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Entries in Bill Pullman (2)

Friday
Aug262011

Cinema de Gym: 'While You Were Sleeping'

Kurt here. This week saw the rare screening of a romantic comedy at the gym. The film was While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock's first effort following her bomb-on-a-bus breakthrough. An extremely nice movie with minimal ambitions, its key function was to introduce the world to Bullock: Girl Next Door, soon to be Bullock: Queen of Ubiquity. Seen retrospectively, it's a major career indicator. Even the first 20 minutes – which are the minutes I saw – are teeming with the Bullockisms that Americans have been gorging themselves on since the film's 1995 release. Bullock is Lucy, a ticket booth operator at a Chicago train station who has many of the traits we've come to know so well: unlucky-in-love aura, frumpiness that barely hides her beauty (unkempt hair, choppy bangs, oversized sweaters), unladylike behavior (she dips her Oreos in her cat's milk), peripheral support system of surrogate family members, and an everyday earnestness so complete it seems exhausting. There's even a calories-be-damned mention of the local Chinese food guy, a la Two Weeks Notice.

I've never had the pleasure of an end-to-end While You Were Sleeping sit, but as I and most of you know, this is a Big Secret movie hinged on a well-intended lie that will surely come out in the wash at the close of the second act. Lucy is nuts about Peter (Peter Gallagher), the dapper businessman who visits her window each day but barely knows she exists. When he's mugged and tossed onto the tracks, Lucy saves the day and rushes his comatose behind to the hospital, only to have her out-loud thoughts of marriage get her mistaken for his fiancée (or, as the fib-spreading nurse memorably repeated in the TV spots, his "FEEE-ahn-say"). In a charming bit of farcically contrived, old fashioned group hysteria, Peter's family fawns over Lucy after funneling into the hospital room, wholly believing and embracing the made-up engagement news as a desperate means to relieve some alluded-to family drama. As is typical, Lucy is too overwhelmed – and far too kindhearted – to wreck the mood and spill the truth.

A joy of the earlier scenes is seeing the many older actors who play Peter's relatives, at least a couple of whom are no longer with us. The late, great Peter Boyle is Peter's father (Peters, Peters, everywhere); character actor Jack Warden, who passed in 2006, is Peter's godfather; and Glynis Johns, who's still going strong at 87, is Peter's grandmother. The latter, who was indeed the one and only Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins ("votes for women!"), is at the center of the earlier portions' best jokes. Suffering from a heart condition that's been troubling the fam, she's the key reason Lucy needs to keep up her act. "When my mom found out I wasn't getting married, her intestines exploded," says Lucy's co-worker and lunch partner (Jason Bernard). "If you back out now, you may as well shoot grandma." The biggest laugh comes when the relatives arrive at the hospital one morning to find that Lucy spent the night with her faux beau. Abruptly and inexplicably, the godfather, addressing Lucy, says of the grandmother, "You're like her – she can sleep anywhere. And believe me, she has."

Such a nasty little zinger sticks out like a scarlet letter in this squeaky-clean star vehicle. Most of the time, we're awash in Lucy's goodness, and asked to nibble our nails as that goodness pulls her deeper into uncharacteristic dishonesty. Of course, what ends up happening is Lucy falls for Peter's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), while Peter's conked out, but I didn't make it that far. What I did see was a sweet bedside confessional that Lucy offers to Peter, a gooey romcom monologue that really showcases Bullock's then-blossoming powers. With an almost impossible cuteness, she exudes mainstream-friendly desperation and self deprecation, which somehow seems both put-on and very true at the same time. You can see the career of a lovable superstar taking shape in that moment. It's no wonder Lucy's earnestness became a career staple. Bullock's so good at it, she does it too well.

Conclusions?

1. For a while, it seemed Bullock was destined to star alongside vehicles: Bus (Speed), Train (While You Were Sleeping), Boat (Speed 2). It's totally a metaphor for her meteoric rise. Faster than a speeding Bullock!
2. During that same time, it also seemed she was destined to share the screen with Jacks: Keanu Reeves in Speed (Jack), Jeremy Northam in The Net (Jack), Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping (Jack).
3. Revisiting a film from the early days of a star's career can reflect a lot in terms of how said star's career panned out.
4. If you really want to make it as a leading lady in Hollywood, it might not be a bad idea to act opposite Sister Suffragette.


Do you like early Bullock? Or will you never get over that Oscar win?

 

Friday
Aug122011

This & That: Pop Songs, Oscar Campaigns, Carnage Poster

Bill Pullman's new roleAV Club is success spoiling AMC? More rumors and commentary on the increasingly troubled network of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
Macleans also reacts to this 'blame Mad Men' meme going around
i09 expresses shock that Bill Pullman is so amazing as a creepy motivational speaker/murderer on Torchwood: Miracle Day. I haven't seen it yet because we don't get Starz but Bill Pullman can do anything. Why are people surprised? Oh, right. Nobody goes to the theater. Pullman's performance on Broadway in The Goat: Or, Who Is Sylvia? is one of the greatest performances I've ever seen, I kid you not. (pun!) The movie roles obviously didn't challenge him enough.

The Hairpin has an interview with Kate Beaton who writes what may be my favorite webcomic "Hark, A Vagrant!"
Cinema Blend I was just talking about Patrick Wilson to a friend last night and bingo: today there's news that he's joined the cast of Ridley Scott's Prometheus. I should talk about actors who don't get enough good parts every night before I sleep so they'll be cast the next morning.
Inside Movies A story that the web will undoubtedly love: Andrew Garfield on the size of Spider-Man's package.

Oooh, lookie. It's the first poster for Roman Polanski's Carnage.

That's a weird loud poster but at least it's interesting. The moody faces are kind of an interesting way to get at the play's rollercoaster tonal shifts and convey that it's an actor's piece.

The Campaigning Begins
Gold Derby is already claiming the Best Actor Oscar for Leonardo DiCaprio in J Edgar. We'll see. Believe it or not he's still kind of young to win an Oscar. They make the men wait, you know. Different rules for men. Although I suppose it helps that he didn't turn out as elfin gorgeous as he looked like he might back in the days of his youth. Oscar likes his women drop dead gorgeous but doesn't like his men too purty. Just ask Paul Newman how long he had to wait. Or Brad Pitt who still hasn't won.
IndieWire Glenn Close to receive the lifetime achievement award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Festival honors of the career variety are a standard stop on the way to would be Oscar glory. 
Just Jared just posted this promotional pic of Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn but labelled it a "still". If it's really a still in the proper sense than the movie is taking some adventurous chances with its look. 

For Laughs... Movie|Line is listing four reimaginings of princess movies that it never wants to see.

And in other news... True Blood has been renewed for a fifth season. Yay! Get caught up on The Film Experience commentary

Best Song of the 1980s?

Music makes the people come together.... yeah  
Critical Condition's Ultimate Pop Song Tournament has come down to the final four: Madonna's "Like a Prayer" (89), Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" (84), Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (82) and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (81) This has been such fun for the past few weeks and it also just goes to show you how classic the 1980s are in the cultural canon since songs from other decades were eligible. You already know who I voted for, duh. Go and vote yourselves. May your favorite win... unless it's different than mine.
Boy Culture conjecture about Madonna's upcoming schedule
Examiner DC This is a good piece on the music industry's ability to keep the public interested in the classics, and the film industry's inability to do the same. A provocative mystery, that, right?