Showing posts with label Atonement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atonement. Show all posts

05 June 2009

Come back. Come back to me.

Picture from Empire On Line's Birthday Portfolio, celebrating actors' most iconic roles. God, I love these two.

And when did Emma Watson become so chic and amazing?


15 January 2008

The Movie-a-Thon Update

Crossing off Atonement, The Savages, and There Will Be Blood

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Lars and the Real Girl
Gone Baby Gone
I'm Not There
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
The Orphanage

The Savages: I'm pretty sure I'm reaching the saturation point for quirky, Sundance dramedies about misery and family squabbles. When this film opened up on a parade of elderly women in cheer leading outfits, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to enjoy the next few hours. When the family of their father's dead girlfriend were all 300 pounds, I was aggressively turned off by this attempt to both set the film in the real world and play up its own quirkiness once again.

However, as the film progressed and as it became clear that this was less a film about nursing home antics and more about the lives of two troubled siblings who just happen to be thrown together by a family problem, I started to gain a greater appreciation for what the film was doing. Similar to Margot at the Wedding, this film is one writer/director's attempt to explain themself or, rather, attempt to explain how a person's past and present influence their creative processes. In both films, the central characters are writers, depicted as sad individuals either too afraid to explore their inner feelings or too eager to exploit them without realizing the effects it can have on the people closest to them.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is easily one of the the top 5 actors working today, and Laura Linney's unmistakable persona is always a welcome addition to any film, sometimes the only welcome addition (The Nanny Diaries, for example). Here, they're as reliable as ever, managing to make watchable the lives of two sad sack characters who are still struggling to figure out their lives. The Savages is, if nothing else, a director driven film, and Jenkins was fortunate to secure such great actors for her film.

Atonement: What can you say about a movie you've been anticipating for 6 months, a movie that's score you listened to endlessly, a movie that filled your photobucket with stills of Keira Knightley and James McAvoy on a country estate?

As much as I'd like to say that it's my favorite film of all time, I can't. As much as I'd like to say that it's one of the Top 5 films made this year, I can't. Any other year, it would have easily made it but not this year.

But did I love it? Absolutely. Have I seen it more than once? You bet. Am I going to buy the DVD? Yes.

As a big fan of Joe Wright's previous film Pride & Prejudice and, let's face it, an obsessive follower of all things Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, I couldn't help but expect a lot from this film. And, for the first section, it really did deliver. Bolstered by a quite impressive performance by Saoirse Ronan, the first third of Atonement, set against the back drop of a hot summer's day on an English country estate before the start of World War 2, is gorgeously light saturated and sensuous. When McAvoy is writing a letter to Cecilia, operatic music soaring behind him, we are given glimpses of Knightley as smoke and light fill our field of vision. We are just as infatuated with her as McAvoy. Joe Wright knows how to capture Keira Knightley, how to play up her beauty and sensual haughtiness. It is a testament to Joe Wright's skill that, through little touches like this, it becomes easy to imagine that these two are meant to be together, even as circumstances prevent their budding romance to build on normal terms.

At this point, let me just say that, having read the novel that this is based on, Christopher Hampton's screenplay impressively manages to maneuver around the book's sometimes time jumbling and inner monologue driven narrative. When the story requires a certain scene to be viewed from different perspectives, the screenplay wisely sticks to this, ignoring the temptation to simplify. And, in the end, when Vanessa Redgrave is called on to make a 5 minute part as memorable as she possibly can, the completely new set up for the film's final chapter thankfully finds a way to reveal the secrets of the film outside of the book's inner monologue resolution that would not have worked here.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the middle section of the film up until now. The reason for this is simple: though very well done and satisfying, the middle section of the film doesn't work as well as the first. James McAvoy does deliver an absolutely spectacular performance in this part, that much is assured, and the scope of the Dunkirk sequence is certainly admirable, but there's something about it that doesn't quite seem to measure up. I'm not sure what. Maybe it's just that Joe Wright is more at home in the light saturated universe of Pride & Prejudice and this film's first third, or maybe it's the screenplay. That being said, I don't want to undersell how good James McAvoy is here, how well he inhabits this overwhelmingly good man who has had his life unfairly ruined by lies. The shot of him, exhausted and standing in front of a film screen as a romantic scene unfolds, is an image I will carry with me for quite some time.

