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Archive for the ‘Robin Wright’ Category

Everest

14 Oct

Everest ­– directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Docupic. 121 Minutes Color 2015.

★★★★★

The Story: Four commercial climbing expeditions join forces for the sake of safety as they take their clients up to the highest elevation in the world.

~

Well they certainly found the perfect actor to play the lead. Jason Clarke, an Australian actor, brings to his role the requirements needed to hold the entire story together. Because there is that within him that allows you to believe that he holds the entire expedition together. It is he who has the foresight to see that five expeditions cannot embark on the same day, and gets three of them to join with his group. This actor exudes the compassion, expertise, and common sense which makes us go along with him on what is, after all, a $65,000 ticket to a thrill for the climbers.

The film takes us into the depths of the mountains, and I wonder how they ever managed to film it. I was astonished. I was held. I kept learning. I felt present on the spot.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an expedition leaders, a rapscallion. And John Hawkes plays a climber on his last chance to make it. Josh Brolin plays a climber addicted to mountaineering. The great Icelandic actor, Ingvar Eggert Sugurösson plays a leader who never uses oxygen and who does jim-dandy without it. He alone is clean-shaven, which helps his performance, for it is often hard to tell one character from another, since all the men wear beards which cooperate with the snow and the oxygen-masks to disguise them. But you can identify the characters by their parkas. And the director makes the back-and-forth of the perils they meet as clear as can be in all that white.

The female actors are particularly strong. Keira Knightley as Clarke’s pregnant wife, Robin Wright as Brolin’s. Elizabeth Debicki as the base camp doctor holds the fort with the wonderful Emily Watson who plays the base camp manager. What a treasure she is!

I won’t tell you the story, because I did not know it myself when I saw it. But I surmised that things did not turn out well for all these people, or the film would not have been made. It’s beautifully done. The mountain itself looms above it all, deciding who will live and how and who will die and how.

The peril is threefold. Steepness. Oxygen deprivation. Cold. I am a cold person, so the last of these interested me most, in that some of the characters are clearly more comfortable with cold than others.

Of course, by cold, I do not mean nasty, narrow, cruel, prudish, or mean. Cold is a temperature of love of life and a latitude for moving through it. Hot blooded people are colorful, bold, and tempting. But the cool ones love the reserves in themselves, and the path therein to their souls and their callings. So I like snow. I like ice. I like to witness the perils inherent in them. The perseverance. The melt.

Also, I saw it in 3-D, which helps, I think. Anyhow, I recommend it, as, of course, I do the film itself.

 

A Most Wanted Man

10 Aug

A Most Wanted Man – directed by Anton Corbjin. Spy Thriller. 122 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: Working against the clock, a team of rogue spies attempt to corner a terrorist funding operation.

~

Why do we think of Philip Seymour Hoffman as a great actor?

What is the source of our satisfaction with him?

What does he bring to us that other actors cannot or do not wish to bring? And why do we not care to ask him to bring what other actors bring?

Why do we sit back and wonder at him?

One thing he brings is extremes we would not wish to show to anyone.

By extremes I mean a extremes on either side of the human psychological and emotional range. In this case, a dull doggedness and on the other hand a scathing rage.

And another thing that he brings is a separate person up there.

For surely as I sit back and look at his customary unruly beauty, I see a German functionary working his task of high level espionage. I have seen Hoffman before looking just like that, but now and once again playing a character I recognize as never seen before.

There is an actual person up there on the screen.

There are very few actors in the world who can do that.

Certain criticisms about the story of this film have been made. Before I talk about them, let me say that it is brilliantly filmed, directed, and acted. On the one side, we have extreme actors Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright and on the other a cast of international actors of the first water. The difficulty lies in the story not making clear that Hoffman is an obsessive. Obsessives differ in that they have no outcome in mind. Obsessives just want to complete the cycle of the obsession.The one thing we know about Hitler is that he had no purpose beyond the next obsessive act. So if Hoffman’s character is an obsessive, that is to say a pure executant, we need to know it all along and every other important character needs to discover it to us in scenes. I haven’t read the John Le Carré novel; I don’t know if the scenes are there. But here, while the tension is keenly entertaining, there is a defect to us in the writing of a film otherwise superb.

In the tracts of Zeami (1363-14440), the Shakespeare of the Noh theatre, he writes, “If the actor sees old men walking hobbled by ague, with bent knees, bent back, and shrunken frames, and he simply imitates these characteristics, he may achieve an appearance of decrepitude, but it will be at the expense of the ‘flower.’ And if the ‘flower’ be lacking, there will be no beauty in the impersonation. The ‘flower’ consists in forcing upon an audience an emotion which they do not expect.”

Over and over again, Philip Seymour Hoffman has brought forth for us those ‘flowers’. Honor him.

Here he is finally, after all. This will be the last chance to see him up there before you on the big screen. It is a place where he belonged. He’s big like a Rubens is big. Witness him there. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Grand Canyon is one street over. Quit dawdling. Get off your barstool and go.

 

Home At The End Of The World

23 Sep

Home At The End Of The World –– directed by Michael Mayer. Drama. Two male lovers housekeep with a screwy female. 96 minutes Color 2004.

Robin Penn is far too old to play this lady with the rainbow hair. It’s a part for a fat young woman with no confidence in her own sexual attraction. Robin Wright is very handsome and is in her late 30s, and she would not be fooled by this hair for a Manhattan minute. And the actor, in fact, does not relate to the hair at all; she simply wears it with less adventure than she might wear a Halloween wig. It is an earmark of a performance by an actress, usually canny in her craft, usually offering us something novel and brilliant. And yet one feels that she is fully engaged. And so she is. The trouble is that there is nothing very much for her to be fully engaged with. She is a tiger engaging with an antipasto.

