By Scott Martin
Frost/Nixon, USA / UK / France, 2008
Directed by Ron Howard
By now, we’re all familiar with the story. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see the original interviews that inspired the Broadway play by Peter Morgan, which in turn served to inspire Ron Howard’s film, which plays itself out like a boxing match, so much so that Nixon is shown jogging in place in a track suit before the final interview. The underdog of the match is David Frost, a once famed but at that time practically defunct English talk show host, relegated to the kind of fare you might see on E! on a Saturday morning, in Australia. Richard Nixon, the man, was out of office and essentially hiding in his home in San Clemente at the time; Richard Nixon, the President, was no more – resigned, pardoned, and reviled by the majority of the American public.
I’ve always been a big fan of films that pit two intelligent men against one another. Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes (2002) is a personal favorite, as is Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Five Minutes of Heaven (2009), a terribly underseen film starring Liam Neeson. Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006) is worth a mention as well. You can’t technically call this a cat-and-mouse film, as there’s no physical chase, but the mentality of the film might suggest otherwise. Nixon is set up as a heavyweight taking down a featherweight, David Frost, for a $600,000 prize bag. Read More
By Scott Martin
Julie & Julia, USA, 2009
Written and Directed by Nora Ephron
Based on the Books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
Julie and Julia isn’t just a film about cooking. No, it’s much more than that. It’s a film about finishing whatever it is that you start, setting goals for yourself, and achieving those goals despite whatever it is that you may consider odds. Julia Child (Meryl Streep) worked as a government clerk before she discovered her flare and passion for cooking, and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) did the same. The similarities between the two leads are fascinating, so much so that you would almost expect Julie’s last name to start with a “C,” but, thankfully, real life isn’t so cliche. The actresses in the two lead roles each bring their signature styles to the forefront and flip them upside down to bring us not only two of the best performances of the year, but two of the best performances of their careers. Adams, who is generally extremely chipper and very upbeat, plays an utter bitch who becomes so involved in herself that she refuses to see how her actions raze the world around her, and Streep’s approach, while technically similar to her other lauded performances in that she adopts an accent and an obvious demeanor, is strikingly different. She doesn’t attempt to tone down the cartoonish nature of the larger-than-life Julia Child; rather, she celebrates the icon and gives new breath to someone who should be more prevalent in the public eye.
Julie Powell is a writer and a cubicle worker, who suffers from an all-too-human ailment: she doesn’t have it in her to finish what she starts; and Julia Child seems, early on, to have trouble finding something, anything at all, to start. Eventually, through a series of small failures, Julie decides to cook her way through Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. 365 days, 536 recipes. Can she do it? Only time (and an Internet connection, mixed with the curiosity of the user) can tell. Read More