Tag Archives: Oscar

To Emmy Winner Viola Davis, With Love

Dear Viola Davis,

Congratulations on your historic Emmy win.

I can’t think of anyone more deserving. Every time you step in front of a camera something magical and emotionally gripping takes place.

You are one of the rare performers who always give us their very best. Even in the dreckiest of dreck, you shine. You haven’t won an Oscar yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

The Academy should have given it to you in 2009 for your supporting role in “Doubt,” a nomination you clinched in just one heart-wrenching scene.

And they should have given it to you in 2012 because, as quietly long-suffering maid Aibileen Clark, you were the raw, bleeding heart and soul of “The Help.”

Heck, they should give you an Oscar every time you show up on screen. Even in forgettable crap like “Blackhat” and “Beautiful Creatures,” you’re golden, emerging totally unscathed.

As exciting as it was to watch you become the first African American to lift up that best dramatic actress trophy, your victory speech was even more epic.

You weren’t afraid to tell it like it is: Though the television industry has taken small steps on the road to diversity, it still has miles to go.

“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” you said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that simply aren’t there.”

You didn’t stop there, though. Rather than end your speech on a negative note, you paid triumphant tribute to those who dare cross that line Harriet Tubman spoke of centuries ago, groundbreakers and trailblazers like Shonda Rhimes, Taraji P. Henson, and Kerry Washington.

You spoke the truth, Viola, and you did it with uncommon strength, joy and grace, the very same qualities that make you such a compelling, unparalleled actor.

I couldn’t have loved that speech more.

You know what else I love?

Your television show, “How to Get Away With Murder,” enters its second season Thursday on ABC. It’s the perfect arrangement: you continue to preside over the leading role you richly deserve and every week viewers get to enjoy your genius.

I love that your next major film is the comic book movie “Suicide Squad,” in which you play boss-of-everybody Amanda Waller. I’m more excited about that than I am about seeing Margot Robbie as the deranged Harley Quinn or Jared Leto as a terrifyingly punk-rock Joker.

I adore the fact that this is what you told the Hollywood Reporter when they asked why you agreed to appear as Waller:

“As a comic book and Wonder Woman fan, I love the whole DC Comics universe. I traded comic books as a kid so all of that appeals to me. When you dream about being an actor as a kid, that’s what you dream about. That’s like play acting: being the superhero, getting the gun; it plays into that fantasy.”

You may be an Emmy winner, a Tony winner, and an Oscar nominee, Viola, but you’re a geek at heart, just like the rest of us.

Did I mention that I love you?

Photo: Rich Fury, Associated Press



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.


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.


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.


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






This Weekend, See ‘Birdman,’ Skip ‘Exodus’

This weekend, a tsunami of holiday films will crash down upon us, threatening to submerge us in cinematic overindulgence.

(The deluge actually began Wednesday with the release of the final chapter of “The Hobbit.”)

With dozens of movies vying for your attention and Christmas fast approaching, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself with much free time.

However, if you should happen to be in the mood for an alternative to the obvious yuletide fare — like “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” or “Into the Woods — there is one choice that rises above the rest, along with one over-hyped epic that deserves to be passed over.

Here’s why you should see “Birdman” and skip “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Three and a half stars (out of four)
R (language, sexual content, brief violence)
119 minutes

There are few cinematic experiences that truly astonish, but “Birdman” is one of those rare discoveries.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s darkly funny, painful, unexpectedly deep rumination on showbiz, ego and the human condition is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. Nominated for seven Golden Globe awards, the film has a serious shot at carting off the best picture Oscar in February.

“Birdman” is exciting on several levels, beginning with the way Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki create the illusion the film was shot in one long, exhilarating take, winding its way through backstage corridors, out into New York’s Time Square and back again.

The movie is fun to watch even as Inarritu heaps his signature humiliations upon his characters, chiefly Michael Keaton’s has-been actor, who briefly tasted fame in a before-its-time superhero flick and seeks redemption by writing and starring in a Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway.

