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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Bridges’

True Grit Trailer

September 28, 2010 1 comment

In my post about the most anticipated movies of Fall 2010, I listed Joen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit as the 3rd film I was most looking forward to seeing this fall. There wasn’t a trailer available when I put up that post, but on Monday, the trailer for True Grit was released. Simply put, the trailer looks terrific. We are finally going to see the Coen’s tackle the Western genre head on. The imagery, by the Coen’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, look beautiful and definitely captures the Western feel. Personally, I’m going to blow off the family on Christmas Day, and head to a theatre to catch True Grit.

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Oscar Post-Mortem

March 8, 2010 2 comments

The Hurt Locker was the big winner of the night, taking in 6 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first female director to win the Best Director trophy. The film is great, and deserving of all awards it received. Avatar had to settle for 3 awards, leaving James Cameron to cry on his billions of dollars.

There were no surprises when it came to the acting winners. Bridges won Best Actor, Mo’Nique took home Best Supporting Actress. Unfortunately Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for the horrible film The Blind Side. I will say that her speech was better than her actual performance in the film. I’m glad that Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for his amazing performance, but I’m sad that Inglourious Basterds lost out in every other category it was nominated in.

Speaking of losers, Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner lost Best Adapted Screenplay to Precious. That was the only real surprise of the night. I have to say I’m kind of glad Reitman lost. This lost should humble him. Perhaps the controversy surrounding him trying to deny Turner script credit hurt the film, which ended up winning nothing.

The producers of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic did a horrible job at producing this year’s broadcast, which was only saved by the humor of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Martin and Baldwin have great chemistry and they were effective in adding humor in-between the categories. Love the shot of the two of them in Snuggies and the Paranormal Activity spoof. The two were great at playing off each other.

The telecast felt long, tedious and lacked the fun of last year’s ceremony. Shankman and Mechanic should never be allowed back. Their horrible additions to the show included having Neil Patrick Harris open the show with a terrible song and dance number that brought the show to a halt.  I’m sick of him; we get it, he’s gay, funny, can sing and dance, we don’t need to see him on every fucking awards show. The other terrible idea was to have dancers interpret the best score nominees.

The tribute to John Hughes was another bonehead idea from the shows producers. John Hughes didn’t deserve any special memorial tribute. Billy Wilder, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Ingmar Bergman, and other real greats of cinema never got their own special tribute when they passed. To add insult to injury, the three honorary Oscar winners, Lauren Bacall, Gordon Willis, and Roger Corman didn’t get honored on the broadcast. Bacall and Corman weren’t even up on the stage when they were acknowledged during the ceremony. The crowd awkwardly didn’t know where to look to acknowledge them.

I also have to blame the director of the night’s broadcast, Hamish Hamilton. There were terrible cuts to people who looked bored shitless. Clooney looked like he wanted to get the hell out of there. There were too many shots of empty seats, and jerky camera movements. For an example of how horrible the direction was, when Kathryn Bigelow wins a historic Oscar for Best Director, the camera cuts away to a wide shot before we can see her interact with her ex-husband, James Cameron, who just lost to his ex-wife and was sitting right behind her. We wanted to see Cameron put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy for her!

Last year’s broadcast had the great idea of having the acting nominees introduced by a past winner of the category. This year they kept the general idea, but only dragged it out. First they showed clips from each nominees film, then they had friends of the nominees come out and praise each of them and then last year’s acting winner came out and announced the winner. This was overkill. It dragged on way too long.

The entire ceremony had an awkward feeling to it. It didn’t have the fun, or excitement of last year’s broadcast, which was produced by Bill Condon and Larry Mark. What the fuck were they thinking bringing out Tyler Perry to present Best Editing? Many of the presenters kept screwing up their simple banter. Other terrible moments came when the orchestra would play people off early, like Louie Psihoyos, the director of The Cove.

I’m a fan of the Oscars, and if I found the ceremony awful, I can only imagine how the rest of America was feeling.

