Tag Archives: Marion Cotillard

Blood Ties

I’m flipping through what Amazon Prime has deemed “top movies,” most of which I’ve seen before, many of which I’d disagree are “top” (some vehemently!), some I’d even disagree are “movies” but there are a couple I haven’t seen, so I take a gamble and click And Did They Listen? The truth is: I myself could not quite bring myself to listen. It’s a documentary that, in THEIR words mind you, is about “history’s only scientifically verified encounter with alien life.” Although the world alien may be misleading – although they appear to have visited in one of those tin-can UFOs that little boys in the 1950s might have dreamed up, they are actually human beings simply from another star universe. And for some reason, though they are touted as highly intelligent beings, they’ve decided to make sole contact with earth through a little boy, who grows up to be quite a crackpot with lots of vague predictions, some of which can’t help but come true. The documentary was so shoddily made and contained so much horseshit I gave up within minutes (and you know what kind of crap I’ll sit through in the name of a review!) – I think you might be better served just looking him up on Wikipedia and calling it a day.

So my second choice was Blood Ties, a 2013 film featuring the likes of Clive Owen, MV5BMjExNzk2OTUxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODMyNzA4MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saladana, Billy Crudup, and James Caan, that I’d somehow never seen. In it, Chris (Owen) is newly released from prison, and goes to live with his brother Frank (Crudup), a cop in 1970s Brooklyn. They did not live happily ever after. Instead, they draw lines, one on each side of the law, and they pull whomever they can down with them. But the whole family thing is just too hard to shake, and like it or not, their fates are pretty much intertwined. Which is a nice way of saying they’re fucked.

Ultimately, Blood Ties is good because it boasts a strong cast. But it flails almost everywhere else. The downward spiral is predicable, and while a movie like this should be about the descent, and not the outcome, the descent is hard to keep track of because there are a few too many subplots to keep score of, and not enough help with our scorecards. In other words: it becomes a chore. And like most chores, it keeps going until well past the point you’d want it to. But it was still preferable to the crazy man who invented a religion based on the spaceships he made out of trash can lids. So there’s that.

Advertisements

Assassin’s Creed

This is probably the most super serious movie that a video game franchise has ever birthed. We are quickly briefed on the thousand-year old struggle between Templars and Assassins, with the two sides warring for control over a magic apple, the Apple of Eden that contains the seeds of mankind’s deceit, yadda yadda, genetic code, yadda yadda, free will, yadda yadda, fate of the world at stake. So Michael Fassbender has to travel back in time, sort of, and find out where that apple is hiding.

assassins-creed-movie-Fassbender

Except those stakes are then lowered for no apparent reason because right from the outset Fassbender and the audience are told that nothing can be changed in the past – he’s just observing what’s already happened to one of his ancestors. Which is a bizarre choice for a movie based on a video game that put the player in control of an assassin’s kung fu fighting ancestor, as it leaves the movie’s audience passively watching Fassbender experience a “memory” from the distant past and kind of act it out with the help of a big mechanical harness.

Or, when Fassbender’s recovering from doing his mechanical harness work, we get to watch him fight ghosts (not real, we are assured, just glitches in the Matrix) and also guards (real but gentle because they need Fassbender alive since he’s the last ancestor of some guy, yadda yadda, never mind that this group also is holding Fassbender’s father at the same location [Edit: I just remembered that the ancestry was on his mom’s side but that opens up a whole other set of criticisms]). Admittedly, there are hints of danger, like Fassbender suffering a seizure caused by the harness and then being confined to a wheelchair, but 30 seconds later he is practicing karate moves again so it seems like it’s no worse than a little VR motion sickness.

There is some kind of 1%/mind control through consumerism/uprising by noble freemen underlying all this but don’t even try to find a worthwhile message because the premise of the film’s logic is that violence and free will are tied together, so only murderers and assassins can stand between the 1% and total domination.

