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Amy Ryan (#110 of 7)

Telluride Film Review: Birdman

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Telluride Film Review: <em>Birdman</em>
Telluride Film Review: <em>Birdman</em>

Birdman may just prove that there are second acts in life, American or otherwise. Not only Michael Keaton’s best role in more than a decade, it also represents a surprisingly mellow Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose worldview, if not especially brighter, has at least been filtered through a comic lens. It may be wishful thinking, but the global nihilism of his earlier projects now seems mere prelude to a surprisingly poignant meditation on fame and its lingering aftereffects.

Which isn’t to say that the film could in any way be described as “feel good.” Starring Keaton as a past-his-prime superhero actor looking to regain credibility and relevance by adapting, directing, and starring in Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love on Broadway, it’s an exercise in a Murphy’s Law-level of absurd occurrences besieging its play-within-a-film. Birdman, né Riggan Thomson, has to be told of the importance of social media by his fresh-from-rehab daughter (Emma Stone) while also dealing with his manager (Zach Galifianakis), ex-wife (Amy Ryan), last-minute-replacement co-star (Edward Norton), co-star whom he’s sleeping with (Andrea Riseborough), and co-star whom he actually gets along with pretty well (Naomi Watts) on the eve of their first preview. Iñárritu manages to give each of these characters something interesting to do, the power dynamics between them constantly shifting.

Sundance Film Festival 2013: Breathe In and Concussion

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Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Breathe In</em> and <em>Concussion</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Breathe In</em> and <em>Concussion</em>

After exploring the complications of young love in his Sundance champ Like Crazy, director Drake Doremus returns to the festival with another relationship drama, Breathe In, this time about the affair between a married man and a teenaged girl. Guy Pearce turns in a reserved performance as Keith, a former musician and dissatisfied family man longing to leave his job as a high school music teacher and return to the exciting life he had before he and his wife (Amy Ryan) left New York City for a quiet, suburban existence. Enter Sophie (Felicity Jones), an 18-year-old British foreign exchange student who joins Keith, his wife, and their teen daughter for a semester in the United States. There’s a nearly instantaneous attraction between Keith and the mysterious Sophie, and most of the film is a slow, steady burn toward the initiation of their affair, which plays out as more a chaste schoolyard romance than a passionate tryst. Still, the chemistry between Pearce and Jones is electric; scenes between the two that are light on dialogue and heavy on meaningful glances are striking, subtly conveying the tension building between the two characters from their first moments on screen together.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

While maybe not quite as tight as this category was in 2007, at which time we guessed correctly that Tilda Swinton would take the trophy from the likes of Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan, and Ruby Dee practically by default, once again Best Supporting Actress is giving Oscar prognosticators everywhere the fear of—gasp!—getting one category wrong. The only candidate everyone feels pretty safe writing off without a qualm is Jacki Weaver, whose performance as Animal Kingdom’s quasi-incestuous Ma Barker picked up a citation from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, but whose slow-burning presence in the film doesn’t really start to accrue merit points until long after some voters could be expected to hit eject.

There Will Be Choice: Why Gone Baby Gone Is the Best Film of 2007

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There Will Be Choice: Why Gone Baby Gone Is the Best Film of 2007
There Will Be Choice: Why Gone Baby Gone Is the Best Film of 2007

I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that make you who you are: your city, your neighborhood, your family. People here take pride in those things.—Patrick Kenzie

Gosh, what a great year 2007 was for movies. You could wipe out the Academy’s five Best Picture nominees, replace them with five others, and still have an honorable rack of best-picture candidates. One of those second five could easily be Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone—my personal vote for best film of the year.

Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

When scrutinizing this race, pundits rarely discuss precedent. If they did, Amy Ryan’s chances probably wouldn’t be so overdetermined, because if there’s anything more eternal than Oscar’s penchant for snubbing a critic’s darling, it is its tendency to give the cold shoulder to loathsome, almost irredeemable female roles (like Something Ronan’s sniveling brat from Atonement, who is redeemed by film’s end, but by two other actresses!). Not that most of the ladies in this category have been short-listed for playing saints, but the squawking Ryan’s potty mouth reigns supreme in Gone Baby Gone: The calculated one-liners meant to elicit audience sympathy for Boston’s lower class (“I don’t got no daycare”—essentially a variation of Amy “I got one leg” Poehler’s Amber from SNL) are trumped by nasties like “Why don’t you suck a nigger’s dick, Bea,” “It smells like cock,” “Nigger please, I hid it,” “Fucks yous both,” and my personal favorite, “Who’s the faggot now, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” A potential win in this category with precedent is Cate Blanchett’s “Bob Dylan” from Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There, but that precedent is Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn from Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, and though pundits are right to wonder if the Academy will want to give this fussy actress a second Oscar so soon after her last one, Blanchett may lose for representing a film that comes on intellectually strong and is possibly more obnoxious than American Gangster. Which brings us to Ruby Dee, whose two or three scenes in Ridley Scott’s big and impossibly dumb drugland drama are triumphs of resilient, saving-face movie acting. Every single one of us should be praising the complexity with which Dee fights against and humanizes Scott’s movin’-on-up reductivism (that slapping scene, a scorching evocation of a mother marking her territory and asserting her right to be heard, is of a volatile emotional tenor only Tilda Swinton comes close to achieving), but the almost racist rumblings echoing from certain circles suggest that Dee’s miniscule screen time is not just a point of contention but a point of active resentment (must be all those size queens rallying behind Blanchett), and may work against her and the traction she picked up since her SAG victory. (Sympathy may be on her side because of her civil rights work and long acting career, but she wouldn’t be the only legend—paging Lauren Bacall and Gloria Stuart!—anointed by SAG but passed over by Oscar.) Does Swinton have this one almost by default? The British actress and queer icon represents the most liked film in this race, and though she plays a sketchily, almost offensively drawn archetype in Michael Clayton, Swinton brings her customary nuance to a muted, almost abstract role, humanizing her corporate baddie in such a way that voters may see more than just a villain, but a woman bumping her head against the glass ceiling—something, no doubt, Hollywood actresses can commiserate with. Forget that this would be Oscar’s way of rewarding Michael Clayton and think of a Swinton victory as Oscar’s way of honoring an actress who is finally getting the attention Blanchett has been bogarting from her for way too long.

Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

In November, it seemed a dead certainty that Cate Blanchett’s interpretation of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’s insufferably academic I’m Not There would be the sort of stunt that the critics’ awards wouldn’t be able to ignore. (The stunt being not so much that she was a woman playing a man, but rather that she played said man more femininely than she did Katherine Hepburn.) By the end of December, Amy Ryan’s performance as an unapologetically dumpy, arrogantly stupid but still aggrieved mother in Gone Baby Gone had made a near clean sweep. A few of the late-season awards finally broke Blanchett’s way (as happened with the National Society of Film Critics), but the damage was done and Ryan is clearly the one to beat. It certainly helps that she’s competing against a lot of other nasty girls. (Ruby Dee may be the only one that generates honest goodwill with a titanic slap worthy of the category’s “season vet” slot.) But Tilda Swinton’s pallid, clammy executive in over her head is more than matched by Saoirse Ronan, who (spoiler alert!) is the category’s most hateable character in a walk for being the author of Atonement itself (and even the film’s fans would have to admit that it’s Vanessa Redgrave, playing the older version of Ronan, who nets all the sympathy points). If anyone’s capable of crashing this line-up, it’s probably Catherine Keener in Into the Wild, slightly more animated than she was in Capote, but just as blandly good-hearted. It’s either her or King of Kong’s long-locked Billy Mitchell, if some voters mistake his supreme bitchery for him having an actual vagina.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, "Home Rooms"

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The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”
The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”

“What happens when you ain’t around to translate?” Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom) asks Deacon during this week’s episode of The Wire after they meet with a pompous university professor who is considering Bunny as a research partner for a clinical study of repeat violent offenders. Bunny’s claim not to speak the language of the social scientist belies his 30 years as a Baltimore policeman, during which he negotiated with groups of drug dealers and manned the podium at COMSTAT meetings while the upper brass hounded him over crime figures. Deacon (Melvin Williams, the real-life Avon Barksdale of the eighties) shrugs off the call for an interpreter. “Don’t play ignorant on me, Bunny. You can back and forth with any of these guys.”

Bunny needs the work, having lost, in succession, the full pension due a retired police major, his golden parachute running security for Johns Hopkins (both casualties of his experiment, “Hamsterdam,” to legalize drugs in his district, which yielded both a 14% drop in violent crime and a massive political shitstorm), and his security job at a downtown hotel (the result of his failing to give special treatment to a “friend of the hotel” who beats up a hooker). The academic is Dr. David Parenti (Dan DeLuca), who seeks a liaison to the corner, his own training being insufficient for navigating, as he calls it, ” the urban environment.” Go alone, Bunny agrees, “and they sell your tenured ass for parts.” Parenti’s project aims to study rehabilitation options for criminals ages 18 to 21, that is until Parenti interviews an actual 18-year old in custody and encounters a level of menace that sends him scurrying from the room. “Look,” he bargains, “I’m ready to acknowledge that, um, 18 to 21 might be too seasoned.” Hoping to sidestep the cycle where the subjects only spark the outside world’s attention after they enter the justice system, Bunny steers Parenti’s project to Edward J. Tilghman Middle School, where they might find subjects more receptive to a little social engineering.