The Weight of the Name

In the world of cinema, folks see a certain name tacked onto a film poster, or a particular face in a trailer, and, regardless of anything else, think, “Oh, so-and-so is in this!” and immediately decide to see it. I’ve got a few of those myself – actors and actresses whose body of work is so impressive to me and I trust their acting ability enough to see a film solely because they are attached to it. That’s not to say that I see every single movie they are in, but usually, certain names are enough to lure me in to the theater above all else, and they are –

1.) Christian Bale
This is coming from someone who saw Terminator: Salvation in theaters simply because Bale was in it. After his turn as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christian Bale quickly became my favorite actor, and a name that will instantly grab my attention even if the content of a film doesn’t immediately appeal to me. It doesn’t hurt that he’s no slouch at his craft, either, and seems to put the same amount of effort into every role, no matter how small – I mainly saw Hostiles earlier this year because he was in it, since I’m not big on Westerns, and was blown away by his performance and the film overall.

2.) Jessica Chastain
After watching her mesmerizing and powerful performance in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain became a trusted name in my book. She has the ability to carry a film on her shoulders and disappear completely into a role, which makes her acting all the more appealing. Her recent appearances in The Zookeeper’s Wife and Molly’s Game are proof of that.

3.) Dev Patel
Back in 2010, Dev Patel was the sole reason I went to see The Last Airbender, especially after the (well-deserved) audience backlash. Sadly, he couldn’t save that film, but ever since his brilliant breakthrough performance in Slumdog Millionaire, I’m easily lured in by a film bearing his name. I mainly went to see Lion last year because he was in it, and it’s a good thing, too – it was one of my favorites from the Oscar race that year.

4.) Emily Blunt
From the very moment I saw her in The Devil Wears Prada, I was a fan of Blunt’s work – and I’ve never been disappointed as a fan by any role she’s done. She’s another actress who can easily make a role her own and seems to put in significant effort to do so, whether the role is supporting or main. I can say, with almost 100% certainty, that Blunt is the driving force behind me being willing to see the upcoming Mary Poppins movie, because I’m not even a fan of the first one. And yes, I know that’s blasphemous.

5.) Domhnall Gleeson
If I see his face in a trailer, I immediately and gleefully say – either to myself or to whoever I’m with – “Oh, Domhnall Gleeson!” and typically resolve to see the film. It doesn’t hurt that he’s my celebrity crush, too, but back in 2015/2016, there was a string of four movies I went to see that he was in – Star Wars: TFA twice, Brooklyn, and The Revenant – and I was impressed by each performance, and have been impressed by all of his performances since. I am super stoked whenever I see his name attached to a project because I know he’ll give a nuanced and enthralling performance. I even went to see Peter Rabbit, folks – and I’m 26 years old.

6.) Meryl Streep
Um, hello? SHE’S MERYL STREEP. Enough said.

7.) Tom Hanks
Um, hello? HE’S TOM HANKS. Enough said.

8.) Saorise Ronan
From Atonement to Lady Bird, Saorise Ronan always delivers a memorable performance. I mean, look at all the award nominations she’s had, and at so young an age – that speaks for itself. I even went to see The Host solely because she was in it.

9.) Chris Pine
Of all the famous Chrises, Evans is actually my favorite – but Pine is more likely to get my butt in a reclining theater seat. He’s got stellar range, from Steve Trevor, to Captain Kirk, to Cinderella’s Prince, to Nicholas Devereaux, he’s never let me down! My favorite all time Chris Pine scene is when he has to take a comically large bicycle to chase down Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries 2. No, I’m not kidding.

10.) Octavia Spencer
Ever since I saw her prolific performance in The Help, Spencer’s name has been enough to intrigue me when I hear she’s attached to a project. That “Eat. My. Shit.” line shall be forever emblazoned in my memory, and I’m happy with that. And she’s hilarious – if anything, her performances never disappoint me, even if other parts of a film do.

11.) Christoph Waltz
He is the main, if not only, reason I went to see Spectre, the latest James Bond film – quite a feat, considering I don’t like James Bond films. And I didn’t like his performance in that film, but I’ll still see any film that he’s attached to, even if the subject matter doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained were what drew me in, and if I end up seeing Alita: Battle Angel, it will ONLY be because of him, because that trailer was a steaming pile of NOPE.

12.) Amy Adams
She was equally as convincing and memorable as Giselle in Enchanted and as Louise in arrival, though they were drastically different roles. She is a true chameleon, from serious to comical roles, and makes it seem so effortless. I’ve never, not once, been disappointed by her, and can’t wait for her upcoming limited series on HBO.

 

Honorable Mentions: Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Helen Mirren, Peter Dinklage, Frances McDormand, Henry Cavill, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Sally Field, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Armie Hammer, Jason Momoa, Lily James, Anne Hathaway, Harvey Keitel, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Zhang Ziyi, Wes Studi, Ken Watanabe, Marian Cotillard, Tom Hardy.

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The Spark

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I generally attribute my love and appreciation for film to my decision to minor in film during my college years, since I got to experience a broad spectrum of different genres and styles from a multitude of different directors and eras.

Prior to that, I didn’t go to the movies all that much – at least, not as often as I would have liked. Now, I try to go once a week or every couple of weeks, and sometimes I go three times in one week, it all depends on what’s showing at the two theaters in my tiny backwoods town. I also get my friends saying things like, “Please tell me you didn’t go to see Pete’s Dragon by yourself,” like it’s a bad thing to take in a 10AM Saturday show solo to enjoy a nice Disney flick with some gummy bears.

