Tag Archives: The Wrestler

Awards Weekend! First, The Indies…

The Film Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast this evening. Hosted by Joel McHale, the event is known for being a loose and casual affair; the last two events were held inside a tent on the Santa Monica beach (2009) and in a downtown LA parking lot (2010). Libations flow, no one plays a winner off the stage, and some memorable speeches come tumbling out of the mouths of the presenters and nominees. And as the last awards show prior to tomorrow’s Academy Awards presentations, many will ponder about the momentum that some of these films and actors have built up.

Of course, the Oscar tabulations are already signed, sealed and delivered. But what’s Tinseltown without a little drama?

More and more films blend the line between “indie” and “studio”, a separation that is more about funding than location. Luminaries like Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers have their heart and mind firmly in the independent mode when it comes to the type of material that they choose, but their successes have moved them into a financial category that dwarfs their former associates. I’d rather focus on the fact that films like Black Swan and The Wrestler are finally being appreciated by a wider group of people (Oscars, Globes) rather than pinch pennies and mince words. Despite some thundering clunkers, 2010 had its share of good films.

Here is a list of the nominees. You can watch the broadcast at 10pm ET/PT and guess along with me, but since the ceremony took place earlier today, the list of winners is no doubt all over the web. Don’t Google! Walk away from your computer and enjoy the suspense. If you must sit at your keyboard, avoid the news sites and watch and chat live with IFC host Matt Singer.

I’ll be back later with a review of the show and my comments.

Well, that was pretty boring.

Host Joel McHale did what he could, opening with a sense of irreverence, a wink at some of the nominated films, and a gaggle of cunnilingus jokes, but no one else picked up the ball for the rest of the evening. The filmed bit combining the “reading of the rules” and “the magic of 3D” was amusing, but the only other attempt at humor was presenting In Memorium 2011 a year early. Celebrating the industry deaths that would occur over the next twelve months had great potential, but a technical glitch ruined the pace and sucked the life of it. Still, it’s good to prepare oneself for the loss of Mad Men star Jon Hamm from excessive consumption of clove cigarettes and fake alcohol.

Presenters joked all night about the cold (the tent was on the beach) but people were visibly bundling up, and the slick surface caused many to slip (and one winner to fall not once but twice). And the noise level increased exponentially, no doubt from attendees hitting the bar to pound down more Jameson’s in a show of support for one of the evening’s sponsors.

Another oddity was the announcement of two awards that had been presented prior to the telecast – one for cinematography and the other for screenplay. Really? You couldn’t squeeze two more awards into a two and a half hour program? Overall, no huge surprises. But no memorable speeches and no water cooler moments.

Well, unless you want to count Paul Rudd’s threesome with Rosario Dawson and Eva Mendes

Here is a list of the winners:

Best Feature: “Black Swan”
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko, “The Kids Are All Right”
Best First Feature: “Get Low”
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture”
John Cassavetes Award: “Daddy Longlegs”
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Best Male Lead: James Franco, “127 Hours”
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, “Black Swan”
Best Documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Best Foreign Film: “The King’s Speech”

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Film Review: The Wrestler

wrestler-poster

What a remarkable film The Wrestler is, with several outstanding performances. Above all, a career performance from Mickey Rourke, whose brilliant Randy the Ram character likely has a bunch of Rourke’s own DNA at its core. Evan Rachel Wood impresses in a her scenes as the long-lost daughter with Daddy issues who stops seething only long enough to get her emotional scabs picked open again. And Marisa Tomei continues to bring heart and soul to the screen – her performance in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead was noteworthy but her daring turn as the damaged stripper Cassidy is absolutely stunning. Director Darren Aronofsky’s cinéma vérité style is perfect for the material; we’re almost flies on the wall in a documentary of this broken man’s life. But it’s the bleak settings, from destitute trailer parks to sad high school gymnasiums to the just-above-water lifestyle of these characters, which sells the story.

Cassidy and Randy are leading parallel lives. Both work under stage names and use (and abuse) their bodies to make a living, and as they get older it provides a rude awakening. We see Cassidy being mocked by young guys in the VIP Room for being “as old as (my) Mom!” while more and more customers at the front rail pass on a chance to savor her charms. Randy might have the memories of his glory days thumb tacked to the inside of his van, but the effort it takes to rev up and wind down gets longer and more excruciating every time. Life is not very forgiving to stage warriors Cassidy and Randy, and even less so to the real life Pam and Robin.

