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Entries in Melanie Lynskey (16)

Thursday
Jan302014

Sundance: 'Lilting' and 'Happy Christmas'

Our last two Sundance movies! But for the roundup/index post in the morning, this is our final bit of coverage from Sundance 2014. Let's end with two movies featuring faces and topics I'm willing to bet you'll love: Ben Whishaw in a gay culture-barrier drama and Melanie Lynskey and Anna Kendrick in a dramedy about sister-in-laws.

Chang Pei Pei & Ben Whishaw in "Lilting"

LILTING
Remember Chang Pei Pei as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? She's just as pissed off in Lilting, but with good reason. Her only son Kai (Andrew Leung) has abandoned her by way of sudden death. This is not a Spoiler Alert: We see him in flashbacks but he's dead as the story begins. She's left grieving and alone... but for unexplained visits from her son's "best friend" (Ben Whishaw) though she can't fathom why he keeps dropping in since a) she hates him though she can't exactly say why and b) she doesn't technically know that her son was gay. Props to Pei Pei's performance that those two details are so willfully and obtusely fused together. She knows. By the very nature of its plot, particularly if you've lost someone you deeply loved way too early in life, Lilting is hugely moving; I was a wet-faced wreck. But while the film gets much thematic resonance from Chang's inability to adapt or communicate in her new homeland (she never learned the language and leaned on her son heavily), I did grow frustrated with the constant withholding. Ben keeps refusing to tell her the truth, even though he has every reason and backstory desire to do so. Lilting won the World Cinema Cinematography prize and, though its simple images have a kind of crystalline beauty, I can only assume this prize is for all the dreamy shots memorializing the peak beauty of Andrew Leung & Ben Whishaw lolling about shirtless and snug in bed. That peaceful aesthetic beauty amplifies the furiously unfathomable irreversible loss of love.

Grade: B
Distribution: Not at this point but LGBT films usually find their way eventually. It was much easier for LGBT to get traditional distribution years ago when gay people were loyal to the arthouses. (But that hasn't been the case in some time.)

The Cast of Happy Christmas © Larry Busacca/Getty Images

HAPPY CHRISTMAS
IMPORTANT NOTE: Chicago readers can see this later today at the Music Box Theater with Joe Swanberg in attendance doing a Q&A!
Happy Christmas is an intimate highly enjoyable and tighly focused dramedy about a husband and wife (Swanberg with Melanie Lynskey) with a newish baby (Jude Swanberg - too hilarious!) who are lending their basement to the husband's sister (Anna Kendrick) after her latest breakup. Leaving the theater afterwards I wondered how much better Swanberg's films might be with a little more time for second drafts or rehearsal. He keeps cranking them out and though they're all quality (I highly recommend All the Light in the Sky if you can find it) they don't quite crossover. But then I realized how uncharitable that was. Though Happy Christmas is perhaps too modest for greatness I must also quickly emphasize that it is wholly satisfying. Swanberg describes his impetus for making the movie as wanting to dramatize the process by which in-laws become siblings. That's a beautiful goal and a rare topic, too. Also rare: the opportunity to see great supporting actors like Lynskey dig into a large role and mix it up in zesty character-based comic scenes with Lena Dunham & Anna Kendrick. (Swanberg writes outlines but the actors fill in the details)

Lena Dunham & Anna Kendrick babysit Jude Swanberg in "Happy Christmas"

On a related in-house note, I wanted to give a shout out to a reader 'TB' who, in our recent post about Anna Kendrick and the Movie Musical, provocatively suggested the following:

that Anna Kendrick is emerging as the face of musicals is a fundamental sign that modern Hollywood doesn't understand what makes musicals work. She constantly positions herself as an actress above and outside her films, happily pointing to all of the places where it's not real. She's skittish around her own emotions. She has two feet FIRMLY planted in reality at all times. She's staunchly contemporary. It's not just that these are flaws, it's that these...directly work against what a musical needs to survive.

I thought that was an astute point even if I don't wholly agree that a very contemporary persona can't work within the movie musical, a more flexible genre than most will concede. But I am happy to report that there is a pretty great moment in a funny-touching scene in Happy Christmas with Lynskey wherein Kendrick totally embraces and uses this very quality described FOR her characterization, both playing it out and commenting on her own skittishness. I think she's really talented. And, as it turns out, self aware. 

Grade: B+
Distribution: Yes. It's Magnolia so a very limited release will happen eventually. No word yet on when. But if you're in Chicago,  GO SEE IT TODAY. It's fun and sweet and the ensemble is great. 

Wednesday
Jan302013

SAG Carpet Pt 2: Classic Penguin & Effortless Amanda

previously on SAG Red Carpet, Kurt and I discussed the huggability of Sally Field and which Best Actress we preferred. Now we're on to other more varied cloth.

