Showing posts with label Chris Cooper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Cooper. Show all posts

Friday, October 16, 2015

Stephen Frears' "The Program" Closes 2015 Austin Film Festival

Austin Film Festival Announces Stephen Frears’ Lance Armstrong Film, The Program, as Closing Night Film

Additional Marquee Programming to Feature The 33, Love the Coopers, and Retrospective Screening of Lone Star Presented by Chris Cooper

Confirmed guests include Kristen Connolly, Estelle Parsons, Mary Kay Place, Steve Nicolaides, Caroline Thompson, and a special Skype conversation with TV Legend Carl Reiner

AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Austin Film Festival & Screenwriters Conference (AFF), the premier film festival recognizing the writers’ contributions to film, television, and new media, released today their final program additions, including new marquee films and special guests. The 22nd Annual Austin Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, October 29 and runs through Thursday, November 5, 2015.

The Program joins the Festival as the 2015 Closing Night Selection, held at the historic Paramount Theatre. From Academy Award®-nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena), comes the true story of the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most celebrated and controversial men in recent history: Lance Armstrong, the world-renowned Tour de France champion. Written by John Hodge (Trainspotting), The Program features Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Dustin Hoffman, and Jesse Plemons.

The Festival revealed new marquee titles, including Love the Coopers and The 33, and a retrospective screening of Lone Star presented by AFF’s Extraordinary Contribution to Film – Actor award recipient, Chris Cooper.

Confirmed guests recently slated to attend the 2015 Festival & Conference:

  •     Mary Kay Place will present AFF’s 2015 “Outstanding Television Writer” award to Norman Lear
  •     Kristen Connolly joins the cast for the staged script reading of Rosaline, an unproduced screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars)
  •     James Moll (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, The Last Days) joins the Conference’s Independent Filmmaking Track for a discussion on documentary filmmaking
  •     Steve Nicolaides will present the 2015 “Extraordinary Contribution to Film” award to John Singleton
  •     Caroline Thompson (writer Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas) will participate as a panelist in the Screenwriters Conference

Austin Film Festival will also present a special Skype conversation with TV Legend Carl Reiner, focusing on his work on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on Saturday, October 31, 2015 during the Screenwriters Conference.

The full Film and Conference schedule, and more information on Badges and Passes, can be found at


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" Entangled in Too Many Angles

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 43 by Leroy Douresseaux

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Running time: 142 minutes (2 hours, 22 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi/action and violence
WRITERS: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and James Pinkner; from a story by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, James Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt (based upon the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
PRODUCERS: Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
COMPOSERS: Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six, Johnny Marr, and Pharrell Williams


Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Marton Csokas, Max Charles, B.J. Novak, Kari Coleman, Michael Massee, and Stan Lee with Chris Cooper and Denis Leary

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a 2014 superhero film and drama from director Marc Webb and stars Andrew Garfield in the title role. It is the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, the 2012 film that was a reboot of Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man film franchise, and this movie is also the fifth Spider-Man film in the series.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finds Spider-Man facing a former admirer turned super-villain, while Peter Parker worries that being Spider-Man will endanger his loved ones.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins as Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), are about to graduate from high school.  Peter is also loving his life as the costumed, crime-fighting superhero, Spider-Man.  Peter, however, is currently haunted by the specter of police Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen's deceased father.  As Capt. Stacy lay dying (in the previous film), Peter promised him to keep Gwen out of his life because of Spider-Man.  Peter reluctantly tries to break up with Gwen, but the two teenagers deeply love each other.  Peter's attempts simply sow confusion.

Meanwhile, at OsCorp Industries, Peter's former friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns to New York City in time to take over the business of his recently deceased father, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper).  OsCorp's past as a company on the cutting edge of controversial genetic research, however, threatens both Harry and Peter.  Also, a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), appears.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lacks focus, and I think that there are two reasons for that.  First, the screenplay wants to be a story of young romance, but the romance and character drama are overwrought.   Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone give good performances, but Peter and Gwen's relationship is like a car stuck in mud and pointlessly spinning its wheel.  The car isn't going anywhere, and until the end, neither is Peter and Gwen's relationship, and then, that is only for tragic affect.

I think the second reason that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems muddled is because it is more than just a superhero movie; it is the birth of an expanded universe.  Sony, Columbia Pictures' parent, wants to take some of the characters that belong to Marvel Comics' line of Spider-Man comic books and use them to expand their Spider-Man film franchise into a Spider-Man universe.  They want something like Marvel Studios' “Marvel Cinematic Universe.”  Why have just Spider-Man movies when you can have movies starring Spider-Man adversaries like Venom and the Sinister Six.

Marvel essentially used the 2010 film, Iron Man 2, to expand its universe, and that movie tended to drift and lack focus, but in the end, Iron Man 2 was a good movie.   The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is meant to expand the Spider-Man universe, but in the end, it is not really a good movie.  The character melodrama is at odds with the showy action-fantasy violence that is the Spider-Man vs. Electro subplot.  Electro is probably the worse villain yet in the Spider-Man films.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has an engaging visual style, and it is probably at its best when it depicts Spider-Man swinging over New York City, through its canyons and around its buildings and skyscrapers.  Even the fight scenes, which seem tacked on to the story, look good, when they focus on Spider-Man.  Nothing about Electro looks good.  Hopefully, the third installment of The Amazing Spider-Man can be itself, a stand-alone movie that does not have to carry the hopes of Sony's corporate board and accountants.

