Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

They say a critic shouldn't get personal and should maintain a sort of distance from a particular movie in order to remain objective and not to get too passionate about certain things. What I think is wrong with this particular expectation is that it forgets that the reviewer is also a regular moviegoer when it comes to a particular film and their opinion receives more attention because they have better terms to describe what others feel about a picture.

So, should I aspire to become a "good critic" and give up being passionate about a certain film just for the sake of more appreciation? It’s true, I’m closely affected by the subject of Silver Linings Playbook and that can cause two things, depending on how I react to it: a) I completely reject it because I feel that the way the movie portrays its subject is way out of reach, over-the-top and theatrical, b) I develop a sweet spot for it instantly because I get more of the „inside jokes” of it. In this particular case, it’s more of the latter: there came a certain point in the movie after which I couldn’t maintain that distance from the movie and was immediately taken by its beautiful way of telling the story of Pat, a bipolar man who tries to find a new beginning in his life after a horrible incident by getting back to her wife.

What I instantly impressed me about Silver Linings Playbook is the delicate way David O. Russell approached this subject: you can feel that the story is personal for him and he didn’t turn to cheap theatrics even in the most over-the-top scenes in the film. The directing, writing and the editing add up to a dazzling, unbalanced and bizarre experience, surprising you way too much. The whole roller coaster feeling of the film makes it one extended, haunting manic episode.

However, Russell holds this chaos together thanks to the outstanding work of an exceptional cast, led by an amazing Bradley Cooper who reached an unexpected (to many) career high with the character of Pat. He has two key scenes in the movie, which could have become standard meltdowns made for an Oscar clip, but instead they are both extremely terrifying and heartbreaking (I’m talking about the one at home and the one in front of the cinema). The way he shows the over-the-top hysterics of the character, while also crying for help silently in his eyes is astonishing. If people weren’t so snobbish about romantic comedies as they are today, this character would become just as iconic as Alvy Singer, but alas, people look down on films like this. Moreover, the frequent criticism of gender inequality is constantly proven wrong by Cooper who clearly puts an emphasis on how much Pat also depends on Tiffany.

Since I’m going to review Jennifer Lawrence very soon, I’m saving my lengthy comments on her performance, but let me just say that she’s an essential part of an amazing ensemble whose every member is able to create three-dimensional characters, even with their limited parts. De Niro gets the most showy part and uses all the opportunities to have fun and also prove that he didn’t lose his acting chops somewhere around Meet the Fockers. And I’ll have to defend Jacki Weaver’s nomination: her character’s caring and loving presence undeniably uplifts the movie and provides us with some of the loveliest moments. I don’t think she’s worse than her fellow nominees (in my opinion, she captures a mother’s love way better than our actual winner-to-be). Even Chris Tucker is able to display his skills in small part, which he rarely gets to do. The members of the cast should really win that SAG Ensemble Prize come Sunday for their contribution to creating the bittersweet and yet magical atmosphere of Silver Linings Playbook.

However, to embrace and enjoy all of the aspects of the movie you really need to leave behind your cynicism and try to believe that a movie with a “silver lining” can actually be just as worthy of being considered a masterpiece as one about decaying human beings. After all, cinema has to capture reality and reality always offers us a silver lining. And why couldn’t Silver Linings Playbook become that particular silver lining? 

What do you think?


My last weeks went (almost) like this:

But having completed ALL my exams, I'm glad to be with you all, sharing all my thoughts on film and television. First, you'll see reviews of the American Horror Story: Asylum Finale and Silver Linings Playbook (with only minimal mention of Jennifer Lawrence). Then I'll quickly finish 1999 and will go on to 2012.

Stay tuned! :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

My mood today...

After three Homeland wins, some great motion picture winners and two fantastic hosts, I'm simply speechless. This year's Globes were dead on and better than I've ever seen. :) 

But of course, above all my favorite moment EVER at the Globes: 

BTW, this is a demonstration of how I felt after each performance of Great Glenn.

