On my Day 3 of TIFF13, I had three tickets in hand for three very different movies - a police thriller (Prisoners), a French literary adaptation (Therese), and a biopic on one of the biggest blues rock singers in history (All is By My Side). Let’s get to my brief thoughts on each of them and some interesting bits of knowledge I gathered from the post-screening Q&As (if there was one):
In many ways, Prisoners is a triumph of a dark thriller film. Every character carries with them the capacity of darkness and light, forgiveness and vengeance as they live on a respective side of the puzzle; the puzzle being what happened to two little girls who disappeared the afternoon of Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. One of sides stands the two families (Hugh Jackson, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Terrance Howard) who are desperate for answers which drives them to perpetrate or turn a blind eye to unspeakable acts in the name of their children. On the other side is a disturbed young man and his aunt (Paul Dano, Melissa Leo) who may or may not know what happened to them. It is all up to a detective to figure it out (Jake Gyllenhaal).
For much of the two-and-a-half run time, the movie brims with unbearable tension, cringing suspense, and plenty of gasp-out-loud moments to carry along the unraveling mystery. Couple that with the many heavy emotional moments, the bulk and the best for me from Jackman, Bello, and Davis, the film is paced with intense beats that often throws you off guard in the best way possible.
Right from the start, in a opening scene with his son on a deer hunting trip, we are trained to take note of Jackman’s character, a man portrayed as been desensitized to the suffering/innocence of whatever he comes to consider his prey. This is important note director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowskiand drives home to make his subsequent struggles at morality completely plausible. It is only in the last thirty minutes of the movie that the movie loses momentum but the final scene that filmmaker chooses to end on is brilliant. My Grade: B
Here are a couple of indie theatrical releases I recommend for the month of September:
*Note: some of this theatrical release dates are for limited release before it goest wide; all are US dates
It’s a star studded movie (and official Toronto International Film Festival 2013 selection) that will surely examine the psychology of the two families of two missing little girls and the awful lengths they will go to find their children.
—> Watch the trailer for Prisoners here.
After his six-year-old daughter and her best friend are kidnapped, a small town carpenter butts heads with a young, brash detective in charge of the investigation. Feeling failed by the law, he captures the man he believes responsible, holding him captive in a desperate attempt to find out what he did with the girls, whom he’s convinced are still alive. But the further he goes to get the man to confess, the closer he comes to losing his soul.
Wow! Can you get more critically acclaimed main actors in one movie? Five Oscar nominees (Jackman, Gyllenhaal, Davis, Bello, Howard) and an Oscar winner (Leo). Add on top of that an up-and-coming actor like Paul Dano who has impressed me as of late with his work in Ruby Sparks and Looper. I’m betting this being a great psychological thriller, offering commentary on whether people are born evil and it remains latent for a time or if people driven to evil by traumatic experiences.
Prisoners will be released in theaters September 20th.
1. (Last minute replacement) Billy Crystal couldn’t save the hosting gig. I love the Oscars. It’s sometimes pretentious and has the rep of being a long drawn-out boring awards show, but it’s glamour, it’s grand, it represents the beauty of the Hollywood movie tradition. I will watch as long as I’m able (Oscar, I just can’t quit you!). That being said, the show has been struggling in the hosting gig for alittle while. Last year, the duo of Franco-Hathaway was cringe-worthy (I had such high hopes!). This year, I almost had a heart attack when they announced Eddie Murphy was hosting (sorry, but I think he peaked in the 90s). I was alittle hopeful when he dropped out, but then they brought in the old standby Billy Crystal. Yes, he’s a legend for having hosting (now) nine times, but the times have changed. And the academy trying to then weave in theme of Old Hollywood didn’t help any. Which brings me to the fact that…
2. The present generation of comedians were the highlight of the show. Never have I looked forward to the presentation of awards so much. Will Ferrell and Zach G. with the symbols, Chris Rock on the ease (and lucrativeness) of animation acting, and hilarious RDJ’s documentary bit. It felt like a very entertaining audition for next year’s hosting gig. Pay attention, academy!
3. Standing ovations are in. The O’s stood for Octavia and Oprah last night and derservingly so. I’m so happy Octavia won for her rich performance in The Help. To me her journey is that of the underdog. Hopefully, this will up her profile to more interesting and nuanced roles. And Oprah, well, she’s Oprah.
4. Emma Stone will forever have my heart. And the award for Most Entertaining Moment definitely goes to Emma Stone. It reminded me back when I first saw her in Easy A, how there is such a fresh ease to her funniness. I laughed so much I didn’t mind that huge ass bow on her shoulder. Hey, Emma, are you looking for a new BFF?
