F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 6, 2012)

6 01 2012

With previous Oscar winners George Clooney and Tilda Swinton coasting towards another nomination for “The Descendants” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” respectively, it’s as good a time as ever to feature a movie they starred in together, Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton.”  The 2007 Best Picture nominee (and winner for Swinton’s performance) is a gripping legal thriller that never takes you farther than a deposition room but provides legitimate fodder for thought beyond the annals of the court.  Gilroy presents three characters, played by Clooney, Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson, who each must consider what place morality and truthfulness has in their lives and in their jobs as lawyers.

It all begins with Jerry Maguire-esque moment of awakening for Wilkinson’s Arthur Edens, an incredibly respected New York attorney, who suddenly realizes that he no longer wishes to deny his conscience by representing UNorth in a class action lawsuit that violates his ethics.  After meeting with the victims of the company’s agrochemical products, the class action suit suddenly gets a human face for him … and Arthur feels the need to purge this skin of falseness so urgently that he strips naked in the middle of a deposition room.

While Arthur has a history of mental shakiness, Clooney’s Michael Clayton, the fixer for their firm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, knows that there’s something more to the meltdown that a few chemical issues.  Michael, facing staggering debt from a failed restaurant and questioning the value of his job, is forced into a rigorous self-examination that Clooney animates with the perfect balance of internalized and externalized emotion.  He proves himself to be one of the best, if not THE best, actor of his generation at exploring tortured souls.  He realizes Michael’s flaws so vividly but finds some hidden nobility so we care about the journey even while vacillating on our opinion of the character.

Meanwhile, the scene stealer is Swinton’s Karen Crowder, the general counsel for UNorth.  She’s an über-Type A perfectionist who labors and frets over the smallest of details and really has no idea how to handle a situation like Arthur’s, which threatens to undo years of litigation and jeopardize millions of the company’s dollars – not to mention their reputation.  As he descends into madness (or a divine clarity depending on where you stand), she descends into a professional hell where her off-the-record, back-alley decisions make the difference for the fate of the lawsuit.  Karen, like the rest of the characters in the movie, are so richly written by Gilroy, who uses them to explore complex issues without ever being preachy or turning “Michael Clayton” into a silly morality play. In an era where “Inside Job” shows the actual moral bankruptcy of corporate America, the four-year-old movie remains incredibly relevant.

Random Factoid #294

18 05 2010

This factoid inspired by Ross v Ross’ post (and new series) “RvReprieve.”  The writers consider granting unfairly trashed movies a second chance.  They started with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” a movie which star Shia LaBeouf has publicly condemned.

However, I didn’t exactly read the post well enough before I started writing the factoid.  I assumed they were just talking about movies that they had decided to give a second chance.


But nevertheless, I still want to make my factoid today about giving movies a second chance.  Often times, when I don’t feel the love that others feel for a certain movie, I’ll give it a second watch.  Sometimes I still hate it.  But others, I wind up finding something that I hadn’t discovered before.

Such was the case when I rewatched “Michael Clayton,” a 2007 Best Picture nominee.  I’ll save the specifics for a later post, but know that I think it’s never a bad idea to give movies a second watch.

Random Factoid #189

2 02 2010

The history of Marshall hearing about the Oscar nominations, part 1:

In the year 2009…
I watched from my kitchen in utter shock as “The Dark Knight” failed to net nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Director, and, most importantly, Picture. I drove to school completely stunned and pissed, and I read the rest of the nominations there.

In the year 2008…
Crap. I can’t remember. Mainly because I had practically no stake in the awards. I had only seen “No Country for Old Men” and “Michael Clayton,” which I was sure would miss.

In the year 2007…
I had an orthodontist appointment in the morning, and I fretted that I wouldn’t be able to hear them live. I found them on Fox News’ XM Radio station and was infuriated when “Dreamgirls” didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. (And I realize this will probably open the floodgates for plenty of “Dreamgirls” hate comments. Bring it on. I’d be happy to receive your comment.)

I remember stories for several more years, but you’re going to have to wait…until NEXT YEAR to hear them.  Check back for the exciting sequel in 2011!

UPDATED 1/25/2011: Read part 2 HERE!