Cassidy is adamant that she cannot cross “the line” with a customer because the club and the real world don’t mix, yet she pines to be seen as a mother and person, not a stripper. Yet when she gets too close to having an honest moment as Pam, she recoils not because of her ethical stance, but out of fear. Her moment of truth occurs in the midst of another mindless stage routine, when she surveys the club and sees just how shallow her world is. Realizing that Randy might be a kindred spirit trying to reach out to the real Pam, she makes an attempt to reconnect – and save? – another lost soul. But in a movie filled with bad timing, she is “too little too late.”

Randy’s aversion of his real name (Robin Ramstein) is his shield because he’s a failure as a person. He can only connect with people as “The Ram”, but years of doing so have left him with a clouded grip on what is real in his life. His only true adulation comes from the fellow wrestlers who understand the life and look up to him. His boss (Todd Barry at his smarmy best) mocks him, his landlord won’t cut him any slack, and the strippers only like him if he has money. The trailer park kids treat him like a benign freak, but even his feeble effort to connect with them are thwarted because he’s a Nintendo man in a Playstation world.

Randy sees his future at the humbling “Legends” autograph show, where the paltry few attendees gingerly circle the ravaged, ailing wrestlers like buzzards too late for the feast. He finally sees himself as others are starting to see him; a broken down man with nothing to cling to, and worse, no hope. He couldn’t make it as a husband and father the first time, and he’s unable to maintain a re-connection with his daughter now because he succumbs to his bad habits. He can’t even leverage a tender moment with Pam because he’s so used to quick, physical encounters instead of true feelings. He doesn’t know what to do in life; when he can follow the script in a match, he knows what to do, but outside that ring he’s as helpless as he is hopeless. When Stephanie finally tears into him for being a fuck-up and shuts him down forever, he can’t even muster another apology. It took admitting to being “a broken down piece of meat (who) deserves to be alone” to get her to thaw from years of alienation, only to have that very inadequacy shut that door for good. Even the one thing that was a glimmer of hope – an old photo in a wallet – is now proof of failure. (Even the delusions of recapturing his fame are exposed by the dwindling crowds and small venues. The highly touted 20th Anniversary Ayatollah rematch doesn’t take place in Madison Square Garden but in a tiny arena in Wilmington, Delaware.)

Despite the rejection and alienation, there is a moment when you think (hope?) Randy might somehow weather the storm and survive. His fear of dealing with people is so strong that when he accepts the deli counter job he has to imagine himself entering the work area like he enters the arena, albeit met with total silence in place of screams and cheers. But in simple customer requests and interaction, he finds dignity. This new persona – the real Robin – has a charming ability to playfully interact with the customers. But when he is recognized as the has-been Ram, these two worlds collide, and this simple safe area is now stained with failure. He snaps. “Robin”, he disgustedly sneers to himself afterwards, as if to say “what was I doing pretending to be normal?” As he tells Cassidy at the end of the film, referring to life outside the ring, “the only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me”.

Yet that’s why the ending of The Wrestler is uplifting. After all the failures and mistakes and humiliation, Randy is finally at peace. He’s ended up right where he belongs, he has one more moment of validation, and nothing will ever hurt him again.

 

(This review written for Ureview)

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part Two

More snarky observations from the weekend, as the Hollywood Elite shook the Santa Monica sand out of their shoes (well, those with any Indie cred, anyway!) and headed to Red Carpet Land for the Big Show…

The 81st Annual Academy Awards

I'd like to fawn a friend...

I'd like to fawn a friend...

