A Dreamer Walking

J. Edgar- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 13, 2011

J. Edgar is a fantastic portrait of one of the most powerful men of the 20th century. The film spans more then five decades, yet the filmmakers seem to express exactly what they want without anything feeling rushed. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover is in my opinion the greatest performance of his life. He walks the delicate line between the image the public knows Hoover as being- a stuck up man set in his principles, and the J. Edgar hidden away from the public eye- a man deeply conflicted between a need to please a unbending authoritarian mother and wanting to follow his emotions for his life long companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The movie has and will be criticized for not being as thrilling or as epic as the public seems to think the name dictates. Yet, I am pleased Clint Eastwood showed restraint and let us get to know J. Edgar on a personal level rather then following the endless amount of speculation and exaggeration that comes with such a private and powerful figure.

Clint Eastwood’s delicate use of special effects transports us back to the 1920 and brings us through the 1960’s beautifully. Eastwood’s simplistic old school way of using the camera compliments these time periods. We are given a clear and rich environment for the story to take place. The film starts with J. Edgar in the 1960’s expressing his past in a favorable light, dramatizing events he took part in and putting himself into events he was never part of. When showing Edgar’s side of the story Eastwood creates noir look. The FBI is at times portrayed in the typical Hollywood light, far more dangerous and suspenseful then it usually was. However, the goal was never to thrill us with a bunch of gun fights between the FBI and the Mob. Instead, we are given a clear cut portrayal of how Edgar and the FBI rose to power.

It quickly becomes apparent that Eastwood is telling two stories of Edgar’s past, the one Edgar dictates to the young author who is writing his memoir and the more personal story of his relationship with his mother and Clyde Tolson. We begin to see Edgar’ flaws- how awkward he is with woman and how paranoid he is with those who don’t see eye to eye with him. Early in the movie Annie Hoover, played by Judi Dench, burdens her son Edgar in the only flashback of him as a child when she tells him, “you will rise to be the most powerful man in the country”. Annie is Edgar’s driving force. Judi Dench does a lot with little screen time. She represents a woman who was not given the opportunity to have power of her own so is living her life through the accomplishments of her son. Even at her deathbed she pushes Edgar to be strong and not give in. Annie bluntly forbids Edgar from indulging in his true feelings for his right hand man Clyde Tolson. This creates a tension between the two men that is carried all the way through the film. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Hammer is magnificent. The heart of the film is a love story between two men forbidden to express publicly their true feelings for each other.

J. Edgar is a story about a very flawed man who created a magnificent organization. It is easy to admire Edgar’s drive for excellence in this film. He is constantly refining the FBI, making it care more about order and the preservation of evidence. We see Edgar’s constant struggle with presidents in his career. The only president we actually have the benefit of seeing at any length however is Richard Nixon, played by Christopher Shyer. We also see Edgar interact with Robert Kennedy, played by Jeffery Donovan. Both actors portraying these two historical figures do a poor job. Richard Nixson is played as a stereotype rather then how the president would actually behave. Donovan’s unnaturally slurred Boston accent was a huge distraction and stopped me from connecting to his character. Yet, these two characters do not play huge roles and so do not interfere with the overall story.

In no way does the movie excuse J. Edgar’s blemishes. Hoover has a relentless ego that hurts his relationship with everyone around him. If he is questioned Edgar immediately assumes his opposer does not have America’s best interest at heart and begins to investigate him or her. He shows little affection for his life long secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and is quick to accuse Clyde Tolson of not supporting him. Yet, with all the flaws we see in J. Edgar, there is a humanity few could have expressed as well as DiCaprio. The nuance of Dicaprio’s performance lies in the scenes when he is either alone or with people he trusts, where we can see the turmoil in J. Edgar’s heart. Most of Edgar’s inner feelings are expressed through looks rather then dialogue. We see a conflict in his mind when he is spies on President Kennedy, listens to his mom’s instructions, and when Clyde reveal the truth about who he is and what he really did in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Clint Eastwood’s simplistic piano score is perfect for this movie. His music was much more personal then a fully orchestrated score would have been. The movie does a fantastic job of jumping back and fourth between the 1960’s and 30’s-40’s. We are able to see the consistency of Edgar’s routine contrasted with the changing times. We see the relationship Edgar and Clyde have as old men and then are shown how they built their relationship. One distractions in the film was the old man makeup for specifically Armie Hammer. As a old man in the 60’s Hammer looks like he is wearing a mask that almost completely prohibits his ability to express emotion with his face. There are a few times where a little more expression would have done a world of good. Yet, the chemistry between the two actors overcomes this flaw and the last scene with Edgar and Cylde is one of the most touching scenes Eastwood has ever created.

