On the heels of Prop 8, comes Gus Van Zant’s Milk and without mincing words, it’s a tour de force. The truth is, as big as this movie’s subject matter is – the assassination of San Francisco’s first out gay politician, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) – and as much opportunity as there is to pound in its message, the reason the movie works so well is because it is thoughtful in its telling and its performances are so subdued. A movie along these lines is, frankly, ripe for melodrama but Van Zant goes deeper and puts character before agenda. Early in the movie, Milk literally stands on a soapbox but never for a moment do we get any of the Oliver Stone bombast. Milk intentionally uses his personable nature and humor to reach or rather, create his constituency. It is no doubt something of a defense mechanism. Harvey Milk led a closeted life until he was about 40 years old, which happens to be just when the movie starts. A moment later we see that Milk has been killed and the movie is told in flashbacks as Harvey sits at his kitchen table and commits his story into a tape recorder. His calm narration gives the movie its stabilizing tone.
Continue reading Theatrical Review: Milk
The days keep going by and I keep delaying this piece, simply because there are too many things to do and not enough hours in the day. I don’t think I can even begin to be as comprehensive as Mike Tully has been and why should I try? Tully is Tully, as the saying goes! In addition to being a wide ranging look at cinema 2007, it’s basically a reference tool for those of us who have occasional holes in our memories and can’t remember all the films we’ve seen. Maybe I should keep a notebook…..
All in all, 2007 was one of the best years I can remember for films and there are still several that have been widly deemed noteworthy that I haven’t seen. So without further babbling, I will now pontificate some, wax rhapsodic some and spew the occasional invective, to wit:
The best film of 2007:
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, written and directed by Andrew Dominik
This is an extraordinary work of art, full stop. A true American classic (albeit one directed by a Kiwi) and one that, once I get some distance from it, will likely take its place on my all-time top 10 list. (Said list doesn’t really exist of course and would likely be 20-30 strong if it did.) I recently saw the film for a second time and I am begging Manohla Dargis and Kenneth Turan to go and see the film again. I’ve given up on Anthony Lane, Kirk Honeycutt and Lou Lumenick…hopeless, the lot. I mean, Honeycutt liked The Walker, for god’s sake!
I know quite a few devotees of this film and it might take some work to convince them that it actually gets even better on second viewing but it does. It’s an even more layered and nuanced portrayal of celebrity and the desperate urge it stirs in fans. The script is more lyrical and the characters more poetic and tragic.
This is the perfect film to relate to Tom Hall’s post about film length in The Back Row Manifesto. Yes, this film is 160 minutes long and no, I didn’t feel it a bit. This is coming from someone who tends to doze off repeatedly during the day, but this film held my interest, even in Toronto at 9am and hungover. The second viewing was simply just perfect.
In September I made a pledge to eat my hat if it doesn’t get 10 Oscar nominations and I guess I am going to have to break said vow. No way am I eating one of my hats. Who do you think I am, Werner Herzog? As it is, Casey Affleck picked up a nomination for best supporting actor (notwithstanding the fact that his performance is a leading one) and Roger Deakins got one for his stunning cinematography. Both have a chance of winning but of course that would require the Academy voters to actually see the damn film.
Much more after the jump!
Continue reading My Best Films of 2007…Finally!
There are parties and there are parties. There are premieres and there are premieres. The key to a fun evening is the adroit combination of both and Miramax had them in spades last Sunday night in Hollywood for the LA premiere of Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpiece No Country For Old Men. (Dammit. That’s the 2nd masterpiece of the year.) The screening was a low-key affair at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and I was all the more thankful for it. Absent was the usual clusterfuck of paparazzi, autograph seekers and rude security. Don’t get me wrong, the shutterbugs were there, as were the fans, but it just all seemed more sedate and manageable than usual and the security and Miramax staff couldn’t have been nicer and in better moods.
Here’s where I confess to being an inveterate starfucker. While I’m not a stalker and almost never ask for autographs or pictures, when there’s an actor, writer or director who I am a fan of I have been known to babble to myself and those around me. When you put together a film as accomplished as No Country, you hope that the people that come to your premiere and party are people who would appreciate the film and yet add some star power to the event and the Miramax folks pulled that off with a deft hand.
When my indieWIRE co-founder and I Eugene Hernandez made our way into the El Capitan, Eug pointed out Casey Affleck, 2007’s actor “most likely to get shafted by a major studio” for his astonishing performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. On occasion I am a huge pussy, so I didn’t talk to him and I am an idiot for that. Not just because I loved Jesse James, but because I went to and worked at the same summer camp (Camp Thoreau in Vermont) that his brother Ben went to. Ben is a nice guy, but was kind of a prick as a 14 year-old, a fact I am sure Casey (then 11) would have agreed to. Not that I would have opened with: “Your brother was a dick when he was 14,” but you get the point. Shortly before sitting down, John Sloss introduced Eugene and I to Jake Kasdan and I forgot to mention how much I loved his vastly underrated Zero Effect. Love that movie. Didn’t run into him (or John) at the party. So John, if you’re reading this, thanks for your concern! (He’ll know what it means.)
Continue reading Awards Season 07: No Country For Old Men Premiere