this one. Too much of both, I think, and not in the right places. Exploitive levels of brutality and then odd outbursts of silliness that pulled me out of the story completely (especially in the third act which I will admit I pretty much hated). And, boy, he doesn’t turn away from that violence at all. Of course, every gunshot creates an outlandish explosion of blood and a loud squish. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows the director’s work. But scenes of violence not involving gunshots (hammers, for instance, or attack dogs) are much, much more painful to watch. Whereas in Inglourious Basterds, he made sure we understood the horrifying acts that were happening just off-screen (or onscreen to Nazis and therefore not as horrifying), or in Pulp Fiction, he had us look right at a fatal gunshot to the head but then used the tension to make us laugh, the violence against slaves depicted in Django is bloody and cruel, and we have to look at it all. It is difficult and will be way too much for a lot of viewers, as will the ridiculously frequent usage of the N-word (again, no surprise). For me, all of that would have felt justified if the movie hadn’t ended up feeling so uneven. That makes it sound like I hated the whole thing, but I really liked a lot of it. In fact, I was on board until that last half-hour. There is a scene involving KKK hoods that I guarantee is the most you will ever chuckle about KKK hoods, for instance. And Christoph Waltz and Samuel Jackson are both so great. Leo is perfect in his against-type performance, truly. I mostly liked Jamie Foxx, too, until the very end. (Have I mentioned yet how much I hated the very end?). I thought the incongruous score was really fun, too. And how about all the cameos?! Hi for literally 4 seconds, Amber Tamblyn! I enjoyed your 7 minutes of screen time, Jonah Hill! Don Johnson! Walton Goggins! That one guy from “Lost”!
So, yeah. I don’t know. B-, I guess?