Embracing the Melodrama Part II #115: Revolutionary Road (dir by Sam Mendes)


Revolutionary_roadI have such mixed feelings about the 2008 film Revolutionary Road.

As you may remember, Revolutionary Road got a lot of attention because it reunited the Titanic lovers, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.  In Revolutionary Road, they would be playing the type of married couple that we all know Jack and Rose would have become if the boat hadn’t hit that iceberg.

Revolutionary Road also got a lot of attention because it was directed by Sam Mendes and it was a return to the “suburbs-as-Hell” genre of filmmaking that won Mendes an undeserved Oscar for his work on American Beauty.

And finally, Revolutionary Road was based on a 1961 novel by Richard Yates that had originally been declared to be unfilmmable.  After decades of being optioned and then abandoned, Revolutionary Road was finally coming to the screen.

With all that in mind, a lot of critics expected that Revolutionary Road would be one of the best films of the year.  When the film itself was finally released, there were a few ecstatic reviews.  There were predictions of Oscar glory.  But, for the most part, both audiences and critics had a somewhat muted reaction.  The film itself simply did not live up to all of the build up.

That said, Kate Winslet gave a great performance.  In the role of aspiring actress-turned-housewife-turned-prisoner April, Winslet gives a fierce and tragic performance.  The film revolves around April’s struggle to live her own life and pursue her own ambitions in a world that continually tells her that she should simply be happy and content to have a husband, two children, and a house in the suburbs.  When April describes her life as being full of “hopeless emptiness,” we all know exactly what she’s talking about.

Leonardo DiCaprio was a bit less convincing as her husband, Frank.  Then again, that’s not really a surprise.  DiCaprio is always at his worse whenever he has to play a “normal” character.  His screen presence is too off-center for him to be believable as a suburban conformist.  It was obviously good publicity to reunite DiCaprio and Winslet but that doesn’t change the fact that Leo is totally miscast.  Whenever Frank and April fight, Kate Winslet seems to be screaming from her very soul while DiCaprio is just shrill.  Admittedly, Frank is meant to be a shallow character but that doesn’t justify a shallow performance.

Throughout the film, Frank and April are constantly nagged by their real estate agent, Helen Givings (Kathy Bates).  Whenever Helen drops by the house, she goes “Yoo hoo!” in the shrillest way possible and the audiences is reminded that Sam Mendes is not a particularly subtle director.  That willingness to go over-the-top made him the perfect director for Skyfall but, in both American Beauty and this film, it just leads to some talented actors giving very bad performances.

Helen’s son, John (Michael Shannon), has one of those cinematic mental illnesses, the type that gives him the power to explicitly state each scene’s subtext.  John is also one of those overly theatrical characters who works a lot better as a literary conceit than as an actual character.

And really, I guess that sums up why I have never liked Revolutionary Road as much as I wanted to.  The film works whenever it focuses on Kate Winslet, precisely because she gives such a heartfelt and naturalistic performance.  However, at the same time, Winslet is so good that she exposes how artificial and theatrical the rest of the film is.  If only the rest of the production had followed Winslet’s lead, Revolutionary Road could have been something great.

For all the pre-release Oscar hype, Revolutionary Road was largely ignored when it came to the Academy Awards.  Michael Shannon received a surprise nomination for best supporting actor but otherwise, the film was snubbed.  Kate Winslet, however, did finally win an Oscar that year when she picked up the Best Actress award for her performance in The Reader.

What If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking on this sentence.

Meanwhile, my picks for last year can be seen by clicking on this sentence.

Best Picture

Best Picture

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

Bernie

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

The Master

Silver Linings Playbook

Skyfall

Ang Lee

Best Director

Drew Goddard for The Cabin In The Woods

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Richard Linklater for Bernie

Quinton Tarantino for Django Unchained

Joe Wright for Anna Karenina

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Best Actor

Jack Black in Bernie

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

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Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Greta Gerwig in Damsels in Distress

Kiera Knightley in Anna Karenina

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

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Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained

Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Zoe-Kazan-in-Ruby-Sparks-e1348740167495

Best Supporting Actress

Rebecca De Mornay in Mother’s Day

Dame Judi Dench in Skyfall

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Zoe Kazan in Ruby Sparks

Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz

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Best Original Screenplay

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Ruby Sparks

Take This Waltz

Bernie Bearing Gifts

Best Adapted Screenplay

Anna Karenina

Argo

Bernie

Life of Pi

Silver Linings Playbook

"BRAVE"

Best Feature-Length Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Paranorman