But there is one film that I consider to be my “aha!” moment – the one that opened my eyes to how beautiful, compelling, and powerful cinema can be. And that film is Chris Nolan’s 2008 genre-breaking superhero flick, The Dark Knight.

MV5BMTMxNTMwODM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyMTk2Mw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_This was before the days of assigned (and reclining) movie theater seating, so my parents and my best friend and I showed up an hour early in order to ensure we got the best seats in the house. As a massive Batman fan, I was psyched to see the Caped Crusader take on the newest iteration of his arch-nemesis, the menacing Joker. As the film unfurled onscreen, I was totally blown away. The music, Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance, and the more grounded version of Gotham and Batman that Nolan crafted quickly became one of my all-time favorites, and I left the theater already yearning to see it again… which I did. Twice more, including a one hour trip to see it in IMAX with my dad. To this day, I have a huge movie poster of the Joker hanging over my bed; the first film poster I ever bought for myself. Now, many others have joined the ranks. I will still see any film that Christian Bale is in, regardless of ratings, will always spy a bit of Commissioner Gordon in any Gary Oldman performance, and will forever contend that The Dark Knight was robbed of a Best Picture nom at the Oscars.

As such, I consider The Dark Knight to be “the spark” that ignited my adoration of the cinema, the first film that made me think about how movies work and how all the parts come together to make one solid, functional piece of art capable of wowing and moving audiences. It opened the door to a whole new world, for me – and it didn’t even require a death-defying magic carpet ride to get there. Sure, I loved other movies before that, but The Dark Knight is special for me, and it always will be. Now, I’m one of those obnoxious people who love to talk about mise-en-scene and cinema verite and the male gaze and all that jazz, and I have a comic book movie to thank for that.

If any one else reading this has had a similar experience, what was your “spark?”

Sneaky Sunday Post: OSCAR SNUBS!

I’ve been spending the past week or so discussing my personal views on the Best Picture nominees for tonight’s Oscars, so for today, I thought I’d do a little post about the movies/actors/directors who I personally feel got snubbed for this year’s awards. LET’S GO!

1.) Hostiles / Christian Bale / Max Richter
Okay, I’m biased, and I’ll own up to it. I love Christian Bale. But man, his performance in this film was phenomenal – his transformation over the course of the film from vengeful and hate-filled to less hate-filled and somewhat softer is done with exceptional face-acting. As in, you watch his face, you get an entire story and see the full scope of his emotions without any spoken dialogue at all. I love Denzel Washington too, but I would have nominated Bale over him this year. The score by Max Richter is also great, as is the cinematography. Hostiles is an above average film with above average performances (not only from Bale, but Rosamund Pike too) and I’m stunned that this film didn’t get so much as a single nomination in any category. It’s better than a lot of other recent westerns, but maybe it just slipped through the cracks this year…

2.) Wind River / Jeremy Renner (kinda) / Ben Richardson / Taylor Sheridan
The fact that this film was not nominated for ANYTHING is probably the biggest Oscar snub since Daft Punk didn’t even get nominated for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It’s a CRIME, I TELL YOU. It’s easily Jeremy Renner’s best performance to date (would have given the 5th nom to Bale over him, but Renner over Washington… regardless, none would beat Oldman, DDL, Kaluuya or Chalamet) and the cinematography is stellar. The opening sequence of the girl running in the snow is hauntingly beautiful, yet also conveys the terror of her situation. Sheridan would have been a dark horse in the directorial race, but I would have liked to see him get a nod. I suppose this film being snubbed is unfortunatelyappropriate, given the source material and the stats given at the end of the film… but for real, my friends. If you haven’t seen Wind River, or it fell off your radar because it isn’t getting the same buzz as the award-nominated films, TRUST ME – give it a chance. I was unexpectedly blown away by how powerful this film and its message are.

3.) Wonder Woman / Patty Jenkins
It was a long-shot, but Patty Jenkins delivered the best DCEU movie to date (the TDK films don’t count, as they are in a different universe) and has gotten a lot of much-deserved praise for it, but I would have loved to see her get a directing nod. Wonder Woman would not have been as great a success as it was without her vision, and would have loved a Best Picture nod too, as unlikely as it was to happen.

4.) Murder on the Orient Express / Kenneth Branagh’s mustache
I mean… this film deserved at least a costuming nod, right? Or production design. Say what you want about the film itself, it was gorgeous to watch. And that mustache turned in one of the finest follicle performances of the last decade, at least!

5.) Logan / Hugh Jackman
Yeah, sure… Logan got the adapted screenplay nod. That’s all well and good, and a positive step forward for comic book films in the awards race, which have stalled considerably since the era of Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight Trilogy. But damn, this movie might not only be be Jackman’s best turn as Logan/Wolverine, I’d say it’s his best performance ever. He was phenomenal. I would have given the 5th Best Actor nom to him over Bale, which means a lot coming from me…

6.) The Big Sick
I was elated to see this film garner a Best Original Screenplay nod, but surprised that it didn’t get any other nominations. I honestly think it deserved a Best Picture nomination – we could have had 10 nominees! That would have been a nice even number!

And there we have it! Any snubs you feel like I missed? Feel free to share! And stay tuned tomorrow afternoon (it might not be at 1PM due to my work schedule, but we’ll see) for my Oscar Recap / Reaction!