When all the characters again come together in the section headed by Romola Garai's strong turn as a grown up Briony, things pick up, but the quality of the first third is never really duplicated until Vanessa Redgrave brings the film to a close, both shattering the illusion of a happy ending and somewhat providing it. Yes, this is yet another 2007 film in which a writer struggles to reconcile their art with their reality, but it works well here. We begin to understand that all the typing we've heard throughout the film in the masterful score by Dario Marianelli is meant to signify Briony telling her story, the story of how one lie destroyed so many lives.

There Will Be Blood: Wow.

I mean, wow.

First off, let me just say that I've never been a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. Watching Magnolia was, for me, like having a teeth pulled for 3 hours by a very self-important dentist who probably could've pulled the tooth out more effectively in 90 minutes (if that analogy makes sense), and I didn't make it past ten minutes of Punch Drunk Love.

So, imagine my surprise when I came out of this movie blown away. This is the kind of film directors dream of making, the kind of out there project they dream of getting the financing to realize. If nothing else, this is a directorial masterwork. The sheer scope of what Anderson is creating here-from the bombastic spiritual sessions to the flaming rivers of oil shooting from the ground-clearly announces to the world that Paul Thomas Anderson is a force to be reckoned with. Much like his film's central character, Anderson is a man obsessed, compelled even, to strive towards something better on his own terms.

As that title character, Daniel Day Lewis continues to impress, adding another overwhelmingly committed performance to his already brimming canon. But it is Paul Dano, all bottled up aggression exploding in fire and brimstone platitudes-that really impressed me. It takes a lot to face off against such an intensely dedicated actor like Daniel Day Lewis, and Dano more than holds his own. This is, after all, less a film about the oil business then a film about the conflict between these two people, driven to madness by such different yet oddly similar forces, and both actors have to be at the top of their game.

Much like No Country, a lot of who you feel about this film may depend on your interpretation of the ending. Some may be turned off by its devolution to sheer insanity but, as many major critics have pointed out, its hard to imagine how else this story could have resolved itself.

My only complaint: I am not as big a fan of the score as some. There are moments when it reaches incredible heights, but there are others when it just seems gratuitous to the scene. I wish directors today would realize that, sometimes, a scene can be more powerful simply by the decision NOT to accompany it with strings and horns.

14 January 2008


Has there ever been a year in which BOTH Golden Globe winners weren't at least nominated for Best Picture? Because, if my predictions come to fruition, that would be the case this year.

For the record, here's what I predict:

No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
Michael Clayton

11 January 2008

'The C-nt Stays in the Picture'



In the interview, the two are there charming, hilarious selves. They talk about sex scenes, paparazzi, and the worst questions they've been asked. Oh . . . and they discuss why the c-nt really did stay in the picture.

06 January 2008


So, with all of this marathon movie viewing, it seems I forgot about stinkylulu's supporting actress blog-a-thon. It's probably too late to enter this, but I think I'll address it anyway.

There are already some entries for some of my favorite supporting performances this year: Marie-Josée Croze, Kelly Macdonald, Jennifer Garner, Margo Martindale, Saoirse Ronan (probably the year's best), Tilda Swinton, and Kristen Thomson. They all impressed me but, as they've already been addressed, I feel like singling out someone who, though not the best of the year, managed to surprise me in a film I never would have expected it from.

But first, let me just point out two lovely ladies who have also been overlooked thus far:

Romola Garai in Atonement


Emmanuelle Seigner in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Both delivered wonderfully heartfelt performances, but have been by and large overshadowed by their directors or fellow cast members.

And now, for the main event . . .


As I said, I don't mean to imply she gave the best supporting performance by an actress this year. Rather, in the interest of (let's be honest) trying to be a little different, I thought I'd talk about a surprisingly solid performance in a film you would probably not have expected it from.

I feel confident in calling Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later one of the best horror films of the last ten years. It was eerie, tense, well-acted and directed, and boasted one of the better horror film scores in recent memory. It became a surprise hit and, inevitably, spawned this year's sequel. Though it starts out promising enough, I couldn't help but be disappointed when it sunk back into old horror cliches and flaws in logic that the first film was able to avoid (though some would argue even that film went off the rails in the last third).

Despite all this, Imogen Poots still manages to give a mature and quite impressive performance as Tammy, one of the first children allowed back in the safe zone of London after the infection of the first film has been wiped out. With her piercing eyes and vulnerability, Imogen delivers from square one, providing something I would have thought impossible: a young role in a horror movie that does not come off as obnoxious or detrimental to the film's narrative.

