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Entries in Armie Hammer (19)

Saturday
Nov122011

Review: "J. Edgar"

Disclaimer #1: This reviews briefly talks about the ending but... duh. It's history.
Disclaimer #2: Everyone has biases and the only people who tend to get in trouble about them are the ones that admit them like me. Generally speaking I think biopics are the dullest of film genres and it takes a strong artistic voice to overcome their persistent nagging limitations.  Generally speaking I do not love the work of Clint Eastwood. Though many critics feel duty bound to praise even his most obvious misfires, I've been accused of the exact opposite approach though I liked all four of his modern Best Picture grabs... (just not in the way Oscar did.)
Disclaimer #3: Clint Eastwood makes me sad because -- though this is not his fault -- he has ruined many famous film critics for me. My favorite living filmmaker is Pedro Almodóvar but I didn't try to pretend that Broken Embraces, Live Flesh, or The Skin I Live In were masterpieces. I don't trust anyone who can't see Eastwood's weaknesses as a filmmaker, his inability to vary up his visual ideas, the uneven "we did it in one take!" acting (it shows), and so on...

If you've already tuned out I understand and forgive you. That's too many disclaimers but one must approach the ceaselessly idolized Clint Eastwood with caution. Extreme caution is also recommended when approaching J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous half century FBI overlord and mean SOB. "J. Edgar" who is played from sixteen (?) to death by L. DiCaprio is also, as it turns out, an unreliable narrator. J Edgar (2011) is fully aware of this though weirdly cagey about when to reveal it. Rather than encouraging us to look at the man and his actions with clinical wide eyes from the start, it encourages much sympathy with groaner on-the-button lines like 'no amount of admiration can fill the place where love should be.' In fact, it embraces the title man's point of view to such an extent that he narrates the entire movie -- that old groaner device of "telling his story for posterity." His point of view is the only point of view so even his life long "friend" Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) is first viewed only as a menacing shadow behind closed doors, something to be ashamed of. After two plus hours of sympathising and listening to apologies about his behavior (but his mommy hated the gays -- naturally he was fucked up!) he is clumsily retrofitted at the tail end as the movie's Keyser Soze of sorts, only less purely evil on account of all the sad little boy business. But yes, he's been lying all along... or fibbing, if you're still feeling sympathetic.

Though the screenplay needed another few drafts as badly as some of the minor performances needed additional takes, there are brief flashes of the movie it could have been. The Charles Lindbergh and John Dillinger storylines, for example, are enough to fill movies by themselves. We know this because they've made for better movies than J. Edgar. Despite decades of evidence warning filmmakers about this exact "EVERYTHING!" approach, J. Edgar falls for the typical bio-traps. Movies are shorter than novels and definitely shorter than entire human lives and must thus choose which elements are worth dramatizing. Instead J. Edgar, like so many bios before it, crams itself full with cliff notes instead of truly absorbing the text and breathing its ideas. J. Edgar clings to many of the famous storylines and its own suppositions about them as desperately as Hoover clings to Tolson. But it's not just their manly love that's unconsummated; this whole movie has blue balls. Just as you become invested in one chapter or detail, you've lept ahead or backwards and on to another. No one involved in the production ever seems to decided what they found interesting about the material other than "ALL OF IT!"

For their part, the actors do what they can with the unfocused material. Leonardo DiCaprio, ever fond of playing anguished men, gives it his all but doesn't reach the charismatic precision or depth of feeling that he can hit when the material is more focused on entertainment than on SERIOUS ACTING. (In short, we're losing DiCaprio the movie star to DiCaprio the 'Master Thespian' and this is a crying shame.) Armie Hammer is more than adept at the dreamy Ivy League gay catch he plays in the early scenes but loses his way once he's playing a character well beyond his own age. He's swathed in lbs and lbs of prosthetics (maybe he couldn't see his marks? Why do makeup artists think "old" means 130? Why does he look older than Judi Dench?) Naomi Watts, who needed anything but yet one more bleak movie on her resume, is barely consequential at all. Though she embodies "Loyalty" -- we know because J Edgar tells us just that in the constant narration -- you could leave her on the cutting room floor and not lose much. Finally, though she's in little of it, Judi Dench walks away with the whole thing with her devastatingly unsympathetic mother-son chitchat about "daffodils". It's obvious and cruel code for "don't be a fairy!" though she knows her boy already is one. 

