Monthly Archives: November 2014

All that glitters…

Foxcatcher“Foxcatcher” is a haunting portrait of the events leading up to millionaire John du Pont’s 1996 murder of Olympic gold-medalist Dave Schultz at his Foxcatcher Farms wrestling training facility. As he had done in his previous films “Capote” and “Moneyball,” director Bennett Miller forgoes painting the broad strokes of the already sensational real-life stories and instead focuses on the internal motives and psyches of the characters involved. With “Capote,” we glimpsed into Truman Capote’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) ego and manipulation of the killers of the Clutter family to write his book “In Cold Blood”; in “Moneyball,” we watched Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) personal vendetta fuel his fire to buck major league baseball’s scouting system to revolutionize the process of picking a winning team. With “Foxcatcher,” Miller once again highlights the psychological aspects and internal motivations behind the characters of the story to great effect and “Foxcatcher” feels like a natural progression for Miller as its story combines two environments in which we’ve already seen him excel- sports and murder. Continue reading

Connecting the Cracks

Birdman PosterAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a director I’ve admired since seeing his first feature film “Amores Perros,” a film that showed the interwoven stories of three different people linked to one event through vignettes and flashbacks. His subsequent features “21 Grams” and “Babel” also employed the interwoven story theme and followed a natural progression in Inarritu’s cinematic exploration of life’s external facets and how everything’s connected. In 2010, he internalized this theme with his study of the connection between the spiritual and physical worlds in his fourth feature “Biutiful,” an introspective character study of a black market labor exploiter with a psychic ability who must examine his life when he finds that he is terminally ill and follows his quest to secure a guardian for his children. Each of Inarritu’s first four features was nominated for Academy Awards: “Amores Perros” for best foreign film, “21 Grams” for Best Actress (Naomi Watts) and Supporting Actor (Benecio DelToro), “Babel” for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Rinko Kikuchi), Original Screenplay and Director (Inarritu), and “Biutiful” for Best Actor (Javier Bardem). Inarritu’s fifth feature “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” will not be an exception. Continue reading

Hitting the right notes

whiplashOne of the things I love about independent movies is when they allow actors I’ve liked, relegated to supporting roles in studio movies, the chance to shine in the lead roles. Miles Teller (“That Awkward Moment,” “Divergent”) and J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Juno”) do just that in “Whiplash.”

“Whiplash” is a film in the tradition of student-teacher stories where the teacher is the all-knowing, all-seeing taskmaster who breaks the student down to build them back up on the solid foundation of the basic knowledge that will allow the student to continue to build and excel in whatever skill they’re trying to master. The tougher the teacher, the more the student respects them because they both want the same thing- perfection. As tough as we can be on ourselves to master any skill, we need constant pushing from that outside influence we view and respect as a master themselves. Quitting is not an option and only our best performance will do. Continue reading