Posts Tagged ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Director David O. Russell has been enjoying an impressive run over the last few years. In 2010 he gave us The Fighter, which saw Christian Bale and Melissa Leo picking up Oscar statuettes and nominations for Amy Adams, his direction and the film itself.

He followed up The Fighter with last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, which not only made everyone stop and say “Wait, Bradley Cooper can act?” but also saw the impressive feat of landing a nomination in each of the 6 major Oscar categories (picture, director, actor, actress, sup. actor, sup. actress) and a win for Jennifer Lawrence, which subsequently led to one of the best acceptance speeches in Oscar history. (I should also point out that SLP was picked number 2 in that year’s Wood’s Stock Top 10).

And now we have American Hustle, which serves as a sort of dream team-up of Russell’s last two projects, uniting SLP’s Cooper and Lawrence (and a scattering of supporting players) with Fighter’s Bale and Adams and a side dish of Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. It’s a late 70s/early 80s tale of corruption and con men that hooks you in its opening moments by passing from vintage studio title cards to a declaration of “Some of this actually happened” before landing on a bald and potbellied Bale who is laboring to arrange a comb-over that is, in the words of Adam’s character, “elaborate.”

Bale plays hustler Irving Rosenfeld who, along with his partner in crime/mistress Sydney (Adams), shakes down men desperate for a loan on false promises of financial assistance. “My fee is non-refundable,” he tells them, “just like my time.”

After the pair get pinched by an over-zealous and excitable FBI agent (Cooper) they’re given the choice of either doing time or helping take down other scum like themselves. Sydney wants to run, but Irving is held in place by the manipulations of his off-kilter wife (a hypnotizing Lawrence, clearly having the most fun of anyone in the cast) who uses their son as a bargaining chip.

So our Bonnie and Clyde reluctantly agree to help out, but Cooper’s wide-eyed agent has ideas bigger than his reach, and pretty soon the hustle expands to include a few politicians, a wealthy Sheik and a shadowy crew of knuckle-cracking casino mobsters.

American Hustle runs like a folk tale of bad people thriving and failing in the moral ambiguity of days gone by. No single character is completely hero, victim or villain, and throughout the two-hour running time allegiances shift and expectations are twisted.

The individual performances are superb, as Russell once again demonstrates his skill at creating interesting and dynamic ensemble pieces. Bale, as he does, disappears into his role while Adams and Lawrence spar as women simmering under the surface and Cooper rounds out the inner circle as an increasingly unhinged and drunk-with-ambition fed.

And Louis C.K., it should be noted, grounds the film as a jaded and practical superior to Cooper’s Agent Richie DeMaso. After his work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, the people’s comedian is quickly establishing himself as an ace in the hole for understated supporting players.

In the hands of other directors, American Hustle could have descended into madcap comedy akin to 1986’s Ruthless People (which wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing), but Russell manages to carefully balance the tone and stakes so that the character’s actions become increasingly unbelievable while still felling 100 percent natural.

Grade: A-

*American Hustle opens in select theaters on Dec. 13 and nationwide Dec. 20.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Four weeks ago when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their 2013 award nominees, I joined many of my colleagues in declaring effective victory for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The Spielberg-helmed biopic’s major competitors, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck’s Argo had received soul-crushing directorial snubs that seemed to all but wipe the path clean for Honest Abe to casually walk up the carpet and accept the statuette.

Oh, what a difference a month makes.

Since nomination day, Affleck and Argo have scooped up the top prize from essentially every. other. award. out. there. building behemoth momentum going into Oscar Sunday next week and in the process going from Oscar underdog to near sure-fire frontrunner.

The last time a movie won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director was Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 and the feat has only been accomplished three times total in the Oscars 85-year-history. But as anyone who’s ever lost big on roulette will tell you, past spins have nothing to do with where the ball will stop next (a lesson I learned the hard way during spring break ’11).

Having said that, the last thing I want to do is go from saying “Lincoln’s a sure thing” to “Argo’s a sure thing” when truly, anything can happen. For all we know, Django Unchained will end up winning. Hint: Django Unchained will NOT win, it’s a sure thing, although in a perfect world Leo DiCaprio would’ve been nominated for supporting. It just shows you how competitive that category is this year.

I would imagine there’s lots of Academy voters who don’t like being told what they’re going to do and could vote against Argo to spite the prognosticators. Also, the Academy tends to skew older than some of the other statue-giving organizations (I’m still a little peeved that The King’s Speech beat The Social Network two years ago) which would play more into the hand of Lincoln than the movie Daredevil made.