The role feels more than a little autobiographical for former Batman Keaton, who basically lays all his wrinkles and a receding hairline at our feet in a vanity-free performance that is a breathtaking revelation. The entire cast of “Birdman” is amazing, including an adorably messy, big-eyed Emma Stone and Edward Norton, so vital and commanding here, you’d think he somehow resurrected his younger self from his “Fight Club” or “American History X” days.

Playfully meta with a feverish intensity that recalls “Black Swan” and “All That Jazz,” “Birdman” has smart, clever, pop culturally literate things to say about our celebrity obsessed society. It’s the anti-“Avengers,” but like a good comic book movie, it’s a total rush.


Two stars (out of four)
PG-13 (violence, battle sequences, intense images)
150 minutes

With “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” director Ridley Scott intends to give one of the most famous Old Testament legends the blockbuster origin story treatment, but instead he ends up remaking his 2000 hit, “Gladiator.”

The filmmaker takes more than a few liberties with the Biblical account of Moses, but sadly none of them are very compelling. In this version of the scriptural saga, the revered leader of the Israelites is played by Christian Bale as a wise and brave general in Pharaoh’s army, raised alongside heir-to-the-throne Ramses (Joel Edgerton, bald and resplendent in eye liner).

Sibling rivalry and daddy issues breed resentment between the siblings, just as they did between Russell Crowe’s general and Joaquin Phoenix’s prince in “Gladiator.” When Pharaoh (portrayed in an odd bit of casting by John Turturro) kicks the bucket, Ramses becomes Egypt’s ruler, even though Moses is the better man. Ramses discovers Moses’ true roots as a Hebrew slave and is terribly, terribly vexed, while his adopted bro reluctantly begins his journey as revolutionary savior of his people.

With its opulent Egyptian sets and costumes and impressive rendering of the plagues and other divine judgments in CGI, “Exodus” aims for the pomp and melodrama of great Biblical epics like “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur” and “King of Kings.” But with a running time of two-and-a-half hours, it plods along so slowly, it begins to feel as if the audience has been wandering the desert for 40 years.

When it comes to Moses’ identity, Scott and the “Exodus” screenwriters can’t commit. Bale talks to God — the form the deity takes is bound to miff some viewers of faith — but only after suffering a blow to the head, so it’s possible his hero enjoys a direct line to heaven. Then again, he might just be insane.

In the end what “Exodus” lacks is a well defined vision and the courage to examine religious conviction in all its complexity.

Photos: moviesmxdwn.com, http://www.digitaltrends.com







Gyllenhaal Exquisitely Creepy in ‘Nightcrawler’

Three and a half stars (out of four)
R (violence, including graphic images, language)
117 minutes

In the thriller “Nightcrawler,” Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an exquisitely creepy, career-defining performance. It’s one of those exciting, stand-up-and-take-notice turns that allows you to see an actor in an entirely new light. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t demand the attention of the Academy when it comes time for this year’s Oscar nominations.

Gyllenhaal has always had an edge to him, a darkness that belies his clean-cut, blue-eyed good looks. He first made an impression in the nightmarish 2001 indie hit “Donnie Darko” and, alongside mainstream fare such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Bubble Boy” and “Prince of Persia,” he’s peppered his career with more challenging efforts, including “Brokeback Mountain” and the recent “End of Watch” and “Enemy.”

In last year’s “Prisoners,” he delved into downright freakish territory, playing Detective Loki, a greasy-haired, tattooed cop obsessively dedicated to his job but completely lacking in bedside manner when dealing with the parents of a couple of missing girls. Gyllenhaal’s work was intriguingly unattractive, but the performance was a little too mannered for my taste. The actor poured on the character’s ticks and loner eccentricities a bit too thick.

That’s why Gyllenhaal’s efforts in “Nightcrawler” are so surprising. As Louis Bloom, an Internet-savvy loner who discovers his twisted calling in chasing down bloody late-night crimes for profit, the actor exercises remarkable restraint.

