The Immigrant Directed by: James Gray Written by: James Gray & Ric Menello Starring: Marion Coitillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner
The American Dream, that simulacrum of perfection and success, has been scrupulously examined in a number of films released in the past year. From the party-girl criminals of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers to the celebrity-minded teenagers in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring to Michael Bay’s abhorrent bodybuilders in Pain & Gain, filmmakers, mostly established auteurs, are examining what it means to live in a country essentially founded on an illusory sense of entitlement. Most people living in this country nowadays know (or, at least, should) this isn’t how our (oligarchical, downright cruel) society works, but all anyone can do is try and live a life based on these bygone notions of freedom.
The aforementioned films took this idea to its endpoint, dealing with characters so far off the deep end—jaded from real-world banality—that they will do almost anything to reach an easy existence. James Gray’s new film “The Immigrant” portrays a character yet unaware of the Promised Land’s true nature; the totality of her being rests on a false promise.
American Hustle Directed by: David O. Russell Written by: Eric Singer & David O. Russell Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
Two cartoonishly ’70s-looking men stand in an art gallery gazing at a Rembrandt painting, or at least what one of them thinks is a Rembrandt painting. The other guy, a con man played by Christian Bale, explains with his thick Brooklyn accent that it’s a fake.
“The guy who made this was so good, that it’s real to everybody. Now, who’s the master: the painter or the forger?” he asks.
It’s as if director David O. Russell is speaking through Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) at this moment, pondering the question a little too sincerely. American Hustle, his sleek and contagiously energetic latest endeavor, is also somewhat of a forgery. It’s being released nationwide the week before The Wolf of Wall Street, and I’m curious to see which one is more widely praised, the original Scorsese or this loving knockoff.
The Bourne Legacy Directed by: Tony Gilroy Written by: Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy (screenplay), Tony Gilroy (story), Robert Ludlum (series) Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton and Stacy Keach
The Bourne Legacy isn’t another installment in the shaky cam spy series as much as it is a thrown together money grab that uses the world. It takes place largely during the events The Bourne Ultimatum, where the U.S. government apparently was eliminating other super agents like Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne while also trying to track him down. Damon appears only as a mug shot, though, and the screen time largely belongs to Jeremy Renner.
Renner was a good choice to play Aaron Cross even if the movie, directed and co-written by Tony Gilroy, is way too long for what it’s trying to show. The biggest draw of the other Bourne films was how the filmmaking techniques were as efficient and fast-paced as its main character. In this movie’s almost two-and-a-half hour run time, there are long, unnecessary stretches that add nothing.
Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol Directed by: Brad Bird Written by: Josh Applebaum & André Nemec (screenplay) Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg
Tom Cruise commits his body completely to a role, often at the expense of character. Many of his most iconic performances, including this long-running gig as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series, have him performing all the major action hero duties at a break neck pace.
In this latest installment, tacked with “Ghost Protocol” instead of the number 4, Cruise performs the biggest stunts of the series yet. Brad Bird, director of Pixar films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille as well as lesser known ones like The Iron Giant, makes his live action debut and is tasked with controlling this chaos.
As it stands now, it looks like the four winners for for acting Oscars this weekend will be Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Christoph Waltz, and Mo’Nique. One washed-up country singer, one modern country belle, one Jew Hunter, and one mom from Hell- see any similarities?
The acting categories usually go to four very distinct roles from very different styles of acting. Not so this year.
If you were to look at the supporting categories this year, you’d see that. Waltz gives his tour de force in four languages layered with charm and menace, while Mo’Nique gives hers in one language, amps up the menace, takes away charm, and adds insanity. Different styles of acting? Yes. But, both of these roles are antagonists.