REVIEW: The Descendants

The Descendants
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (screenplay), Kaui Hart Hemmings (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller and Nick Krause

Snap reactions and the surprised double-take have always been two important tools in George Clooney’s acting kit.  Alexander Payne is noted as a director for having actors explore realms outside of that familiar skill set.  Perhaps most infamously, Payne stripped Jack Nicholson of his raised eyebrows and charisma in About Schmidt and had the actor play a shy, desperate man.  It’s one of his best performances.

In The Descendants, Payne has Clooney blend in.  His washed-out mess of hair and beach bum attire look misplaced and familiar at the same time.  Emerging from that sly, smirky facade is an actor capable of true grit.

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SPOTLIGHT: Jack Nicholson

For our new Spotlight series, I decided to kick things off with one of the greats.  While this segment of the site may not always focus on big names, they don’t get much bigger than Jack Nicholson.  Exploring a career as acclaimed and a man as legendary as this is no easy task.  What these pieces will consist of are commonalities in the career of the subject, as well as five key films to see their work in.  As always, give us feedback about what you think!

Career: As previously mentioned, Nicholson’s career has been legendary for decades.  One of the greats of both the old and especially the new American cinema, he has forged an identity on the screen that is both iconic and consistently shifting.  A lot can be done with those eyebrows, and he finds something new every time.  Whether he raises them in madness (The Shining) or in smug victory (As Good as It Gets), they are part of what defines him as an actor.  Of course the other thing is that talent.  He has given us some of the most legendary movie characters of all time and also influenced many other fine actors.  His off-screen life is kept largely private, though he makes notorious awards show appearances and is a legendary playboy.  It would be ignorant to keep him out of those shows, since he alone has won three Oscars and been nominated for 12.  At the forefront of American screen legends, Jack is not afraid to take risks, and has made it a point to work with every director he’s wanted to work with and only rarely cashing in on his image (The Bucket List).  Though there are far more than five great performances from him, here are the highlights that showcase a different side to Hollywood’s definitive wily renegade.

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