Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

Woman Walks Ahead

In the 1880s, widow Catherine Weldon travels alone to North Dakota to paint the portrait of Chief Sitting Bull. The Lakota aren’t thrilled by her arrival (at least not until she brings the rain) but it’s the US Army that’s the real problem. Officer Groves and his men are stationed at Standing Rock in order to undermine the Native American’s land claim. Any friend of the Lakota is an enemy of theirs, which basically means that the soldiers will literally spit in her eye.

Catherine (Jessica Chastain) is “just here to paint a painting” but as she befriends the Lakota, and Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes) in particular, the government provides a tighter and tighter squeeze. Catherine and Sitting Bull share a common goal in freedom, and independence, but Groves’ (Sam Rockwell) continued menace is a threat to them both.

It’s a fascinating true story that’s perhaps not quite fascinatingly told. It doesn’t tell us nearly enough about the time or the people, so it’s hard to justify its existence. But MV5BNjViOWYyOTctNzhhZS00YjgyLWI5MjctZmM2ZDE3MWM4MTQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ2NzcxOTk@._V1_I really like Jessica Chastain, and she tends to make wise and informed career decisions, so I lean toward giving this the benefit of the doubt. This could easily veer into white saviour territory, and maybe it defaults too much toward politeness, but I think it strives to be a respectful and faithful rendering. I just wish it could be entertaining as well. And I really wish it didn’t take one insignificant white woman to tell the story of an entire people, but if that’s how we have to frame it, then (I guess) this more feminist bent is at least an improvement.

Now let us talk about Jessica Chastain for a moment. Jessica Chastain the actor, but more importantly, Jessica Chastain the principled woman. I don’t know her personally at all, but I see that she is walking the walk, using her privilege and position of power to raise up the talented women with whom she surrounds herself. Not unlike her character in this film, she is fighting battles for equality. Twice Oscar nominated, her talent is raw and smoldering. Undeniably a beautiful woman and a style icon, she’s not afraid to appear in this film without a stitch of makeup and with substantial armpit stains (I’ll credit this bit of realism to her female director, Susanna White, who doesn’t feel compelled to turn a “painter of a certain age” into a sexpot, which is 100% what would have happened under the direction of literally any man). Now what do we have to do to get this story told from the Lakota perspective, with a Native director in the chair?

 

 

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Molly’s Game

I resisted watching this because of a distaste I have for Molly Bloom, the real Molly Bloom. She’s extremely self-involved and remorseless. So damn you Aaron Sorkin for getting nominated and forcing me to watch this. Well, okay, since it stars Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, it wasn’t a total boycott, but still, I was reluctant. Especially reluctant after being subjected to the trailer numerous times in which Molly asks a little girl “Do you know how many witches were burned at Salem?” and when the kid shrugs, she says none – they weren’t burned, they were hanged or drowned or stoned. But something in me rebelled angrily at this line; the answer is right, none were burned, but that’s because witches never existed. It was women who were burned or hanged or stoned.

Anyway, you may or may not know that Molly Bloom ran a bunch of illegal poker games, made oodles of money, and then get raided, her cash seized, and she was indicted. Facing court, and jail, she wrote a book about it, and named names.MV5BMTU2NjY4NjM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDcyMzIyMzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_

Molly isn’t particularly likable. She thinks she’s smart and she tells you she is constantly. She could have gone to law school, you know. And probably should have. But the money was so easy, and so plentiful! And movie stars played the poker (and the Russian mob, but never mind that). She’s guilty and she’s greedy but she’s also tough as hell. Chastain taps into her resiliency , her intelligence, her strength. Idris Elba plays her “not a little bit shady” lawyer, and he’s a perfect sparring partner. Aaron Sorkin’s scripts are meaty and lesser actors may be felled by them but Chastain and Elba are not just equal to it, they master it. It’s impressive.

Aaron Sorkin isn’t just the screen writer on this, he also steps into director’s shoes for the first time. Swinging for realism, he stacked the lesser roles with real poker players, wanting even the way they handled cards to look authentic. In between takes, the actors would play poker with the real players. Extras, usually paid about $90 a day, would often leave the set the best paid people there.