  • Sorry, Eric Roberts. For one night, at least, Hugh Jackman Is The Man.
  • Nice to have five former Oscar winners help present each acting award. But was that an introduction or a coronation? Did it really take fifteen minutes to fawn over Best Supporting Actress nominees? It looked like they were inducting a new member into The Skull And Bones Society.
  • Millions of dollars to reconfigure the theatre, douse it in brilliant lights and wire it to the heavens with cameras, screens and special effects. And the first time they try to use it, some stagehand forgets to open the curtain. (It’s a union job, smart money says he was probably in an oil drum in the Pacific by midnight)
  • Why did people think that Hugh Jackman – a singing, dancing Broadway veteran – couldn’t sing and dance? Great ten cent sets for the Best Picture tributes, but none funnier than the tribute to The Reader.
  • Anne Hathaway Is The Man.
  • Ben Stiller was only the second best faux Joaquin of the weekend, but still funny.
  • More actor fawning from prior Oscar winners. It’s a good thing that after the huge salary, the legions of fans, the constant media attention and the stroll down the Red Carpet through a crowd of sycophants, these poor people were able to get great seats and have their egos stroked by having lavish compliments spread over them with a trowel.
  • Is there a stupider question in the universe than “Who are you wearing?”
  • Judd Apatow Is The Man. (Or maybe Seth Rogen? No, no…James Franco!)
  • Having the two-time Oscar winning cinematographer tell his collegue to “suck it”.
  • Christopher Walken disappointingly did not do his Christopher Walken impression.
  • No Jack Nicholson. What, was there a Laker game?
  • Queen Latifah has a great voice, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a classic song. But when paying tribute to deceased Academy members, silence is golden.
  • Slumdog Avalanche.
  • Robert DeNiro on Penn: “How did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight guys” and he “gently reasons with the paparazzi”. Funnier than most of Bob’s last dozen comedies.
  • Good night for Oscar Dads. Heath Ledger’s father gave a heartfelt and passionate speech, and Kate Winslet’s Dad’s whistle was the highlight of her speech.
  • Has Jerry Lewis ever been that humble? Or succinct?
  • Speaking of Kate, I do admire her always solid work, but if I don’t see her at a podium again for a while that will be just fine. (At least she toned down the breathless “I am so shocked” routine). I suppose I have to blame Ricky Gervais for this. Will she be “playing a mental” next time out?
  • I am Woool-verrrr-iiiiiiine!”
  • Tina Fey and Steve Martin: Master class on comic timing.
  • Philip Petit. I bet that humility and a cool magic trick will be remembered more fondly than leaping over the backs of chairs.
  • Bill Maher (following an emotional moment in the show): “Great. Everyone’s crying and now I have to go on!”
  • Sean Penn’s speech.
  • A. R. Rahman running offstage after each win, much to the surprise of the presenters and usherette.
  • In a world where we have so many movie trailers, how did the tribute omit Don LaFontaine?
  • The Jimmy Kimmel promo was brilliant. It’s possible to like Tom Cruise when he’s not being Scientologish.
  • Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Full list of winners here.

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part One

It’s a guilty pleasure, I must admit. And when both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards occur over the same weekend, well…that’s a lot of couch time. And snack food. (And snarky observations).

Independent Spirit Awards

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...no caption could do this justice.

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...brilliant!

  • Eric Roberts Is The Man
  • Emily Deschanel is pretty hot in Bones, but Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) is even hotter.
  • It’s hard to think of Woody Allen as “independent” when everyone else in the room seems to have financed their movie on a relative’s Visa card. But although $15 million (Vicki Cristina Barcelona’s budget) is an unthinkable fortune compared to Frozen River’s $1 million, it’s still a pittance in an industry where you would have to dig even deeper just to pay a Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon to ruin your movie.
  • Someone has to explain “business casual” to Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • I don’t know what Rosie Perez is doing career-wise, but her amicable smack-down of Penelope Cruz should be in her highlight reel.
  • Ditto Penelope Cruz’s story about Woody Allen
  • The “musical numbers” for the Best Picture nominees might be an idea stolen from Billy Crystal, but since the Academy isn’t letting Billy Crystal host the Oscar telecast, I’m glad to see these guys picked up the ball. Which of course, leads to…
  • Rainn Wilson Is The Man.
  • Michael Bolton can be the punch line of a joke that is funny and has nothing to do with his singing, and he can be a good sport about it.
  • Jason Bateman and Ellen Page need to take their act on the road.
  • Is there anyone more comfortable in his own skin than John Waters? Then again, he’s probably comfortable in yours, too.
  • IFC likes awards shows without interruption of any kind – commercials, censors, or otherwise. AMC has editors (and presumably, viewers with more sensitive ears).
  • Steve Coogan is no Ricky Gervais, but then, who is? Nice job, mate.
  • If you didn’t already think Charlie Kaufman was one odd dude based upon his screenplays, listening to him speak should seal the deal for you.
  • I know why Mike Myers wasn’t there last night.
  • The only thing that would have made Melissa Leo‘s acceptance speech better was if she gave a shout-out to the cast of Homicide.
  • Nothing would have made Mickey Rourke‘s speech better.

Full list of winners here.

