Archive for the ‘George Clooney’ Category

Hail, Caesar!

18 Feb

Hail, Caesar! – written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Comedy. 106 minutes Color 2016.


The Story: Scandals that flare up must be doused by the studio fixer.


What do I make, one asks at first glimpse, of this Jollywood piece?

It opens in a confessional with Josh Brolin disgorging petty sins with wracked soul. When the priest asks him how long since has been to confession he says something like 27 hours, and is fobbed off with the penance of a few hail maries. We know at once by the solemnity of Brolin that we are in Jollywood land, that is to say we are in the selfsame satire-land as Singing In The Rain, dealing with the same object, and at just about the time Singing In The Rain was shot; that is, we are in the dread early ‘50s and we shall, therefore, now gorge on a full blown and deftly played Jollywood satire.

Jollywood? A comedy actually making fun of Hollywood.

And what pleasures there are, to be sure!

We have Tilda Swinton as vicious identical twin sisters, as antipathetic to one another as de Havilland and Fontaine. Swinton does the spitting cobra better than anyone around. Then we also have Scarlett Johansson in a major impersonation of Esther Williams in full fishtail and from the Bronx.

With this sort of acting, the actors do not have to do anything but – as Jack Nicholson has told us – “act accordingly,” which means that all Johansson has to do is inquire about the strength it must take for a legal clerk to stamp a page, and all Jonah Hill has to do it raise his big clerk’s to say “It’s my job” and let them fall on the first woman who has ever flirted with him in his life – and you know, no further word said, that something hysterically unlikely is to happen.

How do actors do that?

The words are not nothing, but the fleeting attitude of the actor seals it.

And here every actor is in sync with a subtlety of style which the Coen Brothers command from every side. It’s called making fun of something without using a pig bladder.

Brolin, a marvelous actor, once again carries the film. He plays the role of the fixer, Eddie Mannix from MGM days (although Capitol Films is what the present firm is named), and he goes about putting out fires that might incinerate reputations.

The main of these is the kidnapping of superstar George Clooney, almost through filming a film of the bloated Quo Vadis ilk, but snatched off by a covey of commies who claim blackmail from Brolin. Clooney is the most deft of light comedians, but his funniest scene in the film is his most serious: I shall not tell you; you’ll know it when it comes.

As side dishes we have Frances McDormand as an overdressed obsessive film editor, Ralph Fiennes as an Edmund Goulding type director, and Channing Tatum superbly dancing a big Gene Kelly sailor-on-leave production number. Each one hits the comic nail delicately on the thumb.

But the performance that seals the film and steals it too is by the darling Alden Ehrenreich – at least he plays a darling – as a young singing cowboy thrust into a drawing room comedy. He’s great at rope tricks and fancy bronc riding, but he can’t seem to get his lips around a word beyond “Tarnation!” He’s a wonderful actor and fresh as a daisy. You must delight yourself with this performance. Don’t miss him.

The film is pure entertainment.


Sheer entertainment. That is, it is transparent. You think maybe that the values of the ‘50s Hollywood are dead and gone? Think it at your peril. The ‘50s are gone, but the values are in full force in 2016. How could it be otherwise?

The Coen Brother are, after all, masters of the hollow.






The Monuments Men

09 Feb

The Monuments Men – directed by George Clooney. War Drama. 118 minutes Color 2014.


The Story: A WW II mission to save works of art destined for destruction should the Nazis loose.

~ ~ ~

If ever a movie sank more solemnly under the freight of its miscasting, I have yet to see it. Art museum directors, curators, scholars, educators, archivists — George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray, thou never wert.

If John Goodman was not obviously such a good actor, he might be convincing as a sculptor.  And if Jean Dujardin were not so helplessly charming one might root for his loss from a profession we never grasp. This leaves Bob Balaban, who might pass for an academic in the world of world art, Hugh Bonneville as a former drunk, Dimitri Leonidas as the German-speaking Brooklyn Jew, and Cate Blanchett who is thoroughly convincing as the Jeu de Paume curator who kept a record of the stolen pieces.

All the others, wonderful actors though they are, exercise their noble craft as best they may, imagining that the good will which backs our affection and admiration for each and every one of them will supply the deficiency of their being in the wrong parts entirely.

