Spring Breakdown #6: The Beach (dir by Danny Boyle)


Here’s a lesson for any and all aspiring film bloggers:

Even if you’ve seen the movie before, always rewatch a film before you write about it.  This is especially true if it’s been a while since you last saw the film.  Often the pressure to say whether a film was bad or good can lead to your memory playing tricks on you.

That was certainly the case with me and the 2000 film, The Beach.  For the longest time, I remembered The Beach as being a gorgeously shot but rather shallow film, one that featured one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s least impressive performances.  Whenever I had to explain my theory that DiCaprio didn’t become a consistently good actor until 2003, The Beach was inevitably one of the film’s that I would cite as proof that, early on in his career, DiCaprio had a tendency to overact.

In short, if I hadn’t rewatched the film on Saturday morning, you would currently be reading a really negative review of The Beach.  However, I did rewatch The Beach and I discovered that both the film and DiCaprio’s performance were a lot better than I initially remembered.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The Beach is still a frustratingly uneven film and the voice over narration (which DiCaprio recites in a rather overwrought style) still makes me cringe.  But still, it’s hardly the disaster that I initially remembered it being.

DiCaprio plays Richard, a privileged American who finds himself in Bangkok, searching for adventure.  When he meets the appropriately named Daffy (Robert Carlyle), a bemused Richard listens as Daffy talks about an uncharted island in the Gulf of Thailand.  Daffy swears that it’s a paradise that is populated by other travelers.  When Richard smirks and asks Daffy if he’s “fucked in the head,” Daffy responds by drawing Richard a map and then promptly committing suicide.  Richard and his two French friends, Françoise (Virginie Leydon) and Étienne (Guillaume Canet), go searching for the island.

And they find it!  It turns out that Daffy knew what he was talking about.  On the island, they discover a small but thriving commune.  Soon, Richard is killing sharks, having affairs, and becoming close to the leader of the commune, Sal (Tilda Swinton).  Unfortunately, Richard is also starting to lose his mind.  He grows to love paradise so much that he chooses ignore the dangers all around.  When a member of the commune is attacked by a shark, he’s left out in the middle of the jungle because no one wants to deal with the reality of his suffering.  Even more dangerous are the neighboring marijuana farmers, who allow Sal and her followers to live only under the condition that they keep the island a secret.  The problem is that Richard’s not good at keeping secrets.  Before he even knew if the island was real, Richard showed the map to a group of American surfers.  And now, the surfers are coming….

The Beach was directed by Danny Boyle, so it’s not a surprise that the film looks great and that it has an absolutely brilliant soundtrack.  (The film makes great use of both Moby’s Porcelain and Out of Control by the Chemical Brothers.)  At the same time, Boyle is too much of a subversive to fully buy into his film’s vision of paradise.  From the minute that Richard and his friends reach the island, Boyle is offering up hints that utopia isn’t as wonderful as people assume.  When Sal asks for a volunteer to accompany her to the mainland on a supply run, Boyle practically delights in showing everyone freaking out at the idea of having to indulge in responsibility.  Boyle often contrasts Richard’s pretentious narration (which, at times, sounds like it could have been lifted from a Beto O’Rourke medium post) with the rather mundane details of living on the island.  Though it may not be obvious from the start, The Beach works best when viewed as being a satire of middle and upper class ennui.

As for DiCaprio’s performance as Richard ….. well, let’s just say that he spends a lot of time yelling.  During the early part of his career — essentially the pre-Scorsese years — DiCaprio had a tendency to overact.  For all of his obvious talent, it took DiCaprio a while to really get to a point where he seemed as comfortable underplaying as he was just going totally overboard.  The Beach has its moments where DiCaprio gets awkwardly shrill.  (The scene where Richard talks about killing a shark always makes me cringe.)  But, at the same time, DiCaprio’s performance gets better as the film progresses.  (The scenes where DiCaprio is running around the jungle and trying to act like an animal are actually quite good.)  If DiCaprio’s performance sometimes seems shallow or histrionic, that’s because that’s who Richard is meant to be as a character.  (In one scene, Françoise even calls Richard out for being shallow and pretentious.)  Just because Richard’s narrating and is played by the star of the film, that doesn’t meant that we’re necessarily meant to like him.

