Know Your Nominees: “The Fighter”

1 02 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, the second movie on our countdown of the Academy’s best of 2010 is “The Fighter.”

You’ve probably heard “The Fighter” described as Mark Wahlberg’s passion project, and his fight for four years to get the movie made has finally hit the silver screen thanks to the personal identification the star has with the story.  Both Wahlberg and his character Ward grew up in large Massachusetts families with nine siblings.  Both had tenacious mothers who favored their older brothers – which, in Wahlberg’s case, happens to be the New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg.  As Micky became the “Pride of Lowell,” Mark Wahlberg idolized the prize fighter and is now starring and producing the ultimate tribute to him.  In an interview, Wahlberg said that the only difference between the two of them is that “Micky’s a fighter and I’m an entertainer.”

A nice little under-the-radar Oscar story of 2010 has been David O. Russell’s comeback directing “The Fighter,” which is in itself a comeback story.  But it wasn’t always going to be that way.  Remember seeing in the opening credits that Darren Aronofsky was an executive producer of the movie?  Originally, he was going to direct the movie but eventually abandoned the movie to make “Black Swan.”  That makes him connected to two Best Picture nominees this year.  Also worth noting about the director’s chair – Martin Scorsese turned the project down, claiming that “Raging Bull” was enough boxing for him.

Aronofsky’s exit wasn’t the only major change that “The Fighter” underwent before production began.  Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were both attached to play Dickie Eklund, the former fighter and older brother to Mark Wahlberg’s Micky Ward that is played in the movie by Christian Bale.

And what of the documentary HBO made about Eklund?  Called “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell,” the movie is real, not just a plot device in “The Fighter.”  Thanks to the beauty of the Internet, you don’t have to wait for it to hit the circuit on cable – you can watch it FOR FREE on SnagFilms.  (In case you didn’t catch it, I embedded the link in that bolded statement.)

Mark Wahlberg did plenty of physical preparation for “The Fighter.”  He claims that his last few movies have been carefully selected as training and preparing to play Micky Ward.  He built a boxing ring in his own home and spent four years training with boxing coaches, even bringing them with him to his other movie sets.  Wahlberg did all the fighting himself, refusing to use a fighting double.  By the time all was said and done for Wahlberg’s training, he spent more preparing than he made.

Wahlberg wasn’t the only cast member altering their body for “The Fighter.”  Christian Bale noticeably dropped 30 pounds to play Dickie, giving him the look of both an ex-fighter and a crack addict.  But more under the radar, Amy Adams also did her part to inhabit the character of Charlene.  To make her character look like she’d been in one too many bars, Adams gained about 10 pounds to get a bit of a beer gut.

How about that wild family in “The Fighter?”  Director David O. Russell said these wildly over-the-top characters were actually toned down from their real-life counterparts.  I find this hard to believe in the case of the seven sisters, which are played by a particularly interesting group of actresses.  One sister is played by Conan O’Brien’s sister, Kate.  Another actress, Jill Quigg, was recently arrested in Boston for robbery and is now in jail.  (How’s that for some authenticity?)

Did the cinematography of the fights look a little bit different than the rest of the movie?  That’s because David O. Russell brought in camera crews from HBO to shoot them in the same style they were televised in for the sake of authenticity.  I found it to be an interesting touch that definitely set the fights apart from the rest of the movie.  They also feel real because the real Micky Ward was heavily involved in their production.

Just how real is “The Fighter,” though?  According to the real life Micky Ward in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he said, “It was pretty much right on. Christian Bale did an excellent job.”  The movie’s historical accuracy was greatly aided by Wahlberg’s close relationship with the real Ward and Ecklund, who often stayed in his guest house for weeks at a time.  The veracity was also undoubtedly aided by Mickey O’Keefe, Ward’s real-life trainer who played himself in the movie.

And the big question: since Dickie Ecklund is still alive, how did he react to the movie?  Apparently he saw it for the first time without an audience and was not a fan.  Understandable for anyone to react unfavorably to a shrinking down of their life’s struggles and mistakes into two hours.  But then Wahlberg and Bale convinced him to see it a few more times with a crowd, and once he saw their reaction, Ecklund was proud of how his overcoming of crack addiction moved the audience.  How’s that for a feel-good story?

