Showing posts with label Catherine Keener. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catherine Keener. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: "Get Out" is a Cinematic Revolution

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 (of 2018) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Get Out (2017)
Running time: 104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references
PRODUCERS:  Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, and Jordan Peele
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Toby Oliver (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Gregory Plotkin
COMPOSER: Michael Abels
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Richard Herd, Erika Alexander, Yasuhiko Oyama, and Lil Rey Howery

Get Out is a 2017 horror and mystery-thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele.  At the 90th Academy Awards, Peele became the first African-American to win the “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar.  Get Out follows a young African-American man who travels with his white girlfriend to her parents' rural estate and discovers weirdness and ultimately horror.

Get Out introduces Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young Black man and a photographer.  He has reluctantly agreed to meet the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). From the beginning of the trip, strange things occur.

Upon arriving, Chris discovers that Rose's parents, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and Missy (Catherine Keener), a hypnotherapist, are nice, but make discomfiting comments about black people.  Rose's brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), is especially inappropriate.  Chris finds that housekeeper, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), and groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), black workers on the Armitages' estate, are the most troubling of all.  After experiencing a distressing event involving Missy, Chris feels himself being trapped into something both surreal and horrifying.

Get Out is one of the most unsettling films that I have ever seen.  As an African-American and as a Black Man, specifically, I find that so much of Get Out seems to strike at my deepest fears and even at my most annoying worries.  Proverbially, this film hits “close to home.”  Get Out is essentially an allegory for the African diaspora and for the slave trade that brought stolen and captured African men, women, and children from the African continent across the Atlantic to the Americas, where they became chattel slaves.

Yes, writer-director Jordan Peele (called “mixed race” because he has a both a black and a white parent) dresses up his allegories, metaphors, similes, and symbolism in the tropes of American dark fantasy and horror films (especially those of the 1970s).  Still, his film, like quick blows in a really short fight, lays bare the cold calculations of capturing and enslaving Black people.  This is the banality of evil communicated in practicalities and practical realities.

In the final analysis, Get Out is also a great horror movie, as scary as one in which the monster, killer, or adversary uses knives, machetes, crossbows, axes, hooks, meat cleavers, etc. to kill its victims.  Many people have commented that Get Out is a criticism of white liberals, and there is some truth to that, but not as much as people think.  The villains here are white people who make living in America unsafe for African-Americans, Black people, and people of color.

Jordan Peele and his fine cast, especially Daniel Kaluuya, who embodies much of the modern Black man's existential crisis, deliver a film that is richly entertaining and is too-damn-scary to be just another horror movie.  Most of all, Get Out's truths are so true that I wonder how Peele and his cast and crew got away not only with making it, but also with sharing it with the world, especially with the United States of America.

10 of 10

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 Academy Awards:  1 win: “Best Original Screenplay” (Jordan Peele); 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., and Jordan Peele), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Daniel Kaluuya), and “Best Achievement in Directing” (Jordan Peele)

2018 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Daniel Kaluuya

2018 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Screenplay (Original)” (Jordan Peele) and “Best Leading Actor” (Daniel Kaluuya)

The text is copyright © 2018 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: "Incredibles 2" Surpasses the Original

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2018) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Incredibles 2 (2018)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
PRODUCERS: John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mahyar Abousaeedi (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Stephen Schaffer
COMPOSER: Michael Giacchino


Starring: (voices) Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Phil LeMarr, Isabella Rossellini, Sophia Bush, John Ratzenberger, Adam Rodriguez, and Brad Bird

Incredibles 2 is a 2018 3D computer-animated film and superhero movie written and directed by Brad Bird.  Produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures, Incredibles 2 is the direct sequel to Pixar's Oscar-winning, animated film, The Incredibles (2004).  Incredibles 2 finds the super-powered Parr family trying to balance normal life and having powers in a world where superhero activities are illegal, even as the world faces a dangerous new techno-villain.

Three months following Syndrome's defeat (as seen in The Incredibles), the Parr family continues to operate as superheroes.  Husband and father, Bob Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and wife and mother, Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) have been superheroes for a long time, even before being a superhero was outlawed.  Now, they are joined their daughter, Violet (Sarah Vowell), and their son, Dashiell, a.k.a. “Dash” (Huck Milner), who both have powers.  Even baby son, Jack-Jack Parr, tags along on adventures.  The Parrs are the superhero team, The Incredibles.

However, The Incredibles family friend and fellow superhero, Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), are unsuccessful in preventing the villain, Underminer, from robbing Metroville Bank.  The Incredibles and Frozone's battle with this villain causes massive damage to the city.  In the wake of this disaster, the “Super Relocation” program that allowed the Parrs to be superheroes is ended, and they are being forced to permanently live as ordinary citizens.

Frozone later informs Bob and Helen that Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a superhero fan and telecommunications tycoon, and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), an inventor, have a plan to make superheroes legal again.  That plan includes using their company, DEVTECH, to spearhead a public relations plan that will free superheroes.  But a mysterious new villain, “The Screenslaver,” may wreck everyone's plans.

I liked the original film, The Incredibles, but I did not really warm to it.  Of course, as a fan of superhero comic books, I was happy to finally get an animated superhero film from a major Hollywood studio (Pixar) that obviously had the kind of production budget that usually went to prestige, big tent, Hollywood live-action films.  I loved the characters, but I did not like that The Incredibles mostly focused on Mr. Incredible.

First, let me say this, writer-director Brad Bird's story for this sequel has shockingly predictable outcomes for its main plot and for some of the subplots.  While watching this film, it was painfully obvious to me what the central conspiracy was, even if I was unsure if the Incredibles were facing a single primary adversary or several until midway through the film.  But I don't give a crap about predictability.  I finally got the Incredibles film that I wanted fourteen years ago.

In Incredibles 2, Brad Bird takes the potential of all the Parr family, not just Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, but he also takes the potential of Helen and the Parr children and shows how great a character each one can be or is.  Incredibles 2 is really about the Incredibles – all of them, and I am happy.  There is a bonus, Bird takes the story shackles off Frozone and allows the character to be not just a superhero, but a major superhero.  And with more screen time, Samuel L. Jackson shines like sunlight reflecting off a snow-covered peak in his voice performance as Frozone.