The script and the direction are flimsy, the tone of the picture is false, the casting is false, the playing is false. Sissy Spacek’s work is vaporous.

Colin Farrell is off-base and phony as the adult gay lover. He play-acts innocence and dumbness. His eyes wander about like Mayflies, and he affects a little lost smile. It is a strange piece of amateurism, when his own innocence, his own stupidity would have done just fine.

And worse still the director and author seem to think that homosexual relations are devoid of blood-rare lust, that they are something one sips genteelly like lemonade. For none of the players evince anything more than a pastel passion.

This is fraudulent. Aside from there being nothing at stake in it and therefore no drama, it is an attempt to make homosexuality nice – which is stupid – since part of the charm, the power, the influence, and triumph of sex of any kind is victory over the “nice.” “Oh, for a delicious smooch!” as one finds in Almovódar’s Law Of Desire, for instance. “Oh, for a great big juicy steak!”

And to top it off, the film does a toe-dance over the affliction of AIDS. It offers us the Farrell character as too stupid to know his partner has it, when it is obvious that that is exactly what he has.

So, spare yourself the dismay. Do not, whatever you do, take up residence in the Home At The End Of The World.

 

 

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, Cissy Spacek, ENSEMBLE DRAMA, FAMILY DRAMA, Gay, PERSONAL DRAMA, Robin Wright

 

The Princess Bride

03 Sep

The Princess Bride — directed by Rob Reiner. Fractured Fairy Tale. Two young lovers are separated by doom and dastards until both are vanquished and the lovers kiss. 98 minutes Color 1987.

★★★★★

“Have you seen The Princess Bride?”  I ask folks, and everybody I ask has. But me.

I thought it was a little girls’ movie. But, in fact, in a very pleasant and useful conceit, a bed-ridden little boy introduces it by rejecting it by the same measure as I rejected it, that it wasn’t for boys at all. This little boy, and his gramps who reads the story to him, played by that master of accessibility, Peter Falk, interlope throughout to comment on the action, halt it, and increase the magic of its grounding: that fairy tales are meant to cure the sick, All entertainment is meant to cure the sick, but fairy tales most of all.

I thought it was only made last year, but I see that brilliant actor Robin Wright , in the title role, is being introduced to the screen in it, and the year is 1987, 25 years ago.

It is not played as a straight fairy tale, but a fractured one, by which I mean a modern sensibility intrudes in the diction and demeanor of certain characters, such as those played by Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as two antediluvian Cony Island Jews pushing magic for bucks and by Wallace Shawn who’s a modern boss bastard.

Others bring other things to it, such as Mandy Patinkin playing a sword-happy hidalgo hello-bent on revenge. He wields the most wonderful sabre you have ever seen.  You want to hug André The Giant as The Giant and even Mel Smith as a torturer with cold sores and Peter Cook the clergyman who cannot pronounce his Rs or Ls. Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon play the Basil Rathbone/James Mason parts of the evil count and his monarch. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright are just right as the lovers. You want to kiss everybody in it.

All sorts of medieval special effects are on offer, a fiery swamp complete with ROUS (rodents of unusual size) and a cliff-hanging cliff-climb and a stupefying torture chamber.

It is all as you wish it.

One of those movies that do just what movies alone can do and rarely do do. It satisfies its own medium.

 

 

Moneyball

23 Sep

Moneyball – Directed by Bennett Miller. Sports Biodoc. A baseball general manager battles against entrenched custom and the odds. 133 minutes Color 2011.

** * * *

The picture is not just moving at the end, but all along, as various reckless moves are reckoned out carefully and executed. This may sound cold. For the content of the movie is not emotional, and its players do not emotionalize it either. The emotion involved is the emotion in the audience which can root, not for a great person, which Billy Beane was not, but a great idea, which is what he pursued. A great idea, such as Freedom or such as Democracy or such as Justice. Beane was not a particularly attractive personality, so the film is not like a Frank Capra movie, which in every other way it resembles, because it does not have Jimmy Stewart in it. Instead it has Brad Pitt, a great actor, provided he does not have to put on a suit and tie, and one who could easily access the towering rages and sense of peril and tension which Beane emitted – but Pitt does not do this. He presents Beane as just as driven, but saner than he was, but that makes Beane a person we can watch with a certain engaged coolness. Coolness is a temperature that can induce tears of joy, and it does. The justice of Pitt’s playing allows full scope for the forces arrayed against him, first by his chief scout in a part superbly played and then by the field manager played as a taciturn dog-in-the-manger by Philip Seymour Hoffman. In a role Hoffman would have been tops in when younger, Jonah Hill is a dream. Sports people tend to be dumb, and Beane’s glomming onto this person who was not dumb makes the two of them into a sort of Abbott and Costello we can root for, two losers who might turn out to be winners. One’s attention is drawn to Hill in every scene, because he is so open, and you feel that the character always has been open and always has been dismissed as a dweeb. I hand him this year’s Oscar. The methods this character uncovers and uses were not new to baseball – if you read Ted Williams’ books on his life and on batting you can see that long ago Williams was a master statistician, that he knew everything about the ballpark, everything about the shadows on the field at a certain time of day, everything about the pitcher he was up against, and to learn more, he let the first pitch pass, no matter what – and back in the day he wasn’t the only one. But here the statistics are computerable, and the fun of the film is to see these two make hay of that fact, by hiring for the lowly Oakland A’s the refuse of the majors and turning those players into good account. The joy is not their good account but the good account of the shattering of long inopperational conventions. [ad#300×250]

 

 
 
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