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Archive for the ‘Lee Pace: Screen God: Acting God’ Category

Guardians Of The Galaxy

29 Sep

Guardians Of The Galaxy – directed by James Gunn. Sci-Fi Comedy/Adventure. 122 minutes Color 2014.

★★

The Story: A club of renegade do-gooders seek a magic orb to keep it out of the wrong hands.

~

Will this never end! This was my mantra as I watched this clunking monstrosity repeat itself over and over. Now we have the orb, now evil Ronan has the orb, now we have the orb, now Ronan – the same ploy repeated interminably, the interminability broken by action sequences so fast you cannot enjoy their elaborations, amid settings so ornately imagined the director dare not give us time to appreciate them. For it’s either back to the orb or into a space battle or a onto a recess into sophomoric humor lead by Chris Platt beating off of the barbs of Bradley Cooper disguised as fast-talking, wirehead Raccoon, who is actually quite funny.

John. C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro and Glen Close freeze-shrink their immense talents to earn their pay playing characters with no discernable character. While the great Lee Pace stands before us in ruins as the villain Ronan, his beautiful speaking voice turned into a steam shovel and his interesting face shrouded in makeup, costume, and shadow.

Everything about the movie is made-up and everything depends on makeup. It’s worth seeing for the makeup. Is it? No.

The film seems not to be based on a Marvel comic strip so much as on a Buck Rogers Saturday matinee kids’ serial. That is to say, it is based on the perpetual repetition necessary for its existence at all. Except here we see all the serials at once, an endeavor that hangs itself on its own cliff-hangers. Raiders Of The Lost Arc with jokes but no humor.

 

Lincoln

16 Nov

Lincoln – directed by Steven Spielberg. Docudrama. President Abraham Lincoln is surrounded on all sides as he presses to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment forbidding slavery. 149 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★★

I was thrilled, stirred, gripped.

I thought beforehand I would not be, for the coming attractions are ill advised.

But, once there, everything about this film surprised, entertained, informed, and moved me.

My first fear was that Daniel Day-Lewis would simply dress himself up in a top hat and shawl and, in the voice of Henry Fonda, perform The Lincoln Memorial.

But what Daniel Day-Lewis has done with Lincoln, is to give him a posture which is stooped, which we know he had, and a short gait, which we couldn’t know he had, but which keeps him in the contemplative present when he moves.

Day-Lewis’s figure is tall and thin, as was Lincoln’s, and his face is long, as was Lincoln’s. He has, as Lincoln had, cold eyes. Lincoln had a high-pitched voice, and that is what the actor contrives for us. The impersonation is beyond exception.

The actor also has the ability to negotiate Lincoln’s remarkable diction, so he is able to manage Lincoln’s speeches and his raconteurism –– everyone said Lincoln was a most entertaining individual, and folks gathered around him to hear him tell jokes and stories –– and this is given full play as is his play with his little son. But the weight of the matters that concern and confront him and how he faces them are the story.

The political shenanigans environing the passage of the 13th Amendment are the setting here, and in this he is beset by his foes and friends alike. Among the foes is Lee Pace, an actor of signal clarity of attack, who leads the Democrats of the day who, like the Republicans of our own, have no agenda but to oppose, in all matters, the person who holds The Presidency.

The complex backstairs bargaining and bribery and bullying to get the amendment through is exciting and involves a lot of first class actors to bring off. Kevin Kline as a wounded soldier, Jared Harris as U.S. Grant, Bruce McGill as Secretary Stanton. We have James Spader as the foul-mouthed operative sent to influence the undecided with sinecures and cash. Hal Holbrook as the peacenik operative whose truce-making might arrest the entire effort. John Hawkes as Robert Latham.

But the big difficulties at the time were two people who were in favor of the amendment. The first was Mary Lincoln, unbalanced by the loss of a previous child and exhausting and distracting Lincoln by indulging herself in grief because of it. This is an astonishing piece of work by an actress who has grown over the years: daring when young, even more daring now: Sally Field.

The second problematic character was Thaddeus Stevens, an abolitionist so radical his extreme fundamentalism bid fair to upset the applecart. A formidable politico and vituperator, it required an actor no one could out-wily, out-cunning, out-sly. And such an one we have to hand in the person of Tommy Lee Jones. He’s killingly funny and powerful in the role. It’s one of his great film turns.