Holly Hunter, an exceptional actress, stretches out as Bird expands Elastigirl's role.  She is good and brings dramatic heft to this film.  Craig T. Nelson brings more to Bob Parr, and this time, he shockingly gives pathos to Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr, as he excavates the male ego in this father/husband/hero.  Plus, the advertisements and trailers for Incredibles 2 are not lying; baby Jack-Jack is a non-stop scene-stealer and a heart-stealer.

You would say “d'uh” if I expounded on the technical virtuosity and wizardry of Incredibles 2.  Pixar always seems to be raising its own bar in showing what computer software and hardware can do in creating animated films filled with complex movement, action, drama, and environments and spaces.  So I will focus on what I think is the best thing about Incredibles 2.  I finally got a movie about all the incredible characters in this franchise.

9 out of 10

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The text is copyright © 2018 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Amazon Announces a Series of Agatha Christie Adaptations


Ordeal By Innocence—first installment in a series of Amazon Originals—began production this month and will become available exclusively to Prime members in the U.S.

(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon announced its continued growth of international production, adding a series of adaptations from Agatha Christie Limited to its lineup of dramatic Amazon Original Series in the U.S.

The first adaptation of Christie’s classic stories, Ordeal By Innocence, began production earlier this month in the U.K. and will feature an ensemble cast, including Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean), Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife, Downton Abbey), Catherine Keener (Get Out, Capote), Ed Westwick (White Gold, Gossip Girl), Luke Treadaway (Fortitude), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), and Morven Christie (The A Word). In Ordeal By Innocence, old wounds are reopened for the Argyll family when a man suddenly turns up and claims that the black sheep of the family, Jack Argyll, could not have murdered its tyrannical matriarch—for which he was accused just one year earlier. The family must come to terms with Jack’s innocence and with the fact that one of them may be the real murderer. Amazon’s deal with Agatha Christie Limited continues its partnership with production company Mammoth Screen and was brokered by WME.

Ordeal By Innocence reunites Agatha Christie Limited and Mammoth Screen with writer and executive producer Sarah Phelps, following the critical success of And Then There Were None (BBC One) in December 2015 and The Witness for the Prosecution (BBC One) in December 2016. Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive premium subscription streaming home for these series in the U.S.

“We are thrilled to bring to our slate these adaptations from the world’s greatest mystery writer,” said Morgan Wandell, Head of International Series, Amazon Studios. “With terrific talent, in front of and behind the camera, they are sure to delight our customers.”

“We are delighted to be working with Amazon in the TV space. They have obviously played a massive part in our book business over the past few years, and it is exciting to move with them onto Prime Video in the U.S.,” said James Prichard, Chairman and CEO of Agatha Christie Limited.

“The brand of Agatha Christie resonates around the world,” said WME | IMG Partner Chris Rice. “We couldn’t be happier to have Amazon as our U.S. home for this franchise. We think the series of specials will attract great auteurs and actors to create compelling content for audiences everywhere.”

Ordeal By Innocence and the additional forthcoming drama series from Agatha Christie Limited will be available for Prime members to stream and enjoy using the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online with other Amazon Original Series online at, at no additional cost to their membership. Eligible customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free trial at For a list of all Amazon Video compatible devices, visit

IMG will handle international sales on behalf of Agatha Christie Limited. WME and Sky Vision negotiated the deal with Amazon.

About Amazon Video
Amazon Video is a premium on-demand entertainment service that offers customers the greatest choice in what to watch and how to watch it. Amazon Video is the only service that provides all of the following:

    Prime Video: Thousands of movies and TV shows, including popular licensed content plus critically-acclaimed and award-winning Amazon Original Series and Movies from Amazon Studios like Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, Love & Friendship, and kids series Tumble Leaf, available for unlimited streaming as part of an Amazon Prime membership. Prime Video is also now available to customers in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe at
  •     Amazon Channels: Over 100 video subscriptions to networks like HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, PBS KIDS, Acorn TV, and more, available to Amazon Prime members in the U.S. as add-ons to their membership. To view the full list of available channels, visit
  •     Rent or Own: Hundreds of thousands of titles, including new release movies and current TV shows available for on-demand rental or purchase for all Amazon customers.
  •     Instant Access: Customers can instantly watch anytime, anywhere through the Amazon Video app on compatible TVs, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire tablets, or online. For a list of all compatible devices, visit
  •     Premium Features: Top features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and mobile downloads for offline viewing of select content.

In addition to Prime Video, the Prime membership includes unlimited fast free shipping options across all categories available on Amazon, more than two million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Prime Music, secure photo storage with Prime Photos, unlimited reading with Prime Reading, unlimited access to a digital audiobook catalog with Audible Channels for Prime, a rotating selection of free digital games and in-game loot with Twitch Prime, early access to select Lightning Deals, exclusive access and discounts to select items, and more. To sign-up for Prime or to find out more, visit:

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit and follow @AmazonNews.

Agatha Christie Limited
Agatha Christie Limited (ACL) has been managing the literary and media rights to Agatha Christie's works around the world since 1955, working with the best talents in film, television, publishing, stage and on digital platforms to ensure that Christie’s work continues to reach new audiences in innovative ways and to the highest standard. The company is managed by Christie’s great grandson James Prichard.

November 2017 will see the release of 20th Century Fox’s feature film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s acclaimed mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. The film will be directed by five-time Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh, who will also star as Poirot. Branagh helms an all-star cast that includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Sergei Polunin and Lucy Boynton.

ACL’s recent television projects include the critically-acclaimed BBC One adaptations of And Then There Were None (Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Sam Neill) and The Witness for the Prosecution (Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough, Kim Cattrall), both produced by ACL alongside Mammoth Screen, with screenplays from Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, The Casual Vacancy). Production begins shortly on Ordeal By Innocence, the first of seven new adaptations for the BBC over the course of the next four years.

Globally, ACL works closely with leading screen production companies to deliver territory-specific adaptations. Notable productions include the popular French series Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie produced by Escazal, and Japanese adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express from Fuji TV (winner of the Tokyo Grand Prix drama award) and the forthcoming And Then There Were None from TV Asahi. Further projects are in development in Europe, the U.S., Asia and Latin America.

