Archive for the ‘Off-Campus’ Category

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method”: Moviegoers Feel the Chill and Are Left Out in the Cold

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method” are two of this year’s indie films with specific niches that garnered no big awards.  These two movies prove the unfortunate perception that smaller films are not always better and that sometimes not waiting for DVD is a mistake.  This is sad because many a time it is the small films that are undiscovered gems; they can surprise us, teach us, and open our eyes the most.

At first before I saw both of these films I wondered why they had not been nominated, especially for the Oscars.  Keira Knightley was applauded by her peers for what they called a fearless performance and Ralph Fiennes had directed a modern take on Shakespeare (usually an Oscar favorite). (more…)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Boy’s Search

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

My mother recently said that there has yet to be a strong movie made about 9/11.  Not only is it a difficult subject to approach, there is the question of perspective.  By this I mean should the movie be more political or personal?  Should the movie try to represent many people, many families, or just one person?  In the case of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” the film is about the latter viewpoint.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” received mixed reviews from critics, mainly negative.  The fact that it made it onto the roster of Best Picture nominees for the Oscars is a surprise.  The film overall is far from perfect.

A young boy named Oskar struggles with the tragic loss of his father, who was in the Twin Towers on what he calls “the worst day.”  He tries to overcome his fears in a world that makes no sense by creating a puzzle that he believes will give him some more time with his father.  Along the way Oskar meets many people and finds that even when we would wish for nothing more than to be alone, we simply cannot be on life’s journey. (more…)

Remembrances of Movies Past

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This year’s two biggest standouts and award winners are “Hugo” and “The Artist.”  Both films have a big thing in common.  Besides being beautifully directed, artsy, and uplifting, “Hugo” and “The Artist” are an homage to classic cinema.  The movies also both champion the preservation of film.

Martin Scorsese surprised many by directing a film that children could actually see.  “Hugo,” set in Paris, is about a young boy who has lost his father.  Hugo lives in a clock in a train station, where he must hide from gendarmes who would take him to an orphanage.  His life changes when he finds the key to a robot that his father was trying to fix. (more…)

Before Traveling, Check for Manifestação

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

This quarter, I am studying abroad in Madrid.  We only have class Mon-Thurs, so the majority of us use our time over the weekends to travel, myself included.  This past weekend, I decided to travel to Lisbon with some friends.  It is a beautiful city with great food (I highly recommend it), and its friendly people and low prices, at least in comparison to Madrid, quickly won our group over.  We had a jam-packed schedule, as we were only in Lisbon from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.  As Saturday winded to a close and we were walking to our hostel to get our bags and head to the airport, our group gave ourselves a solid pat on the back.  In a mere 3 days, we had seen all that we set out to see, ate some fantastic food, and met some incredible people.  We had planned so well…. or so we thought.

As we were walking to our hostel, we noticed a fair amount of people in the streets, a pleasant contrast to the relative emptiness of Madrid’s streets on the weekend, and in particular, a small group of protesters in Terreiro do Paço square.  We figured this was normal, especially since the Portuguese economy is not doing any better than the Spanish economy (to learn about that, go read some of George’s old posts).  In fact, Lisbon’s walls and streets are filled with graffiti and posters, proclaiming things like, “Money is taken from the poor and given to the bankers.  More hours.  Less pay.  Less life!”

As we exited the hostel and got ready to head to Terreiro do Paço square, a hub for buses and the nearest bus stop for the bus to the airport, we realized that there were an increasing number of people in the street…and an increased police presence.  In fact, Terreiro do Paço square had been blocked off by the police and streets were being closed for the incoming masses of protesters.

What we expected to see (image from Wikipedia)

What we actually saw (image from Reuters)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were in the middle of a manifestação, or protest. Not prepared for the chaos about to ensue, we figured we would head to the closest square, where we hopefully could catch a bus or take the train or metro to the airport.

Image from the International Business Times

Rolling suitcases in hand, we ran through the crowded streets in the opposite direction of the march of protesters that was headed from the outskirts to Terreiro do Paço square.  All ages of people were in the streets, shouting, holding signs.  Some wore masks, impersonating Guy Fawkes, who has become a symbol of anti-greed.