4 of 10

Monday, September 15, 2014

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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: "The Kingdom" is a Thrill Ride (Happy B'day, Richard Jenkins)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Kingdom (2007)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence and for language
DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg
WRITER:  Matthew Michael Carnahan
PRODUCERS:  Peter Berg, Michael Mann, and Scott Stuber
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mauro Fiore (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Colby Parker, Jr. and Kevin Stitt
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman


Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, Kyle Chandler, Frances Fisher, Danny Huston, Kelly AuCoin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Minka Kelly

The subject of this movie review is The Kingdom, a 2007 action thriller and crime drama directed by Peter Berg.  The film follows a team of agents from the United States, investigating the bombing of an American facility in the Middle East.

When terrorists attack and kill over 100 people at the Al Rahmah Western Housing Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, FBI Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) leads a small squad to investigate the bombing and find the culprits.  Once Fleury and the other U.S. agents – Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) – arrive, they learn that in Saudi Arabia, many consider them the true enemy.

Culture and the local bureaucracy hamper their investigation, but a local policeman, Col. Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), becomes sympathetic to Fleury’s predicament.  Soon, Fleury realizes that he and his team are the targets of the mysterious terrorist leader, Abu Hamza, but neither the threat of death or disgrace back home will stop Fleury’s mission.

With The Kingdom, director Peter Berg (The Rundown, Friday Night Lights) and writer Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs) dive headlong into the snake pit that movies about the “war on terrorism” and set in Middle East can be.  What Berg and Carnahan come up with is an imperfect, but entertaining and engaging action flick that doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are few if any easy answers when fighting the murderous criminals who are terrorists.

Berg doesn’t shy away from making a hardcore action movie.  There are intense car chases, with the requisite automobile flips and explosions, and there are sequences of manic gun battles that arrive in the kind of big slabs that keep an action movie junkie euphoric.  The screenplay even insists on being a police procedural, making The Kingdom something like Black Hawk Down meets Michael Mann’s Heat (Mann also co-produced The Kingdom), and TV’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Honestly, the movie drags when it focuses on the investigation, detective work, and forensics.  On the other hand, The Kingdom soars when it lays on the gun battles and car violence.  When the movie tries to be an FBI investigation flick, the narrative and indeed the performances get bogged down in detective work and the complications that can arise when different cultures meet.  The film does raise several issues – asking questions that complicate what many only want to see as black and white.  Are the FBI agents seeking justice or are they out for revenge?  Does the subsequent violence only make matters worse?  Does anyone gain anything or does everyone lose?  These are the kind of questions that get a movie like this in trouble in the current political/social climate.  An action movie requires that everything be in black and white, but the film’s setting and the issues it tackles just won’t be divided in two like that.

Ultimately, The Kingdom is a riveting action thriller that delivers.  It affirms that Jamie Foxx can carry an action flick (but is there room for more than one or two action “stars of color?”), that Jason Bateman is funny, and that Jeremy Piven is a great character actor.  However, the audience might have to take on some sticky issues to enjoy the thrill ride that is The Kingdom.

7 of 10

Friday, January 18, 2008

Updated:  Sunday, May 04, 2014

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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Muppets" is Muppet-ational

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Muppets (2011)
Running time: 103 minutes (l hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild rude humor
DIRECTOR: James Bobin
WRITERS: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
PRODUCERS: David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
EDITOR: James Thomas
COMPOSER: Christophe Beck
Academy Award winner


Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, and Jack Black and The Muppets: (voices) Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Tyler Bunch, and Alice Dinnean with Emily Blunt, Whoopi Goldberg, and Zach Galifianakis

The Muppets is a 2011 live-action, musical comedy and fantasy film from Walt Disney Pictures. This Oscar-winning film stars The Muppets, the puppet characters created by the late Jim Henson, specifically the characters that appeared on the television series, “The Muppets” (1976-81). This film finds The Muppets reuniting to save their old theatre from a crooked oil tycoon.

Walter (voice of Peter Linz) is a man born as a Muppet. He lives in Smalltown (presumably a small town in the American Midwest) with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel). Gary has planned a vacation to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), for their tenth anniversary, and he invites Walter along, so that he can tour the Muppet Studios.

Once in L.A., the trio finds the studio lot abandoned and Muppet Theatre decrepit. Walter happens to overhear Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a greedy oil tycoon, plotting to seize control of Muppet Theatre, which he also plans to destroy. Walter, Gary, and Mary travel to the mansion of Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmore), and convince him to reunite The Muppets. Kermit wants to put on a telethon to raise the ten million dollars needed to save Muppet Theatre, but The Muppets have not performed together in years and are scattered around the country. Even if Kermit reunites his friends, no television network thinks that The Muppets are still popular or relevant enough to give them the television time they will need to raise so much money.

With the release of The Muppets last year, I got a chance to rediscover my love for these characters. I watched the first television series, The Muppet Show, during its original run and later, in syndication for several years. I must say that I’m pleased with this new movie, which was critically well-received and performed well at the box office. For the most part, these are still The Muppets that I knew and loved and still love.

The new songs are better than I thought they would be. The beguiling, Elton John-esque “Man or Muppet” (written by Bret McKenzie) won a best original song Oscar, but I prefer two other McKenzie-penned songs. “Life’s a Happy Song” and “Me Party” (co-written by Paul Roemen) are the kind of catchy tunes that can stand on their own as lively jingles outside The Muppets (or even be used in another movie).