In 2016 literary projects included the global publication of the new Hercule Poirot novel Closed Casket, the second continuation novel from bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah, published in more than 30 languages and distributed in over 100 territories. Sophie will shortly begin work on two more Poirot novels for publication in 2018 and 2020.

About WME | IMG
WME | IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies, WME | IMG specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event management.

WME | IMG has led the market in global co-productions recently selling “The Night Manager” and “Dirk Gently” in over 190 territories; handling territorial sales for “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” “The Young Pope,” and the upcoming Sky / Amazon series “Britannia.”


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oscar Nominee Review: "Captain Phillips"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Captain Phillips (2013)
Running time:  134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use
DIRECTOR:  Paul Greengrass
WRITER:  Billy Ray (A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty)
PRODUCERS:  Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Ackroyd (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Christopher Rouse
COMPOSER:  Henry Jackman
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, and Issak Farah Samatar

Captain Phillips is a 2013 thriller and drama from director Paul Greengrass.  The film is an adaptation of A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.  The movie dramatizes the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.  Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey is one of the film’s executive producers.

The film begins with Captain Richard “Rich” Phillips (Tom Hanks) taking command of the MV Maersk Alabama.  This unarmed container ship is scheduled to sail from the Port of Salalah (in the city of Salalah, Oman) through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, Kenya.  After an alert concerning pirate activity around the Horn of Africa, Captain Phillips orders strict security precautions on the vessel and carries out practice drills.  In fact, during those drills, two skiffs containing Somali pirates chase the Alabama.

One group of pirates is eventually successful and actually boards and takes control of the Alabama.  The skiff’s captain, Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), and his cohorts:  Adan Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), Walid Elmi (Mahat M. Ali), and Nour Najee (Faysal Ahmed), plan to ransom the ship and its crew for millions of dollars.  Captain Phillips has called for help, but can he stall the pirates before they start killing his crew?

Audiences can practically always count on director Paul Greengrass to deliver a riveting film and an edge-of-your-seat thriller with each of his movies.  Greengrass’ films aren’t the average run-of-the-mill action thrillers; they’re smart and filled with strong characters facing real-world dilemmas.  Captain Phillips is Greengrass’ best film since his Jason Bourne movies.  Greengrass gets a championship effort from his editor Christopher Rouse, who delivers a film that gets better and better, more engaging, more entrancing with each minute.

Although, Tom Hanks is the star and Rich Phillips is the title character and focus, in some way, Captain Phillips is also about Abduwali Muse.  First-time actor, Barkhad Abdi, delivers a superb performance.  Abdi’s acting is especially impressive as the film only focuses on Muse’s personality in the context of what comes out of his actions.  Since Muse does not get to show himself as a fully-developed human, Abdi has to sell him as a three-dimensional villain who only reveals his intentions (getting a ransom), and little beyond that.  I can see why Abdi earned such acclaim and an Oscar nomination to go with a BAFTA win as best supporting actor.

This is pretty much the same with Captain Phillips.  His motivation, conflicts, and dilemmas are seen only in the context of him being a captain of a ship and also a captain of a ship that is under duress.  Tom Hanks is known for playing characters that are totally or mostly open to the audience.  As Phillips, Hanks erects a wall that makes it only easy to feel sympathy, pity, and fear for Phillips.  However, Hanks is so good that he still manages to deliver some fantastic acting – something that is more performance art than it is performance of a character.

All of Captain Phillips is good, but the last forty minutes are a doozy.  The rescue operation makes a very good film a truly exceptional film.  I wish more thrillers were like Captain Phillips.

9 of 10

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  6 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Barkhad Abdi), “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Billy Ray), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Christopher Rouse), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Oliver Tarney), and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Tom Hanks), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Barkhad Abdi), and “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Paul Greengrass)

2014 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Supporting Actor” (Barkhad Abdi); 8 nominations: “Best Film” (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca), “David Lean Award for Direction” (Paul Greengrass), “Best Leading Actor” (Tom Hanks), “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Henry Jackman), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Billy Ray), “Best Cinematography” (Barry Ackroyd), “Best Editing” (Christopher Rouse), “Best Sound” (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro, and Oliver Tarney)

2014 Black Reel Awards:  2 wins: “Outstanding Supporting Actor, Motion Picture” (Barkhad Abdi) and “Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male” (Barkhad Abdi)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review: "The Croods" Like a Full-Length Looney Tunes Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 75 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Croods (2013)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some scary images action
DIRECTORS:  Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders
WRITERS:  Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders; from a story by John Cleese and Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders
PRODUCERS:  Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell
EDITOR:  Darren T. Holmes
COMPOSER:  Alan Silvestri
PRODUCTION DESIGNER:  Christophe Lautrette
ART DIRECTORS:  Paul Duncan and Dominique R. Louis

ANIMATION/FANTASY/ADVENTURE/COMEDY with elements of action and drama

Starring:  (voices) Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, and Randy Thom

The Croods is a 2013 computer-animated adventure and comedy film that was theatrically presented in 3D.  It was produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox.  The Croods focuses on a caveman family trekking through an unfamiliar, fantastical world with the help of an inventive boy.

The Croods is set in a fictional version of the prehistoric Pliocene era (apparently called “The Croodaceous”).  The Croods are a six-member family living in a cave.  The father is Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage), who is doggedly protective of his family:  wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener); teenage daughter, Eep (Emma Stone); nine-year-old son, Thunk (Clark Duke); ferocious toddler daughter, Sandy (Randy Thom); and Gran (Cloris Leachman), Grug’s mother-in-law and Ugga’s mother.

Grug wants his family to stay in the cave at all times, except when they hunt for food, which is getting harder to find.  Grug is also against his family trying new things or making discoveries; “new things” are a threat to survival, he declares.  This causes problems between Grug and his rebellious teen daughter, Eep, whose curious nature clashes with her conservative father.  Then, Eep meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a nomadic cave boy, who is both clever and inventive.  Eep is immediately attracted to the boy.  Grug hates Guy, but after their cave is destroyed, The Croods find they need Guy, as they travel through an exotic land in search of a new home.

