April 25, 2016

Tag Archives: Christian Bale

“Knight of Cups” gives audiences another Terrence Malick film to ponder

There are very few filmmakers with a more singular style out there than the one and only Terrence Malick. This week, he offers up another unique cinematic experience with Knight of Cups, sure to be a divisive little movie. This is part of his new, slightly grittier fare, and it’s certainly going to get a response out of you. I’ve had a hit or miss relationship with Malick flicks previously, though I can say without question that this is unlike anything he has ever done before, at least in terms of what he’s trying to accomplish. I’ll share my personal thoughts below, but Malick fans will have reason to anticipate this release, that’s for sure.
The film follows a successful writer named Rick (Christian Bale) as he indulges in Hollywood excess and wanders around, pontificating about his life to himself, as well as the audience, in voiceover monologue after voiceover monologue. There are glimpses at his relationship with his father (Brian Dennehy), brother (Wes Bentley), as well as the various women in his life (including Cate Blanchett, Teresa Palmer, Frieda Pinto, Imogen Poots, and Natalie Portman), but often his just Rick, wandering about a party or the streets of Los Angeles. Malick writes and directs, as you’d obviously believe while watching this, with cinematography from the great Emmanuel Lubezki, production design by longtime collaborator Jack Fisk, and music from Harlan Townshend. Other cast members include Antonio Banderas, Jason Clarke, Clifton Collins Jr., Kevin Corrigan, Dane DeHaan, Cherry Jones, Nick Kroll, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Isabel Lucas, Joe Manganiello, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Nick Offerman, and Fabio. Yes, Fabio.
Simply put, I really didn’t care for this flick. All of the issues I’ve been having with Malick over his past few works are here in full force, amped up with a story about a spoiled man whining about his life but doing nothing about it. The cast is wasted, the gorgeous visuals are as well, and it all seems too quickly thrown together. The care he showed in Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line appear to be gone, in favor of a loose DIY style that just is a bad fit for the director. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this way, but I found it to be a big misfire, carrying his bad habits from To the Wonder and expanding on them. Alas. They can’t all be winners, right?
As a bonus/comparison, […]

Hollywood Contenders – “The Big Short” continues to impress on the precursor circuit

About a month or so ago, The Big Short first started making the pre release rounds, building up buzz and goodwill. Then, critics were able to begin chiming in, speaking about how fond they were of Adam McKay’s film. Now, in the past few days, the precursors have supported the movie as well, in particular the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. In the case of the latter, the flick now has guild support. All this is to say that The Big Short is not going away and has impressed me as a late contender really managing to make its mark on the award season so far. With it opening in limited release today, now’s a perfect time to take another look at it.
One more time, a quick primer on what this is about. The film is an adaptation of the best selling Michael Lewis nonfiction book of the same name. It centers on the housing crisis and the chaos brought on by the banks in the mid to late 2000’s. Essentially, some tried to take advantage of the looming calamity, while some fought against it, seeing what was coming before anyone else did. We watch as those few outsiders in the industry with foresight like the characters played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling. They make their moves, all as the collapse gets closer and closer to happening. The aforementioned McKay directs and co-writes the adaptation of Lewis’ book with Charles Randolph, while the giant A-list cast includes, besides the previously mentioned Bale, Carell, and Gosling, the likes of Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock, and quite a few more in addition to those already cited. Cinematography is by the great Barry Ackroyd as well. Lewis penned the non fiction books that became The Blind Side and Moneyball, so The Big Short already had a pedigree to it, that’s for sure. It’s just been interesting to see it take that ball and really run.

I’ve praised this movie already before, so what I mainly want to talk about now is the recent run of good luck on the precursor circuit that it’s had. SAG gave it two nominations on Wednesday (Best Supporting Actor for Bale and Best Ensemble, which is like a Best Picture nomination), while the Globes really dug it yesterday, heaping four nominations […]

Hollywood Contenders – “The Big Short” is trying to crash the Oscar party

Almost every year, we get a late breaking contender into the Oscar race that hopes to upend things and carve out a spot for itself across the board. Last year, that hopeful was American Sniper, and we all know how well that did (no sarcasm there, for once). This year, Paramount is hoping to copy the successful play of Warner Brothers and drop The Big Short into late Academy Award contention. Having seen the film last night, I can vouch for it potentially being able to make a dent in the Oscar lineup. It’s an angry, entertaining, and unique look at the financial collapse, with an A-list cast all doing strong work.