Check back on February 4 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “Inception.”

Advertisements




Oscar Moment: January 14, 2011 Awards Round-Up

14 01 2011

It’s been a relatively uneventful week in the Oscar world, although it’s about to get hectic with the BFCA announcing their favorites of 2010 at the Critic’s Choice Awards tonight and the HFPA doing the same at the Golden Globes on Sunday.  (This will probably require a new set of predictions.)

So, before I get started laying out what happened, let me present to you the beginning of my campaign for the LAMMY for Best Awards Season Coverage.  Last weekend, I led the LAMBcast in a discussion of the major categories of the Oscars this year.  Hopefully you can hear the knowledge that I impart through writing with this column.  So click on the picture below to download the podcast, or you could also check it out over at the LAMB or at Blog Cabins.  (A big thanks to Tom, James, Nick, and Dylan for being such great participants!)

We have our five. If were back in ancient times (think 2008), we would have a pretty good guess at what the five Best Picture nominees would be.  The Directors Guild and the American Cinema Editors, two incredibly reliable prognosticators of the field, have aligned perfectly.  They also happen to match the Golden Globes drama category as well.  In case you need those movies repeated (or can’t decode them from the convenient graphic above), here they are:

It was a little surprising to see David O. Russell get a nod from the Directors Guild as he has a pretty bad reputation thanks to his temper.  But his story runs parallel to the second chance aspect of “The Fighter,” and the Academy could be won over by that connection.  Or, they could give him the cold shoulder and include an old winner like Joel & Ethan Coen for “True Grit” or Danny Boyle for “127 Hours.”  Unfortunately, you can’t discount Nolan for a snub either as he has been recognized twice by the DGA but never before by the Academy.

As for the editing guild, it was probably most surprising to see “The King’s Speech” (or perhaps “The Fighter”) in the field over a really flashily edited movie like “True Grit,” “127 Hours,” or “Shutter Island,” the latter of which was directed by a hallowed industry veteran.  But since they sprung for both of the Best Picture frontrunners, it just makes things all the more clear for who to look at for the win.

ASC announces. The American Society of Cinematographers, on the other hand, did not adhere to the five.  It replaced “The Fighter” with “True Grit,” which is considered by many to be the frontrunner as Roger Deakins’ photography is stunning.  He’s won twice from the society but has never been rewarded by the Academy despite an astounding EIGHT nominations.  Forget Annette Bening, here’s a deserving candidate for a lifetime achievement Oscar.

It was also quite surprising to see “The King’s Speech,” which did not have a very flashy visual style, take a nomination over “127 Hours.”  Danny Boyle’s movie had two directors of photography, one of which has won an Oscar and ASC award for his work.  But it shows a surprising amount of technical admiration for “The King’s Speech,” which seems to be an across-the-board favorite.  The only problem is that “The Social Network” and “Black Swan” have pretty much matched it step by step.  Look for “The King’s Speech” to take the most nominations simply because it will have three actors going for the gold,  but all three movies could have 10 nominations.

“The Social Network” piles it on. The movie continued its domination of the critics circuit by taking home top honors from the National Society of Film Critics.  Aside from the usual holy Best Picture/Director/Screenplay triumvirate, Jesse Eisenberg won Best Actor.  I’d still say that he could pull an Adrien Brody come Oscar night, the young actor taking down some more established contenders.

It also took Best Picture honors from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Toronto Critics, although “Inception” did take the North Texas Film Critics, who have an ENORMOUS say on the state of the Oscar race as we know it.

Fincher chimes in with his take on the race. Interestingly enough, the man considered the frontrunner for Best Director doesn’t engage in hyperbolizing his movie.  Here’s what he had to say about “The Social Network” and awards season.

“I hate the awards part of the moviemaking process…And besides, on ‘[The] Social Network,’ I didn’t really agree with the critics’ praise. It interested me that ‘[The] Social Network’ was about friendships that dissolved through this thing that promised friendships, but I didn’t think we were ripping the lid off anything. The movie is true to a time and a kind of person, but I was never trying to turn a mirror on a generation…Let’s hope we strove to get at something interesting, but Social Network is not earth-shattering.”

