Watch the Brilliant First Clips from #Macbeth with #MichaelFassbender!

Macbeth, Michael Fassbender, movie, poster, Marion Cotillard, Justin Kurzel, Shakespeare, Scottish play

Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth will have its (eagerly awaited) world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (May 23), as the final film in the main competition. (Bit of trivia. While it’s the third* film version of Shakespeare’s play to appear in Cannes, it is  the first to screen in competition.)

To celebrate, StudioCanal has just released two clips. At the risk of appearing to be a Fassbender fan site (since my last post was also about a Fassy film. What can I say, he’s about to have a HUGE year), I have to share them. Sweet baby jeebus, please let the rest of this film look as good as these tiny snippets!

The first clip, the appropriately titled “Battle” shows Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, with his friend and ally, Banquo (Paddy Considine) on one side and Jack Reynor as Malcolm on the other, as they prepare to fight in service of their king, Duncan (played by David Thewlis).

The mist shrouded Scottish Highlands are certainly used to good effect. The clip also reminds us that in those days, if you were tall enough to hold a sword, you were old enough to fight, as there seem to be a lot of teenage boys in the mix. As for the style, personally I can’t wait to see more. I like Kurzel’s choice to intercut the adreneline fueled, angry rush of one fighting force toward the other, with a silent, slow-motion, almost balletic clash. A battle scene shot like that (which, granted has been used poorly in less subtle ways since Zack Snyder made it popular with 300. I don’t anticipate cartoonish splatters of blood to fill the screen) makes the fight more personal, the combatants rendered individually rather than an angry, noisy clash of swords and bodies, where it’s impossible to tell who’s doing what to whom.

Speaking of 300, is it just me or is Fassbender’s leap an Easter Egg for fans who remember Stelios’ athleticism?

Stelios, 300, Michael Fassbender, Macbeth, photo, athleticism

The second clip, “Coronation” gives us a brief glimpse of the gorgeous (even under a veil) Marion Cotillard as Lady M, Sean Harris as Macduff and Elizabeth Debicki as his lady:

Even in that brief look, it’s clearly evident that the Macduffs are not happy with the precedings. But the biggest take-away for me is that stunning opening shot to this clip. I have rewatched it several times now and I’m just in awe of the way Kurzel and his director of photography, Adam Arkapaw (who worked with the director on The Snowtown Murders**), used the rays of the sun streaming through the cathedral windows to such great effect. They create a cross-hatch pattern that naturally blurs the background which makes the figures surrounding the throne stand-out in bas relief, despite the fact that they are in shadow.

Both of these snippets are short, but full of foreboding, the tension high, especially in the latter.

Macbeth, a duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Macbeth will get a UK release on October 2 (which curiously predates the opening of the BFI London Film Festival by five days. This seems like a natural choice. Oh well. No one asked me.). No US dates announced yet, but Harvey Weinstein won a bidding war for the rights and he’s already said he’s positioning it for an awards season push. Expect it in November or December.

*after 1971’s version directed by Roman Polanski and director Claude d’Anna‘s French version in 1987.

**The Snowtown Murders is on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

It Seems Michael Fassbender Has Been Bad…

Michael Fassbender, The Counsellor

…and I’ve a feeling that’s very, very good for the rest of us.

I’ve been talking about and extolling the talents of Michael Fassbender for quite some time now. Six years after 300, I can say that  the days  of “Michael who?” and “What’s a Fassbender?” may be over. Though still not exactly a household name, nor is he, thankfully, a staple of the tabloids (at least not in the US) and despite high profile roles in high profile films like X-Men: First Class and Prometheus, it is a shame (no pun intended) that instead of being recognized for his talent, he’s most widely known for having the guts to display a certain sacred part of the male anatomy (and not the first time either, by the way).

Ever hopeful, I think that’s about to change.

I’ve already mentioned one of the two of Fassbender’s  “Oscar bait” films due out this year and discussed my opinion of his awards chances when I posted the trailer for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.  The second is Sir Ridley Scott’s The Counselor.

From an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, The Road and All The Pretty Horses), we may need a Venn diagram for The Counselor’s pedigree. Re-teaming with his Prometheus director, Sir Ridley, the film also puts Fassbender back together with Brad Pitt, who has a small role in 12 Years a Slave.  Cameron Diaz (as Malkina. Think she’s a ‘bad girl’?) took a role originally intended for Pitt’s paramour Angelina Jolie, as well as Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem (would you believe Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner were rumored for his role?), but they don’t share any scenes together. Bardem, who won an Oscar for No Country for Old Men, seems to be trying to out-weird Anton Chigurh’s infamous bowl haircut with the coke-addled Troll doll look seen in the stills below.

