Tag Archives: Annette Bening

TIFF19: Hope Gap

Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy) are a many-years married couple. She bickers and snipes at him, he slumps his shoulders and takes it. Over 30 years together, they’ve found lots of things to agree and disagree on, but they’re definitely united on one front: son Jamie (Josh O’Connor) doesn’t visit nearly enough.

When he does visit on this particular weekend, his mother does her usual thing, wasting half the visit dressing him down for not visiting her enough, thus making him less inclined to visit next time. But that’s her way. She speaks her mind. He’s used to it. He also fends off her religious overtures, and ultimately she goes off to church alone, which is when his father surprises him.

After some hemming and hawing he just says it: “I’m leaving your mother.”

Now hopefully we’re all groaning on the same page here: he’s told his son before he’s told his wife. And of course his wife feels blindsided, hurt, and not a little angry. Mostly that there was no warning. She never saw it coming. Now, Edward has some excuses for this: that she’s domineering, that she’d only try to stop him and his mind is fully made up. But to her, this is a 30 year relationship we’re talking about, and it’s worth a little effort, worth an attempt or two to save it. Not that this has stopped her from any of her heated squabbles.

Edward is not a complete idiot. He’s timed this so that he could abandon his wife quite quickly, leaving his son to pick up the pieces. Grace is understandably bitter and Jamie feels trapped. His mother isn’t just sad, she’s depressed, perhaps suicidal. It’s a lot to ask of a son.

This film is based on writer-director William Nicholson’s own experience of his parents’ divorce. It’s a little light on plot or direction, driven mainly by some great performances. Neither Grace nor Edward come off as particularly admirable people but Bening and Nighy give them a little more sympathy than is truly deserved. The collapse of a marriage is always an aching thing. The grown son being pulled between two grieving parents acts as a proxy for the audience, but because neither character comes off as entirely blameless or even likable, we actually feel pulled in neither direction. Instead, we remain unmoved somewhere in the middle, which doesn’t make for a very bracing or rewarding trip to the movies.

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Captain Marvel

Mar-Vell! Shazam! Mar-Vell! Shazam! There is a long and interesting legal saga surrounding the Captain Marvel name (though if you are not a law geek it’s probably much more long than interesting). Basically, the red and white Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam) came first as a blatant Superman rip-off. DC sued, put the creators out of business, bought Shazam for cheap and quickly forgot they owned him. Meanwhile, Marvel captain-marvel-mar-vell-shazam-differences-header-1108262-1280x0Comics decided that if any comic publisher should have a Captain Marvel, it should be them, so Marvel threw together a half-baked story about an alien named Mar-Vell to secure a trademark for the Captain Marvel name, won a lawsuit against DC and others, then gave Mar-Vell cancer and made him the only comic character in history to stay dead.

Given that history, I don’t think it is a coincidence that DC’s Shazam will follow within a month of Captain Marvel’s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  If there’s a lesson here, and there may not be, it’s that “legal reasons” give birth to a lot of strange things (and don’t even get me started on the 90s Captain America and Fantastic Four films).

Incidentally. Marvel’s Captain Marvel is not a resurrection of the alien who died from cancer. Marvel revamped the character through a whole other convoluted saga, and she’s primed to be the first female hero to get her own MCU movie.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is a space-faring Kree soldier with memory problems, a self-described noble warrior hero fighting a war against the shape-shifting Skrulls. After captain-marvel-international-poster-top-1200x675a Skrull ambush, she crash-lands on mid-90s Earth (smashing through the roof of a Blockbuster Video, as probability would dictate) and realizes that she’s been on this planet before. Teaming up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Marvel chases after the Skrulls who came to Earth along with her (led by Ben Mendelsohn) while also trying to uncover her forgotten past.

