Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For June


We’re at the halfway mark as far as 2019 in concerned, which means that the Oscar race is about to start getting a lot more clear.  Soon, instead of random guesses, we’ll be making educated guesses.  Then again, it is important to remember that — at this time last year — no one thought Bohemian Rhapsody would score a best picture nomination.  In fact, only a few people have ever heard about Green Book.

So, as always, take my monthly predictions with a grain of salt.  They’re based on a combination what I’m hearing (and reading) from other film people and my own instincts (for whatever their worth).  To be honest, I suppose that these predictions reflect my own prejudices as well.  I’d love to see Terrence Malick honored, for instance.  I also think that it’s a crime that Amy Adams hasn’t ever won an Oscar so I have her listed, even though I fear she might be miscast as the lead in The Woman In The Window.  At the same time, I’m bored with Meryl Streep getting nominated just for showing up so I left her out of my predictions, even though she has two high-profile films coming out later this year.

To see how my thinking has (or hasn’t) evolved, check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, and May!

And now, here are the predictions!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Cats

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon On A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair & Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For May


It’s that time of the month again!

It’s time for me to offer up my early Oscar predictions!

These will be my first set of predictions since the Cannes Film Festival.  It’s always debatable just how much of an influence Cannes will actually have on the Oscar voting.  A victory at Cannes pretty much led to Tree of Life receiving an Oscar nomination and it certainly didn’t harm the chances of BlackKklansman last year.  While Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life may not have picked up any major awards at Cannes, the positive critical reception that both of those films received can only help.  The same can be said of The Lighthouse, which was shown out of competition.  Finally, the Cannes jury gave its best actor award to Antonio Banderas and, for now, that’s enough for me to add him to my list of predicted nominees.

So, without any further ado, here are my predictions for May!  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, and April!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced

The Goldfinch

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v. Ferrari

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

 

Review: The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)


The Hunt for Red October

Fresh off the success of his two previous films, The Predator and Die Hard, John McTiernan was now tasked with adapting one of the 1980’s most popular novels with Tom Clancy’s debut techno-thriller, The Hunt for Red October.

By 1990, the year the film was released, Gorbachev had thawed the Cold War that existed between East and West. The Berlin Wall was months away from being torn down and glasnost became the word of the day for most people who knew nothing but the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads since before born.

It was during the final years of the Cold War that an insurance salesman with a penchant for military and spy thrillers tried his hand in writing one. this first attempt became a worldwide sensation and was quickly put up in a bidding war by all the major studios. It would be Paramount Pictures who would win to adapt The Hunt for Red October for the big-screen and John McTiernan would be hired to steer the film.

While Sean Connery would ultimately be cast in the main role of Soviet submarine Marko Ramius, he wasn’t the first choice. German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast but ended up leaving production a coupe weeks into production due to prior commitments. So, in comes Connery and the rest, as they would say, is history.

The thing about film adaptations of popular novels has been how much of the novel could the filmmakers, especially the screenwriter, be able to fit into a film that would run around 2 hours or so. Some cutting of scenes that fans loves would have to be done and depending on the scenes in the novel, a backlash could begin against the film even before filming was completed.

Fortunately, this was Hollywood in the late 1980’s and there was no such thing as the internet as we know of it today. There were no blogs dedicated to reporting on every minute detail of a film production. No amateur film newshound bringing up unsubstantiated rumors of the going’s on during a film’s production. This was still a Hollywood who controlled how news of their activities were going to be reported and what they decided to tell and show reporters.

This would be a boon for McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October since the film had some major help from not just the U.S. Navy, but from the Department of Defense in trying to make sure the film was as realistic as possible in portraying the life of American submariners, Naval personnel and how the intelligence community in the West operated. Again, this was also with the film portraying all these groups in a much more positive light in return for their assistance.

In today’s world, such a compromise from the filmmakers to gain the help from the military-intelligence apparatus would be akin to some as perpetuating warmongering and glorifying the military. I could see blogs shouting for boycotts if such a thing happened nowadays.

But returning to the film The Hunt for Red October, for a straight-by-the-numbers thriller it still brings a certain surprise and inventiveness in the action-thriller genre that other filmmakers decades later would try to emulate (Crimson Tide and the many Jack Ryan-based films). Despite a Russian accent that really was cringe-worthy even when first heard, Sean Connery made for a charismatic and sympathetic Marko Ramius whose reasoning for defecting with the titular submarine Red October went beyond just the politics of the era.

