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Josh Brolin (#110 of 6)

Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

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Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

Columbia Pictures

Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

Continuing the bullet-riddled adventures of lawyer turned mercenary Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) and Department of Justice consultant Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a lugubrious procedural about employees on both sides of the law whose allegiances to their employers have submerged them in a state of psychological blankness, their ethics or ideals displaced by the directive of accomplishing their missions by whatever means necessary. The structure of the film, directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan, is in lockstep with characters who find themselves shuffled from one locale to another, the protocol of their jobs interrupted and contradicted by the whims of their superiors.

Cannes Film Festival 2015 Sicario and Youth

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Cannes Film Festival 2015: Sicario and Youth

Lionsgate

Cannes Film Festival 2015: Sicario and Youth

Watching Emily Blunt’s kidnapping specialist Kate Macer be talked into volunteering to assist on some patently shady cross-border operation near the start of Sicario, I was oddly reminded of a similar scene at the start of Aliens, where despite losing her entire crew in the previous installment, floating in space for 57 years, and having her daughter die in the meantime, Ellen Ripley needs only around two minutes of convincing to return to the fray. Macer doesn’t have the best of opening scenes either, which involves her discovering a whole army of corpses hidden in a suburban Arizona home by a drug baron, before a booby trap goes off, injuring her and maiming one of her team. Yet Macer is as ready as her kick-ass antecedent to throw caution and plausibility to the wind, happily donning the mantel of audience surrogate and taking unlikely decision after unlikely decision so we can be led ever further into the supposed intricacies of America’s war on drugs. Unfortunately, director Denis Villeneuve is incapable of putting together the same sort of thrillingly never-ending action sequences as James Cameron, marooning Sicario in the dubious borderland between serious analysis and dumb pleasure.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jason Reitman’s Labor Day

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jason Reitman’s Labor Day
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jason Reitman’s Labor Day

Jason Reitman has said that with Labor Day he had to relearn the craft of filmmaking. It shows. The serene, nostalgia-tinted drama, based on Joyce Maynard’s novel, has none of the director’s trademark sardonic irreverence. While there are hints of humor, given the film’s absurd, near-implausible scenario of a fugitive who plays daddy in a broken family home, Reitman is refreshingly not aiming for cheap laughs here, instead opting for the kind of sincerity required to sell the film’s central idea about the visceral necessity of family love. This unexpected directorial about-face is what Reitman needed to demonstrate that he’s a director with true emotional maturity.

Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s Oldboy

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Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>
Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>

I hate to take the easy road and say that the designers of the latest Oldboy poster thought outside of the box, but, hey, if the metaphor fits. This beauty of a one-sheet, which heralds Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s decade-old modern classic, has antihero Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) emerging from a trunk, whose seemingly bottomless nature makes Joe look like the Mary Poppins of vengeance-seekers. As most already know, Brolin is playing the role made famous by South Korean actor Choi Min-sik. Based on early reports, Brolin won’t be emulating Min-sik by eating a live octopus on camera, but he will be similarly playing a businessman inexplicably imprisoned for 20 years, then suddenly released and bent on finding his captor(s).

Compositionally, the poster is a dream, from the way the trunk’s lid aligns perfectly with the horizon to the way its corner meets a tuft of grass that also serves as the billing block’s nest. With a runner’s stance and a clump of dead grass in his fingers, Brolin looks at once like a ready-to-pounce cat and a madman who’s clawed his way out of a hellish pit. You can feel the movement in a pose that implies instinct, focus, and primal rage.

Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Even if people wanted to vote for a critics darling like Josh Brolin (Milk) in this category, to do so might seem akin to failing one of the Joker’s social experiments from The Dark Knight. Hell, I’m even afraid of giving my should-win vote to anyone other than Heath Ledger for fear I’ll end up with a pencil shoved through my eye.

Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Why a person is nominated for a supporting actor or actress Oscar often has a lot to do with riding coattails, which probably explains why it takes so long for awards prognosticators to pin down the nominees in these two categories: It’s all about waiting to see which films catch fire at the box office—or on the blogosphere, where most Oscar campaigns seem to be launched nowadays. At the start of the awards season, which begins for some almost as soon as the credits roll on any given year’s Oscar ceremony, few of this year’s likely nominees seemed to be on anyone’s radar. Even Heath Ledger, whose death has been largely attributed to his intense thesping as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, was making few shortlists many months ago until everyone collectively agreed that a nomination for the late actor would be something more than just a gesture of remorse. Another sure lock, Robert Downey Jr. will receive his first nomination in more than a decade for his role in Ben Stiller’s wretched Tropic Thunder in a bid that seems less like a reward than a consolation for there being no room for him in the Best Actor category for his performance in Iron Man. And seeing as Sean Penn and Meryl Streep are locks in the Best Actor and Actress categories, it seems impossible to imagine Josh Brolin and Philip Seymour Hoffman missing out here given how their respective performances in Milk and Doubt are inextricably bound to those of their costars. That leaves one wild spot, and though we’re tempted to give it to Dev Patel for Slumdog Millionaire, to do so would acknowledge that the Screen Actors Guild nailed this lineup when the group announced its nominees several weeks ago, but SAG has accurately forecasted the five nominees in this category exactly once. So, assuming Patel is unable to ride the immense success and popularity of Slumdog to a nomination, that leaves the fifth spot open for either Michael Shannon or Eddie Marsan. Though Shannon has gotten raves across the board for his memorable performance as a mental patient in Revolutionary Road, the buzz surrounding Sam Mendes’s prestige picture fizzled out almost as soon as it came out. Months ago, no one was raving as loudly about Marsan’s turn as a lunatic driving instructor in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, but just as the collective critical community has practically made Sally Hawkins a frontrunner in the Best Actress category, they’ve also made Marsan something of one here. It’ll be a close one, but we say: En Ra Ha!

Will Be Nominated: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky)

Should Be Nominated: Bill Irwin (Rachel Getting Married), John Malkovich (Burn After Reading), Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky), Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), and Jeffrey Wright (Cadillac Records)

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.