Fassbender plays “the Counselor”, a successful lawyer who gets himself tangled up and in over his head with unscrupulous (are there any other kind?) drug dealers.

Sir Ridley told Empire Magazine that the story  has “classic Cormac McCarthy darkness which makes you sick to the pit of your stomach… It’s saying: ‘Don’t play with the devil, don’t step across the line, don’t think you can do it and get away with it. You can’t.'”

Take a look at this first trailer:

The rest of the cast includes Natalie Dormer, Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Goran Visnjic, Bruno Ganz, and Ruben Blades. 20th Century Fox will release The Counselor in the US on October 25 and in the UK on 15th November.

Oh and if the high brow likes of The Counselor and 12 Years a Slave weren’t enough of a Fassy fix for 2013, there’s also the upcoming comedy (that’s right folks, comedy…okay it’s a dramedy), Frank , costarring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domnhall Gleeson, loosely based on the life of paper mache-head wearing Frank Sidebottom, the alter-ego of British comedian and musician Chris Sievey, who died of cancer in 2010. While that part certainly isn’t funny, the fact that Frank Sidebottom always performed with a hand puppet called “Little Frank” (especially being played by Michael Fassbender) is.

More on Frank when the trailer is released. I can’t wait!

Where Do I Begin?

I want to talk about X-Men: First Class. I don’t want to do a typical review. There are plenty of them available, by amateurs and professionals alike, if that’s what you’re looking for. I also don’t want to turn this into a gushing Fassbender fangurrrl post either…and I SOOO easily could.

Okay, I guess I’ll start there. Succinctly, Michael Fassbender OWNED this movie. There are, of course, two characters at the center of this film, James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr. Everything and everyone orbits around them. They are tentative friends, uneasy allies, yin and yang, two sides of the same coin. McAvoy was good. I don’t want to take anything away from him, but I always see either James McAvoy or I see Mr. Tumnus* in every role he plays. Charles Xavier is also the less "showy" or flashy of the two. The manifestation of his mutation isn’t visible to the naked eye.  He has merely to lay a finger alongside of his temple and concentrate, as if he were in deep thought.  His character looks like a ‘professor’. All that is missing from his wardrobe are suede elbow patches. (Those probably come later. I have to say other than the fact that I’m aware of some of the characters portrayed in the earlier films, I don’t know much about them. Someone else will have to tell you how well this movie fits in with the canon.)

Fassbender’s Magneto on the other hand, is in a word, magnetic. If Charles Xavier looks like your eccentric uncle who taught you to play chess and gave you a chemistry set for Christmas, Erik Lehnsherr looks like your swinging single bachelor uncle that you know is probably up to no good, but is probably having a hell of a lot of fun. He speaks several languages with ease (including French, Castilian Spanish and the actor’s native German.) We know what Charles’ best pick up lines are. We doubt Erik needs them.  (I could sing odes to the menswear of the early sixties, write sonnets extolling the virtues of well-tailored flat front, straight legged trousers or the joys of a good leather jacket. Costume Designer Sammy Sheldon-who also did the costumes for Kick-Ass and Stardust– is going on my Christmas card list for that three piece suit that matched the color of Fassbender’s eyes. She goes in my will for the pocket square**.)

The character’s backstory is heart wrenching and compelling and the actor takes full advantage of it.  There is so much going on inside Erik at all times and Fassbender makes sure we know it. At one point, Charles says to Erik, "There is so much more to you than just your anger." And we know that. We see it. The scene in question comes at about the midpoint of the movie and in it, McAvoy comes the closet to matching Fassbender’s intensity. Both times I saw the film and the scene, I had an emotional reaction, but it is another moment that ultimately belongs only to Fassbender. When Charles pulls that memory out of Erik, Fassbender makes the viewer feel and experience it the same way that Erik does.  When it’s a physical struggle to use his gift, he makes sure we know that too. It is clear from the first time that we see the adult Erik Lehnsherr that Fassbender has approached the role with the same zeal and passion with which he approaches every role he tackles.

Apparently, the decision to let us see Magneto shed tears in the above mentioned scene was the actor’s own. As he told Chris Lee of ‘The Daily Beast’, "Everything I put my name to and take part in, I want to be good. That’s not saying it will always happen. But I want to make bold choices. That scene was very important to me." Given what he went through to change his entire body for Hunger, I think we can believe him.

