No explainer article can fully capture how truly crazy and demented Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is to just watch.

MotherPosterIt’s a creation myth! It’s about how men gaslight women! It’s about climate change! It’s a bizarre human comedy! It’s a crazed mix of Luis Bunuel, Rosemary’s Baby, Black Swan and a dash of La La Land! Whatever mother! is, don’t forget those exclamation points.

I’ve already read way too much about Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, and if you’ve seen the film, you know I’m right. It’s best to go in relatively cold. Because every explainer and analysis that tries to paint it as a divine Biblical allegory isn’t wrong, but it never fully captures how flat out, bat shit crazy this movie is. Continue reading “mother!”

The Counselor

Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” is too strange to be sexy, alluring or memorable.

“The Counselor” spoils easily one of the most memorably bizarre scenes in a studio drama this year. In it, Cameron Diaz takes off her panties, clambers onto the hood of Javier Bardem’s Ferrari and proceeds to dry hump the windshield. Bardem refers to the distinct visual he receives from the front passenger seat as “like a catfish.”

Bardem calls it too odd to be sexy, and he’s right, but Director Ridley Scott plays it for laughs because he’s not sure what to do with writer Cormac McCarthy’s scene either.

This is McCarthy’s first original screenplay following multiple film adaptations of his novels including “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road.” He’s written a drug cartel drama in which women, morality, paradoxes and regret take a prominent role while a mysterious, never seen evil pulls the strings in the background.

Scott however shoots “The Counselor” like it’s “American Gangster.” It amounts to a clunky thriller reduced to tedious conversation pieces, a nonsensical plot and unclear motives or forces trying to create suspense. Continue reading “The Counselor”

Side by Side: The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “The Sea Inside” both look at devastating disabilities, but their characters have internal differences.

A disabled person should not be defined by their disability. This much we know, especially in the movies. But should they be defined by the fate they’ve chosen, or should family, friends and society have an impact on what someone stuck in this position should be able to say and do with their life?

“The Sea Inside” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” are two Oscar nominated foreign films about people who have suffered accidents and are now rendered immobile, but not incommunicable. Yet they differ in terms of how they express themselves, their internal dreams, ambitions and wishes for their body, and the movies follow suit.

Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside” won the Foreign Language Oscar in 2004 for Spain, and it’s a tear-jerking crowd pleaser about an overall good man who simply wants to die, not out of misery but out of tranquility.

Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” on the other hand is much more surreal, art house and assertively French. Its themes and its story may scream Oscar bait, but its presentation certainly does not. That however did not prevent it from picking up four nominations in 2007 anyway. Its character is miserable enough that he would likely kill himself if he could, or if he could communicate it, but his reasons are much more cynical.

I watched these two films in succession because my sister is currently in a summer psychology course. It points out through these films that there are numerous thought processes that would influence a person to want death, and neither of them have strictly to do with circumstances.

What I found curious about the films is that each plays with its melodramatic overtones, and the tearjerker is not always the most exploitative, nor is the art film the most firm. Continue reading “Side by Side: The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

Off the Red Carpet: Week of 11/7 – 11/14

We’re at the point where there’s going to be a big movie opening every week until the end of the year now, so get excited.

“Skyfall” has biggest Bond opening ever

“Skyfall” earned $86.7 million at the Box Office this weekend, sending it on its way to trounce even the inflation added record of the fourth Bond, “Thunderball.” It’s popular appeal as well as its just plain awesome quality has lead some to speculate the possibility of nominating Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Roger Deakins for their respected Oscars, as well as a push for the movie itself for Best Picture. It’s a long shot, but I would be on board.

Best Animated Short shortlist revealed

Could we soon be saying, Oscar Winner Maggie Simpson? The shortlist for the Best Animated Short category was revealed last week, and it includes “The Simpsons” short “The Longest Daycare” and the lovey Disney short “Paperman.” The Pixar short film this year that screened before “Brave,” “La Luna,” was nominated and lost last year. But I can guarantee you now that the little underdog movie no one’s heard of and no one will see will almost definitely win this category. Here’s the full list: (via In Contention)

“Adam and Dog”



“The Eagleman Stag”

“The Fall of the House of Usher”

“Fresh Guacamole”

“Head over Heels”

“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”



Christoph Waltz in Best Actor race

I said last week that for some reason people already want to count “Django Unchained” out of the race before anyone’s even seen it. Why no one would consider Christoph Waltz owning “Django” just like he did “Inglourious Basterds” is beyond me, but the difference this year is that he’s being pushed for the Lead Actor race now rather than supporting. Yes, it’s a crowded field, but he was just that good before, and I don’t see why he can’t be again. This also means that Leonardo DiCaprio and even Samuel L. Jackson are people to keep an eye on in the Supporting race. (via In Contention)

Image Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter Airs Annual Actor Roundtable

Each year The Hollywood Reporter puts together an extended interview roundtable with a collection of actors, usually Oscar hopefuls for that year. Last year they interviewed George Clooney, Viola Davis, Christopher Plummer, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, and this year they’ve interviewed Jamie Foxx, Matt Damon, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Alan Arkin and John Hawkes. All six are potential Oscar candidates for acting, three more likely than the others, but their discussion veered much more intellectual. They talked acting on stage, what they would do if they couldn’t act, family and whom they admired. It’s a stirring hour-long discussion between smart actors being very candid in a setting you won’t see anywhere else. (via The Hollywood Reporter)

Gurus ‘O Gold released

The Gurus ‘O Gold have been my go to barometer for Oscar predictions for the last few years. Collectively, they are probably better at anticipating the awards and forecasting changes than any one of them individually. This is their first time forecasting the major categories this year since Toronto. Things are bound to change as a few other movies set in and are seen by the public, but the universal consensus right now is unsurprisingly “Argo,” followed closely by TIFF winner “Silver Linings Playbook.” The surprise I see in the list is the inclusion of “Flight” in 10 spot and “Moonrise Kingdom” on the outs. 10 is probably a generous number for nominees anyway. Take a look at the full list if you’re like me and love charts and spreadsheets and stuff, and avoid it if you think it has the potential to suck all the fun out of the Oscars. (via Movie City News)

Will Best Picture match Screenplay?

