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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Warner Bros.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

If, as Ed pointed out yesterday, supporting means its own antonym in the world of Oscar, then a wide-open race also means the opposite. Maybe it’s just that full-time awards-circuit journos have the same rooting interest in the illusion of competition that bookies do—bookies who, despite acknowledging a frontrunner, still see this as the closest of the four acting categories. Sure, the myth of a nail-biter is likely to make the eventual four losers feel a lot better, but then again, so can a goody bag filled with a vaporizer, trips to Israel and Japan, the world’s most expensive toilet paper, and a blood-migrating breast lift.

Much as we’d love to see Mark Ruffalo finalize his transformation into beardom with a freshly plumped vampire rack, he joins Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight co-star Rachel McAdams as probably the least likely to win in their respective categories. It’s not problematic in and of itself that, as a pavement-pounding reporter, he gets the film’s one unabashed moment of Oscar-clip scenery-chewing as he rips his editor’s decision to sit on a story (a moment, having worked in newsrooms, I’d have to say Spotlight could have used plenty more of). But his righteous tantrum doesn’t mesh with a film that tastefully flaunts its cohesive ensemble.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016 Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Broad Green Pictures

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Santa Barbara, with its picturesque movie palaces mere minutes from the beach, feels like an idyllic remnant of Old Hollywood. Fitting, then, that the centerpiece of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival is Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, a parable about life’s transience posited as a rumination on Hollywood vainglory. Opening the film with a quotation from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Malick makes immediately clear that his relatively plotless narrative about a Hollywood screenwriter’s (Christian Bale) various romantic encounters is, in essence, about humanity’s efforts to regain a lost paradise from which we’ve all been expelled. As allegory, it works on both a literal and metaphorical level, one being meaningless without the other, as it’s precisely that tenuous connection between those two planes that represents Malick’s insistence that only there, in the interstices between the material and the spiritual, does life possess purpose and meaning.

Berlinale 2015 Knight of Cups

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Berlinale 2015: Knight of Cups
Berlinale 2015: Knight of Cups

With Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick achieves the sense of stylistic ossification that many accused his last feature, To the Wonder, of embodying. The difference is that the earlier film was still, in its own rather elemental ways, tied to actual flesh-and-blood characters on screen. In Knights of Cups, by contrast, Malick seems to have finally decided to do away with humans altogether. In some ways, this is the filmmaker’s 8 ½: a feature-length riff on his own creative frustration, with Christian Bale as his directionless stand-in, a screenwriter suffering from spiritual ennui. But then, of course he’s bored and frustrated: He lives in Hollywood, after all, and if works like The Day of the Locust and The Player have shown us anything over the years, what else is Hollywood but a cesspool of decadence and empty hedonism? To this ostensibly mind-blowing insight, Malick adds a fascination with landscapes and architecture that recalls Michelangelo Antonioni’s similar obsessions in the unofficial trilogy of L’Avventura, La Notte, and L’Eclisse—though Emmanuel Lubezki’s roving camerawork and the poetically hushed voiceovers on the soundtrack scream Malick through and through.

Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

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Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD
Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

It’s easy to forget that there was actually a time when Batman was fun. That time was 50 years ago, when the ripples of Fredric Wertham’s despicable anti-comic diatribe Seduction of the Innocent were still being felt. His book claimed that comics were sinful trash that converted the children—by God, the children!—into homosexual deviants. The television series Batman, which ran from 1966 to ’68 on ABC, knowingly acknowledged and lampooned Wertham’s seething, masturbatory harangue in a way that defied the era’s TV standards. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward, two unknowns cast largely for their affable faces, the series (now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray in a snazzy, wallet-purging boxed set from Warner Home Video) remains one of the format’s great cultural touchstones. Replete with double entendres for the parents and giddy inanity for the kids, it’s everything Susan Sontag loved and loathed about camp amalgamated into a half-hour lark.

Summer of ‘89: Batman

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Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>

Returning to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman in light of Christopher Nolan’s recent, remarkably successful Batman trilogy turns out to be quite a fascinating experience—though, surprisingly, as much for their convergences in vision as for their divergences. Certainly, the stylistic differences are almost blindingly obvious: Burton the playfully macabre merry prankster, Nolan the deeply serious philosopher. And yet, both visions unmistakably flow from the same unsettling bedrocks: a world drowning in moral rot, one in which a self-appointed hero who takes the form of a human bat is, at heart, as deeply disturbed as the more overtly screwed-up villains he takes it upon himself to defeat. It’s just that these two artists view these characters and this physical and emotional world through different lenses.

The contrast is immediately apparent in the music. In stark contrast to James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s loudly generic bombast for the Nolan films, Burton opens his Batman with the operatic strains of Danny Elfman’s full-orchestra heroism, slyly suggesting the unabashedly heroic way Batman sees himself. After its opening-credit sequence, during which Roger Pratt’s camera roams around what is eventually revealed to be a metal Bat-Signal, Burton establishes his vision of Gotham City: an unabashedly surreal environment that owes more to the dystopian sci-fi visions of Metropolis and Blade Runner than to any of the notions of noir-ish realism that underpins Nolan’s films. Then there are the differing acting styles, with Burton’s actors generally eschewing the internal brooding that Nolan’s performers exhibit in favor of archetypal broadness. This style doesn’t just extend to Jack Nicholson’s galvanizing hamminess as the Joker, but also trickles down to its supporting players (William Hootkins’s wearily deep-voiced Lt. Eckhardt, Robert Wuhl’s enthusiastically pushy journalist, and so on).

