Monday, January 31, 2011

SAG Looks.

God bless Tina Fey. By ditching her beloved black for once, she achieved her best look ever on the red carpet. This red Oscar de la Renta makes her look sexier than she's ever looked and gives her a newfound sense of freshness. Let's hope she carries this to the Oscars (I'm assuming she'll present an award there...)

If something makes me happy about Nicole Kidman being back on the awards race is how much we missed her fashion presence. This Nina Ricci may not be perfect, it's far from it actually and reminds me a bit too much of Babette the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast but something about it has a certain something that Kidman makes work. Also kudos for not overdoing the Botox this time around, her face hadn't looked this beautiful in years.

Just lovely, lovely, lovely. This belly hugging Azzaro makes Natalie Portman look like a princess.

I don't know where the hell Jennifer Lawrence fell from but she delight me so much with each new red carpet appearance.
This fuchsia Oscar de la Renta is all sorts of wonderful; the leg, the shoes, the black! This is the woman to watch at the Oscars!

It's a thrill to see Amy Adams not dressing like she's 50! This white Herve L. Leroux might not be the best dress ever but it's an improvement from the boring hair and gowns she's been wearing all season long.

Oh January Jones, how do we all look at you for fashion forward-ness. I don't care that you decided to cheat on Versace this time because this Carolina Herrera is nothing if not majestic!
The print is incredible (surely shows Beyoncé how to do black and gold...) and the hair is classic yet off putting.
As usual she might be the best dressed woman.

What do you think of these lovely ladies? Thoughts on the awards themselves?

Official Birthday Wish:

May the phrase "Academy Award Nominee" Natalie Portman, may have changed to "Academy Award Winner" by the time the Blu-ray comes out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The King's Speech *½

Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Guy Pearce, Eve Best, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall
Jennifer Ehle, Claire Bloom, Derek Jacobi

It seems that for as long as there have been movies, that's how long their need to convince us they're just like us, has existed.
Why have most movies lost the need to revel in their own cinematic-ness? Why such a need to make us identify with them?
If you're looking for answers to those questions you might as well stay away from The King's Speech, a film so secure about its heart-tugging contrived maneuvers, that it dares to pretend it's a story about the every man when in fact it's a piece of ideological brainwash that reinforces the notion that the people watching it are precisely the exact opposite of what they're watching onscreen.
The film basically deals with King George VI's struggle with stuttering. We see him shame his father (Gambon), be bullied by his brother (Pearce), be nurtured by his wife (Carter) and eventually be cured by magical Australian Lionel Logue (Rush) before delivering the speech that, according to the movie, mattered more during WWII than the tons of lives lost afterwards.
The film is handsomely made but it's slightly offensive to think that more thought was put on the details in Helena Bonham Carter's hats, than in the way the film relishes in its somewhat fascist ideology.
With each new scene we see how more and more it's buying its own love for royalty and its seemingly "human" approach (awww it's tiny Queen Elizabeth!) is nothing more than a reaffirmation for the film's condescending look at the world that surrounds it.
As Hooper and company fail to find anything to question about the characters, these become puppets at the command of a modern fairy tale that pretends to exalt humanity when all it does is trivialize war in the face of royal adversity.
Sure, the king's achievement was notable and a triumph on its own, and sure, the fact that the people around him congratulate him on his success and seem to forget about the larger reality outside Buckingham Palace is quite normal, what's baffling is that the film fails to question these things.
It comes as no surprise that the film's best performance and its biggest asset comes in the shape of Eve Best as crown wrecker socialite Wallis Simpson; it's through her that we get the only glimpse of seeing what lied beyond the crown, beyond the obligations and especially beyond the facade.
If it wasn't for her we'd be stuck with a bunch of people who use their status as means to demean other- when Queen Elizabeth pokes fun at commoners who feel surprised to meet her, it's not really cute, it's disturbing- and as much as the film tries to make Lionel and the King achieve some sort of Becket like synergy, not such relationship is truly ever formed.
We are presented with a portrait of a group of gorgeously lit saints whose own personal troubles amounted to more drama than the Blitz and while some might get a kick out of watching the intimate lives of royals, their lives here are so restrained by public relations that this doesn't even serve as royalty porn, its purpose was never to allow us into their lives but to perpetuate the sort of ideology that can pass patronizing as back patting.
For a film that deals so much with communication, it's a shame that The King's Speech muffles the audience's voice so much.