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If Pete Rose Had A Weekend Like Me, He’d Quit Gambling

Hopefully you didn’t put your money where my mouth was this weekend, because I lost three of the four NFL playoff games and only the late Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for Best Supporting Actor prevented me from having a clean sweep in the major film categories at the Golden Globes. That would be a sweep in reverse

My one ace in the hole was The Joker

My one ace in the hole was The Joker

What I did know…

  • Either Slumdog Millionaire or Benjamin Button would grab three majors: Best Drama, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
  • An actress would win two major awards
  • 30 Rock and John Adams would sweep their nominations
  • Pre-written “presenter speeches” would still suck the life out of the room

What I didn’t expect…

  • Those Foreign Press people really love their Irishmen (Byrne, Farrell upset victors)
  • They were as apathetic about Mamma Mia as I was
  • Neither Bardem nor Cruz won for Vicki Cristina Barcelona despite being early favorites
  • In a category where long time press darlings Brad Pitt and Sean Penn were available, the HFPA showed Mickey Rourke the love.

My favorite moments of the evening:

  • Springsteen winning the Globe for “The Wrestler” and cracking on Clint Eastwood. I was glad he won because I hoped it would draw more attention to the film; little did I know what lied ahead.
  • Colin Farrell’s heartfelt speech about how art is really love in action
  • Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan rocking the mike with material they scribbled on napkins at the awards table
  • Ricky Gervais. The line about “no gag reel” in Schindler’s List was killer, but the one he wasn’t allowed to say (the ad for the DVD said to “have a box of tissues ready”, and I thought “well that’s sick…”) was even better. Plus the crack to Winslet about how he advised her to “do a Holocaust movie if you want to win an award”, referring to her hilarious guest performance on his show Extras. Gervais is flat out brilliant in both the US and UK interpretation of the word.
  • The genuine warmth and excitement for Mickey Rourke, and his humble but funny acceptance speech. This was the win I wanted more than any other, but even I didn’t think he’s have enough votes. I guess I’ll have to update the comeback story.
  • Dennis Leary telling a post-show interviewer that he’s audtioning to play one of Mickey Rourke’s dogs in an upcoming movie because he can’t seem to win as an actor playing people.

Even though he didn’t win, I can’t say enough about Sean Penn’s powerhouse performance in Milk, a film almost totally overlooked in last night’s nominations. The entire cast is phenomenal; the out reel shows each actor’s photo in character followed by photos of the real people they were playing, and even the physical resemblances are astonishing. I was deeply moved by the film, recalling the horror and astonishment I felt at the time of the actual events, and Gus van Sant deserves major praise for the way he structured the story using flashbacks, actual footage and voice-over; three techniques that can usually sink a film. Also kudos to Josh Brolin, whose Dan White slowly disintegrates before your eyes. Nice roll he’s on with Milk, No Country For Old Men and Wplus he gets to go home to Diane Lane? That’s a long way from being in The Goonies, my friends.

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Who Will Win And Why They Will

The Golden Globes are odd…everyone makes a big deal about them even though it’s a tiny organization of voters generating all the heat, Oscar-buzz and advertising dollars. There are under 100 members, many aren’t even full time writers, and they once gave an award to Pia Zadora the week after her rich husband coincidentally had a segment of the voting board come over for a week long party. They’re suck-ups, cat-fighters, gossip-mongers and probably would trade their credentials for dinner and a ride home from their favorite star. Not that I wouldn’t accept the invite if asked.

So again, I’m not listing my favorites but trying to guess who the HFPA selected and why (the full list of nominees including my predictions are in yesterday’s post). Most of my selections weren’t even nominated, but I’ll save that “overlooked” column until after the Oscars.

 

"Why... so...serious?"

"Why... so...serious?"

Best Motion Picture – Drama
First category should tip you off that paparazzi…err, I mean foreign jornalists tend to fawn over their favorite stars regardless of the projects. I doubt you’ll see Milk excluded from the Oscars in place of two Kate Winslet features. But I think Slumdog will lose by a Button.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Normally I would think The Woodman would sway the crowd, but this year I will go out on a limb and predict the HFPA goes Abba crazy.

continue to see how wrong I was here

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Predictions? We Don’t Need No Stinking Predictions!

Well, I was 0-2 for football today, even watching my beloved Titans give their game away (with a little help from a 32 second long 30 second clock, but I digress…). So far that’s a pitiful 2-4 for the NFL postseason. Guess my “pick ’em” informercial is going to die like an orchid in a glove compartment. Not that that ever happened to me.

So I guess I’ll try my hand at the Golden Globes. well, I’m really picking what I think that small group of easily wavered, gossip rag reading, red carpet ass kissers will do. Hell, half the categories don’t even have my picks among the nominations. But I’ll deal with that tomorrow. So on with the beret or fez or whatever these sycophants wear, and here goes

Globe nominees and my picks here

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