This is going to be part of a new series in which I select an actor or actress and ask which performance do you think is their best. And what better place to start than with Meryl Streep? Undoubtedly one of the best actresses there is, Streep has enjoyed a simply stellar career thanks to her deep versatility and commitment to her craft. I can’t say I’ve ever seen her give a bad performance in the movies I’ve seen of her’s. I still have many movies of hers to watch, but the vast majority of things she’s been in have made her one of my favourite actresses because of her talent and depth. Just the way she can so embody a character and switch genres is nothing short of spectacular, you know when Meryl Streep is in a film she’ll deliver. So which of her many, wonderful performances is the one that really lingers in your mind.
Transformation is always a theme I enjoy seeing in movies. There are simply so many avenues you can go down with that, from a physical or literal morphing or something deeper. So I ask all you people, which transformations( of any kind) stand out for you in movies? Perhaps it’s one that is more subtle than overt? Or a sweet ugly duckling change in a character? Or maybe it is a frightening or shocking one? Whatever you think, please leave your opinions in the comments. Below is a video of possible character transformations of the look variety I found on YouTube. But a transformation can be what you make of it.
- Keira Knightley as Joanna
- Sam Worthington as Michael
- Eva Mendes as Laura
- Guillaume Canet as Alex
A low-key film that tackles the prospect of infidelity and how it can arise, Last Night largely grabs the attention with how it explores this. It all feels more than a little superficial to various degrees, though the intimacy and fine cast earn kudos for how they perform and bring up the main themes of trust and temptation.
Joanna and Michael are a seemingly content New York couple. Michael is a real estate agent, while Joanna is a magazine writer who wishes to write a book one day. Their union looks blissful from the outside, but the solid foundation of it is about to be shaken. At a party, Joanna can’t help but notice Michael talking extensively to his co-worker Laura, who is drop dead gorgeous. She confronts him later that night about what she perceives to be him being attracted to someone else and a fight ensues, though by morning they have managed to patch things up. Michael heads off on his business trip, which the sultry Laura is part of. Joanna is left to her work and attempting to recognize her feelings. They get a lot more complicated as her former flame Alex reappears. Trying to be friendly, she converses with him, but soon her old buried longings start to show which troubles her. Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly attracted to Laura and is tempted to cheat. As temptation and unmasked feelings are laid bare, who will succumb to crossing the line and threatening the stability of marriage first?
The direction from Massy Tadjedin in her debut, is very astute at pulling about the thoughts we wrestle with and how just something chance can have a big impact on events. She knows the power of minute actions and personal tics that can speak volumes about what a person is feeling. If it gets predictable as it goes along, Massy Tadjedin at least gets your mind involved in the possibilities of temptation and betrayal experienced by the quartet of characters. There is a specific mirroring in shots that compliments the mounting frisson of sexual tension both Joanna and Michael encounter, cutting back and forth with perceptive skill it must be noted. So while I did find many parts of Last Night contrived and could sense where it would end up, the bubbling level of attention given to the nuanced story really held my attention. It’s more about what isn’t being said in Last Night; the emotions and desires are expressed largely through body language and non-verbal communication. Which isn’t to say that the script is lacking( it’s quite incisive and contains many lines that subtly hint rather than effusively project thoughts), but the approach of watching how these people react and confront their conscience makes the film stay at least at a level that will interest you. Sometimes just a look or tiny gesture can make a big impact in its own special way. Last Night quietly asks what constitutes cheating , is it something physical or emotional? There’s no easy answer and while the film ultimately opts for something a tad too obvious in the overall storytelling, that idea of questioning the basis of infidelity struck me significantly. While events are beautifully shot and luscious to look at, it can feel overwhelming in terms of how glossy everything is rendered. Some neat editing captures the underlying restlessness of all involved, adding an air of intimacy to things. Clint Mansell contributes the piano heavy score, that is superbly piercing in how it brings out what the characters can’t say with a hefty deal of soulfulness and tension.