Style Sunday.

This week featuring Diane Kruger.

Ms. Kruger is inarguably one of the most fashion forward celebrities on the planet and each look has her display a remarkable appropriation of whatever she's wearing.
Here we have her in a stunning Gucci cocktail dress, with layers of frills and embroidery. See how basically the three looks she has here, are all essentially simple, cocktail dresses but each has its own personality.

Here in Chanel she has a look that's both feminine and romantic while being aggressively opulent. The color fits her like a glove and the dress' details compliment her fragile look.

This dress proves what I say time and time again: Diane Kruger is Chanel.

Where do you stand with Ms. Kruger? Is she a fashion icon, a loony dresser, a good actress?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crush of the Week.

With his short but effective role in The King's Speech and his outstanding turn in Animal Kingdom, he proves he's one of the most underrated working actors.

These Are a Few of My Favorite (Oscar) Things:

  • Dogtooth made it to Best Foreign Language Film!!!!!
  • John Hawkes got in for Winter's Bone.
  • Toy Story 3 got 5 nominations! I still don't get how is it that Wall-E still seems to be the most nominated animated film ever if it didn't even make it to Best Picture back in the sad '08. But whatever: Pixar is perfection!
  • Despite the odds Nicole Kidman received her third Best Actress nomination! She's my second favorite in the category after swan lady. Also, is it me or is this the first time in ages that the Leading Actor and Actress categories are all made up by extremely good looking people?
  • Outside the Law, which I haven't seen, got in Best Foreign Language Film despite France's outrage at it even being considered.
  • Unlike last year, I truly love 1/3 of the Best Picture nominees. I'd kicked out The King's Speech, Inception and the obnoxious 127 Hours in a heartbeat though but hey at least neither of them is The Blind Side.
How about you? were you particularly thrilled about anyone? How awesome is it that Jacki Weaver made the final cut over Mila Kunis?

Monday, January 24, 2011

If There Was Any Justice...

This movie...
would be getting all the nominations...

this movie...
will get.

Any thing you'd love to see nominated tomorrow morning?

Also, reviews for Dogtooth and The King's Speech coming soon (and by soon I mean when "real life" gives me a break, sigh)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Style Sunday.

The gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence rocks this modern Prabal Gurung like nobody. She's a vision of haute couture and did you see her shoes? Amazing.

Cate the great is channeling Kate the great. Her Dries van Noten pants are incredibly feminine and almost regal looking. Her hair and makeup just add to this overall perfect look.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

The poster for The Son of No One tells you nothing about the movie but boy is this a nice picture of Channing Tatum.
And is it me or does the inclusion with Katie Holmes, along with Juliette Binoche and Al Pacino in the cast, sound like Tom Cruise bought her a part in the movie?

Gregg Araki is by no means subdued and the poster for his new film Ka-Boom confirms it. But I think this is the first time I've ever read the word "horny" quoted and included in a blurb.

Any of these sound appealing to you?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mina of Gold.

Apparently Pedro, who on Broken Embraces declared he'd never make sequels, biopics or remakes. Well he didn't declare it but his alter ego...anyway, it's just been announced that Pedro is working on a film about the life of Italian singer Mina.
Indiewire reports that the Spanish auteur has even cast his leading lady and to my dismay it's not Pe (read the full story here)
Also, just how amazing is this picture of his new movie La Piel Que Habito?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Today I Feel Like

I began grad school today and oh boy, I had no idea the work load would be SO BIG!
I'm taking two courses: Screenwriting and Crime & Violence in American Cinema so let's all hope I get wiser from this.

But enough about me, distract me with something non-work, non-school related please.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Looks.

Last night's Golden Globes were as predictable as well, the Oscars (not a faulty winner anywhere though) so let's concentrate on the only source of real pleasure we can always be assured to get from award shows: fashion.
This time around I'll concentrate just on the things I loved. It would be too easy to start condemning celebrities for how bad they looked (ScarJo, that hair...) and well today I'm in a great mood. So without further ado:

Everyone and their moms wondered what mom-to-be Natalie Portman would wear and she defied all our expectations by looking positively angelical in this Viktor and Rolf column dress.
The soft pink made her look divine and that embroidered rose kept calling the attention to her tummy and her breathtaking smile.
She didn't even need that Globe to look this divine.

