Tag Archives: George Clooney

Movie Week in Review: Spies and Romance

audreyhepburn-carygrant-charadeBig news from last week, I made it to movie 100! The film I watched wasn’t exactly what I intended to for such a milestone in this challenge; but after yet another stressful day at the office I wanted to see something at the theater I also work at (a place that is oddly calming for me) and unwind a bit.

The First Monday in May, a documentary about the celebrity-filled Met Gala organized to raise money for exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is for the most part an entertaining glimpse at art, fashion and film while presenting a small argument that they are one in the same. The curator for the exhibit at the center of the documentary and Met Gala hubbub, Andrew Bolton, said fashion especially should be considered as art and wanted to reflect that in his display of outfits and costumes inspired by Chinese culture.

Documentaries can be hit or miss and I will say this one perhaps could have went deeper into its subject matter and the development of the exhibit vs. the seating arrangement of famous people at the Met Gala and Anna Wintour wearing her sunglasses indoors. Those topics were a bit superficial to cover, while the portions of the film that provided a peek into her work on the Met board while leading Vogue and Bolton’s lifelong dream to be a museum curator were worth the coverage and left me wanting more. My favorite part (yes other than Rihanna’s appearance and the awkward moment with Larry David on the red carpet), was also a brief mention of how fashion was part of film in Chinese history and cinema’s influence in Bolton’s exhibit. If you want to check out more work by director Andrew Rossi, I (although I’m little bit biased here because of my former career as a journalist) prefer Page One: Inside the New York Times. The First Monday in May is a visual accomplishment in documentary film making, but lacks a little bit on the storytelling side.

Moving on, Charade, mixed with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, started a theme of movies about spies and romance during the week also including An Affair to Remember and Badlands (minus the spies and plus a very dark and unsettling “love story.”)

MCDCOOF EC032Charade is one of the top films I’ve watched this year now and I really loved the build to the true dynamic between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant’s characters as well as the secrets behind her husband’s death, his identity and the money at the center of everyone’s trust issues. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, from George Clooney and Charlie Kaufman, takes the memoir of game show host Chuck Barris to explore his rumored time as a CIA operative and how he balanced that with career and his love with Penny (Drew Barrymore.) In addition to being funny and mysterious, the film is visually on par using angles, close-ups on its characters and artistic technique to further tell the story. I’ve always liked Sam Rockwell, and this could be his best work that I’ve seen. He embodies Barris’ persona, yet makes it look effortless.

Badlands has the visual appeal carried by Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to say I like the film. I think that’s because the characters, primarily Martin Sheen as a murderous wayward soul from the wrong side of the tracks, are so dark and nonchalant about their actions that I found it very hard to relate to them on any level. I often associate films with how they make me feel and memories of when or where I watched them in addition to their cinematic quality, so Badlands is hard to fit into that complete picture. That said, Sheen and Sissy Spacek are dynamic together on screen as forbidden lovers whose characters are loosely based on a real-life couple on a crime spree that ends in the badlands of South Dakota. I think the film must have also inspired True Romance (definitely one of my favorite films of all time), if nothing else through the use of this song as Clarence and Alabama embark on their own crime spree.

I switched from romance and crime in the beginning of the week to a healthy balance of comedy, space, science and a little horror to make it to movie 106 on Saturday. Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar is worth the three hours of time and will keep you guessing as to what will happen; especially in the last hour. I think, while I haven’t seen every space-themed movie, it’s one of the most (pardon the overuse) visually-appealing while being scientific, emotional and plus Matt Damon is in it. MATT DAMON!

I feel as though I am rambling at this point, but I do want to cover my last two entries of the week spanning the comedy-horror-parody genres: Best in Show and The Final Girls.

Christopher Guest’s look at the world of dog shows, in a “mockumentary” style, is pretty flawless and I could watch Parker Posey’s meltdowns over her dog and issues with her husband all day. I know nothing about the dog show world, but Guest seems to be spot on in his depiction while adding just the right amount of drama and quirk to his characters while they fight to be Best in Show.

Finally (bad segue) The Final Girls … one of many horror movie parody/tributes (think The Cabin in the Woods or even Scream) out there takes it to another level with a movie-in-a-movie format where the characters are challenged to find their way out by following the classic plot points used in the genre. Thomas Middleditch’s performance was my favorite in the film and it overall delivers a unique addition to what can be an overly-formulaic genre of movies.

Up next this week I am going to explore more Cary Grant films and want to collect enough titles to go on a binge of sports movies. There are a lot in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (sadly Major League isn’t one of them) so it’s time I expand my horizons in that regard. I welcome any recommendations.

