REVIEW: Get Low

15 12 2010

It’s always nice when a movie like “Get Low” comes along.  While it’s nothing earth-shattering for cinema as we know it, the movie is just a witty but serious drama propelled by great performances by capable actors and an interesting script that keeps the plot moving.

Robert Duvall stars as the aging hermit Felix Bush, living pleasantly in solitude as the town surrounding him seeks to make him a sort of urban legend.  Rumors abound that he’s a cold-blooded killer and a devil worshipper.  Granted, Felix doesn’t do much to stop these notions, chasing off trespassers with a shotgun and putting up “beware of mule” signs.  But all of a sudden, Felix decides to emerge with a grand plan – a living funeral for the entire town to attend.

It’s hard to tell exactly why Felix wants this at first, particularly because Duvall has given him such a hardened exterior that masks all his true intentions.  Yet pulsating underneath is a heart and soul, and only an actor like Duvall can make it beat in such a profound way.  Slowly but surely, he unravels the character until we see Felix completely unexposed, and the sheer raw emotion makes for a powerful last scene where Duvall goes broke.  The success of the entire movie rests on Duvall and his ability to convey a whole host of emotions at once, and “Get Low” works because he is in peak form.

While the whole business of “getting low” keeps things fairly serious, there’s plenty to keep the movie a light and enjoyable watch.  Bill Murray is perfectly cast as money-grubbing funeral parlor owner Frank Quinn, who makes the living funeral something of a carnival attraction to make up for bad business.  It’s a sly, devious, and understatedly humorous character, and Murray milks it for all the comedy he can get.  It’s Felix who gets us to start chuckling as he unwillingly does ridiculous promotional stunts, but it’s Frank who keeps us laughing with his off-handed comments.  Add in Lucas Blacks as Frank’s second-in-command along for the ride and Sissy Spacek as Felix’s old love to make things grave, and you have one heck of an acting ensemble.

There’s nothing to go proclaim from the rooftops about “Get Low.”  It’s not going to amount to much more than nice acting, a suitably engaging script, and a glimpse at some beautiful Southern woods and forests.  But sometimes, that’s just the kind of movie you need.  B+





“Get Low” Poll Results

11 06 2010

Back in May, I wrote about the Oscar chances of “Get Low,” which premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and opens on July 30.  Particularly, I speculated about Robert Duvall and his status as an acting legend.  Would that be enough to catapault him into the race?  I said:

Here’s my question: does [Duvall] need Oscar bait?  He’s already won Best Actor!  Sure, it was over 25 years ago (1983 for “Tender Mercies” to be exact), but that’s still a trophy on the mantle at Duvall Manor.

People make this argument for Meryl Streep year after year.  ”She won so long ago,” they say.  ”They don’t need to hide their affection; just give her another Oscar!”

The difference between the two is as follows.  Since Robert Duvall won the Oscar, he has received two other nominations (in consecutive years, as a matter of fact).  Since Meryl Streep won her last Oscar, she has been nominated eleven times!  Eleven!

I think he will get nominated for an Oscar.  I polled to see what you all thought, and the results seemed to confirm what I thought.

Be sure to take the poll on the Oscar Moment for “Shutter Island!” I’m not sure how long I should keep a poll running; this one ran for over a month and that’s definitely too long.  I’ll happily field your suggestions in the comments below!





What To Look Forward To in … July 2010

10 06 2010

People are already calling summer 2010 one of the worst seasons in history.  Ouch.  Does July hold anything in store to turn the tide late in the game?  Let’s take a look.

July 2

M. Night Shyamalan give us his most mainstream movie yet with “The Last Airbender.”  Due to James Cameron’s mildly successful film “Avatar,” the Nickelodeon series opted to use only the last part of its name to avoid confusion (although you could make some good money from dumb moviegoers under the impression they’re seeing “Avatar 2”).  It got the quickie 3D conversion slapped on in the past months, which means I’m sticking to 2D here if I even see it at all. I’m worried that some backlash against the conversion could wind up really hurting this movie. But even before I knew about the added dimension, I couldn’t get myself too excited. No matter how extravagant and enormous they make it look, it’s still a Nickelodeon series. I have mixed feelings for Shyamalan; the only movie of his I actually liked was “The Sixth Sense.” I don’t know anyone in the cast save for Dev Patel, better known as Jamal Malik from “Slumdog Millionaire,” and he may end up being what draws me in to see it.

