Jim Broadbent (#110 of 7)

Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions Live Action Short

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short
Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short

“How did a Jia Zhang-ke documentary get into this lineup?” my fellow Oscar blogger Ed Gonzalez marveled after watching the shockingly formal Butter Lamp, which, compared to the strain of self-involved beardo hipster entries that have won this category in recent years, practically carries itself like a miniature, fictionalized version of a Sensory Ethnography Lab film. Composed entirely of frontal shots presumably representing what the aperture of a big-shot city photographer's camera sees as he sets up portraits for rural Tibetans, Butter Lamp blurs the line between documentary, narrative feature, and avant-garde object as brazenly as peak Kiarostami—or, closer to home, the downright abstract 2015 best documentary short nominee The Reaper. And, though its final frames make a statement on industrialization pointed enough for even the Imitation Game-voting base to process, it's probably still going to lose harder than any nominee in the specialized, “Weinsteins needn't apply” races since Dogtooth.

New York Film Festival 2013: Le Week-end Review

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Le Week-end</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Le Week-end</em> Review

Nick and Meg have barely stepped off the Eurostar in Roger Michell's Le Week-end when it becomes evident that nothing bodes well for their hope of recapturing the magic of their honeymoon in Paris from 30 years before. The steps of Montmartre seem so much steeper, the hotel in which they once stayed has been tawdrily refurbished, but, most importantly, the middle-aged English couple, played with consummate skill by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, have reached a point in their married life where they can only irritate the hell out of each other.

Le Week-end is written by Hanif Kureishi, who in the mid '80s, with movies like My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Roise Get Laid, delighted in being one of the bad boys of independent British cinema. Now two years shy of 60, which makes him about the same age as his characters, he's writing in a more mature and introspective vein. Le Week-end is a portrait of a failing marriage, where the two partners, having endured a monogamous life together, are now questioning whether or not they should remain together. Meg can't seem to summon up anything but scorn for her husband, a once-promising academic soon to lose his job at a community college in Birmingham. For his part, Nick is painfully aware that he's totally dependent on his wife, and that he hasn't lived up to his own potential. “I'm amazed at how mediocre I have turned out to be,” he remarks ruefully at one point.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

With all due respect to the gentlemen in contention, this year's likely Supporting Actor crop has shaped up to be a snooze, filled with veterans who, however gifted, feel like obvious choices, and whose singling out undermines some truly vibrant male turns. It's true that Silver Linings Playbook boasted Robert De Niro's best performance in years, giving the actor a tender comic role that required more than just cracking wise and mugging for the camera. And frontrunner Tommy Lee Jones turned in fine, fiery work in Lincoln, bringing complex life to abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, whose character arc is arguably the movie's most dramatic. But both industry icons still feel a tad like instant candidates, and they're liable to be joined by Alan Arkin (Argo) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), both of whom have been lauded for performances that are neither remarkable nor surprising. As consistent and consummately professional as Meryl Streep, Hoffman is faithfully intense as L. Ron Hubbard stand-in Lancaster Dodd, but there's nothing in the character we haven't seen him play before. And Arkin, whose crotchety film producer is a wellspring of rib-elbowing condescension, seems to have joined this race merely for his seasoned way with one-liners.

Oscar Prospects: Cloud Atlas

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Cloud Atlas
Oscar Prospects: Cloud Atlas

You won't find Cloud Atlas on the top rosters of too many Oscar pundits, but at this stage, the alternately thrilling and unwieldy three-hour epic is the season's closest thing to a wild card. Just as there are enough nasty reviews to ward off on-the-fence filmgoers, there are a whole lot of factors playing into the movie's major nomination potential. The biggest—and most cited—benefit is the sheer ambition of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings' undertaking, which compelled the ever-influential Roger Ebert to call their baby “one of the most ambitious films ever made.” The whole project may be a very mixed bag in terms of artistic success, but most evaluators are at least somewhat united by the awe that it inspires, however fleeting that awe might be. The flaws of Cloud Atlas, which include a lack of profundity and clarity the filmmakers themselves seem unaware of, aren't so bothersome when watching it, as the experience is a brisk and spectacular diversion. Even in his barely-positive critique, A.O. Scott observed that this “may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket,” and despite a lackluster opening weekend, that virtue shouldn't be counted out. This sprawling spiritual odyssey, which covers six genres in its translation of David Mitchell's celebrated novel, should be taken seriously as a Best Picture contender, and not just a magnet for technical nods.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Sleeping Beauty, The Woman in the Fifth, & The Lady