The manifestação had been called by the CGPT, or Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, to protest the austerity measures that had been taken on by the Portuguese government last May in exchange for a 78 billion dollar loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.  These austerity measures included an increase in sales taxes and increase in public transportation fares, and salary reductions.  More controversially, the government has lengthened workday hours without additional compensation, cut holidays,  and reduced compensations for fired workers.  Since these measures, the economy has only worsened, with employment hitting around 13%.  (more…)

Oscar Nominations 2012: Shock and Awe-ards

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

This year is one of lightness, not in the real world, but in the world of cinema.  The dresses on the red carpet are not the only things that are prettily pastel.  It is also a year of snubs.  As the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced the Academy seemed to be saying, “Hah!  We are not going to do anything you think.  We are rebellious and like to make people angry.  As such, we cannot even stoop to find a tenth movie for Best Picture.  Oh and by the way everyone’s songs sucked, so take that Madonna and Elton John…you can stop fighting with each other now.”

My family, who likes to make a competition out of guessing the winners of all the movie award shows (for the Golden Globes just put your bets on what you think possibly could not win and that will be the winner) is at a loss for the Oscars.  We thought that they would correct what the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards did strangely but instead they may have made it worse.

I am not really sure what happened with the Oscar nominations.  All I know is people are angry and every prediction and guess is altered now.  Let’s start at the top and throw in some Golden Globes comparisons for good measure.

(more…)

When Europe Hits a Windmill: The Euro Crisis from Spain (Part II)

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The victory rally of Spain's opposition party, Partido Popular (PP), on November 20 in Madrid. Spaniards gave the PP an absolute parliamentary majority in a referendum on the dire state of the country's economy. (Photo credit: Jonathan York.)

“Es la crisis.”

Amongst young Spaniards, these three words have become a refrain almost as common as “¿Qué tal estás?”. They often use them jokingly, such as an excuse not to do a homework assignment or complete a household chore. However, when deciding not to shop, go out to a restaurant or club, or travel, the phrase comes up again, and the reason is darker: they simply do not have the money.

As these young people graduate, almost half of them have no way to earn that money, thanks to the lack of jobs available. If they are particularly smart and/or well-connected, they often leave and work in other countries, participating in the largest emigration wave to hit Spain since the 1960s. The others have little choice but to scrape together what they can, live with their parents, and wait for the economy to improve. They will need to wait a while. Spain’s rigid, service-based economy cannot shift to a new growth model overnight, or even in a few years.

It is one thing to examine a financial crisis as troubling as Europe’s using the news, the pundits, the data, and the precedents. It is another to be in Spain and observe its consequences. Although Spain remains an enchanting place in which to study and travel, the past two years have profoundly shaken the country’s psyche and identity. The new Spain that has emerged is the one that I will attempt to convey in this post.

What does a country with a 22.6% unemployment rate look like?

Spain hardly looks like a country experiencing hard times. Parts of it are run-down, to be sure, but Spanish cities are generally well kept and full of green spaces. The main thoroughfares of Madrid are even cleaned off with hoses every night; I found out about this when I nearly got sprayed by one walking home from the bars. Madrid’s metro and bus system are easy to use and efficient, with none of the filth and rudeness you might encounter on the NYC subway. (more…)

Mission Adventure: A Look at Two Sequels

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are this season’s action-packed blockbusters.  If you are in the mood for some mindless fun and excitement (come on, who isn’t) and don’t want to have to work too hard to follow the plot then these two movies are the right ones to see.

The two movies have a few things in common.  They are both over two hours, have great special effects, the plots are a little overly convoluted, and most importantly they are better than the preceding movie in their series.  They also do not take themselves too seriously.

Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol picks up with Ethan Hunt in prison and from there goes through a bunch of frankly awesome action sequences full of massive explosions, elaborate disguises, and a couple of truly memorable scenes.  (I am sorry for running out of superlatives.)  Tom Cruise’s hand-picked new team in the movie is charismatic, including Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg (who is very funny).  The stand-out scenes are the magnetic suit that makes Jeremy Renner able to fly above a large fan, the rotating car garage that Tom Cruise must jump off various levels of, and the most spectacular is the scene in Dubai where Cruise seems to have nothing holding him to the outside windows of an unnaturally high hotel but a pair of gloves (he actually did this stunt himself but with a cord).  That last scene leads to an incredible amount of palm-sweating (or at least it did on my part).  Besides being an action-scene expert, Tom Cruise brings his always sincere intensity to the movie.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is more fun than its predecessor.  There are more twists and turns and we get back to the better core of the film, the funny relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Thankfully Robert Downey Jr.’s accent is a little more understandable this time around.  Noomi Rapace sadly has nothing to do but we finally get to see Sherlock Holmes’ real nemesis, Professor Moriarty.  At times there is too much going on but it is easy to see that Guy Ritchie is having a good time here.  The special effects, especially one of the ending scenes on a never-ending waterfall, are spot on.