That should have been the most insulting part of Assassin’s Creed, but it’s not. The most insulting part is that a decent cast (including Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling) is totally wasted in a blockbuster that lacks any semblance of blockbusting.  My ancestors would be ashamed I ever watched this trash, and I’m right there with them.

Allied

It’s awfully boring for a spy movie. Allied would be a better film if it could decide whether to be a wartime espionage film, or to just embrace the wartime romance. Instead it tries to be both, and in trying, fails to be much of either.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play undercover spies who meet for the first time pretending to be spouses. Some dead Nazis and some illicit sandstorm sex later, they ALLIEDdecide that since they’re so good at pretending, they may as well get married in real life too. They’re warned that “field romances” rarely prosper, but critics be damned, they marry anyway, with London blitzing away in the background.

Marion Cotillard is full of sparkle, but Brad Pitt just flubs this six ways to occupied France. He has his moments, I suppose, but watching him struggle, try too hard, and come in rubbery is just embarrassing. Why has director Robert Zemeckis allowed such mediocrity? Possibly because he knew the material didn’t warrant much more. Brady Pitt is hardly the only problem, only the most surprising. The script is limp, indecisive. Nothing juicy happens until an hour in, the action comes in very, very small bursts with lots of passing the time in between. And at least one of the lead actors, perhaps even both, are outshined by Cotillard’s wardrobe, which may be a bit sumptuous for 1940s London, but who’s counting. Costumer Joanna Johnston nabbed an Oscar nom for her work but probably stands very little chance of actually winning. And frankly, I’m perfectly okay with this Oscar baity movie coming away with no Academy Awards whatsoever.

TIFF 2016: The Best

 

graduation

Graduation

From time to time, we all have to compromise our own values. It’s part of growing up. But do you remember the first time that you betrayed your own moral code?

According to Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, director of the brilliant and beautiful 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (which I have not seen), Graduation is about a lot of things. “It’s about family. It’s about aging. It’s about you. It’s about me”. But mostly, as the Cannes Best Director winner articulated at the North American premiere, it’s about that pivotal moment in one’s life where they make a conscious decision for the first time to do what they know in their heart to be wrong.

Romeo (Adrien Titieni) couldn’t be more proud of his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) when she gets accepted into a fancy British school but he still can’t relax. Despite her stellar grades, she still needs to pass her finals to get out their Romanian town. When a vicious random assault threatens to shake Eliza’s confidence just days before her exams, Romeo can’t help feeling tempted to use his position as a well-respected surgeon to bargain with her educators in exchange for some leniency.

Graduation takes its time. It takes time to establish the relationships, set up the scenario, and let the story play out. Mungiu doesn’t resort to melodrama or even a musical score to beg for our attention. Almost every scene plays out in just one meticulously framed take. It’s an approach that gives his actors plenty of room to shine and his story the time to come alive. If you don’t mind the slow pace, Graduation asks big questions and will get you talking. It’s a very rewarding experience.

my_entire_high_school_sinking_into_the_sea

My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea

Dash Shaw was in high school when James Cameron’s Titanic was in theaters and couldn’t help imaging what it would be like if his school sank like the famous ship with all of his classmates inside. When you think about it, to avoid drowning to death in a sinking building, the smartest would head for the top floor and try to get to the roof. Once Shaw, director of My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea and apparently quite an accomplished comic book writer,  started imaging each floor being occupied by a different grade level, he knew he had a story worth telling.

To see a film called My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea without feeling like you’re seeing something completely unique would be a letdown. So I’m pleased to announce that, whether you love it or hate it, Shaw’s debut feature will not let you down. The unusual animation style takes a little getting used to at first and, even once you get comfortable, there is so much to look at that many of the movie’s jokes- and the jokes are almost constant- can be easy to miss. My Entire High School may eventually be best remember for its carnage (those who are spared from drowning are mostly impaled, electrocuted, or eaten by sharks) but it’s made all the more special by the hilarious and sometimes touching dynamic between three adolescent friends whose bond is in crisis just as their lives are in imminent danger. And it’s all brought to life by some of the best voice acting you’ll hear this year from Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Reggie Watts, and Susan Sarandon.

its-only-the-end-of-the-world

It’s Only the End of the World

I was one proud Asshole walking out of the Toronto premiere of Quebec director Xavier Dolan’s latest family drama. I was genuinely moved by a Xavier Dolan film. I admired Mommy, his last movie, I really did. It was just too self-indulgent for me to really relate to it in any real way.