Much has been said about the style of this film and that it could be seen as not only an homage to, but an audition for the James Bond franchise. I think director Matthew Vaughn probably did have the Connery era Bond films in mind when creating the look and feel of …First Class, which frankly is only natural. The timing is apt in terms of when the film is set, which would naturally dictate the wardrobe and set decoration. There are even the requisite two "Bond girls" in January Jones’ Emma Frost*** (the bad girl) and Rose Byrne’s Moira McTaggert (the good girl- without this premise, there can be no other explanation for Byrne running around in vintage lingerie.) Beyond that, the early Bond films were excellent examples of how to do this type of film right. They all appeared to take the subject matter seriously, including outlandish plots, sci-fi inspired gadgets and over-the-top villains, but did so with a twinkle in the eye. Vaughn has captured the spirit of those films while also imbuing this one with a great deal of heart and soul.

I love Daniel Craig’s Bond, but if he decided to step down, I wouldn’t mind seeing Michael Fassbender take the Astin Martin out for a spin. He could certainly bring the suave sophistication and charm needed for the role, and I don’t think his ability to handle the action sequences required should be in question either. (You have seen 300, right?)  

I also like the idea of Vaughn someday being invited to take the reins of a Bond film. Matthew Vaughn’s previous three films all reside on my dvd shelves and JMHO, they are among the best of the last ten years. They are genre defying, as if Vaughn is resisting being put into any sort of niche and proving that there isn’t anything he can’t tackle. It’s tempting to say that  X-Men: First Class resembles his last film, Kick-Ass, and that’s probably the film that got him this gig, but that would be missing the point. Kick-Ass is based on a comic book, as are the X-Men films. But Kick-Ass is tongue-in-cheek if not outright parody. In my opinion, the main thing they have in common is that the players and film makers translated their love of the material to the screen and that both films are a lot of fun to watch.

To digress but a little, I love that Matthew Vaughn has accrued a "company" of sorts. He’s made three films with screenwriter Jane Goldman, three with Costume Designer Sammy Sheldon, this is his second with composer Henry Jackman (and I must say I loved the score for this film) and all four of his films have featured actor Jason Flemyng. I had all but forgotten that Azazel was Flemyng until the credits because his makeup renders him unrecognizable. Bit of Vaughn trivia: Sebastian Shaw’s yacht shares the name "Caspertina" with Capt. Shakespeare’s boat in Stardust. The name is a hybrid of two of Vaughn’s children: Caspar and Clementine.

Brandon Gray at Box Office Mojo is claiming that the $21 million opening day take for X-Men: First Class was a sizable step down from X-Men Origins: Wolverine which made $34.4 million on its opening day. (Living in a large metropolitan and avidly movie-going city, I am sometimes misled by appearances. I saw the film on opening day in the middle of a Friday afternoon and the theater was full. I saw it again the following morning at 10am and the theater was full.)  In any case, what is not taken into account by these numbers is that Wolverine had at best lukewarm reviews and the box office dropped off sharply after opening weekend. I predict that …First Class has legs.

It’s already received very high marks from critics and I suspect that word of mouth will keep it alive for many weeks to come. Next week, its only real competition will come from the Spielberg-esque, JJ Abrams film Super 8.  If the internet and social media have distorted the appetite for …First Class, it has provided nearly all of the appetite for Super 8. If …First Class supposedly suffered from the lack of marquee names like Hugh Jackman, but still included McAvoy, Fassbender, Bacon et al, consider that Super 8 has NO big name stars. JJ Abrams’ name has a certain amount of cachet, as of course, does producer Spielberg’s, but trailers just started to appear on television about a week ago. I saw one in the theater with Thor, but none since. I just don’t see it as being a threat. JMHO. And while Kung Fu Panda 2 and Hangover 2 will still be around, they have already slipped considerably.  I predict that X-Men: First Class will hang on to the number one spot next week.

In any case, based on this report and Gray’s supposition at the top of his piece, I have to concur with Edward Douglas of comingsoon.net who tweeted: "Based on this opening weekend, I predict that at least one X-Men cameo appears in the commercials next week." I’m trying desperately to only hint and not spoil. Work with me here people.

As I said, I’m unfamiliar with the other X-Men films. I can only take X-Men: First Class at face value. As an entertainment and as a showcase for the talents of its cast and crew, I have to declare it an unqualified success.

Side note: Ultimately I’m not sure it matters since the purists who care about this sort of thing have probably already dismissed Gavin Hood’s Wolverine film, but the timeline’s will probably make some fan boys heads explode. (I succumbed and finally watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine between starting and finishing this piece. It was a struggle.) At the end of Wolverine, a young Emma Frost is seen getting on a plane with an already bald, but still walking Charles Xavier and yet the adult Emma Frost in …First Class knows Charles as a young man with a full head of hair and becomes paraplegic while she’s incarcerated at CIA headquarters.  Just sayin’.







