F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 1, 2011)

1 07 2011

Back at the end of 2009, my first year of blogging, I caught some heat for including Tony Gilroy’s sophomore directorial venture, “Duplicity,” among my top 10.  To quote directly, “Duplicity? Really?”  There was also a slightly more detailed explanation of someone’s distaste for the movie, with that blogger describing the film as “dull.”

So now, with Julia Roberts headlining “Larry Crowne,” I have the perfect opportunity to defend the movie that charted as the 7th best movie of 2009 for me as the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  For my money, “Duplicity” was a fun, sleek, and stylish spy thriller that kept you on your toes every step of the way.  Coming after the flop that was “Quantum of Solace,” espionage was desperately in need of a facelift.  And at the beginning of 2009, originality wasn’t exactly plentiful at the theaters.

And in addition to being insanely well-written as an espionage movie, it also doubles as a romantic comedy with a dynamite couple in Julia Roberts and Clive Owen (who shared the screen as lovers in Mike Nichols’ “Closer,” a past F.I.L.M.).  The two play all sorts of games with each other, but since they are both corporate spies, all the lying, cheating, and stealing is for their job.  As the movie cuts back and forth between their history as lovers and their current scheming, it keeps us wondering where the line between work and play is drawn by these two spies.  Do they draw it at the same place?  What happens when this line is crossed?  By mixing the two genres, Gilroy gets us more engaged than ever in the business of these spies.  (Not to mention he cuts out all the contrived mumbo-jumbo we’ve been told to tolerate time and time again by Hollywood.)

Owen’s Ray Kovacks and Roberts’ Claire Stenwich are fascinating to watch unfurl courtesy of their nuanced portrayals.  First spies for competing governments, then from competing corporations, their alliances are never completely evident nor are their motives fully crystalline.  But as their quest to be the smartest guys in the room takes them on a crazy path that only a brilliant screenwriter like Tony Gilroy could imagine, their worlds and minds begin to unravel, ultimately laying them bare.  Some might call the movie’s never-ending plot twists excessive and ultimately self-destructive, but in the current Hollywood climate, “Duplicity” doesn’t have enough to compensate for the lack of complexity in a calendar year.  The twists can be electrifying if you choose to let them shock you, and the movie’s ride can be tremendously rewarding for those with the commitment to follow it.

LISTFUL THINKING: The Top 10 Movies of 2009

31 12 2009

As strange as it is to say, 2009 is over.

As the bookend of the first decade of the new millennium, this year has come to represent the changing scope of the 2000s.  Technology, as it always seems to, has reached soaring heights.  But as the man who created the most revolutionary of these advancements this year, James Cameron, said in an interview with Newsweek, “Filmmaking is not going to ever fundamentally change. It’s about storytelling. It’s about humans playing humans. It’s about close-ups of actors. It’s about those actors somehow saying the words and playing the moment in a way that gets in contact with the audience’s hearts. I don’t think that changes.”

With that in mind, I celebrate 2009 for all the incredible stories that enchanted me as only cinema can with my top 10 list.

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