a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘James Bond’

“The Bridge” Mhz International Mysteries, Saving the Best for Last

BridgeChristian HilborgBridge 2I’ve been saving the best of the MHz International Mysteries for last, and it’s a humdinger, a nail-biter and as gripping as any James Bond thriller (and much more gory). It’s “The Bridge” or “Bron/Bronen”, a Swedish/Danish TV series that is now in its third season with no signs of stopping.

I’ve just finished the terr-rific first season and I can recommend it whole-heartedly for those of you who like the Steig Larson-ish take on modern Sweden, and in this case, too, modern Denmark.

It’s premise is intriguing and it is built around the gigantic Oresund bridge that now connects the Southern most tip of Sweden with Copenhagen. The Bridge is used as a symbol throughout as a bridge of understanding between the two Scandinavian countries. And also of crime-solving.

You see, a corpse of a woman has been found placed exactly on the demarcation line between the two countries during a black-out on The Bridge of the title. Since the dead woman is positioned exactly on the boundary(and she also turns out to be actually two halves of TWO dead women) both Swedish and Danish police have to be involved in this case that is truly an International Mystery. And neither likes or wants to be involved with the other! Typically, a Nordic dilemma, that is played out quite, quite entertainingly.

Sweden of course is represented by a beautiful blonde named Saga, played with great conviction and skill by Sofia Helin. Saga is almost robotic in the way that she treats crime and crime-solving and her personal life, too. “We have sex now?” she states almost mechanically when a guy approaches her in a bar. She doesn’t mince words, does Saga.

And she is known for blurting out the most intimate details of her own and her colleagues personal lives at the most inopportune moments, usually at staff meetings. It is to Sofia Helin’s credit that she makes the character of Saga continually believable and also trustworthy.

Her Danish counterpart is the much older Danish Police inspector Martin Rohde, who is always unshaven, looks like a rumpled, unmade bed, and frankly can’t stand working with Saga, whom he finds incredibly irritating. Saga feels she is always right and Martin hates to admit that she is. He is played marvelously by Danish character actor Kim Bodnia. Saga and Martin are like Beauty and the Beast. And Bodnia reminded me of the late, great James Gandolfini. But this time he’s a hard-working cop, not a criminal.

The series is in Swedish AND Danish and is constantly flipping back and forth between the two languages neither of which I speak. Danish and the Danes as a whole seem funkier and more guttural, more working class, if you will, than the high-brow Saga and the Swedes.

But they make for a VERY interesting crime=stopping couple, and in that sense “The Bridge” is quite character-driven, which I liked.

The crimes are horrific, too. The upper half of the torso of the first corpse(and there will be many of them as the series progresses) is a Swedish diplomat and politician. The lower Danish half is an unknown prostitute/drug- addict. Immediately, the dramatic dichotomy between the two countries is set up right at the get go.

One of the more ghastly murders takes places on TV sets in both countries as a gagged and bound-in-a-chair homeless man is slowing being bled to death on International TV by the murderer..

And there are other colorful characters who come and go throughout the episodes. Main among them was the  smarmy journalist Daniel Ferbe played by the charismatic Christian Hillborg(pictured above^) The murderer sets up contact with him early on, as the criminal mastermind behind all these killings is also trying to use Ferbe as a way to get his message about Swedish(and Danish) societal wrongs out via the media.

This first season was filmed and aired in 2011. I can’t wait for Series 2 and 3. Stay tuned! Love that Swedish noir! Or in this case I should say Scandinavian noir, since “The Bridge” involves both countries marvelously.

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Oscar Nomination Voting Closes! They BETTER nominate Samuel L.Jackson! Supp. Actor Predix!

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Producers Guild Award Nominees A DAY EARLY!

With the Oscars themselves experiencing technical difficulties with their new on-line voting system, the Producers Guild, or the PGA, decided to one-up them and announced their nominees a DAY EARLY! Everyone wants to be first!

Thanks to Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone at http://www.awardsdaily.com for this comprehensive list ~
PRODUCERS GUILD NOMINATIONS

Argo” (Warner Bros.)
Producers: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn

“Django Unchained” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher

“Les Misérables”
(Universal Pictures)
Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi” (Fox 2000 Pictures)
Producers: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark

“Lincoln” (Touchstone Pictures)
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus Features)
Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales

Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon

“Skyfall” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson

Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison

Not really shocked by any of these nominations except to note the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” got in (YAY!) and “Moonrise Kingdom” did, too! (Boo)

However “Skyfall” too was a bit of surprise. But I knew that “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The Avengers” and “The Master” as well as “Amour” were NEVER going to make it in.”Fllght” not getting in was also a surprise. And this could also indicate the Denzel Washington, the star of “Flight” could also be left at the Oscar altar this year.

