a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Sean Penn’

“Tree of Life” Brad Pitt’s very good & Jessica Chastain makes a spectacular debut, but THOSE DINOSAURS!

What a self-indulgent, beautifully photographed and  very well acted mess “The Tree of Life” is! I’d say it wasn’t worth the price of admission. I left feeling queasy, like I had just seen a 3D movie, but it wasn’t in 3D!  And at the public screening I attended tonight two women were talking very loudly about getting their money back.

Brad Pitt is probably the best he’s ever been in this as the grown Sean Penn’s memory of a stern, but ultimately loving father…But is it enough to win him his long sought-after Oscar?

I wonder…

You have to weigh, or rather wade through, a good half hour or more of primordial ooze and yes, even what looks like Velosoraptors, who seem to have wandered in from “Jurassic Park”! No. I’m not kidding!DINOSAURS! Before you get to the sometimes gripping family drama, that seems more like a memory piece, than a crafted film. If you even call “Tree of Life” that.

I could follow it, but judging by the comments I was hearing, when it was over, from fellow audience members, most couldn’t. Or they got it wrong. “Which son died?” I heard that over and over again.

I THINK it’s the story of an adult male in an urban city (could be Texas. We don’t ever really know) who is played with great stress by Sean Penn, doing a much as he can with virtually no dialogue whatsoever.

Ditto the glorious screen debut of the stupendous, beautiful redheaded young actress Jessica Chastain, who is going to be coming at us in so many movies this year, it’s unbelievable. She’s going to have a very, very BIG screen career. And “The Tree of Life” for all it’s flaws, launches her into the cinematic stratosphere here. At one point, Malick even has her flying through the air, as the embodiment of motherly beauty. And that moment was charming.

But again ,like Penn, she has virtually no dialogue whatsoever, and that she registers at all playing the essence of young feminine beauty and motherly love, in what is basically a silent film debut is very, very impressive.

I saw much of Jessica’s work at Julliard when she was an undergrad there, and I must say I predicted all this would happen to her. She’s dazzling. Amazing. A great young, scintillatingly beautiful actress, with a tremendous range. She can play anything. Classic or modern and she here is made to make one reminiscent of Cate Blanchett, who also had a nearly wordless role opposite Brad Pitt as his wounded-by-a-sniper wife in “Babel.”

Which reminds me of how really, really good Pitt was in that film as a distraught husband. He’s really, really fine here, too, as again, the nearly wordless father. Though he does have MOST of the dialogue of the film, what little there is of it.

I would say a nomination probably, and with a smart Oscar distributor like Fox Searchlight is known to be, behind this monumentally difficult of a sell, he just may score another Best Actor nod. And yes, it’s been selling out. The house, despite the walk-outs was packed.

But it’s an uphill battle with this part of the tough, disciplinarian Dad to get Pitt to the podium for the win. But if anybody can do it, Fox Searchlight can.

The film, if you keep paying attention, and cutting it monumental slack, which I’m actually doing here, is about letting go of your own past. In this case, I THINK it was the guilt the grown Penn feels towards his difficult relationship with his dad, Brad Pitt, and also the death of his younger brother.

Or I THINK it was the younger brother who dies. The sullen main child was meant to be the kid version of Penn. But many audience members weren’t sure. The recalcitrant child is played very well . I think he may actually have the most lines in the film, after Pitt. We see most of this film from his sullen, angry eyes. But many in the audience were confused. And WHAT will the Academy make of this confounding film, with no clear plot line?

All this happens to this typical Waco, Texas WASP church-going middle class family. And the recalcitrant child spends the rest of his life coming to terms with it as he turns into Sean Penn. Right? Or maybe I’m not right. It’s genuinely confounding.

Or something like that.

The cinematography, especially of all of the planets and the protozoa and the lava and whatever else it was we were witnessing at the LONNNNNG, slow, agonizing start of this film, is indeed breathtaking. And the images, hold you, even though it’s very difficult to puzzle out just what the truly frustrating iconic director Terence Malick is up to. And the answer is, well, EVERYTHING. He’s trying to get everything that ever happened in the entire history of the universe into this one film. No wonder it’s running time is over two and a half hours!

It’s Malick, being Malick, so I knew there would be a lot of photographs of leaves and esp. leaves of grass and there are. But it’s a shame that Fox Searchlight or whomever didn’t reign in Malick’s incredibly self-indulgent impulses. It’s very long, arduous experience. It’s work. Not fun. And certainly not entertainment, but Malick probably never intended it to be anything else but portentous. I was going to say PREtentious. But it is that, too. IN SPADES.

But there is a moment in the end where things are getting wrapped up that the film does redeem itself. But by then, as good as he is Brad Pitt may have lost his Oscar.

It’s a restrained, understated, subtle performance and I liked it. But Oscar doesn’t do subtle…usually…

It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. But here, most people were heading for the door.

The BAFTAS predict the Oscars quite often lately

Last night the BAFTAS pretty much accurately predicted who’s going to win what in the Best Picture and Actors categories.

Before I go further, let me once again, explain that the BAFTAs voting procedures are different from the Oscars in that EVERYone, every member, votes on the categories of Best Picture and all four acting categories.