These are all things that I didn’t really understand until I rewatched the film.  Maybe I was too immature the first time I saw the movie to understand what Boyle was really going for.  Maybe I was just having an off night the first time that I watched The Beach.  Or maybe my memory was just faulty.  For whatever reason, I’m glad that I rewatched this often uneven but still rather interesting film.  For all of its flaws. it was definitely better than I remembered.

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 2000s


Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 2000s.

Mulholland Drive (2001, dir by David Lynch)

David Lynch’s masterpiece may have started out as a failed pilot for a television show but, under his direction, it transformed into a hauntingly enigmatic mystery, one that is still being analyzed and debated to this very day.  David Lynch received an Oscar nomination for Best Director but the film itself was perhaps a bit too strange and unsettling to convince the Academy to give it the Best Picture nomination that it deserved.

Donnie Darko (2001, dir by Richard Kelly)

Mulholland Drive wasn’t the only film that proved to be too strange for the Academy.  Richard Kelly’s haunting Donnie Darko was also snubbed.  Apparently, we had good reason to doubt the Academy’s commitment to Sparkle Motion.

28 Days Later (2002, dir by Danny Boyle)

“Hello?”  Danny Boyle’s absolutely terrifying “zombie” film invited us to experience a world gone crazy and it pretty much convinced us that it was nowhere that we would ever want to visit.  Audiences were terrified.  Critics were stunned.  However, the Academy was unmoved and 28 Days Later went unnominated.

Inland Empire (2006, dir by David Lynch)

Needless to say, if Mulholland Drive was too strange for the Academy than there was no way that they were going to nominate David Lynch’s even more enigmatic companion piece.  Inland Empire is an unforgettable film featuring a great performance from Laura Dern.  The Academy should have nominated it for the dance scenes alone.

Zodiac (2007, dir by David Fincher)

Though it may not have been a box office hit, Zodiac is perhaps David Fincher’s best film, a true crime story that achieves a nightmarish intensity.  The film was probably a bit too dark for the Academy but it’s both chilling and unforgettable and it also features one of Robert Downey Jr.’s best performances.

The Dark Knight (2008, dir by Christopher Nolan)

I have to admit that I’m not as big a fan of The Dark Knight as some.  However, when you talk about infamous Oscar snubs, you have to mention The Dark Knight.  This film received several nominations and was one of the most popular films of the year.  When it was not nominated for Best Picture, the outcry was so great that the Academy changed the rules to allow more films to compete.  11 years later, Black Panther finally accomplished what The Dark Knight did not and it became the first comic book film to be nominated for best picture.

Up next, we wrap things up with the 2010s!

The monster from Mulholland Drive

Music Video of the Day: Lust for Life by Iggy Pop (1996, dir by Danny Boyle)


Hi everyone!  Lisa here with today’s music video of the day.

Lust for Life, which was co-written by David Bowie, was originally released in 1977 but it didn’t become a hit until it was used in the 1996 film Trainspotting.  The director of Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, also directed this video, which is basically scenes from the movie mixed in with footage of Iggy Pop performing.

Appropriately for a song that would become the theme to Trainspotting, Lust For Life is a song about heroin addiction.  (The majority of the song is told through the eyes of Johnny Yen, a character created by noted heroin aficionado, William S. Burroughs.)  Because of the song’s rousing chorus, it has regularly been used in advertisements for things that have absolutely nothing to do with heroin.  For instance, it was used to promote Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The recent Trainspotting sequel featured The Prodigy’s remix of Lust for Life.  Sadly, this one doesn’t come with a music video but you can listen to it below:

Enjoy!

Here’s The Latest Trailer For The American Release of T2 Trainspotting!


T2, Danny Boyle’s sequel to Trainspotting, has already been released in the UK, where it received good but not great reviews.

(If anyone is interested in opening a TSL Bureau in the United Kingdom, please let us know.)

It’ll be released in America later this month.  Here’s the latest trailer for the American release!

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For January


2013 oscars

Why are these Oscar predictions “way too early?”

Well, unlike every other movie blogger right now, I am not attempting to predict who and what will be nominated on January 24th.  Instead, with this post, I am attempting to predict which 2017 releases will be nominated next year!  In short, I am attempting to predict what movies and which performers will emerge as Oscar contenders over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, this is more than a little bit foolish on my part.  I haven’t seen any of the films listed below.  Some of these films don’t have release dates and others are coming out so early in the year that, in order to be contenders, they’ll have to be so spectacular that neither the Academy nor the critics end up forgetting about them.  For the most part, the true picture of the Oscar race usually doesn’t start to emerge until the summer.