In many ways, Captain Marvel is a standard solo origin story, which at this point they can crank out with no effort at all. But this film still feels like a necessary addition to the MCU. Captain Marvel is a worthy star and the galactic stakes are high enough here to make this film stand on its own. A great deal of those positive feelings are due to Larsen, who does a great job of keeping us invested in the character even before we (and she) know who she really is: the cosmic-powered superstar who is going to undo all the bad stuff that Thanos got away with last time (as you probably can guess, I’m still mad that he turned Spidey into dust). And the icing on the cake is the 90s nostalgia reminding us that no matter how bad your internet is during a snowstorm, things used to be much worse.

Aside from Shazam (which is almost certain to be terrible), Captain Marvel is bound to be compared to Wonder Woman, and for the only time ever, DC’s entry is the better one. Captain Marvel does not have the same crossover appeal as Wonder Woman does, but Captain Marvel is a really fun superhero movie on its own merits, as well as a great lead-in for the new Avengers film next month.

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Gloria Grahame was a big name in black and white movies, always playing the tart, seducing the audience with her pout and her smoldering eyes. Now people have to search their memories for her name (or their mother’s memory, or their grandmother’s), but her star quality and talent remain.

Gloria (Annette Bening) recently moved in to a crummy flat in Liverpool to conquer the Royal Shakespeare Company and met a young man, Peter (Jamie Bell), willing to help her learn a new dance the kids are calling “disco.” Peter doesn’t seem to mind their age film-stars-dont-die-in-liverpooldifference and can’t help but fall for her. And the attention of a younger beau is just the stuff Gloria’s ego needs (and perhaps she is not unaccustomed to being the December to someone’s May, perhaps it is her M. O.).

But as fantastic as it is for both the veteran and the struggling actor, there are problems, because the kind of relationship that begins and ends in someone’s neediness is not exactly healthy. They separate, but are drawn back together when Gloria falls ill and refuses to return home, or to contact her adult children. Peter cares for her in a delicate balancing act between her mortality and his desire. She can’t stand illness, or aging, or, worst of all, undesirability. And he hasn’t learned to let go.

This movie really messed with my head for a while – the editing is such that I wondered if I was watching a scrambled copy, or if I was stroking out. It’s not always the easiest to follow. Eventually I sort of matched its rhythm and stopped worrying about things like chronology and plot. I enjoyed getting to know Gloria Grahame, a real-life, Oscar-winning actress from Oklahoma and It’s A Wonderful Life. Annette Bening, it goes without saying, is wonderful. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you she’s still beautiful because that’s a crock of shit. Annette Bening is beautiful, period, and I hate this notion that aging somehow changes or diminishes that. But I also hate the belief that attractiveness equals worth. We have some pretty fucked up core beliefs in our culture and while this movie isn’t going to change them, it might just give you pause.

Jamie Bell is good also, and I enjoyed the irony in his character arc, that he’s actually the one who is, perhaps not visually aging, but certainly maturing. And since he’s a man, maturing = saying less dumb shit. But the proof is in my struggle to write this review, which I’ve had open for the past several weeks. The words aren’t coming because I didn’t really connect to it, despite it having several admirable working parts. As a biopic, it’s really rather basic. But Bening is its saving grace (with a quick shout-out to Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave, also stupendous) and some movies are worth watching for the performance alone.

 

 

 

TIFF’s Famous Dates

George-Amal-Clooney-Venice-Film-Festival-2017George and Amal Clooney welcomed their twins Ella and Alexander in June (at the same hospital where Kate and William’s royal children were born), so people were ecstatic to see them looking terribly in love at the Venice Film Festival in early September. George was there promoting his directorial effort, Suburbicon, starring pal Matt Damon. Clooney has a home on Lake Como (in Italy) where he retreats from the world every summer. It’s where he brought his newborn twins home this summer, and where a paparazzo snuck in to take surreptitious pictures of the babies at their most vulnerable. He started coming to Lake Como 16 years ago, when he and his friend Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) stumbled on the Villa Oleandra while george-clooney-villa-oleandracrisscrossing Italy on their motorbikes. After one of the bikes broke down outside its gates, the owners ushered them in and proceeded to sell Clooney their house for $7.5 million. And it was in Italy where George first met Amal and it was in beautiful Venice itself where they later wed. After the Venice Film Festival, Clooney and family flew to his hometown of Kentucky to show off the twins to his father, who’d been 1297989661099_ORIGINALtoo ill to travel to meet them overseas. Then, sadly, George had to put down his beloved dog Einstein (who co-starred with him in an ad campaign for Omega watches in 2015) in L.A., before dashing back up to Toronto for TIFF, without wife Amal or darling babies.