5. You go against Meryl Streep, you most likely will get your feelings hurt. Better luck next time, Viola. I really wished you would have won. Damn you, Streep.
6. Skipping The Artist was a mistake. Seriously, that Frenchmen is so damn charming, terrific, and enjoyable to watch even on the award show circuit. Is there anymore awards I can see him win? Since I missed seeing both The Descendants and The Artist (I’ve been busy!), I told myself I’d see whichever won as a post-Oscars treat. To the theater this week I go, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Curious about the winners, see a complete list here.
1. Let Viola Davis make all the speeches: The woman is a class act. Since the start of this awards season, she has given some of the most beautifully crafted acceptance speeches as she carts off Lead Actress awards for The Help. Her words can inspire anyone. To those expecting to win on Oscar night: pull Viola on stage with you and let her do all the talking. To all those who want to see past evidence of her powerful acting abilities, see Doubt (her one major scene defines the whole movie).
2. Maybe I should give French men a chance: Here’s a secret for you - I have an thing for European men, specifically Spanish and British men (it’s the accents!). But after being exposed to the charm of Jean Dujardin of The Artist in the last few months, maybe I have overlooked what all Europe has to offer. Bonus: I was flipping through the recent GQ and saw his debonair photo spread. Oui, oui.
3. The trio of Wiig, Rudolph, and McCarthy continue to bring the laughs: My best laugh of the night came when the Bridesmaids stars introduced their cast for the Best Ensemble In Film award. When they walk on stage carting alcohol, you already knew it was going to be good.
4. Brad and George are smooth operators: You know who I’m talking about - Pitt and Clooney. The ultimate bro-migos. I don’t think its a secret how far up on the A-list they are yet they continue to be present at award shows, even smaller less prestigious ones like the SAG awards (let’s face it, it’s not the Golden Globes or Oscars). The case can be made that they are nominated and that’s why they are there but not everyone shows up (talking to you, DiCaprio!). However, I read/hear reports all the time on how gracious they are with fans and how friendly they are with everyone no matter who you are so they are aces in my book.
5. Movies definitely trumped TV this year: Maybe I’m missing something but the only show that was nominated in any category that I actually watch is “Dexter” and “Glee”, both of which I think had lackluster seasons this past year. I totally gave up on “The Office” once Steve Carrell left. I’ll give it up to “Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family”, which I hear are fan favorites but what about “Homeland”, “New Girl”? And don’t let me get started on the injustice that is the brilliant and underrated “Fringe”. Let’s get some new blood in the mix, people.
If you are curious on the complete list of winners, see it here.
Okay, so the nominations for the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced today. Being the cinephile that I am, I have a couple of comments on the nominations in the movie categories:
1. Best ensemble cast (The Artist, Bridesmaids, The Descendants, The Help, Midnight in Paris): I’ve seen the majority of these films and my money is on Bridesmaids. I didn’t really want to see this when it came out (I contend that the trailer is not funny in the least) but this movie got me at the opening scene (hello, John Hamm). It has both appealed to the masses as well as the critics, and the casting in this ensemble was dead on. Runner up for me is The Help for the female bond the actors fostered on screen in this very important story.
2. Best actor (Demian Bichir, A Better Life, George Clooney, The Descendants, Leo DiCaprio, J Edgar, Jean Dujardin, The Artist, Brad Pitt, Moneyball). This could go either way. There are alot of favorites and repeat offenders in this category including Clooney, Pitt, and DiCaprio. Also there is alot of buzz around Dujardin. I can’t call this one but I do have one question. No Joseph Gordon-Levitt for 50/50? Or Ryan Gosling for Drive?
3. Best actress (Glenn Closs, Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis, The Help, Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady, Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn). If Viola Davis doesn’t sweep this category at all the upcoming awards shows, people need to get their head examined. Meryl Streep, beware.
4. Best supporting actor (Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn, Armie Hammer, J Edgar, Jonah Hill, Moneyball, Nick Nolte, Warrior, Christopher Plummer, Beginners). I loved Beginners, probably my favorite film this year, so I’m really pulling for Christopher Plummer getting this. And I think he has a great chance. But I hope that this sheds light on this underrated gem of a movie.
5. Best supporting actress (Berenice Bejo, The Artist, Jessica Chastain, The Help, Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer, The Help). Two words - Melissa McCarthy. When she threw her leg up and slapped her thigh on the airplane, I always died. If she was running for president I would vote for her.