*McAvoy’s breakout role from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
**Oh yes, a perfectly folded pocket square with just a half inch of deep purple silk above the edge. You’re welcome 😉
***A word about January Jones. She is one of the luckiest "actresses" on the planet, to have stumbled into not one but 2 roles that only require her to stand there and look good and all with the same expression on her face. The minute she opens her mouth all bets are off.

“You WON’T be baaahk”

Over the weekend, an actor looking for a jumpstart to his stalled movie career made a ridiculous remark to the press; a remark meant to appear casual but was, of course, anything but. While it’s not news for an actor to utter something facile for no other reason than to garner the attention it will generate, one would think that an actor who prides himself on his intelligence, would in this instance, know better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, was quoted by Entertainment Weekly as having asked his friend, 300 producer Mark Canton, how he could go about duplicating Gerard Butler’s famous physique from that film. Canton probably thought he was being funny when he supposedly quipped that those muscles cost him "a lot of money." Yes they probably did. I’m sure that the services of fitness Nazi Mark Twight or Venezuelan bodybuilder Franco LiCastro, do not come cheap. But that glib remark negates the blood, sweat, puke and God knows what else, that went into the forming of Butler’s muscles, as well as those of the rest of Zack Snyder’s Spartan army. (Snyder subjected himself to the same rigorous training.)

Both Schwarzenegger and Canton have certainly been around long enough to know not only how the system works, but how to manipulate it to their own ends. Regardless of how it was intended, if indeed Canton intended it as a joke that Ahnold ran with, The Guvernator had to know how it would sound to a scandal hungry press. (The Black Swan thing turned out to be a bust…NEXT!)A so-called legitimate source like Entertainment Weekly ran to press, probably foaming at the mouth, with this prize tid-bit without checking its legitimacy and of course it immediately bounced all over the web where news outlets and blogs, with even lower standards and more lax policies with reference to fact checking, reprinted or reposted it verbatim. (Some even listed the source.)

I’m not the first person, or even the first person with a blog, to be up in arms about this. I think that’s a good thing. Voices other than my own have expressed their outrage better, some even going so far as to intelligently point out the disloyalty that actors who may work for Mark Canton in the future can expect from him, but I think anyone who watched an interview or read an article about the ‘300 Workout’, certainly anyone who bought a ticket to the movie itself, should be incensed. We all need to get on our soapboxes and bang on our drums. Let Schwarzenegger and Canton know how we feel and especially whose side we’re on. (Admittedly, I have a certain bias toward Butler. That, however, has nothing to do with calling foul on stupidity wherever I find it.) Frankly, they both owe Gerard Butler (as well as Zack Snyder, Mark Twight and Franco LiCastro, to name a few) an apology.

JMHO.

"CGI?!?"

"Hey AHNOLD!"

"I got yer f*ckin’ CGI…"

"Could the Terminator crack walnuts with his ass?? I don’t think so…"

“Go away and stop pissin’ me off…”


Word of the Day for Tuesday, April 5, 2011

irascible \ih-RASS-uh-buhl\, adjective:

Prone to anger; easily provoked to anger; hot-tempered.

Hmmm…

“Ohhh Rochester…” Another Fassbender Post

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I like my books a little hard boiled, a little rough around the edges, if you will, but if I have to read a ‘romance novel’, I prefer the classics. 

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I tend to gravitate toward what are known as ‘Byronic heroes’ like  Captain Wentworth in “Persuasion” by Jane Austen, Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”,  Dorian Gray from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, and Steerforth from Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.” And then, of course, there is Edward Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s  Jane Eyre”

“Jane Eyre” has been filmed many, many times (the first dates back to 1910) and unlike some other translations of novel to screen, there have been many excellent adaptations, including but not limited to Robert Stevenson’s film from 1943 with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine as well as Franco Zefferelli’s 1996 version featuring William Hurt and the underrated Charlotte Gainsbourg. Anna Pacquin played the young Jane.

When I heard that there was to be yet another cinematic retelling of this classic novel, my first reaction was to wonder whether or not we really needed one.  We just had the PBS/BBC co-production in 2006 with the great Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson (“Luther”). And after the last one that I saw, 1997’s BBC adaptation starring Ciaran Hinds as Rochester and Samantha Morton as Jane, (which in turn followed closely on the heels of the Zefferelli film)  I thought ,“That’s it. Hinds is the definitive Rochester. I’m done, show me no more.”

