Tag Archives: Albert Brooks

[Review] – This Is 40

6 Jan

This Is 40

Title: This Is 40
Year: 2012
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow, based on characters by himself
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Charlyne Yi, Tim Bagley, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, Chris O’Dowd, Rob Smigel, Annie Mumolo
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material
Runtime: 134 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Metacritic: 58

I am, like so many others, a devout member of the church of Judd Apatow. What the man has done to change the comedic landscape of our time during the last decade or so really is amazing. From having his hand in some of the most adored cult TV shows in recent memory, from The Ben Stiller Show to The Larry Sanders Show to, of course, the short-lived masterpiece that was Freaks and Geeks, to revolutionizing comedy in the mid 00’s with films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad.

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[Trailer] – This Is 40

7 Aug

A few months ago we got the first trailer for This is 40, the new film directed by Judd Apatow, the “sort-of” sequel to his Knocked Up. Now, a second trailer for the film is out, which you can watch after the cut.

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[Trailer] – This Is 40

27 Apr

Judd Apatow is back in the director’s chair this year for the first time since 2009’s Funny People (which was a bit of a flop, though I personally liked it). But anyway’s, the film he has lined up for this year, This Is 40, is a “sort-of” sequel to his great Knocked Up, and the first trailer for it has just been released, and you can watch it after the cut.

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Best of 2011: 20 Supporting Actors

6 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. For the fifth entry in the series of posts we have my Top 20 Performances by Supporting Actors of 2011:

20. GEORGE CLOONEY as Governor Mike Morris in The Ides of March

The Ides of March has been widely represented in my rankings (18th Film, 18th Screenplay, 13th Director, 13th Supporting Actress) and now George Clooney, after also getting mentions for his film, screenplay and directing, gets a shout-out for his performance as Governor Mike Morris, the idealistic and eco-friendly candidate of the political campaign at the center of the film. Mr. Clooney’s performance is great, because he knows what to do and don’t do with the role, and he’s just great at sparring with the rest of the insanely talented ensemble this film counts with, just having so many great actors around to play with is enough to make any performance be much better.

19. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy so far has been my #9 Film, #10 Director and #8 Screenplay, and in all three of those mentions I’ve said it was probably the smartest film of all 2011. I could have really chosen some other actors from this film, like Tom Hardy or Colin Firth, but I went with Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of BBC’s Sherlock who’s headed for great things, the stuff he does here with the role of Peter Guillam, the one agent at Circus the Gary Oldman’s Smiley can trust in, is just wonderful, bringing a lot of presence and magnetism to the screen.

18. ZACHARY QUINTO as Peter Sullivan in Margin Call

After making my Screenplay rankings (at #9) Margin Call gets a nod in this ranking because its whole ensemble is just supremely talented and brings a lot to the table. Zachary Quinto, best known for his role in Heroes and as Spock in the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, is Peter Sullivan here, a young analyst at a financial services firm that gets given a USB drive with data that anticipates the financial meltdown and kicks off the whole film. I think Quinto is a damn fine actor, and in a cast full of really great actors and performances, he managed to stand out because of what he brought to Peter.

17. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN as Paul Zara in The Ides of March

Another mention for one of the Ides men, and you just know that Philip Seymour Hoffman in a politically-charged film surrounded with great actors would just throw it out of the park. And that’s exactly what he does in this film, especially since the source material was a stage play, and parts of the screenplay behave like a play as well, which means you have Mr. Hoffman as Paul Zara, the veteran campaign manager for Mr. Clooney’s character, delivering some lines that sound just like monologues taken right from the stage, and you can’t ask for much more than that, this whole film is a terrific showcase for actors.

16. VIGGO MORTENSEN as Sigmund Freud in A Dangerous Method

Viggo Mortensen is a hugely talented actor, we know that by now, and in David Cronenberg’s latest he goes against type to play Sigmund Freud. I say it’s going against type because when we think of him as Aragorn or fighting Russian mobsters while naked in a steam room, in here he’s engaging in really intellectual conversations and puffing cigars while portraying the father of psychoanalysis. I thought this unexpected casting really paid off though, with Mortensen bringing a charm and a humor to him, looking older and more refined than what he usually looks like in film; just great.