The film is an adaptation of the best selling Michael Lewis book of the same name. It’s about the housing crisis and the chaos brought on by the banks. Essentially, some tried to take advantage of the looming calamity, while some fought against it, seeing what was coming before anyone else did. We watch as those few with foresight like the characters played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling make their moves, all as the collapse gets closer and closer. Adam McKay directs and co-writes the adaptation of Lewis’ book with Charles Randolph, while the giant A-list cast includes, besides the aforementioned Bale, Carell, and Gosling, the likes of Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock, and quite a few more in addition to those already mentioned. Cinematography is by the great Barry Ackroyd as well. Lewis penned the non fiction books that became The Blind Side and Moneyball, so The Big Short already has a pedigree to it, that’s for sure.
What really works here is how McKay not only gets such great work from his cast (Carell and Gosling are best in show, if you ask me, though everyone pulls their weight), but how he’s able to take so many complicated concepts and whittle them down to something we can all understand. It’s a complex film, but he does so many experimental things (like having characters break the fourth wall to tell us which scenes were real and which were fabricated, along with some other surprises I won’t spoil), leading to a flow that really works. It might be too focused and smart for others, but it’s also very funny at times, though you’ll possibly […]

“Bridge of Spies” represents one of the few unseen Oscar hopefuls left

As of today, there are only a small handful of titles vying for Oscar consideration that have yet to be seen by anyone. Specifically, I can think of ten films that have awards aspirations, to one degree or another. Some are very likely Best Picture nominees, while others are likely technical players or bust. Still, at this point, here in early October, there aren’t too many unseen movies left, so this is worth taking note of. As such, below you’ll see a bit on all of the flicks that are still mysteries or X factors to us. A couple are only days away from revealing themselves, but a few will be unseen for quite some time still…
Take a look at these ten unseen 2015 contenders:

The Big Short – The newest entry into the race, this financial criss flick could be just what the season needs. With possible acting contenders like Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, along with a legitimate chance to compete in the Best Picture field if all goes well, there’s a lot to like here. AFI Fest will be where this reveals itself, so it’ll be about a month until find out if this is a contender or a pretender.
Bridge of Spies – In just two days time I’ll be seeing Steven Spielberg’s latest at the New York Film Festival. All eyes are on this one, since it feels like a ready made winner in a ton of categories, even if that’s not what I’m currently predicting. Tom Hanks could return to the Best Actor lineup, among many other aspects of this film, so stay tuned for my Tweet out of NYFF this weekend. It could foreshadow if we have a big time threat or a small scale player here.
By the Sea – This passion project from Angelina Jolie stars herself and husband Pitt as a married couple, instantly aligning this one with some of the classic pairings of yesteryear. This will also debut at AFI Fest, which always reveals one or two late stage players. Could this be one of them? We’ll find out in November, but if you ask me now, I think it’s a bit of a long shot. That’s just a hunch though, so sit tight for the actual answer next month.
Concussion – A lot of the chatter about this one has centered on its relationship with the NFL during […]

Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling – “The Big Short” enters 2015 and could shake the Oscar race up

Something kind of big just came our way folks. Yes, the shake up to the awards season that we’ve been hoping for might have made its entrance. The film in question is The Big Short, which was originally set as a high profile 2016 release. Now though, it’s been announced as having a late 2015 release date, with a big debut at AFI Fest as well. As such, the Paramount release has to be considered a potentially big contender in a bunch of categories, particularly since the announcement also coincided with a Trailer dropping. Simply put, it looks very good. It hasn’t been a boring season yet, but the potential was there, so this new contender is welcome in my eyes…
The movie is an adaptation of the Michael Lewis book of the same name. It’s about the housing crisis and the chaos brought on by the banks. Essentially, some tried to take advantage of the looming calamity, while some fought against it. Adam McKay directs and co-writes the adaptation with Charles Randolph, while the giant A-list cast includes Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, and quite a few more as well. Lewis penned the non fiction books that became The Blind Side and Moneyball, so it’s fair to assume that The Big Short could certainly follow in the Oscar nominated footsteps of both…

What has me so intrigued by this new Academy Award hopeful is that we’ve yet to really see anything that feels like a slam dunk Best Picture nominee. Moreover, I don’t think any of the acting or writing categories are locked up, not to mention Best Director. The closest might be Spotlight of the films that have screened so far (more on that one soon), but the unseen contenders are what we’re really banking on this year. With the rest of 2015 filled with movies that could do well but could also fall short, something like this flick really does give voters one more high profile option. We’re just speculating, but that’s the name of the game.