"Is that legal?"In the end, though, what burdens the movie as heavily as the extreme prosthetics must have weighed on Hammer and DiCaprio is its utter joylessness. Again Clint Eastwood dully plinks away on the piano at key moments rather than hiring a composer who could have elevated this movie with something more robust and filled with different shades of feeling. The murky cinematography by Tom Stern, is just as monotonous in feeling in addition to being practically monochromatic. Another Eastwood picture all drained of color. Black and white movies are among the most beautiful movies ever made so if you want to make a black and white movie, have at it; consummate the love affair! But none of this "color is too flowery!" business.

Even the early most playful scenes wherein J. Edgar and Clyde are becoming intertwined lack the spark that you can only see in Armie Hammer's eyes. You could stretch and say that the film's entirely bleak aesthetic is meant to represent the joylessness of Hoover's life only if you've never seen a recent Clint Eastwood. That's just how they always look. The movie is an über-drag, long before J Edgar is softly whimpering in his mamma's dress.  D+

Saturday
Oct292011

3 Notes on New Photos: J Edgar, Hunger Games, Pines

You may have noticed that I don't post every "exclusive" new photo!video!thingamajig! the second it's released. I figure you can get them in 760,000 other places and if I post too many of them there will be no room for the words which is why we do this thing they call blogging. And this: I'd prefer to get paid advertising on the site than give free advertising. That said, I'm thinking we should include more so maybe roundups like this?

Here we go...

• I want that tie. I want it windsored up in my business immediately. Would it be unprofessional to beg Deborah Hopper for it first chance I get to interview her?
• Despite the Oscar friendly nature of the bulk of Clint Eastwood's modern filmography, none of his movies have ever been nominated for costume design. Could this be the first?
* Armie Hammer is very handsome.

to see more click on this photo

• Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne looks just like Patrick Bateman which... well, may the costume designer never put him in a transparent splatter protection jacket. 
• Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a cop suit does nothing for me. I prefer him in Slim Jim Joe Inception suits. 
•  Those extras in the background are really given it their all! You know they were so excited to get the gig. "I'm going to be in a Batman movie!!!!!"

Hunger Games and The Place Beyond the Pines after the jump

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct072011

Snow White and the Seven Links 

Pfangirl looks at all the upcoming fairy tale reinvisionings onscreen. 
EW has first look photos at Tarsem Singh's Snow White movie with Armie Hammer, Julia Roberts and Lily Collins in looks that Project Runway would most certainly declare "too costumey"

Evil Queen Roberts and Prince Charming Hammer 

Glee This is a poor quality video (but the best I could find) of Harry Shum Jr (♥) doing "Cool" from West Side Story. This past Tuesday's episode was the best in some time and Season 3 seems to be returning to less processed sounding music, and more small town big talent dreaminess which made the very first episodes so charming.
Thelma Adams prefers Michael Fassbender buttoned up (A Dangerous Method) to Michael Fassbender well hung (Shame). Fun piece. Um, not Fassy's, her blot post I mean!  

⇚ Look, J Edgar has a real poster. I like it even though I also find it hideous (I blame my Gemini nature). Anyway, I'm heading out the door this moment to buy tickets to NYFF's special surprise screening. I fear that this will be the movie since they love Clint Eastwood like I love, oh, Almodóvar at NYFF... (One of their most embarrassing moments ever was when they famously thought Changeling a worthy festival entry while refusing Rachel Getting Married in 2008. Sorry, to bring it up again.... BYGONES!) Anyway... I'm hoping it's one of the two Spielbergs or Dragon Tattoo -- something Christmasy to justify the cash to see it early. But if I just blew cash on any November release that I can see in less than a month for free, I will boo-hoo. 

Towleroad Jay Brannan does Adele's "Someone Like You". Love the song. Love Brannan. 
Movie|Line did you know that there's a documentary on The Swell Season. Fans of Once (2007) should take note.
The Insider have you seen this funny clip of Evan Rachel Wood expressing her hipster cred (reference to Requiem for a Dream soundtrack is A+ Evan) before going gaga for Justin Beiber. Delightful... even though, ewww. 

 

Tuesday
Sep202011

Yes, No, Maybe So: "J. Edgar"

That vibration you're feeling on the ground, that telltale rippling disturbance in your glass, is the clomping arrival of one of 2011's (presumed) Oscar behemoths, Clint Eastwood's biopic of FBI man J Edgar Hoover called J Edgar [official site].

Don't wilt like a little flower. Be strong."