Heading events with the standout performance is Keira Knightley. Offering up a mature and emotionally transparent aura, Knightley succeeds at unfurling Joanna’s complex emotions with just the tiniest of gestures. As composed as the character thinks she is, we know that under the surface she is struggling to put her longings in order. All of this and more is presented by Keira Knightley, who is superb casting. Sam Worthington is probably the weakest performer in the film, though he has some moments of note. I think I just find him a bit evasive and blank in his role, despite patches of brilliance along the way. Eva Mendes manages to show hints and suggestions of how good an actress she is, rather than just the gorgeous woman that is routinely cast in middling fare. She exudes a forthright manner and guarded loneliness, while still being alluring as the possible other woman. People should take note that Mendes can be very effective when given a good part. While some of the writing concerned with her character is a little sketchy, she still gets across moments of feeling that display her obvious abilities that for too long people have overlooked. Guillaume Canet nails the slightly smug and charming demeanor of Alex, while discovering a feeling of pining that hasn’t been resolved for Joanna.
I must admit to wanting just a little bit more meat on Last Night’s bones, but for what it was, I was still intrigued by what it presented and the main acting. Keen direction also benefited the film, and while it may have left me a bit unfulfilled, Last Night also got my attention largely through its observational prism and the favoring of nuanced moments.
- Diane Keaton as Bessie
- Meryl Streep as Lee
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Hank
- Hal Scardino as Charlie
- Robert De Niro as Dr Wally
- Hume Cronyn as Marvin
- Gwen Verdon as Aunt Ruth
A film based on a play that covers themes of family, illness and forgiveness, Marvin’s Room is a beautifully affecting movie that earns the laughs and tears it elicits in the audience through the natural work from an accomplished cast.
Marvin’s Room revolves around two estranged sisters; sweet and sensitive Bessie and driven Lee. Bessie lives in Florida, where she takes care of her bedridden father Marvin and dizzy Aunt Ruth. She has been doing this for twenty years now, yet hasn’t taken the time to really think of herself once. Lee is the more rebellious sister, who has worked hard and wants to get her life into a sense of order, complete with her two sons Hank and Charlie. Just as she appears to be, her troubled son Hank burns the house down and is institutionalized. His increasingly erratic and antagonistic behaviour towards his mother who he blames for divorcing his absent father does nothing to help, with Lee really hitting breaking point over what to do. It is around this time that Bessie discovers that she has leukaemia and that she needs a bone marrow transplant. Despite not having spoken to her sister in over twenty years, Bessie implores Lee to come and visit her. She hopes that she can find a match for the operation and hopefully bury the hatchet with her sister. Lee, even though she still has her differences with her sister, packs up her kids from Ohio and heads to Florida. The reunion is far from what you’d call an easy one for everyone involved. Bessie feels resentment towards Lee for not helping take care of their father, while Lee feels that Bessie is judging her for not being as sensitive a person as she is and thinks that Bessie has given too much of her life to caring for her family. Hank is also still troubled and distant from everyone, though he finds comfort in the form of Bessie who he believes listens to him more than his mother. Old wounds are opened as Bessie and Lee try to reconnect and Hank starts to mature in the presence of his Aunt. Reconciliation and understanding could be on their way, if everyone can finally accept the others and unearth a kinship that has long been missing.
Jerry Zaks may not have much of a cinematic finesse in his approach to the film, yet his eye is more focused on character and development( at which he scores points.) the natural and quietly emotional way that it tells the story that truly makes Marvin’s Room a moving experience. What is most surprising about Marvin’s Room is that it has a welcome dose of humour in it. It has you laughing one minute, then in tears in a heartbeat. And while this could have turned out to be a bad thing, it is actually one of the biggest successes of the film. It really brings you into the piece and highlights the naturalism and summarizes how unpredictable life can be for all of us. Dysfunctional family and the ways in which they can falter, but ultimately be reunited in unexpected circumstances is played out in accomplished fashion. Sure there are confrontations between characters, but they thankfully don’t go over the top and remain within the context of the film to its benefit. Some could argue that it is a sentimental movie, but it stays just on the right side of that to make a film that celebrates life and connection with people we never thought we’d understand. The odd mawkish moment here and there can be swept under the carpet when the film is as affecting and nuanced as Marvin’s Room. Don’t let the seemingly made-for-TV sounding plot detract you from the film, as it traverses well above manipulative manhandling of the audience in favour of soulful observation. In fact while illness forms the main crux of the story, it is the nature of family and that is most effective and compliments the scenes of disease and possible death. Marvin’s Room isn’t flawless by any means as some of the pacing is off and I might have liked it if the film ran a bit longer. But all in all, it’s a very accomplished and emotion driven story that gets your attention through the laughs, tears and smiles. Rachel Portman supplies the evolving music of this piece; splendidly supporting the quietly stirring and bittersweet parts of the film through rising rhythms and emotive piano.
