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Entries in Hilary Swank (14)

Saturday
Dec062014

Screener Adventures From Big Hero to Budapest (Pt. 1)

Herewith a collection of fractured thoughts to along with my fractured toe (a piece of advice: never stub your toe so violently that your toe is swollen and purple by the end of the night and you have trouble walking for a week afterwards). I'd never have time for full articles on any of these so let's race through.

The Homesman 
Contrary to popular belief I am more than willing to praise the Swankster when she deserves it. While it's true that I was very hostile ten years ago during the Million Dollar Baby year (I struggle with hostility in any category in any year wherein the least of the five seems to have a free ride to gold... even if they've already won!) I supported her first Oscar win and you can't ever take Boys Don't Cry away from her. What we have here in  Tommy Lee Jones peculiar feminist western is her second best performance. I found her unflinching stillness whenever menfolk dismissed her as "plain" to be quite moving and she plays the saddest piano of all time, a cloth fascimile she drapes in front of her. That said, though I loved several elements of the film and found the concept and even the difficult structure intriguing, I don't think the film manages to come together well. Its parts are greater than their sum. No spoilers here but I'm a wee bit surprised that Swank has garnered as much Oscar buzz as she has - despite still being a longshot - given that her role is not as large or as fulfilling as you assume it will be in the first act.

The Skeleton Twins 
Not quite sure how I missed this one earlier in the year but it was a huge success with my friends when we finally screend it. And that "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" musical number slays - just perfection. The comedy, though, is surprisingly dark and the tone a mite unstable so it's easy to see why the movie never quite broke out despite gathering some devout fans and a lone Gotham Award nomination. It hesitates at the edge of its drama sequences as if to say 'for your consideration: serious acting from funny people' and teeters near its comic sequences like 'do we really want to do this?' before caving; you can't not let Wiig and Hader be funny. Still that "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" musical number just slays. Is anything funnier than slow burn Kristen Wiig silliness? 

Big Hero 6
While the adults talked in the other room on Thanksgiving I played this one for my friends's kids to keep them occupied. I was pushing for The Boxtrolls but, I don't know if you know this, kids turn out to be kind of stubborn; they like what they like. They were already obsessed with Baymax and rather than watching something new, they wanted the inflatable super-nurse again. I watched a few scenes again but remain only a mild fan of it. It wouldn't be on my final ballot in this competitive Animated Feature year. Nevertheless turns out it's hilarious and endearing to say goodbye to little kids after they've watched this movie. They all want to do a fist bump and will giggle like little maniacs if you play along and do Baymax's robotic jazz finger trill as their parents button them up for the cold outside. 

The Babadook
At the risk of turning this blog into The Babadook Experience (What? We like it). I'll be brief. This movie is really good. It's one of the very few movies this year that my best friend, who it might surprise you to hear does not much like movies, was willing to see and he loved it. He's been whispering at me randomly in a croaky voice "ba-ba-doooooook" without warning. The movie was just as creepy the second time but way more fun since I wasn't watching it alone. But Thanksgiving was a really really weird and, let's face it, unfortunate time to release it since a) it's probably not Oscar eligible given the Direct TV premiere and b) it could have used October's creepy crawly box office friendly trends. It makes no sense to me at all. It's not like it would have been forgotten for top ten season with a debut that was simply one month earlier? 

Grand Budapest Hotel
My friends all wanted to see this one so we rented it from Netflix before I even got the FYC screener. I can't quite figure why I was so stand-offish about it back in March when I named it Wes Anderson's second worst (just slightly better than The Life Aquatic). While I still wouldn't call it his best as so many critics did during the initial Budapest love-in (The Royal Tenenbaums remains untouchable IMO) it's so much better than I had understood. So I stand corrected, which is not something I'll admit to every day when it comes to the movies -- for example I'm totally right about Inherent Vice. I don't care how many top ten lists it makes: Blech!. On second viewing of Budapest the manic energy no longer grates or feels oppressive but intermittently flavorful and in service to its idiosyncratic comedy. And the pieces which always struck me as glorious: Ralph Fiennes out-of-time elegance and superbly pitched performance (it's a real pity he's not locked up in that Best Actor race; he should be) and the exquisitely scrumptuous production design and costumes are even better on repeat viewings.

Normally eye candy movies are better on the big screen but this one played much better for me at home. Go figure. 