Clint Eastwood is the master of underplay. His subtle touch to this Edgar story is what made this film work.  Eastwood embraced the eloquent screenplay of Dustin Lance Black and allowed his actors to dictate the direction of their characters. With his magnificent ability to trust the material and actors Eastwood gives us a film that is devoted to showing the heart of a deeply complicated man. Every scene increases our understanding of who J. Edgar is and the conflict that drives him away from those who love him and toward his ambitions to create a safer America. J. Edgar Hoover is loved and hated by many, this film does not take a side. Instead, it gives us insight to a man who thought he was untouchable.

Award Season Preview

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 5, 2011

Usually the beginning of October represents the beginning of the award season. Interestingly enough it seems the award season has started early this year because several critically acclaimed film have been released in the last month that will be hard to ignore come award time. Unlike past years I am planning on going to several movies in the theaters for this award season. It is slightly frustrating how much of a short term memory award shows seem to have. If you release a great movie at the beginning of the year your movie will most likely not be remembered by the end of it. So most studios hold on to the movies they think will compete award-wise until the end of the year. It looks however like there are two films particularly that might still be remembered during the award season which were released nationally several months ago. One is The Tree Of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. This movie opened everywhere in May and it won top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It has been on many Critics’ top five lists for the first half of the year and it stars some big name actors, such as Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. I am looking forward to watching this one when it comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 31st. The second film that opened world wide earlier this year that I think has a good chance to win some awards during the award season is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. The movie was highly critically acclaimed and is the last movie of the Harry Potter franchise. Honestly, I did not like the movie nearly as much as most people seemed to, but awards given for this movie will most likely represent what people think of the Harry Potter franchise in general, just like Lord of the Rings Return the of the King when it won 11 Academy Awards at the Oscars in 2004. Just like the Lord of the Rings franchise the Harry Potter franchise has created quality films from beginning to end and I think they deserve some recognition.

I wanted to use this post for previewing some of the movies I am most looking forward to watching this award season. After showing you the trailer of the film I will write briefly on why I am looking forward to the movie. I first want to preview three movies that came out last month.

I happened to have the pleasure of watching Warrior already. There are no good guy or bad guy in this film. Each character we get to know has his or her strengths and his and her weaknesses. Each one needs to fight his or her own demons. Mixed martial arts fighting in this movie is just used as a way to bring the characters together and a way for them to face the problems of their pasts and futures. The farther into the story you go the more the movie draws you in. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton do a fantastic job portraying the brothers and Nick Nolte makes the movie work as the brothers recovering alcoholic dad. The movie should still be in theaters everywhere. It was released September 9.

A few things attract me about Drive. Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are two of the best young stars in Hollywood. The film has been highly critically acclaimed already, earning a 93% Tomatometer rating and a 83 on the MRQE Meter. I also like the idea that this movies is a thriller where the main protagonist doesn’t really have a gun. All he does is drive. My guess is that this movie will take us on a ride and won’t stop until the credits roll. The movie is in theaters everywhere. It was released on September 16.

Moneyball was a fantastic film. The movie is out everywhere right now and I highly recommend you go see it. The writers for the film are Arron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. For a movie heavy in duologue Sorkin was a brilliant pick. He makes the endless conversations in the movie not only bearable but extremely entertaining. The humor he draws out from a bunch of old timers sitting around a table talking is unbelievable. Zaillian I believe brought a curtain depth to the story that Sorkin wouldn’t have gotten by himself.  The movie needed an actor like Brad Pitt to star in the role. Pitt gave his character a certain charm and allowed us to be on his side right from the very beginning. A movie about baseball stats doesn’t sound naturally interesting, but with the help of superior writers and a fantastic cast Moneyball gives you a story very much worth watching. The film was released in the US on September 23.

