REVIEW: Somewhere

20 06 2013

SomewhereI’m not a fan of Sofia Coppola’s films – including “Lost in Translation,” which plenty seem to admire without caring for the rest of her work.  I find them vapid, vacuous, insipid … I could go through the whole thesaurus, but I think you get the point by now.  Whether it’s modern Tokyo or 18th century Versailles, the worlds she chooses to portray are often skin-deep and superficial.

Yet in “Somewhere,” those things aren’t nearly as brutal.  Coppola points her camera at the world of fame and excess in the Hollywood celebrity culture, which is by nature skin-deep and superficial.  The film finds a better link for Coppola between story and style, making her particular touch a little more purposeful.

That doesn’t make the film any less vapid, vacuous, and insipid, however; it just feels a little less aimless.  Coppola is as self-indulgent as ever in “Somewhere.”  A part of me wonders if she accidentally labeled her rough cut as the final cut.  There are extended sequences of Stephen Dorff’s Johnny Marco just riding around in his car.  We get to watch his daughter, Elle Fanning’s Cleo, do her whole ice skating routine.  Oh, and some terrible strippers get to perform their whole routine, totally uncut.

The film’s story, if you can even call it that, revolves around Johnny’s empty lifestyle as he fails at being a father, husband, and a functioning member of society.  In other words, “Somewhere” is totally pointless.  But that’s precisely Sofia Coppola’s point.  And despite the fact that I was often times tormented and agonized by Johnny’s lack of purpose or direction, I could at least take comfort in knowing that the woman behind the camera had one.  C+2stars

“Somewhere” Poll Results

2 01 2011

I still haven’t the slightest clue as to when I’ll be able to see “Somewhere” as no date has been announced for its Houston release.  But I’m not in any rush to see it as it is a Sofia Coppola movie (and I wasn’t exactly fond of her Academy Award-winning “Lost in Translation“) and it appears to have fizzled on the awards scene.  Heck, it didn’t even make Quentin Tarantino’s top 20 – and he voted it the best film at the Venice Film Festival.

I was skeptical from the beginning as I stated in my Oscar Moment way back in September (when “Never Let Me Go” still looked like a contender and critics were two months away from seeing “True Grit“).  And now it appears that the one person who voted this wouldn’t have a shot at Best Picture is going to be right.

As if you need someone to tell you that.

What To Look Forward To in … December 2010

15 11 2010

Hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the last month of 2010!  Enjoy the movies now, because soon Hollywood will be offering us its scraps.  We have an interesting December slate peppered with Oscar contenders and blockbusters, so it makes for an interesting mix.  Let’s get started at our look!

December 3

I’ve already seen “Black Swan” (mwahaha), and you need to see it.  Not for the faint at heart, I must warn.

FINALLY opening after being shuffled from preview post to preview post is “I Love You Phillip Morris,” the racy comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers.  It’s changed release dates so many times, in fact, that I’m not going to write anything about it just in case I jinx it.  Also opening is “The Warrior’s Way,” which looks to potentially play “Norbit” for Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar chances.  And “All Good Things” looks like a jumbled mess that might be worth checking out on video if for no other reason than to see Kristen Wiig’s first major dramatic turn.  If you really need a Christmas movie, check out no-name distributor Freestyle’s release of “The Nutcracker” in 3D with Dakota Fanning’s sister and Nathan Lane!

Also in limited release is a documentary on Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former Prime Minister of Pakistan, called “Bhutto.”  I think she would be a fascinating subject, and I sure hope it comes to Houston.

December 10

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” looks to undo the disastrous effects of Disneyfication on C.S. Lewis’ classic series.  After “Prince Caspian,” the series needs a strong recovery.  Here’s to hoping the venture with Fox can do it.

As for “The Tourist,” I like anything with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  This could be a totally formulaic thriller, but it’s Christmas and I have time to see whatever.

For all those interested in having Julia Taymor’s bad trips mess with their mind, “The Tempest” opens in limited release this Friday.  The weekend also brings us “The Company Men” with Ben Affleck, which tackles the issue of unemployment in America.  Unfortunately, the zeitgeist movie market has pretty much been cornered with “The Social Network,” so it’s going to take a backseat.  “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” also heads your way in limited release, yet even with the big name expatriate author out in front, this still doesn’t excite me in the slightest.

Oh, and opening limited this weekend and wide December 17 is a little movie called “The Fighter.”  It just stars a few no-names like Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.  It’s kind of got some minor buzz, so it could be worth checking out.  (Note the sarcasm.)

December 17

How Do You Know” is my top mainstream pick for December.  The combination of the light dramedy of James L. Brooks with stars like Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson is just endlessly appealing to me.

I feel like the jury is still out on what will become of “Tron: Legacy.”  It’s sure going to be a visual effects phenomenon worth my IMAX money, but is it going to be any good?  Quality doesn’t seem to shine through the numerous trailers.  Maybe it’s some ’80s child thing I don’t get.

I’ve also seen “Rabbit Hole,” and it is more than worth your time and money in the busy Oscar bait season.  Nicole Kidman is astounding.  Also in the indie spectrum, Kevin Spacey stars in the late George Hickenlooper’s “Casino Jack,” a story of big influence on Capitol Hill.  Expect the two-time Oscar winner to hit out of the park as usual.