“Amour” is NOT liked as much by the Industry types, as I’ve been saying for MONTHS, as opposed to critics who are putting it at the top of their lists. AND it’s in French. AND it’s a downer about D.E.A.T.H. It MAY get nominated for Best Foreign Film from Austria, but it could even get shut out there. It’s on the short list.

“The Master”s not making this list is no surprise to me. The movie is NOT LIKED. AND it didn’t make any money. This also may eliminate two if not all three of its’ major actors. Which would mean no Joaquim(Dirty Carrot) Phoenix, Amy(she’s been nominated enough already, 3x in this category, and they know she won’t win this year either)Adams for a pallid perfomance as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s strange, always-pregnant wife. And yes, even maybe the great PSH himself might miss out on a nod for Best Supp. Actor. He’s the only one who’s still got a little life in his Oscar dance now, I think.

This helps ALLLLL the other films. And yes, with this early move the PGA IS trying to influence Oscar voters, who still haven’t voted.

And it especially helps, on the cusp of being eliminated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” YAY!

“Bourne Legacy” I Go Back Into a Movie House.

Yes, yes, I finally am conquering my fears of being in a big ole movie house and I returned to the cinema, AMC’s Lincoln Square, the one of the biggest movie complexes in NYC and I saw, much to my great surprise, “The Bourne Legacy” and even more surprising, I liked it!

I have been resisting the impulse to return to a public movie house since the tragedy in Colorado. ANOTHER one….And yes, for a while, a short while to some, but not to a film critic, I overcame my fear, and returned. And yes, things have changed.

Two policemen next to the press desk. Burly body-guard types checking bags more thoroughly, it seemed, than before. Taking people’s cell phones. But this was an all media screening, and except for the policemen, it was usual procedure.

Not having a cell phone, I just breezed on through and got an aisle seat. But I found myself checking the emergency exits as I sat there and waited and waited for the film to begin. And when it finally DID begin, I actually enjoyed it!

“The Bourne Legacy” was not my cup of tea, but I came out really quite thrilled and was totally engrossed in this terrific, highly paced, very well done actioner, starring Jeremy Renner now as Aaron Cross. No Matt Damon. He’s referred to obliquely, but not seen, except in passport file photos. And the stupendous Rachel Weisz, proves she’s just as much an action hero as her husband James Bond, Daniel Craig, of course. This film reveals that the duo have more in common than I ever imagined.

You can totally see them kicking ass together and foiling arch-villains in their future in tandem. And I was enjoying it so much, it took me totally by surprise, that I forgot whatever fears had kept me away from seeing anything in the past few weeks.

I love movies. I still love movies, and I am still capable of having them overwhelm me and absorb me, and RELAX me, in the most unexpected ways. “Bourne Legacy” really has it all, and Jeremy Renner, whom I’ve interviewed really comes through, once again, as simply somebody you care about. He brings to the “Bourne” franchise the same relatability that he brought to “The Hurt Locker.” He involves you. He’s not the handsomest movie star ever, but boy can those huge baby blue eyes pull you in. And Rachel Weisz! She kicks ass and karate chops and runs like a demon with the best of them. And the two of them together! POWERHOUSE! A new screen POWER COUPLE! And they rocked and owned “The Bourne Legacy” totally.
And I was very glad they did.

Oscar on its’ way to being “Tattoo”-ed? Fincher’s GREAT re-do nails it!

I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful experience it was to be soooo totally surprised, stupefied and blind-sided, and deee-lighted to be so, by David Fincher’s re-do of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I’m kinda hog-wild about it. I think it’s an instant classic.

Shocked that material I knew so well ~ I saw all three Swedish movies and read all three blockbuster books and was totally entranced by all of them, and I  could not BELIEVE that a director whose work has been so notoriously uneven, really could re-invent, in a completely NEW, a startling way, a movie we’ve actually already seen. As recently as last year. Which is when I caught up with it.

I mean, really! Quelle shock! Quelle surprise! And how wonderful to suddenly see David Fincher turn into Alfred Hitchcock, in all of the best possible ways. I mean, Fincher has really done the IMPOSSIBLE. He re-thought and re-shot a re-make and made it all utterly, entirely entertaining.engrossing and WATCHABLE. All nearly three hours of it! Yes, it’s that long, dear readers, dear cineastes.

Fincher wants you to go through an epic, an ORDEAL, as his Viking goddess, Lisbeth Salander, becomes a true immortal Norse Mythological Heroine in his hands, and in Rooney Mara’s equally stunning performance ~ It’s a SAGA! An Icelandic SAGA! Or in this case Swedish.