Pirates!  Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

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Best Foreign Language Film

Barbara

Headhunters

The Raid: Redemption

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Ai Weiwei never sorry film

Best Documentary Feature

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

The Central Park Five

First Position

The Queen of Versailles

2016: Obama’s America

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Best Original Score

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Brave

The Dark Knight Rises

For Greater Glory

The Master

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Best Original Song

“For You” from Act of Valor

“Yo No Se” from Casa De Mi Padre

“The Sambola! International Dance Craze” from Damsels in Distress

“Ancora Qui” from Django Unchained

“Abraham’s Daughter” from The Hunger Games

“The Baddest Man Alive” from The Man With The Iron Fists

“Razor’s Out” from The Raid: Redemption

“Big Machine” from Safety Not Guaranteed

“Skyfall” from Skyfall

“Anything Made Out of Paper” from West of Memphis

Les Miserables 

Best Sound Editing

Chronicle

The Dark Knight Rises

End of Watch

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Les Miserables2

Best Sound Mixing

Chronicle

End of Watch

Killing Them Softly

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Anna Karenina

Best Art Direction

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

The Cabin In The Woods

Cosmopolis

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Best Cinematography

The Hobbit

Lawless

Life of Pi

Moonrise Kingdom

Skyfall

looper

Best Makeup

The Hobbit

The Hunger Games

Les Miserables

Lincoln

Looper

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Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina

Django Unchained

The Hunger Games

Lincoln

Moonrise Kingdom

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Best Film Editing

Anna Karenina

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Silent House

Life of Pi

Best Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises

Life of Pi

Looper

Men In Black 3

List of Films By Number of Nominations

8 Nominations — Django Unchained

7 Nominations — Anna Karenina

6 Nominations — Les Miserables, Life of Pi, The Master, Skyfall

5 Nominations — The Cabin In The Woods, Silver Linings Playbook

4 Nominations — Bernie

3 Nominations — The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, Lincoln, Take This Waltz

2 Nominations — Brave, Chronicle, Damsels in Distress, End of Watch, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone

1 Nomination —Act of Valor, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Argo, Barbara,  Beasts of the Southern Wild, Casa De Mi Padre, The Central Park Five, Cosmopolis, First Position, For Greater Glory, Frankenweenie, Headhunters, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Looper, The Man With The Iron Fists, Men In Black 3, Mother’s Day, The Pirates! Band of Misfits , The Queen of Versailles, A Royal Affair, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, Silent House, 2016: Obama’s America, West of Memphis, Wreck-It Ralph

List of Films By Oscars Won

2 Oscars — Anna Karenina, Brave, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi

1 Oscar — Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Bernie, The Cabin In the Woods, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Take This Waltz

And here are The Independent Spirit Nominations


The Gotham Awards aren’t the only awards regularly given to films that the majority of filmgoers will never get to see.  The Independent Spirit Nominations are also dedicated to recognizing the best of independent film and they tend to get a bit more attention than the Gothams.  With the early Oscar talk being dominated by mainstream studio films like Argo, Lincoln and Les Miserables, indie films like Bernie and Moonrise Kingdom are going to need all of the help that they can get.

BEST PICTURE

Bernie

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Keep The Lights On

Moonrise Kingdom

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SCREENPLAY

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks

Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Fill the Void

Gimme the Loot

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sound of My Voice

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void

Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed

Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank

Rashida Jones & Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever

Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – (for features under $500,000)

Breakfast with Curtis

Middle of Nowhere

Mosquita y Mari

Starlet

The Color Wheel

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Linda Cardellini, Return

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

BEST MALE LEAD

Jack Black, Bernie

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Thure Lindhardt, Keep the Lights On

Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

Wendell Pierce, Four

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister

Ann Dowd, Compliance

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice

Lorraine Toussaint, Middle of Nowhere

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

David Oyelowo, Middle of Nowhere

Michael Péna, End of Watch

Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths

Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Yoni Brook, Valley of Saints

Lol Crawley, Here

Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Roman Vasyanov, End of Watch

Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST DOCUMENTARY

How to Survive a Plague

Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present

The Central Park Five

The Invisible War

The Waiting Room

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Amour (France)

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Turkey)

Rust And Bone (France/Belgium)

Sister (Switzerland)

War Witch (Democratic Republic of Congo)

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Nobody Walks, Alicia Van Couvering

Prince Avalanche, Derrick Tseng

Stones in the Sun, Mynette Louie

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Pincus, director David Fenster

Gimme the Loot, director Adam Leon

Electrick Children, director Rebecca Thomas

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (given to emerging documentary filmmaker)

Leviathan, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

The Waiting Room, director Peter Nicks

Only the Young, directors Jason Tippet & Elizabeth Mims

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (for ensemble cast)

Starlet Director: Sean Baker Casting Director: Julia Kim Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone