Tag Archives: Gravity

Those Golden Globe Jokes About George Were Hilarious, But Let’s Remember, He’s a Damn Fine Actor

Once again, the funniest joke of Sunday’s Golden Globe ceremony targeted Hollywood golden boy — or is that good, old boy? — George Clooney.

Mentioning the actor’s soon-to-be-awarded Lifetime Achievement honor, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hilariously referenced Clooney’s wife, Amal Alamuddin.

“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was elected to a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”

As you may recall, Alamuddin’s hubby was also the butt of a priceless gag last year by Fey and Poehler, who described the movie “Gravity” as “the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”

As one of Hollywood’s biggest, most beloved stars and, until recently, a confirmed bachelor with a taste for younger women, George is an easy target. Despite the fact that he’s celebrated as a humanitarian, perhaps his save-the-world credentials aren’t as impressive as his spouse’s.

But watching all those film clips during the Globes lifetime achievement presentation reminded me what a formidable actor he is — one who turned a hunky stint on “ER” into a remarkable, versatile, risk-taking career.

Equally adept at comedy, caper films and classy dramas, this is a guy who has made good choices about the movies he’s appeared in, with a few exceptions, of course. (Can he ever be forgiven for “Batman & Robin”? I don’t know. And honestly, “Monuments Men” wasn’t that bad, despite everyone’s constant ribbing about it.)

In recognition of George’s stellar career, here are 10 of his most memorable film roles.

Feel free to share your favorite Clooney classics.

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1. “Out of Sight,” 1998: Clooney’s famous charm is on full display as a smooth criminal in this underrated but slick Elmore Leonard adaptation. The actor shares an unlikely yet smoking hot chemistry with Jennifer Lopez as a U.S. Marshal who can’t resist him.

2. “Three Kings,” 1999: As a jaded Special Forces soldier in director David O. Russell’s satire of the Persian Gulf War, the actor indulges his passion for politics while showcasing his talent for irreverent humor.

3. “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?,” 2000: Dim-witted isn’t a quality you’d typically associate with Clooney, but the actor succeeds brilliantly in portraying a scheming prison escapee who isn’t as bright as he thinks he is in the Coen Brothers’ absurd take on “The Odyssey.”

4. “Ocean’s Eleven,” 2001: Clooney’s penchant for playing suave con artists — not to mention his generous leadership of ensemble casts — reaches its apex with the role of casino-swindling ringleader Danny Ocean in this playful remake.

5. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” 2005: After a rocky start to his directorial career with 2002’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” Clooney forges a place for himself, and partner Grant Heslov, behind the camera with this biopic of First Amendment champion Edward R. Murrow (David Straitharn). He reserves the memorable role of CBS president Fred Friendly for himself.

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6. “Michael Clayton,” 2007: Clooney may have won his first Oscar for his supporting role in 2005’s “Syriana,” but he should have taken home the trophy for this wrenching drama about a law firm fixer suffering from moral qualms. The film’s final shot, one long, unbroken take focusing on the actor’s face, reveals his gift for subtle expressiveness.

7. “Up in the Air,” 2009: In the role of a seasoned traveler who makes an unsavory living by firing people, Clooney’s sometimes smarmy smile proves an invaluable asset. As his romance with a fellow frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga) melts his character’s heart, George quietly succeeds in breaking ours.

8. “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 2009: Unlike a lot of A-list actors, Clooney has mostly steered clear of voiceover work, but he made an exception for Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animal fable. He’s perfectly cast as a rapscallion of a carnivore/family man who moonlights as a chicken thief.

9. “The American,” 2010: Director Anton Corbijn’s thriller about a tormented assassin on the lamb in Italy didn’t receive a lot of attention, probably because of its extremely slow pace. But the film contains one of Clooney’s most internal and intriguing roles. In a film with little dialogue, the actor’s face almost solely communicates everything we need to know.

10. “The Descendants,” 2011: Clooney took home a much deserved second Oscar for perhaps his most unattractive role to date in Alexander Payne’s exquisitely awkward tragicomedy. Playing a clueless, cuckolded, grieving husband whose idyllic Hawaiian life is shattered by a family tragedy, the actor delivers one of his deepest performances and one of his best scenes — a heart-rending goodbye speech to his character’s comatose wife.

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Photos: watchesinmovies.info, popcornreel.com, yts.re, http://www.fanpop.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Few Not-So-Scientific Thoughts on ‘Interstellar’

I’ve been feeling under the weather this week and haven’t been up to the task of pondering the mysteries of “Interstellar,” especially while under the influence of Nyquil.

(Come to think of it, the Nyquil might actually help.)

But I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t say something about Christopher Nolan’s grandiose and truly grand space opera.

“Interstellar” has been out for a week, so I’m a little late to the party but this is a film still worth discussing and it will be for some time.

Do you find yourself on the fence about whether to see the movie? Think it’s over-hyped or looks boring or too similar to “Gravity”? I’d like to give you a gentle nudge toward “yes.”

If, like so many of us, you were mesmerized by Nolan’s past work, which includes such shamelessly entertaining, elegantly realized, smart, sophisticated opuses as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception,” you won’t want to miss “Interstellar.” It is by far the director’s most ambitious, spectacular, challenging and flawed endeavor yet.

I grew up on the writings of science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Bradbury believed it was the destiny of humankind to throw off the bounds of our planet to explore and colonize other worlds. This, he theorized, was the way we would achieve immortality. We should never look up at the stars and be content to remain where we are.

“Interstellar” is alive with the same spirit of optimistic humanism. Like Nolan’s previous films, it is exceptional on a technical level, transporting in a way moviegoers crave but rarely experience. It’s also a film full of big ideas, pushing its audience to engage their brains, to think.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the basic plot. “Interstellar” features Matthew McConaughey, continuing his recent, unbroken streak of praiseworthy performances, as Cooper, an engineer and pilot turned farmer living on an overpopulated Earth on the brink of environmental disaster.

Cooper is a widowed father to the fiercely intelligent, stubborn Murphy, nicknamed “Murph” (Mackenzie Foy). As Dust Bowl-like conditions consume the Earth, he’s forced to make a decision between watching his daughter grow up on a doomed planet or leaving her behind in a risky bid to save her and the entire human race.

One of the delights of a Nolan film is that what you’ve seen in the trailers barely scratches the surface of the story. Many surprises await in “Interstellar,” which is why I’m not going to say any more about the movie’s premise. There’s much to spoil, but you won’t hear it from me.

In general terms, “Interstellar” is a movie about the tension between science and the unquantifiable things that make life worth living — love, faith, self-sacrifice.

It’s a science nerd’s dream — or perhaps nightmare, depending on how literally you take Nolan’s interpretation –a movie in which scientists pull out pencil and paper to explain the theory of relativity and how a wormhole works. After that, they might launch into an emotional monologue about how love transcends space and time. (Anne Hathaway plays one of these folks and she’s absolutely lovable, as always.)

If you don’t care much for science or sentiment, you’ll still be blown away by the grandeur of “Interstellar’s” visual effects as Nolan delivers upon his promise to take us to three distinct worlds beyond our galaxy and to brush up against a black hole, which the scientists aptly name “Gargantua.”

Like last year’s “Gravity,” “Interstellar” MUST be seen in IMAX. Nolan shot portions of the film in the format and, while the visuals are astounding, it’s the sound that is most effective, rumbling from state-of-the-art speakers. It literally shakes you in your seat, an amazing sensation perfectly suited to the otherworldly perils depicted on screen. I’m betting this will be the movie to take home all those mysterious sound editing and mixing Oscars in a few months.

Composer Hans Zimmer really outdoes himself with a musical score featuring the sound of organs. Listening to it is practically a religious experience.

“Interstellar” is by no means a perfect film. It’s overlong, takes itself too seriously at times and contains a third act twist that will lose some viewers. I admit that by the end, it had lost me.

The movie’s lines are not as sharp and clean as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception.” Its heightened sense of wonder and hints of the supernatural recall “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the early films of M. Night Shyamalan and, strangely, “Field of Dreams.”

Whatever its faults, “Interstellar” is still ten times more captivating than most of the movies released in 2014.

You’ll reflect on it. You’ll wrestle with it. You may not physically movie from your cushy IMAX chair, but you’ll feel like you’ve been light-years away.

Photo: http://www.comicbookresources.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Lupita’s Dress to ‘Adele Dazeem,’ Musings on Hollywood’s Big Night

For some of us — I’ll admit, a very small segment of the population — the Oscars are like the Super Bowl. We spend months speculating about the nominations, making sure we’ve seen the films, taking our best shot at who will go home with the gold on the big night. And now that Sunday’s ceremony is over, the trophies handed out, the designer gowns worn, the after-party champagne sipped, there is still a lot to talk about. Here are some thoughts.

1. After establishing herself as a fashion icon throughout the awards season with her simple but bold choices, best supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o unveiled her pièce de résistance at the Academy Awards, creating a sensation in her floaty, pale blue Prada gown. This stunning dress is destined to go down in red carpet history and stood in tasteful and fanciful contrast to some of the night’s more bizarre sartorial moments — Anne Hathaway wearing a chandelier, Liza Minnelli in silk pajamas and Whoopi Goldberg as flapper/geisha/Seinfeld’s puffy shirt/Wicked Witch of the  West.

Nyong’o’s gown couldn’t have been more appropriate for her fairy tale moment when she took the podium to claim the prize for her harrowing work in “12 Years a Slave.” Her acceptance speech was one of the highlights of the evening, heartfelt, brimming with joy and elation.

“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” she said. “And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. … When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Moments like these are the reason we watch the Oscars.

2. Was it just me or were there an inordinate amount of awkward Teleprompter related gaffes during this year’s ceremony?

When  it came to reading their lines, so many presenters stumbled — metaphorically, except in the case of Jennifer Lawrence, who continued her tradition of taking a fall while wearing sky-high heels.

Silver screen legends Kim Novak and Sidney Poitier really needed their glasses. Zac Efron botched his scripted patter. Even host Ellen DeGeneres flubbed, calling actor Christoph Waltz “Christopher.” There were so many awkward moments, but none of them quite as hilarious as when John Travolta introduced “Frozen” star Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazeem.”

His error has turned into something of a social media sensation. Slate even concocted this hilarious name generator based on the goof.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/low_concept/2014/03/john_travolta_called_idina_menzel_adele_dazeem_what_s_your_travolta_name.html

All of this makes me wonder. Did anyone actually rehearse before the ceremony?

3. Matthew McConaughey’s win for a role that demanded a transformation of career and body in “Dallas Buyers Club” wasn’t exactly a surprise, but his resulting comments are now the talk of Tinseltown. Many people were delighted by his mention of God, gratitude and family. Others, like me, were baffled by his improvisational style.

In regard to a higher power, McConaughey said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

In reference to his dearly departed dad: “To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now.”

And then he pretty much shattered his previous humility by declaring himself his own hero. Well, sort of.

“I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”

It was all only slightly less surreal than his Screen Actors Guild Awards speech, in which he made wacky reference to the planet Neptune, or his remarks at the Golden Globes, which revealed that apparently his wife calls him her “king.”

Whatever your reaction, you have to admit there’s never a dull moment when this guy takes the stage.

4. A spirited Cate Blanchett accepted her trophy for “Blue Jasmine” with the immortal words, “Julia, hashtag suck it!,” referring somewhat cryptically to Julia Roberts.

More memorably, she called out a male dominated Hollywood on the woeful lack of satisfying roles for women, slamming those “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”

It needed to be said.

5. After last year’s poorly received performance by host Seth MacFarlane, whose caustic and sometimes offensive schtick rubbed Hollywood the wrong way, the Oscar producers’ pendulum predictably swung to another extreme in the form of the ever likable, always pleasant DeGeneres.

Don’t get me wrong. Hosting for a second time, Ellen was great, cultivating a playful atmosphere with gentle jabs at celebs during her opening monologue. She treated the bejeweled audience to pizza, stole Nyong’o’s lip balm and coaxed Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and other luminaries into posing for that now famous selfie.

Despite her best efforts, however, this year’s ceremony often felt tedious and tame. There were few surprises when it came to the winners — “Gravity” dominated with seven trophies; “12 Years a Slave” took the best picture prize — and only a handful of moments that resonated with the genuine emotion that keep Oscar viewers coming back for more.

This year’s theme was dedicated to movie heroes, but the ensuing montages were so generic they barely registered. Bette Midler sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” after the traditional In Memoriam segment and received one of several overeager standing ovations, but considering the song is more than 30 years old, it was a strangely stale choice.

Ultimately, the 86th Academy Awards were done in by a stultifyingly conservative aura. Nobody ever got the gold by playing it safe.

Stop Grousing and Go See ‘Gravity’

This year’s Academy Awards race is one of the closest in recent memory with three of the nine films nominated for best picture in a tight heat. Oscar analysts agree that at the conclusion of Sunday’s ceremony, Hollywood’s most coveted prize will be presented to the producers of either “Gravity,” “12 Years a Slave” or “American Hustle.”

