RSS

Tag Archives: Paul Giamatti

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
 
4 Comments

Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review – Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock of Ages gave me goosebumps.

I know, right? How stupid is that? Why would a silly little musical with rock songs from the 80s produce goosebumps in anyone? It happened more than once, too. At first, I tried to rationalize it by thinking “Well, it is a bit chilly in this theater, so it has to be because of that.” But the goosebumps returned, and only during some of the film’s many song numbers. Cold air wouldn’t abide by such a pattern, so the goosebumps had to be genuine.

Maybe it’s not so strange, though. I do love the music this movie indulges in, though only really from looking at it in the rear-view mirror. I was born in the early 80s, but I didn’t start caring about music until the mid-90s. By that time, bands like Def Leppard, Journey, and Twisted Sister were long gone from the pop culture spotlight. My love for their music would grow later on. This fondness thus stems from retro rather than genuine nostalgia, I guess you could say. Through hindsight, only the good parts of the 80s hair metal culture has remained in the public consciousness for people like me to latch on to. I don’t much care about the nasty excess and shallowness of the era. I do care about the shallow things, though: the catchy songs and the colorful aesthetics.

This is a mindset that Rock of Ages deliberately taps into. Everything about this movie is glitzy and polished. The songs aren’t so much the best of the era as the Greatest Hits thereof. Most of the singing is clean and lacking in texture – due to the slight autotuning, no doubt. Oh, the movie toys with “darker” elements in its plot, but it’s of little substance. Rock of Ages is all about celebrating the shallow things.

Like all jukebox musicals, the story is built around the lyrics of the songs selected. The year is 1987. Small-town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a singer. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), an aspiring rock musician who works at the fabled Bourbon Room club. She too gets a job there as a waitress, and the two fall in love. Then PROBLEMS and OBSTACLES arise, as they tend to do. Dennis (Alec Baldwin), the club’s owner, has trouble making ends meet. He hopes that big-time rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) will revitalize business with a planned gig there, but Stacee is notoriously unreliable. There’s also the right-wing wife-of-a-mayor Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose main goal in life is to rid the city of sinful rock & roll completely.

The story is, to put it bluntly, weak. Clichéed developments run rampant everywhere, and there’s little about the going-ons that could be described as compelling even if one was feeling charitable. It could be easy to describe this as an inherent problem of the subgenre, but that would be to take the easy way out. Others have dabbled with the format and at least shown better intentions, if not necessarily results. Mamma Mia may have been a dud of a movie, but at least it presented a clearly defined mystery (“Which of these tree men is Amanda Seyfried‘s daddy?”) as its hook. Or you could look at Beatles musical Across the Universe, which while following a familiar formula still presents its story in an emotionally effective way. Compared to both these films, the plot of Rock of Ages is thin air. We can reasonably guess how things are going to turn out, and even if we couldn’t, we wouldn’t care.

Luckily for Rock of Ages, musicals can succeed in spite of lazy storytelling as long as the song numbers are good. The ones in this film are certainly passable. Yeah, I could have done with more of a raw edge to some of them, and more esoteric song choices would have been welcome, but there is a lot of joy and energy to everything. Gleeful indulgence in rock music is something I always find thrilling, and a club full of people singing along to a performance can be a thing of beauty. Whether it’s Boneta detailing his rock star dreams through “Jukebox Hero”, a rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by two unlikely suspects, or any of Tom Cruise’s big stage performances, I found myself with a big smile on my face more than I’d have expected. Not everything is a hit, though. A recurring problem is songs being shortened and hobbled, and others being mashed together into medleys that don’t quite serve their purpose. Then there are some numbers that are just plain bad. Chief amongst them would be Zeta-Jones’ performance of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, complete with awkward kicking choreography that had me cringing.

But the big saving grace of the film is Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. He has never played a character quite like this one. Stacee is a blend of any number of rock band lead singers; there’s definitely traces of Axl Rose, David Lee Roth and Jim Morrison in the mix. He’s a diva, self-indulgent, hooked on booze and sex to the point where they have ceased being pleasure. He’s weary of a life he has become addicted to, which manifests itself in amusing ways. In one scene he looks eyes with someone important from across the room and makes his way over for what’s sure to be a heart-felt conversation, only to be sidetracked by a random groupie whom he starts making out with. Stacee just looks at his important someone with a semi-apologetic glance. “Sorry, can’t help it. This is who I am. Stacee fucking Jaxx.” There are moments in the film where Cruise is downright mesmerizing, even when the actual events are so ballsy and preposterous to raise many an eyebrow (watch out when “I Want To Know What Love Is” starts playing.) Guy Lodge at In Contention has written a great piece on this performance, and he articulates things much better than I could hope to. I’ll just note that this might well be my favorite performance of the year so far, and probably Cruise’s best work since Magnolia, or at least Collateral.