The filming of story and the direction of it are exactly right, established at once by Janusz Kaminski with a Brahmsian color palette and a scenic arrangement that gives us a view from under the table of the White House goings-on and political dealings that never fall into the staid tableaux of Historical Documentary or the expected or the pat.

But the great credit of all the great credit due is to Tony Kushner who wrote it. He alone of modern playwrights could negotiate the elaborate rhetoric of 19th Century invective, without which the telling of this material would be incomprehensible. Instead of taking out your gun and firing at an insult, you had to stand still to hear it long enough to mount a more suitable riposte than a bullet. Congress in those days was messy, rude, and volatile. We see it all.

Kushner frames the picture with two speeches, and each one is given to us in a surprising way. Historical events with which we are familiar are gestured when they are not integral to the strife within. He knows how to write a scene with lots of words, and the material needs them and welcomes them. You have to lean forward and keep your ears alert, just as these men and women did in their day. You want to. It’s part of your engagement, your learning, your joy, and your satisfaction.

Up close and personal with Lincoln, if you ever imagine yourself so lucky as to be, you sure are here. You give full credence to this actor’s Lincoln. You watch Lincoln, yes, he is available. You still admire him, you are touched by him, you know him as well as you ever will, save you read his letters. A man of great depth of reserve and great humor. Torn, pure in two, but one. Because fair and honest and kind. Smart because he understands human language from aint to art. When has his party put forth for president a person of one tenth his character? Will they ever do so again?

 

Ceremony

24 Jun

Ceremony. Directed and written by Max Winkler. Chekhovian Comedy. A young fool tries to run off with a to-be bride just before the wedding. 89 Minutes Color 2010.

* * * * *

How does Lee Pace, without stealing, steal every scene he is in? He is a master actor, but that’s not why. A young man from Oklahoma, he plays an upper class British millionaire naturalist/filmmaker/star, and the English accent comes right from his bones, but that’s not why. He is tall and beautiful and sexy and young, has a fine rich speaking voice, and remarkable eyebrows, but that’s not why. No, the reason is, is that he is inherently a star, someone gifted with an inner character of soul which is meant to be seen and basked in, the same way you would bask in that of Joan Crawford or Joel Macrea or George Clooney or Edward G. Robinson or Rita Hayworth. They must be watched. You wouldn’t want to do anything else with them. They are there to be on the screen and stared at wondrously. So what you do with a star like Lee Pace is to be gaga, a little blinded, a little dazed. A surrender like that is such a treat, and its one of the reasons we go to the movies. Another is to place ourselves in the doings of such a story as Max Winkler offers us, with its rare mad excursions into side-room scenes in the lives of its five principal characters, played with juicy finesse by Uma Thurman, Reece Thompson, Jake M. Johnson, and Michael Angarano who is the focal character around whom all the other four swirl. I found his performance vexing. His face works as though he is chewing gum all the time, but he never is. As an annoying gnome, his miniscule grimaces are particularly prevalent at the beginning of the story, but as the story develops, the obsessive, greedy liar he is playing succumbs to the constant onslaught of well-deserved cruel truth, and the character almost becomes a human being. In character, the actor is truly nonplussed. He is knocked out, but will he ever wake up? This is an interesting trial for an audience, and a worthwhile one, because it keeps the narrative in suspense – asking both what will happen to this brat and will I ever come to like him? He is driven to steal a woman who is older than he is, who is out of his league, whom he cannot support, and who would make him a terrible wife. The script by Max Winkler is superbly surprising at all turns and corners. I think he is putting the kibosh on grunge comedy once and for all (if only). He has written (Four Weddings And A Funeral keeps coming to mind) – a comedy with the wit to make people real – that is his humor – and to make them sad – that is also his humor. Sad in the sense that every one of them is a sad sack, and funny in that every one of them is bright as all get out. Don’t miss it.

