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Billy Crudup (#110 of 6)

Los Cabos International Film Festival Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

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Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

When I left my apartment in Brooklyn for John F. Kennedy International Airport, late at night on November 8th, neither Hilary Rodham Clinton nor Donald J. Trump had yet secured the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected the 45th president of the United States. By the time I got through security checks and made it to my gate—where TV screens were broadcasting returns from key battleground states—the race was called. Of course, I needn’t hear the result: I saw it on the faces of the people waiting to board, a mix of utter shock and overwhelming concern that the future of our republic would be determined by the most inexperienced, unqualified, and roundly disreputable person to ever hold the highest office.

Toronto Film Review Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

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Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

In Jackie, it doesn’t take long for Pablo Larraín to pull his first subversion of the biopic genre. Those familiar with Natalie Portman’s previous work as an actress will be startled to hear her vocal approximation of Jackie Kennedy’s distinctive speech patterns in the film’s opening moments. But when Jackie makes it clear to a visiting journalist (Billy Crudup, playing a version Theodore H. White, who profiled her in Life magazine a week after John F. Kennedy’s assassination) that she’ll be controlling this interview as much as possible, one quickly realizes that Larraín wants us to be aware of Portman’s performance as an act. The spectacle of a famous actress like Portman taking on one of the most iconic figures in American history becomes, under Larraín’s direction, just another level of performance, in a film concerned with elucidating levels of performance in public and private spheres.

Interview: Ian McKellen and Sean Mathias on Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land

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Interview: Ian McKellen and Sean Mathias on Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land
Interview: Ian McKellen and Sean Mathias on Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land

The paired productions of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, currently on Broadway, offer the rare treat of seeing two 20th-century classics back to back in repertory, and the opportunity to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart give virtuoso displays of their considerable theatrical skills. The knighted English actors, of course, started their careers on the stage, long before they became international screen stars, best known, respectively, for the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek franchises, and, together, for their characters with super powers in the X-Men series. On Broadway, Sir Ian is collaborating with Sean Mathias, the Welsh-born director, with whom he’s enjoyed a personal, artistic, and professional relationship for over three decades. I recently talked to the actor and director about their long-term friendship, and about the two plays at the Cort Theatre.

Acting on the (Blind) Sidelines

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Acting on the (Blind) Sidelines
Acting on the (Blind) Sidelines

The Blind Side, which has reportedly made close to 200 million dollars, is based on a true story (the operative word is “based,” of course). If its makers were accused of racism, surely they would be surprised and defensive; maybe they didn’t notice that underneath the inspirational basis of their narrative is a fixation with the idea of sex between the lily-white, condescending caretaker played by Sandra Bullock and Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) her black “gentle giant” charge. It’s a ghastly but revealing movie, not least for one scene with Adriane Lenox, a stage actress who won a Tony as the mother in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. Cast as Michael’s errant, drug-addicted mother, Lenox takes her role, which amounts to only a few lines of dialogue, and fills it out with such delicate, shamed emotion that it’s hard not to resent the director for insistently cutting back to Our Star, the ever-bland Bullock, who listens in such an oblivious, absent way to Lenox’s heartfelt attempts to communicate that I was reminded of Lana Turner inanely marveling at the fact that her long-time maid Annie (Juanita Moore) has friends in Imitation of Life (1959). Fifty years later, we’re still stuck with movie star white supremacy, smiling vacantly for untold millions of dollars, while exciting black actors and black characters continue to lead lives on the outskirts of films when they would be so much more vital at their center.

Coming to It Cold: Watchmen

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Coming to It Cold: <em>Watchmen</em>
Coming to It Cold: <em>Watchmen</em>

So much of the criticism and praise of Watchmen centers on the dilemma of adapting the acclaimed source material. Many deem the original graphic novel “unfilmable,” others disagree. Theaters are overstuffed with the baggage that everyone brings to the film’s viewing experience: Can it live up to my expectations? What will be different? Why did Snyder choose to ignore this element? After years of near-shame for having never read Watchmen, I’m now almost proud of the fact because I don’t have to deal with the baggage. I can watch the film and just think of it as a film. My thoughts on the movie are by no means quintessential, but I feel that, in a way, I’ve watched a different film than half the people out there. That’s the film I’ll review.

“...It Ejaculates FIRE!”: Watchmen

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“...It Ejaculates FIRE!”: <em>Watchmen</em>
“...It Ejaculates FIRE!”: <em>Watchmen</em>

When I hear “American Girl,” I am reminded, immediately, of Buffalo Bill, and his bumptious endorsement of skin lotion. A few bars from “Don’t Stop Believing,” and there it is, that final look of anxiety in Tony Soprano’s eyes, drawn to the minacious ringing of a bell. And now, thanks to Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, I shall forever identify Leonard Cohen’s oft-misused “Hallelujah” with the aciculate heel of a leather boot as it gently massages a pale butt cheek. During that one subversive, and hilarious, sequence, juxtaposed as it is with an absurdly apropos song, the superheroes Nite Owl aka Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson) and The Silk Spectre aka Laurie Jupiter (Malin Åkerman) passionately make love among the clouds in the confines of an airship, and the director proves his mettle, displaying the sort of visual wit and panache that one hardly expects from a Hollywood blockbuster anymore. Even the ship climaxes, for heaven’s sake—but it ejaculates FIRE! Mazel tov!