While struggling with her father's news of the death of her mother, Tammy and her brother indirectly play a part in reintroducing the infection. The chaos that ensues in the aftermath of this throws Tammy into a situation she doesn't know how to deal with and forces her to commit acts no child or teen should be forced to do. The scene in which she SPOILER has to shoot her infected father, only to discover a bite mark on her brother, the last remaining family member she has left, is remarkably true to how a young person thrown into such a situation would feel and react.

Her fear is real, and, through the course of the movie, she will be forced to grow up and make decisions she could never have imagined. Horror films are at their best when the actors are in the moment, believing every infected human or creature from the deep is a threat to their survival.

Perhaps if the film had been a tad more interested in the challenges facing these two kids and less interested in overblown CGI and stock characters (Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne's army officers, see above), it would have succeeded on a level closer to the original. As it stands, the film is a decent enough sequel with a few stand out performances (Robert Carlyle and Imogen) that could have been so much more.

I Would But . . . I'm Already Seeing Someone

His name's James. You may have heard of him.

It's getting pretty serious.

29 December 2007

The BIG Movie-A-Thon Update

I decided I would do a big post, just giving my thoughts about all the movies I missed that I'm trying to absorb over the holidays. Right now, my MUST SEE list is down to:

(Crossing off Sweeney Todd, The Kite Runner, Enchanted, and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly)

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Margot at the Wedding
There Will Be Blood
Lars and the Real Girl
Gone Baby Gone
Starting Out in the Evening
I'm Not There
The Savages
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
The Orphanage

It may seem like an impossible task. However, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead has checked out of theatres, Lars and the Real Girl is no where to be found, and Gone Baby Gone is just that. Oh . . . and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days isn't being released here until February or something.

So far, here are some thoughts on the films I HAVE seen in my mad movie spree. I didn't really hate anything, which is nice, but I find I rarely do. I only usually see movies I think have a chance of being good, so I don't often catch an out and out bomb.

No Country for Old Men: Your opinion of this film will probably come down to whether or not you buy into the way the Coens structure and shoot the ending. After thinking about it, I did appreciate what they manged to do, challenging what would traditionally be expected from a film of a similar ilk, painting a much bleaker portrait of the world as a result. Javier Bardem may not have been the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he was chillingly intense and terrifying throughout, earning Anton Chigurh a place in movie villain infamy. Having seen a lot of desert in Texas, I appreciated the way the Coens shot the landscape (even if a lot of it was shot in New Mexico)and captured the wind swept isolation one can feel amidst the flat grounds and sparse vegetation. Kelly MacDonald, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones seem to have been ignored, in large part, due to the juggernaut that is Bardem, but each play a part in making the film what it is.

The Kite Runner: When did linear storytelling become out of fashion? When did everyone decide 50% of films should open in the chronological middle or end of the story so that a flashback is needed to fill in the gaps? No less than 5 of the films I've seen on this film binge has done this, and I'm curious as to why. Sometimes it works, as it largely does in this film, but it's just as easy to screw it up. But nevermind . . . how is the film as a whole? I would call it good. It's not great, but it's competent and well-made. The acting is good, the screenplay is good, the direction is good . . . basically, it succeeds at everything, but never excels. I did enjoy the performances of Khalid Abdalla, previously seen in Untited 93, as Amir and Homayoun Ershad as his father, even if I wasn't always invested in what their characters were doing. The young child actors did impressive considering it was their first film, but a few of the things they were asked to say sounded unlike any child I've come across. I'm on the fence about Marc Forster . . . I really enjoyed Stranger than Fiction but, as a director, I don't know that he's quite come into his own yet. There are a few leaps in logic we're asked to make near the end but, not having read the book, I couldn't say if they are hold overs or not. Still, it's a decent film worth seeing, on the big screen even if only to appreciate the beauty that can be found in the surrounding countryside.

Away From Her: From any director, this would be a skilled and assured musing on life and love. From a first time director, it's something of a miracle that it manages to be as accomplished. It's a quiet film, a beautiful film. Julie Christie is almost borderline supporting in the movie, but she does a great job of breaking our hearts again and again. When she tells her husband, 'You confuse me . . . ,' we can still sense the brave sole her husband once knew fighting to hold on. As that husband, though, it is Gordon Pinsent who our sympathies and hearts truly go out to. As the nurse at the clinic, beautifully played by Kristen Thomson, tells him, 'It's never too late to become what you might have been,' and nothing could be more true for the character. As a man still trying to atone for past acts and demonstrate his love, the sacrifices he makes for the love of his life, the woman he still sees as a radiant, radical beauty with wind swept hair, Pinsent gives life to the character laid out marvelously by Polley in her script. Perhaps the way in which the film jumps around in time detracts from the film, but not enough to deny it a reccomendation.

