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Entries in Alejandro González Iñárritu (22)

Friday
Jun132014

Yes No Maybe So: Birdman

How did we end up here? In this dump. You were a movie star, remember?

Surely one of the year's most intriguing features in concept and casting alone, is Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu's Birdman. The director collaborating with the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (fresh off his Oscar win for Gravity) trains the movie camera on the best Batman (I'm with Seth Rogen's in Neighbors on this one) as he plays a has-been movie star famous for playing a character named "Birdman". Now he's on stage years later trying to rejuvenate his career.

Concept and casting alone were enough for a "maybe so" tilting yes. And then came advance word from test screenings that the film really delivers across the board in performance so "yes". And then came the teaser which begins with a 41 second continuous shot like its asking me to marry it. So now I'm at 'Yaaaaas! I will. I will. I do!"

Making the traditional Yes No Maybe So a more lopsided formality than is healthy after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr162014

DiCaprio + Iñárritu = ???

I am not, in any way according to the Internet, a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Never mind that I saw him first and was proselytizing about his gift for at least ten years after seeing the double whammy of This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. Alas, I have no proof of this fact as I was not writing for the internet at the time. But, it is true that I began to sour on him starting with Gangs of New York (2002) the first obvious sign that he was quite fallible indeed and that maybe he needed to be, you know, directed, rather than coddled by the auteurs he blesses with his unusually foolproof bankability. I may be the only person alive who thinks his relationship with Martin Scorsese, The Departed aside, has not been good for developing his once prodigious talent. But at the risk of angering his devout legion again, I feel confident in proposing that he is now in the exact place that his Titanic partner Kate Winslet was in the mid to late Aughts wherein she simply refused to do anything other than try to win statues; prestige piece after prestige piece after prestige piece. Movie stars need more variety than that in their filmography to stay sharp, if you ask me. She won, as many stars of her magnitude did, and so will Leo. And yet, as surely as Kate's fanbase turned on her for "wanting it too badly" and winning for a "lesser" performance, so will they turn on Leo whenever he wins which will undoubtedly be for a lesser performance because that's how 'overdue' Oscars work.

In the meantime he'll just keep trying to win one.

I've been saying for a long time that a light and breezy comedy (something like Catch Me If You Can) would go a long way towards relaxing him on the screen again and revitalizing his heavy and repetitive acting. And maybe it's churlish of me to assume that The Wolf of Wall Street which wasn't quite his best but was certainly his loosest performance since Catch Me... won't be the trigger for the same kind of rejuvenation. But a newly announced project is killing the dream that it might.

Honest question that isn't meant as snark: Is there any director currently working with a heavier hand than Alejandro González Iñárritu? His best film is Powder Keg (2001) and that's precisely because it's so freaking short at 8 minutes that it only has enough time to be sobering and impressive and exciting without overstaying its welcome and smothering the viewer dead in misery as Amores Perros, Babel, Biutiful and 21 Grams did. Otherwise his films are the epitome of the kind of portentously thematic "prestige" mediocrities that are jerry-rigged to be wildly overpraised by virtue of their importance. His next film, which Leo will lead, is The Revenant and it'sbased on Michael Punke's "The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge" which is about a fur-trapping frontiersman left for dead after a bear attack in 19th century Northern America. It's not the bear he wants revenge on but the party that abandoned him.

Maybe DiCaprio's natural tendency toward furrowed brow depression and Iñarritu's natural tendency towards furrowing our brows with depression will cancel each other out and they'll surprise us with a range of feeling in this grisly period drama? One can dream.

Tuesday
Jul052011

Biutiful Interrupted

It's not my habit to skip an Oscar nominee. But things happen. So it was that I missed Javier Bardem's Oscar nominated Best Actor turn in Biutiful (2010). This seems to happen to me about once a decade, so I've already used my "get out of jail free" card for the 'teens.... or the ten's... what are we calling this new decade? (In the Aughts the only nominee I missed was Tommy Lee Jones in In The Valley of Elah.) As the movie began with its somber first notes and black screen the words "Alejandro González Iñárritu" struck dread in my heart. I quickly remembered why I hadn't wept when the film had given me the slip before the nominations in January. Iñárritu's insatiable appetite for Miserabilism has been killing my mood since Amores Perros way back in 2000. I will forever be grateful that he introduced me to Gael Garcia Bernal but beyond that he hasn't done me favors.

I was no great fan of Babel and I openly hated 21 Grams. In fact the only Iñárritu I've ever enjoyed was the short film "Powder Keg" which is very typical of his oeuvre despite being a BMW commercial so maybe I can only handle his aggressive Feel Bad omnipotence in short doses?

It's not my preference to balk at a Reader Request. But this happened: as I began to watch the film, I suspected very quickly that I wasn't going to be able to handle it. A shot of Bardem's smiling face framed by wintry whites and cool blues immediately upset me; the saddest smile I've seen onscreen in many a year. Bardem is such a fine actor but more than that he has almost the perfect movie face, it's hugely memorable without being limited by its specificity: Is he handsome? Is he ugly? How can he be so imposingly monolithic in profile yet so human and fleshy head on?