Both movies have endings that open up for a new adventure.  It never ends, say you?  Yes, it never ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peter Pan Syndrome of “Young Adult”

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Young Adult is a guilty pleasure if ever there was one.  Critics have described it as a train wreck that is impossible to turn away from.  Actually, it starts out more like that strange aunt who has a little too much to drink during the holidays and reveals all her secrets, and then it ends up as a full train crash.

Charlize Theron is wicked perfection as Mavis Gary, a 37 year-old woman who never grew up.  Mavis is stuck living in the past glow of what she thinks was her peak, those high school glory years when she was 17, beautiful, popular and dating cool-guy Buddy Slade.  Everything seems to have gone downhill from there as we catch up with Mavis sleeping in yesterday’s clothes face-down in a messy apartment with the Kardashians rambling on the television in the background.

There is a parallel drawn between Mavis’ life and the fictional young adult series she is a ghostwriter for.  As the series ends she could choose to make a change in her life but instead she decides to visit her hometown and go after Buddy (who is now married with a baby on the way).  Usually we would like to think that people learn from their mistakes but as Mavis so wonderfully illustrates, not everyone cares to.

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have a knack for edge.  The question asked is how much can we possibly hate ourselves?  As it turns out, a lot.  This is shown when Mavis picks out her blonde hair that once earned her the title of “Best Hair” in high school.  However, as Young Adult is a character study, it is the performances that are the most essential to the film.  Charlize Theron fully commits to her role, as always, managing to get across Mavis’ bitterness and her brokenness at the same time.

The most cringe-worthy scene is Mavis’ breakdown at Buddy’s baby shower as she hears for the first time that it is everyone else that feels sorry for her and not the other way around.  It is Patton Oswalt that stands out, though.  He grounds the film and pulls out the most touching performance as a former classmate of Mavis who became disabled after being the victim of a hate crime in high school.

Sure Young Adult is snarky and has no redemption for the main character (something we do not see much of in Hollywood films) but more than that there is an underlying desperation and wrenching sadness that is frightening because it could become all too familiar fast.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the Dark Side: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Movie Review

Monday, January 16th, 2012

I apologize for the lateness of these reviews and blame it on holiday withdrawal.

Who is fierce, brilliant, and unafraid?  If you answered Meryl Streep and actually all the actresses who gave great, strong performances this year you are right.  Well, sort of.  In this case the person or character referred to is Lisbeth Salander.  Noomi Rapace brought her to life perfectly in the Swedish trilogy.  However, Rooney Mara is also excellent in David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

It was hard not to have high expectations after Noomi Rapace and the striking three Swedish films adapted from Stieg Larsson’s novels.  You do not want to be disappointed.  Luckily, Fincher does a wonderful job of directing in his usual dark style, save the opening sequence.  What was up with that exactly?  Besides that though, this The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took the positive elements of a Hollywood film, crisp editing and finesse.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is two and a half hours, like the original Swedish version, but it moves along quickly and has the same intensity.  By intensity, I mean sitting on the edge of your seat/biting your nails with one hand/making a fist with the other intensity.  This is not a light film by any means but the scenes are shot well.  The soundtrack by Trent Reznor adds to the overall feeling of movie.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Immigrant Song — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross feat. Karen O

Some elements of the plot have been changed but none have a negative effect on the film.  In fact, the relationship between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander is made more obvious.  Mikael comes to Lisbeth to ask her to help him find “a killer of women” and the ending of the film goes beyond its Swedish twin by leaving us with Lisbeth watching Mikael leave with his fellow journalist (also his mistress) and the look of disappointment on her face.  It makes their relationship more important and vital to the story, which is a positive addition.  Also, Daniel Craig is in his most likable state here, softer than usual.  It is Rooney Mara who pulls through and makes Lisbeth young, vulnerable and even more playful (although not as haunted as Noomi Rapace).  Mara has been nominated already for some prestigious awards and hopefully will be nominated for an Oscar as well (the movie and Fincher should also get noticed).

