Tag Archives: Robert Redford

The Old Man & The Gun

Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a charming old rascal. He meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek) on the side of the road in front of her broken down truck while still in the getaway portion of a bank heist. Would she believe him even if he told her?

Based on a true story, Forrest Tucker was a Texan bank robber who escaped San Quentin at the age of 70 and went on yet another crime spree in the early 80s. Well, his whole life, really, when he wasn’t in prison, which he often was. But then he always escaped and went straight back to the only thing that ever made him happy. His victims would often note how happy he looked, how polite he was. A real mv5bmta2odriy2utnzq1zi00zjzklwe4mwyty2u1odiznty2yzc2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_gentleman. John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is the cop who just happens to be making a deposit on the morning of one of Forrest’s robberies. He vows to chase him and his Over-The-Hill Gang (Danny Glover, Tom Waits).

The Old Man & The Gun isn’t just a tribute to a bygone era of movie-making; it looks and feels like it’s part of the period. It’s the slowest-moving heist movie you’ll see this century, and not just because Redford’s hips aren’t what they used to be. It’s just that director David Lowery isn’t so interesting in the cops and robbers part as he is in making a fitting tribute to Robert Redford. The camera lingers on his impish grin, still capable of commanding a scene after all these years. The film is an homage to him in many ways – to his past filmography, to his status as a living legend. If this is indeed Redford’s last role (he has announced his intention to retire from acting), you couldn’t have found a better one. Lowery reworked the script, molding it from true crime to something more of a love letter to one of his favourite actors.

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Our Souls At Night

Actor-comedian Patton Oswalt lost his wife suddenly in April 2016. He was very vocal in his grief following her death so it took people by surprise when he announced his engagement barely a year later. Some were critical. I, however, wish him nothing but the best, and I’d wish the same for Sean if he were ever in the same spot. I know a little about love and grief, and how they are not mutually exclusive. I’d also never want Sean to feel lonely.

That’s how Louis (Robert Redford) and Addie (Jane Fonda) are feeling when we first meet them – lonely. Both of their spouses are long dead and they’ve each been leading pretty Fondasolitary existences up until Addie gets up the courage to ring Louis’s doorbell and invites herself in for a chat and a little proposal. Why not sleep together, she suggests. No, not sex. Sex doesn’t interest her. But the nights are long. Very long. Couldn’t they come to some arrangement? After thinking on it, he agrees, so off he goes in his best blue plaid shirt, to have a platonic sleepover with a neighbour he’s lived alongside for decades but never really known.

I’m often critical about movies starring senior citizens. So many feel demeaning, unworthy of their subjects, but I must admit, this new one from Netflix feels invigorating and authentic. Addie clearly has agency. They both have plenty to offer. Of course they’re not immune to aging but they’re also not done living, and that was fantastic to see on the big screen.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford both accepted Lifetime Achievement awards here at the our-souls-at-night'-will-reunite-'barefoot-in-the-park'-stars-robert-redford-and-jane-fondaVenice Film Festival, in a ceremony preceding the screening of their new film. They’ve co-starred in movies before: The Chase (1966), Barefoot in the Park (1967), and The Electric Horseman (1979); this is their first in 38 years. To mark the occasion, Fonda said “It was fun to kiss him in my 20s and then to kiss him again in my almost-80s.” I have to say, it was fun for the audience, too. Yes, it’s great to see mature faces getting meaty roles, but you’re also getting a masterclass in acting. These two make it look easy. Their chemistry feels effortless.

nintchdbpict000349666861Of course, if you’re looking for classic, cheesy romance, this isn’t it. Louis and Addie are too wise for that. They have responsibilities, baggage, obligations. Kent Haruf, who wrote the novel upon which this film is based, knew a little about that. He wrote his book under a death sentence: he was 71, and he finished it just months before he died of lung cancer. The novel was published posthumously, so Louis and Addie are his legacy. Fonda and Redford would have made him proud.

This is an excellent movie from Netflix that will be available for streaming later this month.

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.

The Discovery

How would your life change if tomorrow you read in the newspaper that science had confirmed the existence of an afterlife?

A scientist does just that in Netflix’s The Discovery, and his announcement shakes the world. Suicides skyrocket immediately. Is he responsible?

Robert Redford plays Thomas, the scientist in question. A year after the big announcement, he’s basically a recluse, still working on his theories in secret with his son Toby (Jesse Plemmons) and a cult’s worth of helpful believers. He’s pushing the envelope, wanting and needing more and more confirmation – if not for the world at large, at least for himself. It’s personal.

1393540Another son, Will (Jason Segel), estranged from his father since the discovery, returns home. On the return journey he meets a woman named Isla (Rooney Mara) who has her own reasons for questioning the afterlife.

This film provokes a lot of existential questions that not everyone will be comfortable with. But there’s a beauty in finding meaning in life. Believer or not, it draws you in to its essential mystery. Unfortunately, the seed is strongly than the story. It’s a great what-if idea but lacks the terrific follow-through I was hoping for. Your enjoyment of this film depends on how well you deal with great thoughts vs great plots. If you like the ethereal quality of Vanilla Sky, this might be your jam. I certainly enjoyed it, perhaps especially for the thoughtful discussion it generates after viewing.