In case your family was looking to fill the void that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” left in the holiday season, Warner Bros. has quite a treat in store for you with “Yogi Bear!”

December 22

As for big name, sure-fire Oscar bait, it doesn’t get much better than the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit.”  It’s the perfect holiday movie that is totally not for the holiday season.

For more shoddy kids’ entertainment, you could also check out “Gulliver’s Travels” if you think that a non-animated Jack Black still has the capability to be funny.  I don’t think he does, to be honest.  As for “Little Fockers,” I don’t want to ruin whatever jokes the movie has up its sleeve by watching the trailer.  Who knows, there could be few to be had.

In limited release, moody hipster Sofia Coppola has a new movie, “Somewhere,” to totally disrupt the mood of your holiday season.  There’s also Gwenyth Paltrow in “Crazy Heart” — I mean, “Country Strong.”  More on that when it opens wide in January.

I’ve been hearing good things all year about “The Illusionist,” an animated movie about a magician, NOT the Edward Norton starrer from 2006.  It obviously won’t be making Houston in 2010, but I hope I get to catch it some time before it hits Netflix.

December 29/31

The year closes with three awards-type movies: the depressing “Biutiful,” the Mike Leigh unfunny comedy “Another Year,” and the intense NC-17 “Blue Valentine.”  I’ll see all three, but the only one I’ll be rushing the box office for is the latter, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

So, what are YOU looking forward to in December?  I’m tightening up the poll this month to save some space by eliminating some of the less popular titles that never get votes.

Oscar Moment: “Somewhere”

21 09 2010

The big winner at Venice was “Somewhere,” which won the coveted Golden Lion there.  According to jury president Quentin Tarantino, the movie ” .  But does that mean anything?

The Golden Lion is hardly an indicator of Oscar success; the only winner to receive a Best Picture nomination in the prize’s history is “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005.  Other movies have received nominations, such as 2008 champion “The Wrestler” and 2004 winner “Vera Drake.”

In addition, the win for “Somewhere” was marred by accusations of favoritism and bias.  Here’s a report from the Los Angeles Times on the allegations:

..the Italian press has been in an uproar after it learned that some of the Venice Film Festival’s biggest prizes went to filmmakers with longstanding ties to jury president Quentin Tarantino. Sofia Coppola, who is close with Tarantino (the Reporter piece describes her as his former girlfriend), won the Golden Lion, the festival’s top prize, for her new film, “Somewhere.”

Hmmmm. Did Tarantino really stack the deck? I’d say it’s hard to make that charge stick. Having been on a few minor-league film juries in my time, I’ve learned that it’s really hard for a jury chief, even one as passionate as Tarantino, to prod a group of independent-minded film nuts into voting for any movie they didn’t really like. Tarantino might well have pushed through a special prize for Hellman, who is beloved by all sorts of film zealots — even some who’ve probably never seen one of his movies. But promoting a pal for a special prize is one thing; steering the jury into awarding Golden Lions to the wrong movies seems far-fetched to me.

So there’s no indication that the Golden Lion is going to help “Somewhere;” in fact, it may wind up hurting the movie.  But to make up for that, there’s the prestige power of Sofia Coppola, Academy Award-winner for her screenplay of “Lost in Translation.”  While I’ll keep my biases out of this piece (for my opinion on the filmmaker, see the most discussed piece on this blog, a review of the movie that put her on the map).  Granted, her shining moment on stage was for one movie.  Her other two directorial efforts, 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides” and 2006’s “Marie Antoinette,” failed to receive any serious awards attention.  The latter, in fact, was largely critically derided.

I’ll pose the question, and don’t think it’s because I have anything against Coppola: is there anything that leads us to think that this movie has a legitimate shot at any Oscars?

Critical response was tepid at Venice; “Black Swan” was the movie on everyone’s lips.  I’m not really getting the feeling that this could be an audience favorite either.  The plot, which revolves around a self-absorbed movie star (Stephen Dorff) required to take on responsibility for his young daughter (Dakota Fanning’s sister, Elle), feels like something we’ve seen before.  “The Game Plan,” the campy Disney movie, anyone?  I’m sorry to say that I don’t see many Oscar vibes emanating from that storyline.  Then again, if it’s told with brutal Coppola subtlety, the Academy will go gaga.

I see the movie’s best chances being in the acting categories.  Best Actor will be a tight field, but Dorff could sneak in if his performance is a breakout.  Jeremy Renner did it last year, and he can do it this year.  Elle Fanning could find her way into the Best Supporting Actress category, which seems to be pretty unformed at the moment with no clear frontrunner or sure-fire contenders.  Not to mention I’d LOVE to see the “SNL” sketch that shows the fit Dakota throws when her sister gets an Oscar nomination before she does.

Although I will give “Somewhere” this – if all else fails, the movie will have an awesome soundtrack.  If it’s produced by Phoenix, one of my new favorite bands, I’m willing to buy it.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actress (Elle Fanning), Best Original Screenplay

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Stephen Dorff)