Posts Tagged ‘The Artist’

Robert Redford: Cast Away


by Glenn Lovell

As usual we had a few quibbles with the Academy Award nominations, like where were “Fruitvale Station,” “Don Jon” and Adèle Exarchopoulos in “Blue Is the Warmest Color”? Our biggest gripe, however, was the exclusion of Robert Redford in the best actor category for his work in the powerful survival drama “All Is Lost.” After experiencing Redford’s career-capping tour de force as a lone sailor adrift in the Indian Ocean, I would have bet the farm (or yacht) that he had a lock on a nomination, if not the trophy itself.


Redford: Abandoned

Not only was it the best performance in Redford’s long, storied career, it provided a master’s class in lean, economical under-acting. Redford’s stolid mariner blazed like a beacon in the night beside the more conventional scenery chewing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey.

But in the end this didn’t mean diddly to Academy voters who snubbed both the film and its 77-year-old star. Why? A few possible answers:

√ What’s in a Name? Everything! There are memorable titles, like “Scream” and “Psycho” and soft, impossible to recall titles, like “You Again” and “To the Wonder.” Redford’s latest was saddled with a title so pedestrian it went in one ear and out the other, precluding word-of-mouth.

√ The Fogey Factor. Hollywood has always had a soft spot for veteran actors who hang in there and eventually sneak off with the hardware. Christopher Plummer won at age 82, Henry Fonda at 76. But the Academy’s sentimental streak goes only so far. It was easy to overlook the erstwhile golden boy because the voters had already embraced “Nebraska” costars Bruce Dern, 77 and June Squibb, 84.

√ Yesterday’s Snooze. “All Is Lost” played all the major film festivals, including Cannes in May, before receiving limited release in October. By the time “Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle” arrived, “Lost” was all but forgotten. It didn’t help that the film had no advertising budget to speak of.

√ Simple Spells Simple-Minded. The barebones man-against-the-sea plot was exhilarating to some but too basic for most. Just a cursory description of the film turned off Academy members, who stuck their complimentary “for your consideration” screener at the bottom of the pile.

√ Silence Is Golden ‒ in small doses. Just two years ago Hollywood awarded Jean Dujardin the best actor statuette for his silent performance in “The Artist.” Like Redford, he had only one line of dialogue. Enough already with the pantomimed emoting, grumbled voters. Even lost in space, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney gabbed away.

√ The Outsider Factor. As founder of Sundance Film Festival, which curries and honors independent cinema, Redford can be seen as the ultimate maverick. It stands to reason he has stubbed a front-office toe or two when weighing in on where the year’s hot new indies should land.

Best, Worst, Most Disappointing of 2011


by Glenn Lovell

For those of us who spent a good part of the year in the dark — blinking through as many as four or five films a week – the news that annual ticket sales were at a 16-year low hardly came as a shock. Half the time Hollywood seemed to be in a haze, the other half running scared, cranking out one CG-driven escape after another. It got so bad during the summer months that titles and alternate universes blended. Did I experience that rogue planet in “Thor” or “Green Lantern” … or “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”?

Of course it didn’t help matters that in 2011 we had more alternatives to the tiresome, cell-phone-friendly megaplexes than ever before. I lost count of the number of films I discovered on PPV, a week or two before they were reviewed in the local paper. Add to this streaming Netflix, a boon to adventurous souls looking for interesting indies that somehow went without distribution. (This is how I discovered South Korea’s tricky “I Saw the Devil,” Italy’s rapturous “Come Undone,” and, from 2008, the French-U.S.-Mexican “Julia,” starring Tilda Swinton as the most unrepentant drunk since Nicolas Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas.”)

Not surprisingly, the best films were the smallest, in terms of budget not originality. In no particular order, the titles that reawakened my passion for flickering celluloid:

The Best ... "The Artist"

1. “The Artist.” A clever homage to silent Hollywood, circa 1927, that beseeches, “Open your eyes – and listen!”

2. “Win Win.” A low-budget charmer starring Paul Giamatti at his rumpled best. (The sadly overlooked “Terri” could easily share this spot.)

3. “The Help.” Sure it’s slick, old-fashioned storytelling, but Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett bestseller about segregation in 1960s Mississippi proved the year’s most engrossing melodrama. Expect scads of Oscar nominations, starting with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain.

5. “The Debt.” A rich, multilayered mystery-espionage thriller that commented on the nature of courage. Helen Mirren and Chastain played the same women separated by 30 years of lies ‒ and a nasty facial scar.

6. “Melancholia.” Lars von Trier’s meditation on encroaching Armageddon, when madness proves the only sane response.

7. “Drive.” A retro crime thriller – Jean-Pierre Melville meets “Bullitt” starring the new King of Cool, Ryan Gosling.

8. “Limitless.” Like Alice, Bradley Cooper pops a pill for the ultimate out-of-body experience. Credit director Neil Burger for the year’s most novel sci-fi allegory, told with just the right blend of humor and suspense.

9. “Shame.” The seemingly everywhere Michael Fassbender in a dark, stripped-down tale of guilt and addiction. Academy, when filling out your nomination ballots, don’t forget Carey Mulligan as Fassbender’s even needier sister.

10. “The Descendants.” Alexander Payne’s long overdue follo to “Sideways” is a quirky dramedy about second chances. George Clooney is wonderful as a preoccupied Hawaiian attorney juggling, very badly, family tragedy and in-fighting.

Year’s best foreign film: Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins,” a stunning, subversive variation on Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Does anyone now going stage battle scenes better than Miike?

Year’s biggest disappointment: “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick’s most personal and, thanks to a fragmented, jump-cut-happy narrative, least accessible movie. Think the Scopes Monkey Trial battled to a draw. Both creationists and atheists had reason to grumble.

As usual, there were enough bow-wows to fill a large kennel. Ten that barked loudest:

1. “Cowboys & Aliens.” Like baked beans on freeze-dried ice cream.

2. “Super 8.” Spoof or homage? Only diehard Spielberg fans knew for sure.

And the worst ... "Super 8"

3. “The Rite.” Anthony Hopkins’ excuse: “Devil made me do it!”

4. “Arthur.” The old drunk act, minus a modicum of charm.

5. “The Thing.” Prequel or remake? Who cares.

6. “Hall Pass.” We didn’t expect anything of this Farrelly brothers farce and weren’t disappointed.

7. “Dream House.” When it comes to ghosts, who ya gonna call? Not Daniel Craig.

8. “Just Go with It”/“Jack and Jill.” For those Adam Sandler fans craving seconds.

9. “Straw Dogs.” Peckinpah gutted for stock home-invasion thrills.

10.  “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.” The game’s afoot! NOT!