Tag: Oscars

‘The Artist’: A Silent Masterpiece

The Artist (2011)
Written & Directed by Michel Hazanvicius
100 mins.

***1/2 (out of four)

By Tim Lucia

Basically a shoo-in for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this Sunday, The Artist is a magical, fun, one-of-a-kind movie experience.  French director Michel Hazanvicius (the OSS 117 films) breaks into American cinema with this magnificent black-and-white, silent film unlike any you have ever seen.  A tribute to classic Hollywood films that all audiences can enjoy.

Hollywood, 1927.  Silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a swashbuckling screen icon, in the tradition of Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino.  He is on top of the world, adored by critics and fans alike, though he is quite self-absorbed.  While on the red carpet at a premiere, he bumps into – literally – the beautiful, young Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo).  In a wonderfully staged meet-cute, Peppy kisses Valentin on the cheek, and they smile and pose for the photographers, flashbulbs popping like shining stars.

The next day, the headline in Variety reads: “Who’s That Girl?” with their photo on the front page.  Peppy is soon hired as a back-up dancer for the studio.  Then comes the innovation of sound in film.  Talkies become all the rage, and the silent films are left behind.  Peppy rockets to stardom, becoming Hollywood’s newest it-girl, while Valentin’s star falls into obscurity, and his life begins to spin out of control.

The Artist is a once-in-a-generation kind of film, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it.  The black-and-white photography, coupled with the (almost) silent nature of the film (of course, there is music), suggest a somewhat dream-like experience.  Dujardin’s performance is absolutely mesmerizing, drawing the perfect amount of expression in every scene; he really seems like a silent film star.  Bejo is also perfect as Peppy, her wide mouth, accentuated eyes, traditional beauty and flapper vestements make her the ideal actress for the role.  Rounding out the cast are veteran actors John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential), and Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way).

Hazanvicius re-creates a time and place that we all know from history, and he does it perfectly.  The Artist really captures the magic of an era in filmmaking that (in my opinion) Martin Scorsese’s Hugo did not do as well.  Though the film is predictable at times (there are a few surprises), I found myself not caring at all, because it was still so enjoyable.  Dujardin is likely to win Best Actor on Sunday, and the film will surely win Best Picture.

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First Impressions: ‘Drive’

Drive
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Hossein Amini (screenplay) & James Sallis (book)
100 min.
Rated R

3 1/2 out of 4 stars

By Josh Perrault

Coming into this film it was difficult to imagine what to expect, like how every film should be. Drive blew me away within the first couple seconds of the film. A constantly engaging film that has surprises lurking at the beginning, middle, and end of each scene. Winner of Best Director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Nicolas Winding Refn delivers this hypnotic film that stands out from many since Brian De Palma came out with Scarface in the early 1980s. That is to say, I found Drive to have the same fresh feel and stylistic approach that Scarface had, while still keeping some soft edges. Ryan Gosling stars as stuntman and part-time getaway driver known throughout the film simply as the kid, who discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist goes terribly wrong. Ryan Gosling has increasingly stepped up in book throughout his filmography. We can all agree we remember hearing about Gosling after his breakthrough film The Notebook in 2004. I’ll admit, which I’m sure most men will, I neglected the actor due to his “chick flick” role. It’s unfair, I know, but I’ve also matured since then and have grown to appreciate Gosling immensely. And let’s just say, this film helped. Gosling put his acting chops to the test in this action thriller where he played alongside Carey Mulligan who plays Irene, apartment neighbor and lover interest, and Bryan Cranston who plays Shannon, mechanic and Gosling’s right hand man during his stunts. Along with this already amazing cast comes the great Albert Brooks (Taxi Driver), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy).

It’s not an exaggeration at all when I say I was literally hypnotized by this film. There is an overall look to the film that isn’t seen much. Like I said, it has a little bit of the feel from Scarface mixed with the grittiness of Taxi Driver and the cerebral effect from a David Lynch film. The soundtrack holds a hint of the 80s, and not to mention the hot pink script font that letters across the screen during the credits. The film may seem to start slow as we get to get a feel for Gosling’s character as well as the ones that become close to him leading to his biggest job ever. By that point the film gets that vibrant look. And by vibrant I mean gory (remember, Scarface). And by gory I mean, you definitely weren’t expecting it. This shouldn’t turn those off from seeing the film though. There may be a lot of intense images and blood, but again it gives it that feel that you don’t find in very many films… which I love.

I can’t stress enough the overall feel of this film and how it differs itself from films today. It’s very cool and hypnotic. From the first scene you’ll find your eyes glued to the screen and never under any circumstance wanting to leave. The cinematography is beautiful, the music is killer, and the acting is superb. And honestly who doesn’t love to find all of those elements in a film?

Netflix Pick: ‘When We Were Kings’

When We Were Kings (1996)
Directed by Leon Gast
89 mins.

By Tim Lucia

Leon Gast’s When We Were Kings won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1996.  Kings is a captivating, enthralling look into the life of legendary American boxer Mohammed Ali and his 1974 bout with George Foreman, dubbed ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’.  Besides Ali and Foreman, the film also features the likes of Don King, Spike Lee, James Brown, B.B. King, Norman Mailer, and George Plimpton.  Pieced together with footage from that era, it provides an inside look at Ali’s lager-than-life personality, showing his huge ego while at the same time showing his passion for helping those less fortunate than himself, and his genuine longing to reform the social issues of the time.  I found myself completely entranced by Ali and the film itself.  Kings also provides some insight into Zaire’s politics and the oppression of its people.  Mailer’s interview segments were also incredibly captivating, which is probably why he is one of the most successful writers of all time.  Ali is a hugely prominent figure in both American sports and history, and When We Were Kings is an absolute must-see documentary.