Sometimes I don’t catch everything when it is initially released, particularly indies.  I want to give them their fair shake, so I’m going to feature movies when they open in my hometown if I missed them before.  The first of these movies is “Solitary Man” starring Michael Douglas and thank heavens it’s not Michael Cera (that’s code for Jesse Eisenberg).  In her glowing review of the movie, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called this, not “Wall Street 2,” Douglas’ best shot for Oscar glory.  The story seems friendly enough and the character seems an Oscar type.  Rounding out the ensemble are Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, and Mary-Louise Parker, so it seems pretty audience friendly too.

July 9

I’ll get to the mainstream fare later.  First, I must cover the indie comedy hit of the summer, “The Kids Are All Right.”  More to come later in an “Oscar Moment,” but expect it to make a splash a la “Little Miss Sunshine” and “(500) Days of Summer.”

Adrien Brody steps back into the horror arena after … let’s just say, going places in “Splice.”  This time, he’s rebooting the “Predator” franchise along with Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace.  “Predators” proudly flashes the name of producer Robert Rodriguez.  But here’s what I want to know – will sequel/reboot/remake fatigue catch up with moviegoers by July and kill this movie?

I’m so excited for the release of “Despicable Me.”  Not because I want to see it, but because I’m so tired of seeing the stupid trailers with every movie I have seen for the past year.  My guess is families will still be choosing “Toy Story 3” over this.  Not even Julie Andrews can save a movie that proudly boasts the participation of an executive producer from the “Ice Age” series as if they had Steven Spielberg.

If you are looking for some shaky-cam horror, “[Rec] 2” comes out.  Strangely enough, I must have missed “[Rec]” 1.  But I did know about the predecessor to “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” the big indie of 2010 so far, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Opening in Houston on July 9 is “Restrepo,” the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for documentary features.  It takes a look at the grittiest and most intense location of fighting in Iraq and its effect on the soldiers who fight there.

July 14/16

Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION … AHHHH!!!!!

Meanwhile, opening two days earlier to get out the way is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest blockbuster.  It starts Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer and Jay Baruchel as his apprentice.  I’ve been saying for quite a while now that Baruchel needs a big breakout; maybe he will get it with this once people match his face to the voice in “How to Train Your Dragon.”  On the Nicolas Cage front, the role seems kind of kooky.  Perhaps this is his Jack Sparrow?  I may end up seeing this solely for villain Alfred Molina, who rocked Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2.”

Officially released on June 18 but not hitting Houston until July 16 is “The Killer Inside Me,” starring Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson.  Apparently it’s based on one of the most brutally violent and disturbing stories ever.  I’ll trust Kubrick here.

July 23

I’m hoping “Salt” becomes this summer’s “Wanted.”  Just an enjoyable, action-packed movie that doesn’t try to wow you, only entertain you.  Angelina Jolie makes one BA action heroine … or villain, depending on what happens in this movie.

Kiddie fare comes for the third straight weekend with “Ramona and Beezus,” starring Disney Channel sweetheart Selena Gomez.  This could do well because it’s an adaptation of the beloved series that has been around for decades, and it has an impressive adult cast including Sandra Oh, Bridget Moynahan, John Corbett, and Josh Duhamel.  Then again, it could also just fade into the mist of the other kids movies.

Opening on the indie side of things is “Life During Wartime” starring Allison Janney.

July 30

I’m honestly scared of “Dinner for Schmucks.”  I love both Paul Rudd and Steve Carell to death, and the plot here just reeks of a bomb.  My worst fear is that this and “The Other Guys” become the “Land of the Lost”/”Year One” comedy flop combo of 2010.  Maybe Zach Galifianakis can save it…

But what reeks of a stinker even more is “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore,” a sequel that no one really wants.  And “Charlie St. Cloud” reeks of Zac Efron.

Meanwhile, there’s some good indie drama with “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall.  See my Oscar Moment for further commentary.

Can July save the summer?  Will “Inception” rule the roost?  What will be the BEST movie of the month?  Let me know by taking the poll … DEADLINE IS JUNE 25.





Oscar Moment: “Get Low”

11 05 2010

Out to top R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet,” Robert Duvall stars in the film adaptation of Lil’ Jon’s hit song “Get Low.”