January Jones in Versae kept reminding me of Madonna circa 1990. The classic siren hair, the red lips. Whoever says she's an ice queen will probably melt with this look.

I would've never guessed this dress was Vera Wang. Perhaps I'm used to seeing Wand gowns in petite, often flat chested girls which was why this look on Sofia Vergara was mindblowing.
boy has she come a long way...

I most certainly don't like Angelina Jolie but I couldn't help thinking how beautiful she looked in this emerald green Versace. The way it brought up her eyes was astonishing.

New mom Nicole Kidman was a vision in cream Prada. The statuesque actress pulls off looking regal like very few women can.

Olivia Wilde was just perfect in Marchesa. The chocolate degradé and the sparkles which could've been too prom-like worked wonders with her loose hairdo and simple makeup.

Jennifer Lawrence keeps impressing us with her poise and natural beauty. If someone ahd told me the little girl from Winter's Bone could pull off Louis Vuitton like this, I would've deemed you insane. Now I'm dying to see what she'll wear during the rest of the season.

Many actresses tried to pull off the slightly granny look - think Meryl Streep accepting her Oscar for Sophie's Choice and Kate Hepburn in Long Day's Journey Into the Night - but failed miserably (ScarJo and Sandra Bullock I'm looking at you).
The sexy Leighton Meester did it beautifully in this simple Burberry that looked quite "normal" on the surface but had a stunning leg opening.

My absolute favorite look of the night belonged to my beloved Anne Hathaway in Armani Privé. If the curve hugging from, in all of its Metropolis meets Joan of Arc glory, wasn't stunning enough, she had an open back that made your jaw simply fall to the floor. Just wow!

So, who was your fave? Did you enjoy HBC's cookiness? Don't limit yourself to clothes though. Any winners you particularly disliked?

Just a Hairy Note:

Head over to The Costa Rican News and read my review for Tangled.

Then come back here and comment!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Never Let Me Go ***½

Director: Mark Romanek
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley
Andrea Riseborough, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling

Never Let Me Go begins with a title card that reveals we're about to take a trip to a past that never existed. One where human beings had finally found a way to cure disease and life expectancy had grown to 100 years.
This past also meant a different route had been taken and some had obviously suffered; however, we almost immediately understand that this isn't an exploration of the ethical rules and alternate history that shaped this events but merely a snapshot of a few lives trapped in it.
The scene then changes to Hailsham school, a seemingly idyllic boarding school where quite simply, clones were raised to donate organs during their adulthood.
Twenty-nine year old Kathy (Mulligan) narrates her own story, first within the confines of Hailsham and later in the "outer world". We see how as a child (played seamlessly by Isobel Meikle-Small) she develops a crush on the introverted Tommy (Charlie Rowe) and how, after they learn about the nature of their existence (in a perfect scene with a devastating Hawkes), their lives only seem to take a minor twist, as Kathy's friend Ruth (Knightley) begins a romantic relationship with Tommy.
Why the plot focuses more on the friends and not the secret they've just learned about their fates is one of the many things that make this such an enigmatically, beautiful piece.
Director Mark Romanek shoots Alex Garland's screenplay (based on Kazuo Ishiguro's novel) with the utmost trust in that there is an entire universe contained in what we are not seeing.
The matter of fact-ness with which these young people embrace the source of their existence is so unromantic that we are forced to wonder if we shouldn't in fact envy them, for they have already solved dilemmas that have plagued human kind since its start?
Where are we going? Where do we come from? Why are we here? Because of Romanek's precise hand and elegant formalism we see the characters' reactions as something that just couldn't have been any other way. These people have not been raised in the same way the rest of society was.
This makes it absolutely fascinating to watch as they try to fit in the world they only know through horror stories and eventually through duty. The cast does a terrific job in creating all these subtleties that don't entirely give them away but help establish the fact that they aren't as the others.
Knightley for example, seems to always hesitate before she does something. This hesitation is minimal and the actress disguises it beautifully giving us just enough. The plot may sometimes try to turn her into a villainous creature, or an antagonist to be more precise but because of the actress' committal to the role we see that this is just her nature.
Same with Garfield, whose contained performance doesn't really scream "romantic lead" but his quiet grace makes for something irresistible in the context.
In one of their best scenes together we see Tommy and Ruth have sex, as she acts like someone she must've seen on a movie, he covers his face unsure as to how he should be acting.
It's strange and somewhat off-putting that the filmmakers never really try to make us "understand" what's going on. We get a grasp that there's an entire hierarchy at work and that there must be harrowing stories to be told about these clones, yet by choosing to concentrate on these three characters we are being made part of the society that's beyond Hailsham.
As Ruth, Kathy and Tommy begin to get entangled in their very own way of love and survival, and the mood becomes more quietly moving and not macabre, we realize that this isn't a film about clones, it's a metaphor about existence itself.
Therefore Ishiguro, Garland and Romanek have gotten away with telling us the story about our own existences and making us believe we're watching something completely external. Once we begin to think about this, we are moved to explore if there is anything really natural about the things around us.
Is love, for example, a game we invent just to keep ourselves entertained while we await our demise? Do we not too sometimes stop fighting against a fate we have determined has been written in stone for us?
The movie's themes are embodied beautifully by Carey Mulligan's performance. Through her simple performance we realize that the fact she accepts her fate with such resignation makes the film's events all the more heartbreaking.
And it's ironic that the film should even result moving when everything about it is so sterile and distant.
Then it clicks on us, nothing in the movie is heartfelt because how could it be? When a heart is something that can be so easily extracted from us at any time.