I think his honesty will ultimately go a long way as some people have been overdoing and exaggerating the praise for the movie from dramatic effect.

Ditto Helena Bonham Carter. I was not a big fan of Carter in “The King’s Speech,” not because I don’t like the actress but because I thought she just showed up.  I didn’t really see much of a performance.  Apparently, she thinks similarly:

“I thought it was a boys’ film … Sometimes you get nominated for the wrong things. I’m not knocking it, because I want the good roles, so if it helps me get another really good part, that’s great.  For that moment, when you’re nominated, you get offered parts you wouldn’t otherwise be offered.  After ‘Wings of a Dove’ [sic], I got ‘Fight Club.’ When you are up for awards, they remember you’re still alive.”

She will still get nominated, but it’s interesting that she’s even willing to admit the misplaced politics of the Oscar season.

“Black Swan” and “True Grit” roll. Oscar season can turn independently-spirited movies into box office smashes, and this year has two beneficiaries of this phenomenon.  “True Grit,” after three weeks, has shot to the #1 slot and has exceeded almost every expectation set out for it.  The movie will soon become one of the highest-grossing westerns ever.

And “Black Swan” has only been gaining more steam with time.  Last weekend, it only dropped 6% in the standings and entered the top 5.  With curiosity about the movie building (due somewhat in part to its high-profile parody on “SNL“), Fox Searchlight has added about 700 theaters this weekend, expanding “Black Swan” into nearly 2,500 theaters nationwide.  For such a small indie, this is huge.  It has about $65 million in its coffers now and should cruise to $100 million with more buzz coming with inevitable high-profile wins for Portman and loads of Oscar nominations.

If you told me at the beginning of the year that a movie about “Swan Lake” would make more money than a movie about Facebook, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But “Black Swan” is becoming a big audience favorite and has entered pop culture consciousness in a way that no one could have expected.  Obviously it’s a nominee, but it could be a dark horse to win the prize.

“Toy Story 3” stands resolute. The underdog everyone’s secretly rooting for, “Toy Story 3” is the one movie outside the five worth taking seriously for the win.  Thanks to the preferential voting system now in place, it could be the greatest common denominator for Academy members as there’s really no one who didn’t like the movie.  The ad campaign for the movie has been aggressive yet never hitting a sour note.  It’s the highest grossing and best reviewed movie of the year.  If it weren’t animated, it would be a lock for Best Picture.

We talk about it being “time” for a lot of things; last year, it was a woman winning Best Director.  It’s been a muted theme throughout the year, but maybe it’s time for an animated movie to win Best Picture.  It’s the most deserving candidate from the genre in a long time, perhaps ever.  It would be a well-earned salute to Pixar, which has served to redefine the boundaries and scope of animation as we know it.  The “Toy Story” series is what started it all, and its touching farewell may be the best chance ever for an animated movie to win Hollywood’s biggest honor.

It popped up as a BFCA and PGA nominee for Best Picture, but since it’s animated, it can’t pick up much steam with the guilds.  It has to glide on heart, something that is unfortunately immeasurable in the awards season.  A “Toy Story 3” win isn’t out of sight, but it’s impossible to predict.  Some jaws would drop on Oscar night, but out of those mouths would come cheers.

Golden Globe Predictions

I mean, why not?  There’s not much else to talk about this week.

Best Picture (Drama): Smart money is on “The King’s Speech,” but I’m going to stick by “The Social Network” even with less nominations and being less of a Globes film.  I think the movie is going to steamroll through the season much like “Slumdog Millionaire” did in 2008, but if it loses, then we have a fun race.  I wouldn’t count out “The Fighter” here.

Best Picture (Musical/Comedy): “The Kids Are All Right” in a landslide.  Next?

Best Director: David Fincher has won pretty much every award so far, this should be no exception.