Just kidding.

It’s about the opposite.  “Get Low” could wind up being one of the biggest bait movies of the Oscar season, particularly for leading man Robert Duvall.  It was a hit at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and instantly thrusted Duvall into the Oscar conversation.  But when it was bought by Sony Pictures Classics following the festival, they decided to move it to the end of July 2010.  Thus, Duvall and “Get Low” are now in the 2010 awards talk.

Here’s my question: does the man need Oscar bait?  He’s already won Best Actor!  Sure, it was over 25 years ago (1983 for “Tender Mercies” to be exact), but that’s still a trophy on the mantle at Duvall Manor.

People make this argument for Meryl Streep year after year.  “She won so long ago,” they say.  “They don’t need to hide their affection; just give her another Oscar!”

The difference between the two is as follows.  Since Robert Duvall won the Oscar, he has received two other nominations (in consecutive years, as a matter of fact).  Since Meryl Streep won her last Oscar, she has been nominated eleven times!  Eleven!

Let’s take a look at some other revered actors who took home their first Oscar several decades ago and the results when they are in the game again.

  • Ellen Burstyn won Best Actress in 1974 for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”  Since then, she has been nominated three times, most recently in 2000 for “Requiem for a Dream.”  She has not won since.
  • Sissy Spacek won Best Actress in 1980 for “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”  Since then, she has been nominated four times, most recently in 2001 for “In the Bedroom.”  She has not won since.
  • Diane Keaton won Best Actress in 1976 for “Annie Hall.”  Since then, she has been nominated three times, most recently in 2003 for “Something’s Gotta Give.”  She has not won since.
  • Ben Kingsley won Best Actor in 1982 for “Gandhi.”  Since then, he has been nominated three times, most recently in 2003 for “House of Sand and Fog.”  He has not won since.
  • William Hurt won Best Actor in 1985 for “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”  Since then, he has been nominated three times, most recently in 2005 for “A History of Violence.”  He has not won since.
  • Julie Christie won Best Actor in 1965 for “Darling.”  Since then, she has been nominated three times, most recently in 2007 for “Away from Her.”  She has not won since.

See a pattern?

(NOTE: I excluded one outlier from the list: Jack Nicholson, who has received 12 nominations in his illustrious career.  His first win came on his fifth nomination in 1975 for Best Actor for “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”  Two nominations later, he won again in 1983 for Best Supporting Actor for “Terms of Endearment.”  Another four nominations later, he won his third statue in 1997 for Best Actor for “As Good As It Gets.”  He was nominated for Best Actor again in 2002 for “About Schmidt” but lost to Adrien Brody.)

But if you know anything about the Oscars beyond the statistics I gave you, another trend might have popped out at you.  In case you didn’t pick up on it, this might guide you.

  • When Ellen Burstyn was last nominated, she lost to Julia Roberts for “Erin Brockovich.”  Roberts was 33, and this nomination was her third.
  • When Sissy Spacek was last nominated, she lost to Halle Berry for “Monster’s Ball.”  Berry was 35, and this nomination was her first.
  • When Jack Nicholson was last nominated, he lost to Adrien Brody for “The Pianist.”  Brody was 29, and this nomination was his first.
  • When Diane Keaton was last nominated, she lost to Charlize Theron for “Monster.”  Theron was 28, and this nomination was her first.
  • When Ben Kingsley was last nominated, he lost to Sean Penn for “Mystic River.”  Penn was 43, and this nomination was his fourth.
  • When William Hurt was last nominated, he lost to George Clooney for “Syriana.”  Clooney was 43, and this nomination was his first.
  • When Julie Christie was last nominated, she lost to Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose.”  Cotillard was 32, and this nomination was her first.

As I hope you now see, these veterans usually lose to younger actors with few nominations.  So does Duvall have history against him?

The role seems like a character he can really dig into.  In “Get Low,” he plays a hermit who plans his own funeral – which he plans to attend.  Alive.  He wants to hear what people think of him, but as events unfold, he ends up divulging why he’s been away in the woods so long.

The movie also features performances by Oscar winner Sissy Spacek and nominee Bill Murray.  Both could easily be in contention, but Murray seems to have the more substantial part.  They, along with Duvall, are definitely worth keeping an eye on this season.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Robert Duvall), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Murray)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Score