Friday, December 4, 2009

"Brothers" & "Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call New Orleans"/ The last few weeks of 2009

There's a stunning scene midway into Jim Sheridan's new opus Brothers (C+) in which a war veteran (Tobey Maguire) comes back from a scarring stint in Afghanistan, shattered and filled with blood in his hands. There is reckless danger in the bags under his eyes and he has lost an immense amount of weight. It all amounts to a breakdown of shattering intensity that ends with his pointing a gun to his wife, brother and -ultimately- to himself. It is THE scene of the movie as well as one of the most truthful and shattering accounts of what it is to come back home after having done bloody sin overseas. Brothers -sadly- cannot live up to the hypnotic intensity of this scene throughout its running time and sometimes feels maudlin & out of sync.

Before the aforementioned scene there is an abundance of by the books storytelling that only results in -for the most part- predictability and a sense of deja vu. Jake Gylennhall plays the brother of the war vet, who falls for his wife -Natalie Portman- while everybody believes the former has died. Are you still with me? Brothers was called the best movie of the past 20 years by David Letterman this week on Late Night- Hell, its not even the best movie released this week. Its cliches are too plenty to be accoladed on any sort of best of list & although there are powerful moments, it cannot fulfill the expectations that came before it and the starry cast and director involved in an ultimately forgettable project.

Nicolas Cage raises hell as a corrupt, drug using lieutenant in Werner Herzog's remake (B+) of the 1992 Abel Ferera masterpiece. I'd call it a slight remake, because apart from the title there aren't many similarities. Although just like its predecessor, its a hell dream made in the fiery furnaces- with a knockout performance by Cage (So good and risky, he won't get nominated for an Oscar at year's end). Watch Cage Rape a girl he stops for heroine possession, watch him hallucinate about Iguana's, watch him randomly blurt out obscenities & watch him -above all- give a hell raising performance in a movie that has plot as a secondary intention & over the top lunacy as its foremost.

Cage's Lieutenant is seen injuring his back at the movie's start- which leads to a hard addiction to painkillers, which eventually leads to other pills. The Lieutenant goes into a trip from hell there on in and becomes out of control with his actions & limitless assault on society. It's a comedy, one in which Cage walks around a torn down New Orleans in search of a soul and taking care of his hooker/girlfriend. This is not for everybody and be forewarned of the non linearity of Herzog's manners with the screenplay at his disposal. This the kind of stuff that rattle the most timid of souls but for the rest of us, it is a film worth seeking- as fiery, dangerous & rebellious as any out there right now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

'00-'09: Ten Performances (Actress)

Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive)
Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
Bjork (Dancer In The Dark)

Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind)
Maria Bello (History Of Violence)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky)

Continuing with my recap of the decade is another list. This time Actresses are featured and there wasn't an abundance to choose from. Once more-women were limited in original, exciting roles & instead were overshadowed by male leads. The fact that this is happening in Hollywood, especially to women over 40 is disturbing, especially given the fact that most great actresses seem to disappear from the overall consensus once they reach that age. That is a crying shame considering Laura Linney, Diane Lane, Maria Bello and Amy Ryan -all featured on my list- hit 40 this decade, yet still gave immensly powerful performances that will likely stand the test of time.

Actress of the decade? Naomi Watts- with two knockout performances in two drastically different movies. One playing a suicidal dreamer & the other playing a mother succumbed to grief. The most surprising performance would be Bjork with Dancer In The Dark- in which her blinded character is taken advantage of her livelihood at every turn and given a true perspective of the demonized side of America. Bjork & Naomi Watts had roles that most actresses could not find this decade- filled with rage, originality & sheer boldness.

'00-'09: Ten Performances (Actor)

Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs Of New York)

Javier Bardem
(No Country For Old Men)
Heath Ledger
(Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Gamatti
Sean Penn (
Mystic River)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Adrien Brody (The Pianist)
Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast)

Here's a list I was looking forward to making and in deciding which of the ten I would choose, I knew I wouldn't be able to rank them in any way shape or form. So here -immensely thought out might I add- is the ten best Male performances I have seen this decade. Notice the omission of Heath Ledger's Joker and instead the inclusion of his gay cowboy in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (overrated by the way). That's right, I chose the cowboy over the clown -which should not discount just how good he was in The Dark Knight- I prefered the risk & heartbreak he brought to the former rather than the latter. Chances are you might not have seen some of these acting landmarks, I reccomend you seek them out. Sometimes a performance is worth the watch alone. Notice Daniel Day Lewis occupying two spots on the list & they are very well merited if you've seen his performances as Bill The Butcher & Daniel Plainview. He IS the actor of the decade and has achieved the impossible by topping his incredible performances of the 90's (In The Name Of The Father, The Crucible). Notable Omissions that I hate leaving out; Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland & Thomas Haden Church in Sideways.

"Where The Wild Things Are"

And while I admit my disappointment with Spike Jonze's latest, I find that quite a few people are mixed on this movie also. It's a love/hate relationship that Where The Wild Things Are should be having with its audience (and critics too). Me? I was bored and disappointed by the talents behind this movie and the thinness that came out of it. I think it all comes down to why would Jonze-a directorial wizard if there ever was one- take a 12 sentence children's book and turn it into a 9 million dollar 90 minute movie? I was reminded numerous times as to no matter how talented Jonze might be, he needs a good script & in his first 2 movies (Being John Malkovich & Adaptation) he had a gimme with Charlie Kaufman scribing them both.

There are good intentions here and ambition that will likely not be seen in any other kids movie this year but its attempt to get into the psych of an 8 year old is far harder to achieve than Jonze might have initially thought. The scenes involving the 'Monsters' are hardly dramatic and more atmospheric in content- which to some is a great thing but what's the point? If there isn't much story here, how can you get dragged into the film's execution? I know maybe I'm stretching it a little bit and should think a little less of its context and let myself get swept away by the majesty that is supposed to happen on screen but even if I do that, I will likely still be utterly bored out of my bloody mind. For Jonze, this is a step back but don't count him out- he's still a genius to me.

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