Saturday, 30 January 2010

Mini Review - 'La Nana'

After 23 years serving a Chilean family, Raquel's job security is threatened. Not only does she harbour a unexplained hatred for the oldest daughter of the family, but the matriarch wants to hire a second maid to help Raquel. This is done purely out of love, to help Raquel with the house work as she gets older, but Raquel is not happy.

She sabotages the new hires with child-like pranks, until one manages to see through the harsh exterior and see the fear.

The story hits on so many themes to do with the relationship with domestic help. They are considered family, but they never really are due to the barrier of the pay-cheque.
The film belongs to Catalina Saavedra, who is outstanding as Raquel. You may think she is crazy but she makes every emotional shift feel completely natural. You may not agree with her actions, but she makes you understand and have sympathy for a woman who no longer has no real home anymore except the one she works in.

Grade - A-

2010 - The Mirren

So, lets take a little time to think about Helen Mirren.
This woman has so many films coming out next year, many of which are rather high profile, she looks like she could be a formidable contender when it comes to year end awards.
However, in saying that, with so many films she risks either competing with herself or none of the films being particularly awards worthy.

Let's take a looksie at what she has.

'Debt' - Directed by her 'Prime Suspect director John Madden, this thriller premise (In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Now, thirty years later, a man claiming to be the Nazi has surfaced in Ukraine and one of the former agents must go back undercover to seek out the truth.) may run into trouble. Time spanning thrillers are hard to pull off, but Madden is good with his actresses, so who knows.

'Love Ranch' has been reported on many times. It is the first time she has worked with her husband Taylor Hackford and the film centres on a couple who run a brothel in Nevada. This one is ripe with pedigree.

'Brighton Rock' is adapted from a much loved book, and features Mirren in a supporting role. The cast is top notch (many past Oscar nominees). If it is good it will likely score better with the BAFTA's with some potential cross over should the acting be exceptional.

Likely to be very hit or miss is Julie Taymor's The Tempest with Helen as Prospero (renamed Prospera of course).
Not sure how well a Shakespeare film will do now-a-days (especially if the bards lyrical dialogue is kept) but the cast is very mighty.
This will no doubt be visual eye candy, but how good it is as a film depends not only on the actors, but on Taymor reigning in herself.

Finally we have Hungarian film maker István Szabó directing her in The Door. Not much is known about this drama, and it could likely be moved to 2011.

If I had to say which film she would be in awards contention for i would have to say 'Love Ranch' but with so many chances she could be impressive in any of them. I am thinking 'The Tempest' will also be an acting showcase, however frenetic editing and over directing could ruin it.

Have your say. Which film will most likely get Mirren awards notice?

Friday, 29 January 2010


Sarah Polley has found her next directing job after her wonderful debut with 'Away From Her' for which she was nominated for an Oscar for Screenplay.
While promoting her genetic horror film 'Splice' at Sundance she has been busy networking for her new film 'Take This Waltz' (slightly clunky title) which is reportedly a romantic triangle drama about a woman who is having an affair (this is slightly speculative, but given it is Polley I would think it is the woman doing the naughty - slightly more dramatic edge).

Not sure what is happening with the financing, but the casting is interesting. Seth Rogen, who is impressing me as an actor is cast (I would guess he is the husband) and the woman who is going to have a busy year with films, Michelle Williams has joined the project. Williams will be pushed for awards for her lead performance in the Sundance raved 'Blue Valentine' and most likely for her supporting performance in Scorsese's 'Shutter Island'.

Keep you eye out for this one. It should start filming in July, and may even be completed in time for the Toronto Film Festival, but will more likely be premiered at Sundance in 2011.

Keeping an eye on Sundance - Updated.

Every year the Sundance film festival comes along and delivers what is sure to be a future Oscar nominated film/performance/documentary.

'The Cove', 'Precious', 'The Messenger', 'An Education', 'The Maid', '(500) Days of Summer' and a few more all were shown at the festival. Who could be the film or performance that gets the most buzz and awards traction this year?

Things of note (Performances, Films, blah-di-blah) that could translate into the 2010 Awards race.

Australian crime drama 'Animal Kingdom' is getting rather splendid reviews out of Sundance. From Variety's Todd McCarthy:

"An ambitious and powerful study of the disintegration of an Australian crime family, "Animal Kingdom" is orchestrated with a grandiosity that invokes operatic and Greek dimensions. Writer-director David Michod's unusually accomplished feature debut unfolds with a confident, almost antiquated sense of deliberation as the family incrementally implodes, taking others down with it."

And for the performers:

"Performances are rich, led by Jacki Weaver in the unusual role of the blond ringleader with iron under her pert veneer and Ben Mendelsohn as her unnerving, mentally ill-equipped eldest son. Joel Edgerton dominates the action in the early going, while Guy Pearce, wearing a mustache, takes up the baton in the latter stages."

Australian films do not usually make it to the Oscars, but with the right distribution and critical response this could be a surprise hit.

Shari Springer Berman directs 'The Extra Man' which has premiered at Sundance to very strong reviews, especially for its actors Paul Dano and Kevin Kline. The film is about a man who escorts wealthy widows in New York's Upper East Side takes a young aspiring playwright under his wing.
From Todd McCarthy at Variety:

"The same holds true for the viewer, given the mesmerizing allure of Kline's outsized but impeccably calibrated performance. Perhaps no contemporary American actor can carry off the sort of classical stage enunciation he can, and here he applies it to a character who uses it both for the effect he knows it creates but, even moreso, out of personal affinity. Henry has a tremendous sense of style, only it's a style of 80 years ago, which is what makes him so funny, an effect compounded by Kline's exceptional sense of timing.
By contrast, Dano soft-pedals his characterization to excellent effect; Louis seems like a rather calculated sort of misfit on paper, but Dano's underplaying and innate physical oddness make him not only palatable but oddly sympathetic. The actresses playing the women in the men's social orbit, including Marian Seldes, Celia Weston, Patti D'Arbanville and Lynn Cohen, are all delights.

This seems like a very particular film, but with Celia Weston in it I am so there.

'The Romantics' is an angsty film about college friends meeting right before a marriage. What is interesting is when Screen International says of it's star:

"As the deeply wounded Laura, Katie Holmes does some of her strongest acting in years. Her tabloid-friendly marriage to Tom Cruise may have obscured the fact that she was once considered an actress of some promise, but withThe Romantics she returns to the direct, honest performances of her early career."

Another film directed by a woman (was 2009 the start of a wave?) we have another buzz worthy film called 'The Kids Are All Right'.
It stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as lesbian moms who are thrown off kilter by the arrival of their hippie sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who their children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have sought out.
The performances are all supposed to be delightful.
From The Hollywood Reporter:

"Despite some key character-motivation omissions, Moore, Bening and Ruffalo all deliver endearingly quirky comic performances, with Wasikowska also particularly effective as the confused and resentful Joni. "

And from Screen International:

"Moore and Bening have been guilty in the past of producing overly studied performances, but they make Jules and Nic thoroughly convincing as an ordinary, devoted long-term couple. Ruffalo is superb as a free spirit who has gotten through life on his carnal appeal. And Wasikowska and Hutcherson do great work as siblings facing questions of identity and maturity, which, like the film’s final moments, are extremely touching without being heavy-handed."

Owen Gleiberman have given a rave for 'Blue Valentine'. The film is told in fractured timelines and follows the falling apart of a relationship.
It stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling who are supposed to give amazing performances.

"No one, including me, doubts that Blue Valentine will land a distributor. With stars like Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams giving performances that sear, delight, and break your heart, it would be sheer madness if this movie languished — and, frankly, it won’t happen. "

Would love to see Williams get some more recognition as she is one of the best young actresses working today.

The movies told entirely from the perspective of Ryan Reynolds buried underground has had a feeding frenzy of interest from distributors. The reviews have been good as have the notices for Reynolds, but not good enough for major awards talk (that could change if box office is great - ahem * Sandra Bullock * ahem)

'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
An art documentary focusing on Banksy but then turning itself around to look at the film makers. This doc is getting good notices, and as per usual, the biggest buzz and best reviews are focused on the documentaries. Variety loved it

'Sympathy for Delicious'

Mark Ruffalo directs this story about wheelchair bound DJ who discovers he has miraculous healing powers. The response is mixed, but there have been some rather good notices for Juliette Lewis who really needs to be cast in something she can really her her teeth around. She is supposed to be a scene stealer which can work, but the film needs critical support to carry her. From Variety:

"But it's a hilariously zonked-out Lewis who steals every scene she's in.."

As much as I love the woman, I do think that she is not really the taste of the Academy. The film also stars Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom (who is supposed to be a ton of fun), and Mark Ruffalo

'The Tillman Story'
When pro football star turned post-9/11 Army enlistee Pat Tillman was killed in the course of duty, the embarrassing actual circumstances were covered up and turned into a flag-waving story of heroism that the Bush administration happily -- and knowingly -- used for propaganda purposes. The documentary looks at this to apparently brilliant results.

'Countdown to Zero'
Nuclear security. That is the premise in a nut shell. This doc is supposed to be terrifying.