Backing him up was a strong ensemble cast with a very young Alec Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan, James Earl Jones as his boss CIA director Adm. James Greer and Sam Neill and Scott Glenn as Cmdr. Borodin and Capt. Mancuso. The film goes in heavily into Clancy’s love for technobabble and military jargon, yet the actors involved seemed very game and convincing in acting out the dialogue that would sound ridiculous is just read without context and understanding.

While the film does sacrifice some of the more political maneuverings in the book, which meant less scenes with Richard Jordan as National Security Advisor Dr. Pelt, it does streamline the film to be more action-oriented. It was a shame they went that way in which parts of the novel to cut out since Jordan’s performance as Dr. Pelt was one of the highlights of the film, despite his limited screentime.

In terms of action, The Hunt for Red October proved once again that McTiernan knew how to handle both tension and action in equal measure. He makes the cat-and-mouse battle between the Soviet and American subs seem as thrilling as any fast-paced dogfight scenes that thrilled filmgoers when Top Gun premiered on the bigscreen.

Even the film’s orchestral score from the late and great composer Basil Poledouris would lend the film a certain level of martial prowess that Poledouris’ compositions were known for. Even after many viewings it’s still difficult not to hum the film’s Soviet national hymn-inspired theme.

While The Hunt for Red October was one of the last films of the Cold War-era that still showed the tug-of-war between the East and West, it was a fitting end to a part of Hollywood’s cinematic history that portrayed Communism, especially that of the Soviet Union, as the big go-to Enemy that made action movies of the 80’s so popular with the Reaganite crowd.

The success of this film would begin a cottage industry of sequels featuring the character of Jack Ryan who would be portrayed in subsequent films by none other than Everyman himself Harrison Ford then in a miscasting in a later sequel by Ben Affleck.

Film Review: The Commuter (dir by Jaume Collet-Sera)


It’s January, which means that it’s time for another silly action movie starring Liam Neeson.  Ever since Taken was first released way back in 2008, Liam has been a regular fixture during the first few months of each new year, either killing terrorists or killing gangsters.  Regardless of the film, he’s always a world-weary guy who loves his family and who has a unique set of skills.  The specific skills may change from film to film but they all pretty much have to do with killing people.

For instance, in the latest Liam Neeson action film, The Commuter, Liam plays Michael MacCauley.  Michael may currently sell life insurance but he used to be a detective with the NYPD.  Judging by some of the things that Michael does over the course of this film, being a detective in New York City apparently requires you to have a set of skills that one would normally associate with James Bond or Jason Bourne.  However, Michael left all of that behind.  Sure, he might still get together with his former partner (Patrick Wilson) for a beer and he still complains about his former captain (Sam Neill).  But Michael’s in the insurance game now.  As he explains it, he’s nearly 60, he’s got a teenage son getting ready for college, and he has two mortgages to pay off.  Michael and his family still haven’t recovered from the recession.  Don’t get him started on Goldman Sachs…

It sure is a good thing that Michael has that good job!

Except, of course, he doesn’t.  One day, Michael arrives at the office, is given a rather weak severance package, and is told that his services will no longer be needed.  Wondering how he’s going to tell his wife and son that their lives are pretty much over, Michael wanders around New York, gets a little drunk, and then eventually boards the train that will take him back home.

Michael is a regular on the train.  As is quickly made clear, he knows all of the other regular commuters, like grizzled old Walt (Jonathan Banks) and neurotic Tony (Andy Nyman).  He’s also still enough of a cop that he notices people who are riding the train for the first time.  For instance, there’s Joanna (Vera Farmiga).  Joanna sits down in front of him and strikes up a conversation.  She asks him what he would do if she told him that there was a bag full of money in one of the air conditioning vents but that, if he takes the money, he’s agreeing to do something for her.  When Joanna gets off at the next stop, Michael checks the vent.  The money’s there and now, so is the task.  Michael has to find and identify one passenger on the train.  If he doesn’t, his family dies…

