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Viggo Mortensen (#110 of 15)

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions Actor

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Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Actor

Roadside Attractions

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Actor

Maybe it’s a symptom of living life in the age of Donald Trump that today’s Oscar prediction article is more than two sentences long. We’re all getting used to keeping our sanity in check on a strictly day-by-day basis, convinced that every single new development and how we react to it represents the moment that’s going to seal our fate in history books alongside German hausfraus circa 1933. How else to explain why we’re now wavering ever so slightly in our confidence that Casey Affleck will take home the Oscar, simply because Denzel Washington pulled a shocker by winning the SAG award?

Tribeca Review: Far from Men

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Tribeca Review: <em>Far from Men</em>
Tribeca Review: <em>Far from Men</em>

Far from Men is set against the backdrop of the blossoming Algerian War of Independence in 1954, following Daru (Viggo Mortensen), a man of few words who teaches reading to the children of goat-herding Algerian natives, though one look at him reveals that he’s obviously haunted by something primal and existential. Daru’s one-room school, which sits on a plateau that’s in the middle of a rocky, desert Nowheresville, clearly serves as a sort of monastery for the teacher, as it’s a place for him to practice a kind of theoretically under-the-radar pacifism. There’s no such thing, however, as Daru is frequently bothered by the French military and, suggestively, by the guerrilla Algerian resistance. The teacher’s neutrality is dangerous and seen as a threat by both sides, and this issue is further clouded because Daru, like many Algerian settlers, has explicit ties to both the French and Arab communities. These cultural ambiguities reach a potentially explosive head when the French military drops an Arab, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), off at Daru’s door, ordering him to deliver the prisoner to a nearby French prison for sentencing and inevitable execution.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Eden, Rosewater, & Jauja

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Eden, Rosewater, & Jauja
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Eden, Rosewater, & Jauja

Filled with retro house cuts, Eden insists upon a good time whenever Paul (Félix de Givry) or his DJ peers spin in various house parties and clubs, yet the prevailing atmosphere of Mia Hansen-Løve’s film is melancholic. One of the more sensitive contemporary directors of youth, Hansen-Løve flips the dynamic of Goodbye, First Love, a film in which the passage of time is keenly felt in the protagonist’s maturation and regression occurs from the reintroduction of outside elements. In this film, it’s everything around Paul that changes and outpaces him while he remains resolutely, depressingly, the same person at 34 that he was at 20.

The Lord of the Rings: Moments Out of Time

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<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time
<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy has earned wide recognition as one of the most significant accomplishments in the modern age of cinema. The films translate J.R.R. Tolkien’s prose through popular filmmaking tropes and cutting-edge technology into a stunningly visceral travelogue of brotherhood, grief, sacrifice, and storytelling itself, enlivened by the panoramic vistas of New Zealand where they were shot. However, there’s a caveat to the retrospective glow that has steadily amassed around the trilogy since The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004. Perhaps due to the epic scope of the project, which forms an almost 10-hour opus when connected together, the long view of director Peter Jackson’s accomplishment deemphasizes the minutia tantamount to its success.

Therefore, as we await Jackson’s latest foray into Middle-earth with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the time appears ripe for a fresh look at The Lord of the Rings films. However, rather than focusing on where and how the pieces fit into a broader mosaic of the trilogy, an inside-out approach to these movies would make for a more worthwhile account of their riches.

For this piece, I’ve appropriated the concept of Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy’s “Moments Out of Time” annual look-back at a given year’s cinematic offerings. My hope is to highlight individual moments, disconnected not just from the trilogy’s story, but also from the generally accepted account of its collective achievement. Thus, the “Moments Out of Time” concept applies beyond merely the format of highlighting specific excerpts from the movies. These moments—some of which are individual shots, others extended sequences—aren’t necessarily the best or most pivotal within a certain context for evaluating the films.

