Sunday, January 22, 2012

review - The Descendants (2012)

Alexander Payne's quiet film The Descendants about a distraught business tycoon trying to pull a dysfunctional family together after his wife's tragic accident has a lot going for it. Firstly, an especially fine performance from George Clooney, secondly, the beautiful Hawaiian scenic background and most importantly, a cautiously realistic approach to presenting the complex psychological functioning of the human mind. Little by little, Clooney as Matt King learns what is important for him, his children and his extended family by engaging himself fully in the problems of their lives - something that many do not do, especially when going through a personal tragedy. It's hard enough to deal with your own needs let alone consider the feelings of everyone else. But he does, and as the windmills of his mind turn and turn, we are still surprised by many of his actions. Particularly admirable is the acceptance of his own responsibility. Payne directs evenly and thoroughly. Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller and Nick Krause lend wonderful support as King's daughters Alex, Scottie and Alex's supposedly goofy boyfriend Sid, respectively. Matthew Lillard as King's wife's lover has a wonderful scene in which he reluctantly comes to terms with his guilt.
5 out of 5 stars

Friday, January 20, 2012

review - The Artist (2012)

Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, which won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy, is a great homage not only to the silent film era but also to fine movie making period. This elegant black and white, edge-of-your-seat romance stars handsome Jean Dujardin, who resembles matinee idol Gilbert Roland and Berenice Bejo, both of whom show that emotions engage sans dialogue.

One of my very favorite scenes is when Peppy ( Bejo) sneaks into Valentin 's (Dujardin) dressing room on the lot of Kinograph Studios, starts touching the jacket he wears and finds herself wrapped up in it literally feigning his arm around her. (picture below) It's funny, alluring and delightfully original. It's great to see character actors John Goodman - looks fantastic! - James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Beth Grant in featured roles, but Uggie as Valentin's best friend - you've got it, his dog - steals every scene he's in and saves the day more than once.
This is entertainment at its very best and should be used in film class to show students just how important subtext is in preparing a role ... and being able to use your eyes and body language effectively!

5 out of 5 stars