Sorkin is a smart guy with a lot of famous friends; he asked for and received great advice and support from David Fincher (a Social Network collaborator) and from Kevin Costner, who stars as Bloom’s father. The story is intriguing and well-suited to Sorkin’s abilities, but the movie runs a little long and isn’t terribly cinematic (there’s a lot of sitting in a lawyer’s office, which, not coincidentally, is located in the fictional firm of Gage Whitney, which fans of Sorkin’s will recognize from The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Newsroom.

The movie didn’t change my mind about Molly but it certainly cements Chastain and Elba as razor sharp, a cut above. If you like Sorkin’s zingy TV stuff, you’ll like this just fine. It’s not a best picture contender but it’s got some damn fine performances.

 

 

So, was Molly Bloom a witch, or just a woman?

Crimson Peak

Having somewhat of a crush on Guillermo del Toro’s movies, I watched Crimson Peak soon after it came out, despite my being a huge chicken. But I refused to review it because I was sure I didn’t really get it: the film had gotten tepid reviews, but my initial reaction was anything but lukewarm. On a recent del Toro kick I’ve rewatched it and came to the same conclusion: Crimson Peak is kind of great.

Okay, it’s not epic story-telling the way The Shape of Water is, but it’s a visual master piece that succeeds in both creeping us out and sucking us in.

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, a young woman both relatable but maddening hero_Crimson-Peak-2015because she spurns the favour of her childhood friend, a mild-mannered, handome doctor who cares for her (Charlie Hunnam) in favour of the mysterious badboy newcomer (Tom Hiddleston). Even the brutal murder of her beloved father doesn’t stop her from flitting off to England to a crumbling old mansion atop a mountain that oozes blood-red clay with new hubby Thomas (Hiddleston) and his wicked sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) as her only (living) roommates.

Del Toro has crafted an ode to gothic ghost stories. The story is simple but the visuals a sumptuous feast, with every inch of his Victorian sets crammed with macabre detail that are never without meaning. He couldn’t do it without some talented help. Thomas E. Sanders (Braveheart, Hook, Star Trek: Beyond; Oscar nominated for Saving Private Ryan and Dracula), who died earlier this year, was responsible for the incredibly rich production design. The mansion was built in its entirety on a sound stage, its layered look reflecting the generations of the Sharpe family who would have lived within it. Although inspired by period architecture, this being a del Toro film, everything was amplified and magnified. The details are familiar but the effect they create it startling and rather lavish. It helps to create a world in which the supernatural feels like a natural fit. Kate Hawley (Edge of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad), costumer extraordinaire, used a lot of the same principles on her end. Every single piece in the film was hand-stitched specifically for it. Though styles and silhouettes were inspired by the fashion of the time (circa 1901), every piece is elevated and la-ca-hc-guillermo-crimson-peak-20151011made more moody, more dramatic. Weeks and weeks were spent stitching an intricate detail onto one of Chastain’s dresses that gets a lot of screen time. And this being a haunting ghost story, every costume had to look just as meticulous from behind, for those eerie shots down darkened hallways.

Tom Hiddleston I can generally take or leave (well, preferably leave) but Jessica Chastain continues to impress with her versatility and restraint. And interestingly, it’s del Toro staple Doug Jones who packs a major wallop. A classically-trained mime and contortionist, most of Jones’ best work is done under heavy layers of prosthetics, but embodying several of the ghosts in this film, he reminds us just how creepy a mere movement of the arm can be.

Guillermo del Toro is a master orchestrator of aesthetic and imagination. Crimson Peak’s script doesn’t quite hold up to its incredible production design, but it chills your bones when it wants to and sets your blood pumping overtime when it needs to. There are twisted monsters hidden in the depths of the Allerdale mansion, but like his crowning achievement The Shape of Water, they aren’t always who you expect.

