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Grant Heslov (#110 of 3)

Toronto Film Review George Clooney’s Suburbicon

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Toronto Film Review: George Clooney’s Suburbicon

Paramount Pictures

Toronto Film Review: George Clooney’s Suburbicon

A truly nasty piece of work, Suburbicon sees a bunch of candidly left-leaning movie stars doing their best to out-awful each other throughout. George Clooney, working behind the scenes as director and co-screenwriter, dusted off an old Joel and Ethan Coen screenplay set in a 1950s suburban tract community and detailing a murderous insurance scam gone wrong. Then, with writing and producing partner Grant Heslov, he grafted on a slow-burn racism subplot meant to resonate with contemporary U.S. anxieties. Yet the result is a hysterical and simplistic—if still in-the-moment compelling—parody of bourgeois American greed and ignorance.

Oscar Prospects: Argo

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Oscar Prospects: Argo
Oscar Prospects: Argo

Ben Affleck’s Argo emerged from the Toronto Film Festival as virtually every pundit’s Best Picture frontrunner, its grand reception topping off a heap of baity ingredients. This particular bit of groupthink is particularly disheartening, as those ingredients are, collectively, something Argo itself is never able to soar above. You know the mouthwatering pitch: Based on the impossible true story, this white-knuckle political thriller recounts the daring escape of six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. Produced by Academy Award winner George Clooney and Oscar nominee Grant Heslov, and directed by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, who also stars, Argo is both a topical drama and a rousing crowd-pleaser. Which, of course, says nothing of the movie’s juicy Hollywood ties, doubling as an offbeat slice of film-biz history wherein a C.I.A. specialist uses a faux sci-fi production as his rescue ruse. On paper, Argo reads like a dream project, and it certainly helps that Affleck stocks his cast with a fine mix of Oscar favorites and of-the-moment faces (alongside Alan Arkin are Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Messina). This is a movie that drums up sight-unseen support, specifically for Affleck, who’s been soldiering forth as a filmmaker and has finally made a film about something. It’s a shame that what he’s made also plays like a thin and shameless Oscar box-checker, and if it were to take the big prize, it’d only amplify the bemused awards-watcher’s cynicism.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

Conventional wisdom suggested that adaptations of the biggest bestsellers would make up much of this year’s shortlist—barring, perhaps, the sourly gynecidal Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its nightstick-in-the-naughty-hole vengeance. So it’s something of a blessing that the 100-odd-page translations of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, whose own wisdom is quite conventional indeed, weren’t counted among those movies’ recognized achievements. The best-known tome to see its adaptation make it into the final five is John le Carré’s inimitable classic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, just one reason this category boasts one of the 2012 Oscar season’s finest lineups. Since politics can never be ignored, it’s worth noting that Tinker Tailor has an extra edge here considering nominee Peter Straughan’s wife and co-writer, Bridget O’Connor, passed away before the film hit theaters. But then again, such a sad truth may be precisely what got the unsure hopeful over the nomination hump, and a second sympathy-boosted triumph doesn’t seem likely.