Each of the following 10 moments illustrates a slightly different shade of the films’ fluid realization of a complex visual, thematic, and emotional spectrum. They encompass moments large and small, every one offering a distinct flavor of Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth, and all magnifying the larger accomplishments of the trilogy as a whole. I’ve limited my list to 10, though dozens more could arguably have been featured.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Long before he delivered an über-classy acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globes, a speech that Oscarcast producers are surely hoping he has the wherewithal to repeat, Christopher Plummer had the Supporting Actor race all sewn up. For his tender turn as Ewan McGregor’s late-blooming gay father in Beginners, the 82-year-old has been racking up the precursors, climbing toward a Kodak Theater standing O that’s been in the cards since his movie dropped last June. If he were to lose, by the freak chance that voters were cool with slighting one of cinema’s most beloved Oscar-less veterans, Plummer’s trophy would go to Albert Brooks, who went way against type in Drive, playing a calculating Hollywood shitbag who cuts throats (Producers Branch? Check.). The third lock in this category is Kenneth Branagh, who hammed it up royally as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (a knee-jerk candidate since his gig was announced, Branagh owes much to the casting director, whose thespian-as-thespian stunt exceeds the actual work).

New York Film Festival 2011: A Dangerous Method

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>

The teasing sense of humor that David Cronenberg has infected A Dangerous Method, his adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, with is a big part of why the film is unmistakably Cronenberg’s finest since 2002’s Spider. Because A Dangerous Method follows Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as they butt heads over their respective theories of psychoanalysis, it stands to reason that the smallest gesture in the film is full of meaning. Repeated tics, like the placement of hands on hips, or even when one character suffers a sudden, seizure-like paroxysm right after Jung discusses the symbolic death of one of his patients’ fathers, are rather funny. But these actions also connote so much without really saying anything at all. Leave it to Cronenberg to make a nip slip a telling sign of the schizoid nature of Sabina Spielrein, one of Jung’s most infamous patients. Cronenberg constantly uses overloaded images, including, yes, a cigar, to intrude on and indirectly raise the stakes of his film’s central drama. These absurdly loaded images serve to subversively heighten the pathos inherent in Hampton’s source drama.

Poster Lab: A Dangerous Method

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Poster Lab: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>
Poster Lab: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>

While not so disheartening as the checkered-face approach, which this year alone has marred the promotion of indie dramedies, mainstream comedies and documentaries alike, the straight-on, group-headshot poster is among the industry’s most naggingly uninspired, tossing art out the window in favor of nothing more than star recognition. The Italian poster for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (above left) is sure to be one of the year’s worst, a preposterously dull, afternoon collage project that hails from the King’s Speech school of How the Hell Do We Market This? Also reminiscent of that ugly one-sheet for last year’s Harrison Ford weepie Extraordinary Measures (which used the shared space of two stars’ arms to add text and, apparently, some semblance of meaning), A Dangerous Method d’Italia might as well show Keira Knightley shrugging those smooth, naked shoulders. It hugely shortchanges a film that, while not expected to incite a whole lot of deeply impassioned responses, surely deserves something better than a glorified makeup ad.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: A Dangerous Method, The Ides of March, & Le Havre

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>, <em>The Ides of March</em>, & <em>Le Havre</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>, <em>The Ides of March</em>, & <em>Le Havre</em>

A Dangerous Method: The most classical film yet of David Cronenberg’s classical period, this portrait of the struggle between mind and body elegantly suggests a plethora of urges, addictions, and neuroses continuously churning under its fastidious period-piece veneer. The cerebral side is the relationship between earnest fuddy-duddy Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and sardonic silver fox Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in the early 1900s; the visceral side comes in the contorted, seductive form of Sabine Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the young masochist whose initial hysteria grows even more provocative to the men of science around her as she comes to match their intellects and challenge the limits of their rationality. Working from Christopher Hampton’s play, Cronenberg outlines the archetypal bonds (mentor and pupil, doctor and patient, husband and wife) that comprise what one character describes as “the smooth workings of society,” and then proceeds to examine—not with Dead Ringers microscopes but with Age of Innocence opera binoculars—the itchy irregularities emerging in the creamy white skin of the characters. If it has a tendency to explicitly state its own themes, the film nevertheless unsettles with its lucid visions of release and repression: One can imagine the director putting the ruthlessly composed final image here side by side with the raucous abandon that closes Shivers, and daring us to tell which one is more horrific.