 

 

 

 

 

Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters

Guillermo del Toro has long been one of my favourite story-tellers even though he makes movies that, technically, I shouldn’t care to see. He operates mostly within genres – horror and fantasy being his favourite, and generally, my least favourite. But I’ve been drawn in by the visual spectacle. There is beauty in everything he creates. It sparks my imagination, as it so clearly springs from his. Sean hasn’t seen as much of his catalogue as I have but I hesitate to rewatch them with him because to be honest, lots of his movies have genuinely scared me. It’s not the monsters or the horror that’s scary, it’s del Toro’s excellent world-building. You can get lost in the details, and that’s what haunts me. These fabulous details really fuck with me: anyone can create a monster, but when that monster has a horrifying little trinket on a shelf in his cave, that thing whispers to me, sticks with me.

Del Toro grew up in Mexico, raised by a strict Catholic grandmother who tried to exorcise him (twice) because of the monsters that sprang from his pen. Sean and I were DSC_0001in Toronto this weekend where the Art Gallery of Ontario is hosting a special exhibit on Guillermo del Toro called At Home With Monsters. Del Toro’s visual panache extends well outside the bounds of his film making. The themes that so often crop up in his movies appeal to him in his real life as well: religion, death, magic and alchemy, gods and monsters, insects and their symbolism, gothic detailing. He’s obsessed with Charles Dickens, Frankenstein, and macabre art – so much so that when his collection overwhelmed his home, he bought two more just to house the stuff. Adjoining the two houses, which he calls Bleak House, it has become a museum of sorts, stuffed to the gills with every crazy thing that’s ever inspired him. And now he’s curated from among his pieces and sent them out into the world for the rest of us to enjoy and think over. The exhibit comprises some 400 pieces – just 10% of his collection, but still more vast than I had anticipated, and it includes story boards, props, and costumes from his movies. It runs in Toronto until January 7th so you should really check it out if you can. If you can’t, you can try to console yourself with just a small sampling below.

20171217_144349Del Toro based the Pale Man’s face on the underside of a manta ray – as a kid he found the fish’s tiny mouth and nostril slits frightening. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the Pale Man consumes fairies and children, but in today’s political climate del Toro sees his creation as an example of predatory white male supremacy. Just after the 2017 US Presidential inauguration, he tweeted “The Pale Man represents all institutional evil feeding on the helpless. It’s not accidental that he is a) Pale b) a Man He’s thriving now”

There’s also a piece about how del Toro believes that simply moving the eyes creates a monster. It gave me shivers: he’s not wrong, is he?

Kate Hawley did the wonderful costumes for Crimson Peak. Her team spent 8 weeks on the leaf motif of Jessica Chastain’s blue dress alone. Period pieces are always a challenge, but for this movie, with del Toro always wanting more more more, every piece had to be created from scratch, often taking inspiration and silhouettes from real life vintage pieces but being made more dramatic, with more fabric and volume than would have been historically accurate, strictly speaking.

This you may recognize as the Angel of Death from Hellboy II: The Golden Angel. Again20171217_150534 del Toro has simply moved the eyes to instantly create monstrosity. We learn as babies to expect two eyes, and when we don’t find them where they should be, it’s instantly disorienting. He drew inspiration from the archangels of medieval manuscripts, which had eyes on the feathers of their wings. The Angel of Death has a bony faceplate and misplaced eyes, making it literally blind to human suffering – the opposite of what we think a ‘guardian’ angel should be, which throws us off balance. Del Toro is really, really good at that. He defies and challenges our expectations.

Wooden puppets created by Simon Verela for The Book of Life. Guillermo del Toro’s works are always about death in one way or another, and his dead characters don’t often stay dead. But The Book of Life is actually a celebration of life, and a vibrant tribute to Mexican folklore.

Yes, that enormous Frankenstein head really does usually hang in the entrance of Guillermo del Toro’s home. Frankenstein is his favourite movie monster and his memorabilia is plentiful. “Frankenstein, to me, is instrumental in the way I see the world…It is the essential narrative of the fall of man into an imperfect world by an uncaring creator.”

