Archive for January, 2008

“Away From Her”, Finds Room to Breathe

January 24, 2008

away from her

The first thing I can firmly say after seeing the film Away from Her is that I’m in love with Sarah Polley, the writer and director. In a year filled with big movies by big directors and actors to see a tender and intoxicating film like this slide into the saddle of awards season is a breath of fresh air.

Tender because of the two warm and quiet performances at the middle of this sobering story and intoxicating because you cling to every word that’s spoken and hang onto every moment shown because each of those moments and words are that important to the characters.

The ravishing Julie Christie plays Fiona, a woman to young to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And the opinion that I walked away from this film with is that any age is too young for this debilitating disease. Gordon Pinsent plays the husband Grant Anderson whose been left behind, if not in presence then in memory and thought. The moment he realizes that memory is no longer a part of the equation is heartbreaking.

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Heath Ledger; 28

January 22, 2008

Heath LedgerSeparating a talent from a person can be difficult. Some of the greatest actors have remained a mystery to the public over the years because you can never pin point with accuracy their true character. In recent years however it’s become a lot easier, if not exactly getting to know movie stars, then finding out about intimate details of their lives – true and otherwise. The influx of information from television, radio, magazines and the internet is almost paralyzing. All of the news reports concerning stars opens up the imagination as to who a person could be. But that’s what it is, postulating. Those that have seen his romantic endeavors on film will wonder why such a sweet individual with everything to lose would do this, those that have followed his dramatic career will see him as a complicated¬† and ultimately lonely individual. It’s all inference.

In an article in the New York Post they describe that the room he was found in was filled with strewn about sleeping pills. A careless and unnecessary detail that plays more with our imagination than states a fact about his death. They are obviously looking for drama, as they also are when they write:

Ledger’s love life earned him as many headlines as his acting career.

This is an incredibly worthless cliche to throw at anyone who was as talented as Ledger. An attractive man working in an industry with other notable attractive women will obviously date some of them, maybe even marry a few. You don’t expect people in relatively similar communities or environments not to. And that’s the problem with reporting today, who cares who he was dating. People date. Save comments like that for the ones that aren’t worth their time on the screen. Since seeing Ledger in A Knight’s Tale, I knew he would be an actor worth watching, and he has been. (more…)

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”: Effective…but Great?

January 22, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

***There are minor spoilers throughout as this turned out to be more of a critique than a review.***

I’ve come to a conclusion over my limited years of movie viewing that there can be a difference, albeit a very abstract one, between a great movie and an effective movie. Both categories share similar qualities which makes it difficult to tell them apart sometimes. They share the skillful touch of a true craftsman, an absorbing musical score, lush visuals and fine performances, but in the end sometimes even the greatest movies lack in their effectiveness and vice versa effective movies aren’t always great ones.

For a great movie to be ineffective, the third act sometimes fizzles away, or it could simply be that certain elements don’t gel so the emotional connection is lost. A great movie might play more to the intellectual side of the viewer, relying on the audience to fill in the banks, consider this years Charlie Wilson’s War or perhaps There Will Be Blood (great movies, but effective only to a point.) On the other hand an effective movie will through the use of certain creative techniques force you to feel what the main character is going through. Sometimes the method used can be tedious, other times overwhelming and many times exhausting, but when done well can envelope you into the mindset of it’s protagonist. Of course when these two elements are combined you have an Oscar winning film…(right?) I would say Zodiac and No Country for Old Men fit into this category.

Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is an incredibly effective film, but I would argue against its true greatness. It follows the life of former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) between the moment he wakes up from a coma to find that the only part of his body he can move is his left eye (called lock-in syndrome) to the publication of his book which the movie is based on.

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“The Cabin”: One Step Closer…

January 19, 2008

The Cabin

No, The Cabin isn’t a movie you can see at your local multiplex…yet. It’s a script, one you’ve probably never even heard of, even though you’re reading the screenwriter’s words right now. There is currently a small group of people that have had the pleasure of it being performed in a reading for them.

How long has it been? I could look to be certain but the first draft of this first screenplay I truly started in 2000, not counting the Punisher screenplay I wrote in High School or my first failed fantasy script in College which I still intend to rework. The Cabin came to me after a series of bad dreams. Leaving an image in my mind of a woman watching me from my closet that kept me awake at night for several months finally forcing my hand to the page. That and this idea that someone who thought they were a Father, never was. Somehow the two ideas married each other nicely. (more…)

Reviewers Destroy the Fun of Cloverfield, a Critical Response

January 19, 2008

Cloverfield

There’s always a lot of talk over at Jim Emmerson’s: Scanners about the critic’s place in the world today. Do they have any power over the audiences of today or are they out of touch with the general movie going public? After having been proven wrong so many times I guess they decided to get their revenge. And in doing so ruined many of the surprises in one of the best advertised films in a long time.

If you haven’t seen the previews for Cloverfield then you’ve missed out on something incredible. Hand held home cameras and an attack on the Statue of Liberty that had everyone drooling during the trailer before Transformers this last summer. Now there has been a good 5 or 6 months of speculation as to what the heck took off Liberty’s head! No more can there be speculation thanks to our reviewers.

First there was Roger Ebert giving away the attacker of the film in his blurb above his review of Cloverfield, not even in the body of the review. (I vent at my other write up Roger Ebert Undermines Cloverfield’s Campaign.) He responded to an email of mine suggesting that he thought it was common knowledge now, pointing me to the IMDB tagline which refers to the attacker as a “monster”, but what kind of monster it doesn’t say. Even beyond that he goes to great lengths to describe images in the film that are much better experienced for the first time in the movie theatre. But it’s unfair to reprimand Ebert alone.

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Review of “Cloverfield”: It’s Not Donkey Kong Destroying the City

January 19, 2008

Cloverfield

In a movie like Cloverfield it doesn’t matter what’s attacking the city, though it certainly helps if its larger than life and terrifying. In the end it could be anything. What matters is whether or not you give a damn about the characters. On Christmas Day Aliens vs. Predator opened and I didn’t give a stitch about a single person in that film. It ruins the magic, destroys the imagination if we’re not dealing with believable characters. One never feels afraid.

Cloverfield spends some time smartly developing the characters up front and this time is wisely spent because we feel the ripples throughout the rest of the film allowing each situation they find themselves in to be much more involving. They aren’t the usual B-Grade characters you find in movies like this. They’re grounded in a reality most people can relate to.

These young adults are generally smart, have a sense of humor and are affected by decisions they have made or will make. Sex actually has real emotional consequences between two of the characters. And the actors are affable, lending each character a likability that helps later on when the tension is rising.

Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David, who gives a particularly good performance) is leaving for Japan for a new job and his brother’s girlfriend Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) has gathered a large group of people together to send him on his way: Rob’s brother Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel) and Rob’s best friend Hud Platt (T.J. Miller) who ends up carrying the camera most of the film giving it the cinema verite look that drew people to the awful Blair Witch Project. Thankfully Cloverfield is more than just a gimmick.

Also along for the ride is Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan also giving a performance that sticks long after the movie is over) who doesn’t look like she even wants to be at the party and probably ends up wishing she hadn’t, since she along with several of the other characters go on a mission to save Beth McIntyre (Odette Yustman) a girl who has made Rob’s life very complicated in recent weeks and will continue to make it even more so. But the mission is noble and you want them to succeed.

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