I've always loved Javier Bardem but by the time his "Uxbal" was in a doctor's office getting a prostate exam and being an asshole about the needle for a blood test (is Uxbal a drug addict?) my mood was crashing. The last two funerals I've been to were both cancer related and one of them, very very recently, was for a dear friend's father who happens to be the exact same age as my own father (thankfully still with us).

I wasn't expecting the follow up scene, wherein Uxbal visited a funeral home where three little dead boys lay, one of them (ostensibly) haunting him. Nor was I expecting Uxbal to prey on the boy's family for money (something about his ability to commune with the dead -- fake or real?). By the time his sad looking son (like father like...) was having a bedwetting episode and Uxbal was pissing blood the next morning, I had to turn the damn thing off.


Note to filmmakers: never ever show a closeup of the contents of a toilet bowl. There are some things we see every day in real life that we need never see onscreen.

I looked at the DVD clock and realized I was only 20 minutes in and I had a full 128 minutes to go and opted for self preservation. I have been struggling with a particularly strong stubbornly escalating bout of depression and I didn't want to welcome more of it in. I had heard from the film's naysayers that the movie is relentless about piling on -- to the point of Job-like cruelty. And if cancer, addiction, poverty, ghosts, blood, and preying on grieving parents were just Iñárritu's opening reel gambit, it was going to be beyond my coping abilities in my present state.

I am not one of those sad and limited moviegoers who yearns for all movies to be happy -- a boyfriend of a good friend once complained about the sad movies we were dragging him, too "do you like any happy movies?" he asked in exasperation. And it's true that I do quite love a good tragedy. But I know my limit-testing buttons and Biutiful pushed nearly half of them in its first 20 minutes, including a peculiar uncommon one... toilet bowl closeups. Were I convinced that the world revolved around me, I'd suspect that Iñárritu was created in a lab just to test me. For this test, I have laid down my pencil and admitted defeat.

Have you ever fully intended to watch a movie and bailed from mood crashing?

Previous Reader Requests:
The Other Woman, The Rescuers and Beauty & The Beast

 

Friday
Jan282011

Now Playing: Demonic Tony, Cancerous Javi, Brave Sibel

A brief snapshot of new releases (links go to trailers) because even though I always pretend the cinematic year doesn't begin until after the Oscars, the studios don't agree. 

 WIDE

The Rite ~ is there any legendary name actor more in need of a career makeover than Sir Anthony Hopkins these days?  Another character who the marketing department can pretend is Hannibal Lecter for the ads. That was 20 YEARS AGO! Move on. This one is about demonic possession because that horror trope never gets old. True story: during the trailer I was like "cat alert!" as I love my cats in the movie but then the trailer implies that cats are of the devil so I can't be having this movie.

 

 

The Mechanic - In which Jason Statham is too cool to look at explosions (twice in the trailer alone!) and Ben Foster tags along for the assassin-laced ride. Ben actually does look at an explosion in the trailer; Jason has much to teach him.

LIMITED 

Biutiful - You can now see what all the fuss is about. This film is nominated for Best Actor and Best Foreign Film and Bardem plays a Job... I mean Uxbal. He has cancer but what else can go wrong in his life? Alejandro González Iñárritu, Master of Miserabilism™, needs more than disease to bring a man down! He is a merciless god.

From Prada to Nada - a Latina spin on Sense & Sensibility.

Ip Man 2 - in case you saw Ip Man 1. I didn't. I'm saving myself for the Tony Leung Chiu Wai version of this same story which is still filming I believe. This version about the martial arts guru stars Donnie Yen.

Kaboom -Indie auteur Gregg Araki returns with another pansexual trippy oddity. Will Thomas Dekker be Araki's new James Duval or Jonathan Schaech? Araki hasn't settled on new muses in quite some time. He's been muse-hopping for the past few efforts (Mysterious Skin, Smiley Face and now this.)

When We Leave - Germany's Oscar submission from this past fall is also getting a micro release. The fine actress Sibel Kekilli (Head On) returns to US theaters in this story of a Turkish Muslim woman who breaks from tradition, leaving her abusive husband, to raise their child alone. Quite horrifically, her own family sides with the husband. Much heartbreak ensues. Sibel is predictably strong and won the German Oscar but my god this movie is sad.

Sibel Kekilli loves her family in When We Leave. They don't love her back.

OSCAR-SEEKING EXPANSIONS
127 Hours rehydrated by those six Oscar nominations adds over 800 theaters, in its last ditch attempt to be the breakout hit people initially thought it might be. The King's Speech, gaining confidence from a very impressive gross and a very impressive nomination tally, adds over 800 screens too. Blue Valentine, which is better than either of those films but only managed a Best Actress nod, adds 400 screens. A warning to those who are eager to see it: you will be very angry that Ryan Gosling wasn't nominated for Best Actor.

LAST CHANCE!
The Season of the Witch and Another Narnia Movie lost about half their screens this week so... if you've been dying to see the latest scraggly Cage weave or the latest in leonine CGI, have at it.

What will you be seeing this weekend?
Besides the SAG Awards on Sunday. Yes, we'll live blog it. 

 

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