Oh, you know me too well. :))

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A day of Amour

I'm in a state of shock at the moment and I'm trembling. I'll just write down this list right now:

Hell yeah:
  • AMOUR: I really feel Amour towards the Academy. Nominating this extraordinary piece of filmmaking, which is easily my pick (so far, I doubt that it can change), was my favorite moment. I feel bad for Trintignant, but that wasn't going to happen and I don't think he gives a shit about a nomination
  • Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow's snub was an OUTRAGE, but I so admire the Academy for going original with this line-up. It really is a tough category with great, gutsy choices.
  • Overall: The Academy surprised us this year and I'm so glad about that. 
  • Seth MacFarlane nominated: I'm a fan of this guy, he's a genious. Shut up. :) 
  • Tom Hooper was snubbed: I know it's ugly but that guy should do nothing near an Oscar statuette let alone win them. His "talents" might float on tv, but I find him incompetent and lacking.
 Oh no:
  • Nothing else on my little wish-list came true, but never mind, Amour makes up for everything and I hope Adele is winning Best Song.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Big Day (?) Coming and Last-Minute Hopes

Well it's about 19 hours until this year's Oscar nominees are revealed tomorrow. Just like everyone else, I've tried to do my best to guess what the Academy is going to go for this year (you can see my predictions on goldderby). However, instead of that, I'll just make a wish-list for tomorrow, hoping some of them will come true (don't worry, tomorrow you'll get my reactions): 

  • Amour getting in for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay (as well as Foreign Language Film, but that's a lock): I probably shouldn't be so demanding and hope for only Riva's surprise nod, but also Trintignant who, in my humble opinion, even outdid his co-star. He portrayed his character, Georges's suffering so well that it was just as painful as Riva's interpretation of a dying woman. Besides, how can you imagine a person voting for Riva and not casting a #1 vote for Trintignant as well? (Mind you, he was 100x better than our front-runner.
There are TWO people in this picture.
  • Skyfall getting in for Best Picture and Supporting Actor: OK, I know, I know. :) First of all, I'm ready to admit my super Bond-fandom, but the latest installation went way beyond my expectations. As a fan, I felt its story and directing were both exceptional and also one cannot ignore the fantastic villain, created by Javier Bardem (that fake-jaw scene has been the most Bond-villain thing in the last few years). Roger Deakins' cinematography and Adele's songwriting are quite safe bets and I really hope that those ones will translate into Oscar wins.
007 is willing to go all the way for a nomination...

  • I'm also crossing my fingers for these outstanding performers: Leonardo DiCaprio (time to win), Jennifer Ehle (time for recognition by Oscar), Nicole Kidman (always a joy to see her) and Ann Dowd (especially her, she really sacrificed a lot plus she's extraordinary).
What are your thoughts on tomorrow? :) 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry

Hilary Swank received a semi-surprise Academy Award for playing Brandon Teena, a brutally murdered transgendered teen in Kimberly Peirce's first movie, Boys Don't Cry. Although it was Swank who won the Golden Globe  for Best Actress in a Drama, Annette Bening was expected to take home the Oscar for her performance in the smash hit American Beauty. I cannot find a sensible reason for this upset besides the simple fact that this was one of the rare occasions that the Academy voted for what they found the best performance of the year. 

I must also add that Boys Don't Cry didn't do that well in terms of Oscar nominations. The only other nomination was for Chloe Sevigny who, in my opinion, might have deserved to win (more than the actual winner, that's for sure), but I somehow believe that Lana was the central character besides Brandon and she was leading as well. Also, I believe the movie was cheated out of nominations for both Best Picture and Original Screenplay (I know it was a very rich year, but this movie was way better than American Beauty or The Cider House Rules). I also admire Kimberly Peirce's unshowy, but sharp and confident direction that really builds up all the tension until the horrifying ending with the help of a very strong and talented cast. 

That cast includes Hilary Swank who, as you know, is not, ahhem, one of my favorite actresses as I find her performances overly affected and her performances are rarely honest, in my opinion. She's so desperate to gain your attention and your sympathy and she's actually quite skilful at that: she all does it under the disguise of 'subtlety'. And yet in Boys Don't Cry, she couldn't be any more different: she portrays Brandon's fears and desperation with brutal honesty and as a result, we get an incredibly mysterious and haunting performance that reveals its secrets in the course of the film, but it takes an effort from the viewer as well. 