Another new mum TIFF goers were eager to carey-mulligan-3e906d22-ef3a-484c-9e91-b0398151d67aspot was Carey Mulligan. She made her first public appearance since having her second child in August. Her husband, Marcus Mumford (frontman for Mumford & Sons), stayed home with the kids while she graced TIFF with her presence; she was there for her new film, Mudbound.

 

 

Image_uploaded_from_iOS__2__0006_2017-09-12_09.53.14_2Annette Bening, who was the jury president in Venice, was at TIFF to promote her new film, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool in which she plays a Hollywood leading lady who catches the interest of a much younger actor, played by Jamie Bell. Both stars brought their famous counterparts: Warren Beatty and Bening have been married since 1992, whilst Jamie Bell and wife Kate Mara have been married all of 2 months. Incidentally, Bell walked the red 2017-09-10_05.07.09_2carpet in kind at the premiere of Mara’s TIFF offering, Chappaquiddick.

2017-09-09_07_0002_Background.jpgAmelia Warner walked the TIFF red carpet. She’s the composer for the new Mary Shelley reincarnation starring Elle Fanning. Her famous date: husband Jamie Dornan. Married for 4 years, they have 2 kids together, who were evidently being babysat elsewhere while Mom and Dad enjoy a glamourous night out.

The Mother! premiere was full of famous dates: star Penelope-Cruz-Javier-Bardem-Venice-Film-Festival-2017Jennifer Lawrence is currently dating her director, Darren Aronofsky (they are usually careful to sneak one or more costars between themselves when taking group photos).  Her co-star Javier Bardem is married to the lovely Penelope Cruz (7 years and counting). Bardem and Cruz star together in a film on offer at the Venice Film Festival, Loving Pablo. And let’s not forget Michelle Pfeiffer and her longtime 843077622partner, David E. Kelley, who accompanied his wife to her photo call in Venice and then she in turn went to the Emmys with him, where the show he was writing for, Big Little Lies, scored some major gold.

Nicole Kidman always has some heavy weight nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-10arm candy. Her husband, Keith Urban, was on hand for the TIFF premiere of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and was also by her side at said Emmys (she was nominated and won for her work on the very same Big Little Lies – it’s very good, you should watch).

nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-09.jpg

2017-09-11_01_0013_2017-09-11_08.25.40_1Alicia Vikander attended the TIFF premiere of Euphoria solo (she was also there with Submergence), but last year she and her boyfriend Michael Fassbender were all over TIFF red carpets since they starred together in The Light Between Oceans.

Also flying solo this year: Jason Sudeikis, who stars in Kodachrome with Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris, and appears in Downsizing alongside Matt Damon as well. His better (and prettier) half, Olivia Wilde, stayed home with the kids.rachel-rachel-tiff-11sept17-01

No word on where Daniel Craig was hiding this year but he wasn’t on the arm of his lovely wife Rachel Weisz, who was there for Disobedience, her new film costarring next to Rachel McAdams, even though Craig himself appeared in another TIFF selection, Kings.

I did get to spot Sam Rockwell on the TIFF red carpet for Three Billboards Outside woodshock_050917_03-777x560Ebbing, Missouri and of course in Venice, where he posed with his wife Leslie Bibb, even though I didn’t know until I saw them together that they were together. I know her from all the way back on Popular (and on The League, where she plays Mark Duplass’s nasty ex-wife), but you may have seen her more recently in To The Bone. In this photo, Rockwell’s Three Billboards costar Woody Harrelson poses with his wife, Laura Louie.

