Moneyball

I don't really know why it took such a long time for Benneth Miller to make another movie, especially after the triumph that he had with Capote -which dates back to 2005. That's more than 6 years between that film and his newest one Moneyball. I like Capote. It was shot in an incredibly cinematic way and had a great true story to boot. The same can be said of Moneyball which is based on Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane's incredible story, Beane basically reshaped the game of baseball with his sabermetrics system- an original way of drafting and trading his team's players through a computer generated system that some would call a number's game and other's complete bull and sheer luck. I'm with the numbers people. Anyone who loves numbers will probably dig this movie in the way it says the answers lie in the numbers than in the actual game itself. Purists be damned but it's a hell of a ride.

Steven Sodebergh was originally slated as director before he had creative differences with the film's producers. Then came Miller who brings a real sense of vitality to the film. He shoots every frame with the precise markings of a veteran. Sodebergh has kept his screenplay credit but the two main writers here are Aaron Sorkin -The Social Network script wiz- and Steve Zaillan. Sorkin is all over this one. His wit and brash "I'm too good for you" dialogue has not always had me at hello but he does more good than bad with this one. Brad Pitt plays Beane and he is just great, in fact an Oscar nomination awaits Pitt, Jonah Hill as Beane's wiz kid assistant brings incredibly sly comic relief and might get recognized too and wait until you see Phillip Seymour Hoffman as A's Manager Art Howe, he steals every scene he's in. The film is too long at close to 133 minutes -one too many fase endings- and the stuff with Beane, his troubled marriage and his only daughter is the kind of stuff that would have been left off if this wasn't a major studio release. Flaws and all this is the kind of movie Hollywood rarely makes these days, it takes its time to develop fleshed out characters and has incredibly detailed, nuanced scenes.

Midnight In Paris



It took me a while to write about this film but sure enough here I am discussing Woody Allen's frothy, latest picture. A small delight really. It actually pains me to think that this film could get an Oscar Nomination for Best Picture because it really does it an injustice. Midnight In Paris IS in fact Allen's best film since .. I'm not sure when but it's such a small treat that awards seem such a distance away. The present day setting is a dud but the middle is such a transporting treat, in fact I'd go as far as to say that its middle -which has our main protagonist time travelling to a Paris of the 20s and meeting such iconic figures as Gertrude Stein and Hemingway- is the most transporting hour and change of film I've seen all year. Really, Allen just dazzles us with the period setting and he seems much more at home than in the present day sequences, which feel forced and almost trivial. I think this says a lot about Allen's output of late. He has struggled to find a comfort in the present day stories he has presented to us over the past 15-20 years . It seems that it is only when he goes back in time that he actually finds his niche and musings. Allen has played with the past before, his 1985 gem The Purple Rose Of Cairo -part of his incredible run of great movies in the 1980s- was a heartfelt tribute to cinema and its power. Midnight In Paris is Allen back at home and in familiar ground, looking to the past just like he did in Cairo and Radio Days to bring his own self referential humor and grace. I wouldn't out this one near any "Best Picture" category but it's a light and fluff treat at the theatres. I think one of the reasons many critics have gone gaga over this one is because it is Woody and it is an actualy "Good" movie. However, I'd look at his 2001 underrated gem The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion which represents good, modern day Woody and is just as good as this one.

Festival De Nouveau Cinema - Entry # 1



It's always a blast to cover this film fest and just like I did last year, I'll be updating this blog many times in the next few days with my take on some of the hottest titles playing in Canada's oldest film fest, Montreal's Le Festival De Nouveau Cinema. In fact the film fest hasn't even started yet but I was given a few screener DVDs to wet my appetite. At this year's fest I hope to get the same treats as I got last year. Every film fest has its fair share of surprises and this year's edition should be no exception.

The first film I saw was Nadav Lapid's Policeman, an Israeli film that knocked me out for a loop. The film tells of two stories. The first half has to do with Yaron, a hard working Israeli Police Officer with a pregnant wife and a sense of unequivocal fraternity amongst his unit. The second half of the movie is more political - a group of five young Left wing radicals decide to start a revolution to protest the vast difference between Israel's Rich and Poor societies. They want to create a new order in a country they see decimated by poverty. Both stories come together and converge into a thoughtfully carried out finale that consequentially ups the tension a notch. Also showing at the prestigious New York Film Festival, Lapid's film is one like no other. He shoots it with a bracing poet's eye, choosing the right shots and experimenting with the style a little. Here's a small budget movie made into a grandiose cinematic statement, I wouldn't be surprised if more people hear about it in the months to come.

Actress turned director Sarah Polley's followup to her -in my books overrated but- critically acclaimed 2006 debut Away From Here starts off in the same vein as her previous picture, simplistic storytelling and a narrative that doesn't really give us anything new but .. it changes in its last third into a kind of vision I never thought Polley had in her. Take This Waltz is a flawed picture that takes more than its fair share of chances as it goes along. Michelle Williams' Margo is married to a lovable shlub played by Seth Rogen yet she's not contently happy and almost taken aback when she meets the next door neighbour on a business trip and strikes a forbidden chord with him. You know a movie is doing something right when you can relate to some of its characters. The questions Polley raises are valid. Is love enough and worth keeping more than isolated sexual pleasure? Does desire trump love? Williams gives her usual impeccable performance and Rogen is not bad in one of his first dramatic roles. It's a film at war with itself, a kind of schizo mess that doesn't always work but takes chances that make it worth checking out. I think Polley is headed into the right direction but she's still a work in progress.

The Ides Of March

Sometimes the best political thrillers are the ones that strip away the politics for something else surprising and .. cinematic ! The George Clooney directed The Ides Of March is such an example except it never fully realizes what it sets out to do. The schizophrenic pace that Clooney conceives here left me thinking that the writer-director-actor did not really know what kind of movie he really wanted to make. It does have some well made suspense running thought its tightly nit 96 minute running time and excellent performances from a truly talented cast that includes the great Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti yet I felt like something was missing. Clooney, never one to shy away from political opinion, takes no prisoners in his account of how torridly corrupt the political process and its players are. Is this news? don't we already know all this? Only the most naive and gullible of people would find all of this surprising. Clooney hammers his message down our throats so much that he commits missteps along the way by devising plot twists that don't make the entire film's potential come through.

Political thrillers have a way to truly suck me into their stories, this one did that at times but not enough to truly call it a solid movie. Clooney has already shown us he's a good director with his Journalism school staple Good Night and Good Luck earning him a few Oscar noms in 2005. In this film he modifies the stylistic approach he brought to that film for a more 70's look. It's no surprise then that he's to have taken some of the classics of that period in time as influences when making this film. His intentions are in the right place yet the story isn't substantial enough to warrant an extraordinary reaction from critics and audiences. The Oscar hopes that were set for the film way back since its initial premiere at the Toronto Film Festival seem to have been pre-matured and not exactly in the right place. Don't get me wrong it's an intriguing project but it didn't live up to its potential.

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