Entertainment Weekly, in its Oscar predictions issue, forecasts that 19% of the Academy vote will go to “Gravity,” with 18% for “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle” with 16% of the ballots. Last month, in a rare occurrence, “Gravity” and “12 Years” tied for the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards. The ceremony is usually a good predictor of Oscar outcomes.

For months, the three front-runners have generated considerable buzz. “Gravity” racked up an impressive $700 million at the global box office. “American Hustle” crossed the $200 million mark and even the harrowing “12 Years” drummed up $100 million in ticket sales. The fact remains, however, that many people have not bothered to head to the theater to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course, this isn’t unusual when it comes to the Oscars, a ceremony that is treated with reverence in Tinseltown but tends to elicit yawns from an indifferent general public. Unless it’s one of the few years in which a major blockbuster is nominated — “Avatar,” for instance, viewed by practically everyone on the planet — it’s common for best picture candidates to languish unseen.

But this time around, the front-runners are worthy of your time and attention. In a year of exceptional films, they are the best Hollywood had to offer — a visually innovative cosmic thriller; a brutally honest historical drama; and a shamelessly entertaining glitter-pile of 1970s glam.

Oddly enough, it is “Gravity” that seems to have encountered the most resistance from a certain segment of filmgoers. I’ve talked to a number of people who stubbornly turn up their noses at Alfonso Cuaron’s space odyssey. Perhaps their reticence stems from the film’s minimalist but epic premise. At first I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be so compelling about watching Sandra Bullock and George Clooney float around in outer space.

Still, the skepticism is baffling, considering what a taut nail-biter of a thriller the film is, not to mention its stunning visual achievements and emotional heft. If you’re lucky enough to find a place where you can still catch an IMAX screening of the movie, it will be one of the most suspenseful, immersive, uplifting and intense cinematic experiences of your life. The film was released Tuesday on Blu-ray, so you can watch it from the comfort of your couch, but you’ll be missing out. If ever a film demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible — preferably in 3-D with a kick-ass sound system — this is it.

The story of a medical engineer adrift after her space shuttle is torn to shreds, “Gravity” features one of Bullock’s most fragile and moving performances. The film ingeniously registers on two levels – it’s one heck of a popcorn movie ride but it’s also packed with existential symbolism and musings on hope, rebirth and the significance of humanity in a terrifyingly infinite universe. It’s as deep or as shallow as you want it to be.

“American Hustle” is an easier sell. Directed by “Silver Linings Playbook” helmer David O. Russell and reuniting several members of that crowd-pleasing comedy-drama’s cast, “Hustle” is a trashy, over-the-top romp through 1970s sleaze and the most fun many of us had at the movies in 2013.

Nothing about the film is hard to love, from the gloriously kitschy period costumes and art direction, to the go-for-broke acting, to the twisty plot about a pair of con artists embroiled in a government sting operation. Bradley Cooper’s perm and Christian Bale’s comb-over may appear to steal the show, but it is the film’s leading ladies – both nominated for Oscars – who are the real stars. Amy Adams, as a chameleonic temptress looking for love, and Jennifer Lawrence, as an unstable, accident-prone housewife, deliver the most mesmerizing performances of their already accomplished careers.

“12 Years a Slave” is difficult to love, despite the fact that it is quite possibly the most authentic movie of its kind. While other films about America’s dirty, devastating past soft-pedal the indignities of slavery, director Steve McQueen lays them bare in merciless fashion, making for a film that is necessary, yet excruciating. After seeing it, my husband and I were silent the whole way home. There was literally nothing to say in the aftermath of so much shame and sadness.

McQueen specializes in depicting human depravity and desperation — he made a movie titled “Shame,” after all — and “12 Years” is his masterwork. It is brilliantly acted with performances so naked, it’s hard to look them in the eye — Chiwetel Ejiofor as the kidnapped Solomon Northup, Michael Fassbender as a lascivious slave owner and, most searing of all, Lupita Nyong’o as the tormented target of that slave owner’s twisted obsession.

Yes, “12 Years” is painful to watch, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it, even if you only watch it once. The film has profound and indispensable things to say about the insidious nature of racism.

There are great treasures to mine, great revelations to discover in Oscar’s favorite trio and time and opportunity to rectify what you’ve missed, long after the Oscars are over.

Why deprive yourself of greatness?