Since the original Madagascar (2005) and Kung Fu Panda (2008), DreamWorks Animation has improved on the technology of computer animation in terms of motion (characters and objects), depiction and creation of environments, picture definition, texture, and range of color.  The Croods proves that this animation production company is determined to keep pushing the envelope.

As for the story and characters, The Croods is best when it’s being fast and funny.  I have found that some of DreamWorks Animation’s films (and even television episodes) have the zest and style of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated shorts.  In a way, much of The Croods is an extended series of gags that recall Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Road Runner cartoons.

Pretty much every member of The Croods’ cast seems to be a looney toon, except for the mother, Ugga.  For some reason Ugga is practically non-existent; she is like a voice of wisdom, reason, and caution that is repressed and only heard when the film needs to squeeze in a poignant moment between chuckles and yucks.  And then, Ugga’s voice seems barely able to be heard above the fray of manic comedy.  In fact, Catherine Keener, who gives voice to Ugga, is unable to distinguish herself from the standard female voice.  I actually thought that Maya Rudolph was Ugga’s voice.  That is shocking when one considers how distinctive a performer Keener is.

But I guess it comes down to this.  DreamWorks Animation has mastered the technology of computer animation.  They have refined a brand of comedy that ranges from broad to slapstick and from satire to parody.  They embrace the crazy concepts they turn into films that are often inventive concerts of explosive visuals.  Still, DreamWorks Animation’s films lack the emotional resonance frequently found in movies from Pixar (except for Cars 2, which is straight crap).

The Croods can be viewed as a love triangle involving Grug, Eep, and Guy – mostly with Eep in love with Guy and with Grug hating Guy, mainly for that reason.  The performances by the three actors playing these characters are good, but the script really does not delve into this conflict.  It is easier to be surface and let comic moments rather than dramatic moments sell this three-way conflict.

That said, going by what is on the screen, The Croods is an exceptional movie, although stronger drama could have made it a truly great film.  I love the physicality the filmmakers give the characters.  Their wildness and animal-like tendencies (especially the way they move) make them attractive; the way they move, their facial ticks and expressions, and their reactions may it hard to ignore them.  The animation has a sense of depth that makes even its fantastic backdrops seem real – such as the cave and surrounding landscape where the Croods live at the beginning of the film.  I can use this old standby:  The Croods is a visual feast.  It falls short of greatness and perfection, but there is nothing like it, and it is quite good, indeed.

8 of 10

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: "The Interpreter" Has Mixed Message (Happy B'day, Nicole Kidman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Interpreter (2005)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, some sexual content, and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Sydney Pollack
WRITERS: Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, and Steven Zallian; from a story by Martin Stellman and Brian Ward
PRODUCERS: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Kevin Misher
EDITOR: William Steinkamp
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard


Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Clyde Kusatsu, Eric Keenleyside, Hugo Speer, Maz Jobrani, Yusuf Gatewood, Curtiss I’Cook, and Byron Utley

The subject of this movie review is The Interpreter, a 2005 political thriller from director Sydney Pollack. This is the final film directed by Pollack, who died in 2008 at the age of 73. The Interpreter focuses on an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot and the US Secret Service agent assigned to investigate her allegations.

Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is a translator at the United Nations, who accidentally overhears the plot to assassinate an African despot scheduled to speak before the U.N. General Assembly. With the words, “The Teacher will never leave this room alive,” Silvia’s world is turned upside down, as she becomes the target of mysterious thrillers who know she overheard the whispered conspiracy. Still, authorities have doubts about the validity of her story, including Tobin Keller, (Sean Penn), a federal agent assigned to protect dignitaries visiting the U.S. Tobin is eventually assigned to both protect Silvia and to unravel the mystery of the assassination attempt and its seeming connection to Silvia’s past. Will Silvia’s reticence about discussing her past and Tobin’s determination to uncover what he believes she is hiding lead to the assassination of a foreign leader on American soil?

Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack’s (Out of Africa) The Interpreter is part contrived melodrama and part riveting suspense story, with the latter winning out to make this a thoroughly entertaining thriller. The characters’ personal histories and tragedies occupy much of the narrative time, and their personality traits both define how their relationship and the mystery of the assassination will be resolved. But that’s mostly window dressing for a rather nice staid, adult thriller. The Interpreter lacks the car chases and has very few gunfights and explosions – the two elements that denote most Hollywood action thrillers meant to draw in teenage boys and young men as much (if not more so) as they are meant to attract older audiences looking for involved drama and quality acting. The Interpreter certainly has evocative drama and both Kidman and Penn are excellent (and award-winning) actors, and while this isn’t their best work, they certainly try to give us something different – just enough to make this more than a run-of-the-mill tense drama.

Every time the film seems as if it will slip into being ordinary, it does something surprising, and while it doesn’t have the intensity that would make it a great film, it does have the smooth charm and the kind of engaging plot that makes it an enjoyable film. The script, co-written by two of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, Scott Frank and Steven Zallian (an Oscar winner for Schindler’s List), is novelistic in its approach to character, situation, and plot. Sydney Pollack uses it to carry us through a complex web of private tragedy, delicate political affiliations, and international intrigue. At the same time, it also gives us a small, but fierce glance at the sectarian violence rampant throughout some of Africa. That’s a lot for your money.

6 of 10

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Updated: Thursday, June 20, 2013


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: "Full Frontal" is a Frontal Assault on Hollywood Sameness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 134 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Full Frontal (2002)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
WRITER: Coleman Hough
PRODUCERS: Gregory Jacobs and Scott Kramer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Andrews (Steven Soderbergh)
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
COMPOSER: Jacques Davidovici


Starring: Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, David Duchovny, Nicky Katt, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce, Tracey Vilar, Mary McCormack, Jeff Garlin, Erika Alexander, Enrico Colantoni with Terrence Stamp, David Fincher, and Brad Pitt

Steven Soderbergh laid down the law to his large cast of stars for his low budget ($2 million) film, Full Frontal, denying them the amenities that movie stars have come to expect on the sets of films in which they appear (star). Apparently, he really wanted the focus to be on actually making a film and less on the celebrity politics of Hollywood filmmaking. Full Frontal is one of those “meta” films like Spike Jonze’s two films, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, in which there is a film within a film within a film, a story within a story, and a play within a play. All the elements: filmmakers, actors, characters, settings, story and script blend together to create some kind of hyper fictional/documentary movie hybrid.

