Tag: Jessica Chastain

Movie Review: Coriolanus

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

As reek o’the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcases of unburied men

That do corrupt my air.

I’m going to do my Shakespeare on film marathon one of these days. It’s going to be the greatest thing ever done, rivaling the Bards work itself. It will be epic and humanistic at the same time. Grand and personal. Anyways, this movie will have to be in it because it is the only theatrical version of the play. Coriolanus is a history, probably the least popular of the three genres that Shakes wrote in but it is equally rich ground as the comedies and tragedies. It tells the rise and fall and re-rise and then whatever of a military general who is elevated to the highest level of public office because of his war record and scars but cares little for the people he is supposed to be governing. The dynamic is set up early and often, he’s a proud man but feels he’s above nearly everybody else on the planet including his rival, an insurgency leader who is clearly not the equal of the mighty Coriolanus.

Watching this movie, which transposes the action to a modern-day version of Rome (kinda, it’s got a few minor issues here but the modernization mostly works), I got a strong feeling of deja vu, though I had never even heard of this play before seeing the trailer. It’s all political dealing and manuvering outside of one action scene for the whole first hour. What it felt like was Game of Thrones. The big players are big and bombastic (Fiennes spits a lot, which is gross but fun) but there are also these side characters that plot and scheme to keep the people they don’t like out of power. In this film it’s Brian Cox trying to put Ralph Fiennes into the seat of power and James Nesbit trying to keep him out. It’s a fun dynamic. They both manipulate the populace into thinking one way and then the other, rabble rousing the poor starving people. A lot is made of literally and metaphorically showing Fiennes’ battle scars and there seems to be a custom of going out into the people and asking them to endorse a candidate and it’s fun to see that play out, even if it doesn’t quite make sense with the scope of the film (the 40 or so people don’t quite make for a majority, do they?) So Fiennes rises and falls and is exiled on national tv. That’s fun. You know, Shakespeare is pretty damned good at this whole writing thing. Coriolanus gets mad very quickly and its fun to watch Fiennes bluster at everybody. Then he’s offscreen for five minutes and has gone from bald to scruffy seemingly overnight. Time compression!

Shakespeare has been studied endlessly and his depiction of women probably takes up half of the papers written about him. Here we have Jessica Chastain (of course) playing Coriolanus’ faithful but worried wife and Vanessa Redgrave as his fierce and powerful mother. Chastain is fine, but doesn’t get a whole ton to do. Redgrave, on the other hand, is awesome. You can very clearly see how Coriolanus came from her. Everything he is is because of her. She propels him, emboldens him. Chastises him, defends him, and, ultimately, defeats him. Not with a knife, of course, even Gerard Butler, Mr. 300 himself, couldn’t beat Coriolanus with a knife. No, she beats him with words, first groveling then shaming him and his decisions. She’s brokering for peace between him and his former country but it is only through their personal connection that she gets through to him. There’s gotta be a paper in there somewhere, right?

This is one of those movies that follows the play pretty closely (I assume). No lines of dialogue are spoken that aren’t in the play and anything depicting an invented scene lacks words. This is a convention that I get, I understand, but I don’t really know if I care about it. Are his words that revered that nobody can deign to change them? The Lion King works just fine as an adaption of Hamlet without all of the silly conventions that these filmmakers put upon themselves. It doesn’t hurt the film, I just don’t know if it helps. I wouldn’t want to get rid of the dialogue or remove its olde tyme flavor, because it works pretty well, but don’t feel beholden to some dead guy.

Ok, that sidetrack is over now. Finally, I just want to comment on the shaky cam that Fiennes (wearing his director hat) uses. It feels immediate without making me nauseous, which is good. It doesn’t detract from the few action scenes nor the more intimate moments. It gives great power to Coriolanus’ monologue right after he is banished from Rome. It’s shot in one take but he moves around and addresses the crowd and the camera follows him, not quite sure where he’s going to go next nor what he is going to do when he gets there. Often these adaptations end up feeling very stiff, with the actors struggling to get out the words and the camera not complicating matters with anything beyond kinda boring setups. Fiennes imbues the camera with an immediacy, a modern aesthetic that makes the movie come alive. It’s nothing groundbreaking or unusual, just look at half the action movies and a quarter of the drama films today, but it is nice to see him do something unexpected with Shakes. Take chances, make mistakes. Do whatever you want with his stuff. It worked out for him and I’m glad, but I’m even more glad he tried.

B+.

2011 Film Awards: Part 1

It’s the beginning of the new year which means it’s the end of the film year. With the Oscar nominations soon to be announced I figured it was time to give out my own awards. These are kind of my top five in each category along with some other fun categories. I’ll write a little bit after each section just for fun. Enjoy.

Best Picture

  1. War Horse
  2. The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Hanna
  4. Drive
  5. The Tree of Life
War Horse

That’s two Spielberg films at the top. I wouldn’t consider him one of my favorite directors but I guess he’s pretty ok. Hanna is just a lot of fun. Drive is stylistic as hell and a great time. And The Tree of Life is beautiful and meaningful. A good year.

