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Erin Brockovich (#110 of 3)

Oscar Prospects: Moneyball

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Oscar Prospects: Moneyball
Oscar Prospects: Moneyball

If ever there were a Brad Pitt performance worthy of awards talk, surely it’s the actor’s turn in the unexpectedly sophisticated Moneyball, a film that, among other things, boasts a gratifying display of movie-star maturation. Unaided by his legendary torso, or age makeup from a crackerjack team of digital artists (who, let’s face it, were the true recipients of that 2008 nomination), Pitt settles oh-so-comfortably into the gently weathered skin of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager who led a pack of undervalued nobodies to almost-victory in the team’s 2002 season. An overhyped star player turned bemused industry vet, Beane undoubtedly resonated with Pitt, who, unsurprisingly, holds a producing credit here, and fought through the film’s multiple rewrites and director swaps. It’s anyone’s guess whether or not the character identification was more influential than, say, the humility of fatherhood or the at-long-last release from the shackles of heartthrobdom, but on screen, Pitt has never been more enjoyable or interesting to watch, those oft-accentuated, around-the-eye wrinkles emblematic of the rich nuances that have long been lacking in his work.

The Conversations: Overlooked, Part Two—Solaris

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The Conversations: Overlooked, Part Two—Solaris
The Conversations: Overlooked, Part Two—Solaris

Ed Howard: You selected Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris as the film from the last few years you believe to be unfairly overlooked, and it’s not hard to see why you chose it. There are few types of films that are more often overlooked and forgotten, en masse, than the amorphous category of the “remake.” Fairly or unfairly, critics tend to be inherently skeptical of remake projects, even if audiences flock to genre remakes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the “reboots” of franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween. In Soderbergh’s case, his film couldn’t even be called a commercial success; it was more or less a flop whose memory has almost completely faded from the popular imagination in just a few short years. When Soderbergh’s film came out in 2002, I skipped over it for the same reason that I suspect a lot of other people did: by all appearances, it was yet another Hollywood “updating” of a classic film from years before, a film that if you ask me didn’t really need to be revisited. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Solaris is a classic of the science fiction genre, as well-loved and admired among art-cinema fans as Stanley Kubrick’s more popularly known 2001: A Space Odyssey, to which Tarkovsky was directly responding in making his own film. Moreover, the 1961 novel of the same name by Stanislaw Lem is also a classic, one of the greatest works of sci-fi literature (and a personal favorite of mine). Soderbergh was stepping into tremendous shoes by attempting to tell this story, and I’m sure he realized that this film would inevitably be compared to its predecessors, making it difficult to evaluate on its own terms.

The question then becomes: on its own terms, what is Soderbergh’s Solaris? What was his rationale for revisiting a classic story? What does he bring to the film to make it his own? Does this new Solaris deserve its current obscurity or should it be remembered simultaneously with its predecessors (or even elevated above them)? I have my own opinions on these questions, but for now I’m interested to know what you think. Does what I’ve described gibe with your own reasons for picking this film? And why do you think Soderbergh’s Solaris deserves a second look?

Worst Best Actress, & Best

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Worst Best Actress, & Best
Worst Best Actress, & Best

This isn’t Oscar time. It’s Ed time. Edward Copeland, that is.

Last year, the film blogger, House contributor and compulsive list-checker and poll-taker asked readers to submit their choices for the Worst Best Picture winner of all time; then, for karmic balance, he followed up with a poll of the Best Best Picture winners.

This time, Ed’s running a dual poll of the Best Best Actress winners, and the Worst. He’s asking for just five candidates in each category—and to save you the trouble of Googling, he’s helpfully supplied chronological winners lists right there in each post.

Ed’s instructions: “Rank both your best best actress and your worst best actress choices from 1-5, with 1 being the best, 5 the worst. Each No. 1 vote will get 5 points, No. 2 votes will get 4 points, etc. I will unveil the results on the eve of Oscar nominations, which this year will be Tuesday, Jan. 23, so the deadline for ballots will be midnight Friday, Jan. 19., central time. Send your ballots to copesurvey@yahoo.com Since I’ve heard some confusion, I want to clarify the ranking. Both the best and the worst lists’ rankings work the same: Give your best best No. 1, give your worst worst No. 1. Keep going down with the slightly less good and slightly less bad for your top 5 in each category.”

Here’s my ballot, which I’ve already sent to Ed.