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Jake Gyllenhaal (#110 of 13)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Bong Joon-ho’s Okja

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Cannes Film Review: Okja

Netflix

Cannes Film Review: Okja

Ten years on from his breakout hit, The Host, South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho seems intent on recreating the crossover appeal of his genre-bending monster flick for a Western audience. Okja, Bong’s Netflix-produced, environmentalist-themed adventure fantasy, also draws from 2013’s Snowpiercer, the filmmaker’s first English-language effort, specifically in its clear contempt for dehumanizing capitalism.

Bong has proven capable of uniting a variety of different tonal ambitions with some razor-sharp satire and impeccable craftsmanship, but Okja feels jarringly disorganized and rudderless for much of its runtime. Even at its best, the film merely musters convincingly imitative set pieces, the highlight of which is a chase scene—cut ironically to the John Denver ballad “Annie’s Song”—that ends with the unimaginative recycling of an action beat from The Host’s funniest sequence. Bong’s filmmaking is so singularly impressive that even at its most derivative, Okja feels like a momentous spectacle, but it’s the first film of his ever to give the impression that the spectacle is masking an otherwise underdeveloped, often incoherent, concept.

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 20 Best Film Performances of 2014

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The 20 Best Film Performances of 2014
The 20 Best Film Performances of 2014

Ironically, for an awards program meant to highlight standout performances, the Academy Awards have turned into the 800-pound gorilla of fall and winter entertainment coverage, stomping out other movie news to deposit mounds of hype about a relatively small group of “frontrunners.” Some of our favorite performances of the year were in movies that are being talked up for Oscars, but many were in films too quirky or dark or subtitled for the Academy of Arts and Sciences’s taste, and it would be a shame if that consigned them to the shadows. With this list, we hope to shine a little light on these brilliant, touching, often funny performances, which enrich our understanding of what it means to be human. Elise Nakhnikian

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler

The preternaturally calm protagonist of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler offers a striking contrast to the manic energy of Steve, the teenage lead in Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. Played by a gaunt, baggy-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal, looking a few years of heavy smoking away from turning into Willem Defoe, Lou Bloom is the kind of quirky, attention-drawing character on which a film places all its bets. In this case, the gambit isn’t entirely successful, but Gilroy does a fantastic job at first of drawing out Lou’s eccentricities.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 The Double and Enemy

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: The Double and Enemy
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: The Double and Enemy

There were plenty of Jesse Eisenbergs and Jake Gyllenhaals and doppelganger-centered film adaptations to go around at Toronto. Richard Ayoade’s The Double, loosely based on the Fyodor Dostoevsky novella, pits Eisenberg against Eisenberg, his Mark Zuckerberg smartass squaring off against his Michael Cera nebbish. Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, adapted from José Saramago’s The Double, features a double dose of Gyllenhaal as a disheveled history professor and a cocky actor, exact replicas of each other, right down to birthmarks and scars. Both films are unsurprisingly about male anxiety, a subject that can now be firmly deemed a preoccupation for Ayoade, whose Submarine explored similar territory.

Poster Lab: Total Recall

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Poster Lab: Total Recall
Poster Lab: Total Recall

If recent sci-fi film ads are any indication, all we are is pixels in the wind. Movies like Total Recall, a remake that’s poised to give you déjà vu this August, face the predicament of promoting themes like memory and alternate reality, which aren’t exactly the easiest things to visualize. Common solutions have been to break matter apart like low-res jpegs, and let the debris disperse in smoky, techy milieus. The first Total Recall poster follows this path, depicting futuristic hero Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) as if his very identity is being erased in geometric fragments. Why does it look so familiar? Well, you just saw a variation of it—same font and all—during the release of last year’s Source Code, whose poster also shattered the hero’s existence into flashes and swept them up like confetti. Though not not as clean as the Total Recall one-sheet, the Source Code ad uses the trend as a tool to integrate film stills, filling the pieces with headshots of co-stars Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. More generically, Farrell’s gun-toter just disapparates into thin air, which may well point to how this F/X cash cow will be received.

SXSW 2011: Source Code

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SXSW 2011: <em>Source Code</em>
SXSW 2011: <em>Source Code</em>

Based on Duncan Jones’s first two feature films, Moon and now Source Code, the latter of which had its world premiere Friday night here at SXSW, one could say that Jones has a knack not for putting across breathtakingly original ideas in a breathtakingly original way, but for putting across familiar ideas with enough skill, intelligence, and heart to make the end result seem fresh enough. Moon at first played like basically a cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, right down to its white-dominated production design, until it gradually began to stake out its own distinctive thematic and emotional territory. Source Code similarly begins in a manner that suggests it’s going to be merely a rehash of films ranging from Groundhog Day to The Manchurian Candidate, but the film eventually develops an identity of its own, thanks in part to Ben Ripley’s structurally brilliant script and the committed performances of its cast.

Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon 2: Jarhead

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Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon 2: <em>Jarhead</em>
Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon 2: <em>Jarhead</em>

This is the second of two New York Press reviews republished in conjunction with CultureSnob’s “Misunderstood Blog-a-thon,” which concludes today. I’m including it because I think it meets the event’s criteria more exactly than my Perdition piece (scroll down or click here), which was more of a baseline aesthetic defense of a movie I thought was generally underrated. Jarhead is more ambitious, edgier and much more schematic than Perdition, and given its goal—to be what I call an “epic meta-war movie”—it cannot, by definition, satisfy audiences in any of the usual ways. But that’s what I like about it.