Would such a discovery be best kept secret? Can you even keep something like this secret? And if the meaning of life and death are in flux, is suicide even the end game – mightn’t some take it a step further? This movie’s a little ambitious for its britches, but I admire that.

Redford does great work in his juiciest role in quite a bit – the mad scientist is off-kilter and complex, and perhaps hasn’t quite thought through all the consequences. His sons provide interesting counterpoint: Toby’s adoration and Will’s skepticism temper Thomas’s zeal. Plemmons is delightfully madcap while Segel plays the stoic. The Discovery is well-cast and thought-provoking and worthy of your time.

Pete’s Dragon

Petes-Dragon-Featured-061320161I am old enough to feel like I should remember the original Pete’s Dragon (which was released in 1977). I know that I saw it as a kid but it definitely did not stick with me. Because of that, I would have had no expectations going into the 2016 version of Pete’s Dragon but for the very positive reviews it has been getting. The new Pete’s Dragon did not resonate with me to quite that degree, but it is a good family movie that I think kids will love. It also may make you wish you had a pet dragon.

Elliot the dragon is probably the best part of this movie and the reason I think kids will go head over heels for Pete’s Dragon. More dog than wild beast, he seems like the perfect companion if you’re stranded in the Pacific Northwest. Even if you’re only stranded metaphorically. Elliot can fly, he can turn invisible, and builds the best tree forts ever! What more could a kid ask for in a mythological friend?bigdragon.0

The human characters in Pete’s Dragon are far less compelling. All of them are one dimensional, existing only to contribute whatever is needed to move the story along.  Bryce Dallas Howard likes nature so she protects the dragon. BDH’s stepdaughter likes Pete so she helps. Karl Urban is BDH’s greedy and bored soon-to-be brother in law, who we know will learn a lesson by the end. Robert Redford is BDH’s father, the old guy who tells stories about the dragon and who fortunately can also drive an 18 wheeler. Wes Bentley is just kind of there because someone decided that BDH needed a fiance and the stepdaughter needed a father and Urban needed a brother.

I wanted more depth from these characters and maybe older kids will too. But ten-year-old me would not have cared one bit about character development when there’s a flying green dragon on display! A fantastic-looking, furry, CG dragon. The visuals in Pete’s Dragon are awesome, both when it comes to Elliot and when it comes to displaying the gorgeous forest/mountain vistas of the northern west coast. The combination of Elliot and the beautiful backdrops is more than enough to keep adults entertained, even with paper-thin characters at every turn.

petes-dragon-4Just don’t expect there to be a clear message. Lately, Disney (/Pixar) has been doing well at including big coherent themes in kids’s movies, from Inside Out to Zootopia to Finding Dory. There is no clear message here to be found.  There are environmental and family threads sewn but no coherent payoff is ever delivered.

Still, that’s not so much a complaint against Pete’s Dragon as a reminder that Disney (/Pixar) has given us some classics in the last year. Pete’s Dragon does not quite measure up to that high standard but it is still a good family movie and moreover, a movie that this childless adult greatly preferred to its polar opposite counterprogramming, the joyless Sausage Party.

Pete’s Dragon gets a score of seven fuzzy dragons out of ten.

 

Hits & Misses

Steve Jobs: This movie is underperforming at the box office right now so my expectations were tempered, but the truth is, I was the-intense-first-trailer-for-aaron-sorkins-steve-jobs-movie-paints-a-picture-of-an-egotistical-and-difficult-manriveted. Yes, riveted, for the entire 2 hours. Aaron Sorkin has crafted a film in 3 acts, all three covering the moments before big product launches and pivotal times in Jobs’ life. 1984: the Macintosh is launched just days after that historic Superbowl ad while Jobs is angry at having lost Time magazine’s Man of the Year to a computer in part because of his vehement denials of paternity to 5-year-old Lisa. 1988: after the failure of the Macintosh, Jobs has left Apple and is launching the NeXTcube with his eye on the bigger picture. 1998: back at Apple, he’s launching the iMac, computer of tomorrow. Jeff DBildschirmfoto-2015-07-03-um-11_47_44aniels plays the Apple CEO and Kate Winslet plays Jobs’ right hand woman; both exactly as brilliantly as you’d expect. Michael Fassbender is of course Jobs himself, and I have no qualms about his portrayal of an extremely complex man. He’s an egomaniacal dick, and yet we still see his humanity. The surprise for 11730-4866-2536097E00000578-0-image-a-27_1422709812751-2-xlme was Seth Rogen who plays Steve Wozniak, who is a very interesting character. He’s very much the affable, humble counterpart to Jobs’ mad genius, but is also the one who actually knows how to design and build computers (Jobs being more of an idea man). Rogen manages to strike a balance between being second banana, and also being the only one who can truly stand up to Jobs. Colour me impressed, Seth Rogen. Danny Boyle has a well-crafted beast on his hands – maybe a little too rigidly structured, but admirably made. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did.