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The Resident

20 May

The Resident – Directed by Antii Jokinen. Thriller. A young female doctor rents an old apartment and finds it is haunted – and not by a ghost. 1 hour 31 minutes Color 2010

* * * * *

Hilary Swank is always cast as a proactive skinny female. A girl who decides to be a boy. A woman who wants to be a prizefighter. An uneducated waitress who decides to become a lawyer to save her brother from prison. Proactive is her inner position, what she brings to the table for us to eat. It’s always obvious, and she is always well cast and cast in interesting well-produced pictures. This is one of them. Because she is skinny she looks susceptible to being pushed around, though, so it’s not an easy ride for her. She is physically strong, muscular, and as convincing as a powerhouse as Barbara Stanwyck was and for the same reasons: she is physically fit. However, as an actress she tends to play up her “helplessness”, which is a mistake, but then so does Jodi Foster, whom she also resembles. Never play fear, Hilary, play determination; it’s more believable.  Especially since she has a face with which, s with Joan Crawford, it is impossible for her to register a subtlety. Here she plays a EMR surgeon, a perfect part for her, and I for one was so glad she knew human anatomy so that she could place her coup de grace accurately when the time came to bring it into play. She rents a dandy old Brooklyn apartment and is immediately uneasy because she feels she is being watched, and, badness knows, she is. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the watcher, the landlord who has a fix on her. You think he possibly really loves her until the point where he pleas for pity, never a safe move for a screenwriter. But we are well on in horror by that time.  The film is magisterially directed by Antii Jokinen and filmed by Guillermo Navarro. The whole picture is much the creation of its set designers, Guy Barnes, J. Dennis Washington, and Wendy Ozolos-Barnes who have made for us one of the most extraordinary series of arteries and secret panels, and peepholes one has ever seen in a N.Y. apartment building– and by its bent score by John Ottman. It is very well acted, and its cast even includes the beautiful Lee Pace (one of the two greatest actors in film today) who has a real-right-on moment with a sling; watch for it. I rented the film because of his being in it; his part is small, but it adds a ruthless and necessary fillip to the coup de grace when it comes.

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Pushing Daisies

03 Feb

Pushing Daisies – Comedy Detective Fantasy TV series about a pie-maker who has the ability to brings dead things back to life with his touch, a talent not without its drawbacks. Color 2007 – 2009

Nominated for 57 awards and winning 18 of them, including 7 Emmys, it establishes itself brilliant in all departments at once. Set up as amusingly symmetrical as an 18th Century royal French garden it plays itself out in the form of a 16th Century English royal garden maze. The coloration of sets and costumes alone is worth a statue or at least a Red Garter; the perfection of reds vanishing into reds, and greens into greens; the idea of everyone at a cocktail party wearing the same color dress of the same material; the flabbergastering shirts of the males; the decor of the four square two dimensionality of the pie shop; the dead centering of characters on camera. Enough of that. Passing from all that rose-petal scattering of kudos on to those petals to be tossed at the writers whose skill knows no end, as they give us a feast of red herrings every time, mysteries not for the watcher to solve, but to giggle at, dialogue that demands the most fluid and rigorous of stylization of performance. The splendour of the production which looks like it cost billions in its super attention to details, such that, like Pinocchio, one could go back and discover them more and more at each viewing, and with more relish each time. The bountifully gifted Swoosie Kurtz as the swilling sister with the bling eye patch, and the inestimable Ellen Greene as her romantical sister; the stupendous Chi McBride as Cod; the superlatively gifted Kristin Chenoweth as the miniature Olive, gaga and at once pert; the appealing Anna Friel as the open-faced love interest of His Greatness Lee Pace who plays the pie maker to die for. And roses roses all the way to whomever established the style for all this. Well, let praise have no end, and so ******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

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Possession

24 Oct

Possession –– directed by Simon Sandquist, Joel Bergvall –– a psychological thriller in which a young woman believes her ne’er do-well brother in law is her husband. 86 minutes color 2008

* * *

Lee Pace, in the Extras, remarks that Possession is the story of two people who are addicted to love and will not let it go. What a fabulous idea! She is addicted to love of her husband. And he, Lee Pace, her brother-in-law, is addicted to love of her. It’s just this sort of acting promise that lures a talent of the order of intelligence of Pace to accept the lead in a picture. But that’s not the movie we have here at all. We have it instead only in the deleted scenes, all of which, if included, might have added up to a compelling film. But they have been cut, haven’t they, so what do we have left? –– the dregs –– a film based on the cheap suspense of If And When the sociopath brother-in-law will show his true colors and the young woman wake up. I don’t know if it would have worked if it had been left uncut. The fact is, part from the theme, the script is lousy, meager, unhuman, and its story paltry. Interesting movies can result from poor scripts, but they depend always on actors of tremendous presence or talent to lure us to attend to them. The young woman is no such actress. Her face is petulant and unvarying and uninteresting. Human facial expression is the pallet of acting-narrative for a director, and this young lady does not have the quality of an actor who will carry such a film nor does she have the talent. (Maggie Gyllenhall, where are you when we need you?) Everyone else in the film is of the same ordinary order . They’ve learned acting not from watching life or themselves but from watching TV. Except for Lee Pace. If you want to see a great actor operate in full force, see Possession. He captures the volatility, the temper, the sexual allure of the rotter brother-in-law, and also the sweetness and lyrical heart of the brother he becomes possessed by. Possession would be one of Lee Pace’s many offerings that remain on the periphery because of a failure of the producers, script-writers, directors. Can this great actor become a star? He should be playing Hamlet somewhere right now. He needs a great role.