Here is the list of the night’s winners:

  • Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
  • Best Director: “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
  • Best Actor: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
  • Best Actress: Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
  • Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique in “Precious”
  • Best Original Screenplay: “The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: “Precious” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Best Foreign Language: “The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)” Argentina
  • Best Animated Film: “Up” Pete Docter
  • Best Documentary: “The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
  • Best Cinematography: “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
  • Best Art Direction: Avatar” Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
  • Best Costumes: “The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell
  • Best Editing: “The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Best Score: “Up” Michael Giacchino
  • Best Song: The Weary Kind”(Crazy Heart) Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
  • Best Makeup: “Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • Best Visual Effects: “Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones
  • Best Sound Editing: “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Best Sound Mixing: “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Best Animated Short: “Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
  • Best Live Action Short: “The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson
  • Best Documentary Short: “Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett

Best Lead Performances of 2009

January 25, 2010 1 comment

Here is my list of the best lead performances for the year 2009. The best supporting performances will come next.

MALE

1. Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker: As we watch Renner attempt to dismantle a bomb, we immediately understand that this is something he must do. He is drawn to it. This type of character, a man who doesn’t follow the rules, could have been played as a big badass type. Renner wisely doesn’t play this character that way. There is subtly and a quiet intensity in Renner’s performance. War is indeed a drug for him and his actions have serious consequences to his fellows soldiers. There is a great, honest moment at the end of the film where Renner quietly tells his baby son about the one thing he loves in life.

2. Colin Firth as George Falconer in A Single Man: This performance almost came in at number one. Firth is fantastic as a college professor suffering over the loss of his long time partner. What makes this role standout is not what Firth says, it’s what he doesn’t. He is able to convey a different range of emotions in just his slightest facial movement. The scene where he learns that his partner has been killed over a telephone call is a piece of great acting. He is a man who tries carefully to hide his feelings and in that one scene he finally lets it all out.

3. Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik in A Serious Man: You feel a lot of sympathy for Michael Stuhlbarg’s Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor living in 1960’s Minnesota. His professional and personal life are in serious chaos. We feel an enormous amount of sympathy for the man because of Stuhlbarg. He doesn’t play Larry as a loser, but just as a normal man trying to lead a normal life. Stuhlbarg wisely never goes over the top here. You can always tell he is just on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Credit the Coen’s for finding humor in this man’s chaotic life.

4. George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air: 2009 was a great year for Clooney. In three films Clooney delivered very strong work. His strongest performance came in this film as a professional corporate down sizer. Clooney’s Bingham is a pro at firing people. He has it down to an art. What makes this performance work is that Clooney doesn’t rely solely on his charm. There is a real vulnerability that exposes a side to him we are not use to seeing. His great chemistry with co-stars Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga doesn’t hurt his performance either.

5. Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart: Bridges has always delivered strong work in every picture he’s been in for nearly forty years. He seems dead certain to win the Oscar for his role as Bad Blake. Some will say the Academy will give it him as a career achievement award which represents his entire body of work. Regardless of that, he would deserve it if he wins. What makes this character move beyond cliche is Bridges. Bridges is able to instill a real level of authenticity and vulnerability into this hard living country singer.

Honorable Mentions: Sam Rockwell in Moon, Sharlto Copley in District 9, Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orléans.

FEMALE

1. Carey Mulligan as Jenny Miller in An Education: Mulligan is simply mesmerizing to watch on the screen. You are witnessing a star being born with this performance. Mulligan’s performance has been compared to Audrey Hepburn and justifiably so. Some of the images of Mulligan on-screen are comparable to Hepburn in “Roman Holiday.” Jenny is a complex, intelligent young woman trying to find her way in life. She thinks she knows everything and is intelligent when compared to young ladies her own age. But she is still young and a bit naive. The troubles she goes through may end up hurting her, but we know she will end up stronger as a result. Mulligan was one of the great discoveries of 2009 for me. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

2. Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds: Even though she may be considered a supporting performance, the film is essentially built around her character. Tarantino has crafted a strong memorable female heroine with Shosanna. Laurent is able to bring this character to life, as a brave and smart woman. If you want see Laurent at her best, look at the scene where she comes face to face with Hans Landa, the man responsible for her family’s death. She puts up a strong face throughout the meeting and when it’s finally over, she can’t help but break down in pure emotional heartbreak.