I spied Dave Franco on the red carpet for The Disaster Artist, a real family affair. His James+Franco+Dave+Franco+Day+Three+IMDb+Studio+-tqDqQZ9XDFlbrother James directs and co-stars, and their other brother Tom Franco also appears (briefly!). So does Dave’s very new wife, Alison Brie – she plays his sometime girlfriend.

Greta Gerwig debuted her first solo directorial effort at TIFF this year and her partner let her lap up all the attention on her own, but in other years she and beau Noah Baumbach have 2017 Toronto International Film Festival - "Lady Bird" Premiereattended together – particularly when they’ve done a movie together, like Mistress America. This year, Greta posed alongside some of her Lady Bird leading ladies: Lois Smith, Odeya Rush, and Beanie Feldstein (left) who has a famous sibling rather than a famous date – Jonah Hill is her big brother.

 

We’ve had a very crazy month, having attended 3 festivals in as many weeks, and we’re about to do it again in October, so stay tuned. For now, here are a few snaps from Sean and Jay’s big adventure in Venice.

 

 

 

 

Venice Film Festival

Sean and I are on our way to the Venice Film Festival (by way of Philadelphia, oddly enough). Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival is the world’s oldest. It has the distinction of being one of the “Big 3” alongside Cannes and Berlin, and also one of the three festivals that kick off Oscar season, alongside Telluride and of course TIFF (these three festivals occur nearly simultaneously, but Venice ekes them out by a hair).

venice-film-festivalThe very first film to be shown at the festival in 1932 was Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A couple of years later they made it competitive, offering up the “Mussolini Cup” for best foreign film and best Italian film. [As you can guess, the festival underwent some bumpy times. Prior to 1938, political pressures distorted the festival. In the 1940s, there was pretty much a monopoly by movies and directors from the Rome-Berline Axis. But by 1946, things were back on track, the Mussolini Cup renamed once the dictator was ousted.] More recently, the prize takeaway is a Golden Lion (Leone d’Oro) for the best film screened in competition; the Silver Lion (Leone d’Argento) awarded to the best director; and Volpi Cups (Coppa Volpi) for best actor and actress. These are awarded via jury, this year presided by Annette Bening. Bening will be supported by Baby Driver director Edgar Wright; British actress Rebecca Hall; Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi; Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco; French actress Anna Mouglalis; film critic David Stratton; Italian actress Jasmine Trinca; and michael-jackson-thriller-3d-billboard-EMBEDTaiwan-born filmmaker Yonfan. John Landis will preside a jury judging the virtual reality competition. He’s also debuting something of his own – a 3D version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (also screening at TIFF).

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award is dedicated to personalities who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema. This year’s recipient is to be Stephen Frears, who is screening Victoria and Abul at the festival. Past honorees have included James Franco, Brian De Palma, Kitano Takeshi, and Spike Lee.

Venice holds a lot of prestige because it screens a lot of movies that make a big splash come awards season. Last year it hosted the world premieres for La La Land, Arrival, Jackie, and Nocturnal Animals — all of which would go on to either win or be nominated for Oscars (and all of which we saw a week later, at TIFF). What will this year’s Big Movie be? Hard to say, but Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is the festival’s opening film, and not to be missed.

osan_unit_02098_r_crop-embedActually, the programming is such that there are tonnes of not-to-be-missed films, including Netflix’s Our Souls At Night. Its stars, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, will be receiving Lifetime Achievement Golden Lions at the September 1st screening.

As long as Sean and I can tear ourselves away from this beautiful Italian island, we’ll be watching several exciting titles and reviews will be plentiful. Matt will be heading off to TIFF almost as soon as we return from Venice, which means Assholes Watching Movies will runneth over with exciting new stuff. As always, please tune into our Twitter @assholemovies for live updates. Plan on seeing lots of gelato there.

