In our continuing efforts to see Oscar-nominated films, we watched
two one* this past weekend:
- The Ides Of March (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was really, really good. It would have been pretty depressing to anyone who wasn’t already cynical about politics, too. And man, what a cast…Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney (barely in it, by the way; busy directing), Geoffrey Wright, Marisa Tomei…it’s worth it just to watch them work.
- I’d always wondered someone could turn a book like Moneyball (imdb | rotten tomatoes) into a movie, let alone a good movie, let alone an Oscar-nominated movie. Turns out you give it to screenwriters like Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Despite all the hype I was kind of expecting something clunky and forced about baseball statistics, but it really worked. It worked because of the script, it worked because Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (and others, especially — again — Philip Seymour Hoffman) sold it and it worked because they really highlighted the underdog angle. I’d also like to think that at least a tiny part of why it worked was the excellent score selection: strains of “The Mighty Rio Grande” by This Will Destroy You recur throughout the film to great effect. Filmmakers, take note: using Austin(ish)-based instrumental rock bands to score your sports-related films is never a bad idea.
* Yeah, so right after I wrote this I double-checked the Oscar best-picture nominee list and somehow The Ides Of March isn’t on it. War Horse (77%) is on it. The Help (76%) is on it. Even Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (46%) is on it. What the balls, academy?
Yesterday Roger Ebert made his case for Se7en (imdb | rotten tomatoes) to be designated a great movie. There was a question? It’s been one of my all-time favourites pretty much from the day I saw it, but Ebert — naturally — does a much better job of describing why it’s great than I ever could. He made me remember all the things I love about it. Sure, the obvious elements like acting and script are there, but it’s little things, side things, nuances, style. Things like:
- R. Lee Ermey, who had auditioned to play John Doe but instead wound up playing the captain, and thank god. He’s amazing, and the lone spot of levity* in the film: “Wake up, limber twins!” and “This isn’t even my desk!”
- Mills is a terrible dresser, because of course he is. He’s just moved from a small town and has no money and so his ties don’t match and his jackets and pants are old. It would have been easy for Brad Pitt to insist on looking dapper for the movie, but I’m glad he didn’t.
- The way Mills tells his impromptu tipster “You eat something. You eat.” with all the hopefulness of a cop who hasn’t spent much time around crack addicts.
- The way John Doe says “Detective…detective…DETECTIVE!!!!!!” and the ~20 seconds that follow.
I’m watching it again as I type this, and I actually saw something new. Something I’d never noticed in the dozens of times I’ve watched it. In the dinner scene in the Mills’ apartment, when Somerset asks Mills for a glass of wine Mills bring about a quart of it in a highball glass. Somerset is engrossed in the case file and doesn’t pay attention until a passing subway makes everything shake; when he reaches for his wine to keep it from spilling, he realizes what kind of glass Mills has brought him. His expression makes a perfect transition from “What the hell?” to “Sweet Jesus, this kid is an idiot.” in the space of about a second. It’s brilliant.
The whole film, goddamned all of it. Brilliant.
* Except for one line from Mills: “Heeeeee’s aaaaaaa nutbag. Just ’cause the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda.”
There are some directors whose movies I will go see no matter what. The four who come to mind are Michael Mann, Werner Herzog, Danny Boyle and David Fincher. Three days ago we watched Boyle’s latest; today it was Fincher’s.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (imdb | rotten tomatoes) since seeing the first trailer, as the first films pairing Fincher and Brad Pitt — Seven and Fight Club — are two of my all-time favourites. This was a much different offering than those films, but it still had the remarkable texture that Fincher is able to create in his projects. I didn’t think either of the lead performances (Pitt and Cate Blanchett) were that remarkable; instead what astounded me was how they showed Button reverse-age from a shriveled old man to a young boy, and it never looked fake or ridiculous, and the whole time it still looked like Brad Pitt. Good use of effects without being stupid about it. Nice.
I think it’ll take me a few days to figure out whether I really loved it or not. Right now I’m still wandering around that soft, dreamy headspace this sort of movie puts me in.