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14 actors I really dig

There’s a bit of a meme going on in Swedish film blogging circles. The idea is simple: list your seven favorite male and female actors. I’m participating too, although loosely. I’m not saying these are my very favorites, as that tends to change from day to day and I might have forgotten someone. These are, however, seven men and seven women whose work I really enjoy, either because they constantly deliver great performances, or because they possess some hard-to-define quality that makes my brain happily go “ding!” whenever I spot their names on a cast list.

First, some honorable mentions…

Kevin Spacey: Had I written this post 10 years ago, he’d be a shoo-in for sure. Alas, he hasn’t had many truly great roles lately.
Kirsten Dunst: She has been underrated ever since she lit up the screen in Interview with the Vampire in 1994, and only recently has she started getting the critical acclaim she deserves.
Al Pacino: Another one whose heyday is behind him, Pacino has tons of maniacally energetic performances on his CV.
Rosario Dawson: Effortlessly charming, possibly the hottest woman on this planet, and probably with her best work still ahead of her.
Jason Statham: The bona fide action star of the millennium.
Ellen Page: At 25 years of age, she has already amassed a number of impressive lead and supporting roles. What does the future hold for her?

On to the list proper. This is in randomly generated order.

MV5BMTMzODkzOTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU0ODE5NA@@._V1._SX640_SY920_Catherine Keener

When I watch Keener play one of her evil characters, I can not imagine here ever being good. When I watch her play one of her good characters, I can not imagine her ever being evil. Her impressive range is perhaps her strongest quality and she has proven to only get better with age. When she got her first Oscar nomination for playing manipulative seductress Maxine in Being John Malkovich, she was already 40 years old. Since then – and before – she has kept putting in affecting performances no matter how small or large a part she plays.

3 great performances
Living in Oblivion – pulling off the difficult task of acting like you’re acting, both badly and well.
Being John Malkovich – toying with John Cusack with equal measures of bitchy and funny.
An American Crime – playing one of the most despicable abusive mothers in recent history.

Anthony_Hopkins_0001Anthony Hopkins

While there is a lot to be said for physical transformations and chameleon actors who are nigh-unrecognizable from one film to the next, perhaps even more impressive is someone like Hopkins. He always looks more or less the same, and yet he disappears into roles like few others. A master of mannerisms, body language, and voice, Hopkins portrays clearly defined characters utterly convincingly. Never one to turn down a paycheck, he appears in many films that might not make full use of his talents, but you will never see him slumming it or sleep-walking through a role. Hopkins always delivers.

3 great performances
The Silence of the Lambs – somehow making a mere 16 minutes of screen time into the one thing people associate the film with.
The Remains of the Day – redefining “emotionally restrained”.
The World’s Fastest Indian – completely inhabiting a man jovially dead-set on accomplishing his dream.

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Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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When we movie-lovers are useful

jeff-who-lives-at-home

This past Monday night, me and two friends – let’s call them Harvey and Wayne – hung out at my place and streamed Jeff Who Lives at Home. We all enjoyed it. Harvey mentioned something about how he had been meaning to watch Adaptation for a long time, but had never gotten around to buying it. Since I own the DVD, I lent it to him instead. I then let my eyes wander over my DVD shelves to scan for more stuff he might like. I knew he’s interested in the way people talk and interact with one another, so I picked out Roger Dodger for him – a movie all about a cynic trying to teach his nephew how to pick up women.

Last night, Harvey wrote on my Facebook wall about how much he had enjoyed all three films. Three films in three days that he in one way or another saw through me. It was very gratifying. A real spirit-booster, in fact. I was happy for him having seen great films, of course, but there was more to it than that. After thinking about it a while, it hit me just why this made me so glad.

It’s the one way my love of film benefits others.

Think about it. Many hobbies or pastimes can be applied for the purpose of helping people. My brother, for instance, is into computer stuff. Whenever our parents have some problem with their computers or router or something, they call him. His computer hobby is thus beneficial. Another friend of mine loves to tinker with cars, so he’s the one to talk to if one has automobile trouble. Others love pumping weights at the gym; they’re way more useful than I am when you need help moving. As far as hobbies go, being into movies is something that doesn’t offer much to others.

Through these three films, however, I served three different helpful roles: Scout, Curator, and Oracle.