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Actor

If this year’s Best Actor race is all about which nominee brandishes the most compelling story, then Christian Bale faces some mighty long odds. Not only is the actor only two years removed from his Oscar win for The Fighter, but the consensus is that he gained enough of a victory by being nominated this year. Not faring much better is Leonardo DiCaprio, whose “always the nominee, never the winner” stasis—admittedly a sexier narrative—still needs about 10 more years of ripening before voters begin to sympathize. And as if those reasons weren’t enough, the cheating, swindling characters Bale and DiCaprio play, in American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street respectively, are the two that Academy voters will surely find most unlikable, which effectively guarantees their losses.

Bruce Dern’s case is admittedly more complicated. While his confused character from Nebraska elicits more pity than outright contempt, the actor’s emergence from nearly two decades of relative obscurity for “one last shot” at Oscar gold almost certainly played a part in awards prognosticators deeming him the early favorite after the Cannes Film Festival last May. But as the Best Actor campaign took shape through the fall and into the winter, it has whittled down to a two-way race between Chiwitel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey, a development no doubt aided by the charged racial and gender politics of their respective films.

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor

While basking (or is it wallowing?) in the afterglow of last night’s Golden Globes, which hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler admitted was—and I’m paraphrasing—the mess they hoped it would be, it’s tempting to discuss potential Oscar ripple effects for the winners, like cocksure Matthew McConaughey, who, in preaching his glee in reaping the benefits of Dallas Buyers Club’s serial shelving, implied he might be akin to the Southern-fried pricks he’s recently been playing. But Oscar nomination ballots have already been submitted, and despite news outlets’ annual insistence that the Globes are an Oscar indicator, the Hollywood Foreign Press has nothing to do with the Academy. Still, if there’s any prescience to be taken away from last night’s proceedings, it’s that the industry at large isn’t afraid of the big, bad Wolf of Wall Street, and that McConaughey’s fellow Best Actor victor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s been charmingly campaigning arm in arm with Martin Scorsese, is a bona fide threat this year. It seemed virtually impossible that All Is Lost star Robert Redford would go from presumed frontrunner to the season’s biggest snubbee, but after being passed over by both BAFTA and SAG, the living legend may indeed be out, with DiCaprio stepping in to fill the void.

Oscar Prospects American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

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Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash
Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

I think the scene that finally secured American Hustle a place on my Top 10 list was the one in which conman Irving’s (Christian Bale) wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), goes on and on about her fingernail topcoat at a dinner. Chatting up Dolly (Elizabeth Röhm), the wife of soon-to-be-swindled Camden mayor Carmine (Jeremy Renner), Rosalyn raves about the topcoat’s contradictory virtues, saying it’s “sweet and sour, rotten and delicious—like flowers, but with garbage.” She “can’t get enough of it.” To watch this scene is to witness David O. Russell not only reclaim his former, gonzo glory, but wholeheartedly own the superficial tackiness of his vision. Sure, this is a film about countless layers of fakery, and the notion of a topcoat—a mask—being both vile and alluring has definite thematic implications. But American Hustle, marvelously, isn’t hung up on such sobering ideas. The topcoat speech is more a megaphone announcement of tone, and of a director finally ditching the safety net of Oscar pandering, which he used to entrance voters with the falsely offbeat The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. And still, he’s going to net those votes nonetheless, as there’s just enough delicious here to make the rotten palatable for traditionalists.

Box Office Rap Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

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Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)
Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

As Bane raises Batman above his head and prepares to snap his back in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane postulates, “I was wondering what would break first: your spirit or your body!” The scene is faithful to the comic books for its “krakt” intensity, but also reflexive insofar as it speaks to Christian Bale’s acting career, which has been founded on consistent bodily transformation and, before donning the cape for Christopher Nolan’s franchise, a lack of commercial success that could have easily broken the actor’s spirit in becoming an A-list star. Yet, even after the Batman films, Bale’s financial viability removed from franchise confines remains questionable, and one wonders with Out of the Furnace opening this weekend if Bale’s name alone is enough to guarantee a $10 million opening.

Bale’s career began as a child actor in films like Empire of the Sun and Newsies, but it wasn’t until 2000’s American Psycho that he found a leading role that began to define his star persona. As Patrick Bateman, Bale’s slender, muscular body and strikingly handsome face were apparent enough, but perhaps more surprising was the ease with which the actor seemed to project Bateman’s affability-masking-psychopathy lifestyle, wielding an ax with the same quotidian detachment as when he visits the tanning salon. Roger Ebert said in his review of the film that “Bale is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor.” Audiences generally agreed, as the $7 million film grossed just over $15 million domestically.

Poster and Trailer Drop for Dallas Buyers Club, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient

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Poster and Trailer Drop for <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em>, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient
Poster and Trailer Drop for <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em>, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient

Today marked the release of the trailer and poster for Dallas Buyers Club, the long-touted, awards-buzzy Matthew McConaughey vehicle, wherein the newly ubiquitous, former bongo drummer plays Ron Woodruff, a real-life AIDS victim who began smuggling treatment drugs across the border. Startlingly gaunt, McConnaughey pulled a drastic, Christian-Bale-esque slimdown for the part, as did co-star Jared Leto, who plays Rayon, a transsexual and fellow AIDS patient (reportedly, McConnaughey dropped 38 pounds for the film, while Leto lost 30).

Woodruff’s story, unfolding circa 1986, is indeed a remarkable one, telling of a club that was formed to offer AIDS sufferers pure alternatives to the government-dispersed AZT, which wreaked havoc on the bodies of many who took it. What Woodruff reportedly “started” began to spread very rapidly, with alternative, illegal med clubs cropping up all over the country (you’ll remember that AIDS patients who were forced to become scientists and fight for their own lives were documented last year in the remarkable How to Survive a Plague.)