15. SETH ROGEN as Kyle in 50/50

My 19th Film, 6th Screenplay and 10th Supporting Actress performance (Anna Kednrick). Now Seth Rogen gets in this ranking thanks to a performance by him that saw him take quite a lot from his personal life: His best friend Will Reiser was diagnosed with cancer and he was with him every step of the way, he then wrote a script about his experience and Mr. Rogen stars as the character inspired by him. This is a career-best performance by Seth Rogen, the best performance he’s ever given by a clear mile, and the chemistry he has with Jonathan Gordon-Levitt is amazing, their rapport awesomely helping the film achieve the balance between funny and serious.

14. JOHN C. REILLY as Mr. Fitzgerald in Terri

John C. Reilly is one of the most incredibly versatile actors working today, and in Terri he’s working alongside Jacob Wysocki, a terrific new star, and the scenes they share with each other are a thing of awe, scenes that actually require some real communication between two characters, something easier said than done in today’s films. Mr. Reilly has nailed down this very unique brand of sad comedy in a way, and he uses that to perfection here to represent a huge range of emotion in his character.

13. ALAN RICKMAN as Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

My 13th favorite film of the year, and a performance that for a while fanboys like me were trying to campaign all the way to an Oscar nomination, to finally get the most profitable film franchise of all-time an Oscar nomination outside of the technical categories. That campaign may have failed, but after seven films in which his character was just shrouded in mystery and secrecy, that veil is finally lifted in this conclusion, Snape’s real agenda revealed, and that meant we got some moments of spectacular emotion from him, and Alan Rickman just nails every last one of them, getting us teary-eyed in a film that did just that more than once for me.

12. EZRA MILLER as Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin

There’s something about Ezra Miller’s performance here that is just simply chilling to watch as the demonic spawn, as the horrible son to Tilda Swinton’s Eva, as the kid that goes on to commit a horrible shooting spree at his school. What the young Mr. Miller brings to the table is terrific, getting to the deepest of layers of Kevin and just portraying this antagonistic relationship with his mother, going toe-to-toe with Ms. Swinton, that’s amazing to watch for all its intensity. This guy is headed for some really great things.

11. KENNETH BRANAGH as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn

Kenneth Branagh was pretty much born to play Sir Laurence Olivier. You get the sense that the guy had been preparing for this role his whole life, and the little details he brings to his impersonation of him show that he indeed probably spent quite a lot of time studying the acting great. It’s obviously never easy stepping into the shoes of such an icon, but Mr. Branagh manages to show the more human and vulnerable side of him, doing it in a way that’s both funny and heartbreaking, holding your attention every second he’s on screen and just going at it with the insuperable Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.

10. JEREMY IRONS as John Tuld in Margin Call

The second member of the terrific Margin Call ensemble in my rankings. And it’s Jeremy Irons, a great actor who hadn’t really been this good in quite some time, he gives such an overpowering performance that just eats up whoever else is on-screen with him as he plays John Tuld, the C.E.O. of the financial firm that’s headed for the crapper. You need a guy as experienced as Mr. Irons to play a guy like him, carrying himself with a coolness under dire straits, calmly assessing what he has to do in order to survive; and he’ll do anything. Just a brilliant performance.

9. NICK NOLTE as Paddy Conlon in Warrior

The main beef people are having with Nick Nolte’s performance in Warrior, which got him an Oscar nomination, is that it’s a typical Nick Nolte performance that he could do in his sleep by this point in a career that spans nearly four decades. But, so what? It’s also an undeniably great performance, and one that, alongside his role in HBO’s new TV show, Luck, seems to be injecting new blood into that career that seemed to be slowly and quietly dying. It’s a role that he could rock, for sure, his gravelly voice adding a lot to a man who’s broken; you just know that Mr. Nolte took a lot from his own life experience to portray the guilt that consumes Paddy, battling an old alcoholic past he can’t turn to now to find solace.

8. JOHN HAWKES as Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene

From my #10 Film with my #14 Director and #13 Screenplay of the year, comes the supporting turn by the great John Hawkes also making a ranking of mine. After finally breaking out big with his Oscar-nominated turn in Winter’s Bone, here he gives yet another chilling performance as Patrick, the leader of a cult in upstate New York. He brings a lot to this role, just his eyes give this role a magnetism it needed, because you can see how this character is someone that you could grow to love and trust, how he’d seduce you into following him and joining his cult, Mr. Hawkes is such a tremendous actor that you believe him of being, both emotionally and intellectually, able to carry of such a psychological manipulation.