Best Actor (Drama): Firth all the way.  Perhaps an Eisenberg upset could be at works here, which would make this an interesting race.  But at the moment, we have a clear frontrunner and an apparently clear winner.

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy): This category has been slim pickings for many years, and they bounce between choosing fluffier movies (Downey for “Sherlock Holmes“) and artistic movies (Farrell for “In Bruges”).  There are two low-brow performances here (Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp) and two high-brow, little-seen performances (Kevin Spacey and Paul Giamatti).  Big money says Depp for “Alice in Wonderland,” high art says Giamatti for “Barney’s Version.”  I’m saying they’ll meet at a middle ground and reward Jake Gyllenhaal for his great and very agreeable performance in “Love & Other Drugs.”

Best Actress (Drama): No contest for Natalie Portman, if not for it being the performance, then at least because she’s the only actress in a Best Picture candidate.  The Globes do love Nicole Kidman and could shock us by giving her a fourth trophy, but it seems doubtful at best.

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy): Annette Bening had better be practicing her acceptance speech because she’s the biggest lock of the night.  However, I’d sure love to see Julianne Moore take her down.

Best Supporting Actor: Bale takes it to cement his status as a lock to win.  Perhaps Rush if they really like “The King’s Speech.”

Best Supporting Actress: The Globes aren’t the greatest mirror of the Oscar race with their winner.  They usually skew younger, so I’m inclined to discount Melissa Leo, who wasn’t recognized here in 2008 for her Oscar-nominated turn in “Frozen River,” and Jacki Weaver on those grounds.  I’m probably out of my mind declaring this a race between Adams and Kunis, but I’m getting a sinking sensation that Mila Kunis will win here.  They gave this statue to Natalie Portman for “Closer” back in 2004 at a younger age, so I don’t think it’s all that crazy to predict her as the victor.

Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin’s script for “The Social Network” should continue its domination here, although since it does face some original scripts, it could lose to “The King’s Speech.”

What are your thoughts on the Oscars at the moment?  On the Golden Globes?  Does “Toy Story 3” have a chance?  Sound off below in the COMMENTS!





Random Factoid #532

11 01 2011

Remember what your parents told you about courtesy?  Well, I have proof that it works.

Over a month ago, I was searching Paramount’s 2010 “For Your Consideration” site and saw that an email had to be sent to one of their employees to access the scripts to their biggest movies, “The Fighter” and “True Grit.”  I’m not a member of a guild, surprisingly, so I knew it would be a long shot for me to get my hands on a copy of these scripts.

But it never hurts to ask, so I sent a polite email to their communications manager explaining who I was, why I wanted the scripts, and how I could ultimately “help” their campaign.  This was December 6.

Today, January 11, at 12:34 A.M., I received the first indication that my email had even been read.  It was a reply from the manager with no text or message, just the two scripts which I had requested attached to the email!  So even though I am not a voting member of the SAG or DGA or WGA or PGA (four voting bodies which have nominated “The Fighter”), I have the script for it AND “True Grit!”

Might I say they are both fantastic!  So it just goes to show you that an email, some courtesy, and no fear of rejection can get you farther than you expected.





Random Factoid #528

7 01 2011

Shaky cam blues?  Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote an interesting piece on their blog today; here’s an excerpt:

“Shooting a dramatic feature film with jittery, handheld shaky cam — for that imitation-documentary, ‘this isn’t just a movie, it’s reality!’ feeling — isn’t new, and neither is the complaint that so often gets heard in response to it: ‘I couldn’t watch that movie — it made me sick!’ Personally, I have to say that I’ve never once had the experience of sitting through a film shot in the aggressively off-kilter, wavery-cam style only to have it make me sick to my stomach. When you see as many movies as I do, it may be an occupational hazard to become immune to that sort of quease-inducing kinesthetic-visceral fake-out. (If it makes the afflicted feel less jealous, I can’t go on twirly carnival rides.)

… in ‘Black Swan,’ when Aronofsky employs the same technique, with the camera weaving and bobbing up the steps of Lincoln Center as it trails Natalie Portman’s overwrought bunhead ballerina, there’s nothing especially novel or precious about it. It’s an idiosyncratic style nudged, via a high-gloss horror movie, into the mainstream.