So I was pleased to find myself loving this movie, more than almost anything else I saw at the Festival this year. I was finally starting to get it. I was quite disappointed to see that not everyone was as impressed as I was. It’s Only the End of the World currently has a score of 48 on Metacritic. If you’re not familiar with that site, let me put that in perspective. That’s only four points higher than Batman v. Superman’s score. Ouch.

I stand by my recommendation though. Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, It’s Only the End of the World tells the story of a family who are easier to relate to than to understand. After a 12-year absence, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) is finally coming home but he is bringing sad news with him. He is very sick and doesn’t have much time left. He’s not quite sure how to bring it up but it wouldn’t matter anyway because his mother, brother, and sister can’t stop alternating between picking fights with him and each other and awkwardly trying to force reconciliation. They try to bond over trivial things and fight over tiny details but can’t seem to bring themselves to talk about anything important.

The claustrophobic family reunion atmosphere seems to rein Dolan in a bit. He still manages to make Lagarce’s play his own though. For such a talky film, it’s surprisingly cinematic with its unnerving score and great performances from Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotilliard, Lea Seydoux, and Vincent Cassell. Using his signature tight close-ups, Dolan works with the actors to find subtext amid all the shouting. No easy task. Hard to act like you’re holding back when you’re screaming at each other.

I’m still not entirely sure what they were fighting about. But the story feels real and profoundly sad.

nocturnal-animals-2

Nocturnal Animals

Careful with this one. The people around me at the TIFF encore screening of Nocturnal Animals were basket cases watching it.

It’s easy to imagine yourself in the same position as Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), a husband and father whose family finds themselves terrorized while driving a lonely Texas highway in the middle of the night. The tension is nearly unbearable as this story unfolds. Those around me could barely sit still watching it and Susan (Amy Adams) is getting even more stressed reading about it. See, the scary part of Nocturnal Animals is but a story within a story. It’s the plot of a manuscript that Susan’s ex-husband (also Gyllenhaal) has sent her of his latest novel. As unnerving as the novel is to watch, it’s even worse for Susan. She’s quite sure the novel is about her.

The three narratives (there are also a lot of flashbacks of Susan’s marriage) are balanced beautifully in the second film from director Tom Ford (A Single Man). Susan is a successful art dealer and everything around her is beautiful and fake. In the story within the story, Tony’s world is harsh and all too real. Nocturnal Animals is sure to be divisive. Ford lays out his themes very clearly and I’m sure I feel comfortable with all of his implications. But there’s so much to look at and so much to feel, think,about, and talk about that you kind of just have to see it.

nocturnal-animals-3

Oh, and if you’re not sold yet, Michael Shannon plays a crazy cop in it.

The Little Prince

A little girl has a bright future ahead of her. How do I know? She and her mother (Rachel McAdams) have her whole life planned out. A life plan so intense she’s more like her mother’s Senior VP than her daughter. Her mother’s best compliment: “You are going to make a wonderful grownup.”

But the crazy old man (Jeff Bridges) next door draws her out of her mature little shell with his fanciful inventions and his beautiful story-telling. His stories and drawings come to life in animation within the animation: the story of The Little Prince.

Growing up it was always Le Petit Prince to me, but even en anglais, the timeless story warms the heart. The main story, starring the little girl, and the crazy man’s story, starring the little prince, are distinguished with different styles of animation. The little girl is done in familiar CG style; the little prince is stop-motion, done not in clay but in paper. Both are lovely, 210b0b20-a7ab-11e5-88e2-828a3e695a05_1280x720but I confess a fondness for the nostalgia and simple loveliness of the latter.