7. ANDY SERKIS as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Yes, that’s right, I’m firmly in the Andy Serkis bandwagon. People were trying a lot to campaign him to an Oscar nod for his role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with the one catch being that Mr. Serkis doesn’t actually appear in the flesh in the entire film. Instead, he gives a motion-capture performance, showing how amazing the technology he helped pioneer in The Lord of the Rings movies and King Kong can really be. And this is acting no matter what purists may say, his performance as Caesar steals the show from every human actor here, how he plays out the evolution of Caesar, from a small chimp to an ape that leads a revolution against humans, is amazing, and how convincing and moving his facial expressions and movements can be is a wonder to behold. Welcome to the future.

6. COREY STOLL as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris

Another film with mentions in all my rankings so far (#14 Film, #8 Director, #9 Supporting Actress and #1 Screenplay) and the performance by Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway is just sheer genius, it’s just an insanely memorable and effective performance from Mr. Stoll as the literary legend. Woody Allen obviously did an amazing job at bringing to life lots of legendary icons, but Hemingway stands out, speaking just like he writes and acted by Mr. Stoll with an unbelievable intensity. Just take a look at the scene in which he explains to Gil why he won’t read his manuscript and try not to be in love by this role and this performance.

5. BEN KINGSLEY as Georges Méliès in Hugo

Another film making it into all of my rankings (#1 Film, #1 Director, #11 Supporting Actress and #11 Screenplay). The performance by Ben Kingsley really should have gotten him an Oscar nomination, as Méliès he brings to life a legend of film history, now as a grumpy old man, pretty much broke, running a toy shop at a Paris train station, under the impression that all of the brilliant work he left behind to the world has been forgotten with him. This whole film is bursting through the seams with passion and love by Martin Scorsese, and the job Mr. Kingsley does is spectacular, there some scenes in which he’s just heartbreakingly good.

4. JONAH HILL as Peter Brand in Moneyball

Yes, the words “Academy Award nominee” now go before the name of Jonah Hill, and it’s actually a deserved recognition. His performance in Moneyball (my #7 Film, #9 Director and #4 Screenplay) is just outstanding, kind of groundbreaking inasmuch as that he has never done anything even remotely like this before, and he shows he really does have some dramatic chops in him as Peter Brand, the numbers guy brought in to help save the Oakland A’s. Going toe-to-toe with Brad Pitt and creating some really awesome chemistry between the two of them to make for a masterful film. I really didn’t know Mr. Hill had this in him.

3. PATTON OSWALT as Matt Freehauf in Young Adult

The only good thing about Patton Oswalt having been stupidly snubbed out of an Oscar nomination is the made-up story he started telling on Twitter about him and the other snub-ees forming a club and partying. Because honestly, he really deserved a nomination for his role in Young Adult (my #12 Film, #15 Director and #3 Screenplay) as Matt Freehauf the old classmate of Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary whom she unexpectedly strikes up a connection with. Considering our lead character is a pretty unlikable woman, the film actually depends on Mr. Oswalt quite a bit because we as an audience need some we can sympathize to and relate to, and he just nails every single frame he’s in.

2. CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER as Hal Fields in Beginners

Christopher Plummer is an absolute lock to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar unless Max von Sydow stupidly manages to deny him of his long overdue right to call himself an Academy Award winner. His work on Beginners (also appearing on my rankings as my #15 Supporting Actress and #5 Screenplay) is just a sheer joy to watch, as an old man who, after the death of his wife, comes out of the closet and decides to live the twilight of his life as an active gay man. The bond that forms between him and his son (played by Ewan McGregor) during this stage of his life is amazing, and just how carefully Mr. Plummer crafts this role is amazing, bring a lot of presence to the screen and stealing every scene he’s in with his charm and iconic voice.

1. ALBERT BROOKS as Bernie Rose in Drive

Another film that’s been in all my rankings so far (#4 Film, #2 Director, #6 Supporting Actress and #16 Screenplay), and this time it gets a #1 nod for one of the most horrible and unforgivable Oscar snubs in recent memory. He plays a role that’s unlike anything you’d imagine from him, a bad guy in a movie full of them, but he gives Bernie Rose this sense of charisma and empathy that really gets you to be enthralled by this guy who you know means no good. This is an absolutely perfect performance, I really mean that, and I’m still mad about him not getting an Oscar nod.

