Friday, November 30, 2012

Welcome Back Cate

At Hobbit Red Carpet
in Wellington

After taking off a few years to run the Sydney Theatre Company Cate Blanchett is back to movies with a vengeance. She graced the red carpet in New Zealand this week for the Hobbit premiere as news of her next project were unveiled.

I don't think The Hobbit is worthy of her talents. The role is probably a cameo anyway. But at least we will get to see her on the red carpet during the promotional blitz.

I'm more excited by the other movies she shot this year and are coming out in 2013. She stars in the latest Woody Allen and is in not one but two movies from Terrence Malick. The latter is notorious for completely cutting off some actors from his movies. I am betting he will not cut Cate the Great!

That next project is a live action Cinderella where she will play the evil stepmother. Never Let Me Go director Mark Romanek is at the helm. Hanna co-star Saoirse Ronan is among the young actresses being considered for the title role.

This should be a fun exciting blockbuster for Cate. She follows Charlize and Angelina in playing the villain in a live action version of a fairy tale.

She also has two other movies scheduled to shoot in 2013. A lesbian love story with Mia Wasikowska called Carol, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. And she's in the ensemble of George Clooney's next directorial project, The Monuments Men, along with Daniel Craig, Jean Dujardin and Bill Murray.

I leave you with one of my favorite Cate moments. Elizabeth:The Golden Age was so much less than the original Elizabeth. But the "'I too can command the wind, Sir"is such an usually hammy and over the top moment from this subtle actress that i just love it. Watch for yourself below.

Oscar Bits and Pieces - Best Supporting Actor

I've tackled my favorite Oscar category, Best Actress, first. Now it's time to tackle my least favorite acting category, Best Supporting Actor. Sometimes I just don't understand the nominations in this category. A particularly egregious year was 2 years ago when a bland Matt Damon in Invitcus and Stanley Tucci for a hammy villain in The Lovely Bones (same year he was so wonderful in Julie and Julia) were nominated. It is also a category that has managed to snub one of my favorite actors, Peter Sarsgaard 3 times (Shattered Glass, Kinsey and An Education). But it had produced a few excellent winners recently; can't complain about Plummer, Waltz and Ledger.

Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln 

This year more than ever this category is confusing me. There are very few performances that I really like, what's being bandied about as potential nominees doesn't seem substantial or particularly interesting to me. The one I whole heartedly endorse without a doubt is Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. While he is doing Tommy Lee, he does it so well. He gets a lot of funny grandstanding speeches, gets to make fun of his rivals but above all he is the one character in the movie whose personal emotional connection to the historical events felt vital and real.

In the past I did not particularly like many of Philip Seymour Hoffman's performances. He was so obviously a child molester in Doubt; when we were not supposed to really know. Too over the top in Charlie Wilson's War. However I was pleasantly surprised at how understated he was in The Master. He was my favorite thing in what I thought was an over-wrought pretentious film. Won't be on my ballot but I can see why he will be nominated.

Goodman and Arkin in Argo

Alan Arkin is very funny in Argo. He has a few very funny lines and gets to deliver that movie's catch phrase - Argo fuck yourself. But that's what is considered best of year? It's a tiny role and he wasn't in the movie enough. A tinier role in Argo is John Goodman's. He has another tiny role in Flight. He is very good, funny and liekable in both. Maybe combined they'd make one substantial role. Will he get in or split his votes?

Everyone is over the moon for Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook. Look the man is a legend and I'm happy he is getting all this acclaim and awards buzz after years of unremarkable movies. What seals the nomination for him is a very emotional moment where makes a connection with his son and even gets to tear up. So obviously an Oscar clip and he nails it and assures his name will be called.

No one knows anything yet about Leo DiCaprio's performance in Django Unchained. But we know that Quentin Tarantino writes delicious villians and has a particularly good history in this category - Sam Jackson, Robert Forrester and Christoph Waltz nominated and Waltz won. Could he produce two nominees from Django? Jackson's in it too.

Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables

And what about Les Miserables? Early word is that Russell Crowe acquits himself well, Sacha Baron Cohen is funny and Eddie Redmayne is a revelation. Of these I'd give Redmayne the edge because "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" is such an emotional song, comes almost the end of the movie so it will be fresh in memories. But then again he's playing the romantic lead and this category usually favors oddballs and villains.

A couple of excellent performances are quickly losing steam. Michael Fassbender was very good in the uneven Prometheus but it seems the summer release has been forgotten. Dwight Henry is excellent in his debut in Beasts of the Southern Wild. He also has an excellent backstory; he was a baker discovered and given this big chance. But he missed on a Spirit Award nomination.

Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike

I haven't seen The Impossible yet but love Ewan McGregor. Could he finally get his first nomination? He has a lot of famous backers; Angelina Jolie hosted a screening in his honor. Also hoping for his first nomination is Matthew McConaughey after a landmark year in which he starred in three critically acclaimed roles in Bernie, Magic Mike and Bernie. Those 3 movies completely changed public perception of him and he could get nominated for Magic Mike.

Jude Law as Karenin

The performance that I truly loved and hope it gets noticed is Jude Law in Anna Karenina.This Joe Wright version really loves Karenin and Jude Law, in a warm quiet and introspective performance, shows the dull pull of duty and the unrelenting dogged pursuit of what's right. It's a great turn and so different than anything he has done before. The film's divisive reviews and so-so box office work against him though and he's unlikely to get mentioned.

For my final predictions I think Jones, Hoffman and DeNiro are definitely in. I'm struggling wit the last 2. I just don't see Goodman or Arkin getting nominated because their roles are tiny. McConaughey is campaigning hard and could benefit from an assured Globe nom. Redmayne is sounding stronger and stronger as people leave Les Miz discovering him. I reserve the right to change my mind as I/m still puzzled by this category.

Predicted Five : Tommy Lee Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Matthew McConaughey and Eddie Redmayne.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trying to forge away from Middle of Nowhere

Hardwick and Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere

There is a scene in Middle of Nowhere where a mother and her two daughters sit down to have a meal and try to communicate. Years of despair and disappointment come bubbling to the surface and amicable family conversation can not be reached. The authenticity of this sad situation gobsmacked me in the face and I knew I was watching a great movie.

The film tells the story of Ruby (luminous Emayatzy Corinealdi) an LA nurse who works double shifts to live and pay the legal bills of her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick). It's also the story of her single mother sister (Edwina Findley), their mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and a bus driver ( David Oyelowo) who is sweet on Ruby. But mostly it's Ruby's story, how she came to where she is - giving up medical school to wait for her husband. And where she is going - can she make the choice to break free? It's not a love triangle but rather an exploration of stunted woman's choice to either go on or leading a semi life or make the choice to try for something better and scarier.

Writer director Ava DuVernay

The movie is the brain child of Ava DuVernay, who wrote, directed and even released the movie. She became the first African-American woman to win Best Director when the film debuted earlier this at the Sundance Film Festival. Hers is a major accomplishment - a quiet well observed and introspective screenplay. We get to spend a few weeks with these characters and their experiences jumped out to me as relateable and recognizable. While the movie takes painstaking lengths to get the experiences of women of incarcerated men right; to me it was more than just that one story.

As a director DuVernay coaxes out wonderful performances from her cast. Corinealdi is a real find. Ruby is a very quiet woman and Corinealdi imbues her with intelligence and world weariness but also makes you see the playful ingenue she can be or maybe was at some point. Another standout is Toussaint who is excellent at conveying years of disappointment with just a few looks. If there is a weak link it's Findley. It is as if she was in another movie that is not as good as the one I'm watching.

The story behind how DuVernay became a filmmaker and distributed her own movie is almost as fascinating as the story she presents onscreen. She used to be a publicist, then financed her first movie using $50,000 of her own savings. She formed a releasing company to ensure that her movie reaches black audiences who are looking for smart independent movies. It is encouraging that her voice is being heard and her movie seen.

Middle of Nowhere is a strong, emotionally resonant film full of lived in compelling performances. It announces Ava DuVernay as a major filmmaker.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Worst Pies in London!

I'm on record saying that Helena Bonham Carter ruined the movie version of Sweeny Todd with her awful singing. I hate to keep harping on Helena who is almost always a delight in interviews and seems to have a good perspective on celebrity. But casting actors who can't sing in movie musicals is a pet peeve of mine. She's in the new Les Miserables hence this post.

To prove my point I give you evidence:

Angela Lansbury

Patti LuPone

Julia McKenzie (starts at 3:45)

and finally Helena

Who sang it best?

  • Julia McKenzie
  • Angela Lansbury
  • Patti Lu Pone
  • Helena Bonham Carter?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Most Anticipated - Les Miserables

Today a lucky few will the movie version of Les Miserables as it begins screening. I'm so jealous. It is my most anticipated movie of the year. Here's why:

It's a musical. I love musicals. It's big, emotional with lots of big juicy parts for actors. I love actors and acting.