Compared to him, however, all the other actors fade entirely. Young leads Hough and Boneta are good singers, but they lack chemistry for their required romance. I don’t foresee this film launching either’s career onto the next level. The rest of the cast are filled with familiar names, but with so many actors, there’s not enough room for any to shine. That they all play thin clichées doesn’t helpt either. Other than those already mentioned, we also find Paul Giamatti as Slimy Manager, Mary J. Blige as Kind-Hearted Strip Club Owner, Malin Åkerman as Introspection-Inducing Reporter, and Russel Brand as… well, as Russel Brand, really. Seeing these names and characters, you can probably work out roughly what to expect of the performances. Other than Cruise, none of the actors in the film are likely to surprise you.

If I had to summarize Rock of Ages with one word, it would be “uneven”. There are passages of the film where the songs are really good, the comedy hits its marks, and the hum-drum plot is kept unobtrusive. Then there are other stretches where everything is just groan-inducing. There’s also some degree of filler here, which leads to a bloated running time of over 2 hours. Still, the overall impression I was left with at the end was a mildly positive one, though I fully recognize that this is not a film for everyone. If you despise musicals, Rock of Ages won’t change your mind. If you’re not a fan of 80s rock, there’s little reason to bother either as the main appeal of the film will be lost on you. Not even Tom Cruise’s amazing performance is enough to make this one a must-see. But if you’re like me and love musicals, are fascinated by Tom Cruise, and can’t get enough of Bon Jovi and Poison, you’re likely to find something to like here.

Score: 3/5

 
11 Comments

Posted by on 27 June, 2012 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Caption This!

What is Paul Giamatti reacting to and/or saying?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on 28 January, 2012 in Caption This!

 

Tags: ,

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2003

Would it be unfair of me to say that 2003 sucked movie-wise? Yes, of course it would. Not even going into how I’ve only seen a small percentage of all films released all over the world during the year, just looking at what I have seen tells me that there were plenty of good movies out there and no disproportionately large number of stinkers. I’m sure the average 2003 movie I’ve seen isn’t much worse than the average of most other years.

But this list is still… weak? No, not weak. These are all very good films. That might be the problem, though. Most of these are indeed very good. It’s just that there are few truly great ones on here. Movies I love. Compared to most other years from the decade, 2003 was a bit lacking at the upper section. Some of these films would have a hard time finding spots on previous top 10 lists I’ve made.

It’s all good, though. I’ll gladly take more years like 2003 as long as I get one film as good as what’s at #1 here.

As usual, to avoid international confusion, I go by years listed on IMDB to determine what is and isn’t “a 2003 movie”.

10 – AMERICAN SPLENDOR (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini)

“Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?”

Two things are key if you want to make a good biopic. 1: Find an interesting character to make a film about. 2: Find the right actor for said character. American Splendor accomplishes these two steps with gusto. Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, notorious underground comic book writer. A complicated character with plenty of odd quirks and a vitriolic personality, Giamatti nevertheless finds the human being within and offers a nuanced and believable performance. A lot of the film’s success is due to the actor. Without him, the movie might have been just as interesting, but probably not as good.

9 – MATCHSTICK MEN (Ridley Scott)

“She said you were a bad guy. You don’t seem like a bad guy.”

Of course Roy (Nicolas Cage) doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He’s a conman. It’s his job to appear trustworthy. And he’s doing good for himself, despite having to combat his OCD and other mental hang-ups. But then his daughter (Alison Lohman) whom he has never met before enters his life, and things get complicated. Matchstick Men tells an entertaining story with twists and turns a-plenty and features one of Cage’s better performances of the decade. Also: Pygmies!

Read the rest of this entry »

 
27 Comments

Posted by on 20 December, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2004

Where my 2006 list featured lots of comedies and my 2005 one had a disproportionately high number of documentaries, this one doesn’t really feature any remarkable trends. Indeed, as great as all the films on this list are, perhaps the most noteworthy thing about these ten is what a homogeneous collection it is. All of them are fictional movies, and they could all be said to be American (though three are by directors from other countries, and a fourth takes place solely in Europe). As I’ve said before, I make no concious effort to either infuse or stamp out variety in these lists of mine. It just so happens that my favorite films of 2004 just happen to be these ones. And there is at least genre diversity within the specific subgroup here, with drama, comedy, action, animation and romance all getting their time in the spotlight.

As usual, this is 2004 strictly as listed on IMDB (which is the reason why there can be two Best Picture Oscar winners on here). And it’s merely a list of my favorite films, and nothing more than that.

10 – THE INCREDIBLES (Brad Bird)

” ‘Greater good’? I am your wife! I’m the greatest good you are ever gonna get!”

This is my favorite Pixar film, and a large part of it is due to its relatable characters. Sure, the family of superheroes all have their superpowers, but their problems are all human and recognizable, from Mr. Incredible’s longing for his old glory days in the spotlight to his shy daughter Violet’s feelings of inadequacy. Having a bunch of cool action sequences helps too, of course.

9 – CRASH (Paul Haggis)

“That’s good. A little anger. It’s a bit late, but it’s nice to see.”

Some love it, some hate it. I’m among the former. Crash‘s strength doesn’t lie in what it has to say about racism (someone in my Twitter feed once suggested that’s it’s actually less about that than about grace). Rather, what I appreciate in this film is the power of its individual scenes, helped along by strong performances by Michael Peña, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton and others.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
28 Comments

Posted by on 6 December, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,