In terms of awards, The Big Short could wind up all over the place if it’s as good as the Trailer looks. Nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (for McKay), Best Actor (for either Bale, Carell, Gosling, or Pitt, depending on category placement), Best Supporting Actor (some combination of Bale, Carell, Gosling, or Pitt, depending […]

The Ten Best Action Movies of the New Millennium

Who doesn’t love a good action movie? They’re among the most fun that Hollywood has to offer, particularly when they’re of a high quality. Later on this week, a reportedly amazing new one in Mad Max: Fury Road is hitting theaters, so to prep us all for that experience (I see it later on today, so yay for that), I wanted to do a countdown of the recent best that the genre has to offer. Essentially, every action flick since 2000 was eligible, and I whittled that down to a top ten list. It’s hardly the definitely “new millennium action movie” list, but I think it’s a pretty solid one, to say the least. You’ll be able to see the list below, which could very well be amended once Mad Max: Fury Road comes to town…
Here now are my picks for the ten best action films since the year 2000:
10. King Kong – Peter Jackson’s unneeded remake of the classic action adventure turned out to be my favorite version of the story, go figure. The special effects are extraordinary and watching Kong interact with the world through Andy Serkis was a real joy. I may be in the minority here, but I absolutely loved it. It manages to stand alongside the all time classic original.
9. Kick-Ass – It hasn’t quite held up as well as the initial viewing suggested, but Matthew Vaughn’s deconstruction of the superhero origin story is a ridiculous amount of fun. The main pleasures are watching Nicolas Cage not play Batman, along with Chloe Grace Moretz giving a nomination worthy supporting turn as Hit-Girl. That initial magic wasn’t captured by the sequel, but that takes nothing away from this one.
8. Looper – Not only is this a great action flick, it’s also the best film of Rian Johnson’s career so far and a amazing time travel tale as well. It’s nearly perfect, offering up one of the best performances to date from both Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as Bruce Willis. A modern classic, it basically demands that you honor it for its inventiveness and effectiveness.
7. Black Hawk Down – I’d have put this higher if not for the fact that it’s less fun due to the tragic real life story that inspired it. Still, this is one of Ridley Scott’s best and the most effective war movie since Saving Private Ryan. It’s so visceral and well made, […]

The 83rd Academy Awards: If I had been a voter

After a brief delay, this series has returned. Yes, once again I’m going to be taking a look back at a recent Oscar lineup and explaining what my vote would have been in each of the big eight categories we all follow so intently each season. I previously mentioned that potentially I could do this once a week with previous Academy Award ceremonies, and while I’m going to be truing to do that, time will still tell. Again, if nothing else, this gives you an interesting look into my cinematic tastes. Over the course of the year you can sort of get a feel for what my current favorites are, but now we can look to the past a bit more.
Alright then, here goes nothing folks…behold my picks:
Best Picture – The Social Network
The nominees here for this ceremony were 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. My personal pick Blue Valentine wasn’t nominated, of course, so my number two pick is an easy one…The Social Network. Such a shame that it fell short here to The King’s Speech in real life.
Best Director – David Fincher for The Social Network
This category featured Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), and David O. Russell (The Fighter), and yet the three most interesting choices in Aronofsky, Fincher, and Russell were passed over for Hooper. I’d change that though, and go with Fincher. Had I been given the power to vote for anyone though, I’d probably have gone with Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine.
Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network
I didn’t intend to vote down the line for The Social Network, but so far it just has worked out that way. My personal pick Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine got snubbed, so I had to go to my second choice. The nominees here were Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), James Franco (127 Hours), and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech). It’s hard to argue with Firth’s win, but I think Eisenberg was slightly more deserving overall.
Best Actress – Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine
Honestly, I might prefer Natalie Portman for Black Swan, but I can’t resist the chance to give Blue Valentine an Oscar win […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Christian Bale

