House Logo
Explore categories +

Richard Jenkins (#110 of 6)

Toronto Film Review Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is an ingenious crafter of dioramas, of which The Shape of Water, a Cold War-era drama tinged with elements of the paranormal, is no exception. Yet where Crimson Peak’s clutter of dilapidated, rotting luxury felt like the jumping-off point for the Mexican filmmaker’s imagination to run amok, here del Toro appears restrained by the concrete and steel of an underground research facility. The setting yields an inherent coldness that the film must work to overcome, and for the first time in his career, del Toro visibly struggles to reconcile his premise with its execution.

The film’s protagonist, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), is a mute woman who works as a cleaner in a classified government laboratory. Del Toro establishes her loneliness via montages of her daily routine that show her boiling eggs, swabbing floors, and, in the most obvious giveaway of her emotional state, vigorously masturbating each morning inside a bathtub. Limited in communication to signing with her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza largely keeps to herself, rarely making eye contact with superiors and expressing herself only in private.

Venice Film Festival 2012: The Company You Keep

Comments Comments (...)

Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Company You Keep</em>
Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Company You Keep</em>

What very good company Robert Redford keeps indeed. The 76-year-old stuffs more left-leaning talent into this man-on-the-run thriller than President Obama could fit on stage at a Democratic rally. Here’s a rundown of the embarrassment of acting riches cameoing as former anti-Vietnam militants: Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Root, and Brendan Gleeson. The Company You Keep certainly needs the star wattage to help it sparkle, as there isn’t much in the way of invention when it comes to its workmanlike direction, which leans too much on a typically stellar synth score by Cliff Martinez.

Redford plays Jim Grant, an upstanding civil rights lawyer who’s recently become a widower and is bringing up his young daughter. But there’s no time to observe how he’s coping as a single dad. A two-bit reporter, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), from a local rag has uncovered that Jim is actually Nick Sloan, a key member of the Weatherman Underground, a radical leftwing movement of the ’60s and ’70s, who’s been on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list since the murder of a security guard during a botch bank robbery in 1971. Nick’s comrade, Sharon (Sarandon), is already in the custody of F.B.I. Agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard), who’s heading up the manhunt, but is unwilling to talk. It’s an intriguing setup that could have made for some interesting twists and turns if Redford and screenwriter Lem Dobbs (The Limey, Dark City) weren’t so quick to reassure the audience that Nick is no killer. It’s a move that makes this liberal actor/director look oh so conservative. Early in the film, Nick’s daughter asks him point blank, “Did you kill that man?” “Of course not,” he replies incredulously. Mr. Sundance doesn’t do shades of gray, as his golden locks testify.

SXSW 2012: The Cabin in the Woods

Comments Comments (...)

SXSW 2012: <em>The Cabin in the Woods</em>
SXSW 2012: <em>The Cabin in the Woods</em>

Horror cinema subversiveness need not preclude actual horror, a fact that’s unfortunately lost on The Cabin in the Woods, a brainchild of writer turned director Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost) and co-writer Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that sets aside actual scares for what’s-going-on suspense and diminishing-returns cleverness. Genre aficionados both, Goddard and Whedon are interested in playing with convention in slyly self-conscious ways throughout this collaboration, embracing clichés while reconfiguring them in ways that are both surprising and, more fundamentally, speak to the relationship between horror filmmaker and viewer. It’s a potentially exciting endeavor that reaps initially intriguing rewards, as the early sight of apparent government agents Steve (Richard Jenkins) and Richard (Bradley Whitford) discussing mundane everyday stuff while prepping for work in a steel subterranean facility immediately implies—especially thanks to the abrupt, jarring full-screen title credit that ends the scene—that the forthcoming material will be more than it initially appears. What that might be, however, remains shrouded in mystery once attention turns to college student Dana (Kristen Connolly), her suddenly blonde BFF Jules (Anna Hutchison), her studly boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his nerdy-hunky friend Holden (Jesse William), and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz)—typical horndog types travelling out to Curt’s cousin’s remote cabin for a weekend of secluded drinking and sex.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Historically a haven for the quirk, verve, and humor that can’t quite crack the tougher races, the Original Screenplay category will openly welcome a movie like Bridesmaids, which may have a fiery fanbase and a sure shot at Supporting Actress, but isn’t about to compete in Best Picture, no matter how hard the mainstream dreamers squint their eyes and pray. The script nom might strike some as a snub-amending bone-throw to a buzz-building comedy, but Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo actually deserve to be in contention for their dialogue-driven hit (unlike The Hangover, another R-rated giggler with Best Pic whispers, to which Bridesmaids is belittlingly compared). Still, pink-clad comediennes with volatile bowels are bound to be outclassed by Midnight in Paris, the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice victor that’s all set to squeeze another gold man onto Woody Allen’s crowded mantle.

Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Actor

Comments Comments (...)

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

In this corner, Mickey Rourke: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in The Wrestler, who has apparently pissed off more people than Perez Hilton, who called Perez Hilton a faggot and no one gave a shit, whose Hollywood story mirrors that of his character, who won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and who doesn’t have an Oscar to his name and may never be nominated for another one again, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. And in this corner, Sean Penn: winner of countless critics awards for his performance in Milk, who has ostensibly pissed off more people than Fidel Castro, who said that Fidel Castro was good for Cuba and no one gave a shit, who has come a long way from being married to Madonna and being scared of the dick to swapping saliva with James Franco the same year Prop 8 passed in Oscar’s home state of California, who won the SAG and the BFCA, whose fans are fierce but respectful of the other guy’s posse. Flip a coin or follow our logic: Yes, you empathize more with Rourke’s character, but we’re of the opinion that this undervalued actor’s “story” is being talked up more than his actual performance. That’s not to say voters aren’t being swayed by that story, but does Hollywood as a whole really feel it owes Rourke anything? We know Penn already has an Oscar, which definitely matters in a year where an acting race is this close, but whatever votes Penn will lose because of this will be countered by any ones he’ll inevitably get from those guilt-tripped into thinking by the shrill Brokeback Mountain cult that a vote for Crash a few years ago was one against gay rights. It’s a nail-biter for sure, but we have to give this one to the veteran whose completely transformative performance enlivens the milquetoastiness of a movie that’s creepily in sync with our volatile contemporary political moment.

Will Win: Sean Penn, Milk

Should Win: Sean Penn, Milk

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

Oscar 2009 Nomination Predictions: Actor

Comments Comments (...)

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

You can write Brad Pitt off right now—not because his performance presumably owes some debt to the wizardry of makeup and hexadecimal code (let’s face it, actors frequently flat-out win this category thanks to wonton latex appliqué), but instead because this category is owned by the assholes. Make that old assholes, otherwise Leonardo DiCaprio’s devolution in Revolutionary Road from smooth but sensitive breadwinner to sniveling, tantrum prone boy-in-man’s-body would probably be every bit the contender Kate Winslet is. DiCaprio’s still got a shot, but we prefer the odds on Richard Jenkins (who underplays his crusty role to the extent that The Visitor becomes less an example of white liberal guilt and more an endorsement of well-timed white liberal rage), Frank Langella (whose Richard Nixon resembles the former president only in the same sense that Joan Crawford resembled Medea), and Clint Eastwood. Granted, Eastwood’s probably got the toughest obstacles to surmount because, though his character (potential spoiler alert) achieves a dignified and easy moment of total redemption, and even though he coughs up more blood than Camille, Satine, and Ratso Rizzo combined, there is the small matter of how delicately Eastwood the director allows Eastwood the scowling matinee idol to walk the line between absolving him of his grumpy-old-coot racism and valorizing him (it. But we can easily imagine there’s a big enough bloc of Academy members who now stroke their own cocked fingers while glaring at their minority of choice. That all said, the category’s two undeniable frontrunners—Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke—are admittedly not so much assholes as they are calculating and callous, respectively. Rourke’s biggest dick move (forgetting to go out (dinner with his estranged daughter) would normally be forgiven in the second act of a family sitcom. And Sean Penn’s ruthlessness as a politician is easily rectified by the film’s firm knowledge that he’s in the right; in other words, slightly dirty politics are A-OK if they light the fire under the asses of the well-meaning do-nothing-ers. Like Nixon said, when Harvey Milk stabs Dan White in the back and all but blackmails George Moscone, it’s not illegal.

Will Be Nominated: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Should Be Nominated: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Redbelt), Michael Fassbender (Hunger), Ben Kingsley (Elegy), Sean Penn (Milk), and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

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