NATHANIEL:We move on now to Screen Actor Beauty Guild members who were not nominated -- I amend! Not nominated in categories I tend to obsess over. That's an important distinction. To some degree I find myself surprised with TV awards. It's not that I don't know who is nominated, just that I don't commit it to memory and on awards night I'm like "ohmygod Michelle Dockery!". I love so much as "Lady Mary" on Downton Abbey and I'm happy she emerged a winner (for Ensemble) but this dress was already a big win, modern and sexy enough to pull her away from that massive PBS estate in casting director's imaginations I hope. And speaking of winners, I'm as happy as anyone that Julianne Moore is finally struggling to climb steps in tight gowns in order to give acceptance speeches. That's been a long time coming. And I'm especially glad that she chose this dress at this moment. Juli has always been delicious in deep plunge necklines and at 52 years young, she's still definitely got it. She kept it tight.

 

KURT: What a terrific lineup! I'm mad for Michelle Dockery, and Lady Mary Crawley may just be my favorite female TV character since Carmela Soprano. I hear her icy-perfect British voice in my head all the time now. It's like my new conscience: "Oh, Sir Kurtis, don't be absuuurd!" This is the first time I'm seeing her SAG frock in its entirety, and I must say, I'm a little alarmed by that much boobage from the aristocracy. But I do like it, and you're spot-on regarding the message it sends--she certainly doesn't want to get pidgeonholed in Corsetville. 

To be honest, I've thought of you often this season as Julianne has repeatedly climbed the stage steps to collect her metal. I know we share the long-delayed thrill of seeing her so honored, even if it's for the circus-act dreck that is Game Change (each time, I just pretend it's for something else: Far From Heaven! Safe! Assassins!). I'm not really feeling this dress, nor do I usually admire her awards-show outfits, but I certainly agree about the neckline, and holy moly, that age defiance. Moreover, I think she falls just second to Naomi Watts in the sideswept hair department. 

I'm not quite sure what's going on with Melanie Lynskey (nor can I pinpoint what she was doing at the SAGs). I know she's close to TFE's heart, and we all adore her, but this green getup, while flattering at the waist, isn't quite doing the trick. The girls look trapped and even she seems anxious to remove it with that not-so-comfortable smirk. My gold medal here goes to Amanda Seyfried, who looks regal, and whose talent I believe in without reservation. Lovelace may not be the vehicle to bump her into a higher league, but I trust she'll get there. I even find her compelling in garbage like Gone, and if I were a young, female, Best Ensemble nominee, this is what I'd wear.

NATHANIEL: Every time I begin to doubt Amanda's talent -- it's hard not to because it seems she chooses projects with several shot glasses and a dartboard -- I think back onMean Girls or Big Love and all is forgiven. It's too bad she didn't play Eponine because that Les Mean Girls tumblr could have had a field day with all the 'my breasts know when it's raining' absurdist comedy. As a celebrity she somehow manages to exudes both total confidence and 'where am I?' nonchalance like fame is a natural fit but she's forgotten to make a fuss of it.

I actually really like Melanie's dress -- great color on her but I mostly included her in the lineup because I am always surprised/ delighted to see her and if you look back through the history of the red carpet lineups, i like to throw in curveball choices that other blogs aren't featuring in their same old same old stargazing. As for Juli in Assassins! LOL. I'm sure that sentence had readers doing a double take which is good since reading comprehension in the days of blogs and twitters - yeesh. But speaking of assassinations, figurative mind you!, here's my votes for people who killed the red carpet (it hides stains well)... not in the good way..

I don't understand what is happening with these massive unflattering front pieces like silk bibs that Sigweavie and Rose Byrne are wearing. I don't understand why the usually perfect looking Frieda looks so frumpy in such a loud color and with January Jones' paired with Nicole Kidman's hair from the previous lineup, maybe David Bowie was the unofficial spirit animal of the SAG nominees this year.

KURT: basically always hate January Jones's looks. She seems to believe that she moonlights as an edgy, avant-garde model, yet she always misses the mark. At least this one is uncharacteristically undersexed, unlike that one outfit a while back that was very Fifth Element. Rose Byrne is giving you real fish--sailfish, that is. And those fins are swallowing her, poor thing. I saw her in the flesh once at Bryant Park, and she certainly didn't look so...engulfed. I do like the pseudo-finger-weave coif, though. 

I was thrilled to see Sigweavie in attendance, as she is, if I'm not mistaken, a frequent no-show, but I'm not getting this slimmed-down homage to Missy Elliot's "I Can't Stand the Rain." She's in pretty good shape for her age, and needn't hide it behind a virtual breastplate of cheap-looking fabric. I like my Sigourney when she's working with what she's got, whether that's barely clothed in a Gigerian escape pod, or playing sexiness one-ups with daughter J. Love-Hewitt in Heartbreakers (remember the line when she insisted to Jennifer's character that she was as tight and toned as ever? "Feel my butt!" Love.).