The voice cast is incredible: Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Albert Brooks, Marion Cotillard, Benicio Del Toro, and more. It’s a real testament to just how cherished the book is, around the world. The Little Prince is a sweet children’s book but it can be read and enjoyed by adults, with many layers of themes to interpret. The same goes for the movie, faithfully and lovingly adapted from its source.

The little girl, too grown up for her own good, rediscovers childhood lp-garden-rgb-5kthrough friendship with the batty old guy next door. But anyone who knows the story knows that along with sweetness, there is also sorrow. The first half of the movie is all poetry and imagination. The second half falters a bit when it gets further away from Saint-Exupéry’s ideas and ideals. The movie is a little less fanciful than the novella, a little more down to earth. But The Little Prince has always been the stuff of dreams, too good, too ethereal for Earth. It’s still lovely though. It’s still one of the loveliest things I’ve seen all summer.

 

Poor Charlize Theron

Because we all have deep wells of sympathy for gorgeous, billionaire blondes, here’s why Charlize Theron thinks you should feel sorry for her today: she’s just too pretty!

“Jobs with real gravitas go to people that are physically right for them and that’s the end of the story,”says the woman who won an Oscar for playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

“How many roles are out there for the gorgeous, fucking, gown-wearing eight-footcharlize model?” Charlize said in the May issue of British GQ, whining that “when meaty roles come through, I’ve been in the room and pretty people get turned away first.”

This coming from a woman who not only has a robust career as an actress, but also makes millions on the side every year modelling for Dior and the like. Sucks to be her!

Weirdly, her best example of beauty-discrimination is a role that she actually did get. “I was auditioning for a lot of stuff where they thought I was too pretty,” Theron recently told the Wall Street Journal, complaining that she almost didn’t get a role in the 1997 film f881eef577c711b4609f0a4091deec40_largeDevil’s Advocate because director Taylor Hackford thought she was too good looking to play such a gritty role. “Devil’s Advocate was probably the hardest — they put me through the wringer,” Charlize told the publication recently, “Taylor just wasn’t convinced. He was like, ‘If you were his wife, why would he cheat on you?’ So there. She’s also too pretty to be cheated on. And definitely too pretty to realize how stupid she sounds. I mean, if you’re going to show up to accept Spike TV’s “Decade of Hotness” award, you just have to be prepared to accept all the terrible fallout that comes along with it.

So here’s a list of ugly women Hollywood cast instead of Charlize Theron, the woman too pretty to land jobs in a looks-obsessed industry:
nicole23Nicole Kidman – this ugmo got the lead role in Moulin Rouge instead of Charlize, who can’t sing, incidentally, but the main reason was of course, her distracting beauty, which is why they replaced her with Kidman, who after all, only models for Chanel, Jimmy Choo, and Omega, though that’s not an exhaustive list.

 

Theron was originally cast as Greta Wegener in The Danish Girl but she was just tooGwyneth_Paltrow_s_450x300 beautiful, so she has to be replaced by someone far plainer – Gwyneth Paltrow (who admittedly models for Hugo Boss and Estee Lauder), who actually was still too damned beautiful, so they got rid of her and went with the plainest woman they could think of, Marion 04-Marion-CotillardCotillard (yes, she technically models for the same brand as Charlize – Dior – but it’s in the uglier handbag section, so it barely counts), and then they thought, jeez, I don’t know, maybe even crummy old Marion is still just a little too pretty for this, so let’s call up that frumpy dancer, Alicia Vikander (who barely manages a Louis Vuittoalicia-vikander-the-danish-girln campaign)

 

 

25C2136A00000578-0-Naomi_wears_Revitalift_Filler_Day_Cream-m-6_1424282506380Theron was in consideration for the role of Helen Gandy in J. Edgar, but the director realized, no, this woman is just too beautiful, and so he hired the repulsive Naomi Watts instead, once voted #2 in the French edition of FHM magazine’s “100 Sexiest Women in the World 2006”, presumably right behind Miss Theron, and a model for Pantene and Ann Taylor.