Best Director

  1. War Horse – Steven Spielberg
  2. Hugo – Martin Scorsese
  3. I Saw the Devil – Kim Jee-woon
  4. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn
  5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson
Drive

War Horse perfectly captures the classic Hollywood style of John Ford and Frank Borzage and feels perfect throughout. Scorsese’s film is old and new at the same time, with wonderful 3D. I Saw the Devil is a film I don’t wholly love, but it moves like a rocket and works so well. Drive, like I said before, is super stylized, but the mood is perfect. And Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the most packed movie I’ve seen this year, both visually and thematically. It’s subtle and intense without any action.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Attack the Block – Joe Cornish
  2. The Guard – John Michael McDonagh
  3. The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick
  4. Rango – John Logan
  5. Submarine – Richard Ayoade
Attack the Block

Four of these guys also directed their films (Rango’s John Logan is the only outlier) and three of them are debut films (only The Tree of Life and Rango, again). Each of these films are the very definition of original, whether it be the plot or the style of the writing or both.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Adventures of Tintin – Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan
  3. Drive – Hossein Amini
  4. Winnie the Pooh – Stephen J. Anderson and company
  5. War Horse – Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
The Adventures of Tintin

Are you starting to see a trend here? War Horse just keeps showing up. It is that good, though. For real. Also, Tintin has three of the best screenwriters going and Winnie the Pooh captured the feel of the original stories perfectly. It doesn’t shy away from the meta aspects and the songs are great.

Best Actor

  1. Brendan Gleeson – The Guard
  2. Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  3. Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class
  4. Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

I’ve always liked Gleeson and his role in The Guard is genius. Andy Serkis (and the animation crew) somehow made a chimp an effective and emotional character. Fassbender is Fassbender (and might get replaced by the Shame version of himself if it ever shows up around me). Oldman is quiet and very real. Hunter McCracken is a talented young actor with a big role that he played very well.

Best Actress

  1. Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
  2. Viola Davis – The Help
  3. Elena Anaya – The Skin I Live In
  4. Brit Marling – Another Earth
  5. Sally Hawkins – Made in Dagenham
Viola Davis in The Help

Hanna continues Ronan’s work with Joe Wright and she’s just as good as she was in Atonement, if not better. Viola Davis first broke my heart in Doubt and she continued to do so in The Help, a surprisingly ok movie. Elena Anaya does very well for herself playing a complicated and difficult role. Sally Hawkins makes her character real and powerful.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  2. Michael Fassbender – Jane Eyre
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  4. David Tennant – Fright Night
  5. Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Alan Rickman started his movie career with one of the best villains of all time (Hans Gruber) and has now brought to life one of the best conflicted characters in modern cinema. Fassbender is, again, Fassbender. Both Cumberbatch and Tennant proved that they can play roles other than the ones that they played on BBC shows. And Brad Pitt fully embodies his stern father role. I lost him in the performance, which is a pretty great feat for such a movie star.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett – Hanna
  2. Elle Fanning – Super 8
  3. Jessica Chastain – The Help
  4. Sally Hawkins – Submarine
  5. Emily Blunt – The Adjustment Bureau
Cate Blanchett in Hanna

I know a lot of people hated Blanchett in Hanna but I loved how arch she was. She played a great fairy tale evil queen. Elle Fanning is a new talent, just watch the acting scene in this film for definitive proof. I know most will probably go with Chastain in The Tree of Life for this category but I really liked what she did with her role in The Help. Sally Hawkins was basically the opposite of her role in Made in Dagenham and wonderfully weird. Emily Blunt’s chemistry with Matt Damon was the best part of The Adjustment Bureau, outside of the hats.

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. War Horse
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  3. Super 8
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Midnight in Paris
Super 8

I love everybody in War Horse, especially Hiddleston and Cumberbatch and Emily Watson. All of those sad men in TTSS were great (again, Cumberbatch). Super 8’s kids were wonderful, along with a few key adult roles. The Tree of Life, too, mixed great kid and adult roles. Midnight in Paris magically combines modern day elites and old-timey artists, all played to perfection (if exaggeratedly).

Best Non-English Language Film

  1. The Skin I Live In
  2. I Saw the Devil
  3. Trollhunter
The Skin I Live In

These are the only foreign language films I’ve seen. I am ashamed. They’re all good, though. The Skin I Live In is melodrama and horror mashed up into one glorious concoction. I Saw the Devil is a violent revenge tale, superbly directed. And Trollhunter takes the found footage horror film and amps it up a bit. Also, trolls.

Best Animated Film

  1. The Adventures of Tintin
  2. Winnie the Pooh
  3. Rango
  4. Batman: Year One
Winnie the Pooh

This was not a great year for animated films. Tintin is a whole lot of fun. Winnie the Pooh felt like an instant classic. Rango is a spaghetti western pastiche that works as a kids movie. Batman: Year One is basically Batman: The Animated Series, so it is great.

Best Documentary

  1. Bill Cunningham, New York
  2. Tabloid
  3. African Cats
  4. Cropsey
  5. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
African Cats

Bill Cunningham, New York is a pretty straightforward doc about a fascinating person (a fashion page photographer for the New York Times) but there’s a scene at the end that is truly amazing. Tabloid looks at an interesting case through the lens of the British tabloid system. African Cats is a movie about baby lions and cheetahs, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, so it is awesome. Cropsey examines an urban legend and takes a bit of time to talk about the horrible way the mentally ill were treated at one time in our recent history. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold takes a Super Size Me-esque look at the product placement industry. It’s fun and informative, even if I don’t think that product placement is the most evil thing in the world.

Sometime next week I’ll make the next post in this two part series. Exciting categories like Best Editing and boring ones like Best Comedic Scene and Best Line. Join me! Tell me what I missed!