Style Sunday.

On this edition we take a glance at this week's award shows best looks.

Jennifer Garner (oh how I miss her at the Oscars) is divine in this structured Roland Mouret minidress. Nobody does architectural femininity like Mr. Mouret and his dresses are so magnificent in their simplicity that accessories aren't even that necessary because you're exploring all the amazing details in the handcraft of the gown. Brilliant.

Natalie Portman has been getting some bad reviews for this Vionett (Joan Rivers said she looked like a boy LOL) but in all fairness she does precisely the opposite of this.
This is what I imagine Audrey Hepburn to have looked like during her pregnancy!

When I first saw Jennifer Lawrence I didn't even know who she was. She's just astonishingly beautiful and this full on glamor look comes off as a total slap from the simplistic look she had in Winter's Bone. Yes, that movie is about a poor child living in the Ozarks who hunts squirrel, but then it's a testament to how good Lawrence is, that she looks older and hellishly sexy in this L'Wrenn Scott.

Look at that itty bitty baby bump! Natalie Portman is adorable in a column dress from Gianfranco Ferré for the Critics' Choice Movie Awards where she won Best Actress.
As cute as she looks and everything, I really hope that as the weeks draw closer to the Oscars, she realizes that as facile and practical it is to wear flowy dresses to hide the belly, someone with her petite figure might benefit from the tight fitting looks Heidi Klum has chosen to go for during her pregnancies. Portman is way too young to pull off the classy mini-moo moo look.

Also Armie Hammer is one fine looking gentleman. But is it me or his name is more appropriate for a porn star?

So this was last week in fashion, excited about the Globes tonight?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Animal Kingdom ***

Director: David Michôd
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce
Jacki Weaver, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville
Dan Wyllie, Laura Wheelwright, Justin Rosniak

