Sunday, October 01, 2006

Brief takes on "Scotland," "Infamous," "Shortbus," "Borat," "Babel," "Little Children"

FYI: For all my reviews from hereon in (just for Oscar season), I'll be listing what Oscar nominations I think the film could reasonably potentially get.

"The Last King of Scotland"

Everything you've heard about Forest Whitaker is true. I don't know if it's the best male performance of the year, but it's up there, and if I had to call it now, I'd say he's the Oscar winner for Best Actor. James McAvoy ("Mr. Tumnus") does a solid job but this is Whitaker's movie through and through. He make a terrifying Idi Amin although he's only slightly better defined that Hannibal Lecter-- sometimes we don't need to understand a character's every backstory and heartbreak. I initially resisted the film's structure (how it doesn't let us know Amin is a madman until McAvoy finds out-- about 2/3 into the film), but ultimately, it lends the last act a lot more power than it would have otherwise. I knew about Amin's history, so I was expecting violent/disturbing imagery, but there's a torture sequence late in the film that's absolutely horrifying. Seriously, I was averting my eyes and I don't do that-- for me, it was worse than "The Passion" or either of the "Saw" movies. You'll know it when you see it. All in all, I was taken aback by how compelled I was by this flick.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Actor (Forest Whitaker), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay


"Infamous"

Given my passion for "Capote," I wasn't eager to see another version of it, though I admit, it's a fascinating potential term paper. But "Infamous" takes a completely different approach-- more "entertaining," more melodramatic-- and it worked for me. It's a more "fun" movie than "Capote," though not as deep or intellectually rich. It delves more into the supposedly gay relationship between Truman and Perry Smith (Daniel Craig, miscast but good) and makes Capote MILDLY more sympathetic. Sandra Bullock does fine as Harper Lee, but it just made me appreciate Keener's performance more. I'd say it's worth spending your money on, but don't expect another "Capote."
OSCAR POTENTIAL: None


"Shortbus"

John Cameron Mitchell's follow-up to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has gotten most of its publicity from its use of real sex-- understandably-- but what sets it apart from the other real sex movies ("Nine Songs," anyone?)-- is that it's actually entertaining and would still be a funny, touching (though not in the conventional way) film without the sex. Though Mitchell sometimes takes the easy way out (a character is suicidal, though the movie never bothers to explains way), he writes great dialogue and manages to build sympathetic characters while also staging interesting (and HOT) straight and gay sex scenes. Some actors are notably better at looking pretty than they are at acting, but Soon-Yin Lee is great as pre-orgasmic sex therapist Sofia. It's going to be a must-see for certain communities, and most certainly will become a cultural phenomenon. And c'mon, a guy singing "The Star Spangled Banner" into another guy's ass is just fucking funny.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Ha!


"Borat"

There's not much to say without ruining jokes, but this is easily one of the funniest movies ever made. Not only does Sacha Baron Cohen take eveything fans love about the character and expand on them, it's also one of the most stunningly poignant and disturbing social commentaries to be committed to celluloid (watch out for the frat boys and the chief guy at the rodeo). But for those who just want laughs, you will get them in droves. I can't imagine laughing harder at anything this year.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Actor (longshot, but more feasible than people think)


"Babel"

Currently the best movie I've seen in 2006, and I can't foresee something topping it. I'll delve much more in a longer entry.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Rinko Kikuchi), Best Supporting Actress (Adriana Barraza)


"Little Children"

This was my most anticipated movie of the year, and the novel is by far my favorite I've read in years. The spot-on casting and phenomenal trailer had me confident. That said, I can't remember the last time I've been this disappointed in a film. I know reviews have been stellar but this one just left me depressed-- and at the execution, not the subject matter. I hate purists who bemoan every change to the "Harry Potter" movies, but the changes here are deadly. Director Todd Field ("In the Bedroom") drops some of the most interesting story elements from the book, and takes things in different directions to cater to his darker sensibilities. As a result, numerous characters, like Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) and Richard (Gregg Edelman) lose much, if not all, of their definition, and story elements are made LESS interesting/cinematic. What's most upsetting is it seems like an effort was made to make the proceedings as distant and cold as possible. What's sad is it's still not a bad movie, it's almost/sort of a good one, but given the inspiration, it had all the potential to be the best movie of the year. On the performance end of the spectrum, Winslet is great, Jackie Earle Haley (as sex offender Ronnie James McGorvey) is fantastic-- best perf in the movie, and I haven't quite made my mind up yet about Patrick Wilson's performance. I'm seeing this one again later in the week so maybe I'll appreciate it a bit more, but any way I look it, this movie was a big disappointment.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jackie Earle Haley), Best Supporting Actress (Phyllis Somerville)

3 Comments:

Blogger RC said...

Rob, don't you think Sandra Bullock has a prayer for Infamous...obviously, it's a wierd thing to have to people nominated two years in a row for playing Harper Lee in movie about Capote, but the catagory is WEAK!

Also, I read somewhere else about Borat's potential to score an Acting nod...interesting thought...maybe at least a Golden Globe.

I haven't seen any Phyllis Somerville buzz on Little Children...do you really think she should be included (as stated...weak catagory this year...maybe she has a prayer)?

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

6:45 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I honestly don't think she WILL get a nomination, purely because I don't think the film will get embraced enough to get many/any nominations. But in terms of worthiness and potential possible nominations, I think she's in the running.
My thoughts about these things aren't always dead on (I predicted 'Finding Neverland' would get no nominations)-- but as of now, it's pretty up in the air.

1:24 AM  
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