Tag Archives: Gary Oldman

Months in review: films, Academy Awards, #Metoo and a rough start to 2018 (part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post. Below my short impressions on the films I watched in February.


There is a lot to love about this charming animated film. It is, after all, capable of building a world that is beautiful, interesting and new. There is, however, a problem in its execution, rushing through its story without giving the characters their due.

Without the kind of promotion that usually backs a feature-length animated film these days, Mune shows both sides of Hollywood: one willing to give opportunities to unconventional ideas, and one that, upon second look, decides to withdraw its support to cut a potential loss at the box office.

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) [ 3.5/5 ]

Finally caught up with one of many blindspots that had gathered plenty of dust in my must-watch list for many years.

The film owes much of its success and continued relevance to the effortless elegance of Audrey Hepburn, who captured the imagination of the public back in the early 1960s with what I call “casual sexiness”. In the wake of the country’s sexual liberation, it is well documented that Truman Capote, the author of the novel the film is based on, wanted Marilyn Monroe for the lead role, but the studio sought a less racy image, taking on subjects like prostitution with a casual, almost lighthearted tone. In doing so, Breakfast at Tiffanny’s surprisingly succeeded, becoming an American film with an European flavor where subjects that were still taboo in Hollywood were suddenly made appetible due to an approachable script and the lightheartedness of the performances.

45 YEARS (2015) [ 4/5 ]

After watching the austere realism of 45 Years, I felt I needed a comedic and hopelessly romantic cleanse. This is a story about a loving marriage that has survived the years until a letter arrives at the mail to disrupt it, eating away at its foundations day by day, and reminding us of the fragility of love and companionship.

The film is a minimal and naturalistic effort by director Andrew Haigh, whose previous work also includes the touching gay romance Weekend. In 45 Years, the camerawork is intimate yet unobtrusive, acting like a respectful window into a marriage that hints at its ever-increasing troubles.

Though interested in the marriage as a whole, 45 Years is singularly focused on Charlotte Rampling’s beautifully nuanced and naturalistic performance as Kate Mercer.

The remarkable thing about the film is that we see the marriage crumble not through big gestures, or through a series of sudden discoveries, but through Kate’s gradual realization that everything about their long relationship may have been a farce.

Heartbreaking stuff.

DARKEST HOUR (2017) [ 3/5 ]

There used to be a time not long ago when films like Darkest Hour would get my wholehearted approval. It is, after all, a movie that hits most of the right notes, with a superb lead performance by Gary Oldman, a cinematography that gives the film gravitas, and a script that remains interesting throughout.

The problem with Darkest Hour lies in its tendency to overstate and overdo, coming across as typical Oscar bait. Though Oldman’s performance is exactly what the film asked for, his cadence, mannerisms and conversations are all driven by the director’s attempt to give Churchill’s most crucial moments as the UK’s Prime Minister all the weight and importance history has assigned them. Rarely does Darkest Hour take a step back to reveal the man behind the myth, but when it does, the film does manage to be poignant.

THE DOUBLE (2011) [ 1.5/5 ]

On a recent roundtable for the Hollywood Reporter the acclaimed director Ridley Scott suggested that the first indication he looks for when reading scripts is that the names given to the characters work. In The Double, the name “Cassius” is used at least twenty times to refer to a mysterious Soviet assassin who has resurfaced after years of inactivity. Like the unintentionally comedic name it constantly repeats, the rest of the film feels like an immature and unimaginative attempt to make a spy thriller with very little intrigue.

Typically I am not quick to criticize actors, but both Richard Gere and Topher Grace are absolutely terrible here, while the talent of Martin Sheen is utterly wasted in a completely forgettable role.

IRREPLACEABLE YOU (2018) [ 2.5/5 ]

Much like Darkest Hour felt like Oscar bait, this Netflix Original film doubles down on melodrama to stimulate our tear ducts.

One of several problems with the film is that I felt more of a connection to the cross-generational friendship that develops between Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s) and Myron (a charming Christopher Walken), than to the lovers our hearts should break for.

As sweet as Irreplaceable You can be, the film’s central premise is far-fetched and poorly conceived. It does not help that I never bought into the central love story since the leads spend very little time together on screen and have little chemistry when they do.

LADY BIRD (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

As a piece of writing, Lady Bird has very few equals in the 2017 film class.

Greta Gerwig’s semi-biographical script has the quality that many only wish to have: it feels genuine and true. Every character at the center of the story is a complex array of emotions and contradictions. A very good Saoirse Ronan plays the title role as a young girl that is, like most teens, both egocentric and empathetic, emotional and distant, rebellious and nostalgic. Her eyes filled with youthful energy and hope, but also with plenty of doubt and angst. Her mother, in a career-best performance by Laurie Metcalf, is an antagonist of sorts, except that she displays her love through disapproval and discipline.

Gerwig’s writing avoids the common pitfalls of the genre, avoiding cliche at every turn, but it is often too precise a script to allow enough room for the characters to unshackle themselves from the overarching design.

Let’s just say that I was conscious of the decisions Greta Gerwig was making with her story right as she was making them, only allowing emotion to overpower the screen on a couple of occasions. I wish the story felt a bit more organic.

BLACK PANTHER (2018) [ 3.5/5 ]

Ryan Coogler’s treatment of Marvel’s Black Panther is a confident and promising stamp in the overstuffed genre of the superhero film. Coogler has made a film not just about a black superhero, but about an entire country filled with heroes who could teach a thing or two to the rest of the world. The script, based on the original comic, is rich with details that contribute to world-building and that make its social metaphors all the more effective.