20171217_151039  The Faun, from Pan’s Labyrinth, was inspired by del Toro’s recurring childhood dream (nightmare?) of a goat-faced figure who slowly emerged from behind his armoire. In the film, the Faun is intended as neither good nor evil, like nature, he is there to witness but has no agenda – he literally doesn’t care whether Ofelia lives or dies.

These are part of a distinctly sad collection in the exhibit – concept art from a movie that never got made. HP Lovecraft has always been a huge inspiration in everything that del Toro does, and he spent a decade adapting Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness for the screen. In fact he and his studios have created over 400 pieces of art, part of the pitch they presented over and over to studios, who have rejected his wish for an R-rated tentpole horror with no love story or happy ending (even with Tom Cruise and James Cameron on board to produce). With Oscar buzzing around his The Shape of Water, will del Toro’s At The Mountains of Madness finally get made, or will this always be the one that got away?

Anything here look familiar? Aside from his influences, this exhibit covers all of Guillermo del Toro’s movies except his most recent. Which ones can you identify?

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

On Saturday we brought our sweet little nephews to the Capital Fair, where we watched a stunt dog show, rode rides, played games on the Midway, and visited a petting zoo where the kids and I hand-fed llamas. On Monday I watched a llama get shot, point blank.

Do not confuse The Zookeeper’s Wife with We Bought A Zoo. This is no light-hearted tale. It’s about real-life couple Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who used their posts at the Warsaw Zoo to save hundreds of Jews during the German invasion. Of course I’ve read both The a6oYy417yHHP01DGIDZUeEzH7JFZookeeper’s Wife, and We Bought A Zoo, and more recently I was reading another book about a woman who led an underground railroad of sorts to smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto, wherein the zookeeper’s wife was specifically mentioned. It was an especially brutal place to be during the war. Terrible, unspeakable things happened every day, and it’s kind of a miracle to see\hear these stories about ordinary people who couldn’t live with what was happening, so they didn’t [it’s sort of awful that these words sound very applicable even today].

Glimmers of light do not eliminate all the darkness. The Zookeeper’s Wife is not an easy watch. The film makes the stakes clear, yes for the zookeepers taking enormous risks themselves (they would surely die if discovered), but especially for the people they are helping, who would otherwise be dead – or worse.

Jessica Chastain as the zookeeper’s wife is of course fantastic. There’s no CGI used int he film; those are real lion cubs she’s cuddling, with not a shred of hesitancy. Fitting, I suppose, when she’s sitting in the middle of a war where much scarier things are happening on the streets. WW2-era films always inspire a bout of siderodromophobia in me (the fear of trains).

This movie gets some things right, and some things wrong. In the end, I think it’s just not terrible enough, which I realize is a weird thing to say. What I mean is: it doesn’t have the power to haunt you the way Schindler’s List did (does). It feels a little cold, without the emotional gravitas you’d expect. I expected to cry. What does it mean that I didn’t? Perhaps what this movie needed was a meaningful connection to just one victim. Heroics are all well and good, but they’re only important because they’re necessary. Heroes are only half the equation: both must be compelling.

Miss Sloane

miss-sloane-32016 Golden Globe nominee Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a notorious Washington anti-regulation lobbyist taking on the biggest challenge of her career when she’s asked to help take on the powerful gun lobby.

It’s timely and potentially divisive subject matter that will surely be attacked in many online comment sections as Liberal Hollywood Elites trying to take your guns away. But, honestly, can’t we use a rational discussion on gun control right now?

Well, you won’t find any of that here. Neither Sloane nor her opponents are particularly interested in facts or rhetoric. They are masters of spin, manipulation, and trickery. Never mind guns or politics, this is really a movie about sleight of hand. It has more in common with movies about magicians, con artists, or thieves  than movies about politics.