tumblr_nk72jbtvJn1r3scxwo1_1280

Charlize’s utter radiance has had to be replaced not once but twice by plain Jane Reese Witherspoon, in both Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde (a role arguably meant for an attractive blonde woman, but I suppose there’s attractive and there’s too attractive). Luckily Witherspoon, ranked #1 on E!’s Hollywood’s Hottest Blondes, had time between her successful Gap modelling campaign to accept these wallflower roles.

 

Kate Winslet by Alexi Lubomirski (Kate Rock'n'Roll - UK Harper's Bazaar April 2013) 6And then there was the time Charlize auditioned for the role of Rose in Titanic. James Cameron must have also been ultimately discouraged by her exquisiteness, poked around for someone a little less stunning and thankfully landed upon the face of Lancome herself, Kate Winslet. Gross.

So there you have it. Charlize has suffered immensely from her beauty. But she’s not always replaced by uglies. Sometimes she’s replaced by the just so-so, the average people, like you and me, like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. She’s no Charlize, so few are, but since she’s angelinejolie1-jpgdefinitively a few rungs lower, a solid 6 on a good hair day, she was able to land the role of a video game character, who are known for their realistic-looking women.

So there you have it: Charlize Theron is beautiful, and also a bit of an ass. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how she’s also been discriminated against for being white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macbeth

 

Presumably we all know the plot of Shakespeare’s Scottish play: Macbeth is an inspiring leader until his own greed and ambition (and – let’s face it – his macbeth1-2015wife’s) bring him low, low, low, low.

Justin Kurzel’s interpretation is full of striking imagery, some of it colder than I would have thought, some of it feeling a little empty. But we all know we’re really here for the two powerhouse (king-making?) performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Fassbender was the first on board; Kurzel was selected to complement his style, and both wanted Cotillard for Lady M. Cotillard, you may have noticed, or gleaned from her name, is a French actress, and a rather good one. Language is no barrier to her here; the Shakespeare rolls off her tongue. But they have nonetheless kept her French accent, a rare choice. Shakespeare never specified Lady Macbeth’s provenance, though it’s usually presumed she’s macbeth06Scottish liked bloody everyone else. But in this adaptation, she’s got this slight sense of foreignness and we begin to think what it might be like if she was just a little outside the community to begin with. Where exactly does her allegiance lie?

Fassbender makes Macbeth look easy, and it’s nothing of the sort. He communicates tonnes even with long stretches of silence between lines. The eerie, synthetic music is not always welcome, but you do sometimes get the sense that maybe style is valued slightly over substance. And the movie certainly begs the question: is it okay to re-write Shakespeare? Because images3XFZL3VNwhile I’d say Kurzel stays 90-95% faithful to the source, 5% is still cheating, isn’t it? The world hardly needed yet another Macbeth adaptation, so if you’re going to the trouble, you’d better have something new to say. But who is brave enough to believe they can best the bard? Justin Kurzel, evidently, a young director of just one prior movie,  which I’d never heard of before. And there are three writer’s names in the credits, 3 brazen takers of liberty. Are they right? Can you take liberties with Shakespeare? Will the audience accept it? Forgive it?

Fassbender and Cotillard’s take on the first couple of power and greed (this was before Kim and Kanye) is pretty exceptional. She comes off as having a Macbeth-2015-movie-poster-1thing for bad boys, and he’s trying very hard to live up to her fetish. But it’s clear he isn’t as strong as she is. She is the driving force. Lady Macbeth has always been the one to watch, and Cotillard has always been eminently watchable. But then, having relished playing Dr. Frankenstein, she suddenly feels guilty for having created the monster. They’re a couple of complex characters, perhaps the best ever written, and if there are indeed actors worthy of them, these two come close.