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Miss Pettigrew Lives ForA Day

15 Oct

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day — directed by Bharat Nalluri  Period romantic comedy in which a ditzy 1930s chanteuse is rounded by up an imposter housekeeper who heads them both for romance. 92 minutes color 2008.

* * * * *

Yes, for the presence of the great Lee Pace. He seems to be unrecognizable from role to role — from the transgender Calpurnia in Soldier’s Girl, to Dick Hickock the Clutter murderer in Infamous, to this forthright male in love with a woman he will sacrifice not one iota of his lyrical being to gain. At 22 as Calpurnia, the arch-archer of feminity, to the male of males now, here at 28, and at the peak of his masculinity. Pettigrew was the first picture I noticed him in, and now I make a rewarding investigation of his contributions to the art. What a great actor! As to the picture itself, I liked it. It’s poorly directed visually and narratively, but there are wonderful actors in it, among whom is the manly Ciaran Hinds and that devious little minx Shirley Henderson, and they are tip top. Our beloved Frances McDormand as the housekeeper whacked-out on ethics, and Amy Adams as the Spring Byington-in-the-making, scatter-brained object of Pace’s perfect love. Pace and Adams play a night club duo, and both sing superbly. I saw it with an older crowd in the theatre, and they applauded, and I can understand why. I applaud here. It’s not for the puerile.

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Infamous

15 Oct

Infamous — directed by Douglas McGrath — bio-drama about Truman Capote, Harper Lee, and their approach to the Sutter murders which produced his best seller In Cold Blood. 118 minutes color 2006

* * * *

Well, it’s badly written, directed, filmed. The sets and costumes are suited to a Betty Grable musical. And it’s hard to like Truman Capote. One can admire him, for his strength and pertinacity, but his books are unreadable now and his position as the dwarf/jester of cafe society is gone. But during Gwyneth Paltrow’s perfect rendition of “What Is This Thing Called Love?”when she breaks down — you see Capote rooting for her. Odd. Capote rooted for no one but himself. Capote banked everything on vindictive survival. And it’s understandable, because he fell into no expected human category– until he found, after In Cold Blood, that survival itself wasn’t worth it. But that’s not the story told here. Toby Jones as Capote is trapped by the physical distortion he adopts, save once, in front of a mirror when he realizes the irony that he loves and is loved by someone he can never be with. Mark Wahlberg was to play that part, Perry Smith, and would have been better than Daniel Craig, who has only half of the character to offer, Perry’s violence; the other half, Perry’s artistic soul, is given Craig by dialogue but he cannot embody it. But Craig performs everything with complete conviction and simplicity, all praise to him. The great Lee Pace is Dick Hickock, the nasty psychopath provoker of the slaughter. Sandra Bullock is tops as Harper Lee, shrewdly achieving her effect by rarely looking at the camera, in the actual meditation of a modest woman. Juliet Stevenson is way out of line as Diana Vreeland. High Society people are not hoity toity, only people who imitate them are that. Sigourney Weaver is miscast as Babe Paley, it should have been played by an elegant woman, which Weaver is not: Jill Clayburg, Blythe Danner. But the story gives me room to ponder the ways of nature. I recommend the piece because it held me, and because the director, although not very bright, has given us a simple draft of the Capote romance with slaughter and slaughterers, and because of Lee Pace, the instrument of it, amazing in his few scenes. The film itself accomplished what it set out to do. Despite its shortcomings — an honest job about a dishonest person.