Even by the standards of a Liam Neeson action film, The Commuter is a deeply silly movie.  However, that very silliness is the key to the film’s appeal.  After getting off to a strong start with a witty montage of Michael repeatedly waking up and leaving for work day-after-day, The Commuter settles down and it seems as if it’s going to be a typical Liam Neeson action film.  However, as the film progresses, things get just more and more bizarre.  Suddenly, Michael is getting into brutal fist fights in empty train cars.  No one in the movie ever seems to care that, every time they see Michael, he’s a little bit more beaten up than he was the last time.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, trains are careening out of control, people are getting shoved in front of buses, and men with snakes tattooed on their neck are giving Michael the side eye.  At one point, Michael nearly gets crushed underneath the train and then has to run and leap to get back on.  You find yourself wondering how a 60 year-old insurance salesman is managing to do all of this.  (The answer, of course, is that he’s Liam Neeson and Liam Neeson can do anything…)

A little over an hour into the film, The Commuter hits an operatic level of silliness, one that will probably never be equaled by any other movie that Liam Neeson ever makes.  If you stop too long to think about any of it, the movie will fall apart.  To be honest, very little of what Michael does make sense but the conspiracy that’s taking advantage of him makes even less sense.  The bad guys are either incredibly stupid or incredibly brilliant, depending on what the story requires from scene to scene.

But no matter!  This is the fourth film that director Jaume Collet-Sera has made with Liam Neeson.  None of their collaborations make much sense but all of them are entertaining as long as you’re willing to sit back, relax, and don’t overthink the logic of what you’re watching.  Much as he did with The Shallows, Collet-Sera makes good use of the film’s limited setting and Neeson is his usual grizzled but charismatic self.  The Commuter is about as silly as can be but it’s an undeniably entertaining thrill ride.

 

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Horror Film Review: Dead Calm (dir by Philip Noyce)


As I was watching the 1989 thriller-horror hybrid Dead Calm, I found myself wondering what I would do if I found myself in the same situation as Rae (Nicole Kidman)?

You’re stuck on a yacht that’s floating out in the middle of the ocean, trying to mentally recover from the death of your child in a horrific car accident.  Your only company on the boat is your husband, an experienced sailor named John (Sam Neill), and a dog who always barks at the worst possible time.  One night, you see another boat in the distance.  The boat is obviously just drifting and appears as if it might be sinking.  Suddenly, a frantic man in a row boat approaches your yachet.  He says his name is Hughie (Billy Zane) and that he’s just escaped from the other boat.  He says he’s a photographer.  He says that everyone on the other boat is dead and he suggests that it was due to botulism.  (In real life, I had to look that up to figure out what Hughie and John were talking about.  However, in this scenario, you are Rae and you understand immediately.)

John has his doubts about Hughie’s story.  John says that he is going to go over to the boat on his own and check things out.  You nod and then watch as John rows away.  Of course, Hughie was supposed to remain locked up below deck but that doesn’t last long.  Soon, Hughie is free, he’s taken control of the yacht, and you are sailing away from both the other boat and John.

“Oh my God,” I thought as I watched, “what would I do if that happened to me!?  I have no idea!”

However, I then thought about it some more and I realized that would never happen to me.  I mean, let’s ignore the obvious fact that I’m terrified of drowning and would never be out in the middle of the ocean in the first place.  I would like to think that my husband would be smart enough to say, “There’s no way I’m leaving my wife, who is still emotionally recovering from the death of our son, alone on a boat with a total stranger who might be totally insane!”  And, if for some reason, my husband wasn’t that smart, I’d like to think that I would say, “Are you fucking kidding me?  You’re not leaving me alone on a boat with a total stranger who might be totally insane!”

In the past, I’ve always defended horror movies where people do stupid things by arguing that people do stupid things in real life all the time.  But Dead Calm really takes it a bit too far.  Maybe I could buy it if John and Rae were the type of teenagers who inevitably end up working as a camp counselor at Camp Crystal Lake.  But John is an officer in the Australian navy!  And Rae is Nicole Kidman!