Truth: An icon playing an icon – Robert Redford portrays Dan Rather as he becomes embroiled in the journalistic snafu that would end his enviable career. In 2000, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) was about to break the story of George Bush’s spotty military career. You may remember the highlights: that he pulled strings to be admitted to the National Guard in order to avoid service in Vietnam, then went AWOL and never really completed even that much. It was going to be a big deal inrather an election ultimately decided by just 500-odd votes, but that summer Mapes’ mother died and the story never aired. Four years later, though, the story is revived when someone comes forward with documents. Mapes and her team (Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid) bust it wide open after a lot of teasing and research and legwork, and Dan Rather presents the case on 60 Minutes. But of course Republicans were never going to let this 75story sit, and pretty soon the internet trolls are working feverishly to discredit whatever they can. Truth becomes not just a story about journalism, but about government corruption at the highest level. 60 Minutes is on CBS. CBS was owned by Viacom, a conglomerate that relied on government tax breaks. Can they afford to upset the presidency? Truth, the actual truth, gets lost somewhere in the shuffle. Sean felt it made a better story than a movie, and he may be right. Blanchett is note-perfect, and Redford surprised me – he doesn’t do an impression of Rather, but he does capture his cadence and persona in a way that felt convincing but not mimicky. The film, though, is pretty conventional, and it’s oddly paced. I absolutely believe that a journalist’s job is to ask questions,b ut that doesn’t mean I needed 18 different soliloquies on the topic. I have a headache from being hit over the head with this message. Relax, James Vanderbilt; your premise is solid and the movie is good if not great. No need to be so sanctimonious.

Jem: A complete defilement of my childhood, no 80s baby is going to have anything to do with this travesty. They’ve ruined everything that made the cartoon of our innocence great: the look is wrong (she used to be outrageous!), the sound is wrong, they’ve traded in a talJemMovie00-630x420king, hologramming computer for Youtube. I spent years as a little girl putting on Jem concerts in a neighbour’s garage, so I think I know what I’m talking about. Even the earrings were botched, for crying out loud. And where was the awesome rival band, the Misfits? Jem and the Holograms weren’t just rockstars, they were businesswomen, philanthropists, crime fighters, and foster mothers. While it aired during the mid-80s, it was in the top 3 most watched kids’ cartoons. Why then did the studios spit in the eye of the franchise by making a movie that was sure to fail? And isn’t even good enough to attract a new audience? How would jemaudiences have felt if the same was done to Transformers, a movie that, according to IMDB, had an estimated budget of $150M in 2007. A couple of years later, GI Joe was given $175M and even though the first one didn’t do all that great, they found another $130M to throw at the sequel. Jem, on the other hand, was given an estimated budget of just $5M. So let’s sit with that for a minute and ask ourselves why. Yes, the 80s version was goofy and over the top, but that beats the bland, paint by numbers crap this remake is offering. It’s trying so hard to appeal to millennials it completely denigrates any nostalgic appeal and alienates the people it was first made for. Epic fail.

Journalists in Broadcast/Print

TMP

On Monday, I attended the North American premiere of Spotlight, an entertaining and infuriating film about four reporters at the Boston Globe who investigated the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of their priests. Seeing the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber walk onstage was exciting enough but the good people at TIFF really brought the house down with the surprise appearance of the real Pulitizer Prize-wnning journalists themselves to, of course, a standing ovation and a speech from Ruffalo about “unsung heroes”.

spotlight

Somehow, as usual, Wandering Through the Shevles seems to know what’s going on in my life because this week we’re paying tribute to these “unsung heroes”.

All the President's Men

All the President’s Men (1976)– Pretty much every movie about investigative journalism that I’ve ever loved has been compared to this movie. “In the tradition of All the Presidents Men”, the TIFF website wrote of Spotlight. It’s been years since I’ve seen this story of the two Washington Post reporters who investigated the Watergate scandal but what has stayed with me is the way that it manages to hold our attention and build suspense from behind a desk. Instead of car chases, we get phone calls, research, and checking sources. It doesn’t hurt that the journalists are impeccably played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

insider_interview

The Insider (1999)– In his best film by far, Michael Mann tells the story of 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman’s battle with the brass at CBS to get his interview with a whistleblower against Big Tobacco on the air. Having Al Pacino’s and Russell Crowe’s names above the title wouldn’t be as exciting today but Mann was lucky enough to catch both actors in their prime. Only Crowe managed to earn an Oscar nomination from his performance but the great Christopher Plummer (doing an uncanny Mike Wallace) was somehow overlooked.

zodiac

Zodiac (2007)– This movie scares the shit out of me. The murder scenes are as chilling as they come but David Fincher’s return to the serial killer subgenre isn’t really about the Zodiac killer at all but about a small group of people who became obsessed with finding him and practically had their lives ruined as a restult. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. do some top-notch reporting (even though Gyllenhaal is employeed only as an editorial cartoonist). What’s most impressive about Zodiac is the ammount of information they throw at us without it being impossible to follow and how much of the information we already knew without it being boring.