Saturday, October 13, 2012

A few stray thoughts on Argo

This is not a review just a few stray thoughts........

- It's a movie movie in the best sense. It keeps you entertained, provides some humor, some thrills, characters to care about but doesn't tax you too much.

- Has a couple of simple but thrilling set pieces. The one at the end of the movie had me at edge of my seat, willing the characters to go where I knew they'd end... but still thrilling. It probably didn't happen that way in real life but it's a movie.... dramatic license. I was OK with it.

- I wish the screenplay developed Affleck's main character beyond the stock ""excellent at his job, trying to spend more time with kid". We've seen that many times. He's based on a real person after all!!

- Things go too smoothly throughout. Too straightforward and simple. Yes the rescue idea is called out as being bad but everybody gets on board. The Hollywood setting up of the fake movie also goes without a hitch. Is this how it happened in real life? There is no real conflict.

- My fave line : Ladies and Gentleman alcoholic beverages can be served now as we just crossed out of Iranian air space"". As I used to travel in Middle East that announcement always meant the party can start, has more meaning in the movie; still fun to hear it.

- Don't understand the Oscar buzz for Alan Arkin. He's very funny but hardly in the movie. Yes he has almost all the funny one liners but that's "best"of year?

- Chris Messina; when are you going to get a meaty movie role? Nice to see you pop up everywhere and lead on The Mindy Project, though.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Terrible Terrible Paperboy

Efron, McConaughey, Kidman and Oyelowo in The Paperboy

I was really excited to see The Paperboy. Critics online were crapping on it in a major way. But there was all the campy elements that I read about. Those were what got me really excited. Plus Nicole Kidman always makes interesting choices. Which other actress has a varied career that includes The Hours, Dogville, Birth and Moulin Rouge to name just four great but disparate movies.  Lets just forget about Just Go With It and Trespass.

The Paperboy, directed by Lee Daniels of Precious fame,  tells the story of the titular character (Zac Efron), his brother, a journalist (Matthew McConaughey), the journalist's writing partner (David Oyelowo) trying to free a death row inmate (John Cusack) with the help of the inmate's pen pal and intended (Kidman). It takes place in the 1960s in swampy humid South Florida and is narrated by Efron's nanny/housekeeper (Macy Grey). It's as crazy as this synopsis implies.

It started OK but then it became unbearable.The characters didn't make sense, shocking scene followed shocking scene for no reason. Yes the famous one with Kidman peeing on Efron, but also two strange graphic sex scenes with Kidman & Cusack, And it was full of blood and gore that  it didn't earn with a coherent story. By the end I was looking away willing it to end.

But its not all bad. The period costumes were right on target. Daniels also an a great ear for capturing the nuances of race in that era and a few of the minor characters read authentic.

The acting is so - so. Efron is fine and he looks very good in the tighty whitties he spends most of the movie in.  But Cusack on the other hand was just plain bad. Macy Gray and Nicole were trying to do something interesting. Kidman goes all out, it's the kind of performance that would be called ballsy just for the crazy stuff Daniels & his screenplay put her through. McConaughey's character goes through a lot of crazy things too. But what story or vision are they serving? A very incoherent one at best that does not really even care about the story or its characters.Agree with critics who crapped on it - it alienated all the affection I had beforehand by being terrible.

The first movie of 2012 that I absolutely loathed ... and I have seen Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A few thoughts on Lincoln

I attended the not so secret screening of "Lincoln"at the New York Film Festival tonight. I was hoping the secret film is Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty but I was pleasantly surprised with Lincoln. I expected it to be a fuddy duddy reverential history lesson and since it's Spielberg I thought it would be sappy.

The movie is a sorta thriller about the behind the scenes machinations of passing the 13th amendment and abolishing slavery. The players include Lincoln, his family, his cabinet, some congress me and other politicians and military men.

I was really surprised by the humor in the movie. Even though it is still a history lesson that felt too stiff and sedate for the most part, there was a lot of humor. It protrayed Lincoln not just as the great and savvy politician he is but also as a man prone to telling long stories. While the stories were long, there were also laughs. It took time to show his relationships with his family and the his staff at the White House.

Daniel Day Lewis is very good as Abe. I know there were complaints online about the voice but it works within the movie context. And I'm sure he did his research and that''s how Lincoln sounded. It's a quiet performance with no flash and no big scenes; in fact he is not in the most thrilling scene.

Sally Field aquits herself admirably as Mary Todd Lincoln and delivers the movie's biggest laugh in a scene with Tommy Lee Jones. She also gets a big screaming match with Day Lewis that was a wallop of a dramatic scene.

 Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens with a lot of wit and sarcasm. I would venture to say that his performance will be an awards magnet. Not just for the humor but because his character is the only only that has an emotional and personal connection to the historical events that all the others lack.

There is David Strathairn - as William Seward - who starts strong but fades away and off camera two thirds into the movie. Joseph Gordon Levitt felt too contemporary as Robert Todd Lincoln specially when he first appears. There are also roles for John Hawkes, James Spader (gets a lot of laughs), Jackie Earle Hailey, Walton Goggins, Jared Harris... lots of men in gray wigs and beards.

Below the line from cinematography to art direction to costumes are all first rate. And I applaud Spielberg and his screenwriter Tony Kushner for not going the full lifetime but rather concentrating on an smaller interesting story.

All in all entertaining historical story but not exactly a wow movie.