For now, these predictions are, for the most part, wild guesses and they should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.  Each month, I will revise my predictions.  At the very least, next year, we’ll probably be able to look back at this post and laugh.

(Whenever trying to make early Oscar predictions, one should remember all of the award bloggers who predicted Nicole Kidman would win an Oscar for Grace of Monaco, just to then see the movie make its long-delayed premiere on Lifetime.)

With all that in mind, here are my way too early Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

All Eyez on Me

Battle of the Sexes

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2047

Crown Heights

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

T2: Trainspotting

War Machine

Again, for the most part, these predictions are a combination of wild guesses, instinct, and wishful thinking.  It’s entirely possible that none of these films will actually be nominated for best picture.  (Some might even end up premiering on Lifetime, you never know.)  Here’s why I think that some of them might be remembered next year at this time:

All Eyez On Me is a biopic of Tupac Shakur.  Assuming the film is done correctly, Shakur’s life would seem to have all the elements that usually go into an Oscar-winning film.

Battle of the Sexes is a film based on a true incident, a 1970s tennis match between a feminist and a self-declared male chauvinist.  It’s directed by the team behind the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine and it stars two former nominees, Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

The Beguiled might be wishful thinking on my part but, at this point, wishful thinking is all I have to go on for most of these predictions.  The Beguiled is a remake of a Clint Eastwood film and it’s directed by one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola!  Much like Battle of the Sexes, its misogynist-gets-what’s-coming-to-him storyline might make it the perfect film for the first year of the Trump presidency.

Blade Runner 2047 is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2017 and it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, who is hot off of Arrival.  The Oscar success of Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a sequel can be a contender.

Every year, at least one contender emerges out of Sundance and this year, it could very well be Crown Heights.  It tells a fact-based story, about a man trying to win his best friend’s release from prison after the latter is wrongly convicted.  That all sounds very Oscar baity.

Speaking of Oscar bait, Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.  If that doesn’t sound like Oscar bait, I don’t know what does.

Downsizing is Alexander Payne’s latest film.  It’s about a man (Matt Damon), who shrinks himself.  It may not sound like typical Oscar bait but Payne is definitely a favorite of the Academy’s.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s big epic for 2017.  Will it be another huge success or will it just be bombastic?  We’ll see.  The Academy has a weakness for World War II films and it could be argued that the very successful yet never nominated Nolan is overdue for some Academy recognition.  (It is true that Inception received a nomination for best picture but Nolan himself was snubbed.)

T2: Trainspotting is probably coming out too early in the year to be a legitimate contender but who knows?  The trailer was great.  Danny Boyle is directing it.  And, much as with Blade Runner 2047, Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a well-made and intelligent sequel can find favor with the Academy.

War Machine is described as being a satire about the war in Afghanistan.  Could it be another Big Short?  With Obama out of office, the Academy might be more open to political satire than they’ve been in the past.

Best Director

Danny Boyle for T2: Trainspotting

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2047

Again, there’s a lot of random guessing here.  Personally, I’d love to see Sofia Coppola receive a second nomination for best director.  Payne and Boyle are always possibilities and, if Villeneuve’s work on Arrival is ignored this year, nominating him for Blade Runner would be a good way to make up for it.  As for Nolan, he’s going to get nominated some day.   Why not for Dunkirk?

Best Actor

Tom Cruise in American Made

Sam Elliott in The Hero

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Logan Lerman in Sidney Hall

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

In American Made, Tom Cruise plays a real-life drug runner.  It sounds like one of those change-of-pace roles that often results in an Oscar nomination.  Gary Oldman has never won an Oscar and has only been nominated once.  The Academy might want to rectify that situation by nominating him for playing Winston Churchill.  And finally, Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in a big budget musical that’s scheduled to open on Christmas Day?  It sounds like either a total disaster or the formula for Oscar gold!