Those are my Top 20 performances by actors in supporting roles. 4 of the Oscar nominees made it into my rankings (Max von Sydow was the one that didn’t), but were I to ran the actual Oscars only Plummer and Hill would’ve gotten nominations. Hopefully Plummer will continue his road to the golden man with as much as ease as he’s had in the precursor awards, which should be especially easy now that he (somehow, stupidly) doesn’t have to contend against Brooks.

Predicting the Oscar Nominations

24 Jan

I still have a handful of 2011 releases to catch up with (namely: Submarine, Daydream Nation, Kaboom, Crazy Stupid Love, Arthur Christmas and Hugo) and while I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them (especially Hugo since its poised to be a major Oscar player) the nominations come out tomorrow so I’ll have to post them now. Below is how I think the categories announced tomorrow morning will shape up (in order of likelihood of having their names called out), with a brief paragraph following them stating how I think that race is shaping up. Please let it be known that this not my personal preference of films, performances or technical achievements, just how I think the Academy will cast their votes (which, as we know, is something they get wrong probably more than they do right), and my personal Best of 2011 posts will come as soon as I watch those six 2011 releases I’m still waiting to catch up with. This will probabyl be a really long post but, without further ado, here are my predictions of tomorrow’s Oscar nominations:

BEST PICTURE

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. Hugo
  4. Midnight in Paris
  5. The Help
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  7. Moneyball
  8. War Horse

The first 5 films are absolute locks, and the actual trophy will be fought over by the handful of them alone. It’s beyond that that it gets tricky, since under the new Oscar rules anywhere from 5 to 10 Best Picture nominees can arise, depending on the percentage of the votes they get on the nomination ballots. The contenders for those potential five other slots are known, but how many slots there will actually be is too tough to call. I’m predicting an extra three slots, though maybe War Horse will fall off and there will be only 7 nominees, or maybe the eighth slot will go to The Tree of Life or Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, or a fun pick like Bridesmaids or an edgy one like Drive. Who knows.

BEST DIRECTOR

  1. Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
  2. Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  3. Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  4. Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  5. David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The first three names are all locks, and I’m guessing so is Woody. The fifth slot is trickier, I’m going with Fincher because I love him and I think he should be there, but don’t be surprised if the name called out is Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Tate Taylor (The Help) or Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

BEST ACTOR

  1. George Clooney (The Descendants)
  2. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  3. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
  4. Michael Fassbender (Shame)
  5. Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

The first four slots, I think, are pretty much locked. The fifth one is a bit tricker, with Oldman and DiCaprio (for J. Edgar) battling it out, and even Demián Bichir (for A Better Life) and Michael Shannon (for Take Shelter) trying to get in there. I’m predicting Oldman because his is the better performance, the better film, and he’s incredibly overdue.

BEST ACTRESS

  1. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  2. Viola Davis (The Help)
  3. Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
  4. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
  5. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The first three are absolute locks, and the general consensus is that the final two slots will go to Swinton and Glenn Close (for Albert Nobbs). I’m guessing one of them will be snubbed, probably Close, and Mara will get in and be the fresh face in the competition (though don’t count out Charlize Theron for Young Adult to maybe pull off that upset).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  1. Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  2. Albert Brooks (Drive)
  3. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  4. Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  5. Nick Nolte (Warrior)

This is pretty much the general consensus for this category (which has already been won by Plummer, so whatever). If there’s an upset look for it to be at the expense of either Hill or Nolte, and by the hands of either Patton Oswalt for Young Adult (which would be insanely awesome), Ben Kingsley for Hugo (which would make the film a huge threat for the Best Picture crown) or Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  1. Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  2. Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
  3. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  4. Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  5. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Much like the male equivalent of this award, this one already has a name engraved in the golden man. Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) is the only name I could forsee getting in here, though I would kill for a Carey Mulligan mention (for either Shame or Drive).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  1. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  2. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  3. Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo)
  4. Young Adult (Diablo Cody)
  5. Beginners (Mike Mills)

