Friday, November 27, 2009

McCarthy's universe in "The Road"

Author Cormac McCarthy has always had a very bleak view of our society. Yes Jordan, Please say something I don't know & multiply it by 100. I'm not sure what that means but suffice to say his novel -The Road- was hailed when released a few years back as one of the great American Novels and has garnered a wide following. If you don't know McCarthy, he's the brains behind No Country For Old Men, which in turn became a masterful Coen Brothers movie 2 years ago.

The Road (3.5/5) can only be described as Apocalyptic. Its subject is so vast and ambitious but its resonance is that of the love between father and son. The world has reached an Apocalyptic state and not many are left- Food is in very short supply, animals are completely extinct & those that are alive have become Cannibals, in search of next prey.

Viggo Mortenson is the father and newcomer Kodi-Smith Mcphee plays the son. Their bond is what sustains the movie and gives it its heart, without that bond this might as well be 2012. Not to even compare it to that film, this is a whole different monster and is the opposite of what a disaster movie usually brings in typical mainstream Hollywood. Not much goes on but everything does. It might as well have been divided into chapters, considering the numerous encounters Father and Son encounter while trying to survive, heck even Robert Duval shows up as a 90 year old wise man that comes in peace.

Although this is powerful and moving stuff, it never reaches the peak of its landmark novel. The hopeful ending doesn't feel right- especially after all the darkness that has come before it. But that's just the ending, the resonance Viggo brings is stellar and if there ever was an actor that could pull of a Tour De Force performance such as this one, it's him.

Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire

Sidibe as Precious Jones with Lenny Kravitz?

This movie will likely get nominated for many Oscars and possibly win a few in the process but is it that good? My answer would be no. Sometimes expectations rattle a movie before you watch it and this is a good case of it. No matter what people say, Precious is not worth the advance hype it is getting. Don't get me wrong, there are powerful scenes in it and an incredibly intense & scary performance by Monique -that's right Monique- but I'm not about to warm up to a movie that likes to push your buttons and demand you to immediately love it. That's what Precious is to me- A film so full of itself that it demands, no make that begs, for you to fall in its shocking traps.

Its story is that of immense trauma. Clarice 'Precious' is an obese black girl that gets verbally abused by her mother and raped by her father, in turn she ends up mothering his two kids & tries to get out of the place she most hates, home. There's a cameo by Mariah Carey- as a social worker- that cannot get passed the fact that you are watching Mariah try to act & there's also a kind of unusual focus on 'Higher Learning' as precious tries to cope with education and the hard knock life. It's staggering stuff & -at times- very powerful and real. The scenes of abuse are hypnotic because of how well staged they are by newcomer Lee Daniels, who's a natural with the camera and invokes flashbacks that have Precious dreaming of walking the runway one day as a beauty queen.

I can think of numerous critics participating in the backlash of the film- most notably Glenn Kenny, who's refusal to even see it, is a clear indicator of the intense debate that will likely rage on once Awards time comes along this January. Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe plays Precious and don't be surprised if she becomes the front runner for this year's Best Actress race -along with An Education's Carey Mulligan. It's her first movie role and -as much as it sounds cliched and repetitive- she was born to be Precious Jones. It's one thing to be on camera and expose yourself and all your flaws but what Sidibe does is play a role that is so demanding and crucial to the heart of this preciously flawed and relentlessly assaulting film.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coffee & Cigarettes

I know, I know- smoking is terrible for you and can cause major damage to your health, but it's oh so awesome and cool, especially when seen on screen. Some would say that celluloid and smoke were a match made in heaven, especially for photographers who love to have it in the background as they shoot a scene.

David Stairharn in George Clooney's Good Night And Good Luck

No kidding then, that whenever a said cinematographer or director has a chance to shoot in black and white, they make sure smoke is in the air & is clearly seen. B &W goes along great with smoke, thus it is a rare sight to have a film noir from the 40's with no smoke whatsoever. Have you ever seen one without it? Name it and I shall pull my claim. Especially THE film noir of all film noirs Double Indemnity, which climax's with a wounded character getting one last smoke from a partner he betrayed.

One last smoke in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity

Even more extreme is Jim Jarmusch's rather ill fated Coffee & Cigarettes- which was an experimental pleasure when it appeared 5 years ago in theatres. The premise was simple- short stories, told in Black and White, which involve characters smoking and drinking coffee on screen, while having oddly uninvolved conversations about philosophy and life in general. Did it work? I don't think it did, in fact it was a real bore but it was rather beautifully shot and had scene after scene of glowing smoke mixed with the rust of drinking of a cup of coffee.

Renee French in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee And Cigarettes

What's the point of this post? Well, it's definitely not gonna win a Nobel Prize, nor will it live on as one of my better exercises in Film but look at at those pretty pictures with all the smoke in glorious Black and White- doesn't it make you want to grab one and just read a book with a nice cup of coffee? If the answer is yes, I rest my case. If the answer s no, you are very strong willed. Now on with the show.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Joel Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There

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