For this week’s brand new spotlight piece (after taking a week off), I wanted to cite an A-lister who is known as one of the most deeply committed actors of his generation. Yes, it’s Christian Bale, an Academy Award winner who just overflows with talent. Once considered an incredibly snubbed actor who never quite captured Oscar’s attention, he’s since moved on to a much more respected part of his career, while also stepping effortlessly between blockbusters and independent fare. At this point, he’s almost a favorite of the voters and a multiple time nominee. As such, he’s someone I’d wanted to shine the spotlight on for some time, I’ve just been waiting for the right moment…
Bale got started briefly as a teenager in television movies, but for most, the first real exposure to him came in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, as well as a few years later in the musical Newsies. Throw in his voice work in the Disney flick Pocahontas and he was making his first bones with what often was family friendly entertainment. That would change in a hurry, but his beginnings were much more mainstream than where he would go from there. He first teased at a more mature future with Velvet Goldmine, but it would be a certain book adaptation that really showed how extreme he could go.
American Psycho is not only one of his more out there roles, it’s also one of his best performances to date. He was able to take author Bret Easton Ellis’ character Patrick Bateman and find the theatrical quality in him. It’s both a gonzo and very restrained performance, which is hard to do. Bale really nailed it, and it got the attention of Hollywood. He would no longer be an up and comer…he’d be a star in the making. Roles in bigger films like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Equilibrium, Laurel Canyon, Reign of Fire, and Shaft followed, though many of those still had that independent spirit he gravitated to.
Bale next wowed people with a physical transformation for his part in The Machinist. He lost a disturbing amount of weight, giving an already strong performance an extra layer of power. It was impossible not to look at him and feel the agony of what the weight loss must have been like, which in turn makes the insomnia that the character is suffering feel all the more troubling. It’s […]

Re-ranking the contenders in Best Actor

As I mentioned last week and the week prior to that, with the festival season well underway and a good portion of the major contenders for the Academy Awards having screened or about to screen, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the big eight categories and see what’s what in an updated and more expanded fashion. I did this with the major categories a couple of months back, but that was when almost everything was still speculation. We have some facts to go on now, so while much of this is still just an educated guess, I’m not completely relying on overt hunches this time around. It’s more of an even mix, depending on the film/director/performer in question, of course. Today I’m turning my attention once again to the Best Actor field, which won’t necessarily match up with Best Picture in any major way, but perhaps won’t be too far off either. Read on to see what I mean…
One special note about Best Actor this year is that it’s as deep as I’ve ever seen it to be at this point in the season. Each of the ten men that I have cited as the ones with the best chance at a nomination could presumably even wind up winning, and I’d go so far as to say that extends to the next few as well. When have we been basically in October previously and had a dozen viable contenders to win an Oscar? Besides that, you can go nearly 20 deep in terms of who could legitimately wind up getting nominated. It’s going to be a bloodbath when we whittle this down to the ultimate lineup…
Here are the ten gentlemen that I have in play for Best Actor currently, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point and time:
1. Michael Keaton (Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – You really can’t write a better narrative for a comeback performance than this one. Not only is Keaton a former typecast superhero turned critical darling in this film, his character is an actor trying to emerge from the shadow of the hero that he played. It’s the perfect storm not just to get him nominated, which almost surely will happen now, but the right combination of things to result in a win. Right now, he makes the most sense for this […]

Joaquin Phoenix: Oscar veterans hoping for another nomination this year

Each and every single awards season, there are tons of both newcomers and veterans to the Oscar game. Tomorrow I’ll be taking a bit of a look at those seeking their first nominations from the Academy, but today I’m going to be going ahead and listing some of the major players who’ve already been nominated before, and in some cases are already winners. It’s leading up to me re-ranking the contenders in the major categories next week, but right now it’s just going to be a preview of which old hands to the Oscar ranch are saddling up for another ride on the awards season pony.
In the Best Actor race, the highest profile former nominee is Joaquin Phoenix, who will look for his first win this year with Inherent Vice. He represents the most likely non first time nominee who could win the Oscar in this category, though one level down we have Bradley Cooper for American Sniper and Bill Murray for St. Vincent, with Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler and Brad Pitt for Fury as other possibilities, plus Ben Affleck, who I’m counting here since he’s an Oscar winner, even if he’s never received an acting citation to date. Longer shots for nominations who’ve been to the dance before include Christian Bale for Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Philip Seymour Hoffman for A Most Wanted Man, Matthew McConaughey for Interstellar, Al Pacino for Manglehorn, Jeremy Renner for Kill the Messenger, and Mark Walhberg for The Gambler. Those fellas will be fighting it out with a bunch of first timers in this category, and it’s going to be a bloodbath.
Over in Best Actress, we have perennial bridesmaid Amy Adams hoping that this year she’ll finally be the bride with her work in Big Eyes. She’s going to be getting a challenge from both Jessica Chastain (for either The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie, or A Most Violent Year) and Reese Witherspoon for Wild though. One level down you have Julianne Moore for Still Alice and Meryl Streep for Into the Woods, with other former nominees/winner on the hunt including Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant or Two Days One Night, Keira Knightley for Begin Again, Hilary Swank for The Homesman, Kate Winslet for A Little Chaos, and Robin Wright for The Congress. The newbies could seriously vie for a win here, but the vets have […]

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