Enchanted: Have I mentioned how much I love Amy Adams? Because I really do, and this film is nothing if not the Amy Adams show. Usually, I'm just another kind of a cynical, jaded college student but damned if I can't help being obsessed with this girl. Played wrong, the character of Giselle could have been one of the more annoying protagonists of the year, but Amy Adams manages to play it just right, with incredible sincerity and sweetness.There was a bit of irony in there too, but not more than the film would actually support. James Marsden is a lot of fun too, and he wears tights the whole time so . . . there's that. Patrick Dempsey usually bores me, but I liked him here. I do have to give credit to the makers of the film because, really, this story would have been unwatchable if it was chock full of too many eye winks and in jokes (ala Shrek). It's a kids' film, but I left the theatre feeling pretty entertained and have been listening to 'That's How You Know' non stop.

La Vie En Rose: Does Marion Cotillard deliver the best female performance of the decade as so many are claiming? I dont know . . . who's to say, anyway? If you said yes, I could probably come up with performances I liked better, and you, in turn, might not even like those performances. There's really no point in debating the statement, since it's unprovable. So, a better question: does she give a good performance? Yes, yes she does. It's certainly . . . gimmicky at times, but, not knowing much about Edith Piaf, it's possible she was just as eccentric and strange as Cotillard plays her. There's no debating that it's a transformation, at least physically, because I've seen Marion Cotillard and she does not jut her teeth out, nor do I suspect she will look so used up at the end of her life. The scene in which she screams 'Marcel!' and wanders through her house is heartbreaking. As for the rest of the film, I didn't mind the jumping around in time as much as everyone else seemed to (it beats yet another entry into the musical biopic formula), but it eventually got to the point where it was just impossible to place who everyone was and how they fit into her life. She had a husband, but I'm still not sure who exactly he was or when he left her. Her boss was killed with her as a suspect, but I'm still not sure where that actually fit in the timeline of her life. The film throws in a truly bizarre segment about her having a child that I still can't make heads or tails of 2 weeks later.

Eastern Promises: Did this seem pretty conventional for a Cronenberg film to anyone else? Because, if it hadn't been for the naked bathhouse fight and the intense throat slitting, this really wouldn't have seemed at all like a Cronenberg flick. Viggo Mortenson is fine, as is Naomi Watts, but I wasn't exactly bowled over by either of them. Vincent Cassel was quite annoying throughout the film, but that may have just been the character who I didn't much care for. It was certainly well made, but, when the ending inevitably came, I couldn't help feeling like what I had just watched was just a better than average crime thriller. I still much prefer it over A History of Violence, though.

Juno: I 'get' the Ellen Page thing now. I really do. She's awesome in this movie, and I THINK that, if Juno MacGuff were a real person, I would want to be friends with her. Page is as great as you've heard (although everyone has mostly seen Juno already), and the scene between her and Michael Cera in the hospital at the end shows that her characterization of the title character is more than a one trick approach. JK Simmons and Alisson Janney are her parents. I mean . . . that's amazing. Do you need an excuse to see Alisson Janney in something? Jennifer Garner finally actually did a good job in a movie worth her trouble. Do I think it deserves a nomination for Best Picture? Probably not . . . but I've made no apologies for my love of Diablo Cody and seeing her at least nominated for best screenplay would suit me just fine. I do have to question the seemingly unnecessary Rainn Wilson cameo, but I really really liked most of the movie. Oh . . . and I'm keeping my eye on this Olivia Thirlby.

Into the Wild: I went in with LOW LOW expectations. I am by no means a fan of Sean Penn. As an actor, media personality, and political whatever, I find him pretty insufferable. Imagine my surprise when, after a shaky start, I started to really get into this film. Sean Penn's dedication to his own script certainly cost the film overall, and parts of it were a bit . . . over directed, but it came together quite nicely in the end thanks, in large part, to a great group of actors delivering pretty amazing performances. Emile Hirsch, Brian Dierker, Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, and especially Hal Holbrook are all memorable. It's always nice to be completely surprised by a film, so I give Into the Wild major points for far exceeding my expectations.