Film Review Miss SloanAnd maybe this is supposed to be the point. The only problem is that and Miss Sloane (the movie) seems to love the thrill of the chase as much as it claims to be outraged by her methods. For awhile, this behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pass a bill in Washington (or keep one from passing) is almost fascinating and thought-provoking but the endless double crosses and Sloane’s nearly superhuman foresight make it harder and harder to take any of this seriously.

Needless to say, Chastain is pretty much the best thing about the movie. Any insight miss-sloane-2we get into her character comes more from her performance than Jonathan Perera’s script. But even she occasionally fails to convince during some scenes where she seems to be acting more for the trailer than the actual film. I can only assume director John Madden is to blame for this given that Miss Sloane also showcases inexplicable overacting from the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Waterston, and Mark Strong that I can’t believe made the final cut. You’d think  a director of a Best Picture winner (Shakespeare in Love but still) would have done a better job of reining them in.

Madden may have had trouble keeping control of his hammy cast but he still manages to make a watchable film. It is slickly edited and never boring. And I have to admit, its most outrageous twists are the best ones. It just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. I knew almost nothing about this movie going in and expected something serious and dry. I was anticipating a chore and got a preposterous guilty pleasure that I’m still trying to forgive myself for kind of liking.

 

 

Hollywood Doppelgängers

Hollywood has absolutely no faith in audiences. If they think you liked something, they’re so overanxious to play it safe that they’ll sell it to you twice. We’ve had twin movies as far back as memory serves: movies that have near-identical plots and are essentially the same right down to their release dates. Wyatt Earp & Tombstone. Dante’s Peak & Volcano. Armageddon & Deep Impact. Antz & A Bug’s Life. Infamous & Capote. And on and on. The interesting thing though is that we don’t just have twin movies, we have twin stars too. Hollywood thinks we like familiar things. Familiar faces. And of course, plastic surgeons can only make so many noses. Everyone wants the Liv Tyler lips and the Salma Hayek tits. We can’t be surprised when they come off the assembly line looking a little too similar.

javier-bardem-jeffrey-dean-morganJavier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan: are they actually the same person?

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Amy Adams and Isla Fisher: they don’t just look alike, they sound alike too!

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Will Arnett and Patrick Wilson: even losing hair at the same rate!

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Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard: sharing the same bottle of Miss Clairol since 2001.

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Jesse Plemmons and Matt Damon: even their accents are the same!

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Henry Cavill and Matt Bomer: yup, that’s two different people. Same damn jaw.

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Paz Vega and Penelope Cruz: they usually say that a woman this stunning “broke the mold” but that’s clearly not the case.

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Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe: these two look so alike it’s creepy. Watch this face meld of the two of them and you won’t be able to distinguish one face from the other.

Who are your favourite Hollywood twins?

 

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is the sister we know: kinda evil, not above killing kings in order to usurp their kingdoms. Ravenna is the one who the-huntsmantormented Snow White in the last movie, the wicked step mother, if you will. Her younger and less-known sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has powers that resemble Elsa’s, from Frozen, and they’re awakened when she undergoes a personal tragedy. She flees in grief, and tortured by sad and angry thoughts, she establishes her own land, her own army, all ruled with the vengeance in her heart. The best of her army turn out to be Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) and they attract Freya’s unwelcome attention. They also attract each other and there’s a little bow-chicka-bow-wow. But Freya, scorned by love, can’t bear to seem them together, and slays Sara.

Meanwhile, back at home with Ravenna are the events of the previous movie. Ravenna recruits Eric, aka, The Hunstman, to capture Snow White after her escape, and promises to bring his wife back to life as a reward. a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740031-1461183847_640x0cHowever, he quickly switches allegiance and together they defeat and kill the Evil Queen, and Snow White is crowned in her place.

In this movie, an unseen Snow White (Kristen Stewart does not reprise her role) asks The Hunstman to do one final thing: to get rid of Ravenna’s magic mirror, still a source of evil.

You’ve probably already heard that this movie is not super good, and I’m not able to tell you any different. I’m also pretty grumbly about the fact that a movie with 3 strong female leads is still named after the man.