HOWEVER, the British Guilds vote for each of the other categories, like Best Director. And they gave it to David Fincher for “The Joy of Typing” and not home boy Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech.” THAT was probably the most shocking event of the evening, as “The King” ruled over seven categories! Taking home the most BAFTAS of any film, seven, including Best Picture, Best British Picture, Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Score.

I bring up the directing statistic as an example of how the Brits don’t necessarily honor their own. As for instance, Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) and Sam Menzies(“American Beauty”) were dissed in Limey, losing in their own country, but winning the Oscar for Best Director,when Push came to SHOW!

Since Tom Hooper has already won the DGA for “The King’s Speech”. Since the Queen of England AND Andy Rooney (just yesterday, this Sunday on 60 Minutes) both endorsed TKS, I think he’s got that in the bag too.

As well as fellow “King”sters Colin (of course) Firth and Geoffrey Rush and FINALLY my fave Helena Bonham-Carter.

Rush winning over Brit bad boy Christian Bale is particularly significant, since Rush is ostentatiously Australian.

I had the pleasure last night of attending an event in his honor last night at the DGA where Rush got multiple ovations, some of them standing, but more about that later.

I have always maintained that the BAFTAs help make up undecided minds in the Academy. If AMPAS voters wait to see what the Brits do at the BAFTAS…especially in the top Acting Categories.

Had Annette Bening upset Natalie Portman(who didn’t even show up) in Best Actress, for instance, it would indicate that their was an undercurrent surging for Annette. No such luck. Natalie’s got it, as they say, locked up. And Colin(of course) Firth does, too.  No contest in either of those two categories. The same can also be applied to David Seidler, the real stutterer who penned “King’s Speech” from his heart and who won Best Original Screenplay.

I’m willing to concede (FINALLY) that Aaron Soreking will win Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Joy of Typing.” Even his constant comparing himself to Shakespeare didn’t put off the Brits, so yes, the Academy will follow suit and this may be the only award “Typing” wins at the Oscars…You heard it here first!

And Geoffrey and Helena!

Well, the category of Supporting Actress for those of you who have been following the story (and you wouldn’t be reading THIS if you weren’t) know how badly former front-runner Melissa Leo stumbled at the last yard and basically handed the award to yes, Helena Bonham-Carter!

Best Supporting Actress is a category like none other. And these year, to me, resembles the year, a few back, when it was a five-way horse race, and at the last possible minute, Tilda Swinton was anointed at the BAFTAs for “Michael Clayton” and then surprised everyone, but me, at the Oscars ten or so days later.

This year Best Supp. Actress is all over the place with two actresses both from the fighter, Leo, who wasn’t nominated by the BAFTAs AT ALL, and Amy Adams, who was. Only Amy and Helena B-C found approval from the BAFTAs and of course, she won, and gave a wacky, rambling, memorable and moving speech just as I foretold she would.

She wore a black Vivienne Westwood. And looked less bizarre than she did at the BFCA or was it the SAGs or was it the Golden Globes, when she wore two different colored shoes? It’s all starting to blur on me. And if I’M getting a bit blurry, imagine the Awards-circuit fatigue the average viewer is going through?!?

But the Oscars are STILL the Gold Standard(pardon the pun) and I really do think Helena aced this topsy-turvy category with her BAFTA win.

Geoffrey on the other hand, really has his hands full trumping Christian Bale in “The Fighter.” As good as Bale is in this popular film( I even liked it), he lost on his home turf,(yes, he IS British, too) to Rush’s supreme, stately, magnificent Speech Therapist Lionel Logue.

Rush has got his previous Oscar win in Best Actor for “Shine” and Bale is a first-time nominee.

But Rush now has the BAFTA as well as Sasha Stone www.awardsdaily.com predicting him now. And I’ve ALWAYS been predicting him. And Helena, too.

Helena’s competition is much less intense as what Rush has to contend with in Bale’s…but…

I think the BAFTAS have spoken. Last year, it was only the Supporting Categories that matched. No Bullock, no Bridges, but Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique won BAFTAs as well as Oscars. The year previous Mickey Rourke won, over Sean Penn. But then Mr. Rourke got up and made a really crude F=== this and F=== that acceptance speech, and pretty much handed the award to Penn with that embarrassing, graceless moment.

But in the two years previous, BAFTA was four for four with the Oscar actors.

This year, well, don’t be surprised by “The King’s Speech” being the sweep of sweeps.

And one more thing, I’d like to point out. In CONCLUSION, Academy voters in ALLLLL disciplines and branches get to vote on all the awards (except Foreign Film, Documentaries, and Shorts, where you have to sign in and actually ATTEND those screenings to vote in those categories.) So the Academy Voting Ballot is something you can go, check, check, check and TICK ALL THE BOXES, as Colin and Geoffrey are both wont to say. And just vote “The King’s Speech” ticket for everything!

And not to be outdone by the Brits, I also predict that even though “The King’s Speech” won SEVEN awards, the Oscar vote count will be higher, much higher, maybe even historic. The Oscar ballot is designed for sweeps, since in the below the line categories, the technicians are listed by their names and their films are not even listed! A lot of cross-checking has to be done filling out the AMPAS ballot to vote-split. It’s easier to just look at the “For You Consideration” screener of your favorite film and just go, tick, tick, BOOM from there. And I think most do.

Harvey Weinstein is probably fuming about the seven BAFTAS his “King” didn’t win. But not me! I’m thrilled with all the events happening around this beautiful, beautiful film!

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