Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, March 09, 2015

Discovering the thorny goodness of a pair of Oscar scented roses

After the Academy Awards are said and done for a year, playing cinematic catch-up is a big part of any movie lover's Oscar withdrawal process.

Most recently, I watched two contenders for this year's trophies, one that was criminally underrepresented and the other being well placed for a win yet going home alone that night.

Gone Girl received only one nomination(for Rosemund Pike's performance and she certainly deserved it), a real shame considering how well writer Gillian Flynn adapted her bestselling novel to the screen.

While some of the nuances of that may be lost on those who didn't read the book(what changes there were made from book to screen were minute at best), I think anyone seeing it for the first time can agree with readers that this was one hell of a story telling feat.

The duel narrative of Nick and Amy Dunne, the seemingly ideal couple whose lives are altered forever when Nick comes home one day to find his wife missing under suspicious circumstances, is a crucial element that plays like a symphony on page but could be very tricky to pull off on film.

However, David Fincher(who also deserved to be nominated for his work here) and Flynn manage to make this hat trick work.  The last film of Fincher's that I saw(The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) was also an adaptation of a best seller which felt really flat to me. I vastly preferred the European version of the film, which was done by an entirely different set of folks, but Fincher has more than redeemed himself in my eyes with GG and much thanks for that is due to Flynn, in my opinion.

It helps that they had a great cast and kudos to Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Carrie Coon for their back-up plays made. Next to Pike, MVP honors belong to Ben Affleck, who perfectly embodied the character of Nick Dunne, a guy who couldn't hide his cluelessness if his life depended on it(and it certainly did!):

Why this movie was so neglected by the Academy is certainly a puzzler to me. It got great reviews, excellent box office results and was a smartly written thriller to boot. The Oscars are no stranger to celebrating well done genre fare, as the awards sweep for Silence of The Lambs back in the 1990s is proof of.

Perhaps it was the lack of a likability factor, something that many were troubled by in both incarnations, that made voters pause on Gone Girl. However, that is no excuse since Hollywood is also no stranger to dark tones and hard to like characters in film-American Beauty, The Godfather films,Ordinary People, I could go on and on.

Oh,well, your loss, Academy, not ours. If you haven't seen GG yet, I insist that you treat yourself. The twisted pleasures of Amazing Amy's company are not to be denied or envied for that matter:

This past weekend, I saw Foxcatcher, which was up for several Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Steve Carell. To be honest, this wasn't a movie that I had much interest in when it first came out.

However, the more I heard about it,plus the numerous nominations, made me curious to see what all the fuss was about. It's based on the true story of millionaire Jon Du Pont(Carell) and his burning desire to run a wrestling team that would be able to compete for the Olympics.

Du Pont initially recruits former gold medal winner Mark Schultz(Channing Tatum) but soon insists upon having his brother David(Mark Ruffalo) join up as well. Mark, despite his medal and college degree, is an easily lead fellow looking for a powerful person to grant him the approval he so desperately needs and Du Pont is eager to have such a willing supplicant.

Over time, Du Pont's own needs for approval from not only the wrestling community but his disapproving mother(Vanessa Redgrave, who finds his interest in the sport "low"), causes a rift between Mark and himself.

David is caught in the middle of this and while to some extent, he's guilty of exploiting his brother's vulnerabilities, there is a line that he will not cross, unlike Du Pont. That seismic clash sets off a chain of events that leads to a tragic death and I so will not tell you any more than that about the plot.

 I have to say that Carell was incredible in this role, showcasing a myriad of mixed emotions at times with just a look and gesture while this was the best work I've ever seen Channing Tatum do on screen. Sorry, CT fans, but his performance in Magic Mike was painful to watch but here, Tatum blossoms into vivid being.

 This is the second Bennett Miller film that I've seen( enjoyed Capote back in 2005) and he made a lot of smart choices here. Most directors might have been tempted to be more obvious in depicting the suspect undertones of Du Pont and Mark's relationship but Miller allows the audience to fill in the blanks and let the actors express what their characters can not say with body language and the right set of p.o.v. shots:

It's a shame that a movie this good was lost in the Oscar night shuffle. Maybe in a year that was a bit leaner in the Best Picture race(not to mention more diverse) or less contentious, Foxcatcher might have been as well received as Fargo was over a decade ago.

What oddly enough I did have some complaint about regarding a nomination for Foxcatcher was the Best Make-Up category(it lost to The Grand Budapest Hotel). I wanted Guardians of the Galaxy to get that win but it just wasn't in the cards.

Foxcatcher did deserve to be in that spot, as the work on Carell's face and hair is pretty top notch and eerily believable. I am glad that I did watch this film as it was quite the intriguing eye opener with top marks for sinister subtlety:

It occurs to me that there is a connective thread that ties these two movies together and that theme is Destructive Relationships. Whether it's family, friends or lovers, the bond between two or more people can all too easily make what feels so right go all so wrong very fast indeed.

 Perhaps that theme is what made Hollywood, a town strongly reliant on interpersonal relationships, shy away from both of these films in the end. Finding that perfect friend or enemy is both a scary and exciting discovery that has lead one more that one movie hero down a road he or she never thought they would be on to begin with:

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

Thank you, lady t, for referring to my review. I did not read the book - I'm like the non-practicing Catholic of book readers, these days. But what I saw in the movie made me interested in reading the true narrative - partly from my love of reading, and partly to see hat Flynn and Fincher had done with the story itself.

More than any movie in a long time, GG felt like watching a book take place, and I was grateful for that.

Unlike you, I never saw the Dragon Tattoo remake because "f you, Hollywood, these movies were made recently and there's no need to recreate them." Though I missed The Social Network, Fincher has stood out as a fine craftsman, and my respect for him only improved with this fresh experience.

I don't think any other cast and crew could've done this story so well (F you, AMPAS, for not recognizing his feats), and I think it deserves far more attention than it got.

Foxcatcher, on the other hand, was largely off my radar. But your enthusiasm for it makes me want to check it out soon. As such, I will add it to the list of pictures I have to see asap, and I hope to weigh in on it in the next few weeks.

You're the best, lady t.