I’m going to focus on the thing that this movie does right, and that’s noticeably its costuming. It should be a surprise to none of you that Colleen Atwood is behind the genius designs.

a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740028-1461183847_640x0cOn Freya’s costumes, Atwood says: I sourced a lot of fabric in Italy for the dresses that she wears. She has a lot of Italian velvets and silk in her dress and croquets from different vendors in Italy. Some of her fabric is vintage fabric I had in my stock. We wanted Freya to have something that wasn’t a crown. I have a 3-D printer in my crafts department, and this guy is a genius at operating it. I said, “Let’s do little tiny feathers and glue themmaxresdefault together.” So we grew that mask as separate elements in a 3-D printer and applied them to a facemask.

On Ravenna’s look: We built a different kind of cloak with feathers that I had all hand-foiled and made into the cape. It was quite an a-sneak-peek-at-the-gorgeous-costumes-in-the-huntsman-winters-war-1740032-1461183847_640x0cordeal for the people who had to feather it. I had a feather room, where it was just feathers stuck into Styrofoam. It was really beautiful, you walked in and there were all these shelves with gold feathers stuck in foam before we applied them to the cape.

On working in the fantasy\period genre: The big challenge is that you’re working with modern bodies, you’re working with people that are three times the size what people were in the actual periods. When you look at all the costumes from historical figures, you realize how small they were. You have to adapt that period or that fantasy silhouette to a modern body so that it doesn’t look charlizereally goofy. You back away from it to get the proportions right, so that you feel it’s historical, even though it’s on somebody eight inches taller than the average man was in that period, and it’s a woman.

Three Assholes Talk A Most Violent Year

Matt: For a movie called A Most Violent Year, there wasn’t much actual violence with at least two people exiting the Coliseum last night calling it simply “slow”. Did A Most Violent Year hold your attention?

Jay: Yes, actually, it did. I agree that it was “slow” but I kind of liked the control of the pacing. It was very deliberate, which helped build the tension. I also agree that A Most Violent Year was neither terribly violent nor actually a year (the script keeps reminding us, actually, of a strict 30-day countdown, but I suppose “A Pretty Shitty Month” is a less compelling title).

Matt: I actually like A Pretty Shitty Month! The film is set in statistically one of the most violent years in New York’s history. I was born in 1981 and had no idea until now that I was born in A Most Violent Year.most violent year 1

Jay:  The scenes of NYC were unrecognizable to me (and I assume to us) – subways filled with graffiti, garbage overflowing onto the streets – and the movie was shot in a really hazy palette of colour. There was snow, obviously, but also just this bleakness, like everything was beige or maybe sepia is a better word. How did that grittiness add to your understanding of the movie?

Sean: I think the bleakness helped set the tone for the movie. There was no real happy ending other than Abel is a bigger player and maybe as a result he could bribe the DA into giving him a better deal.

Matt: Time and place is everything. This is a very different New York than the one that we know, the one that people talk about from the early 80s. Abel’s world is a dangerous one and director J. C. Chandor immerses us in it. He doesn’t have to show much violence. The mood he creates reminds us of the danger.

Jay: Abel is certainly guilty of fraud and tax evasion, among other charges. Does his refusal to pick up a weapon make him a “good” man? most violent year 2

Sean:  No, his choice not to use guns does not redeem him. He seemed to like to think he was better than his peers because of it but he was not a good guy.

Matt: I went into A Most Violent Year expecting a gangster film. What I got was almost an anti-gangster film with Abel doing almost anything to avoid becoming a gangster. He prides himself up until the end on walking a righteous path. Is he as morally superior as he would seem to like to believe? Is he more interested in avoiding the appearance of wrongdoing than he is actual wrongdoing?

Jay: I don’t think he kids himself that it was righteous, just “the most right”, and picking the most right of two wrongs doesn’t exactly equal righteous. He seems to have some interior moral code that he’s following, but mobsters often do have exactly that, a strict code, but one that’s just terribly skewed toward their own ends. Abel aspires to be more of a white-collar criminal rather than a gangster, but that’s just semantics. He doesn’t want to pull the trigger himself, but he doesn’t seem above putting out a hit on someone. He’s all about growing his business, and he seems willing to do that by any means necessary. He’s chasing after the American dream, so appearances do matter. I also think he’s smart; he’s not against committing crimes, and he’s definitely not innocent, but he thinks about consequences.

Jessica Chastain plays a wife who seems to challenge her husband to push his moral compass to the limit in order to “support the family.” Can you relate to these characters? Is there ever a time when, as a husband, you’ve felt that pressure?

Sean: I could not relate to either of the characters. I feel a drive to succeed but not to compromise my values in doing that, and I want to do well for my wife but don’t feel I am pressured to attain anything specific by her in order to support our family.

Jay:  Really? Then I think you’ve misunderstood some things…

most violent year 4Matt: Uh-oh. So…. Is she the devil on her husband’s shoulder or is their dynamic more complicated than that?

Jay: You know, that’s a really smart question and I couldn’t have put it so well myself. Clearly she’s a little less scrupulous, but she’s also a little less smart. Not to say that she’s dumb. This may be 1981 but she’s no housewife. She’s ambitious and cut-throat and has her own ideas about how to provide for her family. She basically accuses him of being a coward so I’m surprised their marriage isn’t rockier. Ultimately I think he needs her, she’s the one who pushes him to greater heights, she’s partly what motivates him but she’s also what forces him into situations that make him uncomfortable. But as he says early on, “When it feels scary to jump that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying at the same place your whole life.

Matt: When the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this month, the list of Best Supporting Actress nominees were mostly identical to that of the Golden Globes with Jessica Chastain being replaced by Laura Dern. Should she have been included? According to IMDB, she’s received 18 nominations for her performance while the excellent Oscar Isaac has 3. Why do you think he hasn’t gotten more attention?

Jay: I’m not terribly upset she was left out, but I can’t say that Laura Dern was more worthy. I don’t have a particular appreciation for Jessica Chastain, but there were a couple of scenes that were show-stopping. Plus, anyone who can act through the 80s bangs and the big gaudy earrings and still be noticed has to be doing something right.

As for Oscar Isaac, it is a bit of a mystery. I remember when I first started seeing previews for most violent year 3this film in theatres, it took me a while to place Chastain. The shoulder pads were distracting, I guess, not to mention the press-on nails, and I had to go through a rolodex of actresses in my mind before I got to her name and it clicked. Him I recognized right away, but in the movie he seemed way more transformed. Maybe it’s because the last big movie I saw (and loved) him in was Inside Llewyn Davis, and the difference is astonishing. He comports himself like a don, like his empire is vast and his future assured. We know that’s not necessarily the case, but there’s never a hair out of place or a stray piece of lint on his ubiquitous camel coat. Appearances clearly mean a lot to this man; he wants to make it clear he’s risen above his station. And I believe it. I believed his pride, his hubris, his sense of “right.” So I don’t know why he hasn’t been singled out, although considering the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, maybe I have an idea why.

The Martian

In Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney martiangets accidentally left behind on Mars. You can read my review of the book at Quickie Book Reviews (yes, she reads too!). Weir self-published his book on Amazon and it did so well that a real publisher acquired the rights, and that release did so well that some studio bought the rights to make it into a stupid space movie starring Matt Damon.

Which is all well and good. The book itself is pretty heavy on sciency stuff but I think the overall  themes of isolation, preservation, and space panic will translate pretty well on film. And Matt Damon’s got some serious experience being left alone on a planet (although as I recall, that one didn’t go so well). Then yesterday I heard Jessica Chastain was added to the cast, and I instantly worried that this was beginning to feel too much like an Interstellar sequel. Also rumoured to be starring: Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover. Add director Ridley Scott into the mix and what could go wrong? It’s a super starry  mix, all reportedly working for less than their normal fees just to “get this thing made.”

So what do you think? Interested in seeing this one? It’s slated for release November 2015.

 

Update June 2015: The trailer’s just been released, and people are psyched!