REVIEW: Nocturnal Animals

4 12 2016

Did I outsmart “Nocturnal Animals,” or is it just a fairly surface-level psychological thriller? Both – or neither – may be true. But the longer I sat watching Amy Adams’ Susan Morrow taking in the manuscript of her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Edward Sheffield, the more I wondered if this was really it.

Director and adapter Tom Ford names both Kubrick and Hitchcock as influences on the film, and it shows in his meticulous attention to the organization of the frame and the calibrated cutting between them, respectively. He deftly cross-cuts between three storylines: the events leading up to the relationship fissure between Susan and Edward, the visualization of Edward’s novel that blows up the essence of their acrimonious split into a Western revenge tale centered around the taunting and torturing of an emasculated family man, and then Susan reading the text and carrying the weight of those words through her jaded days as a Los Angeles art dealer in decline. When the biggest problem is selling the 36-year-old Gyllenhaal and 42-year-old Adams as old enough to have been split for 20 years, that’s a good sign that a lot is working correctly.

But once the connection becomes clear that the novel is a roman à clef about the effects of the divorce on Edward, the pressure mounts for “Nocturnal Animals” to do something more with its intertwined narrative. For the most part, Ford keeps it fairly straightforward. The beautiful surfaces do say so much about the characters, particularly Susan’s sterile, well-coiffed home and wardrobe that reflect the belying calm facade she presents to the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




REVIEW: A Single Man

8 02 2010

The protagonist of “A Single Man,” George Falconer (Colin Firth), often references moments of clarity, in which he is able to forget the pain of his past and live in the present.  Director Tom Ford does an excellent job of highlighting these moments, and it is here where his first film absolutely glitters.  He has made a movie that stands as one of the most thoroughly beautiful aesthetic achievements in years.  And it isn’t beautiful just to be beautiful – Ford uses all these elements to subtly alert us to the true mood of the scene, but it’s never so subtle that the message is unattainable.

Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the film’s events take place on what very well could be the last day of George Falconer’s life.  He has had to mourn the death of his longtime lover Jim (Matthew Goode) in private, thus making him a ticking time bomb of grief, ready to self-destruct at any instant.  George passes through life as little more than a specter, a mere shadow of the charismatic man that once walked in the same loafers.  On this day, no one even seems to suspect anything out of the ordinary.

We follow George as he meticulously attempts to finish his business.  He teaches his english class to a largely insipid and bored college class – with the exception of Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who seems to take an interest not only in the thematic relevance of the class to the real world, but also in George himself.  He has dinner with his old friend Charley (Julianne Moore), a woman with a high capacity for alcohol and heartbreak.  Yet in the midst of all this, life (or some might call it fate) keeps giving him reminders of why we live.  These fleeting instances of rapture are brilliantly captured by Ford’s lens, and they especially stand out against the bleak canvas of George’s life.

Read the rest of this entry »





Shameless Advertisement #5 – December

1 12 2009

Well, December is finally here!  Bring on the Oscar movies … and plenty of other fun movies!

There was another pretty good turnout for this poll.  In a tie for second place were “The Princess and the Frog,” “Avatar,” “It’s Complicated,” and “Invictus.”  Unfortunately, the runners-up get nothing except a link to their trailers.

There was also a tie for first place.  Rather than prominently feature “Up in the Air” for the third time, I decided to spread the wealth. So the winner, and the readers’ of “Marshall and the Movies” most anticipated movie of December 2009 is…

Read the rest of this entry »





Oscar Moment: “A Single Man”

13 11 2009

Today’s “Oscar Moment” is brought to you by the movie “A Single Man,” adapted from a decades-old novel by Christopher Isherwood (if that sounds like the closing of “Sesame Street,” excuse my tardiness of honoring the show’s 40th anniversary).  The movie could follow a similar awards season road to “Slumdog Millionaire.”  Both were discovered at film festivals, got a distributor, and began attracting much Oscar talk.  “A Single Man” burst onto the scene at the Venice Film Festival, where Colin Firth took home the prize for Best Actor.  He has since become a frontrunner in the Best Actor race at the Oscars.  But Firth is not the only part of the movie getting attention.  Julianne Moore has gained some traction in a tight Best Supporting Actress race, and Tom Ford, former fashion designer (something I know only from a quick Google search), has won raves for his first film.

From watching the trailer, after the shock of watching a montage filled with Ford’s distinct, visually arresting style, you probably are asking, “This looks good, but what is this movie about?”  The movie centers around middle-aged homosexual British professor George Falconer (Firth) and him reeling from the death of his partner, Jim (Matthew Goode, “Watchmen”).  It follows him over the course of a day, consoled by close friend Charley (Moore), as he tries to discover if life is worth living without Jim.

It is a tight Best Actor field this year, with heavyweights such as Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jeff Bridges in contention.  Yet most people seem to think that Firth is safe for at least a nomination.  He is a likable actor, never demanding much attention, and making missteps in only the quietest of fashions.  Although many people seem to have postulated that the Academy is very homophobic from its snub of “Brokeback Mountain,” the Best Actor prize went to Sean Penn for playing homosexual San Francisco mayor Harvey Milk last year.

Moore perhaps faces even stiffer competition in Best Supporting Actress.  Mo’Nique is a lock (which I can now testify to from seeing the movie).  Barring a complete flop of “Nine,” at least one actress will get in, if not two.  “Up in the Air” has two strong candidates in the category, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga.  “The Lovely Bones” could also has two potential nominees with past winners Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon.  I don’t think Moore is a certainty by any means, but I must keep in mind that I have not seen her performance in the movie.  But she is a four-time nominee, and maybe it is her time.  We all know how desperate the Academy was to award Kate Winslet last year after five times coming up empty on Oscar night, even willing to commit category fraud to give it to her.

As for the Best Picture/Director duo, it seems to be less likely than the two actors.  The film’s subject matter could likely hurt it – I say this not because of my own personal beliefs but because there exists a large faction of old white men in the Academy opposed to homosexuality.  I think the triumph of “Milk” last year shows significant progress, but nonetheless, this homophobia still exists, even if in vestiges.  Without the expansion of the field of Best Picture nominees, I don’t think this would have a chance.  But I think “A Single Man” lurks at the bottom of the ten or just outside of it.  If one of the heavyweights like “Invictus” or “The Lovely Bones” underwhelms, I think “A Single Man” could sneak in and steal a spot.  As for director Tom Ford, I am quite skeptical about his chances.  While the trailer shows an appealing stylistic approach, this cannot cover the fact that this is Ford’s first film.  It is fairly rare for a director to earn a nomination for their first project, and in such a strong year for directors, I think Ford will get lost in a crowd of big names like Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron.

I feel like I close every “Oscar Moment” on the same note: “I don’t care if it gets nominated, this looks good enough to get me to a theater!”  The same goes for “A Single Man,” which opens in limited release on December 11 and will gradually expand across the country as awards season progresses.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Supporting Actress (Moore), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Ford)