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Archive for the ‘Sam Rockwell’ Category

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

27 Nov

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – written and directed by Martin McDonough Melodrama. 155 minutes Color 2017
★★★
The Story: A woman, to uncover the murder of her daughter, a crime about which she believes everyone else has fallen asleep, wakes them up.
~
Grand Guignol is a writing style whose aim is to cover the audience with as much gore as room-service can carry in on the tray of its plot.

The effect is shock. Outwardly.

Inwardly the outward emphasis on shock forbids depth.

Who suffers from this lack of depth in the writing most cruelly is Frances McDormand, whom we all love, for the style leaves her character of the heroine in the same position in which it first presents her, of rigorous retaliation. It isn’t her fault. Woody Harrelson, as the local sheriff, plays the angel, so of course, he never changes. Sam Rockwell suffers less, simply because his character of the villain is more mobile and less predictable.

In one sense his performance is so good, you think it’s being performed by an amateur. A part of every human being is dangerously stupid. Rockwell does not play-act this stupidity; he discovers, embraces, and revels in it.

Of course, in another sense, Rockwell sufferers most of all, for we are expected to swallow that he undergoes a fifth-act character change from a man who can’t foresee two feet in front of him to a man who can strategize himself into the solution of an unsolvable case. A maniac into a maven on the turn of a dime? Now, I ask you.

What you get with Grand Guignol is a picture drooling with violence and the improbabilities necessary to support its presentation.

If what you want is this, then this is what you want: Cancer blood coughed all over your face, having your mother kick your schoolmates in their groins, covering your head with a velvet bag and shooting your brains out, wife strangulation, a chemo tube wrenched from one’s veins and its blood splashed over the walls, Molotov cocktails tossed into the local police station for no reason, an innocent boy beaten to a pulp and thrown out a second story window, that boy’s young female office mate smashed in the face with a Billy club, pyromania as an act of wifely correction, a window engulfed in flames smashed through by a man to burn almost to death on the street, a lovely teenage girl, murdered, then raped, then set ablaze.

This is the realm of Grand Guignol. It is the realm of BDSM. With the writer/director the dominant/sadist, and the rest of us having to endure the punishment of reading a movie review recording his bent.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, Frances McDormand: acting goddess, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson

 

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.

 

The Way, Way Back

31 Jul

The Way, Way Back –– written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Comedy/Drama. A fourteen year old boy on a ghastly/wonderful seaside vacation. 143 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★★

The perfect summer movie, because it encompasses like an ocean roller all the sun, salty air, sand, sadness, and silliness of the July days of youth. Sadness because one is no longer eleven but fourteen, and defiance is in order.

We have the cast of casts to bring it to us, at least as far as the adult actors go. First there is Steve Carell as the wicked stepfather-to-be, and he daringly offers the character not one redeeming feature. I do not own a television, I had never seen him before, and I understand he is a television entertainer. Well, he certainly entertains us here with this setting-your-teeth-on edge prick.

The can-do-no-wrong Toni Colette plays the lady considering marrying him, and she has wonderful moments in a part which is underwritten and under-examined by the writers, who take the part for granted.

However, present as the blabbermouth neighbor is The Great Allison Janney, one of the finest actors working today. She is a treat and a tonic necessary for one’s health and for one’s belief in the future of the race. There is a public edict out that any film she is opens in must be rushed to. Everything comes alive when she is on. And boy is she on! She is devastatingly funny and extravagantly generous with her gifts, as usual.

Finally, we are offered the madcap amusement park proprietor of Sam Rockwell, an actor who seems to have no limitations, or, at any rate, whose gifts are so pronounced that, watching him display them, one cannot imagine what they might be. He plays the zany owner of the vast Water Wizz aqua- park, where a good deal of the action transpires. The man is witty, quick, and desperate. Rockwell gets all of this: a man who exists for the thrill of summer has cheapened himself and knows it.

The focus of the story is on Toni Colette’s son, played by Lliam James. The writers write less well for him and directs him less well. In fact, an actor of his age needs to be directed exactly like an adult. The difficult is that he plays a mome. And the writers have left it at that and asked the actor to carry more than there exists for him to lift. One has to take the performance on faith, which is fine, since the story has its valleys and joys, as expected of a summer movie, and since its tropes are so familiar one sings right along with the little bouncing ball of it, the audience carrying the load for him, and happy, very happy indeed to do so.

 

 

 

Conviction

29 Apr

Conviction. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Biodrama. A waitress devotes herself to free her innocent brother from prison. 107 minutes Color 2010.

* * * *

Such pictures are like horse pictures: the outcome is foreordained, but one watches to see by what procedures the story will pass to the end towards which it tends. The first part of this picture holds up because of the writing, after which the writing emotionalizes the story, so that whatever happens becomes generalized and routine, and so the actors have nothing specific to work with,and we become an audience reft of responses to choose among because they are all pre-fabricated by the script, we are only allowed to respond one way. Without choice there is no participation for an audience. And, as things decline one notices that the musical score drains the drama. The film is well directed, edited, and cast, a cast which includes the irreplaceable Minnie Driver and the titanicly gifted Melissa Leo. The great Juliet Lewis appears as a lady who lies in court, and then admits it, and she is simply remarkable. Oscars should crowd one another out on her mantelpiece. Sam Rockwell plays the rapscallion brother who is unjustly convicted, and his performance is just marvelous. The cocking of his head, the pursing of his lips, the inner decisions taken – everything he does is directed by a live loose wire inside him, and at the same time as you wouldn’t want to be around him too long, still you’ve got to like him because he’s so much fun. Most of his work is in the early part of the film and thus does not suffer from the growing flaccidity of the script. The burden of the film falls upon Hillary Swank, and she is very good in the first part of the picture, but then she has a load to carry and, through no fault of her own, the burden of it is bogus. Her accent, her working-class energy is right on the money, but no actress, however gifted, can fill in a blank already filled in. Still, it is a remarkable story about a remarkable feat of conviction. The turns and twist of the law almost strangle one as they unfold. Betty Anne Waters actually did save her brother, actually got a high school diploma and a law degree to do it. Good for her and good for this film being made.

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