Saturday, January 29, 2011

Well That Was Far More Depressing Than I Expected...

***SPOILER ALERT! I divulge major plot points in most of the movies mentioned below, so if you don't want to know, don't venture into it.***

Have you ever gone into a movie, not knowing just how upset you were going to be by the end of it? Maybe it was something that you thought was going to be light and fun, but turned out to be serious. Or maybe it was something that you knew was a bit more serious, but you didn't realize just HOW depressing it was going to be.

I have been experiencing this a bit lately, and so decided to complie-- you guessed it-- a list of films that I ended up responding to a lot more emotionally than I originally anticipated.
And so, here are the "Movies that Were Far More Depressing than Expected":

I'm not going to lie, this is purely based on the newest adaptation of the film, featuring Jude Law as Alfie, though I have always wanted to see the original Michael Cane portrayal (What can I say? The man is a classy old fox!). Regardless, I went into seeing this movie under the impression that it was a fun, romantic romp, featuring a sly womanizer. Sure, it started out that way, but soon enough there were issues with the women, leading to emotional pains when he had to leave them. One in particular was Alfie's breakup with Julie, which of course happened due to her finding out about his womanizing ways, but it was kind of hard to see it happen, due to the fact that Alfie was so connected to her son, Max, and the thought that maybe Max really liked Alfie's involvement in his life as well. In addition, there was the moment that Alfie realized he was replaceable in people's lives after his tryst with Susan Sarandon's character Liz; this also made him see just how hurtful what he was been doing to all those women was. Finally, there is the glaring issue of Alfie unknowingly having a child with his best friend's girlfriend, destroying a meaningful friendship. I think the whole idea is summed up perfectly when his friend, Marlon, says something along the lines of "You don't ever mean to hurt anyone... but you do." (I don't know the exact quote, sadly).

(No, I haven't read the book by Ian McEwan, so no, I didn't know what was going to transpire in this film).
Alright, so this one could possibly be seen as depressing due to the plot that is given away in trailers for the film: that is, the two lovers Cecilia and Robbie (Keira Knightly and James McAvoy) are separated because of a devastating lie told by Cecilia's young sister, Briony (as played by Saoirse Ronan). Yet, despite this being laid out in front of you, there are all those clips in the advertisements featuring the couple embracing and being together and reunited on the beach... but where is that in the movie? Right at the end, in Briony's imagination. Not only are the couple stripped away after only having a few moments together knowing that the other was in love with them, but Robbie goes off to war and sees devastating hardships there. The couple is never fully reunited except for one afternoon, three years after Robbie is convicted, and never see each other again as they both die at a young age.
In addition to this major upset, however, is the fact of Briony and having to live with all the problems she has caused. At first, most of the audience just hates Briony for what she has done and the lies she tells out of jealousy, but once she grows old and realizes how awful of a mistake she has made, you can't help but feel sorry for her. I know I was incredibly upset at seeing an elderly Briony, still haunted by the fact that her actions as a young, foolish child led to a couple in love being torn apart from one another, as well as indirectly allowing a young girl to marry the man that raped her years earlier. Maybe some aren't so sympathetic to her, but we all make stupid choices as children, and this was one that Briony had to live with for her entire, long life, always wanting to be able to make it up to her sister and Robbie, but never being able to.

