Scenes I Love: The Prestige


The Prestige - David Bowie

David Bowie has passed away and the world is much less brighter with his passing.

While I’ve been a fan of most of David Bowie’s music, I consider myself more of a fan of his rare appearances playing other characters in other people’s films. Whether it was as the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth, to John in The Hunger and right up to his role as Jareth, King of the Goblins in the fantasy film Labyrinth, Bowie has always made himself such a presence whenever he was on the screen.

One of my favorite roles he played recently was in the 2006 film The Prestige by Christopher Nolan. In it he played the role of the eccentric genius Nikola Tesla who gains as a patron Hugh Jackman’s magician, Robert Angier. Not as showy a role as some of the others mentioned above, but Bowie easily conveys not just tired and beaten down Tesla who by this point has been hounded by Edison for years, but also understanding that his own genius has led him to obsessing over what his intellect has come up with.

Even as he battled cancer these past 18 months before losing his fight, David Bowie continued to do what he loved. Releasing a new album this month and now he lives on in his music and up on the silver screen.

“Commencing countdown, engines on…Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.”

RIP, DAVID BOWIE

Playing Catch-Up: Spotlight (dir by Tom McCarthy)


Spotlight

Earlier today, I finally got to see Spotlight, the film that is currently the front-runner to win the Oscar for best picture.  Spotlight tells the story of how the Spotlight team, a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe, investigated the shameful history of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Starting with charges against one priest, the Spotlight team eventually uncovered sexual abuse by at least 70 priests and also revealed that the revered Cardinal Law was involved in covering up the crimes.

Having now seen Spotlight, I can say it’s a good film.  It’s well-made.  It’s well-acted.  The script contains some memorable lines.  I’ve talked to a few friends of mine who have actually worked as journalists and they have all assured me that Spotlight gets the details of their profession correct and that it’s pretty much an authentic look at what it’s like to be a reporter at a major newspaper.  There’s a lot of good things that can be said about Spotlight.

And yet, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about it.  I think my main issue with the film is that it’s just such an old-fashioned and rather conventional film.  It’s a throw back of sorts, an earnest exploration of a real-life outrage.  (Even the fact that the heroes are journalists makes the film feel as if it was made a decade or two in the past.)  On the one hand, you have to respect that director Tom McCarthy had the guts to tell his story in the least flashy way possible.  But, occasionally, his by-the-book approach is not as compelling as you want or need it to be.  Spotlight is a good film but it’s not a particularly challenging film and it’s the films that challenge us that truly stay with us after the final credits conclude.

Yes, it’s a good film but some are declaring that Spotlight is the best film of the year and I’m afraid that I just don’t see it.  There are a lot of 2015 films that will probably still be fondly remembered 5 years from now: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Sicario, and others.  When compared to those films, Spotlight feels more like an admirable made-for-TV movie.  It feels more like something that should sweep the Emmys than the Oscars.

That said, Spotlight does feature some excellent performances.  In fact, the entire cast does such a good job that it’s difficult to really single anyone out.  They come together as a nearly perfect ensemble.  (That said, I’m a bit torn on whether Mark Ruffalo came across as being passionate or merely mannered.)  Michael Keaton, especially, does a good job, embodying everyone’s ideal image of a journalist with integrity.

Spotlight‘s a good film but my favorite Tom McCarthy movie remains Win Win.

Playing Catch-Up: Clouds of Sils Maria (dir by Olivier Assayas)


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It’s a little bit disheartening, to be honest, to see the lack of attention that has been given to Clouds of Sils Maria.  Kristen Stewart has picked up a lot of awards for her supporting performance and she might even get an Oscar nomination on Thursday but otherwise, the film has been ignored and that’s a shame.  Last year, it was one of the best films to be released here in the States.

Of course, it’s difficult to talk about Clouds of Sils Maria without also talking about Maps To The Stars.  After all, both films premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and both of them deal with an aging actress struggling to remain relevant in an industry that prizes youth above all else.  The main difference between the two is that Clouds of Sils Maria is a great movie while Maps To The Stars is a pretentious mess.  And yet, when initially released, Maps To The Stars was the more critically acclaimed of the two films.

Why was that?

I imagine it has something to do with the fact that Clouds of Sils Maria demands a certain amount of intelligence on the part of the audience.  Whereas there’s neither a subtle moment nor an unexpected detail to be found in Maps To The Stars, Clouds of Sils Maria rewards repeat viewing.  Clouds of Sils Maria invites the audience to ponder its mysteries and it does so without spelling anything out.  Clouds of Sils Maria is all about nuance and, as such, it’s not exactly the ideal film for critics who make their living off of clickbait.

As for what the film is about, it tells the story of Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a world-famous stage and screen actress.  20 years ago, Maria became a star when she appeared in both the theatrical and the film versions of Maloja Snake.  Maria played the role of Sigrid, a callous young woman who seduces a middle-aged, bourgeois woman named Helena.  When Sigrid eventually abandons Helena, the older woman is driven to suicide.  Though she is now closer in age to Helena, Maria continues to think of herself as being Sigrid.

