REVIEW: 20th Century Women

5 06 2017

20th-century-womenI’m a bit of a sucker for generation theory, which lumps together similarly aged cohorts and attempts to impose a coherent narrative on their lifespan. So it’s only natural that I’d fall head over heels for Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women,” a film that treats centuries, decades and generations like immutable facts. In his recreated 1979 Santa Barbara milieu, the accident of birth is destiny for every character.

This goes doubly so for the young protagonist of the film, Lucas Jade Zumman’s Jamie, born at the tail end of the Baby Boom and the cusp of Generation X. Unlike his mother’s Greatest Generation, which held together through the Depression and triumphed in World War II, Jamie’s coming-of-age sees the radical promise of the ’60s being subverted into the reactionary, turbulent ’70s. We are more than just our generation, writer/director Mills suggests, but the formative years of our lives explain so much more of us than we are willing to admit.

That’s why Jamie’s mother, Annette Bening’s steely Dorothea Fields, seeks out proper influences for him since she’s a single mother. Luckily, her boarding house welcomes an assortment of characters from punk photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) to wayfaring carpenter William (Billy Crudup). Dorothea’s permissiveness also grants plenty of leeway to the sexually forthright teen Julie (Elle Fanning) to come spend many a platonic night in Jamie’s bed as well. Together, their makeshift family helps prepare Jamie for a world that’s challenging for beta males – or at least male feminists – like himself.

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REVIEW: Rules Don’t Apply

15 11 2016

rules-dont-applyPoor Warren Beatty. The man has been trying to make a passion project about Howard Hughes for the better part of four decades. The film faced significant challenges, including 2004’s biopic collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio that nabbed double-digit Oscar nominations.

12 years later, Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” finally makes it to the big screen only to have the misfortune of opening in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. The timing doesn’t exactly feel right for a mostly breezy, old-fashioned tale about an eccentric and potentially deranged billionaire who wants to control women’s bodies and limit their personal freedoms. (A remark where a young actress declares, “I think Howard Hughes should be president, there’s no one else like him” is sure to inspire some nervous laughter.) To be clear, none of this is Beatty’s fault. He has no control over the circumstances under which his movie gets released.

But he did have control over what kind of movie he made. Beyond the unfortunate parallels to the man dominating global news headlines, “Rules Don’t Apply” is not a film built for the long haul – it is certainly not the kind of project that clearly evinces forty years of thought and development. After all that time, it feels like Beatty should have figured out the story’s protagonist – Hughes, his latest starlet prospect Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), or the married company driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) who falls for her against his better judgement. The film plays out as a series of loosely connected, scarcely progressing scenes involving these characters – nothing more.

Of the key trio, only Ehrenreich’s Forbes is a character deserving of his own film. Beatty plays Hughes as a slave to his obsessive-compulsive disorder, turning his neuroses into a joking psychosis. Collins, meanwhile, dashes through her lines with such speed that she delivers them without seeming to understand what any of them mean. Or, at the very least, she doesn’t feel them with any strong sense of purpose.

Ehrenreich, meanwhile, recalls the unflappability and easygoing cool of a ’90s Leonardo DiCaprio. As a corporate pawn torn between his show business attraction and his familial commitments, Forbes is the only person in “Rules Don’t Apply” whose path does not seem predestined. Too bad that Beatty did not line up the heft of the movie fully behind him. C-1halfstars





REVIEW: Ruby Sparks

3 08 2012

My second review on this site was for a movie I was quite high on three years ago, “(500) Days of Summer,” and remain a big fan of to this day.  Back then, it was the little indie that could, a summer sleeper that provided a smile and welcome relief to canned romantic comedies like “The Ugly Truth,” and a nice reminder of the acting prowess of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.  Then, it went mainstream, said the slightly bitter pseudo-hipster with a sigh.

Never could I have imagined that Marc Webb’s film could have been so influential.  Beyond just elevating Joseph Gordon-Levitt into major leading man status and turning Zooey Deschanel into the modern ideal of the “manic pixie dream girl,” the film made quirky a cool and acceptable facet for the genre.  “Ruby Sparks,” the sophomore film from the people that gave us the middling “Little Miss Sunshine,” attempts to dovetail the success of “(500) Days of Summer” by virtually replicating its emotional ride.

To be fair, “Ruby Sparks,” written by its star Zoe Kazan, is probably quite a bit smarter than its rom-com relative.  However, the film’s charms are far too easy to resist, namely because Kazan is a poor man’s Zooey Deschanel and Paul Dano is just a poor excuse for an actor in general.  They can sell the film on an intellectual level, but neither is particularly good at making us care.  Had it been Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel in the highly-strung emotional climax, I’m convinced I would have been riveted and moved.  Instead, I just sat there pursing my lips like Miranda Priestly.

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Know Your Nominees: “The Kids Are All Right”

7 02 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, our next stop on the tour is “The Kids Are All Right.”

“The Kids Are All Right” is set in Los Angeles, fairly obviously although not entirely prominently.  But according to writer/director Lisa Choldenko, the movie was originally set in New York.  The availability of Annette Bening, however, was contingent on moving production to Los Angeles.  Cholodenko decided to rewrite the script with the setting changing coasts, and she claims that it helped bring the characters more to life.

Cholodenko also claims that the movie is slightly autobiographical, mainly at the beginning as she and her partner in real life were looking to be impregnated by a sperm donor.  In walks co-writer Stuart Blumberg, who was a sperm donor himself.  He wondered what children he brought into the world, and the two of them came up with what we now know as “The Kids Are All Right.”  In 2006, the movie was nearly greenlit for production – but Cholodenko became pregnant and shelved the project for family matters.

The revision process was also grueling.  The initial draft took a month to write, and as we know, nothing is perfect the first time.  So Cholodenko and Blumberg re-wrote every character, scene, and line at least 10 times.

Who was the first actor onto the project?  Several years before production began on “The Kids Are All Right,” Julianne Moore met Cholodenko and expressed her admiration for the director’s work.  The two kept in touch, and Cholodenko sent Moore the script for her next movie around 2004, which the high-profile actress was attached to for many years.

When Annette Bening came aboard the project later, Cholodenko has stated the she retouched the script to make the character fit Bening better.  The character Nic that we see in the movie better serves a vessel for her voice.

Mark Ruffalo received his first Academy Award nomination for his role in “The Kids Are All Right,” but it might interest you to know that he intially turned down the role.  He was cast sequentially after Moore and Bening, and he was approved from a list that Cholodenko had made for potential actors to play the character.  After his initial refusal, Moore used her personal relationship with Ruffalo, who she starred with in “Blindness,” to reel the actor in, even texting his wife.

How did the kids come aboard?  Cholodenko chose Mia Wasikowska after seeing her work in HBO’s “In Treatment.” On the other hand, her on-screen sibling didn’t have it quite so easy.  Josh Hutcherson received got the script and auditioned for the role.  I guess “Zathura” wasn’t quite convincing enough…

Indie movies are, by their nature, independently financed.  But for the quality of filmmaking you get from “The Kids Are All Right,” you’d be surprised how rushed the schedule was.  The entire movie was filmed in 23 days. And as for the budget, the movie was made on $5 million; according to Ruffalo, the stars made almost no money just like virtually any indie movie.  Oh, and they only had five days to rehearse.

Unlike “The Social Network,” which was shot word-for-word for Aaron Sorkin’s script, “The Kids Are All Right” underwent some metamorphosis during the filming process.  Two scenes were added during the shoot, and the last line of the movie that appears in the final version wasn’t written until pre-production.

Ok, and what about the movie’s politics?  Lisa Cholodenko acknowledges that the political climate in which “The Kids Are All Right” is being released in makes most people believe that it has an agenda.  But in numerous interviews, she has stated that she did not see this as a gay movie.  What she wanted to get at with the movie was something more universal.  It’s a movie about family in any way, shape, or form.  All the stars said they didn’t need to do any research on same-sex parenting because they approached it like any family movie.

Check back on February 10 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “The King’s Speech.”





REVIEW: Mother and Child

19 12 2010

 

Most movies that we eagerly anticipate, we run out to see in theaters in the first few weeks of release.  Those that we leave for video are ones that we expect to be trash or those which we had no real desire to see in the first place.  Why do we have these low expectations?  Because, for the most part, Hollywood perpetuates them.  What we save to see on video is rarely any good.

But then again, with these low expectations, it’s just that much easier for a movie to sneak up and floor us.  Such is the case of “Mother and Child,” Rodrigo Garcia’s hyperlink drama intertwining three different stories of maternity.  As the style becomes slowly hackneyed by the system, it’s a nice ray of hope that someone can still get it right with a story built around three strong female characters and hard-hitting situations.

As Karen (Annette Bening) prepares herself for the imminent death of her mother, she can’t help but wonder what has become of the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 14.  As she and her mother were never particularly close, she finds herself overcome by guilt and wistfulness, wishing she could have the time back to repair the mother-daughter relationship.  It doesn’t help things that Karen discovers post mortem her mother found the daughter of their Hispanic maid to be more like her child.

Then, there’s Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), whose hard-knock childhood has led her to be a family-spiting woman driven only by rationalism and furthering her career.  Her life is exactly as she wants it to be: unsentimental and free of unnecessary relationships.  But love finds a way into her life in the form of her boss, Paul (Samuel L. Jackson), and she soon finds that what she avoided for so long arrives on her doorstep.

Dead-set on adopting a child, infertile Lucy (Kerry Washington) has her mind on nothing else but becoming a mother.  Desperate to feel that maternal bond, she lets her marriage fall by the wayside in the mere hope that Ray (Shareeka Epps) will give her the child inside her womb.  The need to be a mother ultimately drives her to emotional extremes that alarm her friends and family.

Bening, Watts, and Washington all turn in performances so emotionally charged that it stings.  They bring so much passion and feeling to the project, and it exudes from the screen like a bright beam of light.  But it’s Garcia’s script, so thoughtful, beautiful, and heartbreaking that “Mother and Child” makes for one emotionally wrenching watch.  Providing three distinct takes on what it means to be a mother, it’s a deeply moving moviewatching experience – even sitting on a couch. A-





Oscar Moment: December 10, 2010 Awards Round-Up

10 12 2010

Welcome back to another exciting awards round-up post!  It’s been a whole week since I’ve said anything about the Oscars, which is the longest I’ve gone since September!  It’s a good thing this week has been pretty stagnant aside from a few minor critics groups and some top 10 lists out in the mix.

Please remember to take the poll at the end of the discussion!  It will help to make these posts more community-driven – it’s fun just reading it and writing about it, but I sure do enjoy it more when I get your feedback!  You don’t have to live and breath Oscars like I do to take part!

As for last week’s poll, you all think that “The Social Network” will beat “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture.  And by you all, I mean all one voter that took the poll.  So let’s shoot for higher this week!

(And another reminder: I spent a lot of time linking the titles of movies in this post to their respective Oscar Moments/reviews if you want to know more about them.  So don’t hesitate to click!)

Awards

Washington, D.C. Film Critics announce. Generally not a very exciting bunch; Kris Tapley of In Contention said their picks are usually just guessing what the Oscars will nominated in about 7 weeks.  Like myself and several others, they think “The Social Network” is going to be the cup that the Academy sips from when picking their awards.

Their Best Picture line-up was absolutely stellar though: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Toy Story 3.”  If those were Oscar’s five (way back when they only nominated that many movies for Best Picture), I would be a very happy man.  Since many are already boiling the race down to a horserace, it’s curious not to see “The King’s Speech,” but it got plenty of love, including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence took Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone,” which definitely showed some strength from the win as well as nominations for Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Adapted Screenplay.  I think we could definitely be looking at a critical favorite in Lawrence, although this is a very similar trajectory to Carey Mulligan last year who wound up not taking home any major prizes.

Predictable wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” in the supporting categories, with the former looking more and more like a lock with each passing day.  “The Social Network” also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, neither of which was surprising given the group’s love for the film.

Interestingly, “Inception” won Best Original Screenplay over the field of “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Another Year,” and “Black Swan.”  This category has played out interestingly at the Oscars over the past two years.  2009 brought us “The Hurt Locker” ultimately triumphing over “Inglourious Basterds” with “Up” as a dark horse looming in the background.  2008 was the horse race between two totally different types of movies, “Milk” and the almost non-verbal “Wall-E.”  Given what’s been going on recently, “Inception” makes a fascinating wild card.  “The King’s Speech” is like past winner “Milk,” and “The Kids Are All Right” gives off “Juno” vibes.  There hasn’t been a movie like “Inception” in the race in a long time (unless you want to compare it to the mind maze of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

For a historical reference point, last year the group picked “Up in the Air” as their Best Picture.  Aside from the slam dunk supporting categories, the only Oscar winner they selected was Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.”  Since 2002, they haven’t been a very reliable predictor at all of the ultimate selections of the Oscars.

For a full list of nominees, see the official press release from the WAFCA.

The British Independent Film Awards. Predictably, “The King’s Speech” cleaned house at the British Independent Film Awards, the equivalent of the Independent Spirit Awards across the pond.  The very British story of King George VI took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.  Curiously, director Tom Hooper lost Best Director to Gareth Edwards for his work on the ultra-low budget “Monsters.”  Mike Leigh was also nominated for “Another Year” in this category.

These awards don’t really show us much other than that the British are firmly allied over their love of this movie.  Last year, “Moon” triumphed over eventual Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the movie considered to have the “British vote” going into the Oscars.  This faction will be crucial to “The King’s Speech” if it is to prevail in the Best Picture category, and this is a very reassuring ceremony for the movie.

Also worth noting: “Never Let Me Go” may be almost entirely forgotten, but apparently Carey Mulligan isn’t.  She won Best Actress for her performance, and I still wouldn’t count her out as a dark horse Oscar nominee.  I don’t think a Golden Globe nomination is entirely out of the question (a la Tobey Maguire in last year’s “Brothers“).

The European Film Awards. Not much to report here as the only awards contender really in play was “The Ghost Writer,” and it capitalized on its seven nominations by winning a stunning six categories.  Lesley Manville was in contention for “Another Year” but lost Best European Actress to an actress I’ve never heard of in a movie I’ve never heard of.

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“The Kids Are All Right” Poll Results

31 07 2010

As “The Kids Are All Right” rolls into over 800 theaters this weekend, including many that are very much in the mainstream, it seems as good a time as ever to check out the results of the poll I ran along with the Oscar Moment on the movie.

The poll was a little bit different than any other one I’ve run before (at least with an Oscar Moment).  Rather than answer a simple “yes/no” question, I asked readers to pick ALL the contenders from Lisa Cholodenko’s film that they expected to wind up nominated at the big dance.

So there might have been some confusion, and I apologize for that.  The results seem normal now, but at first, they didn’t seem … well, all right.

There was a clear favorite candidate: Annette Bening.  With six votes, readers clearly think she is going to be a major threat in the Best Actress race.  (Although I will say, after having seen the movie, I think Bening should be supporting and Moore should be lead.)

Then things got a little more interesting.  Four people think that the movie will be nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.  That’s a nice number, but it shows that not everyone is convinced this is the real deal.  Only one person thinks Lisa Cholodenko will receive a nomination for Best Director, which isn’t too shocking given that the movie isn’t the type where the director gets a lot of credit.  But in 2007, Jason Reitman sneaked in for “Juno” when no one expected it, so you never know.

Among other actors, Julianne Moore received the next highest votes of confidence with four.  In my review, I singled her out as my favorite, and I sincerely hope she wins.  Hopefully no category fraud issues spell her doom.

Surprisingly, Mia Wasikowska wound up with more votes than the elder statesman Mark Ruffalo – two to one, in fact.  Many people consider Ruffalo very overdue for a nomination, particularly after being snubbed for 2000’s “You Can Count on Me.”  But if the field is weak enough, Wasikowska could sneak in if love for the movie is strong.  It wouldn’t be the first time that two actresses from the same movie were nominated in the category; it’s happened the past two years.

Also worth a mention, Josh Hutcherson received a vote, which I sure liked to see.  Represent 17-year-olds!  (Fun fact: he’s two days older than I am.)





REVIEW: The Kids Are All Right

18 07 2010

Lisa Choldenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” may not have everything right, but it’s most certainly better than just alright. Her witty and insightful script is enormously entertaining, finding that perfect median between comedy and drama that so many filmmakers struggle to achieve.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of the film is how effortlessly it nails family dynamics. Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple with two children, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), whom they have raised to success in academics and athletics, respectively. No matter what your take is on Proposition 8, you have to admire how much this family can be any family. They hug, they kiss, they laugh, they banter, they bicker, they argue, and they love just like any other family. And it’s also incredible how Cholodenko manages to tranquilize any sort of awkwardness that might ensue from the whole “two moms” situation.

For reasons that are never quite fully explained, Laser and Joni decided to make contact with their biological father, the ungrounded Paul (Mark Ruffalo). He’s more put together than the trainwreck Ruffalo played in “You Can Count On Me” but not by much. A college drop-out who gave his seed to the sperm bank mainly for the money, he’s coasted by on casual relationships to get by. When the kids enter his life, he feels a sort of connection that taps into a longing for something more significant in life. At first, Paul meets the kids in secret, just coming to the reality that his own seed could produce something living. But looking to forge something deeper, he finds that there’s just no way around meeting Nic and Jules. He becomes a presence in the life of the family, not always welcome, and definitely causing dramatic changes for everyone.

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Oscar Moment: “The Kids Are All Right”

22 06 2010

Everyone loves a summer indie comedy, even the Oscars. “Little Miss Sunshine” charmed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival, then slowly won over an audience, expanded that audience on video, and then received four Oscar nominations including Best Picture as well as wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

“The Kids Are All Right” seems to have the first part of the “Little Miss Sunshine” formula in place after it became the anointed indie comedy at Sundance.  Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, the movie follows Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) and their children Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), living comfortably in Los Angeles.  That is, until the kids decided to introduce Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the sperm donor that made them possible, into their lives.

The film appears to depoliticize a lesbian couple to a certain degree, normally a subject to cause a pretty big stir, and opens the movie up to a newer crowd. We are still awaiting release, but from what I’ve gathered, Focus is going to push the movie very mainstream. I’m anticipating the usual extremist backlash, but I don’t think this is a propaganda piece designed to shove homosexuality down anyone’s throat. It may very well be like any comedy where kids meet their long lost biological father; there’s just one more mother in the mix.

I think the movie’s surest bet for a nomination – and maybe even a win – is Best Original Screenplay.  The category is one of very few that is friendly to comedies; in fact, six of the ten winners of the past decades have been comedic scripts (although I’ll argue with you that “Lost in Translation” isn’t really a comedy).  If the movie proves to be original and funny with a beating heart inside, it’s going to be a formidable foe in the category.

But the actors are going to be another big Academy selling point for the movie.  The two leading ladies, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, are incredibly overdue for the big prize.  Bening has three nominations, and she really should have won for “American Beauty.”  Her turn as Carolyn Burnham is absolutely one of my favorite roles ever, and she absolutely nailed it.  At the time, it appears that Focus will push her as the film’s leading actress where she could end up facing Hilary Swank again.  It’s been since 1998 that an actress won the category for a comedic role, but Bening is the kind of actress they might reverse a trend for.

Julianne Moore has even more nominations than Bening at a whopping four, and she is coming fresh off a snub for “A Single Man.” She’s one of the few actors who have pulled off dual nominations in a single year, and that’s a feat in itself.  It appears that she will be competing in the Best Supporting Actress category, which doesn’t seem to feature any big names right now (save maybe Keira Knightley and Dianne Wiest).  We saw how the Academy bent over backwards to give Kate Winslet an Oscar after five missed opportunities; it could be Moore’s time.

Mark Ruffalo is on the hunt for his first nomination with “The Kids Are All Right,” and it’s about time he got one.  He deserved a nomination for “You Can Count on Me” a decade ago, but he hasn’t exactly amassed an Academy-friendly resume since.  He has a spotty track record with some corny romantic comedies littered among a few smaller indies.  Overdue for a nomination may be a bit of a stretch to say, yet few can argue that Ruffalo is a great actor.  Perhaps an Oscar nomination might steer him away from the rom-coms and back to good, solid movies.

If the Academy really goes gaga for this movie, Wasikowska and Hutcherson may find themselves in the mix for a nomination. But a nomination is the best case scenario for them because Moore and Ruffalo have much more respect and longer careers. The need is much less pressing to anoint these young stars as Hollywood royalty.

In Contention, Kris Tapley’s highly regarded Oscars site, has “The Kids Are All Right” getting a whole lot of nominations. Five, to be specific – acting nominations for Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo plus Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Let’s face it, we all need a comedy in the Best Picture mix, so I’m going to agree with Tapley at least until the movie is released. But a nomination for each one of the main actors is a little more suspect.

The poll for this Oscar Moment will be a little different. Rather than asking a simple “pick one out of these answers,” I’m going to give you the option of picking multiple answers.  The question: “What Oscar nominations will ‘The Kids Are All Right’ receive?” Pick the ones you think will.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Actress (Bening), Best Supporting Actress (Moore), Best Supporting Actor (Ruffalo), Best Original Screenplay

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Wasikowska), Best Supporting Actor (Hutcherson)





My “Virginia Woolf” Cast WON!

16 06 2010

Back in May, I alerted you to a contest I was participating in, “LAMB Casting,” over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB).  The premise was to recast a classic movie with modern actors.  The last contest asked bloggers to take their best crack at creating a new cast for Mike Nichols’ censorship-defying “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Andrew from “Encore Entertainment” was in charge of the event, and he created some great graphics as well as great write-ups on each of the casts submitted.  Go over to the LAMB and check out his hard work, or better yet, go look at his site itself.

Andrew’s comments on my cast were as follows:

Marshall’s cast is the most Hollywood, and that is a compliment. I can see this one being made and the casting of Ms. Bening is largely responsible for that. From Carolyn Burnham to Julia Lambert to Deidre Burroughs how could I not think she can handle this? I’ll admit George Clooney does nothing for me, and though I’m somewhat sceptic of his ability to succeed Richard Burton he would probably surpise me. It would be interesting see good-boy Jake playing Nick, but it is the sort of role he could make work and his pairing would Amy Adams would be believable (who gets chosen once again).

My Favourite: Annette Bening

Sure enough, in a close race, I (or really, my Hollywood cast) won by two votes.  So, for my victory lap, I’ll explain my casting choices.

As soon as I heard that “LAMB Casting” was covering “Woolf,” I knew two things.  The first was that the cast needed to be all highly respected and established actors, preferably Oscar nominees since the entire cast received nominations back in 1966.  The second, and probably most key to my victory, was that Annette Bening had to be Martha.  She’s the best actress at suppressing rage underneath a fairly calm exterior and still making it terrifying when it inevitably explodes out of her.  Carolyn Burnham, her character from “American Beauty,” was incredibly influential in my decision.  Her constant frustration with her husband and the mediocre life they live clearly takes its toll on her to the point that she completely alters her lifestyle to keep from boiling over.

The other quick decision was casting Amy Adams, an Oscar nominee for “Junebug” in 2005, as the more innocent yet feisty Honey.  Few others can play that level slightly above ditzy, and none to more acclaim than Adams.  As for being sweet and lovable, look no further than “Enchanted.”  She hasn’t really taken on a role that shows us her wild side (the closest she got would probably be “Talladega Nights”), but the movie would definitely prove a chance for her to wow us with something new.

As for her husband, Nick, I was looking for someone with a good amount of charm and someone fairly “good looking” by Hollywood standards.  Thinking of Oscar nominees, Jake Gyllenhaal kept coming to mind.  His first big role was the modest and humble Homer Hickam in “October Sky,” which is enough to convince me that he can handle the at first polite Nick.  But as the movie progresses, he’ll have to become more serious and stand head-to-head with Bening.  He could clearly match her in intensity, as roles in movies like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Brothers” have shown.

My last role to cast, George, was kind of a toss-up.  I couldn’t really think of anyone with the same qualities as Richard Burton, who was very grave and serious basically throughout – a counterpoint to his wife who’s drowning in alcohol.  Ultimately, it came down to finding someone who could have some compelling arguments with Bening and wouldn’t be totally overshadowed by her either.  I settled on Clooney because “Up in the Air” showed us that he can share the spotlight with women, and I think his generally friendly personality might lend a little bit of lightness to George that wasn’t there with Burton.  And after that final scene in “Michael Clayton,” I know he can make one heck of a great argument (start the “Michael Clayton” video at 3:30 to see Clooney in action).

CAUTION: SPOILERS IN VIDEO BELOW

So, in closing, let me give a big “Marshall and the Movies” THANK YOU to everyone who voted for my cast.  As a result, I now get to pick the next “LAMB Casting.”  Any suggestions?  My initial thought was to keep the Mike Nichols theme going and recast “The Graduate,” but that has such a small cast.  I’ll field any ideas, no matter how crazy, in the comments below.