Boogie Nights
You hear that a movie is about the porn industry, and you think that maybe it will be a little humorous, as nobody in their right mind would make a serious film about porn, right? Well, apparently my naive little mind didn't realize that this is exactly what Boogie Nights is: a surprisingly serious look at the rise of a young 70s porn star, Dirk Diggler (Mark Walhberg). Don't get me wrong, I actually really enjoyed the movie! I just didn't realize what the mood was going to be like. Obviously the first thing that is kind of a downer in the film is the degradation of a young man, due to his involvement in the industry and the fame, drugs, and influences he becomes involved with because of it. Furthermore, Julianne Moore's character, Amber Waves, is a woman one can particularly feel sympathy for. Okay, so the charges against her about being involved in porn and drugs were correct, leading to her son being taken away, but Amber was just trying to provide a life for her son and didn't know any other way how. Not only that, but now she is so psychologically in need of being a mother, she forms bizarre, surrogate-mother type relationships with her costars, such as Dirk, with whom she frequently has sexual intercourse with on screen.
In addition, the rest of the cast of characters have their own issues. For example, "Roller Girl" (Heather Graham) leaves school and finally realizes that people don't respect her for being involved in porn, despite feeling like she was a star; that leads to her almost killing a man with her roller-skates in the heat of anger. Furthermore, "Little Bill" (William H. Macy) has a wife that engages in affairs in public. Nobody seems to see anything wrong with this, which eventually leads to Bill's suicide. And finally, the character of Buck (Don Cheadle) wants so badly to get out of the porn industry, as he only got into it as a way to earn a living. Now, however, he can't seem to catch a break from anyone, due to his past involvement in pornography.
I will admit, some of the characters acheive slightly happier endings in the end than during the course of the film, but the fact remains that every one of them has intense problems, whether self-inflicted or not. Oh, and of course there is the matter of Dirk returning to porn after it almost ruined his life, which I really can't accept as being a "good" choice.

Into The Wild
When I first saw this film, I wasn't ignorant to the real story of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), so I DID know that he would meet his untimely end in the wild. What I didn't realize, however, was how emotional the whole thing would make me. It's not the part where Chris dies that I find upsetting, but the events leading up to it. Part of it has to do with the fact that prior to making his fatal mistake, Chris realizes that true happiness has to be shared by others that you love, and wants to go back to society, only to find that he has trapped himself across an unfrozen river, unable to journey back until winter.
Not only is Chris unable to share his happiness and life-changing notions from living in the wild, the people he meets before he gets to Alaska are all so touched by him, that it's hard not to feel sad whenever he says goodbye to someone new. For example, Chris made the "hippie couple" love each other again, and realize that despite the hardships they have faced, life is worth enjoying. Not only that, but it is truly heartbreaking to watch Chris leave Hal Holbrook's character, Ron. Ron was almost brought back to life by Chris, and wants him to be his new son, yet Chris is determined to go on his mission to Alaska. As Chris walks away from Ron, you know that he isn't coming back, and you can also tell that Ron is aware of this fact. It's just so hard to know that people are saying goodbye for the last time, and it makes for a incredibly emotional experience.

Revolutionary Road
Most of the promotional photos for Revolutionary Road featured Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) snuggling with one another (see the photo?) or in other sorts of embraces, such as dancing together. Advertisements for this film made it seem like it was based on a married couple going through some changes in their lives and possibly falling a little out of love. It's true, that is initially what the film is about, but once you really get into it, it is a lot harsher than what you expect it to be. There is literally no time of peace for this couple-- that is, besides the few moments that they are enraptured in the naive notions of moving to Paris, which the audience can tell is purely made of false hope.
I have honestly never felt such venom between a couple in a film before, as April was so full of pure resentment to Frank. It almost hurt to watch the couple fall apart like that, especially with the complications of their affairs and one-night-stands. The pain is especially seen in the ultimate conclusion of the film, which features April performing a haphazard, fatal, at-home abortion on herself. After that, all you can do is be upset for the completely broken man that is Frank, unable to be truly happy even around his children; it's kind of an image of how someone can still completely love another, even after so much pain and hatred, which for me is hard to see.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Arguably, this one could be kind of understandable, what with Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) having to take care of his mentally handicapped brother, Arnie (which, might I add, was incredibly portrayed by the young Leonardo DiCaprio), in addition to having a chronically obese mother to deal with, which eventually amounts to a lot of pity and ridicule from towns people. Despite the ending which is supposed to inspire some hope, however, as Gilbert and Arnie will stand by each other with love no matter what, I can't help but leave the movie being pretty upset. The burning down of their house was supposed to be some sort of catharsis for their mother, but really just showed the family's shame, and reduced the symbol of their childhood and growing up into nothing but estrangement.
In addition, I know Gilbert loves Arnie and always will, but a lot of the film was focused on him feeling weighed down by the responsibility of his brother, with little or no help from anyone else: and did anything change? No. A year later, he is still the one taking care of his brother, and sure they now have a new friend to look forward to seeing every year, but as they continue to grow older, Gilbert will continue to have to bear the responsibility of two people.

And now, of course, I leave it to you:
Are there any films that you have seen that were far more upsetting than you initially thought they were going to be?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hottie Professor Patrol

Come on, everyone has had their random fancy tickled by the thought of a hot teacher, or --when you get older-- hottie professor.
But if you could create a story-line for yourself to be in (movie about your life, perhaps?), who would you want to play this illustrious and seductive role?
Yes, here comes another list of mine, but this time of who I would consider suiting for a "Foxy Professor" type of role.
I wouldn't say just "teacher" because that seems like younger sort of gents could all apply, like Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, but not a complete Professor, you know? I don't know, it's kind of a random thing.
And, of course, keeping in mind that I myself am only 19 (almost 20), the term "older gentleman" might be different to me as compared to someone else.
As well, looking at my compilation, some of the men seem to have also appeared on my "best/favorite" actors list... Hmmm, a bit of a bias of mine, perhaps?

Regardless, here is my alphabetical list of men whom I would consider fitting to play a "Foxy Professor":

Vincent Cassel
Yes, I'm the weird girl that found Vincent Cassel's turn in Black Swan kind of intriguing and suave, despite his character being intensely creepy and far older than all of his conquests. But there is just something about a man that can dance (I mean, he also did the capoeira in Oceans Twelve, right?). Also, there is a strange fascination women have with "exotic" men from other countries with accents... and for simple North Americans (or Western, non-bilingual Canadians, like myself) this includes French men. I don't know, this one is just a strange fascination I have. Maybe some of it is attributed to Vincent Cassel being a "silver fox" of sorts, and an older man that I wouldn't mind having teach me with those sparkling eyes of his: Dance, French, anything really.

Robert Downey Jr.
Okay so I am definitely just biased in my love for Robert Downey Jr. But come on, who wouldn't want him to instruct them? Those eyes, that sass, that impeccable ability to express himself and hold intriguing, if not random conversations? I just think he is so interesting as a person, as well as becoming more attractive with age (isn't that what we want in our older-male profs?) Plus, the man can play any character, including teachers and principles, as evidenced in his role as Principle Gardner in Charlie Bartlett. Sure, I've seen him in more attractive roles than that character, but he still maintained that cheeky charm that is so endearing to me.

Ralph Fiennes
Alright, everyone is going to think I'm strange for saying this one-- especially after I also put him on my "best/favorite actor" list; like what am I, obsessed with him? Answer: no, I just think for an older man, Ralph Fiennes has a strange sort of allure to him. He seems like he would be very intelligent with the way he always presents himself in films, and also plays the odd role wherein he is a decent father figure. To me, that makes a good candidate to portray a professor (I'm not sure why, but those two factors seem to contribute for some reason). Plus every now and again, I just find him weirdly attractive... not as Voldemort, of course, but in other films such as The Constant Gardener? Yeah, I could see what his fictitious wife saw in him.

Colin Firth
I don't blame Nicholas Hoult for --excuse the term-- "going after" his professor in A Single Man. I mean, who wouldn't if it was Colin Firth? Not only did the man creep into everyone's fantasies the second he entered the screen as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, once he and that flouncy white shirt when swimming: PHWOAR. Apart from being unafraid to be goofy in films and always being oh-so charming, he is also always understandable and sincere when playing a less amiable character than usual. There's no question the man exudes class and intelligence, making him the perfect candidate for playing a professor (as exemplified in A Single Man, as I mentioned before), and an interesting, delectable one at that... with a knack for pulling of delicious, collegiate-style Tom Ford eyewear.

Hugh Jackman
So maybe Hugh Jackman hasn't played a real professor-type before, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable! I mean, in the X-Men series Wolverine was kind of like a mentor to IceMan and Rogue, right? As well, he is just so dashing and can sing and act, and seems like a fantastic father/father figure, and all-around nice guy. Not to mention, in his role in The Prestige, he kind of kicked some major magician ass, and seemed like he would be very good at teaching it to someone else in that devilish manner of his. Oh yeah, and show me a person who doesn't like Hugh Jackman and doesn't die when they see that gorgeous smile of his, and I will show you someone who is tired of life and doesn't see charm when it smacks them right in the face.

Alan Rickman
I wouldn't mind if Professor Snape tried to give me private occlumency lessons, if you know what I mean... How crass! But seriously, I just can't get over that voice... As well, I am ashamed to admit that I found Alan Rickman a deliciously hot-mess in Rasputin, as well as understatedly sexy for an older man in Love Actually-- which obviously his much younger secretary in the film also saw. That position of power can be considered kind of similar to a professor later in a person's life, right? Hm, maybe not, but even so, Alan Rickman is just the kind of guy who will always be classy, and in that respect, also pretty seductive.

Peter Sarsgaard
I'll admit it, this one purely started when I watched An Education and was totally seduced by his character, David, just like Carey Mulligan was. And, you know... I would say in some of his other films, despite being pretty eerie sometimes, there is always that really endearing little glint to his eye and demeanor. Is he really a professor kind of guy? Yeah, I could see it. I mean, he did pull off the suave, knowledgeable, older gentleman persona in An Education, so why not? Plus those blue eyes are just so incredibly gorgeous... but that's kind of getting off the point, isn't it?

Kevin Spacey
The day I finally saw American Beauty, I realized just how much I liked Kevin Spacey. Sure, Lester Burnham was slightly creepy but also strangely attractive and incredibly likable at the same time. No wonder Mena Suvari was all over him... er... okay, so maybe that's kind of weird to say. Regardless, I've seen Kevin Spacey in a few roles as a teacher or professor, so he fits that part, and even one where he had a bizarre tryst with one of his students (that film being The Life of David Gale). So don't judge me when I say I would consider him a Hottie Professor, because obviously I'm not the only one who finds him suiting to a part that involves the infatuation of a much younger lady.

Christoph Waltz
Ever since I saw him giving his public acceptance speeches all last year at plently of award shows, I just fell in love with Christoph Waltz. Maybe it's that inviting sparkle in his eye, or maybe it's his incredible poise at speaking... Or possibly his impeccable performance in Inglorious Basterds that, despite being a cunning psychopath, you couldn't help but be seduced by. You know you shouldn't like someone like that, but you still find him so attractive in a strange way. Plus, he seems like just a fun, nice person in general, as far as I can tell. That might have to do with that soft-spoken yet fun and intellectual demeanor of his.

Random Runner-Ups I just thought of:
Nathan Fillion - I literally just referred to him with a "Da-yum, shawty!" I guess I've fallen for that quirky charm...
Patrick Wilson - Hot father that can pull off nerdy? Yes please!

I know, this was pretty random... but what does everyone else think? Any other gents they might not mind seeing as a Foxy Professor one day? Movie about your life with an elusive little school tryst as a kind of twist? (My list is not exhaustive after all.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sure, They Might Act the Same, but Are You Blind?!

I'm talking about the never-ending comparison of Jesse Eisenberg to Michael Cera.

Sure, they act in similar roles, even if there are some major differences, but I still understand why they might be compared to one another. What I don't get is why people are always confusing them based on their looks.

Sure, you can search online until you find two photos that are similar enough to put side by side, or find two that are totally different to argue the other side of that coin, but really? They don't look the same to me at all.
Maybe it's my studies in visual culture and art that makes me more susceptible to see differences, but still... they are pretty different.

I'm just saying this because a lot of people these days have been saying stuff about how they mixed the two up as they look the same, and I just can't see it... I mean sure, they have some similarities, but it's just like people thinking my sister and I look like twins. Similar, yes. The same, no; not at all.

What do you guys think? Anyone think they are close enough to be confused in the looks department?
I'm not denying there are similarities, just not enough of them to confuse me as to who is who at any given time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Who? ...Oh Yeah, That Guy's Awesome!"

*** A list of fantastic actors/actresses (in my own opinion) that are people often forget about.

Alright, so it kind of depends on who you are around, but you know when people think of who some of the most talented actresses and actors are there are those few that everyone always automatically thinks of. I mean, I sure did the same thing when I was compiling my lists, and I'm not denying that! But there are always those people that are actually really good that fly under the radar, or you mention to people and they go, "Who?" But once you describe them the person typically knows who you mean... er... well sometimes.

To get to the point, I complied a small list of people I think are very good at acting, but are often not recognized to the extent that maybe they should be.
Granted, it REALLY varies from what group of people you are with to the next, as some of these people would be recognized highly in certain demographics but not others.

Nonetheless, here are a few actors/actresses that I personally think are fantastic that the people I talk to on a regular basis don't typically recognize/know/appreciate:
(In alphabetical order, of course!)

Juliette Binoche
This is probably an age thing, as my mother knows exactly who Juliette Binoche is, but only one of my friends would know exactly who I was talking if I said her name. Because of this inability to recollect who she is, Binoche makes my list. Oh, and if you are wondering what exactly makes her talented, just look at her body of work! One of the most memorable pieces of her work was the lead role in Chocolat opposite Johnny Depp, and she just exudes class and power throughout it. In fact, she just seems incredibly classy and elegant all the time, making her presence incredbily enjoyable whenever she is on screen.

Daniel Bruhl
Alright, I admit it, this one is very much geography oriented. I mean, if I lived in Germany I'm sure I would know exactly who Daniel Bruhl is, but here? Nope, not even heard of! You might be able to get someone to recollect him by describing Bruhl as "that guy in Inglorious Basterds that was a war-hero and starred as himself in that film about himself?" Speaking of which, I don't know why but Bruhl totally stood out to me in that movie amongst a packed cast (in addition to the incredible Christoph Waltz of course). Obviously you have to have some sort of ability to do that in such a large cast with huge stars stealing most of the screen time. But also looking at his foreign work, such as in Goodbye, Lenin!, it is evident that Bruhl has a natural knack in front of the camera.

Kristin Chenoweth
If you were snooping around the Broadway scene, of COURSE people would know exactly who Kristin Chenoweth was, but in my world, not a lot recognize her. In fact, when asked who their favorite guest star on "Glee" was so far, many people automatically flock to say Neil Patrick Harris or Gwyneth Paltrow, but everyone forgets about little Kristin Chenoweth despite her fantastic musical performances and hilarious character (even if her character was kind of unlikable at certain moments). The woman is so adorable and can be incredibly soft-spoken, but her voice is just amazing, and she can play a whole array of different roles. I definitely wouldn't mind if more people outside of the Broadway circuit knew what Chenoweth was capable of.

Hugh Dancy
Alright, so the first thing I think of when I think of Hugh Dancy is, "cute". He is typically known for playing the love-interest of leading ladies in films, but despite being in a few "mainstream" ones, a lot of people I talk to still don't really know who he is. I think, however, that beyond these supporting-male roles of his, he is also an incredibly capable thespian. One film of his that will forever stick out to me is Adam, in which Dancy plays a man with aspergers syndrome. I know, since Tropic Thunder it's become that cliche of people being seen as award-worthy actors as soon as they play someone with a handicap, as long as they don't go "full retard". But come on, in watching Dancy in this movie, you can see just how hard it might be to play a role like that without making it a caricature, but still believable and understandable. The overall result was incredibly well-done and moving, much to do with the fact that Dancy's performance was sensational.

Ben Foster
What do we say about Ben Foster? Okay, I guess it's true that he often plays roles that are pretty creepy or a bit more sinister. But you know what? He does them extremely well! For example, in 3:10 to Yuma, Foster stood out to me in a supporting role amongst a very talented cast that included Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Also, considering how be began doing mostly cheesy "teen-movies" in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he has definitely come a long way. Another stand-out piece of Foster's work would have to be his recurring role as Russell on the HBO series "Six Feet Under". The character was so weird and did some really questionable things, but there was always a really sympathetic, understandable aspect to him, despite being so strange. I think it might have a bit to do with his really intense eyes that have a great amount of direction and focus in them, despite being totally eerie a lot of the time.

Matthew Goode
Another one of those guys kind of like Hugh Dancy that has had a few supporting roles in romantic films as the love-interest, as well as various period pieces on television. Matthew Goode, however, has lately been coming into my sights as a very good actor, despite not really being recognized by my acquaintances (except for my mother, of course). Despite not really suiting the part of Adrian Veidt in The Watchmen, Goode was a standout in the fluffy film Leap Year, adding a much needed sense of quirk and fun-loving spirit to the stiff, overly contrived rom-com. In addition, his small role as Colin Firth's deceased partner Jim in A Single Man was warm, sensitive, and important to the overall success of the film in terms of mood and understanding. Obviously, it doesn't hurt that he is also kind of nice on the eyes, and has a pleasant voice when using his natural accent as well (but that might just be my bias in liking certain accents).

Emile Hirsch
Let's just forget that Speed Racer happened, okay? Emile Hirsch has been acting since a young age, and typically that results in a whole lot of "teen movies". Sure, he had a few, including The Girl Next Door, but Hirsch also dabbled in a lot of other diverse, and sometimes quirky roles, showing his ability to convey emotionality at a young age. One would have to look no further than the slightly obscure Imaginary Heroes wherein he played a role that touched on some difficult subject matter, but was portrayed with a real sensitivity to it. Hirsch has also played the tough guy, the misfit adolescent, the voyeuristic wanderer, as well as many other roles, but never seems out of place in any of them. Plus... you know... I just really like the guy in the way only an infatuated teenager could.

Jason Segal
Jason Segel is one of those actors that a lot of people recognize nowadays from longtime portrayal of Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother", and his starring role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which he also wrote. So why is he on my list? Well, I think that despite the fact that many know who he is, not a lot of people really appreciate how talented Segel is. Not only is he great at comedic acting, but on the few occasions where he has been able to express some more emotional range, he does so very convincingly. In addition, Segel is an avid writer, as well as composer. This is evidenced again in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, as the "Dracula Musical" his character was creating was in fact a real production Segal had been writing himself. And let's be honest... that thing was really neat and also hilarious.

And of course, now I leave it to you. What does anyone else think of these actors/actresses? Any people you would have put on this list that I didn't? I'd love to hear what others think about... well, anything really!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christian Bale Conflicts Me

Whenever I say someone "conflicts" me, or anything along those lines, essentially what I mean is that I just don't know how I feel about that person.
Actually, I feel that way about a number of people in Hollywood. That is, some minutes you really like them, and other you don't (and for various reasons at that).

One person that has been coming to my mind lately is Christian Bale.
And of course when examining whether or not something is good or not, one will typically make a pro/con type of list.
Shall we? I don't see why not!

There is just something about him that doesn't sit right with me on a personal level... I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that lately the media has been showing less-than pleasant views of him. For example, allegedly assaulting his mother, and infamously going-off on a member of the screw of Terminator Salvation for walking into his shot. That sound byte of his outburst even made our local news!
Essentially, he has been painted as not such a nice guy as a person. But of course, one can never be sure what is completely true in the media these days... Although I'm not so sure any of his stories were made up; it's hard to tell.

Good AND Bad Aspect?
Christian Bale is now notorious for losing weight and gaining weight rapidly for certain roles. Typically, it goes from one extreme to another, such becoming almost anorexic for his role in The Machinist, or bulking up largely for his role as Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's Batman series.
On the one hand, this can be seen as pure dedication to his work as an actor, and commendable. On the other, it can be seen as almost stupid. I mean, all that pinging up and down, and seeing as for years now he has been dramatically shifting in size from role to role, it can't be healthy for the guy!

The man can put on a great acting performance, and is extremely diverse at that! One has to do nothing more to see this than to compare his roles in films such as American Psycho, to Little Women, to 3:10 to Yuma, to The Prestige. In addition, in his newly released movie The Fighter, Christian exhibits the absolute strength of his acting; he shows his ability to command the screen even as a supporting character. In fact, by showing a clip of the real Mickey and Dick Ward at the end of the film, the audience can really see how spot-on he was with the character.

I guess all-in-all... I really like Christian Bale as an actor, but as a person not so much (even though I KNOW I don't know him personally. It's just what I think he would be like).
And of course, now I leave it up to everyone else to make their own opinions. Do you like Christian Bale? As a person? As an actor?