…and then Cary Fukunaga had to go and cast Michael Fassbender. Oh my sweet hell…

 

Moviefone exclusive clip:

If this scene is indicative of the rest of the movie, then the film will be absolutely pitch perfect. Watch it again…notice the way that they inch toward each other…

 (Actual conversation between me and one of my besties:

KB: How did she pull away???? She’s a better woman than me…

 Me: I don’t know. I mean, I know it’s acting, but still! A will of iron!

 KB: You MUST lean toward the screen, hoping to get to his mouth

 Me: Or at least hoping Jane will…     I think part of it is that Fassbender doesn’t appear to be that much "larger" than Jane and then there’s that voice. You don’t expect that voice…

 KB: No you don’t, but WE knew it was there…)

This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.

Sure, those of us who are followers of Mr. Fassbender’s work have seen it. We saw it in doomed Esme1, in (again doomed) young Stelios2, in Lt. Archie Hickox3,  (What is it with the dying?) There were hints in Connor in Andrea Arnold’s brilliant Fishtank, but while brimming with sexual magnetism, he was at the very least a cad, at worst a predator. It was there in Azazeal from “Hex”, but he was, you know, Satan. (Byronic heroes are supposed to be, like Byron himself “mad, bad and dangerous to know”4, but that’s taking things to an extreme.)  

I submit the closest we’ve gotten, to this point, was Thomas Rainsborough in 2008’s mini-series “The Devil’s Whore.” (If in doubt, watch episode 4. It’s on youtube,) but Fassbender fans have never seen him play a romantic hero like this.

We have been waiting for a role like Edward Rochester. 

Rochester is stern and not particularly handsome, but he and Jane are kindred spirits. He is the first person in the novel to offer Jane lasting love and a real home. Although he is Jane’s social and economic superior, (men were widely considered to be naturally superior to women in the Victorian period) Jane is Rochester’s intellectual equal and moral superior. He is a true ‘Byronic hero’.

 

The Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following traits:

  • Arrogance
  • intelligence and perception
  • cunning and adaptability
  • suffering from an unnamed crime
  • a troubled past
  • sophisticated and educated
  • self-critical and introspective
  • mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
  • struggles with integrity
  • possesses the power of seduction and sexual attraction
  • exhibits social and sexual dominance
  • emotionally conflicted, moody, perhaps even bi-polar
  • a distaste for social institutions and norms
  • is an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
  • disrespect of rank and privilege
  • jaded, world-weary
  • cynicism
  • self-destructive behavior

Three of my favorite actors, Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy and yes, Michael Fassbender can tick off a great many traits on this list, which is undoubtedly part of why I’m drawn to them.  In a bit of verisimilitude, Hardy has played Heathcliffe. Butler, the titular role in The Phantom of the Opera, (which although it’s not my favorite among the characters that he has played, it does fit the bill to a tee.) Now Fassbender has Rochester. 

Jane Eyre would seem to be an odd choice for wunderkind Cary Fukunaga’s second feature film. His first, 2009’s Sin Nombre, was nominated for and won numerous festival and critics association awards, but nothing about it suggests that its director was ready to deliver a fresh, sexy, nuanced take on a classic of Victorian ‘chick-lit.’

Based on a trailer and two clips, Australian actress Mia Wasikowska looks to become the definitive Jane Eyre. Physically she’s perfect; frail and small one moment, but hinting at an inner strength. Plain enough to appear ordinary and then beautiful with the transforming power of love. She may have a difficult name, but she is one of a crop of current ‘IT girls’, and an extremely talented one. Since appearing as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, she’s played one of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s kids in The Kids Are Alright and in addition to Jane Eyre, she has two other completed films due for release in 2011 and is currently filming The Wettest County in the World with Tom Hardy.

As for Michael Fassbender, I’ve talked about him a lot on this blog. (Hit his tag on the left and the posts will come up.) He is already “obsessed over by cool people”5, and I’d like to think I can count myself in that number. His Rochester will become just another arrow in his artistic quiver. It may not even be the most interesting performance we see from him this year, since he’s already got Carl Jung (David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method) and Magneto under his belt.

Jane Eyre is released in the US on 11 March 2011.

Official site: trailers.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/janeeyre/

(trailer and clips can be found here)

ivillage exclusive clip: www.ivillage.com/exclusive-clip-jane-eyre/1-h-321698

1.       Francoise Ozon’s Angel, 2007

2.      Zack Snyder’s 300, 2007

3.      Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, 2009

4.      Lady Caroline Lamb

5.      Nathaniel Rogers, TheFilmExperience.net 10 February 2011

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Speaking of Magneto…

I never saw any of the other X-Men films, although I tried to watch the Hugh Jackman prequel Wolverine (operative word being "tried"). I’ll see X-Men:First Class for two reasons 1. Matthew Vaughn, director of Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass. We love Matthew Vaughn  and 2. Michael Fassbender.  "Peace was never an option."  *shudder…thud*

Here’s the trailer along with commentary by Fassbender and MTV’s Josh Horowitz


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In other news, it has been confirmed that The Weinstein Co. has indeed purchased the US distribution rights for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus! As I’ve already postulated, this really bodes well for the film’s prospects.