I’m torn here for the final two slots, Thomas McCarthy for Win Win could easily be there, ditto for Will Reiser for 50/50, Asghar Farhadi for A Separation and J.C. Chandor for Margin Call. I always love this category.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  1. The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  2. Moneyball (Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian and Stan Chervin)
  3. Hugo (John Logan)
  4. The Help (Tate Taylor)
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Steve Zaillian)

I think the four first slots are in for sure, but the fifth could also go to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Ides of March.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  1. A Separation (Iran)
  2. In Darkness (Poland)
  3. Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  4. Pina (Germany)
  5. Footnote (Israel)

Other than A Separation (which I gave an A to) and Pina (A-) I haven’t seen any of the other remaning seven films fighting for the five available slots here, so this is pretty much guesswork.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  1. Project Nim
  2. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  3. Pina
  4. We Were Here
  5. Bill Cunningham New York

This is also pretty much guesswork in this category, but so long as both Pina and Project Nim get in here (and one of them wins the whole enchilada) I’ll be good with this.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  1. Rango
  2. The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Puss in Boots
  4. Cars 2
  5. Kung Fu Panda 2

Cars 2 shouldn’t get in here, but its Pixar so it probably will. Instead, a nod for Winnie the Pooh would be quite nice to see.

BEST EDITING

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Descendants
  5. Drive

I’m really hoping the Academy shows Drive some love tomorrow, and this would be a really nice nomination to do it with if they can’t go for the Best Pic nod. War Horse or Moneyball, though, are probably safer bets here.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. The Artist
  2. The Tree of Life
  3. Hugo
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  5. War Horse

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Moneyball could get in here if the love for War Horse is even weaker than it already seems to be.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  1. Hugo
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  3. The Artist
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The first three films are total locks here. The rest is me just guessing, though it would make sense to see those other two films here, though War Horse, Jane Eyre, Anonymous and The Tree of Life could show up just as easily.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. War Horse
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Artist has this one in the bag since the score helps narrate the silent film. The rest of the field is quite tough to predict, I’m guessing Hugo and War Horse are definitely in there, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the best score of the year so I’m hoping it’ll get in there too, and for the last slot I picked Desplat’s score for the 9/11 film over Dario Marianelli’s for Jane Eyre.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  2. Hugo
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger

Transformers: Dark of the Moon or X-Men: First Class could get in here as well, but I’m predicting a trio of really good blockbusters to go along with a couple of serious awards contenders.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  1. Hugo
  2. Super 8
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  5. War Horse

This is where the big, loud summer blockbusters get recognized, so don’t be surprised if Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides get in here.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Super 8
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. Hugo
  4. War Horse
  5. Drive

I have really no idea how this one will go, I just want Drive nominations.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. The Help
  5. W.E.

I’m pretty confident in the first four films I have predicted here. The fifth slot I’m giving to Madonna’s film because the costumes were the only great thing about it, though maybe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will also be here or, a personal favorite of mine, Midnight in Paris which combined contemporary and period costumes splendidly.

BEST MAKEUP

  1. The Iron Lady
  2. Hugo
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I’m not predicting The Artist here. If anything Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life would be more deserving of an upset nod.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “The Living Proof”  (The Help)
  2. “Life’s a Happy Song” (The Muppets)
  3. “Lay Your Head Down” (Albert Nobbs)
  4. “Pictures in My Head” (The Muppets)
  5. “Hello Hello” (Gnomeo and Juliet)
Two songs from The Muppets for sure, and I’m guessing they won’t snub Elton John.

Drive

15 Oct

Title: Drive
Year: 
2011
Directors: 
Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Hossein Amini, based on the book by James Sallis
Starring: 
Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
Runtime: 
100 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
93%

Prior to watching Drive, I had seen two films to which I had given a perfect A+ grade this year out of the 149 releases I have seen so far. One of them is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which I technically just an A grade film but that I bumped up to a perfect score because I’m a huge fanboy of the series and I wanted to give its final epic outing a perfect grade to reflect the tremendous impact it has had on my life. The other I saw even earlier, in early June, and it was The Tree of Life, the polarizing and breathtaking masterpiece from Terrence Malick, a visually stunning film that was gorgeous to look at. I don’t want to get going about my feelings about that film, because those have been explained in the lengthy review I did upon watching it, and because they would need a whole new post. I’m here now to talk about Drive, and I talked about the films I have given a perfect grade to so far this year because Drive is now the third to get one of those, and, moreover, it’s right at the top, this is the best film I have seen so far in 2011, and it’ll take quite a bit to top it.