Logan Lerman is one of those actors who appears to be destined to eventually be nominated for an Oscar and, in Sidney Hall, he ages over thirty years.  Finally, Sam Elliott is a beloved veteran who has never been nominated.  If The Hero is a hit at Sundance, it’s easy to imagine the Oscar campaign that will follow.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Naomi Watts in The Book of Henry

As of this writing, Meryl Streep does not have a movie scheduled to be released in 2017, which means that another actress will get the sport usually reserved for her.  But who?  Jessica Chastain could be nominated because she’s Jessica Chastain and the Academy loves her.  Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul.  The Academy loves movies about British royalty and Dench has already been nominated once for bringing Victoria to life.  Naomi Watts plays a loving but possibly crazy mother in The Book of Henry, which again sounds like a very Oscar baity role.  If Emma Stone doesn’t win for La La Land, the Academy could make it up to her by nominating her for Battle of the Sexes.

As for Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled — well, let’s call that wishful thinking.  My hope is that Sofia Coppola will do great things with The Beguiled and she will get another great performance out of Nicole Kidman.  We’ll see if I’m right.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Carlyle in T2: Trainspotting

Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Experss

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Bill Skarsgard in It

Kevin Spacey in Billionaire Boys Club

Admittedly, the guesses here are fairly random but there is a logic behind each nominee.  Robert Carlyle was great in Trainspotting so he might be just as great in T2.  In Billionaire Boys Club, Kevin Spacey plays a sleazy con artist and that sounds like the type of role with which he could do wonders.  If It is to be a success, Bill Skarsgard is going to have to be a terrifying Pennywise.  If Heath Ledger could win for playing the Joker, surely Skarsgard could be nominated for playing Pennywise.

As for James Franco in The Masterpiece … yes, it’s more wishful thinking on my part.  Franco will be playing Tommy Wiseau, the director of the notorious The Room.  Wiseau is, needless to say, an eccentric figure.  Not only do I think James Franco could give an award-worthy performance in the role but I also just like the idea of someone getting an Oscar for playing Tommy Wiseau.

Finally, we have Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Express.  Why not?  It seems like someone from that film’s huge cast is destined to be nominated so why not Johnny Depp?

 

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Aniston in The Yellow Birds

Danai Guirra in All Eyez On Me

Kelly MacDonald in T2: Trainspotting

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Tilda Swinton in War Machine

These guesses are even more random than my guesses for supporting actor.  Jennifer Aniston and Danai Guirra will both be playing mothers who lose their sons.  A lot of people were surprised when Aniston was not nominated for Cake so here’s a chance for the Academy to make it up to her.  As for Kristin Scott Thomas, she’ll be playing Winston Churchill’s wife and the Academy loves historical wives (i.e., Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything).

As for the last two predictions, Tilda Swinton is listed because she’s Tilda Swinton.  Kelly MacDonald is listed for the same reason that I put Robert Carlyle down for supporting actor.  She was just so good in the first film.

So, there you go!  Those are my too early Oscar predictions for January!  Will they prove to be accurate?  Probably not.

But we’ll see how things change over the next couple of months.  At the very least, you’ll be able to look back at this post and laugh at me for thinking that … oh, let’s say Battle of the Sexes … would ever be nominated for an Academy Award.

As for me, I’ll be revising my predictions in February.  At least by that point, maybe the Sundance Film Festival will have provided some guidance…

Tommy_Wiseau_in_The_Room

4 Shots From Horror History: Final Destination, The Others, 28 Days Later, Bubba Ho-Tep


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Welcome to the 21st Century!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Final Destination (2000, dir by James Wong)

Final Destination (2000, dir by James Wong)

The Others (2001, dir by Alejandro Amenabar)

The Others (2001, dir by Alejandro Amenabar)

28 Days Later (2002, dir by Danny Boyle)

28 Days Later (2002, dir by Danny Boyle)

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002, dir by Don Coscarelli)

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002, dir by Don Coscarelli)

28 Days Later


28days

Gentle Readers, there are A LOT of bad horror films out there and I mean Halloween Resurrection bad, but when you get a truly great one, it sticks with you for your life.  This movie is more unique in that the writer Alex Garland really peaked with this film and there are IMDB credits to prove it.  Danny Boyle directed the piece and you really feel as though you were inhabiting the after-times of a dead world….well, undead.  Danny Boyle did Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 hours, but I know what you’re thinking- Did he write anything besides family films for Disney?  Yes, he made this awesome zombie film.