When the writer of Maloja Snake dies, Maria is offered a chance to appear in a new stage production.  However, this time, she will be playing Helena and a young American actress named J0-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) will play Sigrid.  (Jo-Ann is better known for her scandalous private life than her acting.  Moretz appears to have a lot of fun playing the Lindsay Lohanesque Jo-Ann.)  At first, Maria does not want to play Helena.  She dismisses the role as being boring and says that she cannot see herself playing such a “normal” character.  (As well, Maria is haunted by the memory of the death of the actress who originally played Helena opposite Mara’s Sigrid.)  Even after Maria is finally convinced to take on the role, she continues to insist that she’s not right for it.  As quickly becomes apparent, it’s not so much the role that upsets Maria but what the role represents.  By playing Helena, Maria will be admitting that she is no longer the invulnerable Sigrid.

In order to rehearse, Maria retreats to a remote cabin in the Alps.  Accompanying her is Valentine (Kristen Stewart), her assistant.  At first, it seems that Val and Maria have an almost sisterly relationship but it quickly becomes obvious that the out-of-touch Maria is largely dependent on Val for any information about the outside world.  (Maria has to be constantly reminded that she can google any information she needs.)  Despite needing her, Maria occasionally talks down to Val (especially after learning that Val thinks Jo-Ann is a good actress and that Val likes a sci-fi film that Jo-Ann has appeared in) and Val occasionally seems to be annoyed with Maria’s neediness.

In the Alps, Maria continues to try to learn Helena’s role and, as the weeks pass, her line readings go from awkward to natural.  Reading opposite her, in the role of Sigrid, is Val and, often times, it’s difficult to distinguish between the play and reality.  How much of Val and Maria’s relationship is real and how much of it is just a rehearsal?

Clouds of Sils Maria is a visually stunning film, one of that is fully mystery and beautiful images.  Even more importantly, it’s a film that features three strong roles for three talented actresses, all of whom do some of their best work.  Clouds of Sils Maria did not get the attention that it deserved when it was first released but it’s never too late to discover a good movie.

Here’s What Won At The Golden Globes!


The Golden Globes just ended and here’s what won the film categories this year.  (Check out a full list of nominees here.)

Best Motion Picture (Drama) — The Revenant

Best Motion Picture (Comedy) — That freaking hilarious comedy The Martian

Best Actor (Comedy) — Matt Damon in that freaking hilarious comedy The Martian

Best Actor (Drama) — Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Best Actress (Comedy) — Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Best Actress (Drama) — Brie Larson in Room

Best Supporting Actor — Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Best Supporting Actress — Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

Best Director — Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant

Best Screenplay — Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs

Best Original Score — Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight

Best Original Song — Writing’s on the Wall, that boringass song from Spectre

Best Animated Film: Inside Out

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul

 

 

“Swamp Thing ” #1 – Let’s Do The Time Warp Again


Trash Film Guru

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I could start this with a cheesy pun, I suppose, and say that when I  heard that DC Comics was planning on bringing back Swamp Thing yet again — this time in a six-part mini-series written by the character’s co-creator, Len Wein, and illustrated by Kelley Jones, who probably does the closest stylistic approximation of anyone out there to the work of Swampy’s other co-creator, Bernie Wrightson — that it sounded to me like the big green muck monster was “going back to his roots,” but I dunno — is it still a pun if it’s absolutely true?

When it was first announced, however many years back now (about five, I think),  that the one-time Vertigo “supernatural characters” would be folded back into the “proper” DC Universe as part of the “New 52” initiative, I honestly thought that Swamp Thing was the only one who could potentially benefit from…

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TFG’s Top 10 Comics Series Of 2015


Trash Film Guru

Okay, so normally I pretty much avoid “top 10” lists because I’m sure they’ll make me cringe later — and when it comes to movies there’s probably a few (at least) deserving entries that would flat-out slip my increasingly calcified and deteriorating mind — but ya know, as far as comics go, this year I think I can do it. One caveat, though : since we’re big believers in monthly (or less-than-monthly, as the case may be) “singles” around these parts, the following list is specifically for comic book series, be they of the ongoing or limited-duration variety,  and therefore you will find no graphic novels, digital comics, or anything of the like here, although I should stress that there were any number of absolutely excellent comics that came out last year in those formats — I just wanted my list to reflect my preference for “floppy” books that are…

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2015 In Review: Lisa’s 20 Favorite Novels of 2015!


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Right now, I’m in the process of taking a look back at some of my favorite things from the previous year.  Yesterday, I posted my 10 favorite non-fiction books of 2015.  Today, I post my 20 favorite novels!

All of these are worth reading and in fact, I insist that you do.  Let’s enjoy the written word while we can because the future is looking more and more like it’s going to be dominated by illiterates.

(Speaking of which, I should probably point out — before someone else does — that Barbara The Slut and The State We’re In are both collections of short stories, as opposed to being novels.  So be it.)

  1. Barbara The Slut And Other People by Lauren Holmes
  2. Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre
  3. Confess by Colleen Hoover
  4. Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik
  5. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
  6. The Green Road by Anne Enright
  7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  8. A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  9. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  10. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
  11. Asking For It by Lilah Pace
  12. Alice by Christina Henry
  13. The State We’re In By Anne Beattie
  14. The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
  15. Calf by Andrea Kleine
  16. The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
  17. Follow You Home by Mark Edwards
  18. You’re the Earl I Want by Kelly Bowen
  19. Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
  20. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Tomorrow, I will be concluding my look back at 2015 with the list that you’ve all been waiting for — my picks for the best 26 films of the year!

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Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015
  3. 2015 In Review: The Best of SyFy
  4. 2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  5. 2015 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films of 2015
  6. 2015 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2015
  7. 2015 in Review: 16 Good Things Lisa Saw On TV
  8. 2015 in Review: Lisa’s 10 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2015