A blogger at “Variety” observed that last year was a surprising anomaly in the trend for nominees for Best Picture and Best Original or Adapted Screenplay. The movie with the BP nod always gets the screenplay nod, with historically very few exceptions. Last year alone matched the last 10 years in terms of gaps between the two categories, and it’s worth noting that this year may go the same. “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Master,” “Amour,” “Django Unchained,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Sessions” are all questionable nominees for Best Picture, and that’s just listing the front runners in the screenplay races. (via Variety)

Ben Affleck to receive “Modern Master Award”

For a guy gunning for an Oscar for Best Director with a film set in the ‘70s, it’s got to feel good to win an award called the “Modern Master Award” at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Ben Affleck will receive the award on January 26, conveniently not long before the Oscar ceremony itself. (via The Race)

Week 5 Predictions Continue reading “Off the Red Carpet: Week of 11/7 – 11/14”


After a 50 year run, “Skyfall” is the best James Bond movie in years, if not the best ever made. It is the first that has made us ask about Bond’s past and future and the first to make us realize the game has changed but that we’d be nowhere without him.

Sam Mendes picks up the franchise after the unfortunate hiccup that was “Quantum of Solace,” a movie that made Bond into a forgettable Jason Bourne. What he brings to the table is style mixed with the silly and substance mixed with the smarm. It’s a Bond movie as ludicrous and fun as the previous but going beyond the grittily realistic norm established by “Casino Royale.”

Its magnificent opening motorcycle chase along rooftops has Bond (Daniel Craig) pursuing a man who has stolen a hard drive containing the identities of all the MI6 operatives. The two leap onto a moving train upon which Bond tears off the back end of a trolley with a bulldozer and leaps aboard, adjusting his suit ever so justly as he does. As they fight, M (Judi Dench) orders her other agent Eve (Naomi Harris) to take a risky sniper shot that hits Bond instead of the target.

Presumed dead, Bond spends the next few years off the map “enjoying death,” going through the motions of a freewheeling lifestyle with cold detachment. It’s only when a cyber terrorist attack against MI6 hits that Bond decides to return. His new target is Silva (Javier Bardem), a former computer hacker for MI6 with a vendetta against M. His presence tests whether Bond or M are both fit for duty, allowing us to finally reach these characters on an emotional level without sacrificing Craig’s biting wit or Dench’s spitfire attitude.

If there’s one thing to notice about “Skyfall,” it’s that Bond has never looked better. Director of Photography Roger Deakins, a man with nine Oscar nominations and still no victory, is possibly the best cinematographer alive today. He’s made a recent shift from film to digital, and he has taken the dark shadows and sharp colors usually found in a David Fincher movie and applied it to the classical look of 007. In one early fight scene in Shanghai, he blends space, depth and color to create a beautiful battle of silhouettes that looks as good as anything I’ve seen this year. And later when the film takes us to a deserted villa on the Scottish countryside, the unreal lighting and deep focus of Javier Bardem illuminated in front of a burning building holds up as instantly iconic. It’s a drop-dead gorgeous movie that just makes the whole experience ignite.

This blending of aesthetics matches the high psychological stakes Mendes is imposing. If “Skyfall” had forgotten to be an action movie first, the super serious talk about whether the world still needs Bond might get as tiresome as a discussion about sending Grandma to a nursing home. But screenwriter John Logan establishes a high-tech cyber scheme that still finds ways for Bond to be practically and physically intuitive. The computer hacker one step ahead of the good guys is ground well tread by other recent action movies, but never Bond. Somehow he fits in as smoothly as though he were still at the poker table.

Much has already been said about Judi Dench finally giving a hefty performance as M that befits her talents, but I’m more interested in the juicy work by Bardem. Most Bond villains have a physical disability designed to distinguish them, but Bardem makes do on his snakelike sexuality that in a delicious scene briefly tests Bond’s own. His presumed homosexuality is in its own way another mixed bag of political incorrectness, but in screen villainy terms it’s the absolute tops.

Mendes takes great pains to treat such a terrific villain with stealthy patience. The moment in which Silva is introduced is a wonderful long take that watches Bardem slowly saunter up to Bond as he tells a story about how catch rats. In wide shots, striking composition and a steady hand, Mendes provides style and flair uncommon to the gritty realism of contemporary action pictures.

“Skyfall” really is Bond reinvented. It takes the uncouth, rugged James Bond newly discovered in “Casino Royale” and molds him into a man with depth and class. “Youth does not guarantee innovation,” as Bond says in one scene to Q, and as one of the finest movies of the year, it’s clear this 50 year old franchise feels as good as new.

4 stars