Early in the film, I found the characters played by Jason Segel and Amy Adams intolerable and intrusive. I was only a little more tolerant of nouveau-faux Muppet, Walter. As Segel’s Gary and Adams’ Mary recede more into the background and take their place as supporting characters, they grew on me… a little. Besides, I find it hard not to like Amy Adams. Truthfully, Gary, Mary, and Walter seem like minor gateway characters that create the contrivances which in turn bring The Muppets back into the picture. By the end of the movie, I liked that the new characters were part of the film.

Of course, the best thing in The Muppets are The Muppets. Whenever they’re singing and dancing and squabbling and trying to keep their stuff together, The Muppets have their mojo, and their mojo is back. By the end of The Muppets, I was sad because I wanted the movie to be longer.

8 of 10

2012 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Bret McKenzie for the song "Man or Muppet")

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Disney's Oscar-Winning "The Muppets" Now on DVD and Blu-ray

The Biggest Muppet Adventure Ever Comes Home!

Disney's The Muppets

The Must-Own Movie For The Entire Family Debuts on Blu-ray ™ Combo Pack, Digital and On-Demand March 20, 2012

Debut Release Offers Fans the Full Movie Soundtrack with DVD Release and as part of a ‘Wocka-Wocka’ Pack for the Ultimate Muppets Experience!

One of the year’s best-loved family comedies and among the best reviewed films of 2011, Disney’s “The Muppets,” starring Jason Segel, Academy Award®-nominee Amy Adams, and favorite celebrity couple Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy -- debuts March 20 on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, Digital Download and On-Demand formats. A must-own movie the entire family can enjoy, Disney’s “The Muppets” in-home release includes the DVD and music soundtrack packaged together and also offered as the ultimate Muppets experience, a ‘Wocka-Wocka Value Pack,’ which contains the movie on Blu-ray high definition, DVD and Digital Copy (three discs), plus a download card which allows fans to own all the songs from the film’s hugely popular soundtrack.

Disney’s “The Muppets” Blu-ray Combo Pack, with its flawless picture and pitch perfect sound, comes with a fantastic slate of bonus content including the laugh out loud “The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History––We Think).” The exciting release also includes the hilarious featurette “A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through,” which follows Jason Segel, Kermit, The Great Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and others as they get ready for the first day of production, and much more fun.

“Blu-ray is a great way to bring the Muppets into your home without having to worry about cleaning up after us,” said Kermit the Frog, commenting on the announcement. “And the behind-the-scenes extras are a revealing tell-all look at what it took to bring our movie to the big screen. It’s a must-see for fans of bloopers, flubs and slip-ups – which pretty much describes our act.”

Miss Piggy is equally thrilled at the movie’s Blu-ray release, “Now you can watch moi whenever you want! Ooh! Lucky vous!”

Additional fun-filled features on Disney’s “The Muppets” Blu-ray include a groundbreaking industry first -- ‘Disney Intermission,’ a hilarious all-new feature that allows viewers to press Pause on their remote control and watch as the Muppets take over the screen and entertain until the movie resumes playing. The release also includes “Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song,” an extended version of the rollicking rap song by villain Tex Richman (Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper) who provides the hilarious backstory of why he hates the Muppets. Audio commentaries with screenwriter and star Jason Segel, director James Bobin and screenwriter Nicholas Stoller are also included.

With the Muppet’s signature irreverent comedy, songs and dancing, Muppet fans of all ages will cheer as the gang reunites to put on a benefit show to save the crumbling Muppet Studios from being razed by nefarious oil baron Tex Richman. New fans and long-time devotees will find the rainbow connection when they bring Disney’s “The Muppets” into their very own homes.

Release Formats & Suggested Retail Pricing:
3-Disc Blu-ray with Soundtrack (‘Wocka-Wocka Value Pack’) = $49.99 U.S./$56.99 Canada
2-Disc Blu-ray = $39.99 U.S./$46.99 Canada
1-Disc DVD with Soundtrack = $34.99/$41.99 Canada
1-Disc DVD = $29.99 U.S./$35.99 Canada
High Definition Digital = $39.99 U.S./$44.99 Canada
Standard Definition Digital = $29.99 U.S./$35.99 Canada
On-Demand = check with your television provider or favorite digital retailer for pricing

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Town" Brings Heat to Boston

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 33 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Town (2010)
Running time: 125 minutes (2 hour, 5 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
DIRECTOR: Ben Affleck
WRITERS: Peter Craig, Ben Affleck, and Aaron Stockard (based upon the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan)
PRODUCERS: Basil Iwanyk and Graham King
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor
COMPOSERS: David Buckley and Harry Gregson-Williams
Academy Awards nominee


Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper

The Town is a 2010 crime drama directed by Ben Affleck, who also stars in the film and is one of the writers. Based upon the novel, Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, The Town focuses on a career bank robber who falls in love with a bank manager he takes hostage after a heist.

Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, is the home of lifelong friends: Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James “Jem” Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert “Gloansy” Magloan (Slaine), and Desmond “Dez” Elden (Owen Burke). This quartet is also a dangerous and highly-successful team of bank robbers.

After robbing a bank, they take bank manager, Claire Kessey (Rebecca Hall), hostage. Even after releasing her, Doug stalks Claire to learn how much she is cooperating with the FBI. Meanwhile, Fergus “Fergie” Colm (Pete Postlethwaite), the local crime boss known as “the Florist,” pushes MacRay and his crew to attempt ever more dangerous and complex heists. MacRay is ready to leave Charlestown, but the weight of his obligations to best friend, Jem, seems to hold him in a life of crime. As MacRay prepares for his most dangerous heist ever, FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) gets closer to discovering MacRay and his team.