SCOUT. We movie-lovers are always on the look-out for new things to see. We forge ahead into the unknown, keeping our eyes and ears open to find out what’s going to hit theaters in the future, what new projects have been green-lit, and what underappreciated gems have just hit Netflix or the DVD and Blu-ray market. Plenty of my fellow online film fanatics had had good things to say about Jeff Who Lives at Home, so it had been on my radar for a while. Flipping through Netflix trying to find something for us to watch, I highlighted that film and said I had heard good things about it. Bam, settled! We hit play. As a Scout, I had spotted that film. And it was good, said Harvey.

CURATOR. I may only have been into movies in a big way for 5 years, but in that time span, I have collected a fair amount of films on DVD and Blu-ray. Sometimes I worry that I’m collecting for the sake of filling out my shelves, but that’s not really the case. The reason I buy movies is so that I know they will be available if there is a need for them. Whenever I get the urge to see Lost in Translation, I need to have it at my beckoning. I don’t want to have to rely on Netflix to have it available on that particular month, or worry about the local rental store having gone out of business. I have movies available for my own needs, but also for others. If someone knows a film they want to see, I might have it and can lend it to them. If someone gets the idea to fill in some gaps on the IMDB Top 250 list, I can help them out by letting them borrow DVDs from me. As a Curator, I had put Adaptation in my collection so that Harvey could borrow it. And it was good, said Harvey.

ORACLE. Assuming this role is to dabble with the art of film recommendations. Strictly from the viewpoint as a movie fan, this is the most difficult role we serve as, because it requires knowledge not tied to movies: knowledge of what the person we’re recommending to likes and dislikes. What goes into a succesful movie recommendation could fill an entire blog post of its own, but suffice to say that it’s a tricky business. We do what we can with the information available to us. As an Oracle, I predicted that Roger Dodger would be to my friend’s liking. And it was good, said Harvey.

We don’t always fully succeed in playing these roles, of course. That Monday night I performed further tasks as an Oracle, for instance, and the results are still up in the air. To Harvey, I recommended and lent ensemble dramedy Beautiful Girls, on the basis of it having a similar feel to other films I know he likes. I don’t think he has watched it yet. To the other friend, Wayne, both me and Harvey recommended Before Sunrise. This is a risky pick as romance isn’t his preferred genre, but one of the key elements he enjoys in film is dialogue, and there’s certainly plenty of that in Before Sunrise. I also lent him Jack Goes Boating, which he had been meaning to see for some time – here I put on my Curator hat again – and Being John Malkovich, which was a combination of “not having seen but should have” and “you’re gonna dig it”. We can fill two roles at the same time occasionally.

Hopefully, both Harvey and Wayne like all the films they went home with. If they do, I’ll be at least as happy as them. I’ll be happy about having leveraged my “selfish” hobby into being of benefit to others, and happy about having done a good job in my roles.

 
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Posted by on 10 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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Monthly Report: March 2012

This is the start of what might turn out to be a recurring feature on this blog. Many of my fellow movie bloggers do something similar. The concept is simple: I talk briefly about all the films I saw for the first time this month. Mini-reviews, if you will.

The Abyss (James Cameron, 1989)
The Special Edition, for the record. Yet another impressive outing for Cameron, with the underwater setting providing most of the film’s memorable moments. The claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable, putting us right down there with the crew of oil-drillers on the ocean floor as they try to determine what caused a submarine to crash. It’s a great action film overall, though the ending feels a tad drawn-out and anticlimactic.
4/5

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
Considering my extremely limited experience with old silent cinema, I’m probably not the intended demographic for this nostalgia-trip. I’m sure there’s a lot of allusions and homages in this one that I didn’t fully catch. Fortunately, this one can survive regardless based on its charm alone. The story isn’t anything special by itself – though intrensically linked with its style – but it’s a pleasant watch with what should in a fair world be two star-making performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
3/5

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
I was a bit wary of this film when I sat down to watch it. I had heard it could be a bit “difficult” and “strange”, and my previous experience with Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly) hadn’t quite knocked me over. Well, this one did, and with gusto. Wonderfully acted and thematically rich, but more than anything else, this may well be the most beautifully shot black & white film I’ve seen so far. I’m finally starting to see what Ebert is on about when he keeps praising B&W over color. Persona might well turn out to be the most significant movie-watching I do this entire year.
5/5

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Posted by on 2 April, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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