And, yes, Freida looks afright. I generally believe that she is one of the most good-looking women on the planet, and she usually turns it out on the red carpet, but this oddballs. One might make an argument for Weaver covering up, but what on Earth does Frida Pinto have to hide? Beneath a neon smock, no less? She's my worst offender in this lineup, and needs that thing torn off of her. Where are Anastasia and Drizella when you need them?

NATHANIEL: i can always trust you to put me in a good mood by coming from a Ripley-Loving place.

Finally, I thought we'd sign off with some men since they never get their fashion due but I think there was slightly more going on than usual men's fashion wise at the SAG awards. This lineup is weirdly symmetrical and I'll tell you why: all of these men are over 6' tall? Aren't male movie stars supposed to be short?

Hugh Jackman and Daniel Day-Lewis went classic but they should since they're both true movie stars -- albeit in diametrically opposed ways. Bradley Cooper went blue (I wish he would chop off the hair but I guess he can't mess with The Hangover paychecks). Justin Timberlake went very slim tight in multiple patterned grays.I would never be brave enough to wear something like that but it looks great on him (though this isn't the most flattering photo). My choice for best dressed is totally 100% I'd-love-to-wear-what-he's-wearing is Eddie Redmayne. It's SO perfect for his coloring.

KURT: Yes, I've been very pleased with Eddie Redmayne's maturation on all fronts, and good style is certainly among them. I think he's one of the most appealing untraditionally-handsome male stars to come along in some time. And I agree, he gets best-dressed here by a mile. Not to imply any femininity whatsoever, but he takes after SJP--clothes just look good on him. I'd often say the same about JT, and this look is fine, but rather predictable. Very Timberlake-y. His best move next time would probably be to subvert his own hipness by going more traditional. 

Bradley Cooper makes me yawn in general, and here we are again. I suppose there's nothing wrong with a blue suit and a bowtie, but this just reads prom-ish to me, and while I don't begrudge Bradley any of his success, I just find him to be such an unremarkable entertainer overall. In Silver Linings Playbook, there was simply more volume and flailing about. I won't comment on the hair, as the "Hangover paycheck" point is a good one. Agreed completely on the apt simplicity of all-stars Jackman and Day-Lewis. The transcendant ones needn't get flashy with the rabble. I'm always taken aback by how dashingly handsome Hugh is, and, no offense to the other gentleman, that kind of magnetism tends to make accessories irrelevant. I suppose the big race really is down to these two gents. Will they dial it down and penguin it up again on Oscar night?

NATHANIEL: If they penguin it up, Jackman wins. He already played one. And a singing penguin no less. Not that Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn't be convincing as a penguin if he put his mind and method to it.

Readers, who was your best dressed penguin at SAG?
Could you pull off Justin Timberlake's suit and tie shit?
Do you hear Lady Mary's voice in your head?
Do you think Amanda Seyfried won the gown wars?

 

Thursday
Sep062012

More Melanie

This David Poland interview with Melanie Lynskey is fun to watch so soon after her warm and movie-lovin' guest blogging right here. My favorite part is when she talks about being stuck between "leading lady" and "character actors" (3:33) and Nina Arianda fans will be happy to know that she also compares Nina's magnetism to Kate Winslet's way back in Heavenly Creatures in that it was obviously and readily clear that the only life outcome for certain actors is major film stardom.

Later in the interview she also reconfirms that she's a geek for film critics, citing Mary Pols and Glen Kenny ("so grumpy") as two of her many favorites. So, yes, unfortunately we don't have her all to ourselves here at TFE. But scratch "unfortunately" as we don't want her to hide that light under a bushel anyway -- happy to share her with the cinephile world.

 

Thursday
Aug302012

Melanie 'Must Be Going'... With A Playlist

Hello everyone! My little guest blogging stint has come to an end.

It has been really fun, and I want to thank Nathaniel from the bottom of my heart for entrusting me with his wonderful blog for a few posts.

"Hello, I Must Be Going" September 7th in theaters!

So, right now I am preparing for a movie that I'm shooting in October, and one of the things I always do to prepare is to create a playlist for my work. It's a collection of songs that will bring up specific feelings for me, or music I think the character would like, or songs that have an energy to them that feels right for the tone of the film. I usually find that while we're shooting, I will start to listen to one song from the playlist kind of obsessively, and that song will be my "theme song" for the movie. 