They have really done a good job with casting. If there are 2 Hollywood stars who excel at musical theater and started their careers there ; it's Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Have you seen Jackman's charming opening when he hosted the Oscars a few years ago? And Annie joined him in it for a bit. Fantastic.
Hugh & Anne at Oscars

 Russell Crowe has a band ie. possibly he can sing and he has the gravitas to pull off Javert. Amanda Seyfried can sing and will be a good Cosette. Plus she has the same big eyes of Hathaway's so they are believable as mother and daughter. Aaron Tevit and Samantha Barks are musical theater vets on Broadway and in England respectively.

 Eddie Redmayne is an open question but his "heart full of love"face in the trailer makes me optimistic he can pull it off.

Helena as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are the two biggest potentials to ruin this. I mean Carter single handedly ruined the movie version of Sweeny Todd. But their roles as comic relief are not that significant. They get one song, even better Carter only gets to sing half of that song. Even she can't ruin this.

 I was not a fan of director Tom Hooper's last movie The King's Speech. However I think he can definitely make a very interesting movie of Les Miserables

And the marketing for this movie has been brilliant. That first trailer with just Hathaway singing Ï Dreamed A Dream" created the kind of buzz other movies only dream off.

Are you excited as I am? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oscar Season Bits & Pieces - Best Actress

Emmanuelle Riva

The Hollywood Reporter has released its annual Actress Round table which means that Oscar season is now in full swing. I always look forward to those because Best Actress is always my favourite category. This year looks to be a strong one; there are so many good movies already released and a couple of big mega movies just around the corner.

Let's dig by each category, the major ones of course. I'll provide my take and predictions. Let's start with  :

Best Actress - coming up Best Actor and  Best Supporting Actor
My vote goes to Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. What a performance : heartbreaking and full of moving melancholy and surprising strength. I hope she gets nominated. Going against her is that it's a foreign language film and even people who love it acknowledge that it is a difficult movie to sit through. It deals with inevitable decay, old age and death after all. Going for her is that everyone who sees the movie comes out marvelling at the performance.

Jennifer Lawrence

The pundits world would have you believe that Jennifer Lawrence is the front runner. I don't believe it. Don't get me wrong; I think Lawrence is the best thing about Silver Linings Playbook. I wanted to see more of her character; and therein lies the problem. It's a supporting role really. The story is Bradley Cooper's and she's there as his love interest. She's much better than him but because of how little she gets to do I don't think it's an Oscar winning performance. She has the big speech in her money scene and for that she'll be nominated. However even that speech's payoff is not emotional enough in my opinion. It kick starts the plot for the last third of the movie but does not affect the characters lives in a major way. I understand that Hollywood wants to reward her for The Hunger Games, she's young, hot and a box office draw. Still can't see this performance wining Best Actress.

Jessica Chastain

 I think this will be a match between Naomi Watts in The Impossible and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty.Details of how big and central to the plot Chastain's role have just emerged. That got a lot of excitement. She has momentum from last year, not only for the nomination from The Help but for all the other movies she appeared in. Everyone acknowledges her as The Next Big Actress, set to join Meryl, Kate and Cate as a perennial Oscar nominee. Watts has lots of goodwill from her previous nomination plus she apparently gives a big emotional performance, suffers and cries a lot. Which she is fantastic at and why she was nominated for 21 Grams. A lot of people still talk about Mulholland Drive a decade after it was released, so lots of goodwill there. The problem with The Impossible is that the trailer is too manipulative, it dares you not to tear up. Is there a good movie behind that? Will people show up for suffering porn? If yes she will be unstoppable.

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard is getting raves for Rust and Bone. I'll see it Friday, then I can make an informed decision. Although so far what I read seems to mixed with more praise going to her co-star  Matthias Schoenaerts. There is also young Quevenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. She carries that unique lyrical movie on her little shoulders and for that she wil be rewarded. Keira Knightely is very good as Anna Karenina as she has been in her last few movies. But the response to that movie has been sharply divided. I loved it, it worked for me. 

Emayatzy Corinealdi

There are a few performances that are not getting much attention but are still amazing. Emayatzy Corinealdi gives a subtle piercing performance in Middle of Nowhere and announces herself as a major talent. Kirsten Dunst is all brittle edges and angry frustration in Bachelorette taking a highly unlikeable character , making her human while being very funny. And the most likeable celebrity presence on twitter, Melanie Lynskey,  gives a touching performance in Hello I Must Be Going. She made me palpably feel her disappointment and then her quiet resolve and tentative hope.

Predicted 5 : Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quevenzhane Wallis, Naomi Watts.

Who do you think will be nominated? Tell all in the comments.