Lisbeth Salander is  on par with Brunnhilde, these days. But, oh wait! That’s German! But yes, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has that on its’ mind, too. Nazis. And there’s a lot of them. And they populate Sweden and esp. this film (and the book, too. No Fincher didn’t ADD them. But he did ad a cat… )

And there’s a LOT of Swedish politics and rage against the supposedly perfect Swedish social machine. Where corruption exists on all levels, mostly high, but mid-range, too, as exemplified by the beaurocrat Bjurman(a really slimy pig of a politico played here Yorick Van Wageningen.) His rape of Salander jump-starts the film into hyper-space, if the film’s opening five minutes of INCREDIBLY dark and oily, inky black  titles  with pounding music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, that turn into blood and then into fire, didn’t already blow you there.  I don’t ever remember Opening titles getting applause!

How DID he do this???

Welllll, there is a biiiiiig difference between a $15 million budget which is what all THREE Swedish films had, and the something upwards of $150 milllion that this “Tattoo” was inked with.

Quelle difference! But it’s not just the money. It’s how Fincher USED the money, wisely. It’s superbly shot in a de-saturated, almost black and white tone, by his great cinematographer, who makes Sweden look black and BLUE.  There are snowscapes upon snowscapes of incredible beauty. Some thing the original Swedish version directed by Niels Arden Oplev did NOT do.

Oplev’s Stockholm looked glamorous, beautiful, colorful, intriguing, inviting. It made you want to go there. It was a celebration of Stockholm. It was if we’d never seen it before. Oplev WANTED you to go there.

There is no color whatsoever in Fincher’s version. It’s all chilly, foreboding, FREEZING. Everything seems like it’s happening in a new Ice Age. And he’s more interested in frightening the living daylights out of you by the winter gloom. It’s as though the two “Tattoos” were filmed in two totally different cities. One you’d want to go to and one you wanted to run from.

And there is a LOT of darkness in Lisbeth Salander’s world, the world that Steig Larsson created for her. It’s a Nordic vision of hell, and it’s so rotten you can also smell the stench of decaying souls. Lisbeth’s last scene takes place, metaphorically, next to a dumpster, as once again, it’s snowing.

And the suspense! Not since Hitchcock, as I said. My hero. He was the greatest of great filmmakers IMHO. And that Fincher is able to sustain this for NEARLY three hours is absolutely astonishing.

There are SOME bright lights shining in this land of the midnight sun, and it’s all in the casting. The excellent ensemble boasts a rubicund Christopher Plummer as the rich guy who hires the down-on-his-luck Blomkvist. And Blomkvist is magnificently played by none-other than James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. He’s the hero and we all know it. And a helluva nice guy. A journalist who’s a crusader against corruption in all forms, Henrik Vanger (no, not WAGNER, but you get the drift) hires the hapless Blomkvist to track down the disappearance many years prior of a beloved neice, Harriet.

Add a perfectly cast Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson, who’s never been better and you’ve yourself got a superb group of players. Down to the smallest bit part, Fincher has assembled a great, an historic ensemble of actor’s actors. One of the best ever for his kind of thriller-diller shockeroo. But that’s what Hitchcock did, too. He always had THE BEST actors, and by doing so elevated the genre.

That’s ONE plot, the Harriet plot. Then there’s an Agatha Christie-esque mystery-within-the-mystery, which is the real core of the story. THEN there’s the great love story that develops between Blomkvist and Salander and SHE’S definitely the one on top here.

One of the great successes of Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy is his reversal, his up-ending of the usual sexual expectations in a genre like this. And both Mara and Craig are totally up to and under it. They were hot together when their relationship starts to turn carnal. And it does! We suddenly see what is keeping all those Swedish nights so warm!  And like in Ingmar Bergman’s great cinematic ouevre, it was always about the women.

And Lisbeth Salander is one of the great fictional heroines of our time, and Noomi Rapace in the Swedish films did a beautiful, mystifying job. She was as glamorous and intriguing and complicated as the Sweden that was depicted in the previous films.

Rooney Mara has large, almost gigantic blue eyes, They seem to dwarf her completely. Noomi had dark, impenetrable, almost black eyes. What WAS going on behind them in all those intense close-ups of her throughout the first three films?

With Mara’s enormous orbs, we SEE what is going on inside her much, much more clearly, and yes, there is ultimately a vulnerability that Fincher finally reveals in the film’s last scene which was like a cinematic sucker punch.

And Rooney and Oscar? Well, I’ll write more about that tomorrow!

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