Many people compare Hilary Swank's case to Sally Field who also (unexpectedly) took home two Oscars for Best Actress after some time on television. I suppose people at the time must have been surprised that actresses with such backgrounds can be so thrilling in a serious feautre film. However, I feel that all the comparisions end at this point: the actresses couldn't be any more different from one another, in their approach to characters and the audience (and Sally will receive that third nomination very soon so that two out of two thing won't apply, either). 

The character of Brandon Teena was Swank's ultimate chance to prove herself to Hollywood and moviegoers after being fired from Beverly Hills, 90210. Although it could have been a showy fuck you to the team of Aaron Spelling with the label 'I can do better than you', instead Swank played Brandon with fierce honestly and courage as if she had nothing to lose. Her bravery and dedication to this character was exactly what this movie needed. 

Since Brandon was a mystery, the ego of a huge star would have ruined the performance entirely. If anyone wanted to display her skills in this part, she would have failed miserably because Brandon's personality was all about concealing herself. For me, this performance was mainly effective because of all those repressed emotions of Brandon were so wonderfully communicated by Swank and that creates really disturbing tension that helped the movie have this very dark tone. Also, this is why I believe some people might be turned off by this performance. It doesn't grab you in a traditional sense, there aren't many actressy scenes, it just leaves you confused and incredibly disturbed.

However, I'd never say that Hilary's performance made this movie overly depressing. On the contrary, the passion and sometimes playfulness that she displays on the screen provide us with rare moments of comfort and harmony. Naturally, the most tender moments of the film are the ones between Brandon and Lana, where the two actresses work together exceptionally. Their relationship is not the earth-shattering romance one would expect in a movie, it's just these two people together, naturally, without much fuss. Their moments emphasise the romance instead of sex, even though that's a part of it as well (which is handled delicately by both actresses).

Hilary also handles the technical part of this performance wonderfully, nailing the accent, the faked deep voice. The physical transformation is almost frightening (no wonder people thought that Brandon was Hilary's brother) and you see that it's coming naturally. The Brandon/Teena personalities could be confusing to the viewer and yet it becomes the most clear thing for the viewer as Hilary totally identified with how Brandon saw himself.

Still, the most shocking and disturbing parts of Swank's performance come in the end, when Brandon's secret is revealed to her environment, leading to torture, suffering and ultimately, the violent death of Brandon. The cool guy image that he built for himself is gone and he becomes a broken down, raped and abandoned woman (something he was terrified of). Teena being raped is one of the most terrifying scenes I've ever. Even in this very tough scenes, Hilary was able to keep as subtle as she was from the very beginning. One of the earlier scenes feautre a humiliated Teena looking into the eyes of Brandon, which is a revelatory moment just as much for the audiene as it is for him.

And when you'd start to think that it couldn't get better, Hilary takes it a step further when Teena is examined after the rape. All the shame and humiliation that she displays without much dialogue is just unbelievably wrenching and it's also a powerful and shocking reminder of human cruelty (it's funny that in about 45 seconds she reveals more about rape than The Accused in two hours).

All this leads to an unforgettable final scene of Hilary, which is also such an effortless and beautifully played revision of that whole character: all the longing for a better life on his face before he's shot to death makes the ending hurt deeply. Hilary plays with your emotions and manipulates them, but she does so as a result flawless acting and her shocking honesty, not tactics in acting, which was probably the hardest part of this role.

In short, Hilary Swank gives a devastating and harrowing performance as Brandon Teena that stays with you long after you watched the film. Swank's work here is unaffected, honest and she's not as deseperate to please the audience as she's later in her career. Her fierceness is exactly what was needed with a character whose layerss had to be revealed slowly and carefully. And thanks to Hilary's harrowing characterisation, Boys Don't Cry becomes the masterpiece that it indeed is.

What do you think?