Sunday, November 18, 2012

WHAT I'M THANKFUL FOR THIS MOVIE SEASON


It's Thanksgiving week and there is a lot to be thankful for in regards to 2012 movies. Granted, the first half was anything but stellar, but the last few months have been superb. And there are more holidays goodies to come. So without further ado, here's what I'm especially appreciative of this year. (And I hope you'll share what you're thankful for in the comments section after this post!)


LINCOLN
It’s my pick for best film of the year so far because of Steven Spielberg’s tough, taut direction, Tony Kushner’s literate and witty script, sumptuous, top-rate production values and a cast of marvelous character actors filling even the smallest roles. And then there’s the year’s best performance by the utterly incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis. Wow! What a film.

BEN AFFLECK
He’s one helluva director. And GONE BABY GONE, THE TOWN, and ARGO are a testament to his knack for filmmaking and picking great scripts. (I now officially forgive him for having ever dated J-Lo. And making GIGLI with her.)


MARION COTILLARD
I love it that even when she appears in fashion spreads (like in the current issue of W) she pushes the envelope. Just like in all the roles she takes. We can look forward to her in the upcoming RUST & BONE. Can’t wait!

HOLLYWOOD MAKE-UP ARTISTS
Their amazing skill is gloriously on display this year what with LINCOLN, CLOUD ATLAS, HITCHCOCK and THE HOBBIT. Prosthetics never looked so damn believable.

RIHANNA
She’s making movies. She could be a Bond girl, don't you think? Perhaps this GQ cover is her audition.

DISNEY
They gave us FRANKENWEENIE and WRECK-IT RALPH this year. Clearly, their partnership with Pixar is paying off quite a byte. (And fingers crossed for what they can do with STAR WARS.)


THE ART DIRECTION IN WRECK-IT RALPH
The candy-themed world that Ralph ends up in is a witty, sumptuous feast for the eyes. If there is any justice in Hollywood, it will get an Oscar nomination come January.


PAPERMAN
The animated short shown before the regular feature WRECK-IT RALPH (pictured above) is a sublime black and white pantomime about love, longing and paper airplanes. 

HELEN HUNT
She’s as emotionally naked as she is physically so in the incredibly moving dramedy THE SESSIONS. Her amazing performance could win her another Oscar. I hope it does.

JOHN HAWKES
And speaking of THE SESSIONS, he’s one of the best actors in Hollywood, and thankfully he’s getting a ton of work as a leading man like it that film, and a supporting one as in LINCOLN.

A GREAT BOND VILLAIN
There haven’t been too many in the last few films, but Javier Bardem’s Silva is a silky, purring panther whose wit is almost as lethal as his claws.

THE GOLDEN GLOBES
Not only is it always a raucous party Globe night, but the Hollywood Foreign Press gives movie musicals and comedies their due with their own categories. Let’s hope that means there’s some awards love for comedies like TO ROME WITH LOVE, FRIENDS WITH KIDS and RUBY SPARKS this year.


UGGIE
He stole my heart in THE ARTIST. What a great actor he is! And now he's got an autobiography out and it's a delightful read. Plus, if you follow him on Twitter and Facebook, you'll get to appreciate his wit on a daily basis. Uggie puts the wow in ‘bow wow’! (You can order his book here @ Amazon:  http://amzn.to/UOiGx0)

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
Is there a more unique and riveting filmmaker working these days? He’s explored porn in BOOGIE NIGHTS, megalomania in THERE WILL BE BLOOD and now cults in THE MASTER. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do after that. And after that. And after that.


JENNIFER LAWRENCE
Not only is she a terrific actress but I love that she’s refusing to fall into the skinny girl trap of Hollywood. In fact, she’s thumbing her nose at it. Publicly. Every chance she gets. Love that. Love her. (And I'm anxious to see her in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK this week.)

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
He’s conquered the stage multiple times in London, and on TV too with his sublime performance as SHERLOCK. Now, he’s starring in films with an important supporting role in THE HOBBIT as well as a villainous lead in the new STAR TREK movie in May. (His trajectory to the top of Tinsel Town appears to be rather elementary, wouldn't you say?)

DENZEL WASHINGTON
In FLIGHT, he miraculously he not only saves a doomed plane, but as an actor he makes the audience care for his stubborn, self-destructive alcoholic pilot every second of his downward spiral.

BETTER FOOD CHOICES AT THE CINEPLEX
Theaters are going gourmet with exotic chocolates, coffee drinks, sandwiches, muffins and smarter snacking choices. (Can a co-op with Whole Foods be far off?)


KEIRA KNIGHTLEY
She’s taking one big, challenging role after another in films like A DANGEROUS METHOD and the soon-to-be-released ANNA KARENINA. (Who says Millennials aren’t ambitious?)

SETH MACFARLANE – OSCAR HOST
The Academy showed some real balls picking him to host the Oscars next February. (Did they see TED? Better get that 5 second delay ready.)

STADIUM SEATING
Ever sit in a regular theater after spending time in stadium seating? Impossible.

Well, those are some of the things I’m thankful for. How about you? Oh, and no matter what, be sure and have a great Thanksgiving.  And go see a movie. There's so much to see!(What? You’d rather shop?)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THE BEST OF BOND YOU DON'T KNOW


The new 007 adventure SKYFALL opens this Friday and is expected to be a big hit. The advance word on it is superb and it’s already earning big bucks overseas. Some are even saying it’s one of the best Bond films of all time. That excites a big Bond fan like me. I’d love nothing more than to see it join the upper echelon of the series.

