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Michael Shannon (#110 of 18)

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

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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.

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

A24

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Back in December, around the time that the New York Film Critics Circle awarded its supporting actor prize to Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, I had a conversation with a fellow member of the group that’s nagged at me ever since. It began with a question: Why Ali and not Trevante Rhodes? Critics seemed to be struggling to figure out how to reward all of Moonlight’s fine male performances, and they didn’t know what category Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, and Alex Hibbert belonged in. There was a sense that it was easiest to honor Ali because his character, Juan, like Janelle Monáe’s Teresa, has the closest thing to a constant in the life of Little, the boy who would become Chiron, the teenager who would become Black. I made a comparison to Patricia Arquette and what her character represents in Boyhood, and my colleague saw Ali performing a hat trick all the way to the Oscar stage.

Toronto Film Review Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

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Toronto Film Review: Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

Werner Herzog’s fiction filmmaking in the 21st century has struggled to live up to his quest for the “ecstatic truth,” producing a spate of strange, out-of-step experiments that never cohere like his documentaries. Initially, Salt and Fire, about the abduction of UN-appointed ecologists by the company responsible for the man-made disaster they’re sent to probe, is every bit as enervating as some of Herzog’s recent fiction. Characters are established via blunt, awkwardly extraneous exposition, and everyone speaks lines with obvious discomfort, as if the actors had been handed the script just before the camera rolled, with no time to internalize the material’s meaning. Some of the dialogue suggests that Herzog himself has grown accustomed to being a meme, as when two of the captured scientists eat bad food and develop diarrhea. Or, as Gael García Bernal’s Dr. Fabio Cavani puts it: “There’s hordes of protozoans swirling in my digestive tract!”

Toronto Film Review Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

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Toronto Film Review: Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

Fashion designer du jour Tom Ford could only go up from the travesty he made in 2009 of Christopher Isherwood’s superb 1964 novel A Single Man, one of the greatest, most complex works of queer fiction (hell, of fiction in general), which he transformed into a visually garish, monotonously self-pitying dirge. With Nocturnal Animals, an adaptation of Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, he’s found a much more apropos subject: Superficial Los Angelinos behaving superficially. As long as the emotions have all the depth of a Vogue or Vanity Fair cover, Ford’s in his element.

The Longest Day Long Day’s Journey into Night

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The Longest Day: Long Day’s Journey into Night

Joan Marcus

The Longest Day: Long Day’s Journey into Night

If you catch the matinée of this revived titan of American theater, you really will spend a long day journeying from day into night; if it’d opened in the fall instead of the spring, you’d go in seeing daylight and leave in the dark. The 1912-set play’s characters have an even longer day than the audience, withstanding an exhausting stream of emotional revelations and endless confessions that lasts from breakfast to midnight. My God, if this is what one day is like with these people, imagine how fatiguing a whole life would be?

Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center

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Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center
Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center

“What can you do?” The lesson of Eugène Ionesco’s play The Killer is summed up in its final words, spoken to a faceless, nameless murderer who offers no explanation for his deeds. This assertion of impotence at the conclusion of the play, newly translated by Michael Feingold and given a stunningly crisp production by director Darko Tresnjak, can feel tragically unsatisfying. But the play speaks directly to that gap between what we expect and what we receive out of life, and it finds in that distance a powerful lesson. As a crowning member of the mid-century French phenomenon dubbed (by a Brit) the “theatre of the absurd,” Ionesco once strove to teach us that expecting our plays to offer “meanings” that give “comfort” to our messed-up lives only distracts us from what life—and theater—really is, a never-ending confrontation with our mortality.

Cannes Film Festival 2012: Mud

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Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Mud</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Mud</em>

“You can call me Mud,” says Matthew McConaughey early on in Mud, the disappointingly mainstream follow-up to filmmaker Jeff Nichols’s impressive debut, Shotgun Stories, and equally solid second feature, Take Shelter. If you thought Mud’s title signified something evocative, something riverine and elemental, clearly you thought wrong. That’s just Mateo in Sling Blade mode, as the loveable outlaw on the lam, hiding out on an island while waiting for his one true love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), to blow into the nearby burg. The story isn’t his though; it belongs to two young’uns, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and the charmingly named Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who run across ol’ Mud one day when they’re making a pilgrimage to visit a houseboat stranded up a tree (that’s Nichols taking a bark-pulp page from Werner Herzog’s Aguirre). Guess who’s squatting in the cabin? One tousle-haired, chip-toothed, vaguely avuncular outlaw…goes by the name of Mud.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actor

What Kurt said yesterday about the Best Actress race applies to the Best Actor race in spades, only with a little more direct focus. Instead of covering the gamut of popular Oscar strategies, the two strongest locks in this category are playing variations of the same game: homecoming king. No one is going to say either Brad Pitt or George Clooney stretched their acting muscles to the point of tearing in Moneyball and The Descendants. They’re mainly being rewarded for dependability and reasonably mature taste in pet projects, especially in the case of renaissance man Clooney, who at least has the wherewithal to play up his creeping schlubishness—not to mention split an onion in the palm of his hand during The Descendants’s emotional high point.