Biutiful, Hall Pass, Alamar, a re-edited Justin Bieber and some Academy Award thoughts
An Oscar-worthy performance by Javier Bardem tops the list this week, but I don’t expect he’ll win the golden guy. I offer a few modest predictions and then some thoughts on these new arrivals.
Biutiful 4 stars
Hall Pass 2
Alamar 3 ½
Justine Bieber (version 2) --
Drive Angry 3D --
THE OSCARS: Here’s what I think might/should/will happen Sunday night. Keep in mind though, I’ve only ever won an Oscar pool once, out of many tries.
My problem is that I’m prone to over analyzing what the academy members might be thinking while they often just go ahead and vote for the most obvious. I expect a lot of that this year.
BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech. It’s hard to imagine the momentum for this film having slowed down. It’s poignant and, as a bonus, very funny. The Social Network is not.
BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth, for the same reason: momentum. Plus his subtle performance, of course, the fact that he’s owed something for being overlooked last year and since Javier Bardem, his main rival, is hobbled by acting in a foreign film. Biutiful probably comes across slow and even boring on DVD, which is how most of the voters would have seen it.
BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman for her showy Black Swan. I wish Annette Bening would get it for The Kids Are Alright.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale stole the movie, so why not the statue for The Fighter.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo for her tough-love mother in The Fighter.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: I’ve only seen two of the five contenders, but I can’t imagine anything more harrowing, moving and ultimately concerned with promoting reconciliation than Incendies. Yes, I’m rooting for the Canadian in the list.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Toy Story 3, of course. Great story telling.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Exit Through The Gift Shop, because I want to see if Banksy shows up to accept. He’s been told he can’t come in costume to disguise himself. Inside Job might get votes from people who didn’t see the better documentaries on the financial meltdown.
BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher made The Social Network crackle with life and even got a terrific performance out of Justin Timberlake.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network. Sharp writing that made a mere business story completely captivating.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: David Seidler, The King's Speech. Momentum again, although I wish Inception or The Kids Are Alright would get it.
This week’s new arrivals ….
BIUTIFUL: After his film Babel became a big hit, Alejandro González Iñárritu said he was finished with multiple, fractured storylines. The Mexican director (now based in California) announced his next one would be a single story about one man. He’s given us that but he’s also thrown in enough plot for three movies and more than enough themes to drive a long post-movie discussion. A quick list: spirituality, redemption, death, crime, illegal immigrants, sweatshops, family obligations, corruption, addiction. And there’s more in these crowded 2 ½ hours of gloom made almost vibrant by a spellbinding performance by Javier Bardem. He and the film are up for Oscars on Sunday. He won the best actor award at Cannes.
Bardem plays a low-life criminal in Barcelona, back in the hidden immigrant areas that the tourists don’t get to. His Chinese partners make knock-off goods and he’s got a group of Africans selling them in the streets. He pays off the cops and endures their occasional raids. As a sideline, he hustles the mourners at funerals by claiming he can communicate with the dead. On the personal side, he deals with an impulsive brother and a bi-polar ex-wife and cares with great affection for his two children. There’s unexpected tenderness in those scenes with his kids.
Then he gets the bad news. He’s got cancer and has only weeks to live. The bad man turns to putting his affairs in order to save his soul. That proves more than difficult as problem after problem shows up with the people around him. Bardem, who is on screen almost every minute, subtly evolves his character from ominous and tightly-wound to liberated and accepting what he can’t control. It’s downer but also a rewarding film. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5
HALL PASS: Remember how the Farrelly brothers had us laughing uproariously 13 years ago with There’s Something About Mary? They hope you do. It’s their main selling point for their new movie. Maybe the only one. The film itself certainly isn’t. It plays like an elongated episode of a TV sit com, with a standard morality lesson but fewer laughs. And some apparent desperation to reclaim the vanguard of the gross and rude humor movement, which they pioneered years ago. There’s an immensely endowed black man, a lightly-equipped white man, two excremental incidents and a whole lot of crude talk. They’re only episodes though inside a purely middle class sex comedy.
Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play suburban husbands whose eyes wander now and then. Their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) take a relationship guru’s advice and give them a week off from marriage. The men go looking for women to hit on, but they're stale and spend more time with their poker buddies or eating at the family restaurants they’re familiar with. Later an old skirt-chasing friend (an out-of-place Richard Jenkins) nudges them onward in a noisy club. The wives meanwhile, at the behest of the Farrelly brothers’ own wives, drift into their own assignations. They’re more successful actually, than the men. It seems ripe for some astute observations about marriage, maturity, keeping the home fires burning and things like that. Only bland ideas are offered. The funniest sequence is stuck into the closing credits, as a secondary character dreams a wild fantasy of his own. (Oakridge, International Village, many suburban theatres) 2 out of 5
ALAMAR (TO THE SEA): You won’t find much story in this charming film. You will find one of the best representations ever of a father and son relationship. You’ll also be immersed into a simple way of life that’s slowly disappearing. It’s a film that looks like a documentary but blurs the line with fiction. Mexican filmmaker Pedro González-Rubio mixes the two in an apparently-real story, partly re-staged for the camera and partly improvised during the filming, for instance when a white bird called an ibis walks in looking for food and stays around as an extra character.
An Italian woman and her Mexican husband split up. She wants to go back to Rome, he has their six-year-old son for the summer. He uses the time to show him the traditional life of his own father, a Mayan fisherman on the Banco Chinchorro, a pristine reef not yet invaded by tourists or developers. Father and grandfather teach the boy how to catch fish, sell them for money or cook them for dinner, scuba-dive, steer a motorboat and elude crocodiles. The boy is eager to learn and help out and has to be taught to have patience. He play-wrestles with his dad and draws pictures of his memories. The film is sweet, relaxed and poignant. And sparkling, with the clear ocean water and color. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5
Also playing …
JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER: Yes, this came out only two week’s ago, but they’re calling this one the Director’s Fan Cut. While he was making the film, Jon M. Chu asked the fans what they want to see in it. This second version incorporates their ideas.
It’s has 40 minutes of new material but is only 10 minutes longer. There are new sequences from the film’s previews, more concert clips, more scenes of the Bieb with his friends back in Stratford, Ont. and apparently less video of his early childhood. It seems the fans already know every detail of his history. In the original film, one rattled off the year, month, day and even the exact time of his birth. Still, this new version which plays for one week only, feels suspiciously like a money grab. Two weeks ago, fans who wanted to see the first one early were already paying extra. The studio charged them $30 to attend a preview screening. (Version 2 is at Oakridge and some suburban theatres.)
DRIVE ANGRY 3D: Haven’t seen this one. It previewed at the same time as Hall Pass but I hear it’s a standard gear-jamming romp with supernatural overtones and, of course, Nicolas Cage. I like what A. O. Scott wrote about him last Sunday, that he’s “American cinema’s most popular and prolific purveyor of craziness.” Scott was discussing the many good actors seen in bad movies right now, including Anthony Hopkins, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Portman (not in Black Swan, in the other one) and Nicole Kidman. Ironically, I hope, he said if you consider the difference between the quality of the performance and the material as the real sign of greatness, then “the greatest actor in the world today is Nicolas Cage.” In the movie he escapes from hell to exact vengeance against the people who killed his daughter. Horror specialist Patrick Lussier directs. He grew to love movies when he lived in Prince George, got his early work experience in Vancouver and is on Variety’s list of 10 directors to watch this year. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)
NOTE: The images were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.