Films that deal with crime either have a tendency to romanticize it or moralize it. It's surprising to see a movie that does neither and even more than that, actually takes a look at it from an "objective" point of view.
Animal Kingdom is a chilling family drama that just happens to have elements of crime in it. The film begins with the death of Jay's (Frecheville) mother. As if he'd been expecting this to happen at any moment, after the paramedics take his mom, he pragmatically grabs the phone and calls his grandma Janine (Weaver) to let her know he needs a place to stay.
He moves in with her and his uncles: armed robber Pope (Mendelsohn), drug dealer Craig (Stapleton) and soon-to-be criminal Darren (Ford).
Considering his mom dies from a heroin overdose and she'd tried to keep him away from her family, we understand that Jay has been raised under a different code of ethics and writer/director Michôd's first great step is establishing that we can not judge Jay or any of the other characters for that matter.
They all exist in a world where keeping the family together, regardless of their criminal activities, is more important than adjusting to societal rules.
Of course this means that they will clash with the rest of the world and as Jay explains "crooks always come undone, always". Things begin to spiral out of control when a group of detectives led by officer Leckie (Pearce) try to get Jay on their side in helping them stop his family, soon the young man find himself in the middle of a battle between law and family (not precisely right and wrong).
Coolly shot by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, who doesn't let his camera intrude, Animal Kingdom becomes a documentary of sorts as we merely observe these people act as their nature moves them to and this is ultimately what the film is about: people being driven merely by their instincts.
Frecheville's Jay serves as an ambiguous guide through this maze seeing how it's easy to deem him as too passive and be annoyed by him; however, taking a closer look we realize that he's not just an accessory, he's giving a simple but effective performance of someone under a lot of stress, channeling it in the only way he can.
In a way we see Jay develop something that resembles Stockholm Syndrome, as he becomes settled in his new life with his family. The double life we see him lead when he hangs out with his girlfriend (Wheelwright) gives the film a strange, surreal tone.
The rest of the cast is impressive with Mendelsohn creating a man who could represent some symbol of evil yet instead just chooses to be someone who's taken very bad decisions in life and is merely striving for survival.
Edgerton is strangely moving as their friend Barry Brown, while Stapleton delivers a heartbreaking performance, especially towards the end of the movie. However, it's Jacki Weaver who remains with you long after the film has ended.
Her Janine is someone who has adapted to a lifestyle that will help her provide for her boys. "I've been around a long time" she declares with a sweet smile when an accomplice is surprised by the reach of her influence. The way in which Weaver delivers her lines makes for a beautiful complex, given that, as with most of the film we don't know whether she's being psychotic or just "being".
However beyond the sometimes heartless actions and lovable "sweeties", we can see an entire history of pain in her eyes. Perhaps at one time she was just like Jay, being swallowed by a world she couldn't understand but had to be a part of to be with the people she loved.
"There are certain things you don't tell girls about" says family lawyer (Wyllie) to a confused Jay and in Janine's sensitive acknowledgement we know that this never really applied for her, at one moment she just had to make a choice. Weaver makes it impossible for us to believe that someone would just be born this way.

True Grit ***

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
Barry Pepper, Dakin Matthews, Hailee Steinfeld

The Coen brothers, beacons of sophisticatedly dark humor and bleak existentialism deliver a no-frills, straightforward genre pic with True Grit, a new film adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis.
Grit centers on the story of Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) a fourteen year old girl who sets on the mission to avenge her father's dead at the hand of outlaw Tom Chaney (Brolin).
Based on recommendations around town she hires U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) as her personal tracker.
She sets off into dangerous Indian territory with Cogburn and Texas Ranger La Beouf (Damon9 who's also after Chaney.
This sets the stage for what can only be called an old fashioned Western. The film offers nothing new (except maybe some optimism from the Coens) but it's such a well told story that you can't help but think this is what fireside tales of old must've been imagined like.
The brothers show technical mastery and their every choice seems perfect just as it is. Once more teaming up with the extraordinary cinematographer Roger Deakins, they create a Wild West that's as dreamlike as it's realistic.
Deakins' camera indulges itself with vistas that go as far as the eye can see and strange camera angles that work despite their affectedness.
But fear not, this doesn't mean the film is completely devoid of the Coens' touches. Now and then they let their surrealistic touches go away with them and expertly weave them into the larger, more mainstream scheme of the plot.
In one of the film's most haunting scenes we see a bear riding a horse during a storm (you'll have to see this to believe it) and during the film's climax the Coens seem to have been possessed by the spirit of John Ford in a thrilling shootout.
Perhaps what makes the film feel more Coen-like are the performances. Bridges is outstanding as Cogburn, this man must be the only actor who can don an eye patch, look completely disheveled, deliver his lines with a mumble and still make it seem like the most natural thing on the planet.
Watch him epitomize coolness, yes, despite the eye patch, when everytime he moves, his coat flows and evokes a superhero's cape.
Damon and Brolin don't have much to do but they are steady supporting performers. Brolin is particularly good in the few scenes he has, completely owning the cowardly viciousness of Chaney.
Steinfeld gives a performance that's wiser beyond her years (this is her screen debut!) and she holds up beautifully against Bridges. She develops a lovely chemistry with him and by film's end, this becomes so deep that it even transcends the boundaries of different actors playing the same role (Elizabeth Marvel plays an older Mattie and it feels as if it's Steinfeld with makeup on).
True Grit may not be particularly profound in the way the Coens have used us to, it could be said in fact that if this wasn't directed by them it would surely seem more majestic.
But as an exercise in how to make a movie in the classic studio way, it feels just fine, it's also way more entertaining that it has any right to be. With the Coens flourish for quirky dialogs and melancholy it's refreshing to see how they can inject some new blood into a genre that's been pronounced dead more times than any other.