I am not quite sure about In Time. However, I preview it because the idea is extremely intriguing and the director/writer of the film Andrew Niccol has created some good stories in the past. He was the screenwriter for the very thought provoking movie The Truman Show and he seems to be slowly making a name for himself as a director. I also was impressed with the performance Justin Timberlake gave in last year’s The Social Network. Timberlake has a natural charm about him and his charm will be needed for us to buy into this sort of “diamond in the rough” type character. The film can be just another action flick that involves a bunch of gun shooting and sex scenes. However, the premise allows for the potential of something more thought provoking. Time is a cherished thing in our society. If someone has the potential to live forever I wonder what he or she would be willing to sacrifice for it. A lot of it has to do with how these young actors portray characters who are supposed to be in their 70’s and even 100’s. The film will be released in the US October 28th.

J. Edgar is directed by Clint Eastwood and I would be lying if I said this isn’t the main reason I want to see the movie. The reason I am excited the movie is directed by Clint Eastwood is because I know what comes when he leads the way. I know this story will be well told. I know Eastwood will allow the star of the film Leonardo DiCaprio to perform at the highest of his capabilities. And I know the movie will give us something to think about. Just through watching the trailer you get the feeling of the time period this film takes place in. Eastwood is extremely good at period pieces and the visual style you see in the trailer seems to really put us into the story he is telling. The film appears dark with a high contrast and a lot of color intentionally taken out. The subject matter seems very relevant for the time we live in now. How much power is too much power? What is the fine line between right and wrong? These questions and more are asked by Eastwood and though he might not bluntly give us answers he will make us think. The movie will be released in the US November 9th.

The Descendents seems like a movie that concentrates on very real people who are going through some very real problems in life. Alexander Payne, director and co-writer of the film, doesn’t seem to be sugarcoating any of it. In seeing some of his other work Payne is very good at not Hollywoodizing things. He doesn’t have this unreasonable need to make his characters extra special in any way. They are real people we can easily run into in everyday life. This allows Payne’s characters to connect to the audience easier and it allows us to understand his characters’ dilemmas in a more comprehensive way. The Descendents stars George Clooney and I am sure he will bring a venerability to his role that gives us reason to root for him to get his life back in order. Payne is also known for his ability to balance humor and strong subject matter so both are working together to enhancing the story. The movie will be released in the US on November 18.

There are several reasons why I want to see Hugo. Like the last movie the director is what most excites me. Martin Scorsese is one of the most talented technical film directors not just for today but in the history of film. He knows how to use all the elements of cinema to tell a good story. However, this film represents a change in Scorsese’s usual subject matter. This is the first time Scorsese has chosen to jump into family entertainment. His movies are usually very dark and tragic. However, Hugo seems to be a movie about hope and friendship. I am actually really interested in seeing how Scorsese uses 3D in this film. I have not been a big fan of 3D so far but with a technical mind like Scorsese’ I am sure we will see 3D used in a unique and interesting way. The movie is released in the US on November 23rd.

 

First off, I want to point out that this is a brilliant trailer for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Too many trailers give too much information away. This one gives us the subject matter, introduces to us some of the main characters, but does not give the whole plot away. I am excited to be introduced to the director Tomas Alfredson. Alfredson is relatively new to the film business. His only other widely released film was Let the Right One In, which opened to tremendous critical acclaim. What excites me about this film is the all-star cast. The movie has established veterans such as Colin Firth and Gary Oldman and it has upcoming star actors such as Tom Hardy. The mystery aspect of the film draws us. Each suspect seems like a character we could get to like which will make the betrayal all the more captivating. The movie has already been released in the UK to many positive reviews. The story looks like one that will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through. The movie will be released in the US on December 9th.