Full Frontal follows a day in the life of a group of men and women in Hollywood as they approach an evening birthday party for their friend Gus/Bill (David Duchovny). If you’re wondering why Duchovny’s character has two names it’s because this is a movie within a movie, and some of the film’s characters have dual identities: one is a “real person” and the other is a fictional character. If this is confusing, it is because Full Frontal can be very hard to follow, unlike the aforementioned Spike Jonze films which were both written by Charlie Kaufman and which were both very easy to follow.

Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood (an under appreciated and underutilized actor likely because he is Africa-American) play dual parts and it’s a doozy to separate the lives of four characters that are so alike both professionally and personally. The script by Coleman Hough has that thing we all look for in a story that’s supposed to engage us – pathos. It is a fine dramatic presentation of several slices of several lives ably put to words, and Soderbergh expertly captures the sometimes-farcical nature of life and the sometimes quiet, sometimes manic nature of the beast that is romance.

Full Frontal is a movie within a movie and a film about filmmaking for people who really like movies. Yes, it’s sometimes confusing and following it is occasionally arduous, but numerous excellent performances, sharp film editing, and some neat star cameos make it worth the effort. Steven Soderbergh is a gifted, imaginative and inventive director who really loves to play around with the process of making movies, so anything he makes is not just interesting; it’s damn interesting. Plus, Full Frontal is such an absolute pleasure to watch, even if it bends the mind one too many times.

8 of 10


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Aniston is Money in "Friends with Money: (Happy B'day, Jennifer Aniston)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 196 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Friends with Money (2006)
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some sexual content, and brief drug use
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Nicole Holofcener
PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman
EDITOR: Robert Frazen


Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Greg Germann, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, Ty Burrell, and Bob Stephenson

Set in present day Los Angeles, writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s bittersweet movie, Friends with Money follows the lives of four women in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Jane (Frances McDormand) is a financially secure designer of a popular clothing line, but she’s emotionally insecure and a bit shaky mentally. Her husband, Aaron (Simon McBurney), has little tolerance for her antics. Franny (Joan Cusack) is rich, and she and her husband, Matt (Greg Germann), spend lavishly on gifts and give generously to charity. Christine (Catherine Keener) and her husband, David (Jason Isaacs), are a husband and wife screenwriting team whose marriage and creative partnership is on the rocks. Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is their single friend who is still struggling to find herself, while Jane, Franny, and Christine struggle with the complexities and annoyances of married life.

For many moviegoers, Friends with Money must be a shock to the system, being that it is a well-cast drama with skilled actors portraying adults in real life situations. Holofcener mines the film’s humor from that generous vein we know as human foibles. Not all of the characters are interesting (Franny and Matt are dullsville.), and some of the characters come across as standard oddballs added just to be oddballs (Scott Caan’s Mike, for instance). Overall, the film works, although even at 88 minutes, it tends to meander.

Jennifer Aniston makes this movie. Whenever she’s onscreen, Friends with Money springs to life like a J.V. football player who just learned he’s made the varsity squad. There’s something in Aniston’s performance as Olivia and in Holofcener’s writing for that character that makes both the story appealing and the rest of the characters relevant mainly in the context of Olivia’s struggles. I’m not ready to call her a great actress, but Aniston is pretty darn good. See this flick for her.

7 of 10

Wednesday, September 13, 2006



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" is Still a Steve Carell Showcase

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 133 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive sexual content, language, and some drug use
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
WRITERS: Steve Carell and Judd Apatow
PRODUCERS: Shauna Robertson, Clayton Townsend, and Judd Apatow
EDITOR: Brent White


Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, Shelley Malil, Kat Dennings, Erica Vittina Phillips, Cedric Yarbrough, David Koechner, Lee Weaver, Gloria Helena Jones, and Nancy Walls

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) has never “done the deed,” or, to put it more plainly, Andy has never had sexual intercourse. That makes the avid toy collector, video gaming enthusiast, and comic book reader a 40 year-old virgin. When his co-workers: the three randy bastards, David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogen), accidentally discover Andy’s situation, they immediately want to help him get his cherry popped.

After a series of misadventures, Andy is once again ready to accept that he will never have sexual intercourse, but fate brings him into contact with Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mother of three children and a grandmother of one. Andy and Trish become very close and decide to have a platonic relationship until they get to know each other. However, when the time finally arrives for them to get intimate, Andy is still having reservations…

The 40 Year-Old Virgin could have been nothing more than a shameless excuse to make a tawdry film aimed at teenagers and 20-somethings – full of bad jokes about virginity, loosing one’s virginity and having awkward first-time sex. Instead the film is only half that. Sure, there is plenty of gross humor and embarrassingly frank discussions of sexuality. In fact much of the sex talk is the kind of triple-blue tales guys tell each other when they’re not in polite company because together they aren’t polite company.

Romany Malco and Seth Rogen gamely lead the charge unleashing a barrage of X-rated storytelling that tops the wretched bragging that is a stable on B.E.T.’s “ComicView,” but Malco and Rogen are 10 times funnier. In fact, this is a breakthrough performance for Malco, who deft plays Jay as both comically and as a hypocrite. Both he and Rogen should have long film careers playing “the buddy” to a big name star’s turn as a struggling romantic. However, the third member of the support trio is limply played by Paul Rudd, but it’s not entirely his fault; the script gives him a few good scenes, and then leaves both him and the audience hanging for more of the obviously complicated David.

One thing that The 40 Year-Old Virgin’s screenplay (co-written by the director Judd Apatow and Steve Carell) has going for it is its sense of realness. There is a naturalness to the individual scenes that suggests the truth of real life. What the script lacks is a cohesive sense of honesty. Some things are true; others are just plot contrivances designed to make an outsider tale seem like normal Hollywood fare. In fact, since the writers chose to gloss over the supporting characters, they made the film too long by ten minutes. They could have given those 10 minutes to Catherine Keener so her character, Trish, wouldn’t only come across as a cardboard, sympathetic mother figure and cherry popper – a waste of a powerful actress for sure.