Diane Keaton beautifully heads the cast with a quietly and movingly acted role of the caregiver sister finding out she herself is ill. A nuanced and sincere amount of feeling is embodied by Keaton as Bessie sensitively attempts to be brave. Genuine decency can often be difficult play without going into overt politeness, luckily Diane Keaton manages to portray goodness stunningly. There is no slipping into overly saintly or martyr like here, just a heartfelt delivery. There is just something very warm and soulful about Diane Keaton here that makes it stand out as one of her best performances. Meryl Streep is on fine form as the chain-smoking, fiercely independent sister who is trying to keep her life together, yet has to come to terms with responsibility for probably the first time. The part of Lee is a flawed woman who can be self-interested and impatient(not to mention at the end of her tether), but with Streep in the part, we get to observe how her brash outer shell has been made by her own experiences and how she really is more than a little vulnerable underneath it all. Streep works wonderfully alongside the luminous Keaton, genuinely conveying the distance and eventual closeness the siblings acquire over the course of the film. A young Leonardo DiCaprio holds his own against his older co-stars with a performance of anger, damage and eventually reflection. DiCaprio nails the troubled persona of teenager Hank and finds a feeling of loneliness and wanting for attention in there, which makes him hit it off with Bessie as he feels she gets him. DiCaprio brings layers and forceful feeling to the part which benefits from it considerably. Hal Scardino has the more modest part of the younger brother whose often buried in a book, but Scardino makes the most of it to play off DiCaprio’s intensity well. Providing amusing support is a genial Robert De Niro, portraying the yet often inelegant doctor who gives Bessie her diagnosis and whose attempts at being positive are sometimes anything but. Hume Cronyn, without uttering a word, conveys the helpless feeling of illness in old age, while Gwen Verdon is funny and sweetly touching as the scatterbrained Aunt.
Heartwarming and sincere, plus sporting a great cast of actors doing some lovely work, Marvin’s Room is a successful and touching testament to the themes of redeeming oneself and appreciating life.
Cinematic Corner– The ever delightful Sati is a witty and sassy blogger, whose site reflects that and more. Her eye for detail in a film is simply sublime and her analysis of movies is stellar. You get both fun, great visuals and an appreciation for all things relating to cinema.
Surrender to the Void– Steven is the great mind behind this site. He always has something inventive and individual to say about movies. The sheer variety of movies he has seen and spoke about is very enviable too. A top-notch site that you won’t be able to resist.
The masterful and iconic Francis Ford Coppola turns 78 today. Over the years, he has given us so many incredible movies. I admire his vision and ambition in doing the movies he’s passionate about, particularly ones that were tough to make. I can’t wax lyrical enough about Coppola’s skills as a director. His output of late hasn’t been as prolific, but with credits like his, his legacy is pretty much guaranteed. So Happy Birthday Francis Ford Coppola, you are a true inspiration.
Last Chance Harvey
- Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine
- Emma Thompson as Kate Walker
- Eileen Atkins as Maggie Walker
- James Brolin as Brian
- Kathy Baker as Jean
An undemanding but still mostly successful and at times moving romantic drama, Last Chance Harvey gets by on the lovely rapport shared between stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson who breathe a layer of maturity and emotion to the piece.
Harvey Shine is a jingle writer who has seen better days. Lately, his job has become numbing but he still slaves away as it is his way of income. Yet his output of late has caused his employment to hang by a thread and his boss warns him that he has only once chance left to prove himself. Travelling to London for the wedding of his daughter, Harvey feels further alienated when he finds out his daughter wants her stepfather to give her away. Granted, Harvey’s relationship with his daughter has been strained since his separation from her mother, but he still feels devastated by this information. Leaving the ceremony to avoid any further embarrassment, he rushes to the airport to catch a plane home. He misses the flight home and is subsequently informed that he has been fired from his job. He meets airport worker Kate while drowning his sorrows in the bar. She is a woman who has all but given up on love, and is unwilling to try it again. Kate pours her energies into supporting her elderly mother, who is paranoid and always pestering Kate over why she doesn’t have a man in her life. Bonding over their respective lives and what they want out of it, Harvey and Kate develop a mutual and unexpected attraction that they believed wouldn’t touch them at this time and can promise them another chance at companionship.
