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James Cromwell (#110 of 4)

15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

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15 Famous Bad Movie Cops
15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

Oren Moverman’s Rampart arrives in select theaters this weekend, adding Woody Harrelson to the pantheon of actors who’ve taken on crooked cop roles, playing officers who uphold the law about as well as a cheerleader holds her liquor. For decades, films have been infiltrated by serve-and-protect types who play both sides, abuse their powers, and leave behind paths of destruction. “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen,” reads the tagline on Rampart’s poster. These 15 badge-defilers would beg to differ.

Oscar Prospects: The Artist

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Oscar Prospects: The Artist
Oscar Prospects: The Artist

There are still more than two months to go before 2011 closes up shop, and guys like Fincher and Spielberg deliver their latest Oscar-ready opuses, but as of now, no film this year is poised to collect more Academy Award nominations than The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s silent movie about the silent era that has so many great things going for it, it’s hard to organize them all in your head. In no way is this meant to imply that “great” and “Oscar” are linked, but rather that The Artist boasts an all-encompassing panache and irresistibility that, save the inevitable handful of backlashers and contrarians, is going to deeply enchant scads of people, Academy members especially. And yet, as easy as the accusation may be, the film—as some writers have already pointed out—doesn’t seem to be actively dangling the carrot. It is genuinely that good, and it unfolds in a milieu that’s bursting with an embarrassment of inherent virtues.

Set in Hollywood between the years of 1927 and 1931, when talkies began to displace silents and stars like George Valentin (Cannes Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin) found themselves dropping from A-List to extinction, The Artist offers a richly nostalgic interpretation of one of the most romanticized periods in cinema’s history, an industry smooch that’s bound to win it even more favor than its brilliant, timeless commentary on the ever-changing state of technology at large (not to mention its perfectly natural and logical inclusion of a certain stock market crash). It almost instantly drops itself into the canon of movies about making movies, and its universal accessibility—otherwise known as hater fuel—will provide voters with the characteristic reassurance that, not only would their endorsement reward something of great value, but something that, goshdarnit, people really like. It will absolutely be one of your Best Picture nominees.

New York Film Festival 2011: The Artist

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Artist</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Artist</em>

With The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius stretches a feather-light gimmick to feature-length. The writer-director’s tribute to silent movies begins with a movie buff’s tongue-in-cheek premise: What if we made a silent movie about the silent film era, where the stars all act the same way in their real lives as they do in their film-within-a-film movies?

It all begins at the end of Hollywood’s silent film era, as star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and aspiring starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) meet cute and fall for each other. The rest of the movie chronicles their long journey to a happy ending while their careers careen in opposite directions as he laughs off the talkies as a fad, fading into impoverished obscurity, while she embraces the new technology and becomes one of its biggest stars.

The two mug like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, exaggerating the already extreme expressions and gestures employed by most of the stars of that era. George flashes his blindingly white grin on the red carpet like Dudley Do-Right, and Peppy’s signature move—on screen and off—is a two-fingered whistle followed by a blown kiss. But then everyone in this world overacts, even the studio head (John Goodman) who bellows things like “the public is never wrong!” and the audience members who radiate oversized emotion at a screening, some clapping their hands to their cheeks in amazement.

Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige

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Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige
Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige

Editors’ note: This is the debut appearance of a new Monday feature, the appropriately titled “Navel Gazing,” wherein House contributors Sean Burns and Andrew Dignan kick around a few recent releases. Feel free to join them in the comments section.

Andrew Dignan: I finally got a chance to see Flags of Our Fathers this weekend, after spending much of the past two weeks dreading it. Somewhere along the way, the film developed the reputation of a dull non-starter that, in a development I know both you and I despise, was deemed “out of the Oscar race” and thus somehow not worthy of serious discussion. So it was with some amount of surprise that I enjoyed the film quite a bit, with special note to the film’s structure which telescopes the timeline of the battle of Iwo Jima with the war bonds drive that found the film’s reluctant heroes rehashing and often trivializing the trauma of what they’d been through in order to package and sell a palatable version of war to the American public. And Clint Eastwood, that sly dog, seems to be grudgingly receptive towards the idea that such things are a necessary evil.

The film would seem to be mining the same bedrock of demystifying our heroes—and with the depiction of Ira Hayes, the way real violence eats at a man’s soul—that Eastwood’s been exploring as an artist for nearly 50 years. Acknowledging that the film is far from perfect (the last 20 minutes gave me something of a protracted, Lord of the Rings-type unease), why is it you think so many people have railed against it, and seem to so pleased to be perpetrating the belief that the film is both a financial and critical failure? Is this a Munich-type situation, where a handful of net-journalists with an agenda are trying to write history—a Paul Haggis backlash as a result of his last two films cleaning up at the Academy Awards? Or have some people simply grown tired of the themes and rhythms that Eastwood chooses to put onscreen? And more importantly, where do you see the film being ranked in his canon?