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Soldier’s Girl

15 Oct

Soldier’s Girl — Directed by Frank Pierson — a young soldier garrisoned in the South falls in love with a transgendering nightclub performer and pays the price. 112 minutes color 2003

* * * * *

Ladies and Gentlemen, raise your hands to applaud! We have before us in Lee Pace one of the great actors of our time. Here he plays Calpurnia a male not yet female. At first, I thought, “Oh dear, he’s too tall, his face is too long, he’s too this, he’s too that,” but this stopped almost at once and never returned. For the actor has found what this woman wanted for herself, and in doing that, the character comes alive and never falters. That’s just the actor’s job, you say? Not quite so, for the realm of discovery for an actor may enter depths unfamiliar to him and generate truths unexpected in him. And that’s what we are in the presence of here, I believe, an actor taken over by another human being and being the vehicle for her. What Calpurnia wants is to be alluring at all times, to be fascinating at all times, to promise sexuality at all times. She may have sacrificed her life for this, that we may not judge, but she does it by displaying female helplessness always. The pitch is Take Care Of Me And All This Femininity Will Be Yours. Indeed, she is a night club performer of it, but in a triumph of shyness — shyness not brazenness — for this is not a camp performance, neither in Pace nor in Calpurnia. We are in another realm. Spotlights blaze on demureness. What a paradox! But that’s just an actor’s job, right? Here we have an actor whose natural gifts are so obvious, the main one being his eyes. Looking into them, both as he plays Calpurnia and as he remains in character in the interview of him, one can see how connected he is — and this is everything. What a gift for an actor to be born with! I first saw him in Miss Pettigrew with Frances McDormand, and was stunned, by his willingness to show male love for a female outright. His performance was true as true. Just as it is true here.

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The Fall

15 Oct

The Fall — directed by Tarsem Singh — a silent film stuntman falls from a train trellis and recuperates in a hospital where he meets a fantastical five-year-old girl and together they go on adventures, adventures, adventures. 117 minutes color 2006

* * * * *

Lee Pace forms half of the power of this piece; the other half is supplied by a 5 year old girl, Catinca Untaru, who is also beautiful — in the same way Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful at her age — dark eyed and forthright. She plays the enchanting and enchanted unwitting go-between in a dangerous plot in half of the movie, and in the other half she is part of a fabulous fable along the lines of The Wizard of Oz, in which all her regular-life characters also feature. The story is directed well in the first part of this fable, but things do not so much progress as parade as the treatment comes to depend too much on extravagant settings, so the conflicts in the tale become somewhat mocked by the spectacle. However, the film is beautifully shot throughout. And the little girl is so true that I would watch nothing else, were the young man not being played by The Great Lee Pace, for he matches her in connection, in humor, in reality of response, at every point. He is the only actor I have ever seen who is actually capable of contemplation on the screen. His ability to be present unselfishly is a wonder to behold. Of course, he is wonderful to look at also, as great stars always are, even those not as physically good looking as he is, and he is a male at the peak of his masculinity here, which is an additional great natural treat. I found the film unusual and gripping. It’s worth more than a casual viewing in my view. For we all share the same false and true stories of our lives.

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Marmaduke

12 Oct

Marmaduke — directed by Tom Dey — a comedy in which a young family man finds his doggedness and a young dog finds his manhood. 99 minutes color 2010.

* * * * *

It’s fascinating to watch the great Lee Pace, he of the immemorial eyebrows, play this white bread comedy to the limit of all it’s worth and not one grimace more. This extraordinary actor, the finest actor of his generation for all I know, is completely convincing, moment by moment, in the peanut butter and jelly of the genre, including all the considerable physical comedy the part requires. He is never too much, he is never too little. So much so that it’s virtually impossible to see how really good he is. To taste and compare, watch him in Soldier’s Girl, The Fall, Infamous, in which he plays Hickock the partner of Perry Smith of the Sutter murders, and the passionate romantic lead/pianist opposite Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. Sit back and be amazed at the art of acting at its best. Pace at 6’4″ towers delightfully over William H. Macy who domineers over him as dog food boss. Macy, of course, looks like a basset, and, wonderful actor that he is, gives the film the bite required. But see how Pace embodies this impossible subjection. It’s parallel to what his own great Dane evinces until the end. The dogs all speak. Marmaduke himself speaks Owen Wilson, while the bully pooch speaks Kiefer Sutherland. Others speak others. It’s all quite nice and mindless. I believe it is a children’s movie. Probably for male children, since the principals principally are males, but I wouldn’t know. I myself am a male child and, therefore, limited in my perspective.

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