Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Notes on Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum is sad but his nipples are perky.

It seems counterintuitive that a movie with Channing Tatum, Channing Tatum's glistening bare chest and Steve Carell in heavily-touted-for-Oscar role (the only other performances that I recall garnering similar buzz were Mo'Nique in Precious Blah Blah Blah and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club and we all saw how that turned out) would disappoint me.

Factor in director Bennett Miller (I loved Moneyball) and Channing Tatum in singlets (NOTE: it's okay to refer to them as wrestling singlets but since wrestling singlets are the primary form of singlet I feel pretty strongly that they are "singlets" and all other singlets require modifiers... not that you asked).

While the movie has great performances from Carell and Tatum, a solid performance from what's his name, the third Hulk and some fine editing (the cinematography is lovely but static and Vanessa Redgrave is, mystifyingly, in this movie [seriously, Redgrave is one of my favorite actresses but she had nothing to do here--she played a disapproving old woman {SEE ALSO: my family reunions}... was Jane Alexander too busy? {also a favorite, no disrespect meant to her}]) it ends up as less than the sum of these parts.

I am open to watching it again (at home) to see if I caught it on a bad night (I mean a bad night for me, I'm pretty sure the movie is nearly the same every time). Until then I see a solid contender for Best Actor in Steve Carrell and... his nose (Best Makeup/Hairstyling) frankly that's about it.

It's a darkhorse for Best Picture (thanks to the "up to 10 nominees" system put in place a few years ago), Best Editing  and Best Original Screenplay (more to hedge my cynicism).

Mark Ruffalo (that's his name) is routinely cited as a contender for Best Supporting Actor but I don't get it based on the movie. The category is solid with J.K. Simmons, Edward Norton and Ethan Hawke with Ruffalo and Robert Duvall both receiving nominations in the category from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards. A smarter person would just call him solid for a nomination but I find myself wishing Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) would finally get some respect; also The Judge, with a Metacritic score of 48, just looks like a total piece of shit.

Frankly I think it would have been smarter to submit Carell as supporting actor. He'd still face a tough battle with Simmons but Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Birdman, the black British dude who plays MLK, the white British dude (you know, the one) who plays Mr. Turner, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bradley Cooper, Tom Hardy and that dude who plays James Brown I think he's gonna have to work the circuit just to eke out a nomination.

Long story short: this was NOT the movie for me to see the day after Birdman.

Notes on Birdman

Ugh, I'm so annoyed. I was elated after seeing Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) that I started to compose this blog post on my iPad using the Blogger app but, when I went to find out the name of the performer who played the critic in the movie (Lindsay Duncan, who sadly didn't receive sufficient title credit to merit inclusion in the movie's Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble nomination), I lost those 2 or 3 paragraphs.

And they were the best damn paragraphs. Or at least I documented all kinds of stuff that I can't remember now.

I went to Birdman expecting to see a clever deconstructed (or possibly meta--I keep confusing the 2) movie about a washed up superhero movie star trying for one last shot at respectability. What I got was a movie that surprised and delighted me at every turn, never playing it safe or taking an obvious turn.

The film's been getting a lot of love in terms of critics' awards and nominations making these predictions pretty easy. I think the movie/cast/crew are solid contenders for 7 Oscar nominations (announced in about 2 weeks): Best Picture, Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki).

The movie did not make the short list for Best Visual Effects and its score has been ruled ineligible for that category (which is a shame--the score is this loose thread of drum-heavy jazz music that flows through the movie the way the camera does [there are few discernible edits and the camera rarely rests for more than 2 minutes]; regardless of AMPAS's decision, the score is the perfect companion for the camerawork).

This leaves costumes, make-up/hairstyling, art direction, sound mixing, sound effects editing and editing. The lack of discernible editing (as mentioned earlier) keeps me from thinking the movie is anything but a darkhorse is that category (although it's tipped as most likely by at least one prognosticator) but last year's winner Gravity had a smaller version of the "one extreme take" approach (and the 2 movies share their cinematographer). As with its visual effects, the scenes with notable sound effects are limited and easily overlooked in a slate of effects-driven blockbusters. I can't see sound mixing going their way either, more by the merit of several other films. The costumes, make-up and art direction are all solid efforts, but its rare for anything but a period piece or high concept contemporary era film to rate for costumes or art direction.

I don't see the film's make-up and hairstyling (both have non-trivial contributions to the story) outpacing Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent or Steve Carrell's nose in Foxcatcher. (UPDATE: And I am correct as the movie didn't make the shortlist for this category.)

I'm probably wrong about the 7 nominations (it will likely be 8).

See this awesome movie (eventually, not like today unless you're someone who would go to a movie theater).