This is the year of Ryan Gosling, people. I mean, it’s also the year of Jessica Chastain and maybe Brad Pitt, too. But to me, this is the year of Ryan Gosling. This is a guy who has been delivering amazing work throughout his whole career at a seriously consistent pace, and that’s what makes a great actor to me: consistency. And by my money right now the most consistently amazing actors are probably him, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Fassbender, and I know how much of weighty statement that is, but just look at the stuff he’s been doing since his breakout role in The Notebook, which even though is Nicholas Sparks adaptation is still one of the best romantic movies of the past decade, he’s given us his Oscar-nominated performance in Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl and, especially, his heartbreaking turn in last year’s Blue Valentine (which I also gave an A+ to and finished as my 4th favorite film of 2010). This is a guy who’s just supremely talented. And this year he’s given a trio of really versatile performances, but this is the first I’m actually getting to see since I missed out on Crazy, Stupid, Love. (though I’ll catch up on it soon) and I’ve still to see the recently-released The Ides of March, but yes, even if he only had done Drive, this would still be the year of Ryan Gosling.

And we got lucky with the casting and directing changes in Drive, since reportedly this would have been a film starring Hugh Jackman instead of Mr. Gosling, and directed by Neil Marshall instead of Nicolas Winding Refn. And boy we really luck out because of it, since not only does Mr. Gosling give this sublime performance, but a lot is also owed to Mr. Refn, a director known for his visual style which he has displayed in his Pusher trilogy, the amazing Bronson and last year’s Valhalla Rising. No disrespect to Mr. Jackman or Mr. Marshall, but if Drive is the masterpiece it is it’s pretty much because of Mr. Gosling and Mr. Refn and the chemistry they struck with one another.

As they did the press rounds to promote this film Mr. Refn and Mr. Gosling told lots of times the story of how they got together to discuss the film before it went into production, and it never gets old to me: Mr. Refn was battling a horrible cold and was high on his medicine and then goes to meet Mr. Gosling to dinner but is so phased out by the drugs he’s taken that he asks the actor whom he just met to please drive him home, on the silent and uncomfortable drive home REO Speedwagon’s ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore’ comes on the radio and they both start singing to it. That was the moment that made them realize they wanted to make a film about a guy who listens to the radio as he drives through Los Angeles during the night, and it was the moment that really made these two guys bond and that begun a friendship that really struck a chord with both of them, as they already have at least 3 upcoming projects lined up in various stages of development.

And if you think Mr. Gosling and Mr. Refn aren’t enough to get you insanely psyched for a movie (though they seriously should be), then just take a peek at that supporting cast. Carey Mulligan is in it, and frequent readers of mine may know just how talented I think she is and how much I adore her, and then there’s Albert Brooks, yes, Albert Brooks, in a role that you wouldn’t think wouldn’t necessarily be suited for him but that he nails to perfection and is already garnering him some Oscar buzz, and they are joined by a trio of stars that you may best know for their work in three of TV’s ten best series: Christina Hendricks (from Mad Men), Ron Perlman (from Sons of Anarchy) and the incomparable Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad). That’s a cast that exists, these people actually got together and made a movie, it really shouldn’t be that surprising that Drive was this good.

I have written about as much as I write for a regular review and I realize I haven’t said a single thing about the actual film, so I guess you’ll have to bear with this review going into overtime. But I guess I don’t really know how to put into words all that I felt about this film, it’s quiet in its contemplation of its sublimely-built atmosphere, and it actually takes on a story that we have seen before plenty of times, because it gives us our hero, Driver, who’s actually a good-hearted guy but with this seriously dark side brooding within, and there’s the woman in peril he has to save, and there’s these bad guys that are doing everything they can for the dark side of our her to emerge victorious in the battle for his soul. These are elements we have seen before, and it’s a film that’s influenced by a lot of things we’re familiar with as well, it has a lot of 50’s noir elements, it feels like a thriller from a decade or so after that and it sounds like something straight from the eighties thanks to the score provided by Cliff Martinez, also one of the year’s best. And yet, all of that considered, it’s still an exceptionally unique work.