When I was shooting the strip club scene in Away We Go, I listened to the Band Of Horses song "No-One's Gonna Love You" so many times that it became the number one most played song on my ipod the next day. Doing The Informant! I only listened to music from the soundtracks to 80s movies. "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" became my song for that one.  I have also noticed that I kind of do that same thing in my life... my theme song for the summer has been Conor Oberst's "Lenders In The Temple". I just keep going back to it right now. And crying, because it's gorgeous, and heart wrenching. 

the strip scene in "Away We Go"

My favourite thing about this little guest hosting thing has been interacting with all you smart, funny, film lovers in the comments.

So for my last post I would love to hear any and all of your stories about theme songs! Perhaps your life has a theme song right now? Maybe you like to listen to music at work, like I do, to get you in a certain frame of mind? Maybe there is a movie that uses music in a way you have really loved? My two favourite directors soundtrack-wise are Sofia Coppola (I lost my mind when The Cure's "All Cats Are Grey" started playing in Marie Antoinette!!!) and Wes Anderson (Nico in The Royal Tenenbaums comes immediately to mind). Or, we can be negative too! Maybe there's a song you hate that is used all the time in movies? If you have a story, or even just a random thought, I want to hear it.  And ask away in the comments if you want to know what my song was for any particular movie. Thanks for reading everyone and thanks again Nathaniel!!!

Wishing you all good things.

xo, Melanie


[Editor's Note. Thank you again to fine actress Melanie Lynskey for these amazing peaks into her process (here's a playlist to accompany her post), behind the scenes, into her DVD collection, and especially those love letters to and from her favorite talents in the movie industry. Give her a huge round of applause -- she really went all out! -- and go see "Hello, I Must Be Going" on Friday, September 7th when it opens. It's her best performance yet and a too rare opportunity to see her carry a whole film.  -Nathaniel R]

Thursday
Aug302012

Love Letters Pt. 2: Kathy Najimy, Rosemarie DeWitt, Xander Berkeley

Melanie Lynskey Guest Blogging!

I made a little dream list of people I respect and admire beyond all reason and sent them a little e-mail saying:

I've seen you do work that has made me want to write you a love letter because it's moved me so deeply. Who or what would you like to write a love letter to? What piece of art or artist or feeling has moved you in this way?"

Here are a few amazing responses I got. [PART ONE featured Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly and More...]

PART TWO

To the beautiful, soul-baring goddess Rosemarie DeWitt "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Rachel Getting Married OF COURSE BECAUSE I'M IN LOVE WITH IT"

Rosemarie's love letter:

Seeing Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem" is momentarily eclipsing every other performance I've seen or fallen in love with. He made me rethink what was possible as an actor and at the end of that play my body was literally quivering in anticipation of the gods coming. I felt as if I had witnessed some sacred ritual and was blown away by the transformative power of that kind of whole bodied- soul stirring-storytelling. I had long admired him but now my love for his work makes me feel like a 14 year old girl who would hang a poster of him on my bedroom wall. And in fact I have the Playbill cover hanging over my desk. :)
-ROSEMARIE DEWITT 

Sonya Walger and Adam Scott in "Tell Me You Love Me"To the glorious, strong, sexy, and really fucking brave actress Sonya Walger "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Tell Me You Love Me..."

Sonya's love letter:

I have a strange moment I think of often when I work and it was when I first became aware of this fragile line between life and art and how the best work leaves you not knowing which one you just witnessed. my grandmother was on the board of governers for a school near her house and she would diligently attend all the school plays and fetes and events even though none of her grandchildren/family attended. she took me with her to see the school play of "BUGSY MALONE". I must have been 8 or 9, and the kids peforming must have been maybe 14-15? I couldn't believe what I saw. I was blown away. I'd never seen anything so glamorous, so alive, where everyone was having so much fun. I'd been to plays in London and musicals, but nothing, nothing like this. It was completely transporting and unlike anything I'd ever seen. And at the very end, they all sang the finale, and Bugsy pulled Blousey into his lap and they were all breathless, panting as we stood and applauded, rained applause on them, and he beamed at her and pulled her in and kissed her. quickly, on the mouth, on stage. and I remember feeling so alive in that moment, so completely full of wonder, was that real? was that supposed to happen? is he allowed to kiss her? was that in the script? (although I doubt I knew the word script at that age). I think about it still.

I wonder if those kids remember that production, those kids now in their 40's with wives and children and jobs and mortgages. I wonder if it sparked anything in any of them the way it did in me. i think about it often, strangely, that one tiny moment in a school play. and I still don't know exactly why or what it means, except, that, as I said, it made me feel so alive, so engaged, so curious, so full of wonder for what they had done, pulled off, been swept up in. and more than anything, it made me long, body and soul, to be up there with them too. to be kissed on Bugsy's lap."
-SONYA WALGER 

Gillian Jacobs, Xander Berkeley, Kathy Najimy, and Matt Ross after the jump

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