Entries tagged with “Amy Adams”.

Well-told human stories endure longer than special effects.

So many movies live only in the time they take to be projected. They are light, fluffy entertainment that exist only in the moment. When you rise from your seat, they are left behind like the popcorn kernels on the floor.

This isn’t a bad thing, these films are just momentary entertainment. Escapism with little of substance to take away after they’ve run.

Then there are movies that engage, entertain, confound and confuse at times, and toy with your emotions. They don’t give you all the answers–– they demand that you participate and bring your life to them and think about the story being told and why things are the way they are and why people act the way they do.

These movies plant seeds in your brain and give you something to think about long after the final reel has flickered into darkness. They are the movies that explore the human condition, pique curiosity and encourage thought. They’re human stories, not mega-special-effects-driven wonders. They don’t feed, they nourish.

I love these kinds of films, and here are two candidates for your consideration from a pair of the most compelling and interesting directors working today. First is David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook with stellar performances from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a rom-com of a different sort, one that explores characters haunted by fragile mental states and some driven mad through their obsessions. It’s a terrific ride and one that you’ll find yourself thinking about long after the movie has run.

Some pictures and performances live on a long, long time.

Then there is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a film that explores damaged psyches and the art of manipulation. Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver amazing performances worthy of little gold statuettes (as do Cooper and Lawrence).

Russell and Anderson both explore with film for the benefit of self-discovery. No, you won’t always find all the answers, but you will definitely find questions that illuminate.

Both films of these two auteurs (that’s French for ‘artsy-but-not-too-fartsy’) are well worth seeing. Give them a look and see if you don’t agree they’ll be strong Oscar contenders.

It's hard to become champ with a crackhead in your corner.

2010 was a pretty terrific year for movie lovers.

The Social Network, Winter’s Bone, The King’s Speech, True Grit and The Other Guys were some of my favorites. I recently caught two surefire Oscar favorites– The Fighter and Black Swan. Both are must-sees for any serious film lover.

In The Fighter, we see a tale that’s been told many times: the palooka beating the odds, trusting in himself and succeeding. But, this film based on true events throws in some interesting twists– a family that loves and manipulates so hard it’s crushing, and the perils of being trained by a crackhead.
Christian Bale is phenomenal as the washed-up older brother/trainer to Mark Wahlberg’s battling boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward.

Bale’s “Dickey” lives in his past glory days and deludes himself with dreams of rising again to be a serious fighter and contender. Until then, he has the crack pipe and his little brother to keep him occupied. The boys have an overbearing mother played by Melissa Leo, in a performance sure to get an Oscar nod. Mom is not only the matriarch of the family, she schedules upcoming bouts and manages her brood of fighting boys and doting daughters. Leo and Bale are a potent one-two punch (witness the scene in the car with the two singing).

Throw in killer performances by Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg, and you have a film best described by our firstborn son as “it’s hard to imagine a better sports movie.” Yes, yes it is.

Director David O. Russell really delivers the goods here; the pacing, camerawork, cinematography and performances are all terrific. That said, I cannot forgive Russell for the wreck that was I Heart Huckabees .

Ballet gets very, very frightening.

The other move that should not be missed is Black Swan, a film just under two hours that will haunt you for a long time to come.

While we’ve all seen many boxing tales, we probably can’t name many gripping ballet flicks. Enter Black Swan, a movie that’s part beauty, part beast, and has the creepy edginess of Psycho throughout.

Oscar, meet Natalie Portman, shake hands and get to know each other. She’s a lock.

Portman shed 20 of her unslightly pounds for the role of Nina Sayers, and she delivers a heavyweight performance as a dedicated-innocent-living-at-home-with-mommie-pursuing-perfection- ballet dancer. Her performance as an actor and dancer are believable, beautiful and incredibly disturbing. Director Darren Aronofsky never lets up with the tension and intrigue of this compelling thiller. No matter how much you think you don’t like ballet, I defy you not to be interested in this film. Of course, some hot sex scenes can spice up any story.

The supporting cast is superb. Barbara Hershey as Nina’s long suffering artistic mom, Mila Kunis as Lily, the back-tatted beauty in the company who is either Nina’s friend, enemy or a frienemy, Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre, the fading ballerina star and Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy, the driven and manipulative ballet company artistic director.

I can say no more about the movie aside from this: Swan Lake scares me. See this film. Here’s a ballet film that keeps you on your toes. (Could I get a rimshot, here? A rimshot, please! Rimshot?!)

The Fighter and Black Swan are two great stories of finding strength from within in decidedly different ways. Between the two films, they’ll easily garner a dozen to a dozen and a half well-deserved Oscar nominations.

See them and see why.