“When you are young, your potential is infinite. You might do anything, really. You might be Einstein. You might be DiMaggio. Then you get to an age where what you might be gives way to what you have been. You weren’t Einstein. You weren’t anything. That’s a bad moment.”

Chuck Barris – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

39 of 366: Hail, Caesar!


The Coen Brothers are in their own world of cinema. A while ago I started a Coen Brothers retrospective as a way to watch all of their films in chronological order but, unlike what is going to happen with this movie challenge, I didn’t complete that project.

I have more of their films on my list to watch this year, but it won’t be such a concentrated study of their work. I often find myself comparing films I see to the works of other directors or actors’ roles in a new project to one of their past performances, but with the Coen Brothers it is just trying to match where a new film fits in to their whole cinematic library.

Is Hail, Caesar! more on the level of older films like Raising Arizona or Miller’s Crossing or that of Burn After Reading or low points in their career like The Ladykillers?

Truth is, the latest from the Coen Brothers stands on its own. It’s definitely not their best film and it’s definitely not the worst. Hail, Caesar! has some of their trademark style points and actors, but those combined felt a little disjointed and parts of the plot and characters seemed unnecessary to me.

Josh Brolin as Hollywood studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix and George Clooney as leading man Baird Whitlock lead the film surrounded by supporting characters in the movie-within-a-movie style, including Scarlett Johannson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Channing Tatum.

All the characters have dual roles, or personas, in some ways. Mannix in his studio executive role is putting out fires everywhere as different movies at Capitol Pictures are in production, all the while trying to be a family man and decide if his chosen career is the right one.

Clooney as Whitlock is a pawn to show the battle between Hollywood and politics in the era it is set in and the others, especially Tatum as Burt Gurney and Swinton in two roles as twin sister journalists Thora Thacker and Thessaly Thacker, are part of the plot to both cover up and uncover the scandal going on behind the scenes.

I enjoyed the basic premise of Hail, Caesar! and found the performances of the central cast to be strong, but the Coen Brothers seemed to be trying too hard to come out with the next big thing with a tribute to Hollywood in the background.

I was really looking forward to Hail, Caesar! when I saw the trailer and I am already excited for the next Coen Brothers movie that I don’t even know about yet. That is their level of power in Hollywood.

They can try out different creative projects and ventures and always have success on some level because of their past accomplishments in the film world. I am sure I have written about it before, but I saw them once in Minneapolis while they were filming A Serious Man.

They sat in their director chairs in Uptown on the set, while we were trying to get my sister moved out of her apartment before the street closed, completely at home and commanding a whole production on a busy street corner. The fact that they can do that in their hometown to make a film tribute to their roots and turn around and make an Oscar-winner the next year is inspiring.

They have their hands in so many projects between writing, directing and producing in collaboration with other filmmakers and then writing and directing their films together, the result being you just have to see the next Coen Brothers movie.

In other news, John Hodgman posted this on Facebook yesterday. I don’t know the context of it, but I like the quote.

“‘Human’ does not mean ‘never profoundly wrong.’ To which I think the history of humanity will attest.”



36 of 366: Three Kings


Nestled between The Sixth Sense and Magnolia in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is Three Kings, David O. Russell’s post-Persian Gulf War story of soldiers from different ranks who find themselves working together to steal (back) gold bullion that belonged to Kuwait and help refugees along the way.

George Clooney (Archie Gates) is set to retire from duty, Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) is a new family man wanting to get home to his wife and kids as much as he is a hero at war and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) keeps them all together. Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) is a hero, too and forms a bond with Barlow as they work on their mission to help people and ultimately get home.

It seems simple in the beginning, get the gold and leave, but the people the soldiers encounter along the way — both friends and enemies — lead them to ending the cease fire in place after the war and to be at odds with their own country’s orders.

Three Kings has some subtle comedic undertones and quirk associated with Russell in the beginning, but it’s ultimately an action and war drama with a mix of cinematic styles and actors that effectively balance the struggles of their individual characters with the theme of the movie as a whole.

Russell also incorporates media coverage of the war and the Three Kings’ final mission into the story as an additional way to tell what is happening on screen that also pulls it  all together in the end.

I will say the score, especially the instrumental pieces with heavy percussion (kind of reminded me of Birdman), in some of the more intense moments of the film mixed with tunes from Chicago and The Beach Boys, is unexpected but fits perfectly in Three Kings.

I don’t know how I missed this film during the year I graduated high school, especially since I’ve seen most of the titles also listed from that  year in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (Fight Club, American Beauty, The Blair Witch Project, The Matrix and Being John Malkovich), but I can tell it’s one that stands the test of time having just seen it 17 years since its release in theaters.

One last thought, I enjoyed the cameos in Three Kings. Points if you can spot Jim Gaffigan. He saves the day.