Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shhh… It’s a Silent Movie!!!

Review: The Artist

“Silent films can weave a unique enchantment… I also love black and white, which some people assume they don’t like. For me, it’s more stylized and less realistic than color, more dreamlike, more concerned with essences than details.”Roger Ebert

That’s right, The Artist is a silent, black-and-white movie. And it is perhaps the best movie that came out in 2011 (I’m still making my Top 10 of 2011 list; look for it closer to the Academy Awards) and the favorite to win Best Picture (even though it’s a French movie, there’s no talking, so it’s not categorized as a Foreign Film). The Artist is an unheard force of artistic display, thriving on the silence of its characters, rather than being inhibited by it. It reminds me of the First Act of WALL-E in that regard; both are quiet movies that still speak powerfully to the audience.

Obviously we eventually heard dialogue in WALL-E, but in the case of The Artist, silent means that we don’t hear any character speak at all. Obviously they talk to each other, but the meaning of their unheard words is entirely inferred from facial expressions, the musical score (so it’s not completely silent!) composed brilliantly by Ludovic Bource, or the occasional text caption. Such a feat requires talent of the highest degree, and French director Michel Hazanavicius has assembled the perfect cast for the film.

In the starring role of George Valentine, a silent movie star struggling to remain relevant after the introduction of “talkies,” is French comedic actor, Jean Dujardin. Dujardin has made his way in French cinema by taking on mostly comedies, being especially known for the OSS 117 film series (essentially the French version of Get Smart), also directed by Hazanavicius. Comedies have helped Dujardin develop the comedic timing and delicately controlled facial expressions which were so key to his success in The Artist.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Forget Minding Your Manners

Review: Carnage

When the parents of two boys who got into a playground fight arrange a meeting to discuss their sons’ behavior, manners and civility fly out the window as these adults begin to act a bit more like rash children themselves. Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) are the sensitive, liberal parents of the attacked boy, who invite the other set of parents to their apartment to decide how to handle the situation. Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet) are the professional-type parents of the other son, who clearly don’t want to be there.

In fact, after the simple introductory scene when we see the boys fight, the true content of the film starts with Alan and Nancy trying to leave the apartment and the conversation which apparently has already begun. Being promptly plopped down in the middle of the exchange is a somewhat jarring way to start the film, but it helps hook us right at the start by digging into the character development and tensions which have already begun to build.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

There’s Something Wrong with that Kid!

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

So I actually got to see the compelling and unnerving film We Need to Talk About Kevin about a month ago, but I wanted to save posting the review until it received a wide release. And it finally has! So here we go! 

The movie follows Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia) as the troubled mother Eva contending with the malevolence of her even more troubled son, Kevin (Jasper Newell/Ezra Miller). We watch with dread as Kevin’s sinister nature becomes more apparent with every scene.

“It's a nightmare, and director Lynne Ramsay emphasizes that by giving the story a surreal, dreamlike spin” (Eric D. Snider). The color red floods this movie and while I generally am not a fan of such artsy flairs, this time such affect is appropriate and not overdone. The film also switches back and forth between Eva’s tormented past with Kevin and the present as she mysteriously lives alone in a house which has been recently vandalized with blood-red paint. This was a smart, effective decision as it draws us in more effectively than a solely linear storyline would have, because we even more desperately want to fill in the missing pieces.

Tilda Swinton is phenomenal as a mother who wants to live the mom stereotype, but is overwhelmed by the unexpected hostility her son develops. She doesn’t know how to respond, and as his malice subtlety grows to the apparent ignorance of all others, Eva helplessly withdraws inward, clearly blaming herself for the menace only she seems to perceive.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tinker Tailor Snoozer Spy

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Let me start by saying that Gary Oldman is one of the great actors of our time. Frankly, it is an incredible shame that he has never even been nominated for an Academy Award. However, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy should certainly not be the film to earn him one. The film is completely disengaging and uninteresting from start to finish, despite its amazing cast.

The movie revolves around an intelligence officer, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who is brought out of retirement to catch a mole hidden in the upper echelons of MI6, the British Secret Service referred to as “The Circus.” Side characters are played by such acting powerhouses as John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Hardy, and Stephen Graham. However, not even the dramatic prowess of these masters is enough to save this film from floundering about as a result of practically nothing going on.

Even Oldman is only given one truly good scene to flex his theatrical muscles; a recount of a negotiation he was a part of back when he was in “the Circus” with a Soviet who could potentially be turned. But a moment later that flashing of acting talent is but a glimmer as the film thrusts itself back into its trudging monotony.

Ever the professional, apparently Oldman spent hours going through hundreds of pairs of glasses to find just the right pair for the film. One wishes he has spent that much time reading and judging the script for this movie.

Ultimately, it’s kind of sad, because you want to like the film so badly, because it has all this Oscar buzz and because Gary Oldman is so fantastic, but there’s just nothing memorable at all about it. A trip to the real circus would have been more worth the time and money. It’s funny that I have so little say, but I guess when there’s almost nothing good about a movie, there’s just not that much that can be said.

The Final Word: Don’t even bother.