This is a film in which our hero has no name, he’s only referred to as Driver, and the reason for that becomes increasingly obvious from the very first moment we see him, driving a getaway car in one of the best-staged, most-intense and best-edited car chase scenes I have seen in my life. We learn that he’s a stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night, and we learn not much else about him after that. He has no name for all we know, no family, and pretty much no emotions, he’s a man that doesn’t say, he just acts. And the way Ryan Gosling plays him is just phenomenal to watch, there are some pauses he takes in this film that seem to last forever, and yet you kind of want them to last longer. Not that this is a film about stares and few words, just wait and see the violence that this film offers, it’s exceedingly gory, and off-putting to some, but to me it never felt like too much, and just the way it’s so stylishly built by Mr. Refn makes it worthwhile.

It’s good that Driver is a guy defined by what he does, a guy that feels deep inside but that doesn’t show it on the outside because the plethora of supporting characters we get here do more than enough talking, and are very clear about what they want and how they’re going to get it, it balances out perfectly. I just love it that in today’s movie world that at times seems so dumbed out, asking for an explanation for everything, there’s still room for a character to exist and rely on a performance that’s deliberate and stoic and intense and that just with those qualities gives us all the background information we could need for a main character. Seriously, I cannot praise this character enough and how perfectly he’s played by Mr. Gosling, it gets to the point that you don’t really care at all about how he got to this lifestyle and you just want to see what’s next for him.

Ms. Mulligan’s character, Irene, is what’s next for him, as she and her son, Benicio, cross paths with Driver, who lives down the hall in their apartment building. Irene’s husband is in prison, we learn, and she strikes up a friendship with Driver, not the sort of friendship that has you thinking sex from the moment they lay eyes on each other, but one that’s rather more innocent and pure, and the first time they go out together (another scene that’s wonderfully soundtracked) you get a look at what lies underneath Driver, you see his grin that shows that he doesn’t have many moments in his life that are as pressure-free as that one, that whole scene is just remarkable. Because if Mr. Gosling is one of the best, if the not the best, young actors in the world today, then Ms. Mulligan is surely one of his female counterparts. As we’ve seen in her masterful turn in An Education and now here, she’s a woman who can exude a vulnerability that’s amazing to watch.

The thing is that soon after, Irene’s husband is release from prison, and it’s not that he’s jealous about Driver, or that he tries to intimidate him, it’s that he sees an opportunity with him, and it’s not long before he pitches him an idea for a heist. That’s what will keep the film going, because you know things will go wrong, and Irene and Benicio will get in trouble, and Driver will then show his loyalties, will finally show some emotion and will try to do every little thing he can to keep them from harms way. It’s really amazing what happens next and how the other characters come into play, whether it’s Shannon, Driver’s boss played by Bryan Cranston who owns a garage shop and wants to start a racing team, or Bernie Rose, the character played to perfection by the amazing Albert Brooks, who embeds in him this whole lot of charisma and empathy even though you know his character means no good.

After all of it is set up, you just have to sit back and leave the driving to Mr. Refn, who’s a master at getting reactions from his audience because he knows how to get them and he know exactly the kind of reactions he wants, even if people may get shocked at the violence in here. Even the sound here is awesome, not only the aforementioned electronic score by Mr. Martinez, but just how every gunshot sounds, it’s awesome, and that many parts of it are edited to the musical cues just gives this one a sensational sense of rhythm. And if you think this film is over-stylized, you and I have to do some talking, because it may be stylized like crazy, but not to point in which it’s too much and it takes away from it, if anything those nifty little angles and slow-motion shots Mr. Refn employs add to the experience like crazy because this is a director that doesn’t employ of all these techniques for the sake of employing them, but that knows how they’ll come together in the end product.

If you can, go see Drive right now, it’s the best film I have seen all year, it has Mr. Refn fully taking advantage of his Hollywood coming-out film, because as much as this is still an arthouse kind of flick and has all of this stylized auteur flourishes the guy is known for, it’s still hugely entertaining and, unless you have a problem with too much blood, you’ll get a great kick out of it. And the whole cast is just sheer perfection, embracing their roles and playing with their characters, and the stunts all look terrific and the music and, damn, just everything about this film is unbelievably good. And chief among the things that are good about this film is Ryan Gosling, again, this is his year, this is an actor that can just find the best roles out there and make of them what he wants to and have us believing him every step of the way. You can’t really ask much more than that.

Grade: A+