Mulholland Dr. (2001)

David Lynch’s film, the voted #1 movie of the 2000s, is beguiling but packs an emotional wallop

mulholland-drive-posterThe moment in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” that resonates most deeply with me, and there are a few, takes place inside the club known as “Silencio.” “Silencio! No hay banda,” the announcer “says” to the crowd, explaining that there is no band, no live performance. It’s all taped. It’s all a recording. It’s all an illusion.

Lynch gives us a few shots, one from the balcony where Betty and Irene are sitting, another in close-up of the emcee, and a third from his side profile revealing a blue-haired woman sitting zombie-like in the luxury box above. The lights begin to flicker in a blue haze as the emcee vanishes, and Betty starts to shake uncontrollably in her seat as thunder begins to rumble in the theater. A new host steps out to introduce Rebekah Del Rio, a singer playing herself who performs “Llorando,” a Latin cover of a Roy Orbison song, “Crying.” She’s dressed in red and black with a glint of red and yellow makeup beneath her eye. She’s first seen from afar, then in close up as she builds in dynamics. She’s barely fighting back tears and absolutely wailing, and Lynch cuts back to Betty and Irene unable to hold back their own. And then, she collapses, topples to her side as her siren song continues on tape.

It’s all taped. It’s all a recording. It’s all an illusion. This moment marks an important turning point in the film, in which the reality that Betty and Irene think they belong to begins to unravel. There’s no “unlocking” the tiny blue box they hold, or for that matter any of the movie’s secrets. All of “Mulholland Dr.’s” mysteries, noir trappings and bizarre twists have been part of some surreal movie magic, completely artificial and cinematic. It’s ALL a recording. Continue reading “Mulholland Dr. (2001)”

Side by Side: Birdman and Whiplash

“Birdman” and “Whiplash” are both technically impressive films about characters looking to feel they exist

All throughout cinema history we see protagonists who wish to be remembered, who wish to become something great. Marlon Brando said in “On the Waterfront”, “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender!” Their means for greatness are always different, but their ends are never the same, and it lets us know just what kind of movie we’re watching.

Two films released this month that are both receiving Oscar buzz but are miles apart in terms of tone and style have protagonists who share these feelings of greatness in their own ways and to their own ends. “Birdman Or (the Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance” and “Whiplash” are fiery dramas that lead to realizations that some of the things in life that feel most real and make people feel most alive, are pain and death. Continue reading “Side by Side: Birdman and Whiplash”

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”

CIFF Review: The Impossible

You see a giant tidal wave hurtling toward you and your family one second, and the next, you’re gripping a tree, water rapidly flooding everywhere. You’re alone. A destroyed car floats by. You’re searching for some way to make it stop, and without warning, you feel a searing pain. The water seems to beat you senseless in an incoherent blur. You don’t see other people. You don’t see other bodies. You only hear the scream of your son. You have nothing but fear and uncertainty.

Uncertainty is that most important aspect of “The Impossible,” a moving, epic tearjerker about a deadly tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004. It concerns itself only with the idea of unknown consequences, the idea of failure and the pain of being unable to help more. These are the natural parts of survival. It’s not a message movie. It’s a human film.

One of the families caught up in this natural disaster are the Bennett’s, a British family from Japan on vacation in Thailand. Henry and Maria (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts) have three boys aged 10, 7 and 5, and the five of them will spend the next few days searching for one another after this tragedy.

The oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), is split up with his mom, who is severely injured and needs her son’s help every step of the way. His struggle to lift his mother into a tree is as harrowing and intense as even the tumultuous rapids themselves.

He proves himself to be the true lead of the film. We see Lucas on his own, learning to be responsible and seeing the pain of the world around him the most broadly. Lucas takes on a very noble task of wandering the hospital trying to pair patients with family members. It’s an overwhelming task for anyone, least of all for someone his age. But he succeeds, and our hearts just seem to swell up at the sign of such human decency.

And yet what director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Orphanage”) recognizes is that this reunion, nor the reunion of his own family, is fully a victory. As their plane leaves for home, the civilization is still in ruins, and that ocean seems mighty lonely.

“The Impossible” calls itself “a beautiful mystery” in this way. It’s at times a disgusting film of people vomiting blood, screeching in agony and looking absolutely decrepit, and yet its simple acts of charity and good fortune go a long way. It finds action in its lonely chases through vast, empty landscapes and crowded, noisy areas where no one can be found. Only at the beginning does it employ the disaster movie tropes.

Part of its success stems from the absolutely stunning visual effects and lifelike makeup. Opting out of digital effects, “The Impossible” incorporated one of the largest water tanks in the world to shoot the opening disaster, and it pays off by looking leaps and bounds better than Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter.”

Whereas Watts’s role throughout the film is to lie in agonizing pain, and McGregor is reduced to a weeping wreck, “The Impossible’s” real star is Holland. He demonstrates range that allows him to recognize that he’s about to become an orphan or that he’s not yet strong enough to make it on his own. Holland is a first time screen actor, but he’s been playing the title role in “Billy Elliot” on stage in London for years.

If there’s one big gripe about “The Impossible,” it’s that the film is whitewashed. Where are all the native Thai? Bayona claims that in this particular area where the family was located, the victims were about half tourists. The non-whites we see here are typically the ones helping the whites or not getting a word in because they’re not provided subtitles. Other travelling Europeans are missing their families, and we even hear some of their stories, but never of a local. In fact, the Bennett tragedy quite literally becomes the focal point of many people’s concerns in one pivotal scene when Henry makes a quick call home to say he’s unsure where Maria and Lucas are.

Despite this, I think audiences will take away that “The Impossible” is a beautiful, inclusive film about all human suffering and survival. But from a Spanish director and shot on-location in Thailand, I just wish it was more universal.

3 ½ stars

J. Edgar

J. Edgar Hoover worked tirelessly to maintain an image of power, fame and significance in the 48 years he served the FBI.

Since his death, his legacy has been tarnished, if not forgotten, with allegations he was not as pivotal to the FBI as he appeared, that he held confidential information over politicians and public figures as a form of blackmail and that he was a homosexual who occasionally wore women’s clothes.

Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” along with Leonardo DiCaprio in the eponymous role, dons an equally inflated presence and renders itself just as unmemorable. Continue reading “J. Edgar”