As for the other categories. Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway have pretty much been scorched-earthing the awards season and I see little chance of an upset in either category. Lead actress and supporting actor are quite competitive this year, with close races between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence in one and a three-way struggle between De Niro, Arkin and Jones in the other. For my part, I think De Niro’s turn in Silver Linings is the best we’ve seen from the veteran actor in years, whereas Jones’ performance, while awesome, was pretty much just playing a grumpier version of himself. Plus, Men In Black III was atrocious, and some price must be paid (if you have a minute, read this great post by EW’s Darren Franich on how pretty much nothing in that movie makes sense).

So, here’s my picks for next week’s ceremony. I should note, however, that historically I have not been very good at selecting winners because I tend to vote with my heart (who SHOULD win) and not with my head (who WILL win).

Best Picture: Lincoln

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro. No, wait, Tommy Lee Jones. Wait…dang this one is hard. De Niro, final answer.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway

Best Director: Steven Spielberg

Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom (It’ll probably go to Amour, but a boy can dream).

Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook

Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph (Pixar is usually as close to a sure thing as you can get, but a lot of people hated Brave).

Best Original Song: “Skyfall” Natch.

And…no one cares about the rest.

Read Full Post »

You might not have noticed, but a few interesting things happened with the announcement of the 2013 Academy Award Nominations this morning.

First, the academy all-but-confirmed that ‘Lincoln‘ will be named best picture.

Second, the awards race that remains in the sliver of doubt that Lincoln not take the big prize went from being a head-to-head horse race between the aforementioned Spielberg-directed biopic and Zero Dark Thirty to a David and Goliath match-up between ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’

Why?

In failing to nominate Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, the Academy showed that enough voters are uncomfortable with the Zero’s controversial portrayal of torture to impede its chances at winning the big prize. Likewise the snub of ‘Argo’-director Ben Affleck made the critically-lauded thriller deflate so fast you could practically feel the wind on your face.

But then, from the decimated ashes of its snubbed peers came Silver Linings, emerging majestically like a phoenix. Too much? Hardly!

SLP, my #2 movie of 2012 and little-film-that-could managed to dance its way into all four acting categories, best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. For a movie without fantasy elements – and therefore not requiring heavy effects editing – that’s pretty much a straight sweep.

So yes, Lincoln, Spielberg and Day-Lewis are now essentially foregone conclusions but SLP is the underdog to root for in those categories and it also stands a fair shot in its remaining nods, particularly (the gorgeous) Jennifer Lawrence for best actress.

Other notables form this morning:

• Thanks to Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, we now have the Oldest and Youngest women ever nominated for best actress in the same year (Emmanuelle Riva is 85 and Quvenzhané Wallis is 9. NINE!). Also, the Best Actress race is now the one to watch because Silver Lining’s surge, coupled with Zero Dark’s fall and sprinkled with the absence of Meryl Streep makes this, truly, any woman’s game.

• Interestingly, Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for Best Actor despite insulting the awards process mere weeks ago. Voters tend to not appreciate that. Also, his co-star Philip Seymore Hoffmon was nominated for best SUPPORTING actor, when an argument could be made that he is the lead character (the movie is named after him for one thing…or is it?).

• Not surprising, but Hugh Jackman scored a nomination for Les Miz with no such love for Russel Crowe. Same story with Naomi Watts (nominated) and Impossible co-star Ewen McGregor (not nominated).

And my only true complaint of the 2013 nominations:

• Wes Anderson’s magical and amazing Moonrise Kingdom deserves the 9th spot on the Best Picture list instead of Life of Pi. I’m also surprised Django Unchained made the cut.

Here’s the full list of nominees, including the boring stuff no one cares about.

Best Picture
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Haneke
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Animated Feature:
Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary Short
Inocente
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
Redemption

Best Film Editing
Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour, Austria
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Best Original Score
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Best Production Design
Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best Animated Short
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Paperman

Best Live Action Short
Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow
Henry

Best Sound Editing
Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Sound Mixing
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Best Visual Effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Read Full Post »

Wow! What a year.

I’ll dispense with the pomp and circumstances of a long, tedious intro but I couldn’t help but stop and remark on the amazing year of cinema we’ve just enjoyed. Also, I should add that despite my best efforts, I was not able to gain access to a screening of Zero Dark Thirty before it’s wide release next month. From what I’m hearing, that movie would have surely made the top 10 but alas, I haven’t seen it.