George Clooney is the main culprit. For he is producer, writer, actor, and director. It is as a writer he is first to be stripped of his medal. For he has given the men the most routine of male chat to move things forward. Silent strength – you know the sort of thing – stalwartness in red, white and blue. I once worked in the high-testosterone History Of Art Department of Yale in the early ‘50s, and the chat was not that.

As director he lets his actors go where they will, as they will, each of them basically falling back on their star masculinity to perform their roles for them. As an actor, Clooney reverts to his casual, laid back, insouciant manner, and lets tacit charm muscle a job which has no place in it. Damon falls back on his Everyman quality, Murray on his piquant personality; both are irrelevant.

As producer, the picture cost 70 million – although how so blandly round a figure is come at one wonders – and it made what is essentially a small movie about a large subject, into a large movie about a subject which is invisible.

For Clooney sermonizes that these works of art must be saved from destruction and returned to their owners because they are the golden fruit of Western civilization. Everything we are fighting for! A great “accomplishment” which must not be lost. What vulgarity! What nonsense!

The only reason these works of art should be saved from theft and destruction, much less returned to their owners, is their priceless and inherent beauty. All these rescuers were chosen for their dedication to beauty. But “beauty” is a word never uttered by Clooney nor by anyone else. It is as though the word “beauty” were unmanly. The entire adventure operates under the cow pad of this omission.





15 Oct

Gravity – directed by Alfonso Cuarón. SciFi Drama. Two astronaunts on a space mission come up against The Universe. 90 minutes, Color, 2013.


George Clooney has the most hopeful eyes. And there’s such fun in them. This is what makes it virtually impossible for him to die in a movie. A real hero, yet. Gary Cooper had it written into his contracts that his characters would never die — because the only thing Gary Cooper could do was be a hero. Such are the qualities and strategies of The Stars!

Sandra Bullock has wary eyes, almost skeptical. She doesn’t quite believe. This also makes her good as a hero – because it means she is up against her inner lack of faith in the Universe, as well as everything else on the bus-ride. “This can’t work out but I’ll go through with it anyhow,” is her mantra.

What a pair they make!

Dancing through space, they make us see the Earth itself as dancing through space, and doing so compulsively, thank goodness, as by the merest chance. How vulnerable the huge Earth is, and how dear – never more plainly seen as from the great distance from it to which this story takes us.


What a place!

How beautiful! How restful! How dangerous! How unlikely!

You’ve never seen it before, and never have you had the opportunity to appreciate it more than in Gravity, in part written, produced, and edited by its Mexican director.

How on earth Clooney and Bullock ever signed themselves up for this project I shall never know. I mean, from Y Tu Mamá También, how could these grand stars have the least inkling that this was not just going to be another Buck Rogers cliff-hanger? How could they ever have imagined it would be this good!

The film is breathtakingly beautiful in how it shows what is breathtakingly beautiful.

Both actors are super-duper. Clooney plays a jocular raconteur blabbing on all the time, and Bullock plays an introverted scientist he mentors.

I saw it in 3-D in a picture palace, and it is well worth seeing it thus. And, of course, besides all that, it really is a cliff-hanger!


The Men Who Stare At Goats

09 Apr

Men Who Stare At Goats — directed by Grant Heslov. Comedy. Mind control, the paranormal and such rise up in the military and take over. 96 minutes Color 2009.


The Men Who Stare At Goats is a drollery. For me, what’s funny in it is how seriously every actor plays his part in a piece that demonstrates that the Sixties never went away. Clooney gives a creamy performance as a talented psychic in training, and the more earnest he is, the funnier he is. I did not laugh out loud. But I was amused out loud. I smiled in the dark, and that was enough. Yes, the Sixties, which were trashed by lentils and dope and a lack of a sense of humor – a condition for which George Carlin was the antidote that never took. I like this movie. Get high on acid and set everyone free is its prescription. It would work, if what life needed was a prescription. Ewan McGregor plays the credulous reporter tagging along and overtly cowardly and incorrect at every point, and therefore believable. It’s wise casting, since everyone else in the cast is around 50. You don’t want a boy in that role; what you want is a failed writer in his middle thirties. We also have big-hearted Jeff Bridges as the teacher of the psychics, and he is no end of entertainment. Kevin Spacey plays the Basil Rathbone part of the venomous villain, with his usual peculiar comic quirk. I had no expectations of this piece when I entered the theatre: I found it to be a delicious slice of tart pie.