Ultimately, the main reason to see this film is Steve Carell; the seemingly humble actor (at least he comes across that way in interviews) has quietly delivered a number of roles, stunning in how good they are for their smallness, in films such as Bruce Almighty and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Here, he plays a 40 year-old virgin not as a pathetic figure, but a man to be pitied because he has so willingly bought into a life of loneliness. This is especially sad because he’s the proverbial quiet and shy guy who is really a good fellow, and would make a fine pal.

While The 40 Year-Old Virgin’s script is soft, the film’s actors build their roles into characters that the audience wants to like and finally do. Carell, more than anyone else in this film, builds a guy in Andy Stitzer who is so likeable that the audience accepts everything about him, including his many quirks and eccentricities. In the real world, a lot of people wouldn’t recognize or pay attention to a guy like Andy. Carell amazingly turns Andy into an ideal, a perfection of nerd, if you will; Andy is the kind of dork that you could love, root for, cheer, and go out of your way to help.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin has been compared to an earlier 2005 summer hit, Wedding Crashers, but the latter is funnier by far. However, both films make up for crassness with engaging tales of romantic entanglements. Virgin isn’t perfect, and Steve Carell’s performance is more memorable than the film, which in the end may be remembered as a star-making vehicle for him. Although that ending has got to go, the film is daring in so many ways. It’s one of the very few “mainstream” comedies that have almost as many African-American roles as the typical “urban comedy” (comedy with a lot of black characters), and an actress (Catherine Keener) who is older than the male lead (Carell) playing the love interest. That alone makes it a class act.

7 of 10

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: "Being John Malkovich" is Wildly Original (Happy B'day, John Malkovich)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Running time: 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and sexuality
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
WRITER: Charlie Kaufman
PRODUCERS: Steve Golin, Vincent Landay, Sandy Stern, and Michael Stipe
EDITOR: Eric Zumbrunnen
COMPOSER: Carter Burwell
Academy Award nominee


Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Ned Bellamy, Catherine Keener, Reggie Hayes, Orson Bean, and John Malkovich

We’ve all read the reviews that describe particular movies as inventive, witty, original, unique, or some other hyperbole used to describe cinematic “brilliance.” Whether many of those movies deserved such praise is debatable, but Being John Malkovich is the real deal – original and stunningly, painfully unique. It’s not perfect, but it is so mind-numbingly brilliant: I’m not sure if I even know how to watch it again. I’m afraid to think what this film would be like if it were perfect.

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a talented puppeteer with a failed career and an (seemingly) unhappy marriage to a frumpy animal lover (Cameron Diaz). When finances finally get too tight, Craig gets a job sorting files for the peculiar Dr. Lester (Orson Bean). He becomes hopelessly infatuated with Maxine (Catherine Keener), a sharp-tongued woman who works on the same floor. On one particular day of drudgery, Craig accidentally discovers a door to a portal that leads literally into the head of John Malkovich (John Malkovich). After Craig shares the secret with his wife Lottie, she can’t get enough of being John Malkovich, which, of course, leads to a maze of confusion and conflicting desires that both destroys and redefines relationships and creates new pairings.

Directed by award-winning and acclaimed music video director Spike Jonze, Malkovich defies an accurate description. It is alternately a fantasy, a comedy, a romance, and a drama; it is a story that both crosses and breaks genres. The film derives its brilliance from writer Charlie Kaufman; the script is a masterwork and one of the finest original screenplays of the last few decades. That Jonze could make a coherent and entertaining film of a story that it so philosophical, surrealistic, avant garde, and abstract foretells that the creativity seen in his music videos, he will carry over to film – lucky, lucky us.

The performances are all very good; everyone seemed more than up to the task of translating Kaufman’s eccentricity and brilliance to drama. Cusack once again affirms both his coolness and his talent. It’s pointless to praise Malkovich, and Ms. Keener only showed a more attentive audience the skill she’d already showed in films with smaller audiences. If no one will, I will toot Ms. Diaz’s talent. Her beauty merely accentuates her talent. She buried herself in this role as the frumpy lovelorn Lottie; she can do the method thing, so where’s the props?

Brilliant, smashing, exhilarating, ingenious, hilarious, hysterical, and wildly original – all have been said before, but these praises were made whole with Being John Malkovich. The film does seem to run out of energy late in the story, and the sci-fi/fantasy element seems to go overboard. Still, it is a film that has to be seen, if for no other reason than because Being John Malkovich is a fresh look at individuals and their need for and of other people. Run see this thing.

9 of 10

2000 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Catherine Keener), “Best Director” (Spike Jonze), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Charlie Kaufman)

2000 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Charlie Kaufman); 2 nominations: “Best Editing” (Eric Zumbrunnen) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Cameron Diaz)

2000 Golden Globes: 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Cameron Diaz), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Catherine Keener), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Charlie Kaufman)


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Countdown to Oscar 2011: 2011 Spirit Awards Nominations

Press release:


- $125,000 in grants to be awarded to filmmakers -

LOS ANGELES (November 30, 2010) – Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, announced nominations this morning for the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Eva Mendes and Jeremy Renner served as presenters and 2011 Spirit Awards host Joel McHale was also on hand. Nominees for Best Feature include 127 Hours, Black Swan, Greenberg, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone.

Please Give was selected for the Robert Altman Award, which is given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast.


BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer, Executive Producers are not listed)
127 Hours
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, John Smithson

Black Swan
Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Brian Oliver

Producers: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin

The Kids Are All Right
Producers: Gary Gilbert, Philippe Hellmann, Jordan Horowitz, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg

Winter’s Bone
Producers: Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Anne Rosellini

Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Danny Boyle - 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko - The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik - Winter’s Bone
John Cameron Mitchell - Rabbit Hole

Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko - The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini - Winter’s Bone
Nicole Holofcener - Please Give
David Lindsay-Abaire - Rabbit Hole
Todd Solondz - Life During Wartime

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
Everything Strange and New - Director: Frazer Bradshaw, Producers: A.D. Liano, Laura Techera Francia

Get Low - Director: Aaron Schneider
, Producers: David Gundlach, Dean Zanuck

Night Catches Us - Director: Tanya Hamilton
, Producers: Sean Costello, Jason Orans, Ronald Simons

The Last Exorcism - Director: Daniel Stamm
, Producers: Marc Abraham, Tom Bliss, Eric Newman, Eli Roth

Tiny Furniture - Director: Lena Dunham
, Producers: Kyle Martin, Alicia Van Couvering

Diane Bell - Obselidia
Lena Dunham - Tiny Furniture
Nik Fackler - Lovely, Still
Bob Glaudini - Jack Goes Boating
Dana Adam Shapiro, Evan M. Wiener - Monogamy

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD - Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director, and producer. Executive Producers are not listed

Daddy Longlegs
Writer/Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Producers: Casey Neistat, Tom Scott

Director: Matthew Bonifacio
Writer/Producers: Matthew Bonifacio, Carmine Famiglietti

Lovers of Hate
Writer/Director: Bryan Poyser
Producer: Megan Gilbride

Writer/Director: Diane Bell
Producers: Chris Byrne, Mathew Medlin

The Exploding Girl
Writer/Director: Bradley Rust Gray
Producers: Karin Chien, Ben Howe, So Yong Kim

Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Greta Gerwig - Greenberg
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

Ronald Bronstein - Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart - Rabbit Hole
James Franco - 127 Hours
John C. Reilly - Cyrus
Ben Stiller - Greenberg

Ashley Bell - The Last Exorcism
Dale Dickey - Winter’s Bone
Allison Janney - Life During Wartime
Daphne Rubin-Vega - Jack Goes Boating
Naomi Watts - Mother and Child

John Hawkes - Winter’s Bone
Samuel L. Jackson - Mother and Child
Bill Murray - Get Low
John Ortiz - Jack Goes Boating
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right

Adam Kimmel - Never Let Me Go
Matthew Libatique - Black Swan
Jody Lee Lipes - Tiny Furniture
Michael McDonough - Winter’s Bone
Harris Savides - Greenberg

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Director: Banksy

Director: Jeff Malmberg

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

Directors: Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Thunder Soul
Director: Mark Landsman

BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
Director: Lance Daly

Mademoiselle Chambon
Director: Stéphane Brizé

Of Gods and Men
Director: Xavier Beauvois

The King’s Speech (United Kingdom)
Director: Tom Hooper

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 17th annual Acura Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Acura.

Hossein Keshavarz

Dog Sweat

Laurel Nakadate

The Wolf Knife

Mike Ott


PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD – The 14th annual Piaget Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

In-Ah Lee

Au Revoir Taipei

Adele Romanski

The Myth of the American Sleepover

Anish Savjani

Meek’s Cutoff

AVEENO® TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 16th annual AVEENO® Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by AVEENO®.

Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor - Sweetgrass

Jeff Malmberg - Marwencol

Lynn True, Nelson Walker - Summer Pasture

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD - (Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)

Please Give
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Casting Director: Jeanne McCarthy
Ensemble Cast: Ann Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Countdown to Oscar 2011: "Winter's Bone" Wins Big at Gotham Awards

The Gotham Awards were handed out Monday night, November 29th. The Gotham Awards honor independent films.  The winners are as follows:

Best Film: Winter’s Bone
Best Documentary: The Oath
Best Ensemble: Winter’s Bone
Best Breakthrough Performance: Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs
Best Breakthrough Director: Kevin Asch, Holy Rollers
Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You: Littlerock
Festival Genius Audience Award: Waiting for “Superman”

Here is a list of the nominees (with the winners in bold) for the 20th Anniversary Gotham Independent Film Awards:

Best Feature
Winter’s Bone
Debra Granik, director; Anne Rosellini, Alix Madigan-Yorkin, producers (Roadside Attractions)

Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky, director; Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance, director; Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky, producers (The Weinstein Company)

The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko, director; Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray, Jordan Horowitz, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Philippe Hellmann, producers (Focus Features)

Let Me In
Matt Reeves, director; Simon Oakes, Alex Brunner, Guy East, Tobin Armbrust, Donna Gigliotti, John Nording, Carl Molinder, producers (Overture Films)

Best Documentary
The Oath
Laura Poitras, director/producer (Zeitgeist Films and American Documentary/POV)

12th & Delaware
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors/producers (HBO Documentary Films)

Inside Job
Charles Ferguson, director; Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Public Speaking
Martin Scorsese, director; Martin Scorsese, Graydon Carter, Margaret Bodde, Fran Lebowitz, producers (HBO Documentary Films)

Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash, directors; Ilisa Barbash, producer (Cinema Guild)

Best Ensemble Performance
Winter’s Bone
Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Breznahan
(Roadside Attractions)

The Kids Are All Right
Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson (Focus Features)

Life During Wartime
Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Chris Marquette, Rich Pecci, Charlotte Rampling, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, Dylan Riley Snyder, Renée Taylor, Michael Kenneth Williams (IFC Films)

Please Give
Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Ann Guilbert, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele, Thomas Ian Nicholas (Sony Pictures Classics)

Tiny Furniture
Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Rachel Howe, Merritt Wever, Amy Seimetz, Alex Karpovsky, David Call, Jemima Kirke, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Garland Hunter, Isen Hunter (IFC Films)

Breakthrough Director
Kevin Asch for Holy Rollers (First Independent Pictures)
John Wells for The Company Men (The Weinstein Company)
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa for I Love You Phillip Morris (Roadside Attractions)
Tanya Hamilton for Night Catches Us (Magnolia Pictures)
Lena Dunham for Tiny Furniture (IFC Films)

Breakthrough Actor
Ronald Bronstein in Daddy Longlegs (IFC Films)
Prince Adu in Prince of Broadway (Elephant Eye Films)
Greta Gerwig in Greenberg (Focus Features)
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions)
John Ortiz in Jack Goes Boating (Overture Films)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
Mike Ott, director; Frederick Thornton, Laura Ragsdale, Sierra Leoni, producers

Kati with an i
Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, producers

On Coal River
Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood, directors; Jillian Elizabeth, Adams Wood, Francine Cavanaugh, producers