So without further ado…

10. Ruby Sparks

Yes, you could say that it’s just keeping the seat warm for when I finally see Zero Dark, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ruby is an exceptional little indie, that alternates between light romantic humor and surprisingly dark emotional drama.

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are aces as a brilliant novelist who skyrocketed to early and unsustainable success and the woman that he somehow manifests with his mind. The ending is slightly underwhelming but the climax is shockingly raw and unforgettable.

Read my full review here.

9. Les Miserables

Director Tom Hooper‘s decision to tape his actors singing live was always going to be divisive and I understand where the criticisms come from. Ultimately in comes down to whether you prefer the musical power of a staged performance, or the gritty realism that only a movie can deliver.

For me, it was an easy choice. Yes, a lot of the actors (Crowe particularly) came off as airy and light, without the usual punch-in-the-face sound that we’ve come to expect from the stage or even other studio-scrubbed musicals, but the raw and sincere emotion that crept into the lyrics as the result of the musical and dramatic flexibility given to the actors, in my opinion, made up for the difference and more.

8. The Queen of Versailles

For all the yelling and chest-thumping about the evil “1%” done in the wake of the economic recession, it’s hard to truly understand the void between the have’s and have-not’s in this country. Then came this riches-to-rags documentary, about Westgate Resorts mogul David Siegel and his family, which put the American class system front and center as the financial collapse put the breaks on their construction of the largest private residence in the country.

The Siegels are not bad people, and there is something to be admired about the self-made nature of their fortune. But watching as they let one, then another, and another of their hired help go and “cut back” in the face of frozen assets, only to find that their life of luxury has made them too lazy to clean up after themselves or even feed their pets, you can’t help but feel an almost exhilarating amount of schadenfreude pulsing through your veins.

Read my full review here.

7. Looper

Every movie that has ever attempted to tell a time-travel story has had to deal with some amount of logical inconsistencies. It is, after all, impossible, and therefore difficult to tie up all the narrative loose ends with a pretty pink bow. While most of these plot holes are the result of lazy, half-hearted storytelling (I’m looking at you Men In Black 3) others, like Looper, are simply the collateral damage of balls-to-the-wall bravura.

In this twisty sci-fi noir, Rian Johnson establishes his own rules for time-travel chronology and leaves the finer points on the cutting room floor as he charges ahead. For the first act, you almost find yourself asking “but…wait, what?” only to see Johnson just scoot your worries aside with a hypnotically chilling scene where a man literally falls to pieces before your eyes. It’s when you know that, questions or no questions, you’re watching something truly special and you can then sit back and enjoy the ride.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect high school movie than Steven Chbosky’s Perks. The three leads’ performances are stupendous, particularly Ezra Miller but not to discredit Emma Watson or the film’s star Logan Lerman. The idea of a group of misfit toys assembling to survive adolescence is not a new one, but where those films dwindle in melodrama, Perks soars with heart, sincerity and an acknowledgment that even in the darkest times of life there are moments of true beauty.

Read my full review here.

5. The Dark Knight Rises

Few franchises have been handled with the same care and success as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Most three-quels limp to the finish line, weary with exhaustion and ready for something new. And while many would agree that Heath Leger’s Joker and The Dark Knight make the 2nd bat a superior film, most also agree that Nolan somehow managed to reward his fans with a satisfying, natural ending, while still probing the kinds of moral questions and social commentary that elevated his superhero tale above the mold in the first place.

There are valid criticisms, but to end your story with this kind of power is no small feat, and for that TDKR makes the top 10 and, hopefully, a nomination for Nolan.

Read my full review here.

4. Argo

Part spy-thriller, part political drama, and part Hollywood tribute comedy, Argo is the rare “True story” that’s actually true, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat despite the ending being a foregone conclusion. Ben Affleck, post-renaissance, just seems to get better and better and, frankly, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve long been a fan of Wes Anderson’s style, but even so Moonrise Kingdom blew me away with it’s pseudo-fantastic tone and it’s simple sense of fun. The tale of two young lovers on the run from family, a police officer and a troop of boy scouts is just about the most charming time you’ll have in front of a screen all year.

Read my full review here.

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Most movies today are about big things: big action, big drama, big romance, big suspense. Linings, however, is a comparably little story, about a man who returns home after an emotional breakdown and tries to put the pieces of his life back together. In the process, he crosses paths with another damaged sole, in the form of the electric Jennifer Lawrence, who steps back into her indie roots after the mega-behemoth Hunger Games and who, I might add, has never looked more captivatingly beautiful (and yes, I’m including the red dress she wore to the Oscars in 2011).