The Descendants

03 Dec

The Descendants – Directed and written by Alexander Payne. Mid-Tragedy. A well-to-do landholder in Hawaii faces three directions at once: his wife’s mortal coma, his two daughters, and selling the land. 115 Minutes Color 2011.

* * * *

George Clooney is not an actor of high temperament or big effects. Perhaps that is because he is the man who has everything or perhaps it is because he is naturally reserved or phlegmatic. In any case, this quality serves his character’s frugal lifestyle, “Give your kids just enough so they do something with their lives, and not so much that they do nothing with their lives,” is his motto, but he is a busy soul, and he has given his kids no attention at all. When their mother lies on her deathbed he has to herd these two kittens – but they soon herd themselves as they track down the man who was having an affair with their mother just before she died. The girls are well played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. And everyone else is good too: Nick Krause as the tag-along teenager, Beau Bridges as one of the relatives bidding fair to rake in a bundle from the sale of land to developers, Patricia Haste as the moribund wife, Matthew Lillard as the adulterous husband, Judy Greer as his wife. It was especially gratifying to see Robert Forster as the grandfather, a long way from Reflections In A Golden Eye and still an actor doing Oscar worthy work. The piece is structured as high tragedy, with the three children as the chorus and all the obligatory scenes, but it is not written that way. The style is mid-mimetic, and that is quite right, for a movie is what it is. It did not draw a tear. It was not aiming to. And while we all adore George Clooney that does not mean that we sympathize with him, for why should one sympathize with the man who has everything. This providence makes it difficult for him as an actor. What is difficult? It’s difficult for him as an actor to have a difficulty. We adore him because he carries his many benefactions with ease, grace, and humility. But as a character undergoing the horrors of this story, he does not seem to have the daring or technique to invest himself in responding deeply to them. We, of course, can empathize from time to time with his situation here. But his shoes are far too comfortable for any audience member to put themselves in, for since he fits into them all too well, there is room for none of us whatsoever. All this being said, he is no detriment to this material. He carries the picture, just as he always does, but this time playing a character who at the start at least is hapless, at odds with his situation, flummoxed by the behavior and diction of his daughters, and lost, all of which he does very well – and he has the tact to never make any of this comedic. It is later on when his character becomes crazier, or ought to become crazier, that the story loses in urgency. I felt neither fear nor pity. The picture is beautifully made, grown-up and well worth seeing.



The Ides Of March

13 Oct

The Ides Of March – directed and written (with others) by George Clooney. Political Thriller. 101 Minutes Color 2011.


The Story: The office manager of a Presidential campaign learns about life from the great ones above and below him.

* * * *

I wonder if the failure of his performance will put a period to the rise of the career of a truly gifted actor. He is in the role that must carry the film. But the actor’s conception of or preparation for the role, or perhaps his being cast in it in the first place, or perhaps the director’s failure to establish the necessary grounds in the opening scenes, fails the film.

Instead the story and the dialogue have to carry this film. But they are not quite sufficient because they are just the outer story; the inner story is a change, a learning in the main character. None of the other actors can carry the film it; they are all supporting players.

The problem arises with the opening scene and continues with the scene soon after with a reporter. In the first scene he does a lighting stand-in for the presidential contestant, and recites lines of his oncoming speech. He does them listlessly, almost snidely. Then when he speaks to the reporter he avers his great and thorough belief in the candidate. She laughs at him. But he won’t have it. He elaborates his belief.

Okay, so why doesn’t it work? Because the character he plays must believe in what he says, with all his heart. However, the actor presents this character as a man whose heart is not in it. Yet the entire film depends upon his heart becoming re-educated, but since he heart is veiled to begin with, the story is devoid of human interest.

Everything else is quite interesting. All the other actors are in top form: Philip Seymour Hoffman as the campaign manager, Paul Giamatti as the opposition campaign manager, Evan Rachel Wood as a pretty intern, Maria Tomei, particularly as the reporter, Jeffrey Wright as an opportunistic senator, and George Clooney as the candidate.

Marvelously filmed by Phedon Papamichael and scored by Alexandre Desplat, one is held in bafflement as the subtleties of the main actor pass before one’s appreciative eyes. He is beautiful. He is unusual. It is a great leading role in a huge Hollywood picture. Because of him it doesn’t happen. It is a pity.






Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button