If you have been living under a rock-like place and do not know what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about, here is a quick synopsis.  A smart, antisocial woman named Lisbeth Salander is a computer whiz/hacker by day and a feminist always.  A journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, whose name has been slandered from a messy trial, is asked to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy, powerful man’s granddaughter who went missing over forty years ago.  Lisbeth helps Mikael find the killer and they find out a lot of pretty bad stuff along the way.  The corruption that goes all the way to the top and Lisbeth’s past leads to her being The Girl Who Played with Fire and eventually The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  “The land of the midnight sun is much darker” than we could have ever imagined.

 

 

 

 

Just Enjoy the Show: The Twilight Saga Continues

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Yes, the long-awaited The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1.  I know what you’re thinking.  Before you think it though, here it goes.  Breaking Dawn Part 1 is actually enjoyable.  That’s right, I said it, enjoyable.  If you know exactly what you are getting you will not be disappointed.  This is different than a lot of movies recently racing towards the Oscars that were a bit, ahem, disappointing.  I won’t name names, though, cough cough The Descendants, Moneyball, Beginners and The Tree of Life.  Even The Help.  I mean, good?  Yes, definitely.  The best we’ve ever seen?  I don’t think so.  Many of the movies seem to be coming up short.

I read a couple of reviews of Breaking Dawn, including the one in the L.A. Times, and I was expecting the worst.  This is from a fan of the Twilight series, both books and movies.  Okay, not a die-hard wait in line for the premiere or wear a t-shirt or admit out loud (oh wait, too late) fan or anything.  I probably would have fallen asleep during the midnight premiere.  Not even Harry Potter could keep me up I think.  Gasp, a Stanford student who likes Twilight and admits it?  The series is silly and a fantasy of course.  But that’s just it, it’s an escape.  I mean when you have to deal with guys not even offering to pick up the check anymore Edward and Jacob seem like a dream.  Also, amidst many vampire series, mostly lame, Stephenie Meyer did something right (make the characters likable).

So the reviews were harsh of course but to tell the truth Breaking Dawn personally was the only movie this holiday season so far that was fun to watch and without high expectations.  The movie covers the wedding, honeymoon (finally but don’t get your hopes up too much, this is still PG-13 after all), Bella’s pregnancy (spoiler alert, sorry) and birth (world’s fastest pregnancy) and ends with her transformation into a vampire (spoiler alert but come on you should  have seen that one coming).  Part 2 is up next but Part 1 was like an entire lifetime consolidated into one movie.

Breaking Dawn still doesn’t top the first Twilight movie with its sort of indie innocence before all the mega-fame and budgets.  However, Breaking Dawn is better and more faithful to the series than Eclipse, focusing more on the romance than the violence.  Actually, when I read the Breaking Dawn book in high school (hiding it under the desk from people who literally cringed when they saw it) I wondered how they would make it into a movie, especially with the birth scene.  Bill Condon (director of Dreamgirls) did a nice job.  The actors, Kristen Stewart (a strong actress anyway), Taylor Lautner, and Robert Pattinson do the best they can with the material they are given and try to do as little winking at the camera as possible, so for that I applaud them.  Pattinson especially is much better in this movie and even gives Edward somewhat of a backbone.  Bella and Edward’s wedding is a highlight with its beautiful décor and wedding dress (vampires really do have good taste).

Just let go of the questions (like how can a vampire get someone pregnant and the whole verging on creepy imprinting thing), sit back, and go with it.

Bruno Mars – It Will Rain [New Music]

 

 

The Descendants: Good, but Great?

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

The Descendants is getting rave reviews.  Critics claim George Clooney is at his best and will definitely be Oscar-nominated.  I am sure he will and the movie may even be as well.  So it is with high expectations of a real-life type of drama with a touch of comedy (done by the same team as Sideways) that I went to see The Descendants.

George Clooney plays a father who finds himself the sole guardian of his two daughters after his wife has an accident and is in a coma.  He is clueless as to how to deal with his two girls, one 10 and one 17, that he does not know all that well.  They must come together though as Matt King decides whether or not to sell his family’s ancestral lands and learns that his wife had been having an affair.