The story spins gold out of the quiet dramas of non-extraordinary life and, under the direction of David O. Russell, pulls an extraordinary performance out of every actor who steps on screen — Chris Tucker is a revelation and De Niro turns in some of his best work in years. And, in probably the movies most impressive feat, it somehow manages to inspire without the slightest hint of sanctimony or insincerity.

Read my full review here.

1. Lincoln

There’s no point talking around it, Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in Lincoln is so good it defies description. Were that the film’s only attribute it would be enough, but add to it superb acting from one of the largest casts ever assembled, crisp writing that captures humor, despair and victory, and all the talents of one of the greatest Hollywood directors to ever pick up a camera and you have, in a word: Art.

I left the theater feeling like I had just watched one of the greatest movies ever made. I could find no fault (except that it didn’t end at the right moment), and was both educated and entertained in the viewing.

I still feel it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. I toyed for a while with re-arranging my top 3 but the choice, in the end, was clear.

Read Full Post »

When I reviewed The Words in September, I said it was the best performance that we had seen to date from Bradley Cooper. But I added the caveat that we would have to wait until the release of Silver Linings Playbook – in which he stars with Jennifer Lawrence as a man on the other side of a mental health episode – to see if the claim sticks.

It doesn’t. Having now seen Silver Linings, I can say to you without a doubt that we have only just begun to see Cooper’s potential as a leading man.

In SLP, we meet Pat (Cooper), a history teacher who is moving back in with his parents after a stint in a psychiatric facility. Having found a newfound appreciation for the power of positivity (he shouts “Excelsior” in a sporadically charming, albeit intentionally ad naseum way) he sets out to reinvent himself as a physically fit, emotionally stable man all in the name of salvaging his marriage. Problem is, his mental lapse occurred when he discovered his wife having an affair, which resulted in him beating a naked man to near death – we learn of the event through a series of 1st-person POV flashes as he recounts the story to his therapist – and, subsequently, a restraining order being filed against him.

Pat is also tip-toeing on the verge of another episode, constantly fighting back triggers and outbursts and frequently spouting off inappropriate exposition. Sure, there’s obstacles, but with a shout of “Excelsior” – Latin for “Ever Upward” – he shrugs them off, jogging relentlessly to shed the pounds his wife always wanted him to and reconnecting with both family and friends.

It’s there that Lawrence enters the picture. Pat is invited to dinner by a friend, whose sister-in-law Tiffany also attends and is also dealing with emotional stress of her own. The two kindred spirits, after a few rocky false-starts, begin a friendship that finds the pair training for a dancing competition in exchange for Tiffany’s help in winning back Patrick’s wife.

The movie hinges on Cooper and his ability to portray a man at odds with himself. The film is a Dramedy, along the same storytelling tone of quirky ensemble-piece Little Miss Sunshine, and Cooper and Co. deftly and carefully swing from dark to light moments as we see a family longing for catharsis and guarded against disappointment.

Cooper, with a master’s hand, portrays Pat’s idiosyncrasies with such consistency, honesty, and sincerity that you can’t help but question your preconceptions of what 2011’s Sexiest Man Alive must be like in real life. His portrayal of mental illness is neither exploitative nor superficial, instead coming across as a shockingly believable human being.

But Silver Linings isn’t a great performance, it’s a great film. The supporting cast of Lawrence, Robert De Niro and a refreshingly understated Chris Tucker turn in spectacular work while the direction – David O. Russell of I Heart Huckabees – and storytelling pull you into a climax that has the tension of a thriller despite absurdly low stakes that revolve around a dance competition and the Philadelphia Eagles. It trades between moments of laugh-out-loud humor and cringe-inducing discomfort and instills in each character flaws, strengths and humanity.

Lawrence, for her part, returns to the indie-drama roots that put her on the map. It’s her first appearance since the over-blown spectacle of The Hunger Games and a welcome reminder that there is so much more to the actress than the melodramatic and two-dimensional Katniss Everdeen. She won her accolades in Winter’s Bone but in SLP she exudes an irresistible, enigmatic quality that is nearly intoxicating and completely fascinating to watch.

Silver Linings is one of those rare films that celebrates the failure and weakness inside each of us. By showing us a quiet tale of loss, depression and anxiety it manages to find humor and inspiration in the most unlikely and beautiful of places. A

Silver Linings Playbook opens nationwide on November 21.

Read Full Post »