Maps to the Stars, Canada / Germany / France / USA, 2014
Directed by David Cronenberg
If A Dangerous Method (the end of the Viggo Mortensen trilogy as I like to call it, the first two being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) shows David Cronenberg at his most respectable, and Cosmopolis presents the Canadian director at his most unwatchable, his latest manages to avoid both of those traps. A sleazy, trashy, dark comedy about the amoral self-absorption of Hollywood, Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg’s best films.
The most coherent and interesting thread to be found amongst the rather large, interconnected ensemble concerns an aging actress (Julianne Moore) angling for the part played by her now deceased mother in a remake of one of the latter’s classic films. She hires an assistant (Mia Wasikowska) who has been disfigured by burns in a house fire she herself started. The mentor-protégé relationship gradually sours to the point of a rather shocking conclusion, and an earlier scene in which the pair sing and dance in celebration of the tragic death of another actress’s small child is easily the funniest moment in the film. Read More
To justify its own existence, a remake of a classic film doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the original, but it is crucial that it be different in some substantial way. For example, though I prefer the original French film Love Crimein many ways, Brian De Palma’s Passion more than justifies its existence by adding a third-act fever dream to the original source material, as well as being strikingly unique in several other ways. Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is another good example of a filmmaker taking a markedly different approach to an already great film, in this case by adding psychological and moral complexity to what was originally a very cut-and-dried good versus evil story. In the horror genre, John Carpenter’s The Thingand David Cronenberg’s The Fly update classic B-movies to horrifying effect, to my mind managing to surpass the original films in quality and memorability.
Though I would like to evaluate Kimberly Peirce’s new film version of Carrie on its own merits, without comparing it to De Palm’s 1976 adaptation, it is just too similar, and everything good the new Carrie does with the material, De Palma’s film already did better. This is evident from the very beginning, in the famous shower scene in which Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets her first menstrual period and, not knowing what is happening and believing that she is bleeding to death, is mercilessly taunted and humiliated by her classmates. In De Palma’s film, the horror of this moment is forefronted, with the performances and shooting style heightened to a surreal, nightmarish pitch. The vulnerability of Sissy Spacek’s performance in particular sells the moment, and it is a truly disturbing scene to watch. Peirce, conversely, shoots the sequence in a relatively flat, ordinary way, and though the content is still rather shocking, it lacks the emotional power of the original. Read More
The question of the year in the movie industry: Who will win the Best Picture award? Who will take another Academy Award home as winner and who will just spend the night applauding others? As no one knows for sure yet, let’s take a look at the list of the Best Picture Nominees and try to come up with some system to make predictions.
Best Picture Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards:
BlackSwan — director: Darren Aronofsky; writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz; stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel
The Fighter — director: David O. Russell; writers: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy; stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams
Inception — director: Christopher Nolan; writer: Christopher Nolan; stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page
The Kids Are All Right — director: Lisa Cholodenko; writers: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg; stars: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo
The King’s Speech — director: Tom Hooper; writer: David Seidler; stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter
127 Hours — director: Danny Boyle; writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy; stars: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara
The Social Network — director: David Fincher; writers: Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich; stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake
Toy Story 3 — director: Lee Unkrich; writers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton; stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack
True Grit — directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen; writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld
Winter’s Bone — director: Debra Granik; writers: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini; stars: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret DillahuntRead More
This surprise hit at Sundance got a wave of momentum going into Oscar season and promises to pick up several nominations. It has already won Best Picture at the Berlin International Film Festival and three nominations at the Golden Globes. The film was well received by most critics, scoring 94% at RottenTomatoes.com and a respectable showing at the box office.
There’s plenty to like about The Kids Are All Right, given the star power it wields in its most pivotal roles, played by two of my favorite actresses, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. It also shows courage in profiling a non-mainstream family and the issues they have to deal with. My only issue with this film was that it played a little too much on the progressive macro subject matter and not enough on the strength of the film, its characters.Read More