Julie & Julia meet Inglourious Basterds. One movie features Nazis, the other Beef Bourguignon. One has sadistic scenes, and to stay engaged with the other can be a sadistic challenge at times.

The movie falls flatter than a one egg souffle.

The movie falls flatter than a one egg souffle.

I’d heard good things about Julie & Julia, and I always liked watching Julia Child on TV cooking some complex recipe mere mortals would never attempt. So, I walked into the theatre with great expectations. Exiting the theatre, my expectations were crushed like a one egg souffle. Julie & Julia didn’t deliver for me.

Yes, Meryl is phenomenal as Julia, but Meryl is always terrific and this performance is more impersonation than character creation. Stanley Tucci brings a nice performance as Julia’s hubby and Jane Lynch steals every scene as Julia’s sister. But, the story of making a French cookbook for English speaking people is hardly interesting and rarely entertaining.

NOW, gently fold that story in with another story about a frustrated writer who cooks the entire Child cookbook over a one year span and blogs about it, and well, you have an odd stew of a film.

Julie is played by Amy Adams, who is usually fun to watch. Her character here is an insecure narcissist in an apron. She’s married to a milquetoasty guy played by Chris Messina who is supportive but frustrated by the blogging project. Wah wah wah.

The movie written and directed by Nora Ephron, usually a gifted writer. The screenplay was based on two separate books, Julia’s memoirs from 1949 and Julie’s book of recent time recounting her blogging project. But just because the subject matter is common to both, the flavors do not belong together. This movie is like vanilla and vinegar. A disappointment, a bad taste. Pity.

Now let’s cleanse our palates with a sorbet of Basterds.

Well, now look what QT's got cooking this time around...

Now look what QT's got cooking this time around...

Like the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino makes films you have to see for no other reason than to get his unique perspective on whatever the film’s about. This time it’s about Nazis and a history re-write with a band of Jewish American soldiers (Inglourious Basterds) giving the goosesteppers what-for behind enemy lines. Even ol’ Adolf gets his comeuppance.

Like any Tarantino film, the dialogue is terrific in developing memorable characters as plotlines intertwine like origami figures. Like any Tarantino film, there’s tension built to keep your eyes riveted to the screen, followed by hyper-violence that begs you to look away. Like any Tarantino film, it is a celebration of film genres, movie magic, cinematography and interesting camerawork.

Yes, it’s chatty at times, but with Tarantino dialogue you won’t mind. Brad Pitt is wonderful as the Tennessee Basterd leader, Lt. Aldo Raine. He lays on a southern accent thick as cold molasses on dog fur. The powerhouse performance comes from Austrian actor Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Waltz may be shaking hands with Oscar for this gem.

While not Tarantino’s best film, the Basterds are worth spending some time with and will give you plenty of images to replay for a long time afterwards.


Anne Hathaway wore eau de mothballs...

Penelope Cruz wore eau de mothballs...

    Hollywood was stunned, shocked and bedazzled with the many surprises that strolled along the red carpet prior to the 2009 Academy Awards Ceremonies.

     Penelope Cruz couldn’t afford a new dress so she wore some old number that had the faint scent of mothballs and pipe tobacco. She won an Oscar for her acting in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and to goose her future salary so she can afford a new garment some day soon.

    Angelina Jolie looked simply ravishing in some sort of stitched fabric device she called a gown, while hubby Brad Pitt sported a backless yellow chiffon number that rode high on the thigh. He also sported some Jimmy Choo pumps that were like totally not sensible.

    Marisa Tormei wore pumps. Just pumps. And a pole.

    Kate Winslet wore a blue bathrobe with cute duckie slippers. She apologized for having overslept saying her alarm clock is on the fritz and she’s hitting Target soon for a new one. She has her heart set on one with a built-in radio!

    Meryl Streep wore a gray dress that was a bit more fashionable than the black habit she sported in Doubt, but frankly she commanded much more respect in the nun get-up.

    Anne Hathaway showed up in jeans and a sweatshirt, said she forgot the shindig was formal and ran home to quickly change.

    Amy Adams wore red. A very pretty red, not too light or too dark, just lots of really red red.

    Melissa Leo wore a stunning dress but was turned away by security guards. She explained she was nominated for Actress in a Leading Role, but it was no use. She was bounced.

    Christian Bale showed up with fists balled and began shouting a string of profanities. He was looking for Shane Hurlbut, a director of photography, who he said was ruining “every shot in my whole f****** life!” A police SWAT force tagged him with tranquilizers and hauled him away.

   One final note. You think these Hollywood types are so glamorous and refined, but that red carpet was filthy after this herd of wild animals tracked their dirty hoofs across it. And I swear, someone spilled cheap red wine on the red carpet and that stain will never come out! I’ve tried club soda, salt, commercial cleaners– nothing works!

    Thanks, celebrities, thanks a lot!