Immortality, Baby!

“Marky Mark” Wahlberg has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor-Drama. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence. (Actually, I was going to wait to do this post until next month when the Academy Award nominations are announced. At this point, I predict he’ll be nominated for one of those, too. Recent developments, however, have led me to believe the time is right.)

While I am very happy for this former Calvin Klein Underwear model and erstwhile rapper, and I actually believe that his role as Micky Ward is the role of a life-time and he did a fantastic job, my first thought was not about him at all. My first thought was:

Gerard Butler, you’d better get your shit together.

There is absolutely no reason that an actor of Gerard Butler’s caliber, name recognition and popularity, should not be offered the same types of roles that I see other actors, with less of those things, getting all the time.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Mr. Walhberg, that’s not my point. I say again that I loved The Fighter and he was fantastic in it. My point is that he fought for that role. He knew what it could do for him and what he could bring to it. He believed in his abilities as an actor and as a producer he worked for many years to get the movie made. He watched the lead yo-yo away from and back to him several times, but he wanted it and in the end he made sure he got it. And with that performance, Mark Wahlberg has finally gotten what he’s said he really wanted, respect as an actor.

This is what I expect from Gerard Butler. This is what I want for Gerard Butler.

He’s on the right track. He’s acquired a production company with his longtime manager, Alan Siegel, and he’s acted as producer on two films so far, 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen, and 2011’s Machine Gun Preacher.

I’m on the record as having enjoyed LAC and any reader of this blog knows just how biased I am about Mr. Butler, but I have to say that however the film was received by critics, it was an important step in his education. I’m sure the learning experience G had while making that movie was both immeasurable and priceless. (Although, it must be said that the movie did make some money.)

I am of the opinion that his next foray into production, Machine Gun Preacher, would not have gotten made if he hadn’t been attached as an actor, and also if his production company hadn’t gotten involved as well. Now, I have not seen this film yet, but by all accounts it has a great deal more gravitas than most of his other post-300 projects combined. And frankly, that’s what he needs: Gravitas. Or at least he needs to be perceived as someone who possesses this quality.

The film that could give him this in spades, if it is successful, looks to be the next one out of the gate. There had been reports that Ralph Fiennes directorial debut, Coriolanus, will open in some European cities as early as February of 2011. There have already been screenings in London and the word that is leaking out about G is very positive. (In a bit of theatrical serendipity, both Fiennes and Butler have appeared on stage in the play. In fact, it was G’s first professional gig as an actor.) Indeed, just this morning it was announced that Coriolanus will screen at the prestigious Berlinale in early February. (There is some discrepancy as to whether it will show in or out of competition. I’ve seen conflicting reports on this point.) Regardless, this is a very good thing. The Berlin fest is among the world’s top four, in my opinion, (along with Cannes, Toronto and Venice) and it means the world is eagerly awaiting Fiennes’ first directorial effort.

Fiennes is an actor who has gravitas coming out of his ears. Even his years playing a Harry Potter villain have somehow only managed to increase it and one would never associate Ralph Fiennes with a bad rom-com with a high powered co-star desperate for a hit…errr…okay, make that SHOULD never. At least he learned his lesson and stopped at one. Besides, The End of the Affair excuses a multitude of sins. As usual, I digress. The point is that Ralph Fiennes hand-picked Gerard Butler (whose name incidentally helped get the film financed) to play Coriolanus’ antagonist Tullus Aufidius, opposite him.

It will not matter what the general public thinks about this film, especially since most will probably have a hard time finding a movie like this and will have to make the concerted effort to seek it out via “On Demand” and dvd. If critics and industry insiders like and admire this movie, it will go a long way to reshaping Butler’s career path.

The point of this post is that I still see great potential in this man. He doesn’t need to coast on being, for example, ‘the poor man’s Russell Crowe.’ Russell Crowe is a great actor and no matter what else anyone thinks of him with reference to matters not film related, he has achieved a certain status for it. He gets the good scripts and works with the best directors and has projects lined up for at least the next five years. Physically, he may not be in Gladiator form and probably won’t be again, but it doesn’t seem to be important to him (or his career.) He’s still acting and turning in fantastic performances. He’s certainly not resting on the laurels that he earned in that film.

While the gossip rags may taunt him forever about not maintaining his Leonidas physique, it’s time for G to stop resting on the kudos he got for “300.” More importantly, he needs to stop coasting on Dear Frankie, the movie that most of Hollywood thinks of as the one that proved he could actually act, even though very little of the ticket buying public has seen it.

He needs to decide whether he wants to be an actor or a movie star. (I’m sure the latter is much more fun.) I may have gotten this totally wrong, but when I first discovered this guy, I was under the impression that the work mattered to him. Listen to him talk about a role he’s passionate about and you’ll probably feel the same way. Watch “Wrath of Gods,” a documentary about the making of 2005’s Beowulf & Grendel (bit of trivia: WOG is actually the 1st film on which he’s listed as producer, but not with his shingle, Evil Twins) and listen to him talk about that film, including characterization and the movie-making process. Has that artistic fire burned out completely in the intervening five years? (We won’t discuss where the accent has gone.)

Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t believe he likes being more well known for the parties he attends and the models he’s allegedly keeping company with. He’s just living his life, grabbing all the gusto he can. Hell, if I woke up every morning and looked at that face in the mirror and had the readies he has access to, I’d be doing the same thing. (He’s also, in my humble opinion, trying to stave off the march of time, probably for a lot of reasons.)

As an avowed fan of Gerard Butler, I realize my credibility when discussing this subject is already in question. All I can do is assure you, gentle reader, that I do not view this man through any variation of rose-tinted glasses, (although I’d like to view him through those Marc Jacobs shades he frequently sports. For some reason I really like those.) He is not on a pedestal of my making and I am not of the opinion he can do no wrong.

It drives me absolutely batshit when I read the delusional ramblings of women who see him as perfect, simply because he is beautiful, and verbally spew their virtual wailing and keening and rending of clothes across the internet because of the bad rap his acting and his antics have gotten lately. He’s a grown man, he can and will do what he wants regardless of what I think and I’m pretty sure his ‘soul’ will survive if the self-appointed guardians stopped guarding it. (He is not now, nor has he ever really been “Erik.”) That sort of behavior diminishes all of us who consider ourselves fans (with an ‘F’ not a ‘PH.’)

I say all that by way of disclaimer. The hopes I have for G are inspired by the potential I have seen and still see in him. The movie business is capricious at best. It can all change in an instant. I have touted the talents in previous posts of two of Butler’s recent co-stars, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender. While I grant you they are younger than G, like him they have both been toiling away at their craft for many years, and yet suddenly they are two of Hollywood’s hottest “It Boys.” Despite amazing performances in several critically acclaimed indies like “Hunger” and “Fish Tank,” it took a small role in a film like Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” to catapult Fassbender into the mainstream. For Hardy, it was Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Wahlberg had quietly been accumulating an impressive list of credits over the course of the last fifteen years, but I believe his big moment started with “The Departed,” directed by one Martin Scorsese and continues with the words “…Award nominee.”

I’d just really like it if one of these days someone sat down and wrote the line: Gerard Butler has been nominated for a Golden Globe…or an Academy Award.

Now, that’s immortality baby!

thanks for reading…

*Click Click*

The Fightah is a Winnah

Peter Keogh, writing in The Boston Phoenix, compiled a list of the year’s best "Boston" accents on film. thephoenix.com/Boston/movies/112435-six-boston-accents-worthy-of-oscar/

Prior to having seen The Fighter, I would have agreed with him that Jeremy Renner’s accent in The Town should be at the top of the heap. It was spot on perfect and yes, even better than "native" Ben Affleck’s.  (Renner deserves a nomination for the role in any case.)

I would also agree that Boston/Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg’s is not as good as Christian Bale’s, but for different reasons.  For one thing, Bale is British (they seem to have an easier time with regional American accents like those in the Northeast and the deep South, probably because they all drop their ‘R’s) and a talented mimic of accents. (Bit of trivia: he has used a different accent for every single role.) For another, he seems to be the only one who gets that Lowell is not Dorchester (or Charlestown or Boston.)  Just as you wouldn’t mistake a Geordie accent for one from Manchester, Liverpool or southeast London, not all Massachusetts accents are the same either, even if they all seem equally hard for actors to master. (Mel Gibson, or anyone else, in Edge of Darkness? Please.)

(In fact there isn’t really any such thing as a "Boston" accent anymore, in my opinion. Like any cosmopolitan city and especially one with 92 colleges and universities in a 50 mile radius, its inhabitants come from all over.  However, if you’re dealing with a movie about Massachusetts natives in a specific town or neighborhood, then you’re talking about a specific accent with its own attendant colloquialisms.)

So having said all that, I vote for Christian Bale’s accent in The Fighter as the best of the year. I also have to say that while I don’t get all of the comparisons the television ads are making, ("It’s Rocky, The Blindside and The Departed rolled into one…") the movie itself is one of the best films of the year. 

The Blindside? Didn’t see it so I cannot comment on whether the comparison is apt. The Departed? The only thing The Fighter has in common with that film is that they both contain otherwise talented actors struggling with local accents. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years and I can’t do justice to all the variations. (Another Brit, Ray Winstone, probably does the best job. Oh and that one had Mark Wahlberg in it too!)

Does it have anything in common with Rocky? Of course it does. It’s about a down-on-his-luck boxer.  If Wahlberg is Rocky then Bale is a combination of Paulie and Mickey. It has its Rocky-esque moments to be sure. There wouldn’t be a movie if it didn’t.  This time they’re set to Whitesnake instead of Bill Conti. (More trivia: 2nd soundtrack from a Mark Wahlberg sports film that I must have. The first: Invincible)

Before I get to the main event, I have to say that the entire cast of this film deserves to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award. (Why there is still no Oscar nor Golden Globe in this category is a travesty.) Melissa Leo is a fierce harridan of a mother, even if she tries too hard with her accent,  in the same vein as Jacki Weaver’s in Animal Kingdom, only without the murder. Although if the situation arose…. 

Amy Adams must have been either pregnant or had just had her baby when she filmed this movie. Her body is soft and lushly curvacious in a fleshy non-Hollywood way and unabashedly flaunted in low cut tops and tiny skirts. Her accent might not be the best, but she plays a tough, working-class bar wench better than I ever thought she would and certainly better than Enchanted could have suggested.

The main reason I want the cast nominated for a SAG though? I HAVE to see the "actresses" who played Dicky and Micky’s seven sisters up on that stage to accept it. I have no idea where they found those beauties. I can only assume they’re as local as the real members of the Ward/Eklund clan that fill out the credits.

I have to marvel, (and I know I’m not the first,) at Marky Mark’s transformation into Mark Wahlberg, in-demand, Golden Globe Award nominated actor and producer. Take a look at his list of credits on imdb just as an actor. It’s pretty impressive, with very few missteps. His acting chops get better with every role and since 2007’s We Own the Night, he’s also a producer. In addition to Entourage, he’s a producer for HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire" alongside Martin Scorsese (among others.)  Is there anyone who could have predicted that those names would appear in the same sentence? 

A lot of actors seem lately to have discovered that the best way to get a good role is find it for yourself and have turned to producing their own films. (Gerard Butler, no dummy, has entered this arena and I fully expect the caliber of his acting choices to steadily improve because of it.) Wahlberg is listed among the producers for The Fighter, along with Darren Aronofsky and Ryan Kavanagh and many others. (Does Ryan Kavanagh OWN Hollywood yet? He’s everywhere. The soundtrack is even on Relativity Records. Relativity Media seems to be the only game with money to spend these days. I want to start a campaign for them to back the next Bond film so the damn thing will get made already!)

Much has been made about Christian Bale’s performance and his physical transformation for his role as Dicky Eklund and indeed the first 20 minutes of the film you can’t take your eyes off of him. Not to mention, he’s always good. Christian Bale hasn’t given a bad performance since his first in Empire of the Sun and yes, I’ve seen Newsies.

But the movie belongs in equal part to Wahlberg. He underwent an amazing physical transformation as well. (Girly moment: Damn he looked good! Not ‘Gerard Butler in 300’ good, but still…)  Like the brothers sparring in the ring, the movie seems to trade punches, jabs and heavy hits from both actors, shifting its focus accordingly. Dicky is all bluster and showboating. Micky is quiet perserverance. They are two sides of the same coin and i don’t see how one could be singled out over the other. One of the last thoughts I had as the credits rolled was that a more appropriate title should have been "The Fighters."

It occurs to me I need a rating system. Thumbs are obviously taken, as are tomatoes, popcorn tubs and now scally caps. Of course, I could always go with stars. Those seem to be exempt from trademark. They’re also ordinary. This is my blog, I don’t want to be ordinary if I can help it. I think, for now, I’ll go with wee tigers (or as we say in these parts…tie-gahs)

As my first rated film, I will not-so-arbitrarily give The Fighter    (out of 5) That felt tremendous!  Ahhh what power I wield! LMAO

Alright ya greedy bastids…here’s ya treat: