REVIEW: Crazy Heart

28 02 2010

Whenever I wrote about “Crazy Heart” back in December in an Oscar Moment, I lampooned it for its obvious similarities to last year’s “The Wrestler.”  Turns out, I was right.

But “The Wrestler” was a killer movie.  And so is “Crazy Heart.”

Sure, it loses some originality points, but that doesn’t make the character study any less effective or entertaining.  It also doesn’t suffer because it adding elements of another great movie, “Walk the Line,” with its background in country music and some very catchy songs.

“Crazy Heart” follows washed-up country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) trudging through an increasingly insignificance as a performer.  He has gone from packing in crowds in Nashville to empty bowling alleys in Santa Fe.  He certainly isn’t doing himself any favors with his raging alcoholism and his refusal to churn out any new material.  But over the course of the film, he realizes, although somewhat reluctantly, Bad Blake begins to change his ways.  The main impetus comes from a younger journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who looks beyond the singer for her interview.

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Oscar Moment: “Crazy Heart”

9 12 2009

Here’s a little Oscar story for you, told just like a fairy tale!

Once upon a time, there was a studio called Fox Searchlight.  This was a specialty studio, so their job was to release movies that would be critically acclaimed and win lots of Oscars.

But in September, it was becoming inherently clear that things weren’t quite panning out for Fox Searchlight.  “(500) Days of Summer” and “Adam” weren’t really Academy-type movies, and “Amelia” was a huge bomb with critics.  With only Wes Anderson’s animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” left to release, they didn’t seem to have any viable candidate for big categories at the Oscars (although some author’s commentary: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserve to be nominated).

Fox Searchlight, who gave us last year’s Best Picture “Slumdog Millionaire,” had to do something to put themselves on the awards season map.  So they used a trick play and moved “Crazy Heart,” originally scheduled for release in 2010, up to December 2009.

“Crazy Heart” is about an aged, washed-up country singer who falls in love with a younger female journalist and begins the trek back to the place he loves the most: the stage.

Does this sound familiar?  Think back to just last year…

“The Wrestler” is about an aged, washed-up wrestler who falls in love with a younger female stripper and begins the trek back to the place he loves the most: the ring.

But the comparisons shouldn’t stop there.  Both movies feature a sort of “rebirth” performance from their lead actors who have been ignored by the Oscars previously.  Jeff Bridges, the main man of “Crazy Heart,” has not hit the depths quite like “The Wrestler”‘s Mickey Rourke, whose struggles with drug abuse were widely publicized.  Bridges, on the other hand, has been doing rounds as a valuable character actor over the past few years and has deep respect in the industry.  However, Fox Searchlight wants to make sure that we know that he has been an Oscar bridesmaid four times.  They also make the somewhat hyperbolic claim that this is “the performance of a lifetime.”  I think its pretty safe to say that all the hopes of this movie ride on Bridges’ shoulders.

And just look at the trailers.  They are practically the same, even down to the guitar-strumming melodies behind them (the tune for “Crazy Heart” is Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind”).

So, will this be a fairy-tale ending for Fox Searchlight?  That’s largely up to you, the moviegoer, who makes the business, and the critics, who give the awards and write the reviews.  At the moment, the latter have not shown much love.  The Washington, D.C. Film Critics did not even nominate Bridges for Best Actor.

One interesting note: Mickey Rourke lost the Oscar to a gay man played by Sean Penn.  Could Bridges lose to Colin Firth, who plays a darker homosexual in “A Single Man?”

We’ll find out the ending on a Sunday night in March…

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Song (“The Weary Kind”)

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal)





What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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