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Tommy Lee Jones (#110 of 14)

Cannes Film Festival 2014: The Homesman Review

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Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>The Homesman</em> Review
Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>The Homesman</em> Review

Back in 2005, Tommy Lee Jones made his directorial debut with the gritty (and somewhat gruesome) The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a neo-western with a distinctly Peckinpahvian flavor. Now he returns with The Homesman, an oddball oater about a cagey claim-jumper who partners with a stern spinster to take three madwomen to Iowa and thence to their homes back East. In contrast to Three Burials, this one counts as a retro-western—“retro” as in retrograde with regard to fundamental depictions of generic tropes, not as in old-school throwback.

The film was adapted by Jones and two other screenwriters from the novel by Glendon Swarthout, whose works have previously provided source material for the John Wayne swan song The Shootist and, perhaps more telling given The Homesman’s unwieldy mix of earnest intentions and batshit craziness, Stanley Kramer’s Bless the Beasts and Children, wherein a ragtag bunch of misfit campers derogatorily labeled the Bedwetters take on Great White Hunters involved in a wild buffalo safari. All this is to say that no doubt some of the problems inherent with The Homesman’s abrupt shifts in tone can be laid at the doorstep of the original novel.

Review: Douglas Brode’s Dream West: Politics and Religion in Cowboy Movies

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Review: Douglas Brode’s Dream West: Politics and Religion in Cowboy Movies
Review: Douglas Brode’s Dream West: Politics and Religion in Cowboy Movies

Douglas Brode’s newest book, Dream West: Politics and Religion in Cowboy Movies, isn’t just an impressive panoply of discussions across a breadth of westerns from the entirety of the genre’s cinematic existence, but also a fascinating political inquiry, meant to question precisely “the belief that bygone Western texts offer a ’red-state’ vision.” Unlike many an academic survey monograph that gets bogged down by reveling in hundreds of film titles without providing any substantive examinations to excuse the unchecked cinephilia, Brode deftly allows his text to double as both an introduction to the genre and a rigorous explanation for numerous westerns as progressive or, at least, ambivalent texts. He specifically questions why Tea Party members seek “the charming fabrications of the 20th century in which artists and entertainers of varied creative gifts rewrote the American experience from the nineteenth century in romanticized terms” and why they believe this “ought to be the source of our daily political and religious lifestyles in the twenty-first.” Viewed in tandem with Russell Meeuf’s recent John Wayne’s World, these texts provide the means to begin understanding the classical Hollywood western less as a conservative genre and more as one actively seeking to understand and define contemporary American life.

Review: The Glass Menagerie at the Booth Theatre

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Review: <em>The Glass Menagerie</em> at the Booth Theatre
Review: <em>The Glass Menagerie</em> at the Booth Theatre

It takes courage to bring the lights down on Amanda Wingfield. The deluded but powerful matriarch at the center of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie is such a force that directors would be forgiven for bathing her in permanent spotlight, to allow Amanda’s hysterical monologues to soar like ballads from a Broadway musical. But early in the first act, while Amanda holds court at the dinner table recounting her past, director John Tiffany slowly but conspicuously dims the lights around the table. This Glass Menagerie, imported to the Booth Theatre after its premiere at Boston’s American Repertory Theater, refuses to cede the point of view to its most theatrical character, and the result is a production that gives her and her family more dignity than they may have experienced before.

Wingfield, of course, is the faded and abandoned Southern belle who dominates the dank apartment she inhabits with her adult son, Tom, and daughter, Laura. The plot, framed as a “memory play” by Tom, follows Amanda’s vain attempt to find a suitor for Laura, who’s been rendered weak and irredeemably shy by a long illness.

Trailer and Poster Drop for Scorsese-Backed Luc Besson Flick The Family

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Trailer and Poster Drop for Scorsese-Backed Luc Besson Flick <em>The Family</em>
Trailer and Poster Drop for Scorsese-Backed Luc Besson Flick <em>The Family</em>

In case you were wondering what the movie version of The Sopranos might have looked like, director Luc Besson and producer Martin Scorsese are giving you a taste with The Family, a film that seems to follow the HBO drama’s lead, albeit with a madcap comedic spin. Formerly titled Malavita (an infinitely cooler name), the movie, whose poster and trailer were just released, could be imagined as a continuation of the Soprano clan’s saga, as it follows a proud mafioso (Robert De Niro), his not-to-be-messed-with wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), their angsty daughter (Diana Agron), and their mischievous son (John D’Leo) as they all struggle to adjust to their life in witness protection, a life some fans thought was the fate of Tony, Carmela, et al.

15 Famous Movie Emperors

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15 Famous Movie Emperors
15 Famous Movie Emperors

This weekend, Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox team up in Peter Webber’s Emperor, a rather listless historical war flick, which charts the investigation of Emperor Hirohito and his role in WWII. The film got us thinking about other movie emperors, who’ve varied in race, gender, and even planet of origin. From the animated to the animalistic, the perfect to the perverse, this list is one royally diverse bunch.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

All right, all right, all right. We should’ve known. As it turned out, Matthew McConaughey’s still supple ass cheeks in Magic Mike were no match for AMPAS’s preference for saggy old balls in this category. And not just old, but used balls. As was pointed out during this year’s overproduced nominations press conference, all five nominees have already won Oscars. And so in the absence of a swimsuit competition, the narrative this go around shifts onto the question of which person do Academy members feel most deserves another trophy, and which of them is the most overdue?

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

With all due respect to the gentlemen in contention, this year’s likely Supporting Actor crop has shaped up to be a snooze, filled with veterans who, however gifted, feel like obvious choices, and whose singling out undermines some truly vibrant male turns. It’s true that Silver Linings Playbook boasted Robert De Niro’s best performance in years, giving the actor a tender comic role that required more than just cracking wise and mugging for the camera. And frontrunner Tommy Lee Jones turned in fine, fiery work in Lincoln, bringing complex life to abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, whose character arc is arguably the movie’s most dramatic. But both industry icons still feel a tad like instant candidates, and they’re liable to be joined by Alan Arkin (Argo) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), both of whom have been lauded for performances that are neither remarkable nor surprising. As consistent and consummately professional as Meryl Streep, Hoffman is faithfully intense as L. Ron Hubbard stand-in Lancaster Dodd, but there’s nothing in the character we haven’t seen him play before. And Arkin, whose crotchety film producer is a wellspring of rib-elbowing condescension, seems to have joined this race merely for his seasoned way with one-liners.

Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

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Oscar Prospects: Lincoln
Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

Though it boasts the strongest pedigree of all 2012 awards contenders, Lincoln doesn’t play like obvious Oscar bait while you’re watching it. Masterfully realized, the tame and talky saga spends most of its duration bucking the epic-biopic formula, unfolding with minimal spectacle and with characterization that’s as communal as it is subject-focused. From look to language, it’s no trophy-seeking construct, but a first-rate political drama made with consummate skill. So, how nice that it’s been so ardently embraced by critics, racking up—at this writing—more perfect-score reviews than any other Oscar candidate this year. That critical push is going to help voters take notice of all the un-showy aspects of Lincoln’s production, including Rick Carter’s Art Direction, Joanna Johnston’s Costume Design, and, yes, Steven Spielberg’s Direction. Say all you want about Argo and Life of Pi, but this is your Best Picture frontrunner, poised to be the film with the most nods come January 10. It looks to be a downright lock in at least nine categories, and a handful of other races seem well within its reach. Had it featured some CG cannons or, say, a fresh diddy to be sung by Sally Field, you’d likely be seeing it in damn-near every lineup.