Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Nomination-Worthy’

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.

 

 

 

 

The Ides of March: Politics, Corruption, and Betrayal

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

        The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney, is not the betrayal in the way you would think.  From the trailers, it seems as though Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen Meyers, is the Brutus to George Clooney’s charismatic, upstanding Democratic politician, Governor Mike Morris.  It is the opposite, in fact.  Interestingly, the title of the film is quite deceptive.  It is Stephen who is the young, naïve, idealistic Junior Campaign Manager in the campaign for a Democratic candidate that seems like he will be able to change things.  (The movie’s release date was actually postponed until now because its original release date was during the 2008 election and they did not want any likeness to be drawn to Barack Obama.  The only likeness here though, fortunately, is that both candidates are charismatic.)  Things start to unravel quickly.  Gosling unearths a big secret about Governor Morris (I do not want to give away everything but it involves the talented Evan Rachel Wood’s character, Molly Stearns) and needs to use it as leverage when he is manipulated by the opposing Democratic candidate’s Campaign Manager, Tom Duffy, played by Paul Giamatti.  A phenomenal cast brings the Ides of March, which is really not a new or unknown story, to another level.  Hopefully some of the actors will get nominated, perhaps Paul Giamatti or Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gosling needs to get nominated for one of his roles this year (either from Drive or this film).  Giamatti and Hoffman are great as the disillusioned old-timers and Marisa Tomei finally has a worthwhile part as a hard-hitting journalist who will go to any ends to get a scandalous story.  Gosling, once again proving himself as a fantastic, committed actor, undergoes the most startling, sad transformation as by the end Stephen too is jaded from all the corruption he has seen with his own eyes.

 


The candidate that he had once believed so firmly in has made him lose all faith and the final scene (in comparison to the beginning scene) is haunting as it ends with a close-up shot of Gosling’s eyes (and they look like they have seen it all).  We see everything written in his eyes with just one look.  Clooney is perfect as the politician, smooth and charming and his poker face works well here.  His direction is quite good as he plays it straightforward with nice close-up shots of all the actors.  The climactic, intense scene between Stephen and Morris is one of the best scenes in the movie (besides the confrontation between Tom Duffy and Stephen).  The simmering anger turns boiling as they play a game of cat and mouse, a who knows what.  The betrayal here is Caesar’s, the older, more knowing people manipulating and sending the young out for slaughter.  This is different than what is expected from the previews, and leaves some parts ambiguous and up to the viewer (*spoiler alert*: for example, what really happens to Molly and will Stephen ever reveal the Morris’s secret).  For the latter, the answer is probably no.  Tom Duffy has the harshest lines, including when he tells Stephen to “Get out now,” while he still can and also when he tells Stephen that the Democrats need to learn to get down in the dirt with the Elephants.  With what goes on in this movie and all the meetings in dark alleyways in cars with blacked-out windows, it seems that his wish is sadly not too far off.

 


 

 

Play Ball!: Moneyball Movie Review

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

You do not have to be a fan of baseball in order to enjoy Moneyball (although it probably helps because by the end it runs a little long).  Brad Pitt is in his element and gives a great performance as the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s general manager, Billy Beane.  (Brad Pitt may get nominated.)  He wants to turn around their luck so he starts working by the theoretical approach of baseball using just numbers (which is controversial).  Eventually the team’s luck does start to turn around but it may still not be enough as the players are not that strong.  The saddest part to me, personally, was the end.  I guess it can be taken different ways, as in some things are more important than money (in this case it is Billy’s daughter).  It seemed, though, as if Billy is afraid of success as he turns down a huge offer from the Red Sox, right before they won the World Series.  After all, he has a disappointing past with baseball himself (he did not succeed as a professional baseball player and gave up a full scholarship to Stanford; Stanford seems to be used a lot recently in films).  Jonah Hill also gives a fine performance as the eager young college graduate, Peter, who works with Billy.  The movie is good overall.  The only problem is that it is not too different from inspirational sports movies we have seen already.  It is more subtle than Friday Night Lights but it is also not an interesting biographical take like The Social Network.  Aaron Sorkin co-wrote Moneyball.  Sorkin is a brilliant screenwriter with quick moving, smart dialogue (the likes of The West Wing and The Social Network).  Moneyball’s dialogue is not bad but not as snappy as it could have been.  The movie may have benefitted from being edited down a bit.  I think I had high expectations as it had gotten such amazing reviews and I came out a little underwhelmed.

Just Drive

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Drive had me with its opening scene.  A man with cold eyes looks in his rearview mirror waiting to drive two robbers away from the scene of a crime.  They run into trouble as the police chase them and the driver jumps out into a parking garage and disappears into the crowd.  Ryan Gosling gives an incredibly strong performance (his star seems to be rising as he gives consistently powerful, poignant performances: see Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl).  In Drive, Gosling transforms himself into a man who is a stunt car driver by day and a crook by night (he drives the getaway car for criminals).  His nameless, almost anonymous character, is a sociopath with no aversion to violence.  He is an antihero, yet you still root for him as he fights for the only things he has probably ever loved, a young woman and her son.  In this movie the lines are blurred, as they always are in real life, between what is right and wrong and who is good and who is not.  I am starting my countdown and beginning my list of predictions for Oscar nominations beginning with 50/50 and Drive.  Hopefully, there will be a nod for cinematography (great art direction here) as well as for Ryan Gosling.  Albert Brooks will also get a Supporting Actor nod I predict as he is blood-chillingly good as the suave gangster (almost as scary as Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds).  The music is also wonderful and memorable, a welcome blend of indie and electro-rock.  In fact, the soundtrack is on the Top 10 list on iTunes.  Watch out particularly for the haunting “Nightfall” by Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx (Kavinsky – Nightcall (feat. Lovefoxxx), “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth, and Cliff Martinez’s “Hammer.”

 

50/50 Movie Review: 100% See-Worthy

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Too rarely do recent movies exhibit a certain humanness or sensitivity.  50/50 has both.  Focusing on the relationships and event the mundane occurrences in everyday life rather than delving into all the medical complications like a documentary, 50/50 walks a fine line between being light and funny and still captures the ultimate sadness and gravity of its subject matter, cancer.  We see the main character, Adam, go through diagnosis, chemotherapy, counseling, and a life or death procedure.  We root for this young man not only because he has cancer, but maybe also because we realize how fragile the difference is between being here one day and gone the next.  When he says, “I haven’t even been to Canada or told a girl I love her,” I laughed and cried.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal (in my opinion, Oscar-worthy) as he portrays this 27-year old man with cancer and all of his ups and downs, denial, anger, fear and strength.  In Adam’s breakdown in a car, Gordon-Levitt captures all of these feelings with one line, “I’m tired of being sick.”  What grounds the movie is not everything miraculously changes because he has cancer.  His girlfriend cheats on him, his father still has Alzheimer’s, he lives in the same place before and after.  The experience adds to and perhaps shapes a part of his character, but it does change his character.  50/50 does such a fine job capturing the realness of the downs of something so dire as cancer as it also relays the humor and silliness of the everyday ups (talking to girls, getting a new dog, finding a new friendship).  The not so everyday and the everyday live in the same realm after all.  Anna Kendrick, as the nervous new therapist, Seth Rogen, as the soft long-time friend, and Angelica Huston, as the ever-worrying mom, also add great performances to an all-around good movie.