Which means we have to get down to our yes, no, maybe so breakdown of things that make us want to buy a ticket, run away screaming, or mull it over before committing. As a founding member of the oft reviled and totally misunderstood* 'Clint Eastwood is Overrated Club' I realize my breakdown will already be broken for some. But I do approach each trailer with as open a mind as I can muster given my general leanings. In this case everyone knows (and I'd never deny) that I vew cradle-to-grave biopics as the mustiest of all film genres; they aren't inherently cinematic with their staccato 'greatest hits' survey of life since movies are always strongest when they capture something seismic in miniature about a character, story, time, or theme that suggests rather than illustrates a major life beyond two hours.

YES

Is that legal?"

 

  • Ummm... welll... oh, okay. Got one. The font of the logo is excellent with those flamboyant J and G curls in the otherwise Serious Man signature.
  • Like everyone else I'm curious to see how well the actors handle the "alleged gays" material.
  • Maybe Armie Hammer has a lightness of tone that will help it. Though he looks vaguely brainless when he puppy smiles directly at Mr. Hoover, the "is that legal?" line has hints of mischief and love of life.
  • The shot of the John Dillinger death mask reminds us that plot point, already cinematized on its own, has plenty of juice should they squeeze.

The trailer in question and more commentary after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep132011

Wooooo(t). It's Link Time.

As you know if you're paying attention (there will be a quiz) I've been offline for 72 hours. GASP! So if some of the following links are GASP 72 hours old, you will forgive. For the record I highly recommend spending 72 hours in a cabin in the woods without internet, tv or cel phones (provided there are no serial killers nearby). Highly relaxing!

Let's catch up with pieces/stories you (by which I mean "I") might have missed! 

The Film Doctor on Contagion and the "die-off" scenario.
Go Fug Yourself succinct funny snappy boring Brangelina
Blog Stage will Broadway actress Mary Farber be a new SNL cast member? 
Towleroad the continuing antics of James Franco. This time painted pink for Woooo mag. 
My New Plaid Pants Kate Winslet... and Elizabeth Taylor 
Natasha VC remember a time via Pauline Kael when Nicolas Cage was sorta wonderful. I saw Moonstruck again recently and it was just ♥♥♥♥... well that's amore!

Empire Online Hugh Grant joins the already gargantuan name cast of Cloud Atlas which, if you'll recall, already has three directors. It sounds like a mess but Empire is feeling hopeful.
Awards Daily on Oscar and sex. Do they really take issue with explicit films? (in short: yes)
IndieWire Remember when I made that brief Oscar prediction about Shailene Woodley in The Descendants and people made fun? Well, her buzz isn't boiling or anything but it is simmering ever since Telluride.
WSJ Asia Scene Deanie Ip (A Simple Life) who just won the Venice Volpi Cup for Best Actress on why she took a long break from acting...

I think nobody wants me, because I’m very difficult.

Towleroad Clint Eastwood kicks off the UnOfficial (but not for long) Armie Hammer Best Supporting Actor campaign for J. Edgar while Hammer boasts of his own chest hair
The Telegraph interviews the ascendant Ryan Gosling

If I'm still acting at 46, I'll be surprised.

Say it ain't so. Of course it isn't. I wish I had kept a spreadsheet of all the alarmist things celebrities have said over the years because no one ever remembers... including me. As I typed this sentence I was about to share this anecdote about what Matt Damon said this one time in a magazine about making ridiculous amounts of money and how that would mean he would... but I've already forgotten what he said he wouldn't do anymore. It was something about quitting or not doing any press. Something silly. Because of course he went on to make gazillions and still works in front of the camera and plays to it in interviews. 

Today's Must See Video
Madonna on the whole silly Venice Film Festival loathing hydranges "story"

There really is nothing better than Madonna with a sense of humor about herself. It's always been her saving grace and if she doesn't locate it as often as she once did, at least it's still there! And it's great timing since she's hitting the publicity circuit with such gusto. Two of my friends/acquaintances, fraquaintances? even interviewed her: Peter and Scott. I can't imagine how either got through it. Honestly, I can't. 

Finally...
if you're as interested in editing as I am, you might enjoy this very thorough analysis of a key action sequence in The Dark Knight (2008).

In the Cut, Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight) from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.

 

I highlight it because, like Jim Emerson, I have always been thrown by that film's editing (the Oscar nomination is baffling to me) as it doesn't make coherent sense, spatially or time-wise. (If you don't share this pet peeve -- I realize many people enjoy contemporary cinema's rule-free freneticism of editing -- you might not enjoy this video. This is actually the #2 most prominent reason as to why I have never been a Christopher Nolan convert. I prefer action filmmakers like James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow who never (or very very rarely) sacrifice coherency for thrills.