Of course everyone knows that GOLDFINGER, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE or THE SPY WHO LOVED ME are some of the high points in the 50-year old franchise. And there’s been a lot of ink and bytes devoted to picking the crème de la creme of Bond these past months. So I’m going to take a slightly different tack. I’m going to single out the best of Bond that you don’t even know about - the underrated, the forgotten, the overlooked. That which is among the very best of the world of Bond, in my humble opinion.
Daniel Craig
MOST UNDERRATED BOND FILM
This 1973 film LIVE AND LET DIE was written for Sean Connery after his return to the series in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER a few years earlier. But Connery balked and the role went to Roger Moore instead. It was a tough film, even controversial in its way with its blaxploitation leanings, but Moore ran with it, despite being more suited towards the lighter tone of his later outings. He’s suave, witty and handsome as always here, but he’s also cold, brutal and steely when required. The movie is suspenseful and scary with its voodoo undertones. It has a sinister duel villain turn by Yaphet Kotto. Jane Seymour in her film debut makes for an indelibly sexy, classy and yet extremely vulnerable ‘Bond girl’, and one that is more than window dressing as her fortune teller role drives the villain’s deeds. And it has that angry theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings (“You gotta give the other fella hellllll…”) It’s a serious Bond film. It's still a lot of fun, but it's never too silly or frivolous. For all those reasons, I think it’s one of the very best of all.
Sean Connery
MOST UNDERRATED BOND
I love Daniel Craig’s brutishness. I will be forever grateful to Pierce Brosnan for bringing the franchise back from the dead with his hard-edged and sly portrayal. And, of course, Connery’s supremacy is unquestioned. But why are people glossing over Roger Moore on the lists of best Bonds? He was not only in the most Bond pictures (7) but he was in as many terrific ones as Connery. By my estimate, Connery had three greats – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963), GOLDFINGER (1964) and THUNDERBALL (1965), and so did Moore - LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981). Moore also gave the Bond character his own flavor - lighter, more urbane and always veddy, veddy British. Sir Roger is a great Bond, and second only to Sir Sean.
George Lazenby
MOST UNDERRATED BOND VILLAIN
Scaramanga, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), is the darker side of Bond and that’s exactly the way Christopher Lee plays him. He’s an assassin who’s second to none, disciplined, cordial, great with the ladies, and a natty dresser. And he can’t miss when he shoots his Midas touched weapon. Unfortunately, Scaramanga gets forgotten because the movie isn’t considered top-tier Bond, but it’s much better than its reputation and Lee’s cool as a cucumber villain is one reason why.
Roger Moore
MOST UNDERRATED BOND GIRL
Why do so many critics and lists put Ursula Andress on top? (Ahem!) Because of that white bikini? Granted, it’s awesome, but her role in DR. NO is largely window dressing. (Gorgeous window dressing, I grant you.) But the best Bond girls drive the story: Tracy (Diana Rigg) in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969) was so important to the narrative, Bond married her! And Jane Seymour was as important a character as the villain in LIVE AND LET DIE. When Seymour’s character of Solitaire sleeps with Bond it’s a key plot point, not just there for titillation. And both Rigg and Seymour were theatrically trained actresses and that helped bring a great deal of depth to their roles. In later years, the Bond films forgot to cast such top drawer women in the leads, instead opting to fill the Bond girl roles with attractive yet shallow models like Denise Richards and Tanya Roberts. They were pretty, yes. Pretty unfortunate, even more so.
Timothy Dalton
MOST UNDERRATED BOND SONG
Few Bond film themes are ballads. The slowest of all the Bond themes is one that has virtually none of the bombast of an orchestral brass section or Shirley Bassey-type vocalizations. It’s the theme “Nobody Does It Better” from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, and the breezy Carly Simon croons it. Nothing will ever top the theme from GOLDFINGER but this one is right up there.

MOST UNDERRATED ACTION SEQUENCE
Daniel Craig running up walls and through them in the opening scene of CASINO ROYALE (2006) may be the best action scene in the series. There’s no green screen and its realness gives it an immediacy few others have. But another one that is played pretty real is in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY when Roger Moore and Carol Bouquet are dragged behind a boat as shark bait. That’s really them twisting in a number of the underwater shots, and how they escape from certain death is not only believable, it’s exciting and fun.
Pierce Brosnan
MOST UNDERRATED TITLE SEQUENCE
No one can top Maurice Binder’s credit sequences, but Daniel Kleiman picked up the mantel brilliantly with GOLDENEYE (1995). His credit sequence there was an elaborately staged montage with leggy models walking on the barrels of guns while Russia’s hierarchical statues crash around them. It’s incredibly dramatic and set the template for the future Bond titles as Kleiman now keeps coming back for more. I can’t wait to see what he does with SKYFALL.

After Bourne and Batman, there was concern that Bond couldn’t compete anymore. Obviously it has, and will continue to do so, as Craig has made the role his own. And they can always reboot the franchise as a Cold War saga, going back to the Ian Fleming origins in the 1950’s. Imagine what a Michael Fassbender could do in the role, with a “Mad Men” cut to his suit and his droll delivery. Or imagine Idris Elba as the first African-American Bond. That rumor has been around for a while now, so we’ll see what happens next.

But no matter, Bond is big. And will continue to be the spy who loved me. And we all love him. Check out some of Bond's unsung best that I've showcased here and I think you’ll love him even more. After all, nobody does it better.