Posts by Sarah G. «
MUD (2012/In Theaters)
Mud is the third movie written and directed by Jeff Nichols. As with his last feature, the criminally overlooked Take Shelter, I am reluctant to say too much about the details of Mud’s plot here. Nichols makes movies that are authentic and surprising, best enjoyed with no expectations. This one takes place in a small town in Arkansas, where lives are divided between the parking lots and seedy motels of Town and the simplicity and freedom of the River. Two boys, portrayed with incredible depth and nuance by Ty Sheridan and Jacob Lofland (the latter looking like he walked right out of Stand By Me and into this film, Fugazi t-shirt notwithstanding), discover a mysterious stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and decide to help him in his quest. The adventures that unfold are a window into their families, friendships, homes, youth, and waning innocence.
Again Nichols’ film is gorgeous, favoring dawn and twilight, nature and water. As in Take Shelter, he somehow uses simple, quiet lives to convey more suspense and emotion than any blockbuster thriller or mile-a-minute action flick I’ve seen; in part because his characters are so real and the performances so strong. In addition to the two outstanding young leads, Nichols regulars Ray McKinnon and Michael Shannon (whose broad range continues to astound), and Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, and Reese Witherspoon are all excellent. And I won’t ever associate McConaughey with tepid romantic comedies again after this (and Magic Mike, of course). Mud, both the man and the film, is a study in balance: simultaneously ominous and endearing, simple and complex, small and grand. See it.
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:
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…
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?
MAGIC MIKE (2012/In Theaters) So a certain fellow Serious Movie Lover and I found ourselves in a theater full of ladies the other night. There was booze in our soda pop and electricity in the air. We were not disappointed. Magic Mike is hysterical. One hundred and ten minutes of jaw dropping spectacle. Nudity of all types and combinations, drugs, language, sparkly sequined thongs, grinding, gyrating, homo-eroticism, shiny torsos, and countless delightful costume-y hats. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the titular Mike (a surprisingly charming Channing Tatum), a male stripper with higher aspirations who loves a good time, and his protege, The Kid (an unsurprisingly bland Alex Pettyfer, or perhaps you know him as Number Four? No? Just us, then). I won’t spoil the finer details — love story, yada yada, morality tale, blah blah blah. The real reason to see this movie is the gloriously greasy performance by Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the ring leader of our stripper pals. Dallas is the ultimate realization of the untrustworthy-but-oddly-charismatic-sleazeball persona McConaughey introduced us to in Dazed and Confused. He is a wonder to behold. Tatum really is great too, putting his Step Up moves to good use and showing an appealing sense of humor. The rest of the strippers do pretty well and look respectfully chiseled and shiny. Cody Horn, as The Kid’s protective sister, is impressively terrible, mistaking squinting blankly for “portraying emotion.” But it doesn’t matter. Her role evaporated from my brain the minute I walked out of the theater. We say, go see this and don’t expect anything more than a raucous good time. You will not be sorry.
Grade: A (for Aaaaw yeah)
PS — Here’s an interesting read from The New York Times about McConaughey’s shift from rom-com crap to more interesting roles of late.
Posted for Justin by Sarah G.
THE GREY (2012/In Theaters)
Do you like wolves? Plane crashes? Watching Liam Neeson struggle to survive? If so, then you will love The Grey. This is a fantastic movie about a group of men trapped in the Alaska wilderness who have to combat the cold, the snow, and intruding wolf packs. Directed by Joe Carnahan, this movie depicts a survival situation that no one would want to find themselves in. This movie is intense and emotional, especially the effective lead performance by Neeson (along with many others). It is loaded with great cinematography, great effects, and no CGI. The cast and crew worked outside in the freezing cold while making the movie and surrounded themselves with actual wolf packs. In fact, Neeson is under fire from PETA for eating wolf meat during the shooting. (Being a movie star, I don’t understand why he just didn’t go for filet mignon.) I am a huge fan of survival movies and this one is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. I compare it to Deliverance, Into the Wild, and Alive. Anyone will enjoy this film, and a lot already have, seeing that it won the box office on its opening weekend. See it and be prepared to be scared the next time you see a big dog on the street.
THE ARTIST (2011/IN THEATERS)
Sarah! I am so glad we were able to preview The Artist at the St. Louis International Film Festival, well before the unwashed masses. It’s always a pleasure to see the Tivoli packed to the gills with nerdy film buffs like ourselves, even if we suspected that many of them bought tickets in hopes that supporting actor and Hometown Hero John Goodman might make a special guest appearance. He did not! (Though his image from The Big Lebowski adorned the Major Filmmaker Awards.) Lucky for everyone, The Artist was a total delight. That a gleeful homage to the silent era could hold an audience rapt from beginning to end is no small feat in the era of 3D and seizure-inducing vampire baby nightmare birth scenes. But this B&W charmer (which follows the waning career of a silent-era star, played by the alarmingly suave Jean Dujardin, and the rise of talkie ingenue/love interest Berenice Bejo) had a magnetic cast, chipper score, beautiful sets (a staircase scene was pretty amazing in scale and choreography), and an engaging plot that, while maybe directed a little broadly, was no less sweet and compelling for it. And though it costars a very talented dog (who some people are think should be nominated for an Oscar? Whaaat? Let’s get Serkis in there first, then work our way toward actual animals, you goofs) it requires zero warning barks on my patented scale. Win-win!
TAKE SHELTER (2011/IN THEATERS)
So we have lots to say about what happens in Take Shelter—the menacing and effective new movie starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain—but we’re not going to say any of it here. Go see it today, and then leave us a comment when you’re back from the theater so we can have some lengthy discussions. We’ll be waiting.
Alright, fine. Here are a few thoughts and details. Writer and director Jeff Nichols has a brief resume; this is only his second film. His first (Shotgun Stories, a past Ebertfest pick and longtime resident of our DVR) and his current project also star Shannon, whose amazing eyes you may recognize from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” or Revolutionary Road, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His performance in Take Shelter is mesmerizing, as is that of the suddenly ubiquitous Chastain as Shannon’s wife. Chastain came out of nowhere to star in no less than SEVEN films slated for release in 2011 (a year we will refer to in the future as 20Chastain), including biggies like The Tree of Life and The Help (sorry one of your films costars Gerard Butler, Jessica! We’re sure it won’t happen again). I had sort of decided to be annoyed by her based solely on the fact that she is everywhere, but I can’t now because she’s excellent in this movie, bringing subtlety and nuance to a character that could easily have slipped into cliché in less capable hands.
I found this film completely compelling. I was transfixed in the theater and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The photography is gorgeous, the acting is masterful, the concepts and questions posed are…well, the less said about that, the better. I don’t really understand the ins and outs of the new Oscar nomination process, but if the system works at all, this film should show up in ALL THE CATEGORIES.
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 Larry Crownes 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: So is this Main Street movie happy or sad or maybe menacing? It’s unclear from the trailer, but I think we can be pretty sure it’s going to be boring. Last time we discussed Anne Hathaway’s stupid British accent, and this time it’s Orlando Bloom and Colin Firth with stupid Southern U.S. accents. I’d like to propose that, going forward, British people be cast in all the British roles and American people in the American roles. We can elect one or two people to cover special accents: Damon and Affleck will have to do all the Boston movies, and I guess we’ll just have McConaughey do all the southern ones? I don’t know — it’s obviously not a perfect system. It will be up to the rest of Hollywood to either get better at talking or just set all movies in areas of non-regional diction. (P.S. Hi Mags!)