This is a role that could have easily gone over the top and off the rails, but Gyllenhaal nails it. His Bloom is a complete weirdo and also improbably mesmerizing. He’s like a horrific car wreck — skin-crawingly revolting, yet we can’t turn our eyes away from him.

“Nightcrawler” is the debut film of Dan Gilroy, writer of “The Bourne Legacy” and “Real Steel.” He, too, shows admirable restraint, not to mention atmospheric style, in this chilling, often cringe-inducingly funny indictment of America’s fear-mongering, ratings-hungry television media.

We first encounter Louis Bloom applying wire cutters to the chain link fence of a railyard in what appears to be the dead of night. It’s a fitting introduction, for in those first few minutes we are able to surmise that Mr. Bloom is a) a criminal, b) a jittery smooth talker who simultaneously hypnotizes and unnerves his listener, and c) capable of violence.

Bloom has greater aspirations than petty theft, however. After a few ambitious but misguided attempts to obtain gainful employment, he happens upon a car accident on one of L.A.’s many cutthroat freeways. Pulling over to observe, whether out of curiosity or predatory instinct, he sees a couple of news stringers pounce upon the scene with vans and camcorders. He’s instantly hooked.

After finagling his way into a video camera and police scanner of his own, Bloom hits the streets in a naive attempt to capture footage he can sell. His fledgling efforts are awkward — he shows up at the scene of minor infractions and DUI arrests, to the annoyance of the cops — but he’s a determined guy. Before long, he finds his way to the scene of a carjacking, and because he’s willing to get closer than the other stringers, grabs just the kind of graphic images craved by veteran TV news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo).

Nina explains her station’s “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy to Bloom, who takes her words to heart. Before long, he’s memorized all the police codes, hired an unsuspecting intern/pawn (Riz Ahmed) and starts showing up at crime scenes before the cops. And if he has to stage and manipulate the situation to get better play, so be it. He’s a man without a single moral qualm, eerily quick to adapt to the nocturnal needs of L.A.’s ethically flexible media.

“Nightcrawler” takes place almost entirely after the sun has set. Gilroy plumbs the grainy depths of a darkened Los Angeles with such assuredness, the film fits comfortably into the great panoply of flicks exploring L.A. by streetlight, which includes such movies as “Collateral” and “Drive.”

This seedy, suburban nightmare-scape serves as a hunting ground for Gyllenhaal’s prowling lowlife. The actor has said in interviews his performance was inspired by the coyotes who slink through the L.A. hills. You can see the animal instinct flickering behind Bloom’s buggy eyes — it’s crazy how strange Gyllenhaal looks after simply dropping a few pounds.

In the film’s best scene, Bloom lets Nina in on his business strategies — mostly composed of cliches learned from Internet “research.” Gyllenhaal’s enthusiasm, coupled with the character’s oddly clipped delivery, is ickily infectious.

Despite the movie’s preoccupation with violent crime, Bloom’s burgeoning relationship with Nina is perhaps the queasiest element of “Nightcrawler.” Russo is great as a desperate, aging news veteran with terrible taste in eye shadow and an insatiable appetite for gory headlines designed to terrify her network’s rich, white viewers.

When it comes to satirizing the media’s moral vacuousness, Gilroy doesn’t pull any punches. Bizarrely, a handful of actual TV news personalities deigned to participate in the film, despite its unsavory insinuations about their vocation. In one scene, real-life anchors deliver hilariously macabre color commentary for the aftermath of a home invasion. Did they read the script before they showed up to set?

Much of what occurs in “Nightcrawler” strains credulity, but Gyllenhaal’s gripping descent into misanthropy keeps us from checking out. Bloom may be a larger-than-life boogie man but we recognize him.

He’s a monster of our own making, a scavenger who feeds on a city’s narcissism and paranoia.

 Photo: http://www.fandango.com