Rules Don’t Apply

I feel like I heard about this movie such a long time ago – Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes biopic. Beatty’s return to acting in, what?, 15 years? His first directorial effort since Bulworth, which was 1998 if my memory of the great soundtrack song serves.

Lily Collins plays Marla, the Apple Blossom Queen, who is under contract with Howard Hughes, an elusive man she has yet to meet despite the fact that she’s been living and rulesdontapply-collins-ehrenreich-car-700x300earning a stipend in Los Angeles for several weeks. Her devout mother (Annette Bening) has already returned home in frustration, so now it’s just Marla and Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), her devoted, reliable driver, who hasn’t met Hughes yet either. His only job, besides driving her around, is not to fall in love with her. That’s kind of tricky even though he’s practically married and she’s a prim virgin. But when a man tells you your beauty and uniqueness means “rules don’t apply to you” – well, crap, it’s the kind of think that dampens the panties.

When Howard Hughes (Beatty) finally does make an appearance in their lives, he’s a larger than life figure of course, and on the bring of insanity (though close enough to the one side that he’s paranoid as heck about seeming crazy). He’s obsessively keeping out of rules_dont_apply_h_2016the public eye while skulking about in the dark. He doesn’t have as much use for these two young protagonists as they have for him, but it makes for an interesting dynamic.

The movie is only funny, or romantic, in fits and starts. Tonally it seems to be a little wayward. I found it interesting nonetheless. Beatty has chosen to show only a small window of Hughes’ life, not his best years by any stretch. He also relegates him to a supporting character in the film, with Frank and Marla providing life and context to Hughes’ sad descent. Perhaps more than a biography of Howard Hughes’ life, this is a tribute to the earliest days of Beatty’s career, when he was a young, ambitious actor just getting his footing in L.A. And with a supporting cast including Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris, Steve Coogan, Oliver Platt and Paul Sorvino, there’s just too much talent to ignore. Beatty is good; Collins is even better.

 

20th Century Women

1979: three women. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is an older single mother of a teenaged son who she fears is missing out on some seminal influences, so she enlists his precocious friend Julie (Elle Fanning) and her free spirit\punk photographer tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig) to “it takes a village” him.

If 20th Century Women isn’t as concerned with being an accurate reflection of the times, it’s a fucking brilliant portraiture. The characters, expertly drawn by writer-director Mike 20th-century-women-annette-benningMills, feel very much like real people because their problems are so distinct. The women don’t bleed into each other; they are each accorded with specific neuroses, anxieties, passions, and influences. We know a little about how they were born, and how they will die, but mostly we know how they are living. 20th Century Women is not plot-driven; nothing “happens” except truth is revealed through meticulous character study.

It helps, of course, to have Annette Bening on board. She’s the reason we’re watching. Her performance was nominated for a Golden Globe. I have been rooting all awards-season long for Natalie Portman in Jackie but having seen this, it will be difficult to go back. Bening treats this movie like a masterclass in acting. Nothing is showy or extraneous. In fact, some of her most brilliant times on screen are in perfect silence, with just the wrinkle of her brow or the droop of her shoulder or some awkward middle-aged dancing communicating all we need to know. Fanning and Gerwig are really quite good as well, but I only know that from the scenes which Bening sits out. If she’s onscreen, my eyes are glued to her. She’s always been this watchable, it’s just been a while since she’s had a role that was equal to her.

Mills’ affection for his characters is evident in their quirkiness. 20th Century Women is funnier than it has to be. Since I’m a strict non-talker at the movies, I tend to communicate approval through hand squeezes. I felt like I’d done a lot of squeezing by the end of the movie, even a little eye-catching and eyebrow lifting, which is probably moot in a dark theatre, but I was feeling magnanimous!  Sean concurred, which I think is an even thumbnail_25085better endorsement for a film that couldn’t be further from his own experience. And that’s what’s so remarkable. Though its genius is in the details, the specificity of the characters, it’s all somehow very relatable. And any movie that’s also a mirror is definitely worth its salt.