Ben Affleck’s The Town seems like a Boston version of Michael Mann’s 1995 crime classic, Heat, which is about Los Angeles-based bank robbers. Several times while watching The Town, I thought of Heat. I also think that The Town isn’t as good as Affleck’s previous directorial effort, the excellent Gone Baby Gone.

The Town is still good, but I can’t imagine that is will ever be called a crime classic, in spite of what seems like a tremendous effort on Affleck’s part to make a great crime drama. Everything is well-done, but the character drama seems a little flat. Only when the narrative gets into the action set pieces (the before, during, and after the robberies) does The Town spring to mad life. In these instances, Affleck is strongest and most sure of his craft, whereas in the character moments, he and his narrative drift a little.

There are two exceptional things about The Town. First is Jeremy Renner as the volatile Jem. Crime films thrive on great supporting performances, and The Town has one in Renner. He makes Jem seem so complete, whole, and real that you might forget that Jem is just a fictional character; Renner lights up the screen whenever Jem appears. Blake Lively also delivers a strong turn as Jem’s troubled sister, Krista Coughlin, an unstable single mother and addict who is MacRay’s former girlfriend. Lively makes Krista good enough to warrant much more screen time that the character actually gets.

Like Heat, The Town has a shootout scene that tears the roof off the mutha. That is enough to make me overlook the film’s deficiencies, but as good as it is, The Town could have been so much more.

7 of 10

2011 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jeremy Renner)

2011 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actor” (Pete Postlethwaite)

2011 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jeremy Renner)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Julie Taymor's "The Tempest" on DVD September 2011

From the visionary Director Julie Taymor (Frida) comes a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece in the visually stunning and innovative feature film THE TEMPEST. Available nationwide on Blu-ray™, DVD, Movie Download, and On-Demand on September 13, 2011.

Film Synopsis:
This modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s final masterpiece is an exciting, mystical and magical fantasy with Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren (Best Actress, The Queen, 2006) leading a star-studded cast including Russell Brand (Get Him To The Greek) and Alfred Molina (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). Exiled to a magical island, the sorceress Prospera (Mirren) conjures up a storm that shipwrecks her enemies, and then unleashes her powers for revenge. Directed by Julie Taymor (Frida) — and complete with exclusive bonus features — The Tempest, with its innovative twist, is a supernatural dramedy filled with Shakespearean villains, lovers and fools that will leave you spellbound.

U.S. Release Date:
September 13, 2011
(Direct Prebook July 19, 2011/ Distributor Prebook August 2, 2011)

Rating: PG 13 - for some nudity, suggestive content and scary images
Feature Run Time: Approximately 110-minutes
Release Format: Blu-ray™, DVD, Movie Download & On-Demand
Suggested Retail Price: 1-Disc Blu-ray = $39.99 U.S.
1-Disc DVD = $29.99 U.S.
Movie Download High Definition = $39.99 U.S.
Movie Download Standard Definition = $29.99 U.S.
On-Demand = for pricing, please contact your television provider or favorite digital retailer

Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary with Director Julie Taymor Russell Brand Rehearsal Riff
O MISTRESS MINE Reeve Carney Music Video
And more!

Helen Mirren (The Debt, State of Play, The Queen)
Russell Brand (Get Him To The Greek; Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Alfred Molina (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Prince of Persia, An Education)
Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond)
Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife,” It’s Complicated)
Chris Cooper (Remember Me, The Kingdom)
David Straitharn (The Bourne Ultimatum)

Julie Taymor (Frida, Broadway’s The Lion King and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark)
Julie Taymor (Frida, Broadway’s The Lion King and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and Ronald Bozeman (Confessions of a Shopaholic)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: "Seabiscuit" is an Uplifting Tale of a Horse and His Boys

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Seabiscuit (2003)
Running time: 140 minutes (2 hours, 20 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual situations and violent sports-related images
WRITER: Gary Ross (from the novel by Laura Hillenbrand)
PRODUCERS: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Gary Ross, and Jane Sindell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwartzman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: William Goldenberg
COMPOSER: Randy Newman
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, William H. Macy, Kingston DuCoeur, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens, Eddie Jones, and David McCullough, and Michael Angarano

Seabiscuit is the story of three men who are broken by misfortune in their lives and how one unlikely horse becomes a champion and changes their lives. The film is based upon the true story of Seabiscuit, an undersized, Depression-era horse whose story lifted the spirits of a nation and the three-man team behind it.

Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) was a bicycle salesman who made his fortune in automobiles, but saw his only son die in a tragic mishap. Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) was a horseman who ended up a drifter after the stock market crash that precipitated the Depression. Red Pollard (Michael Angarano) lived with his well-to-do middle, class family, residing in a lovely home. All the family members loved to read, but Red’s love of horses and his rapport with them was obvious to anyone who saw him with a horse. After the Depression causes the Pollards to lose their home, Red’s parents leave him with a track owner, thinking Red would be better off as a jockey. It is, however, a rough life, and the adult Red (Tobey Maguire) is a wreck of a man and an alcoholic. Gradually fate brings the three hurt men together around one horse, as they try to help Seabiscuit reach the glory many thought would be his destiny by right of his lineage.

Seabiscuit is a curious film. It looks like a period piece and feels like a mini-epic, but the film is ultimately an emotional masterpiece. That simply means that the film brings forth the viewers’ emotions. You can feel the thrill of victory in your heart when the horse wins. When tragedy strikes or something bad happens to a character, you might also feel the sadness. You thrill, cheer, and cry, because you can feel along with the characters.

Director Gary Ross has written some very good films including Big (1988) and Dave, and he also directed the very charming Pleasantville. His best attribute is creating characters that breath, characters that make you care about them, so that you root for them, are happy for them, and are sad with them. When the viewer cares for the characters, they’re likely to buy into the movie.

Ross writes and directs a picture in which he makes nearly every moment riveting, both the quiet moments and the scenes of stadiums crowded with people anxious to see a horse race. It’s worth following the line of action because the drama is so entrancing. It’s enough to make you forget the times when the film feels too staged and its theatrics too over-the-top and posed.

The acting is all first rate. What else should we expect from a cast that includes such great character actors as Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and William H. Macy, especially when they’re given a script with rich characters to perform? And Tobey Maguire seems to have impeccable tastes when it comes to choosing films (The Ice Storm, The Cider House Rules), so it’s a safe bet to see anything with him in it. Plus, his charming, boyishly good looks also have a kind of weary everyman quality, like a guy who has lived a varied and interesting life. Maguire just looks like he belongs in the films in which he stars.

In large measure, Seabiscuit is about redemption and about lives made whole again. It’s about people who feel abandoned and suddenly find other people who care about them or about the lonely finding groups to which they can belong. The film is less about feeling good and more about being able to get on your feet again. The film says that a person can overcome any obstacle, and Seabiscuit proclaims it so winningly.

8 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 7 nominations: “Best Picture” (Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Gary Ross), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Jeannine Claudia Oppewall-art director and Leslie A. Pope-set decorator), “Best Cinematography” (John Schwartzman), “Best Costume Design” (Judianna Makovsky), “Best Editing” (William Goldenberg), “Best Sound Mixing” (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, and Tod A. Maitland), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Gary Ross)

2004 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (William H. Macy)


Friday, September 3, 2010

George Clooney, Jeffrey Wright Shine in "Syriana"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 178 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Syriana (2005)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Stephen Gaghan
WRITER: Stephen Gaghan (suggested by the book See No Evil by Robert Baer)
PRODUCERS: Jennifer Fox, Michael Nozik, and Georgia Kacand
EDITOR: Tim Squyres
Academy Award winner


Starring: Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, Alexander Siddig, Mazhar Munir, Akbar Kurtha, Sonnell Dadral, Nadim Sawalha, and William C. Mitchell

In 2000, Stephen Gaghan won the “Best Adapted Screenplay” for the 1999 film, Traffic, which took a look at drug-trafficking through several different points of view, each one a sub-plot in the film, making Traffic not only one film, but a movie composed of several mini-movies. Gaghan, now as both writer and director, tries that method again with the film, Syriana, a politically-charged thriller about the international oil industry, oil trading, and the politics as seen through the eyes those personally involved in the business and politics and those affected by business and politics behind energy.

Syriana, even more so than Traffic, is a riveting, but cerebral political thriller that demands that the viewer pays attention, rather than “turn his brain off” as he or she would in a sit-back-and-enjoy, special effects-laden thriller. The film follows characters from the brokering rooms and halls of power in Washington D.C. to the oils fields of the Persian Gulf, and weaves multiple storylines that look at the human consequences of the decisions of the wealthy and powerful oil players.

A murder plot that he is initiating in Beirut, Lebanon goes bad for Bob Barnes (George Clooney), a career CIA operative. Suddenly, circumstances beyond his control mark him as a failure, and Barnes becomes the subject of an FBI investigation. Relegated to a desk job, he begins to wonder about the disturbing work to which he’s dedicated his life.

The target of Barnes’ assassination plot was the handsome and charismatic Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (Alexander Siddig). Nasir makes a deal with a Chinese company for his country’s natural gas drilling rights, a arrangement that will bring more money to the nation than a similar deal with an American oil company, Connex Killen. He finds a kindred spirit in Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), an oil broker/energy analyst, who discovers that an horrifically painful family tragedy has given him a lucrative deal with the idealistic Gulf prince. Nasir is the apparent heir to the throne of his country, and his father, the Emir Hamad Al-Subaai (Nadim Sawalha) is ill. However, Nasir’s younger brother, the callow and not bright Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha), is more amenable to American interests, so the Americans, in particular Connex Killen, are angling to have the Emir (king) chose Meshal as his successor.

The American oil company Connex Killen is the result of a recent merger of two energy entities – Connex, a Texas energy giant, and Killen, a smaller Texas oil company. Killen and its owner, Jimmy Pope (Chris Cooper), also used shading dealings to land drilling rights to coveted oil fields in Kazakhstan, which also lands them under an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is a quiet, but highly ambitious Washington attorney at Sloan Whiting. It is his job to get the Connex Killen merger through the Justice Department. Holiday, subtle and very smart, must give the federal investigators enough material to make their case against Killeen for its shady dealings in Kazakhstan without jeopardizing either the deal or the merger with Connex.

Ultimately, the machinations of all these men play a part in the life of Wasim Kahn (Mazhar Munir), a young man from Pakistan who works in the Gulf oil fields with his father. After being laid off because of Nasir’s deal with the Chinese, he becomes angry and disillusioned. The Pakistani teenager and his friend Farooq (Sonnell Dadral) join a madrassa, where they fall under the sway of The Cleric (Omar Mostafa) a mysterious blue-eyed Egyptian. He is the same man who took possession of one of the Stinger missiles Bob Barnes sold to arms dealers in Tehran, Iran at the beginning of the film.

Syriana lacks the shaky camera work and rapid editing director Stephen Soderbergh used to give intensity to the Stephen Gaghan-penned Traffic. Gaghan’s film is subtle and eschews the documentary style atmosphere Traffic had. Syriana’s labyrinthine plot and convoluted script snake through a massive ensemble of players, of which very few are more important than others. Even someone with only a little screen time impacts the narrative, shaping the paths of other characters.

Although all the characters are interesting and the performances of them are nice, only two stood out to me. First, Alexander Siddig’s Prince Nasir is a driven man, and Siddig tells as much about the character through his face as he does through the script. Nasir is clearly a man of ideas, a leader and a charming and captivating one at that, but Gaghan only gives Nasir one scene in which he gets to show his ability to lead. That one scene, with generals and other leaders of his country, actually strikes as a bit hollow because there was never any indication prior to that that Nasir would go so far to assure his ascendancy to Emir. Nasir is essential to Syriana’s concept and more of him would have solidified the film’s ideology, but Gaghan ultimately leaves him bare (at least in this cut of the film, which apparently existed in a longer version before it hit U.S. theatres).

The other stand out character is Bennett Holiday, and in the role of Holiday, Jeffrey Wright gives Syriana’s best performance. Like the film, Wright’s Holiday is quiet, but determined. Delicately and with restraint, Holiday will achieve his means. Holiday is actually more successful in his venture than the film in which he exists. Wright makes Holiday Syriana’s focal point; basically, he is the point at which all sub-plots meet or he determines the resolution of others. Holiday, like Syriana, is pragmatic and not very judgmental. Clearly he knows right and wrong, and Syriana obviously believes that much of what people and nations do for the wealth and power that oil and natural gas gives them is harmful to their own long term interests and the immediate well being of many humans, but Holiday is pragmatic, and, to a lesser degree, so is Syriana though the creators might not admit that.

Still, Syriana is about how the world is than about how the world should be. Sometimes, the film’s tagline, “What is the price of oil?” seems like a rhetorical question. We can agree that the actions of many of the film’s players (and there real life counterparts) are selfish, harmful, and wrong, but things are what they are. Perhaps, Syriana is asking us to consider the ramifications of how we get our energy, but a lot of the film’s message and action are to the imagination. Gaghan is clearly sending his message to a more thoughtful film audience. He doesn’t expect the rank and file Joe Blow to give a hoot how the fuel gets to his four-wheeler, or what the ultimate cost of getting it there is. He does expect people who claim they care and are interested, regardless of their political affiliations and ideologies, to take this and create action. What that action is and how it benefits all of humanity is not answered, but I can guess it involves humans being less dependent on oil.

Sadly, the film is too short, sometimes oblique, and occasionally vague. The film’s star, George Clooney, is actually the star of a truncated sub-plot in Syriana. If given more screen time, Bob Barnes’ storyline would have been an edge-of-the-seat international thriller – the dessert portion of Syriana’s gourmet meal. I couldn’t help but leave the theatre wondering about what could have been. Still, what we do get is damn good.

7 of 10

Saturday, December 10, 2005

2006 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (George Clooney); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Stephen Gaghan)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 1 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (George Clooney)

2006 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actor” (Jeffrey Wright)

2006 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (George Clooney); 1 nomination: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Alexandre Desplat)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ben Affleck's "The Town" to Debut at Toronto International Film Festival

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “The Town” to Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival

Directed by and Starring Ben Affleck, the Film Will Have Gala Presentation

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) announced today that Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ crime drama “The Town” will premiere at this year’s 35th annual festival. The Gala Presentation, which marks the North American debut of the film, will take place on Saturday, September 11, 2010.

Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, “The Town” opens in North America on September 17, 2010.

There are over 300 bank robberies in Boston every year. And most of the professionals live in a one-square-mile neighborhood called Charlestown. One of them is Doug MacCray (Ben Affleck), but he is not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. Unlike them, Doug had a chance at success, a chance to escape following in his father’s criminal footsteps. Instead, he became the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers, who pride themselves on taking what they want and getting out clean. The only family Doug has are his partners in crime, especially Jem (Jeremy Renner), who, despite his dangerous, hair-trigger temper, is the closest thing Doug ever had to a brother.

However, everything changed on the gang’s last job when Jem briefly took a hostage: bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall). When they discover she lives in Charlestown, Jem gets nervous and wants to check out what she might have seen. Knowing what Jem is capable of, Doug takes charge. He seeks out Claire, who has no idea that their encounter is not by chance or that this charming stranger is one of the men who terrorized her only days before. As his relationship with Claire deepens into a passionate romance, Doug wants out of this life and the town. But with the Feds, led by Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm), closing in and Jem questioning his loyalty, Doug realizes that getting out will not be easy and, worse, may put Claire in the line of fire. Any choices he once had have boiled down to one: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

Academy Award® winner Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting,” “Gone Baby Gone”) directed and stars in “The Town,” a dramatic thriller about robbers and cops, friendship and betrayal, love and hope, and escaping a past that has no future.

The film also stars Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Christina Barcelona”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Oscar® nominee Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”), Blake Lively (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” TV’s “Gossip Girl”), Titus Welliver (“Gone Baby Gone”), Oscar® nominee Pete Postlethwaite (“In the Name of the Father,” “Inception”), and Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”).

“The Town” is produced by Academy Award® winner Graham King (“The Departed”) and Basil Iwanyk (“Clash of the Titans”) from a screenplay by Peter Craig and Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. The executive producers are Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay and David Crockett, and Chay Carter served as co-producer.

The behind-the-scenes creative team was led by Oscar®-winning director of photography Robert Elswit (“There Will Be Blood”), production designer Sharon Seymour (“Gone Baby Gone”), Oscar®-nominated editor Dylan Tichenor (“There Will Be Blood”), and costume designer Susan Matheson (“The Kingdom”). The music is composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley, who previously collaborated on Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone.”

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Legendary Pictures, a GK Films Production, a Thunder Road Film Production, “The Town.” The film has been rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: "The Bourne Ultimaturm" is Ultimate

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 114 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Running time: 111 minutes (1 hour, 51 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action
DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
WRITERS: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, and George Nolfi; from a screen story by Tony Gilroy (based upon the novel by Robert Ludlum)
PRODUCERS: Frank Marshall and Paul Sandberg
EDITOR: Christopher Rouse
Academy Award winner


Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, Joan Allen, Chris Cooper, and Corey Johnson

In The Bourne Identity, he fought to answer the question, “Who am I?” In The Bourne Supremacy, he wanted to know, “Who killed my girlfriend,” and he killed for what was done to him. In The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) remembers everything, and his journey takes him from Europe and North Africa to a trip home to New York City where all the answers will be found.

After he got his revenge for the killing of Marie, Bourne planned to disappear and forget the life that was stolen from him, but a front-page story in a London newspaper speculates about his existence. Bourne sets up a meeting with Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), the journalist who wrote the story, but that meeting makes Bourne a target again. The journalist does give him a lead on two top-secret black operations or black-ops programs, Treadstone and its successor Blackbriar, which may hold the key to Bourne’s past. Bourne’s reemergence also gets him marked for death by Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), the head of a new covert wing of the CIA and the director of Blackbriar. Bourne gains the trust of conflicted agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) and CIA operative/internal investigator and spy hunter Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), and with their help, he will have his day of reckoning.

Like his previous effort in the Jason Bourne series, The Bourne Supremacy, Oscar-nominated director Paul Greengrass (United 93) delivers mind blowing action, whiplash-paced fighting, and thoughtful plotting. Greengrass does this picture with equal parts humor and brutality, and makes it is as smart as it is stylish.

Matt Damon is Jason Bourne, and he leaves no doubt that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to take his place. His acting chops and screen charisma combined with his physical training for the role invents Bourne as a supernatural covert operative who can kick any ass, go anywhere, break into the most secure locations, and be invisible in a crowd.

The supporting cast may not be A-list actors in terms of star power, but they are A+ list in terms of screen acting. Added to Damon’s work here, they put The Bourne Ultimatum over the top. It’s not just a great espionage thriller; it’s the best thriller of the year and a great film. Whether you’re a Bourne fan, or just a friend, mother, father, etc. going along with a fan, you’ll go home impressed and happy.

9 of 10

Sunday, August 12, 2007

2008 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Achievement in Editing” (Christopher Rouse), “Best Achievement in Sound” (Scott Millan, David Parker, and Kirk Francis), and “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg)

2008 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Editing” (Christopher Rouse) and “Best Sound” (Kirk Francis, Scott Millan, David Parker, Karen M. Baker, and Per Hallberg); 4 nominations: “Best British Film” (Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul Sandberg, Paul Greengrass, Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, and George Nolfi), “Best Cinematography” (Oliver Wood), “Best Director” (Paul Greengrass), and “Best Special Visual Effects” (Peter Chiang, Charlie Noble, Mattias Lindahl, and Joss Williams)


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: "The Bourne Identity" is Classic Secret Agent

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 112 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Bourne Identity (2002)
Running time: 119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence and some language
DIRECTOR: Doug Liman
WRITERS: Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron (from the novel by Robert Ludlum)
PRODUCERS: Doug Liman, Patrick Crowley, and Richard N. Gladstein
EDITOR: Saar Klein


Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Julia Stiles

There really aren’t any bad Matt Damon movies, just bad movies in which Matt Damon is an actor or a star. He has boyishly good looks, but there’s also something in his character that suggests a solid stand up guy upon which one can rely – probably the two big things needed to make a great male star of the screen. Doug Liman is a rising star as a director. I haven’t seen his film Swingers, but I did see his rave scene version of Pulp Fiction, Go, which is an utterly fantastic fun ride of good music and loopy violence. If you put Damon and Liman together and give them a Robert Ludlum novel to make into a film, you might get the fantastic thriller, The Bourne Identity.

A French fishing vessel finds a man (Matt Damon) floating in the middle of the stormy Mediterranean Sea, whom the crew promptly rescues. He has two bullets in his back, and when he awakes, he doesn’t remember his name. Documents reveal his identity as Jason Bourne, but Jason doesn’t remember any special significance attached to his alleged name. As he follows the few clues he has in hopes of recovering from his amnesia, he must escape a web of international intrigue and a cadre of assassins bent of killing him.

I think a lot of people were surprised that this film became a fairly big hit, and many more were surprised that it was actually so good. The key players in this film are, of course, Damon and Liman. Damon’s Bourne is for all practical purposes, almost the only important character in the film. The rest of the characters are decent, but there is nothing to them beyond their role in a paper-thin shadowy conspiracy. The presence of veteran characters like Chris Cooper and Brian Cox are delightful, but I assume that their characters would have been richer characters if Ludlum’s novel from which this is film is adapted had been made into a television mini-series. A slight supporting cast could have been a liability, but Liman has this deft touch of making his film move briskly and with such vibrancy and life. The viewer hardly has time to focus his attention on story holes. Like a good book, you can’t walk away from The Bourne Identity. You don’t want to walk away, and there are many times when the only reason I finish a boring movie is because I think that I might as well finish what I started.

In Damon, Liman has star with screen presence, and he takes full advantage of it. Although we know only a little more about Bourne that the character himself, as the camera follows Damon, the actor makes us interested in Bourne. With so many run-of-the-mill action flicks, it’s good to see the occasional action/thriller (a genre primarily aimed at older audiences) like Ronin or The Negotiator that engages the thinking and the feeling. The Bourne Identity is a bravura performance by a director and his star that’s worth seeing. It’s a moment in film history when two people come together with utter determination to take what is meant to be slight entertainment and make it into something that goes to the top of the heap. It’ll leave you wanting more.

8 of 10


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: "Adaptation" is a Film That Boggles the Mind

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 107 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Adaptation (2002)
Running time: 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
WRITERS: Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman (based upon the novel by Susan Orlean)
PRODUCERS: Jonathan Demme, Vincent Landay, and Edward Saxon
EDITOR: Eric Zumbrunnen
COMPOSER: Carter Burwell


Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, Brian Cox, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jim Beaver, Judy Greer, and Litefoot

Charlie Kaufman, a real, living, breathing person, is a well-known screenwriter. You absolutely must see the film made from his most famous script, Being John Malkovich. A few years ago, he struggled with writing a script adaptation of Susan Orlean’s best-selling novel, The Orchid Thief. He met with Ms. Orlean, and explained his troubles. They apparently came to an agreement that Kaufman would write a screenplay that would be in part about him wrestling with the adaptation of the novel and in part about the story in the book.  That screenplay became the movie, Adaptation.

So here’s the plot of the film Adaptation: Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is struggling in an attempt to write a screenplay based upon Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) best-selling non-fiction book, The Orchid Thief. His twin brother Donald (Cage, again) moves in with Charlie, and Donald decides to write his own original script. With wild and joyful abandon, Donald takes a seminar and leaps into writing a typical Hollywood thriller about a serial killer, while The Orchid Thief slowly drives Charlie to madness.

Meanwhile, in a subplot, the film carries on and we meet Susan who goes to Florida to write an article for the New Yorker about an orchid thief named John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who’s been recently arresting for poaching plants on a federal reserve. Ms. Orlean is simultaneously fascinated with and repulsed by Laroche, a divorced and lonely man who lost his mother and uncle in an auto accident for which he blames himself.

In the other major subplot: as the film goes on, Donald convinces Charlie that Susan is hiding something, so they track her to Florida to learn the dark secret she shares with Laroche. It mostly ends tragically in a typically Hollywood fashion.

The amazing thing about this film is that it is so good, yet it seems to have almost nothing to do with the director, Spike Jonze, who collaborated with Kaufman on Being John Malkovich. But never doubt Jonze’s prodigious talents, especially if you’ve seen even one of his visionary music videos for acts like Beck or Fatboy Slim. Here he’s almost invisible as he navigates the eccentricities, shifting points of view, and multiple story threads that is Kaufman’s sexy script.

Of course, Kaufman turns out another outstanding script. The film credits list the screenwriters as Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman, but Charlie really doesn’t have a twin brother named Donald. Charlie’s attempt was to write a script about script writing, but he also covered such fertile territory as the necessity of change, human isolation and loneliness, writer’s bloc, the treacherous path that is adapting other people’s work, professional jealousy, sibling relationships, guilt, loss, etc. It’s all wonderfully done, but the part of his story that’s supposed to be the typical Hollywood film adaptation is kinda dull and uninteresting. That’s the joke. For the film’s closing segment, Charlie was able to turn Ms. Orlean’s novel into a conventional thriller, and he shows that that can be simultaneously intriguing and dull. The conventional can often seem exciting, but so often it ends in predictability. Thus, Kaufman does get to make his point about cookie cutter film shockers, but the irony is that even his satire of formula writing and filmmaking seems listless. Am I missing the point? I can go on all day, but the best way to tell you about this film would be to share it with you visually, like telepathy, sending sensory images of Adaptation into your mind. That ain’t gonna happen, and I can almost forgive the filmmakers for an ending that was too smart for its own good.

The performances are excellent, and two of them are spectacular. Cage’s Kaufman is his most inspired, witty, and imaginative performance in almost a decade. It the kind of work where he digs deep into himself to find the character the way he did in Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won an Academy Award. His performance as Charlie Kaufman earned his an Academy Award nomination. The second excellent performance was Chris Cooper’s turn as the flower thief Laroche. The lead in two John Sayles films, Matewan and Lone Star, Cooper won an Oscar for his role as Laroche. He earned it with his ability to show that the character was not only stunningly eccentric, but was also mostly just another guy bummed out by life who is doing his best to roll with the punches. It’s enough to inspire even the most blue of us.

7 of 10

2003 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Chris Cooper); 3 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Nicolas Cage), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Meryl Streep), “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Charlie Kaufman Donald Kaufman)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman); 3 nominations “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Nicolas Cage); “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Chris Cooper), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Meryl Streep)

2003 Golden Globes: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Chris Cooper) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Meryl Streep); 4 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Spike Jonze), “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Nicolas Cage), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman)


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