In ‘The Fighter’ (on which Aronofsky was one of the producers), the handheld mode, potent and effective as it is, starts to become something even more standard: the cornerstone of a new Hollywood house style. For one thing, the technique has simply been around long enough that people have gotten used to it. A few of them may still feel sick, but now, at least, they’ll expectto feel sick. For another, reality TV has accustomed people to the rhythm and sight and spirit of cameras trailing people in authentic yet highly charged dramatic contexts, be those subjects real housewives or the party-hookup masters of ‘Jersey Shore.'”

I’ll admit that it is becoming such a standard part of movies that I hardly recognize it anymore except when it’s made especially nauseating.  I didn’t even realize how much it was used in “The Fighter,” and I think the only reason I recognized it in “Black Swan” was because Darren Aronofsky used it to bring about some nauseating sensations.  The scenes of Nina walking were especially difficult to watch as we bobbed up and down so quickly.

Ultimately, I think shaky-cam is going to be another filmmaking tool to use, much like 3D will eventually become.  Filmmakers can use it for a variety of purposes, and indeed they already have.  Aronofsky used it to make us a little nauseated; Russell made us feel real.  Who knows how else it can and will be used?

Like we needed any sort of excuse to keep eagerly watching the development of cinema…

On another note, DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY TO WIN “THE SOCIAL NETWORK” BY PARTICIPATING ON THE DISCUSSION BOARDS ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE!





10 for ’10: Performances

30 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

It’s impossible to celebrate a year in film without mentioning the performances that riveted us.  Without further ado or fanfare, here are the 10 actors who reminded me of the power of their craft with their work in 2010.

Women

Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming in “The Fighter

My original review:
Adams, usually the delightfully effervescent charmer, plays gritty and unapologetic in “The Fighter” and pulls it off to Oscar-worthy standards.  She’s able to pull off just about any sort of character she takes, and the tenacious Charlene is different than anything we’ve ever seen her do before.  It’s exciting to see an actress nowadays who isn’t content with finding one adjective to act and then carve themselves a niche, and Adams is quickly proving herself one of the most versatile actresses of our day.

Reflection:
Amy Adams has wowed me in a variety of different roles, from her unassuming nun in “Doubt” to the ditzy princess in “Enchanted.”  Yet as Charlene, I think she may have hit the most beautiful note in her career so far with her heartfelt conversation with Bale’s Dickie on her front porch.  As she reflects on her life and her good intentions, it’s such a wonderful moment filled with every ounce of sincerity that she has to give.

Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers in Black Swan

My original review:
The best of the supporting bunch [in “Black Swan”] is by far and away Hershey as the pushy and demanding stage mom.  Such roles often become stock characters; however, Hershey takes the role in frightening and invigorating new directions.

Reflection:
There wasn’t a more frightening performance this year than Hershey as Natalie Portman’s mother.  There’s a whole lot of subtext that Hershey has to act, perhaps a whole hidden backstory as director Darren Aronofsky alluded to, and that’s usually a daunting task for actors to pull off.  Hershey shows no dust from her long hiatus from acting, keeping us scared and entranced at the same time.

Julianne Moore as Jules in “The Kids Are All Right

My original review:
It’s Julianne Moore who absolutely brings down the house [in “The Kids Are All Right”].  As the more flighty, free-spirited Jules, she wins our hearts from the get-go, even if her antics only illicit groans from her other half.  The character is very complex as she begins reeling from Paul’s introduction, exploring sides of herself she didn’t know even existed.  It’s glorious to watch Moore dig deeper and deeper into her character as the movie goes on.  She’s responsible for some of the movie’s funniest moments but also for its most effective emotional scene.  Academy, take note.

Reflection:
Throughout the awards season, many pundits have thrown out that Annette Bening’s role in “The Kids Are All Right” is the character the audience is meant to sympathize with and thus makes her the better candidate for Best Actress.  Without dragging politics into it, I found Julianne Moore’s Jules the more sympathetic character and, by the end, the only one I actually cared about.  Moore has delivered so many fantastic performances, but what makes this one stand head and shoulders over the rest is her total emotional engagement in the role.  We feel her torment, her frustration, and her confusion so profoundly because of how engrossed she is in the character.  And what she puts in, we get out of the performance.