This trailer is a piece of art. David Fincher‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is sure to take us on a dark ride. Fincher has said that he wants to see how far he could push the R rating for this film. I not being a guy who loves dark movies didn’t think I would be too interested in the film. However, I think Fincher is a fantastic filmmaker and this trailer completely drew me in. Fincher usually has brilliant trailers for his films. They work extremely well with music because of his background in directing music videos and they hardly ever give too much plot away. We understand how this story is going to feel without needing to be told how the plot unfolds in this trailer. The music gets borderline uncomfortable in this trailer and I can guarantee you that is intentional. Fincher is telling us this will be a film that takes us out of our comfort zone and shows us something dark and hard to grasp. The movie concentrates on a rape victim. However, I think it might just be one of the best films of the year if not the best. As much as I liked The King’s Speech, I thought David Fincher’s The Social Network should have won top prize at the Oscars last year. I look forward to seeing how his new movie does. The film will be released in the US on December 21st.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is still a really big “?” in my mind. Steven Spielberg, the director of the film, is my most favorite director of all time. Yet, there are several reasons to be hesitant about the film. One, the movie is in motion capture, an experimental animation style that tends to feel stiff and unbelievable. The second reason I am hesitant is Spielberg has openly claimed that he has not been as hands on with the project as he is with his live action films. For some reason it seems Spielberg thinks animators don’t deserve or need as much attention as actual actors. Although the actors do the motion capture part of the film, it is the animators who bring the characters to life through the constant tweaking of the motion capture performance. However, I will be going to the film and think it will be at least an exciting story for the whole family to see. Some of the images, like the ship floating through the sand hills, seem very imaginative. I also want to see how Spielberg deals with this new art form. The movie will be released in the US on December 21st.

Okay, Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol is most likely not going to be an award contender. However, it is one I am really looking forward to seeing. Not because I loved the last three Mission Impossible films but rather because it represents Brad Bird‘s live action directorial debut. Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, is setting out to prove himself as a legitimate director with this movie. He has a chip on his shoulder that comes from the constant doubts he seems to get from studios who think animation is not a legitimate representation of good directing. You would have thought with two Oscars and three critically acclaimed films Bird would have the opportunity to get funding for his personal project in development 1906. Yet, nobody was willing to give him enough money for the project because of their lack of confidence in him as a live action film director. So, he signed on for the new Mission Impossible movie to prove his doubters wrong. If Bird’s film The Incredibles is any indication as to how Bird can handle action, I am sure Mission Impossible 4 will be a thrilling piece of entertainment that does not lose sight of the humanity needed to really draw in an audience. The movie will be released in US theaters everywhere on December 21st.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will focus on some touchy subject matter. Yet, I like how the film doesn’t look like it will be just about the day of 9/11. Instead it will be a film that concentrates on a victim of 9/11 who needs to learn to move on without his father. The “key” aspect of the film seems very interesting and I am glad the trailer didn’t give too much of the mystery away. The child actor, Thomas Horn, also looks promising and the director, Stephen Daldry, has worked a few times already with young actors and had some great success. The thing that most excites me about this film is it’s written by Eric Roth. Eric is the writer of some magnificent screenplays such as Forrest Gump and The Insider. He is one of my personal favorites. His stories might be about grand adventures but the heart of his stories are never lost and the characters usually end up stealing the show. The movie only opens in select theaters on December 25. It’s wide US release is on January 20.

War Horse is about a boy who joins the army to find his horse during World War I. Steven Spielberg is the director of this film as well and the subject matter seems to be right up his ally. I am already blown away by some of the master shots I saw in this trailer. Spielberg doesn’t seem to be feeling the need to make this film with a bunch of handhelds and quick cutting shots. I think what we will get is a well told story about the relationship between a boy and a horse and a war that tries to tear them apart. Spielberg has always been good at taking the audience into different worlds and I have no doubt he will do so with this period piece. A lot of the film’s success relies on the performance of the lead boy and the horse and we see little of how good or bad those two things are in this trailer. However, I have confidence in Spielberg and this is one of the movies I am looking forward to the most this coming award season. The movie will be released in the US on December 25th.