House Logo
Explore categories +

Cloud Atlas (#110 of 17)

Sinful Cinema Catwoman

Comments Comments (...)

Sinful Cinema: Catwoman
Sinful Cinema: Catwoman

If 2004’s Catwoman expressed anything, it wasn’t female empowerment, but the empowerment Halle Berry felt after winning her historic Oscar three years prior. Having already rocked her Bond-girl bikini in 2002’s Die Another Day, Berry kept on trucking with the sexualized-heroine angle, liberated by the kudos she netted for letting Billy Bob Thornton make her “feel good,” and no doubt thinking more about Catwoman’s iconography than the actual strength of the new film’s material. It’s hard to recall a recent Oscar victor with an odder post-win career than Berry. Critic David Edelstein has rather aptly called her out as being a “lovely non-actress,” and her taste in projects has been, quite frankly, bonkers. From Gothika to Cloud Atlas, there’s really no Berry film that one can admit to liking without a disclaimer. Catwoman, at least, is vividly exceptional, a good piece of trash with copious watchability, for both its car-wreck qualities and abundant camp delights. She may have showed up to collect the Razzie she ultimately won (again, galvanized by her shield of Academy approval), but it is a bit sad that Berry really isn’t in on the joke here. As Edelstein says, she’s an endearing and uncannily comely star, but she’s largely—and often, hilariously—to blame for this film’s undoing.

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.

Understanding Screenwriting #103: Argo, The Sessions, Cloud Atlas, & More

Comments Comments (...)

Understanding Screenwriting #103: <em>Argo</em>, <em>The Sessions</em>, <em>Cloud Atlas</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #103: <em>Argo</em>, <em>The Sessions</em>, <em>Cloud Atlas</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Argo, The Sessions, Cloud Atlas, Seven Psychopaths, The Conspirators, The Racket (1951), but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein thought I was getting too much into the mise-en-scene of The Master, but I read the item again and I don’t think so. There are many other items over the years that you say that about, but most of the material in the Master item is about story, character and themes. In other words, the stuff that writers contribute.

Since David is such a devoted reader of this column and asked that I tell the story of my meeting with Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, here it is. It was the fall of 1967 and I had just started graduate school at UCLA. I would take our 2-½ year old daughter out on Sundays so my wife could clean the house. One Sunday we were on the beach just north of the Santa Monica Pier. I was carrying my daughter on my shoulders, and a beautiful woman came up to gush about how pretty my daughter was. As we were talking I noticed off to her right was a little guy who was drawing a large dragon in the sand. What was so interesting was that he was drawing it with great loops right near the water’s edge. As the waves came in, they would cut the dragon into pieces. When he was satisfied with that, he turned to the beautiful woman. I realized then he was Roman Polanski and she was Sharon Tate. Of course Polanski would draw a dragon that the ocean would dismember, and of course Tate would be interested in kids. She got pregnant a year or so later, but as we all know, that ended badly.

Argo (2012. Screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on the article “How the C.I.A. Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” listed in the credits as “Escape from Tehran,” by Joshuah Bearman. The credits in the film also list another source as well, but I did not write it down, the IMDb does not have it, and I have been unable to locate it anywhere else. 120 minutes.)

No superheroes: No one in this film wears their underwear outside their clothes. Nobody wears a cape. Nobody wears an iron suit. Nobody flies, except on an airplane. And Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Paul Dano and Jesse Eisenberg don’t appear anywhere in the picture. This movie is about real adult human beings doing exciting stuff. It is a more or less true story. See the Wikipedia entry here for all the quibbles by different people about its accuracy, but, hey folks, we’re making a movie here. “Hey folks, etc” means the writer is taking the real material and shaping it into a script. That’s what writers do. The film is about the rescue of six American Embassy personnel who escaped from the Tehran embassy during its takeover in November 1979. With all of that, as you might expect, I was very much looking forward to seeing this.

Body of Work Ben Whishaw

Comments Comments (...)

Body of Work: Ben Whishaw

Columbia Pictures

Body of Work: Ben Whishaw

Was it fate that John Hurt provided the narration for Ben Whishaw’s 2006 breakout, Perfume? Because in the lineage of impeccably-voiced, male British stars, whose hyper-articulate pipes could make poetry out of Rebecca Black lyrics, there’s Richard Burton, there’s Hurt, and now there’s Whishaw, a delicate character actor who, if reciting your last rites, may well make you believe in a hereafter. Whishaw’s velvety coo doesn’t have that Hurt-Burton gruffness, but it’s still terribly commanding, an aural delight that perks up ears and adds instant pathos to films that need it. Consider the total blandness that might have befallen Brideshead Revisited if Whishaw weren’t the one waxing melancholic as Sebastian Flyte, giving genuine life to Evelyn Waugh’s words. The actor’s innate amenability to the classics was something shrewdly observed by Jane Campion, who cast him as John Keats in her unsung masterstroke Bright Star, a film that finally and literally gave Whishaw poetry to recite.

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.