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in “Black Swan

My original review:
The star of the show is Portman, and “Black Swan” is made all the more fascinating by how Nina’s development mirrors her performance.  Much like Nina must lose herself in the role of the Swan Princess, Portman absolutely disappears into her character.  It’s a shocking and startling transformation due to Portman’s dedication to learning the craft of ballet and her impeccable acting.  The movie stands as a testament to the fact that she is one of the best emerging actresses of her generation, and her flawless showing here deserves to be minted in history alongside the greatest of all time.  Portman gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance, and to miss it would be to deny yourself the chance to see as close to perfection as is cinematically possible.

Reflection:
Perfect.  It was perfect.

Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in “True Grit”

Reflection:
I have yet to review “True Grit,” but when I do, expect the highest of praise for newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.  There are very few actors that can spit out period dialogue at lightning speed with confidence, and there are probably even fewer that can do the same with the dialogue of the Coen Brothers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do both so well, a feat that would impress me from an Academy Award-winning actress but floors me when I consider that this is a debut performer.  At such a young age, she has a complete and total mastery of her character’s deepest desires and feelings, and such a strong presence out in front of “True Grit” makes it a movie and a performance I won’t soon forget.

Men

Christian Bale as Dickie Ecklund in The Fighter

My original review:
The knockout punch of “The Fighter” is the performance of Christian Bale, a totally authentic portrayal of a drug addict, former boxer, jealous trainer – and all simultaneously.  He doesn’t act or perform as the real life Dickie Ecklund so much as he becomes him and inhabits him.  Every twitch, every word is meticulously planned by Bale, who slimmed down from his Batman physique to play the gaunt Dickie.

Reflection:
“The Fighter” is Micky Ward’s story, but it’s Dickie Ecklund’s movie.  Bale, completely lost in the character, brings together all of his strengths to deliver what could be the quintessential performance of his career.  It shows his physical commitment, his uncompromising authenticity, and a strangely pervasive sense of heart that’s often a little rough around the edges.

Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network

My original review:
Eisenberg nails all the eccentricities of the fast-talking technological wiz, and the nuances in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg will captivate for endless viewings.

Reflection:
Who is Mark Zuckerberg?  After “The Social Network” was released, millions of people were left trying to answer the question.  Is he the savior of the Internet and the symbol of a new era, or is he the force that will inadvertently bring it down and destroy all the comforts of our former lives?  What makes this screen version of Zuckerberg so captivating is that Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t attempt to answer this question.  Eisenberg gets to the core of what he thinks is motivating Zuckerberg, going so deep that no bias or opinion can color his interpretation.  Then, he lays it all out on the screen and leaves it up to the viewer to decide who Mark Zuckerberg is.  With the magazine TIME naming the entrepreneur their person of the year, Eisenberg may have made Mark Zuckerberg the folk hero of the digital age.

Colin Firth as King George VI in “The King’s Speech

My original review:
It’s Firth’s show in the flashy role of King George, a character that must be inhabited, not just performed.  Firth nails it, getting inside every thought and stammer of the king.  He doesn’t just brush the surface as many actors playing historical figures do; he makes George vulnerable and sentimental.  Firth’s poignant performance reminds us that what we should be looking for in movies like this is heart.

Reflections:
The royal family of England always feels so distant on film, living a life filmmakers believe is so different that ours that they have to put them in an ivory tower.  Yet Colin Firth, armed with a fantastically written human being by the name of King George VI, tears their mythological status down brick by brick until his royal figure is so down to earth that he feels like an old friend.  The movie wouldn’t have been half as inspiring had Firth not brought such an enormously relatable pathos to the role.

James Franco as Aron Ralston in “127 Hours

My original review:
There’s never a dull or wasted moment to be found in the movie thanks to Franco’s sublime and enlightened performance.  While shooting on location, Boyle consistently had him act in character for 20 minutes straight and then relied on the editor to find 30 seconds to make it into the final cut.  This total immersion into Ralston’s desperation makes Franco all the more raw and moving.