That said, if you can accept the stupidity of the film’s premise, Dead Calm is an effective and often scary thriller.  There’s really only three characters in the entire film but Kidman, Neill, and Zane all give excellent performances, though their work is often undercut by the stupid things that the movie requires them to do.  Once Rae is trapped on that boat with the Hughie, Rae has to both play up to Hughie’s delusions while also looking for a way to get him out of the way so she can turn the yacht around and go back to rescue John and most of these scenes only work because of Kidman’s fierce performance (though, again, that same fierceness makes it hard to believe that Rae would ever have acquiesced to John’s decision to leave the yacht in the first place).  As for Zane, he is a bundle of nonstop, psychotic energy.  When he loses control, he is genuinely frightening.  This is probably the best Billy Zane performance that I’ve ever seen.  Certainly, he’s far better here than he was in Titanic.

Still, you have to wonder why Rae didn’t just shoot Hughie with a harpoon or a flare gun whenever he turned her back to him.  There’s even an extended sequence where Hughie dances on the deck, with no idea that Rae is watching him.  Considering that, by this point, there was no doubt that Hughie was a crazy murderer, it seems like Rae could have just giving him a little push overboard.  It seems like that could have saved everyone a lot of trouble…

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Wimbledon (dir by Richard Loncraine)


(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR!  It is probably going to take her forever.  She recorded the 2004 romantic comedy, Wimbledon, off of Cinemax on February 15th.)

I wish I could play tennis.

Actually, I guess it would be more correct for me to say that I wish I could play tennis well.  I mean, I can hold the racket and I can run around the court and I can hit the ball and sometimes, it goes over the net.  I can do all the yelling and the grunting and the jumping.  I’m pretty good at slamming my racket down on the court whenever I miss a shot.  I can play the game but I just can’t win.  I’m way too easily distracted and that’s a shame because I’ve been told that I look cute in a tennis skirt.

It’s not for lack of trying either!  There’s a tennis court a few blocks away from my house and I’ve challenged both my sister and my BFF to several matches.  And, every time, they have totally kicked my ass.  In fact, now that I think about it, the only time I’ve ever won a set was because my opponent was feeling sorry for me and they had such confidence in their own abilities that they didn’t mind throwing a game or two.

(For the record, I’ve been told that, if not for my boobs getting in the way, I would have a pretty good golf swing.  But I don’t play golf so there you go…)

Anyway, I may not be able to play tennis but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy a movie about people I can.  I really like Wimbledon.  I mean — yes, it’s a totally predictable sports movie.  You know, as soon as you see the opening credits, that Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany are going to fall in love.  They’re the prettiest people in the movie so, of course they’re meant to be together!  And, as soon as you see Sam Neill’s name, you know that he’s going to be playing the well-intentioned but clueless authority figure who tries to keep them apart.  When James McAvoy’s name appears, you yell, “He’ll be Paul Bettany’s best mate!”  (Actually, he plays Paul’s eccentric younger brother.)  And as soon as Jon Favreau’s name appears, you’re like, “Comic relief!”

Of course, since the movie is called Wimbledon, you know that the movie is going to be about tennis and you know that Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst are going to be competing at Wimbledon while falling in love.  You know that one of them will make it to the finals while the other sits in the stands and provides emotional support.  It’s just a question of which one.

As I said, it’s all totally predictable and yet, that’s actually a part of the film’s appeal.  With the plot being so obvious, you’re freed up to just appreciate the film as a vehicle of movie star charisma.  Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst are two of my favorite actors and I think they’re both criminally underrated.  In Wimbledon, Bettany is playing the older, veteran tennis player, the one who is playing at his final Wimbledon before retiring.  When he falls in love with Kirsten, it gives him a renewed sense of focus and, for the first time, he finds that he actually has a chance to win it all.  Kirsten, meanwhile, is the up-and-coming star.  Her father (Sam Neill) worries that Kirsten’s relationship with Paul will distract her and keep her from playing her best and it turns out that he’s absolutely right.

Even if you haven’t seen the film, you know everything that is going to happen but that’s okay.  Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany have got a really likable chemistry.  You want things to work out for them.  You want both of them to win championships and eventually get married and have a pretty family.  Bettany, in particular, proves that he can make even the most clichéd of lines sound fresh and spontaneous.  Add to that, both Paul and Kirsten look adorable in tennis white and that’s really all that most people ask for when it comes to a film like this.

Wimbledon is an enjoyable and predictable movie, one that won’t leave you feeling depressed or questioning the meaning of existence.  It may not be perfect but it’s certainly likable and sometimes, that’s all you need.