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Robert Redford a triumph in All is Lost

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The film shows us three New York men struggling to fend off their habits. Mark Ruffalo’s character hasn’t masturbated to porn videos in five years and is rewarded with a cake at the therapy group. He can’t bring himself to reveal his story to a woman he’s just met (Gwyneth Paltrow) because after living with an alcoholic she won’t date an addict. “I’m not an alcoholic,” he assures her. Tim Robbins plays his sponsor. He’s strict and encouraging but has troubles at home connecting with a son just out of prison.  Mark is also a sponsor, to a hospital intern (Josh Gad) who likes to rub up against women on the subway and gets fired for an even bigger transgression at work.

 

The film is crowded with plot but only one strand breathes authentic life. Gad takes up with a hairdresser, the only woman in the group, played with spunk and street-smarts by Pink, the singer, under her real name Alecia Moore.  She comes off as real, not like Paltrow, who is smiley nice and then gives her sex-addicted man a lap dance. Contradictions amid the preaching. Good acting all around, though. (International Village) 2 ½  out of 5   

BAD GRANDPA: I was prepared to dislike this one. After all, it’s from the Jackass crowd at MTV and they deal in stunts and often very gross humor. And sure enough body parts and body functions drive some of the laughs here. But there’s more. There’s an actual plot for a change and there’s Spike Jonze among the writers. He’s done a lot of work with the group in the past as well as many music videos and films like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. That kind of higher-level  but still outré fun shows up here too making this a very funny movie.

 

Chief Jackass Johnny Knoxville, behind transforming makeup, plays the 86-year-old grandpa. His wife dies, he’s happy because he can now be free but his daughter, on her way to jail, leaves his grandson in his care. He wants to dump him on the boy’s father and sets out on a road trip across several states. That gives us a series of episodes as grandpa annoys and outrages, even disgusts, real people filmed with hidden cameras.  We see them in cafes, a shopping mall, a bingo parlor, even a child beauty pageant that outdoes Little Miss Sunshine. It like a wigged-out Candid Camera and even stronger than Borat. But it’s also a remarkably accurate snapshot of the U.S. today. I’ve never seen as many obese people on film before.  Best of all, there’s a warm bond that develops between the old man and his grandson, winningly played by Jackson Nicoll, a child actor who comes across like a real kid. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

 

Two about the movies …

CASTING BY:  When you think that Ronald Reagan was briefly considered to star in Casablanca you realize how important it is to choose the right actors for the movies. These days it’s done by casting directors and their work can make or break a film. They don’t get Oscars because the Directors Guild stands in the way but Martin Scorsese says more than 90% of filmmaking is “the right casting”.

We learn all about that in this lively documentary about one of the pioneers, Marion Dougherty, and several others who she inspired. Also many actors who she found, including Dustin Hoffman for The Graduate, Al Pacino, William Shatner, Robert Duvall. The list goes on and on, originally from her work in New York TV (Warren Beatty, James Dean, etc.) and later in films. There are great clips of early Robert Redford, an embarrassing TV role by John Voight who later pursues Midnight Cowboy and a producer who agonized for 45 years that he didn’t give Marion a credit on that movie. This one celebrates a key craft and the “insight and intuition” of its best people.  (The Cinematheque) 4 out of 5 

On a double bill with …

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