Reflection:
The blasting score, fancy editing, and flashy cinematography of “127 Hours” can only go so far to make a static movie work.  It requires a dynamic actor, both heartbreaking and heartwarming, that we can stick with until the bitter end.  James Franco does just that and more as he makes pain and hope so tangible and so authentic that the movie never feels anything less than real.  If anyone ever had a doubt that we need actors more than ever, Franco’s flawless work is all that’s needed to silence any critic.

Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network

My original review:
Andrew Garfield as the upright Saverin is a force to be reckoned with, a true presence throughout the movie with his very likable charm.  For just that reason, he makes it wrenching to watch the inevitable turn when Saverin gets cheated.

Reflection:
While Zuckerberg’s prickly exterior prevents us from ever liking him too much, Andrew Garfield endows Eduardo Saverin with a sharp mind, firm beliefs, and a strong moral compass, making us fall head over heels for his character.  He’s an irresistible force on the screen, the good angel resting on Zuckerberg’s right shoulder whispering in his ear to follow common wisdom.  The movie’s emotional climax wouldn’t work if we weren’t rooting for Saverin the entire time, and when he explodes with anger, you’ll want to jump in the frame and punch the jerks who wronged him.





10 for ’10: Quotes

28 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

A single line can have so much power in a movie.  It can make us laugh, make us think, or make us cry.  It can delve profoundly into the soul, give insight into a character’s mind, provide a perfect punch of beautiful language, or be so foolish that we can’t help but repeat it endlessly.

2010 gave us many great quotes from many great movies.  Here’s just a sampling of how the power of the written word was wielded this year from 10 fantastic lines that served a great deal of purposes.


“Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster.”
– Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) in “The Social Network

“I just want to be perfect.”
– Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in “Black Swan

“That Charlene … she’s one of them MTv girls!”
– Micky Ward’s sisters in “The Fighter

“It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”
– Agnes in “Despicable Me

“This rock has been waiting for me my entire life.”
– Aron Ralston (James Franco) in “127 Hours

“It was almost as if … I had a love that was all mine.”
– Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) referencing Natasha Bedengfield in “Easy A

“You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter … because we’ll be together.”
– Mal (Marion Cotillard) in “Inception

“When the world slips you a Jeffrey, just stroke the furry walls.”
– Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) in “Get Him to the Greek

“Stop trying, SURRENDER!”
– Richard from Texas (Richard Jenkins) in “Eat Pray Love

“Thanks, guys.”
– Andy in “Toy Story 3





REVIEW: The Fighter

22 12 2010

As Mena Suvari’s teenage temptress Angela Hayes told us in “American Beauty,” there’s nothing worse than being ordinary.  In the ring of boxing movies, it’s all too easy to become ordinary.  While the latest contender to take a punch at the reigning champions, David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” is a little too lightweight to compete, it’s got some nice heart.  And as practically all movies about the sport have taught us, soul is all that really matters, right?

However, this isn’t really a boxing movie so much as a movie involving boxing.  It’s mainly a story of brotherhood, family, and pride that’s made all the more fascinating because it’s true.  As many cinematic boxers preceding him have, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) works a low-paying, labor-intensive job to make a living since his boxing career won’t exactly pay the bills.  In his corner, he has his brother, former prize fighter Dickie Ecklund (Christian Bale) who became the pride of their hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts after triumphing over Sugar Ray Leonard.  Now, he’s an unreliable mess so addicted to crack that HBO is doing a documentary on him.

Micky is in many ways inexorably tied to his family with Dickie as his trainer and his tenacious mother (Melissa Leo) as his manager.  She performed the same role back when Dickie was in the ring and often still acts like his manager as opposed to Micky’s.  She puts an emphasis on family unity, which is tough for Micky to swallow as his many trashy half-sisters are often very overbearing.  Micky’s familial concerns lie with his young daughter being raised by his bitter ex-wife and her husband, neither of which want him to have any part in her life because of his lifestyle.

Read the rest of this entry »