War Horse is a Steven Spielberg film, all right. Sound and fury, emotion on its sleeve, very handsome photography, first-rate actors conveying sensitivity and compassion. But beware of any shot of any young actress with a tear running down her cheek. Beware of dolly-in shots of handsome young farm lads. Beware of title cards that say “touched by kindness” and “hope survives.” Beware of French horny orchestral music that tries to melt you down.
I’ve been meaning to post this since yesterday afternoon. I know a lot of the HE regulars are going to slap this Luc Besson film around. It’s obviously a film about
enshrining portraying Aung San Suu Kyi, a tough, progressive Burmese politician, as a martyr. Which she certainly was during her ten years of house arrest. There’s a reason I didn’t make a big effort to see this in Toronto. I don’t respond well to stories about keeping the faith despite oppression and punishment.
Cohen Media Group will open The Lady on 11.30.11.
In my 9.5 Telluride Film Festival review of Steve McQueen‘s Shame (which will have its NY Film Festival screening on Thursday morning) I called it “a prolonged analysis piece that’s entirely about a malignancy — sex addiction — affecting the main character, and nothing about any chance at transcendence or way into light of any kind. The sex scenes are grim and draining and even punishing in a presumably intentional way. [And] this is what an art film does — it just stands its ground and refuses to do anything you might want it to do.”
I felt all alone for a while with many if not most of the other critics who’d written about Shame from Telluride or Venice offering a fair amount of praise. And then came a brief critique two days ago from N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis‘s in which she called Shame “another example of British miserablism, if one that’s been transposed to New York and registers as a reconsideration of the late 1970s American cinema of sexual desperation (Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Hardcore, Cruising, etc.).” After this I didn’t feel so bad.
I suppose it’s fair to call Paddy Considine‘s Tyrannosaur (Strand, 11.18) another serving of miserable Limey lifestyles, given the general grimness of the story, particuarly as it affects Olivia Colman‘s character. But when all is said and done, Tyrannosaur has heart and humanity. It’s a much warmer and chummier film than ice-cold Shame, at least in the third act. So there’s that at least.
As I’m flying back to Los Angeles on 10.8, I won’t be seeing Sunday’s NYFF showings of Simon Curtis‘s My Week With Marilyn. The tweets will of course address question #1: is Michelle Williams‘ performance as Marilyn Monroe a Best Actress Oscar contender? On 8.15 I ran a quote from a credible fellow who had seen this Weinstein Co. release. “There is absolutely, positively no doubt that Williams is right alongside Meryl Streep and Glenn Close at the very front of the Best Actress race,” he said.
My Week With Marilyn is opening domestically on 11.4.
Two days ago the Guardian published a pro-Occupy Wall Street piece by Mark Ruffalo, who recently spent two days with the protestors. “99% of us have paid a dear price so that 1% could become the wealthiest people in the world,” he wrote toward the end. “It’s time to check ourselves, to see if we still have that small part that believes in the values that America promises. Do we still have a shred of our decency intact in the face of debasement?
“If you do, then now is the time to give that forgotten part a voice. That is what this movement is ultimately about: giving voice to decency and fairness.
“I invite anyone and all to participate in this people’s movement to regain your dignity and what you have worked for in this capitalist society. Each of us is of great value to the whole. Do not forget your greatness. Even when the world around you is telling you you are nothing. You have a voice. You want a better life for your children and the people you love. You live in a democracy. You belong, and you deserve a world that is fair and equal. You have a right to take your place and be heard.
“Show up at an Occupy Wall Street gathering in any major city in the US. Hit your social media outlets. Tweet it. Facebook it. Talk it up. It’s easy to do nothing, but your heart breaks a little more every time you do.”
Lars von Trier‘s Melancholia (Magnolia, on-demand 107, theatrical 11.11) screened last night at the New York Film Festival, and then the stars of the cast — Kirtsen Dunst, Charlotte Ginsbourg, Alexander Skarsgard — attended an after-party at the Stone Rose Lounge inside the Time Warner Center. It boiled down to free wine and beer and Deleon Tequila, and a sadistic deejay playing house music that put me in a bad mood and kept me there.
Melancholia star Kirsten Dunst during last night’s after-party at the Stone Rose Lounge.
After catching Melancholia at the Cannes Film Festival i called it “a morose, meditative in-and-outer that begins stunningly if not ecstatically and concludes…well, as you might expect a film about the end of the world to wrap itself up.
“Von Trier’s ensemble piece ‘isn’t about the end of the world but a state of mind,’ he said during the Cannes press conference. My thinking exactly. But it’s also a more striking thing for where it starts and what it attempts than how it plays.
“And yet I believe it’s the best…make that the gloomiest, most ambitious and craziest film Kirsten Dunst has ever starred in. Way bolder than Spotless Mind. It’s kind of La Notte-esque, now that I think about it. Dunst pretty much scowls all through Melancholia and does three nude scenes. What I really mean, I suppose, is that she’s never operated in such a dark, fleshy and grandiose realm.
“It’s basically just a stylishly nutso, intriguing, semi-bombastic ensemble piece about despair in the face of eventual ruination. You know…the kind of thing that most HE readers have in their heads each and every day.
“I felt elation only in the very beginning, and somewhat at the very end. But otherwise it mostly felt like a meditative slog. It’s not without its intrigues but it lacks tension and a through-line and a story, really, of any kind.
“After the stunning, tableau-like, slow-motion opening, Melancholia gets down to basic business. Situation, circumstance, character, mood.
“Justine (Dunst) is getting married to Michael (Skarsgard) and her control-freak sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has orchestrated the wedding with husband Keifer Sutherland‘s money, and not the funds of Dunst’s father (John Hurt). Charlotte Rampling has a couple of scenes as Dunst’s blunt, cynical mom.
“But right after the wedding Justine slips into gloom-head nihilism and suddenly stops being attentive to Skarsgaard and starts meandering and moping around and fucking some guy (Brady Corbet) she barely knows near a golf course sandtrap.
“Did I mention that the Earth is apparently on some kind of collision course with a planet called Melancholia, which has recently emerged from behind the sun? And that no one turns on a TV news station throughout the whole film, and that Gainsbourgh goes online only once?
“The movie is never ‘boring’ but only rarely gripping. It’s Von Trier, after all, but when all is said and done it’s basically a downhill swamp-trudge with tiny little pop-throughs from time to time.
“There’s an overhead tracking shot of two horseback riders galloping down a trail during a foggy morning that’s heartstoppingly beautiful. That plus the beginning I will never, ever forget.
“Death dance, death art…when worlds collide. Von Trier had a mildly intriguing idea here but didn’t know what to do with it, or he perhaps didn’t care to try. All he does is riff about how tradition and togetherness are over and very few of us care. My sense is that Von Trier experimented and jazz-riffed his way through most of the filming.
“All I know is that I feel the way Dunst’s Justine feels during most of the film, and I’m not dealing with the end of the world. Vaguely scared, unsettled…something’s coming.”
As talk persists that Woody Allen‘s universally loved Midnight in Paris will probably land a Best Picture Oscar nomination, there’s also no denying that Corey Stoll‘s hugely enjoyable, spot-on performance as young Ernest Hemingway is a Best Supporting Actor contender. Okay, maybe not up there with Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer, but definitely duking it out with Albert Brooks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Andy Serkis.
Corel Stoll in front of Luce (B’way at 69th) — Tuesday, 10.3, 2:05 pm.
Stoll is on-screen for maybe ten or twelve minutes in Midnight in Paris, and it doesn’t matter. He’s definitely the guy you remember for the sly humor and the authority and the wit and what feels like an almost eerie capturing of a legendary man’s man who had a thing for elegant, run-on sentences about being “real” and a worshipper of beauty and being courageous and solemn and separating the wheat from the chaff. Across the river and into the trees and away from the cocktail phonies.
Why do people decide that this or that performance is Oscar-worthy? Usually because the actor/actress has generated some kind of extra punch and pizazz within the confines of a character, and exuded a certain je ne sais quoi confidence and charisma and an aura that’s a little bit like candy. You “like” the performance and want the actor to stick around and keep adding his/her flavor to the room.
Stoll’s Hemingway is definitely one of these pop-throughs. Bewigged and moustachioed in Allen’s partly period film, he sounds like most of us imagine Hemingway would have sounded. He puts out the appropriately boozy, blustery, brawny quality that we’ve all read or heard about, and is simultaneously playing Hemingway for real and riffing on the legend — a pretty neat trick.. While’s he’s on-screen you’re saying “yeah, good stuff…more of this, please.”
As Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
Yes, I too would like to see Stoll play young Hemingway in an HBO miniseries that starts with his World War I experience as an ambulance-driver in Italy and ends with the 1926 publication of “The Sun Also Rises.”
Born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the 35 year-old Stoll is no Hemingway in person. Not stuck on himself, I mean. He’s considerate, mild-mannered, unassuming and even-toned in conversation, and yet a straight-shooter. Say something that doesn’t seem right quite accurate and he’ll respond in a way that politely corrects.
I find this disparity fascinating. Some actors are commanding personalities with a kind of natural swaggering energy and macho aplomb and what-have-you, and others are like ultra-devoted priests of the cloth. Their interior energy is considerable, but they live to be unleashed by great characters and a general aura of make-believe. Alec Guinness was said to be like this, I once read, and so apparently is Stoll.
Stoll was believably brawny also as Detective Tomas “TJ” Jaruszalski in Law and Order: LA.
And he recently wrapped a role as Jeremy Renner‘s adversary in Tony Gilroy‘s Bourne Legacy, which will open on 8.3.12. The costars include Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn and Oscar Isaac.
We got into this and that and whatever during our lunch. Shooting Midnight in Paris, how the Upper West Side has changed, where things might be for him in a few years, etc. It’s all here.
Stoll said something near the end of our chat about how Hemingway came along and wrote what he wrote at exactly the right time (i.e., the early to late 1920s), and that if he’d come along as a new-to-the-scene novelist ten years before or after it wouldn’t have worked as well for him, or perhaps not at all. That’s really what being an artist is about at the end of the day, isn’t it? Not just talent and dedication, but timing.