If the cast is not interesting enough (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh) or the premise (a woman and her unusual - read icky -relationship with her son) then the fact that it is directed by The Duplass Brothers and Variety just gave it a very positive review saying about on the of actors:

"Still, it's Hill's movie to steal. With his sad-sack posture and chilly glare, Cyrus looks like one of those Aardman creations whose every blink earns a chuckle. The film's semi-scripted approach may deprive the character of catchphrases, but auds won't be forgetting him anytime soon."

Should get you at least curious enough to watch it closely with the other critics. Never really loved Hill, but an slightly curious about how this performance will translate, especially if and when the film is picked up and distributed.

'Winters Bone'
Directed by Debra Granik whose first film, 'Down to the Bone' got Vera Farmiga a lot of buzz, is also getting rather shining notices, especially for star Jennifer Lawrence. From Variety's Justin Chang:

"The film's atmosphere of suspicion, foreboding and everyday misery would be too much to bear if not for the rich emotional anchor supplied by Lawrence. Emphasizing Ree's patience, maturity and love for her siblings as much as her tenacity and courage, Lawrence delivers a striking portrait of someone who, though looked down upon by many for her youth and gender, alone seems to possess the guts and smarts necessary to survive and possibly even escape her surroundings."

Not that this will translate to major awards, but perhaps a Spirit nom, and who know what can happen if handled correctly by whatever studio picks it up.

'The Company Men'

Another downsizing movie. After 'Up in the Air' will people even really notice this one, or want to see it? Regardless the film has gotten some good notices, especially from Owen Gleiberman over at Entertainment Weekly.

Although this seems like the type of film that could do well with critics, Variety was less kind in its review, which will likely be a hurdle.
Perhaps this is where some of the supporting actors can shine, especially since the cast is very '"Oscar" friendly.

'The Runaways'

I am so excited about this movie after reading this review.
Sure the film is called formulaic, but it is also called electrifying. We will have to wait to see what the more high brow critics think, but this made me nearly wet myself:

"Indeed, "The Runaways" is owned and just about swallowed up by Fanning's riveting portrayal of the singer (not too dissimilar from the way Currie overwhelmed the group). First glimpsed as a teen literally transforming into a woman, this is the performance that seems sure to launch Fanning into a new thrilling phase of her career. From a sulking broodish David Bowie enthusiast to a howling rock goddess Fanning sells sells sells.....Stewart as Joan Jett physically embodies the role and curses and growls as the part demands. It's Jett of course who first launches the band under the manic watchful eye of Michael Shannon's Kim Fowley. But the film find's its legs and central mesmerizing performance when Fanning's Cherie auditions for the band in a crappy trailer."

Now tell me you are not a little bit excited.

'Get Low'
But we all know about this one. Robert Duvall looks for get another Oscar nomination in 2011.

'Welcome to the Rileys'

The story of a couple (Melissa Leo, James Gandolfini) who adopt a stripper )Kristen Stewart). The film is bagged down with some narrative problems, but the performances are said to be extremely strong.
From Variety:
"Hiding behind raccoon-eye mascara and electrical-tape pasties, Stewart is the perfect wretch, utterly convincing as a lost girl leveraging her sexuality to compensate for her complete powerlessness.......(Gandolfini and Leo) are downright dynamite in the pic's more confrontational scenes, as well as quiet moments, such as Gandolfini sobbing alone in his garage, or Leo enjoying her first night in years under the stars."
More praise is heaped on the actresses over at the MTV review

'Teenage Paparazzo'
'Entourage' actor Adrian Grenier follows a 13 year old paparazzo for a year. The results apparently make for an excellent film.

'The Oath'
Another documentary which follows Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard. Sundance is always the festival where the documentaries come from, and this year looks like it could be an embarrassment of riches.

'Waiting for Superman'
A documentary on the US school system that Variety just gave a bloody rave to.

The Allen Ginsberg film with James Franco. The film got slightly mixed reviews but there was praise for James Franco. Highly doubt it is translatable to awards, but you never know.

'Please Give'
Nicole Holofcener delivers another one of her gems, and again with the ever amazing Catherine Keener. However this time the praise falls on Rebecca Hall - From Variety:

"But it's the ever-winsome Hall whose fine-grained performance impresses the most, largely because her Rebecca is the one least defined by a set of traits as she moves from social withdrawal to a more open appreciation of life's unexpected little gifts."

This documentary has gotten great reviews, even if the premise is a little hard to understand (facebook, 8 year old painting, yadda yadda).

Rest in Peace

Now the show did get a little silly, but my word was it full of snappy one liners. Sadly Betty herself lost the novelty after a while and bordered on whingey. However there were others in the cast that made it worth watching for these past four years.
Namely: Michael Urie, Vanessa Williams, Becki Newton, Mark Indelicato and Judith Light.

Oh yeah, and Miramax folded today.

Ramsey makes Kevin

At the urging of Nathaniel (well mainly from his enthusiastic write up) I watch Lynne Ramseys 2002 film 'Movern Callar'.
It blew me away, especially for the complex performance she got out of Samantha Morton (who is brilliant anyways).
However she has not made a film since then.

Until now.

She is taking on the Lionel Shriver novel 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' in which Eva Khatchadourian attempts to come to terms with her son, who went on a killing spree in his local school. The book is told in the form of letters written between Eva and he estranged husband Franklin and they slowly track the disintegration of the family.

This sounds like dream material for Ramsey who is not afraid of dark stories.

The most exciting news is not the casting for John C. Reilly as Franklin but the fact La Swinton (Tilda to the rest of you) is playing Eva.

Check out a scene from 'Movern Callar'

'Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps' trailer

Is it just me, or does the sight of Shia LeBeouf make you want to eat your own face off?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sundance Photos

God I love it when Entertainment Weekly does these. Tilda, Tilda, Tilda.

'Cyrus' Trailer

Getting great nitces at Sundance, this films may just be a box office success. The cast (two Oscar nominees and one winner) looks delightful and Jonah Hill looks like he is finally playing to his strengths.
We will see what happens with this, but in the mean time enjoy the trailer.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Get Your Link On

Over at Jezebel they take a look at crowd reactions shots from the Golden Globes. Quite funny, especially the last two.

Anne Thompson is also keeping a close eye on the goings on at Sundance, especially who s buying what. Check her out over at Indiewire.

Stinky LuLu wonders who will be the supporting actress who gets a nomination (or close to one) from riding the coattails of a film that will get mucho love from the Academy.
I would not be too surprised if he is right, but it seems this race is all but sewn up, with very few surprises happening.

OMG Blog speaks to Joan Rivers who I will eternally love for asking Sela Ward if she got her Golden Globes dress at K-Mart

The PGA have announced and the winner is rather boring.
Now I really loved 'The Hurt Locker' but the critics sweep seems a little head scratching.
Perhaps it is just me having a little bit of boredom with its dominance - or perhaps I am just not big on war films. I mean it seems to me to be a little safe in terms of subject, and I for one love me a risky film.

SLANT magazine takes a look at the best singles of the decade, and I for one love music related lists as I get a few more new tracks to add to my iPod. So far they have only released the first twenty (draw it out why don't you?) but I expect to see a few Madonna on the list as we all know how much Slant loves the Lady M.

SLANT also reviews the Lady Gaga concert in New York, and of course goes off on a Madonna tangent. Of course it made for a very interesting read. I guess 2009 was Lady Gaga's 1985.

How sad is it that the Best Actress race has been hijacked by Sandra Bullock. Now before you SaBu lovers get all angry at me, let me first say that I think the woman is awesome. However (and I repeat myself every year) we are talking about the 'BEST' performance by an actress of the year. Until these award shows start to reward the 'best' and not the 'most liked' or the 'it is their time' or the 'whoops, we need to make up for a past mistake' is each category then they will not be relevant when it comes to actually representing 'greatness' in film.
Anyway, In Contention basically calls the Best Actress Oscar - and I weep.

It seems that Avatar will be the biggest box office success ever. If you take into account inflation, the ridiculous price you have to pay for a 3D cinema ticket, you have a very different out look. Still to make this amount of money during the end of a recession is impressive I guess.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

SAG winners

Best Ensemble — Inglourious Basterds
Best Actress — Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side - (So disappointed in the actors branch.)
Best Actor — Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Supporting Actor — Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress — Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Stunt Ensemble — Star Trek

Best Ensemble, Drama — Mad Men
Best Actress, Drama — Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Best Actor, Drama — Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Best Ensemble, Comedy — Glee
Best Actress, Comedy — Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Best Actor, Comedy — Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Best Actor, Miniseries — Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
Best Actress, Miniseries — Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
Best Stunt Ensemble — 24

What I really want to comment on is the return of on of my favourite red carpet women who made a wonderful return to form.
Nicole Kidman looked a vision.

Also great was the wonderful colour on display (click to embiggen)

(l to r) Mariska Hargitay, Carey Mulligan (made her ass look huge though), Diane Kruger (looking amazing), 'GLEE's Leah Michelle (also looking amazing), the adorable Drew Barrymoore and Anne Kendrick.