Do not get me wrong, I like a real-life type of poignant movies as much as the next person but somehow I felt detached from these characters.  I think the problem comes down to George Clooney.  If an actor like Matt Damon had been the lead it might have been different.  Clooney is a little cold in his acting, which works as a politician in The Ides of March but not as a father whose life is unraveling.

Clooney’s eyes look untouched as he goes through the motions but does not seem to register the emotions.  The close-ups of his face show this especially and it is a bit disappointing.  It seems that the movie may have been overhyped by the critics.  It is a good movie, but a great one?  I am not so sure.  The girls are very good, though.  Shailene Woodley shows her acting chops and accomplishes what I wish Clooney could have. We can actually see the pain in her eyes.

When Europe Hits a Windmill: The Euro Crisis from Spain (Part I)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Spain's flag together with the flags of Andalucía and the European Union. The family of European nations is facing the biggest challenge to its existence since World War II.

Recently I went to get some churros con chocolate with a friend studying at Universidad Complutense. He is an educated guy, very sharp, a real “pícaro” who does not hesitate to poke fun at something he finds ridiculous. We began to talk politics, specifically Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and at one point I noted with amazement and some sympathy that the Germans would be inevitably responsible for bailing out the rest of Europe. My friend looked at me squarely in the eye and said, “They tried to conquer Europe twice in less than a century, without mercy, and left us with Franco. Que se jodan.

You do not have to agree with my friend to see his point. Europe is in serious trouble, and though the Spaniards continue to party until the sun rises, they are increasingly angry and disillusioned. After having experienced one of the great economic miracles of the twentieth century, Spain’s future looks decidedly grim. The Spanish youth will likely suffer a lower quality of life than that of their parents, and so far there appears to be little they can do about it.

In this post, I will attempt to explain Europe’s economic situation, tying in Spain where relevant. A follow-up post will elaborate on Spain’s current circumstances, focusing on what I have been able to observe in person.

The Debt Contagion – Too Little, Too Late

Why is Europe’s economic crisis so scary? The European Union (EU) is the world’s largest economy, with approximately 308 million people. If it goes bust and the 17-nation euro zone dissolves, an economic tsunami would hit the U.S. and the rest of the world. Stocks markets would tank, people’s savings would disappear, banks would stop lending and likely suffer a run on their accounts, and political chaos would follow.

This sounds like a drastic, impossible scenario, until you look at the numbers. Europe’s biggest debtors are facing unprecedented yields on their sovereign debt, with both Italy and Spain above 6% on ten-year bonds. Such levels necessitated European-sponsored bailouts in Ireland and Portugal over the past year. But Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy and third largest bond market. It is too big to be “bailed out.” Without investors buying its bonds, Italy’s government will simply run out of money and default on its debts. The EU’s situation is so tenuous that any number of events, from the failure of a big bank (read: France, whose banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt) to the collapse of a government to more unsuccessful bond auctions could cause its demise. Then there are the political pressures, which are already reaching a boiling point. Both Greece’s and Italy’s governments succumbed to the crisis this fall, and Spanish voters just gave Spain’s conservative opposition party, Partido Popular, an enormous victory on November 20. (more…)

