I’ve met three famous people in my life. Or, maybe not met – at least not exactly. We were not introduced in the way you might meet another person, with hand shakes and “Pleased to meet you” and all that. No, these were more like encounters. Like what you might do at a zoo with the animals. You pay a little extra and next thing you know you’re in the enclosure mixing it up with the kangaroos, or the giraffes. And by ‘mixing it up’ I mean walking a well-defined path while the animals come to you, if you’re lucky. Continue reading
Directed by Gavin Hood
Screenplay by Gavin Hood, from the novel by Athol Fugard
Starring Presley Chweneyagae and Terry Pheto
Best Picture 2005 was the not-terrible, but thoroughly maligned-by-comparison treatise on racism, Crash. Like you, I was horrified it won Best Picture over the far-more-deserving Brokeback Mountain, and like you I shook my fist at the heavens to protest this injustice. But unlike you – or, probably unlike you – I’ve since backtracked slightly. No, I do not think Crash is worth of Best Picture, but at least now I see that it’s not all that terrible. Yes, it’s manipulative and pat, but the actors are trying their hardest to sell it and there are some truly amazing performances – Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard especially. Plus, it is well-directed and visually interesting. Continue reading
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Screenplay by David Hare, from the novel by Bernhard Schlink
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, David Kross, Lena Olin and Bruno Ganz
It’s late 1950’s, West Germany. A 16 year-old boy (David Kross) meets and has an affair with a secretive, and standoffish, older woman (Kate Winslet). Amongst the things they do together, besides having sex, is the woman enjoys being read to. Doesn’t matter what she’s read, only that she’s read to. After a time, the woman abruptly moves away and the affair ends. Later, when the boy is in law school (still played by David Kross), he attends the trial of some suspected Nazi war criminals, one of whom turns out to be the woman he had the affair with. Though it is clear the woman does not know how to read, and therefore could not have been the ringleader she was made out to be, she refuses to exculpate herself and is jailed. Later still, the now-grown man (Ralph Fiennes) reconnects with the woman as a pen-pal, eventually meeting her in person again when she is on the verge of release from prison as an elderly woman.
Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Screenplay by Pedro Almodovar
Starring Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Geraldine Chaplin, Rasario Flores
Pedro Almodovar had a moment. A relatively short period in time where he became something of the toast of the Academy. Sure, he’s otherwise had a long career, directing something like 22 features over 30 years and helping to launch Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, but while hew was critically acclaimed, that didn’t really translate to much success in America in the same way other foreign language directors had. He was known, but he wasn’t known.
But then came the one-two punch of All About My Mother and Talk To Her, and something happened. His films were suddenly anticipated in America, or at least anticipated more than they were before.
My theory on why the breakout happened? Maturity. Continue reading
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by John Logan, from the graphic novel by Brian Selznick
Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Michael Stuhlbarg
It is pretty undeniable that we as people are at our ‘edgiest’ when we are at our youngest. It’s also when we’re more likely to take needless risks, probably because we are certain we will live forever. Not coincidentally, it’s also when we are at our most naïve.
It’s the rare person who does not mellow with age, but gets wilder with each passing year. Or, at the very least, does not lose ground. Mostly you see those people in the arts, because in the regular world there isn’t much call for a 60-year-old who still likes to party like he’s 18. Continue reading
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Screenplay by Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, story by Guillermo Del Toro
Starring Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones
Firsts are everything in life – first steps, first words, first kiss. The same is true for the Oscars. Here are some important firsts for Oscar wins: Continue reading
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar
Written by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil
Starring Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, and Celso Bugallo
You probably read the title of this week’s Also-Rans entry and asked yourself, “Why a Foreign Language Film winner and not an actual loser from one of the top races?” Answer: Because of all the films in the top races the lone nominee I’ve not seen was Vera Drake,  a Mike Leigh Film, and I was not motivated to fill in that one blind spot because I find Mike Leigh’s films boring and don’t need to sit through another to come to the same conclusion. Continue reading
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh, from the play by William Shakespeare
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Brian Blessed, Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Christian Bale, Alec McCowen, and Robbie Coltrane
I am ignorant. Not of everything, because I definitely know stuff. But I do have some gaps in my knowledge, the only one of importance here being the writings of William Shakespeare.
If we’re honest, I’m hardly the only Shakespeare-ignorant one among us. In fact, I’m probably fairly typical. Truthfully, though Shakespeare has enduring popularity, he is not a writer for the masses. No matter what your high school English teachers, or college profs had to say about his enduring relevance and his appeal to audiences at the time, he is no longer a writer aiming for mass popularity. He is not the grandfather of rap. He is not the touchstone of all poets. He is not— Continue reading
Directed by James Ivory
Written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, from the novels by Evan S. Connell
Starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Robert Sean Leonard, Kyra Sedgwick, and Blythe Danner
I love my grandparents – most people do. Love their grandparents, I mean, not my grandparents. But why shouldn’t I love mine. They are good people, they are generally loving, they’re good to me, and I would not exist if not for them. Actually, because my grandparents were legit Catholics – 13 kids! – a lot of people wouldn’t exist without them.
So, yay grandparents!
While my grandparents are unique in many ways, I’m sure they are just like many other grandparents in many ways. If I had to guess, I’d bet my grandparents are a lot like your grandparents. Grandpa is very closed mouth about things, fairly stoic, and seems severe, when he’s really not. Grandma is the much more gregarious and the socially outgoing of the two. She’s more talkative. Plus, because they had 13 kids they tend to be very thrifty and take pleasure in the simple things in life. In that way they have been a perfect fit for something like 60 years – he doesn’t say much, she says a lot, and together they work well as a unit. Continue reading
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Screenplay by James Ivory, from the novel of the same name by Andre Aciman
Starring Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg
A graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer) comes to Italy for 6 weeks of working as an assistant to an archaeology professor (Stuhlbarg). As part of the gig he’ll live with the professor’s family, including the professor’s 17 year-old son, Elio (Timothee Chalamet). Over the course of the 6 weeks, Oliver and Elio become close, and eventually have an affair. When Oliver leaves, Elio is devastated, having lost his first love.