(Articles to Come)
Faith is an issue these days (no matter who you are, you are somehow effected by faith, whether that be in God, Humanity, a vision, or an ideal), and many people have simply "thrown in their cards" because life is, well hard. Dealing with an issue like doubt, many turn and simply give up whatever choices they have made in the past (presumably for good) and simply lose what we would call hope.
In the new trailer for the upcoming film "Doubt", we have issues of faith put into question in regards to the character of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who has quite surprised me these past few years). He plays a priest of what looks like a Chicago/New York parish, and is accused by the head of the sisters (played by Meryl Streep) to have committed a wrongful act to a student, by way of a statement made by a young sister (Amy Adams). The film has the look and feeling of an independent film, but boasts performances that could possibly ignite nominations. This is a film based on a play (one of two in this blog), and has the dimensions of dialogue and character development down (from what I hear). The question will be if the film can surpass its rather simple premise for an in depth look at deception, faith, and of course doubt.
From what Oliver Stone is stating, W. is a film that is going to attempt both a satirical, and a sympathetic look at the life and career of our current commander in chief. Whether this will ultimately play out as a mockery, or a fair representation; we still have quite a cast to portray the politicians in question (everyone from Karl Rove to Tony Blair to Condi). Usually historical perspectives/analysis are done after someone has left office, or even passed on and so it is quite interesting that he chose such a pivotal time for this film to release (namely smack dab in the middle of the election!)
08. The Soloist
A couple years ago Robert Downey Jr. would have probably made very few top-ten lists of rising stars, he probably was not discussed in film speaking circles, and he certainly wasn't deemed to be anything more than a one time big shot (academy award nominee for best picture for the film "Chaplin"). With his post-rehab jumpstart behind him, Robert Downey Jr. has now become "the face of cool" among members of this generation. He struck several critics for his portrayal of Journalist Paul Avery in the film Zodiac (2007), Ignited a widely successful comic book franchise (which no-one thought would ever conceptually work) with Iron Man (2008), and managed to show some comedic prowess as the relatively "straight man" in Tropic Thunder (2008). Critics are flocking to him, big leading roles are being laid at his feet, the film going public is now listening, and in a matter of a few short months, our "Tony Stark" has become a household name (kind of like what happened with Johnny Depp, but less drastically). His upcoming project "The Soloist" will add some more dimension to Downey Jr's repertoire as it is another "based on a true story/drama/involving journalism" and it could easily be a good enough role to elevate him into much more dramatic roles (much like what he did in Chaplin, but with this super stardom at his side). 2008 is definitely the year of the Downey Jr. in this critic's opinion.
With two WWII historical films in the works at this time it will be interesting to see which film will garner better historical accuracy. They deal with two different fronts in the war (South Pacific vs. Eastern Europe), which is actually a very beneficial way to examine the already largely interpreted subject. Defiance will basically either make Daniel Craig's career more than James Bond, or will simply be another film in a string of unnoticed performances (The Invasion, The Golden Compass...etc.)
Hugh Jackman's career of great interest as he has completely redefined who he is as an actor three times in the span of ten years (broadway star, action hero, dramatic actor) and still doesn't get much in terms of recognition. I can say that many of his performances have left me thinking that more could have been examined, yet other films I feel really examined his talents (The Fountain). Australia will also help Nicole Kidman, who in my opinion is the most overpaid, least interesting actress in Hollywood these days. There is really no reason to like her, yet Hollywood studios seem to put her on such a pedestal that can really only be defined as "post-tom cruise success". Australia though may be the saving grace for the both of them. Baz Luhrman is the key to the success (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) and with his direction and early buzz concerning the trailers we might be looking at some nominations (maybe even for acting).
Controversy describes more than our insecurities, it uncovers something innate within the human psyche. Sean Penn is the kind of actor that likes to push boundaries, yet doesn't always do so in ways that garner authenticity. The film "Milk" will be an exercise in pushing people's buttons and that's why I would say that it represents a wild card during this movie season.
04. Revolutionary Road
This film represents the traditional drama that we are used to seeing during the Oscar season. This is the type of film that the Academy flocks to, but in recent years hasn't been as elevated as it once was. Attention span has a lot to do with it as many American film goers don't have the patience for a dialogue-driven, period piece drama. But the most important thing about these types of films are not the words that they are saying, but rather what they are not saying. What they are not saying speaks much louder. I would propose that films like this are ultimately reflects of modern time, yet are like photographs taken in a different time and place (a different context, if you will) and thus it feels familiar yet also distant.
The Next three films are my top three choices for success during the fall/winter movie season leading up to the Academy Awards:
The play by Morgan Peter is both a character study of real life individuals and an interesting study of introspective journalism. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen both reprise their roles from the acclaimed play, and just from the trailer we get the impression that they are attempting to translate the compelling play into a full fledged drama. I think they both could very well get nominated for performances, but I don't think that the trailer completely justifies the tone of the film until the last 1:00 minute of it. The trailer gives off a comedic lighthearted tone and shifts to a much more dramatic swing. It will be interesting to see a balance of both considering the breadth of the subject material.
02. The Road
Viggo Mortensen is definitely one of the most underrated actors working today. His work in the Lord of the Rings films, Eastern Promises, and even Appaloosa are examples of an actor's dedication to a film role (much like the Brando school of acting whose best example is last years Academy Award winner for Best Actor in a leading role: Daniel Day-Lewis. The Road (by Cormac McCarthy, who has become quite a hot topic around Hollywood these days) looks to be a gripping post-apocalyptic morality film that will be both a drastic example of single individuals striving against insurmountable odds, and a introspective look at the effects of scarcity in civilization (as most of the population has died).
01. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Brad Pitt will receive a nomination, I am just preparing you for when it happens. He went away for awhile (doing Humanitarian work) doing a film here and there (Oceans 13, Mr and Mrs. Smith) but is starting to make a comeback (with Burn after Reading). David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac) is to me, one of the most original directors of this generation and if anyone could defy expectations for a film like this it would be him. I feel plenty of nominations on the way, as well as plenty of critical acclaim. It could all just be an estimate though.
A friend and I were discussing the Academy Awards the other day, and we both found it very perplexing that politics play into the choices so intricately that they already have the choices for what will be deemed "the top films" of the season. One the one hand I support the Academies decisions, but on the other hand I don't understand why they would "mark" certain films before they have even been viewed/critiqued.