An Insidious Menace Haunts Martha Marcy May Marlene

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the most intriguing films this fall.  It is hard to place into a genre, but psychological thriller is probably the most fitting.  A piercing, standout performance by Elizabeth Olsen drives this film.  Olsen, who definitely will become a big star, plays a lost young woman running away from a terrifying cult.  The pain in Olsen’s eyes cut to the bone.  Martha’s demons surface as we question whether she may just be paranoid.  Turns out, she isn’t.  The most chilling aspect of the film is that it is not all in her head (unlike Natalie Portman’s role as Nina in Black Swan last year).  Preying on those who have nowhere else to turn, the cult (led by a frightening John Hawkes, who gives Martha her other names as well) takes young women in and slowly fools them into trusting this new “family.”  Martha tells her sister, who she has not spoken to in two years, that her boyfriend lied to her (and in a way this is true) instead of telling her where she has really been.  The character herself is complex and interesting as she is able to be taken in by the lies of this abusive group of people but also has the strength to finally leave.  The cult is even more terrifying than imaginable as they not only take advantage of people but also are killers.  One could see why Martha is so haunted and scared out of her mind.  The small things of everyday life prove most powerful to show how Martha has lost every sense of common civilities, like jumping in a lake naked.  There are no societal boundaries any more for her as on the farm everything is shared.  This is also why she has so many different names.  Her real name has been changed by the cult leader, stripping her of her own identity.  Everything in this movie escalates, from Martha’s fear to the flashbacks of the cult itself.  Slowly but surely building, you are on the edge of your seat as you wait for what will happen next.  Unfortunately, many that are innocent become victims.  Martha’s sister and she have a Rachel Getting Married type of relationship.  There is a lot of pain there and probably also some blame as Martha was left alone after her sister went to college.  They do not know how to communicate with one another.  Martha’s sister and brother-in-law cannot even fathom what she has been through.  They know something is wrong but would never be able to guess all that has happened to her.  She is more alone than ever and lives in a world all her own with a future that seems less and less certain of even existing.  Her sister on the other hand is very normal, just starting out with a husband and trying to have a baby.  Their worlds do not go hand in hand.  The ending is ambiguous but we know that it is not good, and her sister and brother-in-law do not even see what is coming.  Martha Marcy May Marlene is intense and haunting and something very different and new.  Like Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone last year, Elizabeth Olsen has made a name for herself with this first role.  She definitely should be nominated for an Oscar.  It is nice to see so many interesting roles for women this year.  There is a lot of variety for the actresses, from Martha Marcy May Marlene to The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep) to The Help to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Debt (Jessica Chastain) to Young Adult (Charlize Theron).

J. Edgar the Movie

Friday, November 18th, 2011

J. Edgar is not perfect.  The movie and the man that the movie is about are both not perfect in fact.  However, J. Edgar the movie is as complex and intense as the man himself.  Clint Eastwood directs in a documentary-style that proves a little long and at time drags.  The narrative is a little confusing at times as like a history lesson we are taken through J. Edgar Hoover’s journey (or his own vision of his journey) through flashbacks from WWII to the Civil Rights Movement.  He arguably made the FBI what it is today, creating the fingerprint system, organizing/cataloguing the Congressional Library, and inventing the creation of a damning confidential file.  In fact, J. Edgar used this file as leverage on many presidents, including Kennedy (and J. Edgar also thought he could stop Martin Luther King Jr. as well).  His work consumes him and is everything to him but at the end we can wonder what does he have to show?  Much of J. Edgar’s self-consciousness stems from his mother (proving that we can indeed blame our parents for everything) played by Judi Dench.  Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as J. Edgar, to the point that we forget he is acting.  It also made me realize that DiCaprio chooses difficult roles and is an underrated actor who has actually only played one likable character, Jack in Titanic.  Armie Hammer is simply wonderful, working as the most grounded and sympathetic character.  Hammer plays Clyde, J. Edgar’s right-hand man in the FBI and also J. Edgar’s secret love.  In a time when J. Edgar cannot admit to the world or even his own mother (she tells him she would rather have a dead son) that he is gay, he cannot come to terms himself with his true feelings for Clyde.  Much of their relationship is a guessing game to viewers as the only time the men confront each other is when tension and frustration have reached a climax (lots of glass thrown).  There is love there and a simple gesture like holding hands or when a much older J. Edgar kisses Clyde on the forehead and tells him he needs him shows this.  Speaking of looking older, the makeup is not done well unfortunately.  If everyone looks like that when they are in their sixties or seventies then we do not have a lot to look forward to.  I am sure that DiCaprio and Hammer (who I underestimated even though he was good in The Social Network and made us want there to be two of him) will get Oscar nominations.  I do not think the movie is strong enough to get nominated as a whole.  There are a lot of strong performances but not very many strong movies.  One last note of frustration: it is a shame that the artsy, indie films are never released wide.  It is hard to track them down to see and inevitably they are always the ones nominated.  Give us a chance; I think that more people are interested in films that actually give us something to think about.  Although I could be wrong as it is not the imperfect J. Edgar that was number one this past weekend but Immortals.

 

Duckburgers in Madrid’s Swanky Mercado de San Antón

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

It’s a real pain to watch football at 3am, but Oregon has never been tastier.