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Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s Oldboy

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Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>
Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>

I hate to take the easy road and say that the designers of the latest Oldboy poster thought outside of the box, but, hey, if the metaphor fits. This beauty of a one-sheet, which heralds Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s decade-old modern classic, has antihero Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) emerging from a trunk, whose seemingly bottomless nature makes Joe look like the Mary Poppins of vengeance-seekers. As most already know, Brolin is playing the role made famous by South Korean actor Choi Min-sik. Based on early reports, Brolin won’t be emulating Min-sik by eating a live octopus on camera, but he will be similarly playing a businessman inexplicably imprisoned for 20 years, then suddenly released and bent on finding his captor(s).

Compositionally, the poster is a dream, from the way the trunk’s lid aligns perfectly with the horizon to the way its corner meets a tuft of grass that also serves as the billing block’s nest. With a runner’s stance and a clump of dead grass in his fingers, Brolin looks at once like a ready-to-pounce cat and a madman who’s clawed his way out of a hellish pit. You can feel the movement in a pose that implies instinct, focus, and primal rage.

Body of Work Rosario Dawson

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Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Body of Work: Rosario Dawson

The story of Rosario Dawson’s discovery speaks to her enduringly cool credibility as an actress. A New York native who grew up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Dawson had only a Sesame Street appearance under her belt when she was spotted, on her stoop, by budding director Larry Clark, who, at the urging of then-fledgling screenwriter Harmony Korine, went on to cast her in Kids. She was 15. Just as it did for fellow hip starlet Chloë Sevigny, Kids proved a major launchpad for Dawson, rather literally moving her from her doorstep and shuffling her into the public consciousness. She began attracting other directors in search of gals for urban dramas, and starred in Spike Lee’s He Got Game and Craig Bolotin’s Light It Up, a 1999 flick that took cues from Kids and Dangerous Minds.

But Dawson didn’t wait long to buck her impending typecasting. However unsavory the results, she pulled a 180 and took a part in Josie and the Pussycats, a—ahem—wannabe Spice Girls comedy for the MTV generation. The movie hardly soared, but it was an early indication of Dawson’s deft, enthusiastic knack for diversity, not to mention a taste of the fine musicality that’s periodically weaved its way into her work. Dawson has her limits. One of her virtues is also something of a hindrance: She’s a thoroughly modern actress, and give or take Roxana, her Persian princess in Alexander, she’s not quite cut our for period fare—corsets and all of that. But that hasn’t stopped her from building a terrifically varied filmography, or kept her from emitting a regal fire on screen.

Sterile Decay: I Am Legend

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Sterile Decay: <em>I Am Legend</em>
Sterile Decay: <em>I Am Legend</em>

A highly modernized reinvention of Richard Matheson’s 1954 same-named novel, I Am Legend pits Robert Neville (Will Smith) against legions of formerly human, light-sensitive mutants occupying the decrepit remains of New York City, ground zero for a cancer cure-turned-lethal virus that appears to have wiped out all of mankind (Neville is spared due to a unique DNA sequence that renders him immune). With the canine Sam(antha) as his only companion, Neville routinizes his life - hide by night, hunt/work by day - in an effort to fight off both the long-gestating plague as well as the insanity that accompanies prolonged solitude. Though convinced through statistical logic that he is the last man on earth, Neville continues searching for a cure. His tireless, apparently pointless persistence stems from post-traumatic shock compounded by a need for purpose in a world seemingly without any.

In one of the film’s best scenes, Neville stops at a movie store to exchange his latest rental, interacting with carefully placed mannequins that help him simulate the human experience he’s been so long deprived of. When I saw Legend with an audience last weekend, the audience greeted this scene and others like it with nervous laughter. But it’s in these uneasy moments that I Am Legend almost becomes a film worth carrying with you after the lights have gone up. Too much of the movie simply coasts along, acknowledging textures of sanity and spirituality but never subsuming them.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Actor

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Actor

For whatever reason, it’s not Peter O’Toole’s perfect 0-for-7 record leading up to this year’s Best Actor contest that’s standing in award-magnet Forest Whitaker’s way to a win. If it were only about acting, then it’s safe to say there would be no more question to Whitaker’s status as frontrunner as there is in Best Actress. (Well, actually, if it were only about acting, than the slightly overpraised but still exciting Ryan Gosling would be just weeks away from forever kissing off his Mickey Mouse Club cachet.) But if this race has tightened up a bit since December’s parade of critics’ awards, than Whitaker has nothing to blame more than his rambling, incoherent, ill-prepared acceptance speeches at the Globes and SAG awards. While no one likes a gloater, and even fewer want to see someone hold up a folded piece of paper at the podium, we’re at a decidedly advanced enough state in the annual Oscar playoffs that it’s impossible to ask anyone to believe breathless, “I never expected to actually be standing here” faux humility either…especially when you’ve already won a near-gross citations in recognition of your work. Sure, it’s understandable that Whitaker might want to make it perfectly clear to Oscar voters that there isn’t a trace of the gross character he’s playing within his real persona (a given even if, just like Idi Amin, we all rip ass while drunk every now and again), but it’s impossible not to resent someone who, in awards terms, has everything acting as though he has nothing. Still, it probably won’t be quite enough to tip the scales toward the contender who has truly had nothing for many years and seemed quite graceful about it, since the only thing worse than faking it is lasciviously licking one’s lips over it.