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Sleeping Beauty</em>, <em>The Woman in the Fifth</em>, & <em>The Lady</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Sleeping Beauty</em>, <em>The Woman in the Fifth</em>, & <em>The Lady</em>

Sleeping Beauty: Having already portrayed a Pussycat-Doll Alice in Zack Snyder's CGI derangement of Carroll, Emily Browning embodies a drowsy Princess Aurora in Australian novelist Julia Leigh's archly Lacanian investigation of Perrault. First seen playing lab rat with a medical balloon being inserted down her throat, the first of the film's sundry invasions of body and psyche, Browning's blank, creamy college nymph (a naked performance in every sense of the word) is an opaque creature of impulses whose sexual adventurousness and need for money lead her to a lavish chalet for upper-crust sybarites, Leigh's version of the dark castle in the woods. There, she tastes the magic potion that turns her into an unconscious canvas for the carnal needs of sagging, goatish clients; “No penetration” is the sole rule in these sessions, though it isn't long before the somnolent Belle de Jour becomes obsessed with finding out what takes place while she's drugged. Though she's clearly studied Haneke and Breillat, Leigh isn't a natural filmmaker; symmetrical compositions and unheated long takes abound, yet concepts and monologues that might have worked on the page turn arid on the screen. It's about passivity and revolt, ritual and discovery, the excavation of a fairy tale's psychosexual text, and the thorough debasing of it. It's also enervated, ludicrous, and the sort of unique debut that makes one impatient to see what comes next.

Week with a Wizard, Day 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Comments Comments (...)

Week with a Wizard, Day 6: <em>Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</em>
Week with a Wizard, Day 6: <em>Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</em>

In my previous essay, I noted that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the first work to recognize the limitations that come with functioning as part of a larger mosaic. It provided fewer restatements of common themes and less background for its developments. The irony is that while Phoenix more heavily depended on a keen familiarity with its predecessors, the considerably richer and challenging visual language elevated it to become a distinctive vision unto itself. Its successor, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), furthers this progression in a different fashion. The novel's central plot device involving Harry's discovery of an old book belonging to “The Half-Blood Prince,” from which he learns mysterious new spells, is barely a footnote here. However, that the film's title is rather inconsequential turns out to be a major asset, as director David Yates shirks narrative unity and instead concentrates intensely on the feelings of pain, guilt, and anxiety that underlie the proceedings.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) relationship provides the emotional core of the film. Together they seek to understand Voldemort's power by investigating Dumbledore's memories of the Dark Lord from when he was a student at Hogwarts. These memories are held in small vials, which, when poured into the Pensieve, enable one to live them out. The visualization of these memories is composed of several conventions of the movie dream sequence, including distorted sound and washed-out colors. Although the memories themselves are not exceptional, the film on the whole has an inimitable dreamlike characteristic. Many scenes and images unfold with little attention toward logical progression. Yates' assured and sensory aesthetic sets the film apart from previous installments, even his own predecessor. The director revels in the dimensionality of cinematic space, weaving through tighter and more vertical alleyways (such as in Diagon Alley) and around staircases and hallways in Hogwarts. Angles are pronounced, movements are slow, and distances have depth and focus. Bruno Delbonnel's darker and earthier photography suggests a more human focus and a moody atmosphere, and composer Nicholas Hooper's score is restrained and (perhaps in a nod to John Williams' music for the third film) often accentuates a single instrument with a light sound that fills the image.

New York Film Festival 2010: Another Year

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Another Year</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Another Year</em>

Another Year is a tale of haves and have-nots—those who are touched by grace and those who are not. In collaboration with a gifted group of actors he's been working with for years, director Mike Leigh illuminates the gap between life's haunted loners and those lucky enough to be able to form deep and long-lasting relationships.

At the center of the story are Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a loving couple whose warmth and ease—with themselves, with each other, and with other people—makes them and their cozy home a magnet for their longtime friends, particularly Gerri's workmate Mary (Lesley Manville), a nervous wreck who tries to camouflage her crippling anxiety with torrents of chitchat.