Have you changed your mind about a movie recently or been surprised by one you thought you'd be cooler to? 

Thursday
Nov202014

Thoughts I Had... While staring at THR's Actress Issue Cover

Yesterday morning, while running out to a screening and party for Al Pacino's awards run with The Humbling (more on that soon), what did I find on my doorstep but the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter, just casually dropped there. "Close call," I thought, imagining greedy scruple-free actressexual neighbors I haven't met, stealing it before I even knew it was there.

I threw it back in the apartment and dashed off and now I return to it, staring at its cover.You know how this works, herewith my immediate thoughts uncensored as they come. 

Is it weird that I don't read the article (essentially clips from the roundtable) but just wait for the full video so I can hear it all?

I don't understand the set and art direction of this photo. Why is Reese behind a gold bar? Why isn't God herself reclined on that uncomfortably stiff chaise lounge chair while the other actresses fan and feed her? (Let the coronation begin!)

Is Amy Adams a silent partner in THR? Will she impale me with that crazy stiletto for spreading that rumor.

She's like Terminator Adams here. So severe! "Don't fuck with me fellas" Or rather "I'LL BE BACK" because you know she will next year (sigh)

This is her 4th roundtable in 5 years suggesting that someone at THR is either obsessed with her, has dirt on her, has zero imagination, or is weak-willed when it comes to standing up to Amy's formidable publicists/management.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov162014

AFI Fest's Gala Premieres: 'The Gambler' and 'The Homesman'

Margaret here, reporting from the LA festival beat with short takes on some would-be Oscar contenders.


The Gambler
Screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed), director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and star Mark Wahlberg joined forces on this remake of the 1974 James Caan movie of the same name, and the result is certainly stylish. It's well-shot, coolly assured, and smartly paced. Wahlberg leads the movie capably as Jim Bennett, a man from a rich family with a solid career who has nonetheless dug himself to rock bottom with extravagant compulsive gambling. 

The film is at its best when it engages with the question of why someone whose life is granted so much privilege so systematically pisses it all away. John Goodman, typically scene-stealing as a dangerous loan shark, makes many salient points about Jim's decisions, which are either self-destructive or indefensibly stupid.  To its detriment, the film ultimately succumbs to the impulse to romanticize its protagonist, asking the audience to cheer and respect him when he  finally makes his first sound decision.

The supporting cast is largely excellent; it will surprise no one that Jessica Lange wrings every ounce of personality, pathos, and curdled maternal affection from her few minutes of screentime. Even so, she makes little impact on the movie because, like the protagonist, it brushes her away. The Gambler can claim the dubious achievement of completing the Stock Female Character hat trick: (1) a maternal figure who exists to thanklessly prop up the male lead, (2) a pretty young thing (Brie Larson) who we're told is a stone-cold genius, but is given no development arc and has inexplicable romantic interest in the lead, and (3) a passel of nameless and faceless strippers. Slow clap. 

These are not deal-breakers for every moviegoer, but they're emblematic of the film's general reliance on familiar beats instead of showing us something new.

 

The Homesman
BREAKING NEWS: Tommy Lee Jones smiled upwards of twice when introducing his newest film at AFI Fest. He had glowing things to say about the whole cast, particularly  "the miraculous Hilary Swank", who more than earned her praise. The Homesman is a stubbornly unromantic and prickly western, but Swank anchors it with a very fine, emotionally vivid performance.

The Homesman's portrait of life in the Nebraska Territory is bleak; life is hard, and heroism a luxury. When a town meeting is called to order the transport of three mentally ill women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, and Sonja Richter) back to family in Iowa, their husbands shrink from the task. The staunchly moralistic Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) takes on the assignment, knowing it will be a miserable and dangerous enterprise, because no one else will do it and she knows it must be done. Upon acquiring a traveling companion in a self-interested claim jumper who may be named George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), she sets off with her dead-eyed charges.

There are many well-conceived notes in the movie. A knife fight over a disinterested captive, Mary Bee silently playing an embroidered set of piano keys for lack of a real instrument, a flashback to a passenger's slow break from sanity-- each hints at a poignancy that never feels realized in the film as a whole. The tone occasionally veers into incongruous places-- Tommy Lee Jones' introduction is oddly slapstick, and there's a vengeful sequence in the third act that would have been more at home in Django Unchained-- and while the story doesn't conform to any expected trajectory, neither does it end as strongly as it began. 

The movie didn't leave me sure exactly what story its makers wanted to tell, or at least, it never convinced me of why they were telling it. Even so, it's at times both moving and starkly beautiful, and will not be easy to forget. 

Thursday
Aug282014

The 10 Most Terrifying Words You'll Read Today

[from a Telluride preview piece by Anne Thompson]

 

I don't remember one thing about this article (other than an underlying 'screw Toronto!' praise Telluride' tone) due to these ten words. TERRIFYING. I've already tweeted this out but for those of you without twitter, it was important that you share the nightmare. Forgive me for destroying your peaceful slumber tonight.

Tuesday
May202014

Cannes Diary Day ???: "The Homesman," Or How Tommy Lee Jones Failed at Feminist Storytelling

Diana Drumm is reporting from Cannes for the The Film Experience. 

 

Based on the award-winning novel (that Paul Newman was attached to for years) by Glendon Swarthout (“The Shootist”), The Homesman is a bizarre, unwieldy Western about 31 year-old spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and questionable character Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) who are driving three insane women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) back East for treatment, or at least respite from their literally-maddening frontier lives.  

Or for a convoluted, reference-laden way to generalize it all, think of The Homesman as an inverse of the Robert Taylor-starring not-quite-classic Westward The Women (1951) meets the Glenn Close-starring made-for-TV movie Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) with the madness and mismatches of Quills (2000, Briggs being the less couth, toned down subversive Marquis) divided by the stunning Western cinematography of Brokeback Mountain (2005, via Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto). Apologies, my brain is flooded with movies. 

Scale of Tommy Lee Jones orneriness, gender politics, and star cameos after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
May182014

Cannes Diary Day 4 Pt 2: Hilary & Tommy Promote "The Homesman"

Diana Drumm reporting from Cannes for The Film Experience

 

At today’s The Homesman press conference, Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank lived up to their public personas, the former as a well-meaning curmudgeon and the latter as diplomatic would be sweetheart. This dynamic was evident when Jones made the off-putting comment that editing is time consuming but “it’s not hard work” and Swank, spotting the possible faux pax in front of a room of international movie press, swooped in by clarifying maybe not for someone like him with his great mind and thoughtful vision, but she’d be lost and that editing is indeed hard work.

Well-trained in the art of dodging cringe-inducing questions, Swank managed to pivot from a meant-to-be-complimentary question about the disparity between her beauty in person and her plainness onscreen to an empowering impromptu speech about the subjectivity of attractiveness. She shared that some people have told her that they found her characters Maggie (Million Dollar Baby) and Mary Bee Cuddie (The Homesman), to be attractive because of their strength. Considering that the film tackles the issues of female subjugation and objectification, it was all the more uncomfortable when multiple professional journalists either commented on her physical appearance or prefaced their question with a comment on her physical appearance.

What did these reporters expect? She’s a movie star at Cannes promoting a film, the very definition of a glamorous day's work. And isn’t that a pretty tired narrative for Swank, dating back over a decade?

To Swank’s left, Jones bordered on ornery, not understanding a number of questions (giving unrelated answers or asking reporters to rephrase) or speaking in vague, sometimes dismissive, terms about cast and production (“The difficulty was the weather.” … “It’s not real research, we’re not curing polio.”).  As for both directing and acting on this film, he deadpanned:

As a director, I can tell you that I do everything I tell myself to do.”

Dodging the more thematic  and film-specific questions, Jones repeatedly answered “The movie speaks for itself,” without further explanation. On a rare upbeat note, Jones did spark to a question about the film’s music (plugging his son, the film’s music consultant) and went into a long-winded explanation about finding era-appropriate tunes and building wind organs.

In response to a HuffPo reporter’s line of questioning about women’s issues in the 1800s (when the film is set) relating to those of today, Jones said,

 I don't think there's a woman in this room that has never felt objectified or trivialized because of her gender. There's a reason for that and a history of that, and I think that's an interesting thing."

A smattering of applause. Jones won back a few of the hearts he may have lost.

 

Day 1 Arrival & Opening Night | Day 2 Grace of Monaco | Day 3 Mr Turner & Timbuktu  | Day 4 Amour Fou & The Blue Room |  Day ??? The Homesman Review