We see shots of terrible violence and realize that monkeys are being forced to watch it. Then, Animal Rights Activists enter heavily armed with guns and sanctimony.  The researcher begs them not to release the animals because they are infected with a terribly contagious disease and that the goal of their research is to find a cure for rage.  The Animal Rights Activists patiently listen to the scientist instead of acting purely from smug instinct, dooming us all.  Just kidding, they release one of the monkeys, it rips the animal rights activist apart, barf bleeds all over her, making her patient zero, and I try really hard not to root for the diseased monkey.  The disease is out!  Of course, many of us always knew that animal rights activists would lead to the zombie apocalypse.  Just read their twitter feeds and you’ll know that they’ll doom us all.  Fade to Black and 28 Days Later… appears as a subtitle in the bottom right….BRILLIANT!!!

Jim wakes from a coma to a dead world.  Sound familiar? Yes, TWD went beyond homage there.  He leaves the hospital to amazing details that really sell a dead London.  Empty hospital, empty streets, garbage, worthless cash everywhere, a bus is overturned in front of parliament, and an amazing score reveals a World without people.  If you’re looking for the song that plays when he’s walking around dead London during the opening –  it’s by Godspeed You! Black Emperor – East Hastings – Long Version.

HOW DID THEY MAKE LONDON EMPTY?  MERLIN!  This is England, after all.   Nah, Danny Boyle got MANY government officials to agree to let the production shutdown huge traffic arteries for 90 seconds at a time.  London is one my most favorite cities and I would love to live there and it is Europe’s New York City, therefore, imagine shutting down Times Square for filming.  

Jim gets chased by fast-moving zombies and meets Selena and a Red Shirt.  He goes with them and realizes very quickly that he was probably better off in a coma.  Jim insists on seeing his parents.  They agree to take him and he finds them suicided on the bed clutching a note that reads- “With endless love, we left you sleeping. Now, we’re sleeping with you.  Don’t wake up.” This is not your dad’s zombie movie.  They decide to stay at his house for the night, but are attacked by zombies.  Red Shirt gets infected and is dispatched by Selena.  Jim and Selena must flee.

Jim and Selena venture forth and find Frank and his daughter Hannah.  It hasn’t rained for some time, therefore -no water.  For survival, they have to leave the city.  Selena doesn’t want to go with Frank and his daughter because she sees them as anchors, but Jim insists and Hannah explains that we actually need each other. Frank plays a radio signal that beckons them to safety and they leave as one tribe.  Along the way, there are some intense scenes and some shopping.  They arrive at the salvation location, but Frank gets infected and is killed by soldiers.

Right away, you can tell that the soldiers are goofing off too much.  I have commanded soldiers and there’s some level of goofing off, but this had an air of creepiness and broken discipline.    The soldier’s have taken over a residence as their HQ and have put up defenses to keep zombies out and people in.  We quickly learn that the radio message was a trap. Corporal Mitchell harasses Selena and a fight erupts.  The Major breaks it up, but it’s clear that Jim, Hannah, and Selena are prisoners.  The Major explains that the soldiers could not face a dead world and one attempted suicide.  The Major had a plan- lure women to the compound with a radio signal.  When they arrived, they would keep them prisoner to breed with his soldiers to restart civilization. He puts it simply: women equal hope.  His logic and delivery is truly chilling in its cold mathematics.

They decide to execute Jim and a SGT who gets in their way and keep Hannah and Selena for reproduction.  Corporal Mitchell and another Soldier take Jim and the SGT out for execution to a killing field.  Corporal Mitchell wants to bayonet Jim, the other Soldier can’t handle that kind of intimate murder, leading to a melee.  The SGT is killed and Jim escapes.

The next sequence is truly amazing because we see our hero morph from the sensitive man that he is naturally to a state of feral revenge indistinguishable from the fast-moving zombies.  He’s shirtless to further emphasize his lack of civility as he makes short work of many of the soldiers to rescue Hannah and Selena. Corporal Mitchell who wanted to bayonet him and rape Selena becomes the focal point of Jim’s rage- Jim puts his thumbs deep into Corporal Mitchell’s eyes until he’s dead.  This is a critical act of monstrosity because it shows not tells in the clearest finality that there is no separation between Jim’s blind rage and the rage that has infected the human population.

I don’t want to totally spoil the ending because this film will remain with you and is a must see.  It’s commentary on violence and society is forever salient: Violence is horrific, but forced civilization is worse and will lead to the ultimate act of revenge – THUMBS IN YOUR EYEBALLS or some such equivalent.  The other important lesson the film tries to inculcate is to beware of self-certain sanctimonious people because their grandiosity could doom us all.