3. Tilda Swinton as Julia in Julia: Tilda Swinton is one brave actress. In this film she plays a character who is an out of control alcoholic. There is no vanity here, she lets all the ugliness of this character hang out. I was amazed watching her performance. The story focuses on Swinton kidnapping a friend’s son and holding him for ransom. She has no idea what she is doing and its riveting watching her completely make up this kidnap plan along the course of the film. Julia is a captivating character who always has us guessing what her true motivations are.

4. Gabourey Sidibe as Precious in Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire: This is a sad, moving debut performance. Sidibe is fantastic as this poor, uneducated, abused African-American teenager living in 1980’s Harlem. You watch this role and swear that she must really be like this character. Despite all the trouble that Precious goes through, Sidibe is able to inject real humanity into this role. We care about her and want her to succeed in life. It’s a heartbreaking moment when she finally breaks down over all the hardships she has lived through.

5. Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in Avatar: Saldana’s performance is the heart and soul of Avatar. She is the reason we care about what happens to the Na’vi on the planet of Pandora. The fact that we don’t actually see her live human performance on-screen doesn’t hinder her ability to convey a range of feelings up on the screen. A close up of her Na’vi face has the same emotional impact as a close up of a human face.

Honorable Mentions: Penelope Cruz in Broken Embraces, Merly Streep in Julie & Julia.

Jeff Bridges is the life of Crazy Heart

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The minute that Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) steps out of his beat up old car you know everything about that character. He is tired, his pants belt unbuckled and he pours out a jug of his own urine. He’s lived quite the life. Jeff Bridges has always been one of our great actors, delivering solid work for nearly forty years. The many award nominations he’s received for this film is richly deserved.

The film, written and directed by Scott Cooper, stars Bridges as a once famous country singer named Bad Blake. His fame now gone, he is forced to play gigs in bars and bowling alleys. He is greeted by a handful of fans who are still loyal to his music. The only solace that Blake finds from playing these depressing gigs is in the bottle. For Blake, booze is like water. Blake is able to finds some hope for his future when he gets involved with a reporter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. He finds more relief when a former pupil of his, played by Colin Farrell, offers him some help if Blake can write some new songs for him.

The story of a flawed man seeking redemption is one we have seen before. It’s the performance of Bridges that elevates the film beyond the familiar plot. Roger Ebert said it best when he states that Bridges makes us belive that Blake has lived this hard, difficult life. There is one great shot where we see him looking at bottles of booze in a store. He is broke and we see the temptation and desperation all in the way Bridges stares down those bottles of booze.

The country songs are great. The songs written by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham are catchy and entertaining. Bridges captures the performer in Bad Blake brilliantly. He may be drunk up on the stage, and running out to vomit, but he knows how to give his handful of devoted fans, a real show. There is some solid work from Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall, who shows up toward the later part of the film. Duvall’s presence reminds us of a similar role he played as a down-on-his luck country singer in the great”Tender Mercies.” Gyllenhaal doesn’t quite measure up next to Bridges. I don’t buy some of the decisions that her character makes in the film.

My problem with the film is the loose narrative. I felt there wasn’t enough of a dramatic pull in the film. It does sort of wonder along to its conclusion. Things are wrapped up far too nicely at the end for my taste, especially the issue of Blake’s alcoholism. This is a case where the performance is better than the film.

3 Stars

Here is a clip of Bridges performing one of the songs from the film called “The Weary Kind.”