Why Family Reunions Often Mean Trouble.

Head over to The Costa Rica News and read my review of Little Fockers.

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

The posters for Thor are proving to be so unimaginative that I still wonder if I'll move my butt to the movie theater when it opens.
Sure this guy has a pretty face (and a nice hammer to go with it) but have him do something! These posters look like this Absolut Vodka campaign but made for geeks.

If you were wondering if Josh Radnor's Happythankyoumoreplease was an "indie", wonder no more. The poster looks like the one sheet for a $15 concert of a garage-rock, all robot member, band in a secret basement near Williamsburg.
When did the quirk in these movies become so predictable?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fighter ***½

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Jack McGee, Mickey O'Keefe

If Rocky had been co-directed by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, it would've looked something like The Fighter. The energetic film, based on the life of welterweight fighter "Irish" Micky Ward (Wahlberg), borrows heavily from the cinematic style of those auteurs while preserving the dark humor that has characterized David O Russell's filmography.
The film concentrates on the rise to fame of Micky, who had to overcome the shadow cast by his oldest brother and trainer Dicky Eklund (Bale), a former boxer who succumbed to crack addiction.
The Fighter follows an established formula (does life come in formulas or are they heightened for dramatic purposes?) as Micky realizes the only chance he has of becoming "someone" is getting past his, well...past.
He falls for bartender Charlene (Adams), who helps him see things from a new perspective and slowly helps him to cut loose from Dicky's unhealthy drag as well as his mother7manager Alice's (Leo) excessive power over him.
What makes this film seem exciting in a way, is its screenplay, which more than delivering inspirational conventions, actually creates characters worth watching. This, combined with the dazzling performances delivered by the cast makes for a real treat.
Wahlberg, once again completely underrated (not only by other characters but by the script) moves through the film like an accessory. We mostly see him through others and in the film's centerpiece he literally has to solve his life in a boxing ring.
However beyond the huge biceps and quiet gracefulness lies a man with a harsh inner struggle. It's rare for movies to suggest families can have any sort of bad influence over people (heck, they are even romanticized in The Godfather!) which is why here it comes as surprise to see that even for a minute Wahlberg's character has to cope with choosing between family and self. It's probably not easy and the actor makes it seem like the most natural thing ever.
Bale once more recurs to his chamaleonic abilities and transforms into Dicky. The actor carries over his aggressive charm and makes this man someone who's both intensely attractive and unintentionally dangerous. His scenes with Wahlberg are amazing, as they have created a chemistry that makes us understand the bond that exists between them.
When Dicky finally realizes he might be hurting his younger brother, he doesn't do it with an intense action, he simply turns his back on him and walks away, as if telling him it's alright to move on.
The brothers' different personalities are expressed by Russell beautifully using cinema. Through most of the film we see HBO cameras following Dicky around as they make a documentary about him, on the other side we see that Micky takes Charlene to see a movie he doesn't particularly have any interest in for their first date.
Therefore while Dicky thinks he's made to be in movies, Micky uses them to hide, thinking perhaps they're more powerful than him.
The movie he sees is Belle Epoque (which he pronounces "belly epocue") and in this scene we see Amy Adams shine in completely unexpected ways. Playing a character unlike anyone we've seen her play before the actress achieves new heights and delivers a truly scene stealing performance.
She makes Charlene someone who may not have the class but certainly has the attitude. A conflicted bartender who dropped out of college, it's refreshing to see her find a new chance at happiness by being in love.
The actress delivers her lines with a defying mix of insecurity and bitchiness which makes her all the more fascinating to watch.
Leo is also terrific as the possessive mother. She expresses love for her kids in the only way she can: by making them feel still attached to her. Her Medea-like qualities are hilariously heightened by Russell through the use of her seven daughters who follow her around like a bitter Greek choir full of spinsters. When they confront Charlene in one scene their collective utterance of "skank" is brilliant.
It's ironic perhaps that the actual fight scenes in the movie don't hold a candle to the more intimate moments outside the gyms and auditoriums.
While the fighting sequences are done with superb technical mastery, the humanity felt outside the ring is what makes The Fighter feel like a champ.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Uninspired By True Events.

