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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. 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 subplot that tackles racism, and as such is 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 2016 Winner Predictions Actor

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Actor

20th Century Fox

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Actor

The spectacular flame-out of Steve Jobs from this year’s Oscar race was depressing for once again illuminating the media complicity, mainly among those particularly susceptible full-time pundits who are perversely unaware of just how much their groupthink influences the industry’s own, that goes into turning this dog-and-pony show, year in and year out, into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the frontrunner for best picture, the Danny Boyle film saw its Oscar ambitions stymied not so much by its underperformance at the box office, but instead by the million unnecessary think pieces debating the potential costs of said underperformance.

Rather than run with the narrative that Steve Jobs, like the Apple brand in its nascent years, was an underappreciated commodity, that it would not be hurt by its box-office failure any more than, say, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was, pundits stopped cheerleading for the film because they convinced themselves it was no longer fashionable to do so. (Being right, after all, is the modus operandi of the average pundit’s investment in any given year’s Oscar race.) And because the hearts and minds of the industry, at least its ears, are privy to how films go up like stocks on the countless charts published on sites like GoldDerby, a challenger quickly became an also-ran.

DOC NYC 2012: Radioman and Shepard & Dark

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DOC NYC 2012: <em>Radioman</em> and <em>Shepard & Dark</em>
DOC NYC 2012: <em>Radioman</em> and <em>Shepard & Dark</em>

Friendship manifests itself in many different forms, and can occasionally be one-sided, and with Radioman and Shepard & Dark, DOC NYC presents two very different observations on the avenues through which individuals feel fulfilled, or alienated, by those they consider close comrades.

Radioman—née Craig Castaldo—is ready for his close-up. Presented as an amusing profile more than a compelling character study, Mary Kerr’s Radioman is the documentary equivalent of having a droll conversation with a stranger at a dive bar while refusing to acknowledge any disturbing subtext within the stories told. Despite having an apartment, the once-homeless Radioman still leads a life that’s mostly of a vagabond, spending most of his days researching “on location” movie shoots in New York City and wandering the streets in search of a film set. Consistently fascinated by the process of filmmaking, Radioman also possesses a childlike excitement for the prospect of briefly appearing as an extra. Through a combination of persistence and the appearance of an essential NYC bum, he can be found in over 100 films—even if it’s just the back of his haggard head.

Poster Lab: The Bourne Legacy

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Poster Lab: <em>The Bourne Legacy</em>
Poster Lab: <em>The Bourne Legacy</em>

The first success of the new Bourne poster? It expresses the frenetic speed of the franchise better than any of its predecessors. You don’t quite get “briskly-edited spy pulse-pounder” from a bland image of Matt Damon running in place, but you might get it from a dark one-sheet cut into venetian-blind slivers, each one looking a bit like its own passing locomotive, and evoking the ample splicing that marked the Paul Greengrass chapters. Sleek noir action is what Universal and Cold Open are shooting for, and I dare say they’ve achieved it, despite the feeling that the result boasts only moderate visual interest.

“There was never just one,” reads the tagline, desperate to assure you that the Damon/Jeremy Renner swap isn’t just a smooth transition, but one that’s long been in the cards. Renner, whose face is different enough to personalize but similar enough to maintain brand identity, plays a new mystery man whose circumstances are prompted by what Bourne left behind (hence “Legacy”). The metallic palette reads “gun,” the bulging bicep reads “role commitment,” and the eyes read “unshakable focus.” Indeed, with every sliding panel, the makers of this trilogy extension want to communicate a retention of hallmarks, and cling to the ghost of that eponymous anti-Bond.

The Conversations: True Grit

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The Conversations: True Grit
The Conversations: True Grit

Ed Howard: The idea of the modern western as an art of deconstruction has become so engrained in today’s film culture that it’s disconcerting when a new western comes along that doesn’t take a revisionist stance on the once-beloved Hollywood genre. Westerns don’t get made very much these days, but when they are we expect them to be in the lineage of Peckinpah or Leone rather than the old Hollywood craftsmen who made the genre so ubiquitous in the 1940s and ’50s. You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. Although most film fans would expect a Coen brothers western to be a sardonic, revisionist take on the genre, True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen’s first proper stab at a genre that has often haunted their work in spirit, is a good old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness western in the classical tradition.

This actually shouldn’t be surprising. There are markers of western style in many other Coen films, notably O Brother Where Art Thou? and No Country for Old Men: the love of landscapes, the gruffly poetic language, the stark morality, even the fascination with hats that runs through Miller’s Crossing, for in what other genre besides the western do hats mean so much? True Grit might be the Coens’ first actual western, but it’s such a natural fit for them because they’ve always kind of seemed like western filmmakers in a deeper sense. This is why the Old West milieu, sparsely populated as it is with oddballs and degenerates and criminals, feels like an extension of the Mexican border towns of No Country for Old Men, or the wasted Northwestern wilds of Fargo, or even the backwards suburban absurdity of Raising Arizona.

True Grit is an adaptation of a 1968 novel by Charles Portis, which was already made into a film in 1969 by director Henry Hathaway, starring John Wayne in the role that won him his only Oscar. Though the Coens’ film differs from Hathaway’s in several important ways and numerous smaller ones—apparently because the Coens follow the novel, which I haven’t read, more faithfully than Hathaway did—the two films also share a good amount of common ground. What’s ultimately most striking about the Coens’ film is how traditional it is, how unshowy and subtle. It balances humor and darkness and action, and it does so within a wholly classical context. First and foremost, it’s just a great story and a great western, and its humble artifice is very refreshing.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role

Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz. Though the template for winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar these days seems to require leaving a body count inversely proportional to the average age of a typical Best Actress winner, this year’s slate of contenders indicates voters are ready to see the men behind the monsters. The prime case in point: Andrew Garfield’s turn as The Social Network’s spurned and spat-upon baby entrepreneur Eduardo Saverin, which has glided past Justin Timberlake’s showier antics as Napster-teer Sean Parker and Armie Hammer’s equally compelling double dip as the Winklevii twins to emerge as the sole boy from his film’s well-tanked fraternity to contend here—especially on the strength of his Golden Globe nod. Okay, he does pull a sick, Joker-worthy stunt on a chicken, but off screen. Otherwise, David Fincher devotes most of Garfield’s screen time to chopping onions under his big, brown puppy-dog eyes. (Never mind reports that the man he represents on screen is reportedly nearly as misrepresented as Mark Zuckerberg, in the precise opposite direction.)