Summer Pasture
Lynn True and Nelson Walker, directors/producers; Tsering Perlo, co-director/co-producer

The Wolf Knife
Laurel Nakadate, director/producer

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Review: The Lightning Thief" a Bad Start for Percy Jackson Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language
DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus
WRITER: Craig Titley (based upon the novel by Rick Riordan)
PRODUCERS: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary, Mark Radcliffe, and Karen Rosenfelt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Goldblatt
EDITOR: Peter Honess
COMPOSER: Christophe Beck


Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Kevin McKidd, Joe Pantoliano, and Uma Thurman

Percy Jackson is a fictional character and the star of the book series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians from author Rick Riordan. Percy is a demigod, the child of a god and a human. Perseus “Percy” Jackson’s father is Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, and his mother is Sally Jackson, a mortal. The movie Percy Jackson & and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is based on the first novel in the series, The Lightning Thief (2005)

Seventeen-year-old Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) lives with his mother Sally Jackson (Catherine Keener) and his obnoxious, smelly stepfather, Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano), but he is clueless about who he really is. That’s about to change, because a war is brewing among the gods of Olympus. The master bolt, the lightning bolt that Zeus (Sean Bean) uses to create other lightning, has been stolen. Zeus believes the lightning thief is the son of his brother, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), none other than Percy Jackson.

Meanwhile, Percy has the truth about his origins forced upon him. He is a demigod and even his best friend, Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson), is a satyr and his protector. Percy immediately leaves his old life behind to attend Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for demigods. There, he meets other children of the gods, including the furious fighter, Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of the goddess Athena. When Hades (Steve Coogan), the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, kidnaps Sally in order to force Percy to give him the bolt, Percy, Gabe, and Annabeth begin a quest to Underworld to rescue Percy’s mother. But they must also find the lightning thief before a war of the gods destroys the world.

Obviously, Percy Jackson stands in the shadowy of that other star of children’s fantasy literature, Harry Potter. Although Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is directed by Chris Columbus, the man who directed the first two Harry Potter films and produced the third, this is no Harry Potter movie.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief just doesn’t match the quality of a Harry Potter movie, and it doesn’t even offer a great villain like Potter’s enemy, You-Know-Who. Even if I didn’t compare this Percy Jackson movie to a Harry Potter movie, Percy would still be judged as a mediocre film. The action scenes are quite entertaining, but when the film isn’t offering action, for instance, when the story focuses on character drama, it is a disaster.

The acting is acceptable, but unspectacular, and Brandon T. Jackson as the satyr Grover certainly tries to bring some levity to this stiff special effects-heavy fantasy – with, at best, mixed results. A cool sequence with Uma Thurman, however, is this movie’s best moment and is worth seeing even if you avoid the rest of the movie. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief isn’t bad. It’s just another passable fantasy film aimed at children and their parents.

5 of 10

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: Hoffman Gives Memorable Performance in "Capote"

Capote (2005)
Opening date: September 30, 2005
Running time: 114 minutes; MPAA – R for violent images and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller
WRITER: Dan Futterman (based upon the book by Gerald Clarke)
PRODUCERS: Caroline Baron, Michael Ohoven, and William Vince
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen


Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan, and Mark Pellegrino

In November 1959, Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reads an article in The New York Times about the murder of the four members of the Clutters, a well-known farm family in Holcomb, Kansas. Something about the crimes catches Capote’s attention, and the acclaimed author believes that he can use this incident to prove his theory that non-fiction can be as compelling as fiction – in the hands of capable author, which he is. He convinces his editor at The New Yorker magazine to send him to Kansas, accompanied by his childhood friend, Nell Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), who was within a few months to publish the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that would make her famous, To Kill a Mockingbird, as his assistant and researcher. Capote wants to write about how the Clutters’ murders affected Holcomb. With that as his focus, Capote initially doesn’t care if the murderers are ever caught.

However, when the two suspects, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), are finally arrested, Capote becomes fascinated with Perry, and decides to expand the story to cover who Perry is and from where he came and what actually happened inside the house the night of the murders. Capote walks a thin line between befriending Perry and using him for what would become Capote’s most famous work, the book In Cold Blood. The film focuses on his obsession with finishing the book, which meant that he desperately wanted Perry and his partner to be executed so that the book would have an end, and his compassion for his subjects, especially his deep feelings for Perry.

In Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives the year’s best performance by an actor – male or female – by a mile. In addition, Capote is easily one of the ten best films 2005 that I’ve seen. Hoffman seems to channel the spirit of the late author, Truman Capote (1924-1984), and constructs a beautiful fictional version of the writer. He climbs so deep into the character that even a physical manifestation of the real Hoffman in the film are rare.

Beyond Hoffman’s brilliant and poignant performance, Capote, a fictionalized account of real events occurring from 1959 to 1965, is a superb film, extraordinary really. The team of director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman fashioned a film that allows Hoffman to be the center, but also makes room for a compelling, dramatic thriller that focuses on Capote’s self-interested friendship with two brutal murderers, but also includes Capote’s circle of friends. Catherine Keener makes the most of her part as Harper Lee, although the character exists only as an extension of Capote. If Capote the film has a shortcoming, it is that the script and performances create fully realized characters that are ultimately underutilized in the narrative. That is best exemplified in the film’s closing minutes when Keener’s Harper Lee coolly delivers a harsh judgment on Capote; that scene alone shows the potential of the movie if the it had given a more broad portrayal of the characters.

Still, Hoffman’s landmark performance carries the film past any shortcomings. He gives us a glimpse into the dark heart and cunning mind of an innovative artist who will say anything and use anyone to create his groundbreaking art. Capote is one of the best films in recent memory to deal with what a writer will do to get his story.

9 of 10

2006 Academy Awards: 1 win for Best Actor (Hoffman); 4 nominations: picture, director, supporting actress (Keener), and adapted screenplay

2006 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: actor (Hoffman); 4 nominations: film, supporting actress (Keener), director, and adapted screenplay

2006 Golden Globes: 1 win for actor in a motion picture-drama (Hoffman)

2006 Independent Spirit Awards: 5 nominations: feature, male lead (Hoffman), screenplay, cinematographer, and “Producers Award (Caroline Baron)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006