Sweeney Todd: I don't think there is anyone better suited to this material than Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter . . . I really don't. The visuals and over the top style were just perfect for the story, and the two leads were pretty much what I would have pictured. Plus, the orchestration is fantastic. What held the film back a bit, I think, has more to do with the source material than anything Burton may have done. The main problem I had was with the two young lover characters who essentially brought the film to a stand still every time they came on screen. I don't know if this was due to the actors' themselves or just the overall blandness of the characters. I suspect Burton would have cut them out almost entirely if it wouldn't have incurred the wrath of the Sondheim-nation. Overall, though, Sweeney Todd is a wicked good time and certainly worth a trip to the theatre.

Control: I was really prepared to love this film, but it never fully came together for me. That being said, it is probably one of the more beautifully photographed films of the year, and Sam Riley does quite well as Joy Division lead Ian Curtis. Casting a relative unknown was a stroke of genius because I really don't think the film would have worked as well as it did with, say, Jonathan Rhys Meyers or someone of his ilk in the lead. The story was refreshingly straight forward: it never attempted to 'explain' how he came up with songs like in 'Ray' nor did it fly around his life, throwing vignettes at the audience and hoping they stick as the makers of 'La Vie En Rose' resorted to at the end of that film. I will always call Samantha Morton one of the finest actresses working today, and this film gives me no reason to doubt, even if her character isn't much to write home about. The first 1/3 of the film is great but, once the usual rock star trajectory starts up (drugs, screaming wives, mistresses, angry band members), one can't help but feel this is just a more stylish version of what we've seen already.

Walk Hard: I dunno . . . I feel like this movie could have been a lot funnier at points. Don't get me wrong. I laughed, but not as much as I would have liked. The definite high point was the songs that worked both as parodies and songs that could have believably existed in the era of music they were aping. John C. Reilly and Jenna Fisher were on their A-game, there were some great gags . . . but it never quite became the 'Spinal Tap' or 'Airplane!' that it wanted to become. Part of this is that, for all the truly great bits (John C. Reilly aping Bob Dylan as his back up singers claim, 'It's DEEP'), there were parts that were just too broad to land on target (Jonah Hill's from another movie role as the ghost of Reilly's brother). It's a definite rental, but I don't think it's necessarily something you'd need to rush out and see.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Keeping in mind how far behind I am, I can confidently call this at least my #2 film of the year (Once is fighting for the top spot with this). It deserves pretty much every ounce of praise it's getting, and Persepolis better be a damn fine movie to justify passing this up as France's entry into the Foreign Oscar race. This is a FANTASTICALLY directed and written piece of work. Schnabel manages to take a story about a paralyzed man who communicates through blinking and turn it into the one of the most engrossing and lyrical films this year. I was surprised about how funny it was, how much I grew to love these characters. Through only what we see in their interaction with the main character, these people grow into human beings. When they leave the room, we miss them just as much as our protagonist does. The actresses in this film better appreciate Schnabel, because I doubt they'll ever be seen lovelier.

I also caught Stardust, which I was thoroughly prepared to hate, and I actually really enjoyed myself, Claire Danes and all. Oh . . . Michelle Pfeiffer is more awesome then ever, and Charlie Cox is adorable.

That is all.

27 December 2007


The grand event is found here.

So, Keira and James are on AOL's Unscripted to ask each other a few questions, some of which were submitted by people like ME. AND THEY USED MY QUESTION! JAMES MCAVOY ASKED KEIRA KNIGHTLEY THE FUCKING QUESTION I SUBMITTED. This is such a weird thing to get excited about, but I'm doing it anyway.

(By the way, Will from Dallas, TX . . . thanks for asking)

01 December 2007

The (Reevaluated) Movies I Still Want to See This Year

In no particular order . . . :

No Country For Old Men
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Margot at the Wedding
There Will Be Blood
Lars and the Real Girl
Gone Baby Gone
The Kite Runner
Starting Out in the Evening
I'm Not There
Away From Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Savages
The Golden Compass
Sweeney Todd
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Into the Wild
The Orphanage
Secret Sunshine (Does this even have a U.S. release date yet?)

I KNOW! I'm way behind. What do you want from me? I'm going to spend the entire Christmas holiday in movie theatres.

I also haven't seen American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, Eastern Promises, or Lust, Caution, but I'm not in a particular rush to see those.

And I guess I should see La Vie en Rose at some stage but . . . eh

19 November 2007