Joel Hopkins does a decent job directing, though he doesn’t quite have a real style or calling card to stamp his name. It’s in his screenplay that warmth and pathos come, despite the sidestep into mawkish territory on occasion. Often, Last Chance Harvey can lurch between humour and comedy without much of a pay off, which could have been rectified with more substance. And while that stuck out at times, there was a level of sincerity and honesty to the screenplay that compensated for the flaws. I think my biggest niggle with the film was that it could have had a lot more going for it story wise. I mean, I did enjoy the wistful and soul-searching parts of the friendship that blossomed into romance but I felt there should have been a little bit more drama to buttress things. I’m a guy who enjoys gentle and autumnal like the best of them, and I really found myself enjoying quite a bit of the chemistry between the great actors present. Just a tad more life and a bit of something else sprinkled on would have made the film really excellent. As it stands, Last Chance Harvey loses some points for flagging interest yet gains just as many by finding pathos in the ideas of two middle-aged people discovering a love they thought had left them long ago. It’s refreshing to see a movie deal with attraction between people in middle age, most romances seem to favour the youth formula. The depth of the film comes from the fact that these two characters are older and wiser, but still relatable and looking for something more. When the humour and drama hit, they hit very well and raise Last Chance Harvey to a better level that while still flawed, has its heart in the right place. The movie is the equivalent of an old blanket, it has its wrinkles and though this is the case, you find it reassuring and stirring.
Last Chance Harvey’s biggest impact comes courtesy of two stunning performances from Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. As the worn out and awkward man who feels a deep void of loneliness, Dustin Hoffman is quietly nuanced and touching, while bringing some bumbling humour to it too. Emma Thompson gorgeously plays the woman who makes an impact on him unexpectedly, with a natural and lovingly observed sense of cautious longing and warmth. It’s pleasing to see them act opposite each other and bring out the respective best each has. These two professionals share a beautifully unaffected chemistry that overcomes any clichés the script offers up, and succeed at saying more with just a glance or a smile than most actors can with tons of dialogue. Eileen Atkins offers up some really good humour as the dotty mother, convinced that something fishy is going on around her when it’s actually quite the opposite. While Atkins has a good time in the supporting role, James Brolin and Kathy Baker are handed one-note characters who don’t particularly contribute to the story is any real way.
It is not a film that has much in the way of fresh ideas or a clear-cut idea of where it’s going which is often too it’s detriment. But the moving and natural work from the main actors and a sometimes bittersweet look at people discovering possible love in middle age, Last Chance Harvey is gentle and has clout that makes it a sweet and heartfelt ride. See it for Hoffman and Thompson.
As my final post regarding the iconic Godfather Trilogy, I wanted to make this an important one. I ask you today, what is it about the trilogy that really makes it something outstanding? There is so much good flowing through these movies and I want to know which areas make them classics to you. What is it about the movies that really makes a deep impact on you? Is it the gorgeous cinematography and tragic story? Or the themes of betrayal, honour and family so effectively realised by Francis Ford Coppola? Whatever the case may be, please give your opinions as I’d love to discuss this striking trilogy with anyone. It’s been a pleasure doing these posts the last few days and I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Below is a stunning video I found that celebrates the Trilogy in all it’s glory. Caution, the video may have spoilers if you haven’t seen the movies.
After this, it’s back to my movie reviews once more as I’m finally settling into my new home.
With the nice and very intriguing response yesterday’s post garnered, I thought it good to do another post regarding The Godfather Trilogy. The question today is, who is your favourite character in the saga? Now the Corleone Family by definition are an interesting group of people, but there are many other characters outside the family that stand out. And rather than the family just being villains, I admire how Coppola shows them as a family not unlike anyone else’s, except for their involvement in crime. They are characters that all go through a journey in the trilogy and are all richly written and acted. So who stands out for you in this epic trilogy?
I read the other week that The Godfather celebrates its 45th Anniversary year. It inspired me to do this kind of post. Anyone who knows me will be aware of my love for The Godfather, it is after all my favourite movie. I can’t wax lyrical enough about the iconic classic, charting the lives of the Corleone family, that has influenced so many things after it and become a monument of film making. So I thought it interesting to do a post covering the full trilogy. Part II is a masterwork that is up there with the first one on every level. The third one may get heat and does suffer in comparison, but I don’t believe it’s as bad as many make out. There are simply so many moments from the trilogy, directed by the fantastic Francis Ford Coppola and boasting a simply outstanding cast. So I ask you all, which moments really stick out for you in The Godfather Trilogy? I know it’s a difficult question because there’s so many parts to choose from, but please give an answer. I’d love to discuss this amazing trilogy with you all.