Though much of the film offers plenty to “marvel” at, Coogler’s inexperience handling and staging big action sequences hurt the film, lacking the kind of finesse and kinetic energy than other directors could have accomplished with the material. Still, narratively speaking, Coogler’s adaptation of the Marvel comic is perhaps the best that has been produced for the big screen.

GOOD TIME (2017) [ 4/5 ]

The Safdie brothers, co-directors of the frenetically-paced Good Time have made their name in indie circles with micro-budget passion projects that are described as bold examples of guerrilla filmmaking, often self-funded and shot on location without permits.

The difference between those projects and Good Time is that on this occasion, a young movie star, a surprisingly riveting Robert Pattison, attached itself to the Safdie brothers, giving the project enough clout and exposure to be seen and funded, albeit modestly.

The film reminded me of a young Scorsese or Cassavetes film. It has some of the inelegant and unfiltered 1970s quality that grounds it to reality.

The actors are not the kind that you would typically associate to a feature film with the exception of Pattison, whose dirty and disheveled appearance doesn’t completely hide his natural magnetism. He is both hero and antihero, constantly surprising us, hinting at decency, but ultimately doomed by the impulsiveness of his decisions.

Good Time is also the kind of filmmaking I crave: completely unique and unpretentious, with clear intentions and a distinct point of view. The paranoia and near-brilliant survival instincts of Pattison’s Connie Nikas are entirely palpable and, at times, the film proves to be overwhelming to watch.

I can’t wait to see what is next for the Safdie brothers.

Thanks for reading.

20th Anniversary Film Review: The Fifth Element

Author’s note: I rewatched the 4k restauration of the original 1997 film “The Fifth Element” in a local theater. This review is meant as a revision and appreciation of the film, having had the benefit of time to inform the impact and cultural significance of the piece in the cinematic landscape. 

Very few films in the history of Hollywood offer as much popcorn-friendly entertainment with as much artistic flamboyance as The Fifth Element. Written and directed by Luc Besson, the film is, per the director’s own analysis, an European interpretation of an American sci-fi blockbuster: colorful, playful, effortlessly cool, and sometimes nonsensical yet always fun to watch.

Continue reading 20th Anniversary Film Review: The Fifth Element

Top 10 favorite male performances of the last 5 years

It has been over two weeks without a post from yours truly and I figured I needed to close the year in proper blogging fashion. Being that I will NOT be posting a best films of 2013 list before the end of the solar year, I thought I would gather my thoughts to share my favorite acting performances of the last five years.

First, I will give you my favorite 10 male performances in alphabetical order followed, in a couple of days, by my 10 favorite female roles of the half-decade from 2009 to 2013 (warning: blind spots in 2013 abound!)

As usual, I expect discerning tastes, and I would love to hear some recommendations as to whom should have made my list.

Continue reading Top 10 favorite male performances of the last 5 years

The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

It comes 10 months into 2012 but, for the first time, I am confident enough to make my own list of the “best” films of 2011.

Imagine how important it was for me to wait until now to publish this list, that the film that eventually ends up at the top is one that I only managed to watch 3 weeks ago. Without it, this list would have been a crime against my own taste.

Instead of giving you a top 10 or a top 20, I simply give you a run-down of all of the films that received, at the very least, a 4/5 (very good) in my rating system. The result is that there are 17 films out of the almost 100 films from 2011 that I managed to watch, 11 of which received a 4/5, five films received a 4.5/5 and only one received the very rare 5/5.

Despite still missing some highly praised films released the previous solar year (it is impossible to cover them all), I now give you my favorite films of 2011 (and why they are) when we are already in October 2012:

Continue reading The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

Film Round-up: May, June & July

During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.

I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:

The French Connection (1971)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.

Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.

Continue reading Film Round-up: May, June & July

IMDB Top 250: Leon: The Professional

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Jean Reno (Leon), Natalie Portman (Mathilda), Gary Oldman (Stansfield)

Year: 1994

Before emotionally troubled hitmen were popularized once again by characters like Jason Bourne, director Luc Besson brought “Leon: The Professional” to the big screen. Played by the effortlessly cool and capable Jean Reno, the film has amassed a cult following ever since it was released in 1994, helping to cement its position close to the top of the IMDB Top 250 list.

Jean Reno plays Leon, a rather unremarkable middle aged hitman who has grown to become the ultimate expression of strategic and methodical violence. He works for a single client, local mob boss Tony (Danny Aiello), who has taken him under his wing ever since he landed as an illiterate immigrant in the New York harbor. Continue reading IMDB Top 250: Leon: The Professional

A few words about the Academy Awards nominations

As I managed to finally close a project at the firm I work in just this past weekend, the Academy Awards announced their nominations for the best in another year of film.

As always, the Academy surprises all of us, in positive and negative ways, unless you are at the ends of the spectrum of taste that is. For those who enjoy blockbusters or mainstream cinema, the Academy gave several nominations to “Bridesmaids”, “The Help” and “Puss in Boots”. If, on the other hand, you love smaller, modest films, the Academy gave space to “Albert Nobbs” or “A Better Life”. Even for those who enjoy the oddballs, art-house type films, the Academy managed to shine a light, even if it was a very dim one at that, to films like “The Tree of Life” and “Drive” (it was only nominated for technical awards).

Having said this, lets dig in deeper and talk about each category while I throw in my predictions:

Continue reading A few words about the Academy Awards nominations