Watching Conviction you just know it's the kind of "inspired by true events" movie that will end with a picture of the real people and a corny song. You do not expect this from 127 Hours though.
Yet both do it and with the same degree of corny smugness as the other, the one difference is that while one feels just redundant for it, the other does it to teach us a metaphysical lesson of sorts and loses whatever credibility it had before. Care to guess which is which?

In Conviction Hilary Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, an unemployed single mom who decides to become a lawyer to get her brother Kenny (Rockwell) out of jail. Kenny was accused of murdering a woman and according to his sister he's innocent. We follow her through her hard years of school as she deals with working at a bar, raising her sons and maintaining that thick Massachusetts accent for as long as she can.
This is one of those movies in which you know how everything will go: the villains are scary (Leo gives a one note performance as an evil cop), the good guys are practically angels (Swank is missing but a halo from her "hard working but tastefully dressed" look) and someone always comes along and makes the movie seem much, much better than it has any right to be. In this case it's both Rockwell who gives another of his crazy cowboy performances and Lewis, who in a mere two scenes pretty much owns the film. The movie is directed efficiently, if not truly memorably by Goldwyn who seems to put more attention to his characters than to any stylistic flourishes yet in the end the movie fails gigantically because it doesn't make Betty someone we are dying to know more of.
Have you ever noticed how watching a Hilary Swank movie, you know it's a Hilary Swank movie? Not because she takes over the screen with her inescapable charm or magnetic screen presence but because every other character always seems to bow to her's.
Watching talented actors the likes of Driver, Rockwell and Lewis gaze teary eyed at Swank as if they were in the presence of something divine lacks the impact it would have if they were staring at Julia Roberts. Swank, unlike Julia, isn't capable of killing the "sanctify me" glare the supporting players emit. With a big movie star, their shine is so bright that they make scenes like these work, with Swank you just know she has a hand for picking screenplays and/or casting herself in films she produced.

Speaking of creative control, remember how once upon a time Danny Boyle was one of the most surprising working filmmakers? Each of his films felt like something completely new and exciting. From the creepy terror of 28 Days Later to the joyful cuteness of Millions and of course the addictive Trainspotting, his career seemed to scream "prolificness".
After going unintentionally mainstream with Slumdog Millionaire he seems to have compromised his vision and turned it into something that resembles conformity. Such is the case in 127 Hours where Boyle shows us the events that led mountain climber Aron Ralston (Franco) to amputate his own arm after getting trapped in a canyon.
And by saying he shows us, it's really because he makes a show out of everything, 127 Hours think it's being introspective and deep when it's mostly being obvious and overtly didactic. At the beginning of the film we see how Aron barely misses his Swiss Army knife when packing for his trip and from the position of the camera and the angle we know that this knife will play a part later on. Of course it does and like the knife, Boyle uses flashbacks and characters to put together a puppet show about how sad Ralston's life was before the accident and how amazing he must've felt after being reborn (no spoilers here considering we learn the film is an adaptation from a book by Aron).
Boyle uses complicated techniques to try and inject some energy into the proceedings but the truth is that this time he tries too hard to express stylistic freedom displayed through conventional methods. When his split screens should be recalling triptychs and art history, all they really do is make us think the editor is just showing off his new software and for all of the metaphysical ramblings he makes Aron say, all we're stuck with is ninety minutes of Boyle interpreting the whole "light at the end of the tunnel" people are supposed to see before they die.
After the film sends us home floating in a cloud of positivity (the Dido meets Enya theme song is arid and cliché) we might not be thinking too much about Aron and the rock but wondering if that Oscar fell upon Boyle and is keeping his true talent trapped?

Grades: Conviction ** 127 Hours **

01/11/11 Is the Loneliest Number.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Take a Trip...

to The Costa Rica News and read my review for The Tourist.
Then come back here and let's discuss why Jolie and Depp are so terrible together.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Style Sunday.

In this edition the gorgeous Leighton Meester in gray x 2.

First she shows some leg (and her amazing body!) in this unconventional Versace. At first I would've never guessed this design was from the house of Donatella because of its conservative patterns and Burberry-esque details (maybe the leg thing gives it away a bit...)

Then she dons this stunningly simple Vionett with a leaf cut and colorful appliqués.
This young lady is truly giving Blake a run for her money in the style department.

In which V do you prefer Leighton?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.


Do I even have to say anything about this one? Just when I thought Julianne Moore had gone back to the path of serious filmmaking...