Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It is that time of the season where everybody weighs in on what they think this seasons best chances are for Oscar picks and wins. I cannot say that I am an exact student of this school, but I have seen enough of the contenders, watched a bit of The Golden Globes, and am oh so ready to speak my peace.

For me, hands down, this year is all about Mickey Rourke and The Wrestler. His performance is so poignant, touching, and real. This is teeth gritting drama that punches along swiftly, sinking it's claws into the viewer from the get go, dragging you into wrestler Randy The Ram's sad world, where he once was  a top dog champion now relegated to the nether world of weekend matches set up in VFW halls and grade school cafeterias. Much has been made of how this role parallels Rourke's own acting come back, and in interviews he plays along nicely, but the observation is short sighted at best. This is a stunning performance by a major talent who, given the opportunity to shine again, unfettered, is a revelation. His physical presence alone, the way Rourke bulked up for this role, is much like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull- the thick, leather skinned, fake tanned, scarred up outer shell he wears here nearly a character unto itself. Director Darren Aronofsky, deciding for once to stop exploiting his pretensions, needed Rourke as much as Mickey needed him to make this sucker shine like the diamond ring in a cracker jack box of a film it is. Both men have constructed a modern era classic, and should be rewarded accordingly. Rourke already nabbed the Golden Globe for this, and should take home the Oscar if the academy isn't too blind.

MILK, on the other hand, I found quite mediocre. Sean Penn's performance as the gay Martin Luther King (my description) Harvey Milk is competent, but at many times annoying, as he staggers lightly through the film as if he were half way back in his I Am Sam impersonations of the mentally handicapped. Gus Van Sant's direction is typical of his now rather dull, dark lighting technique, a sort of compact, rustic yuppie stylization that has you struggling to stay interested. Josh Brolin is excellent as Dan White, Milk's murderer, and the rest of the cast do their best to make it more than your average bio pic, but it has  a very early to mid 1990's feel-which might have been the better time to have this thing come out. As for now, it just seems like window dressing.

FROST/NIXON surprised me. I expected little less than a recreation of past events the world already knows well. Instead, I got a richly nuanced film dripping with subtle performances that'll have you talking about Frank Langella's wonderful Nixon impersonation-how he gets to the charm, the ease, the professional part of the man that history has left for cold and sour. The crimes are always present, however, in one instant Langella has you rooting for old Tricky Dick and then BLAMO!-he cuts an aside that'll make you cringe, all the while addressing the more complex nature of this towering world figure. Nixon's legacy after this film may be re assessed to a certain degree, as well it should be, but the ghosts of worse objectives will never dissolve. 

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD was another surprise for me. This has been a favorite book of mine for quite some time, Richard Yates being one of our finest American novelists. Once I heard that old Leo was gonna star, I had serious doubts. And I was wrong. Decaprio, though possibly another 10 years from being a truly great actor, gets a part that is deserving of his looks as much as it is the best of his talent that he puts to good use here. Kate Winslet does a brilliant job as well, bringing this suburban horror show together with a stellar cast that includes the always great Kathy Bates, and a star turn from veteran actor Michael Shannon, who only in his 30's shows he has the muscle to be a front runner for best supporting actor at this year's big awards.

Lastly, for now, is GRAN TORINO, a movie with a mawkish, at times predictable, plot about the deep goodness of the human soul in times of adversity. It is also about friendship, honor, understanding, and the value of taking care of one and other, no matter the differences. A movie that cut straight to my heart, it made me laugh out loud, but also got me teared up just as much. Very worth seeing, even if it's not necessarily an award attractor.        

Saturday, January 3, 2009


The internet and all related news outlets are a buzz with Igor Panarin's proclamation that The United States Of America will split into 6 different financial regions by 2010 is such a well crafted media gimmick it's no wonder it's working so well. If Ronald Reagan ( a man I am no great fan of) were alive today I don't think he would be able to stop laughing. I certainly cannot, though the statement has turned me a bit more Patriotic than I am comfortable with. Not that I don't value the land from which I sprang, I ceratinly do, but Patriotism as defined can be a bit simple minded and is typically something for those who don't always value the true essence of this country and what it has given us-it's more about flag waving and self righteous prose than the strong ideas that built this world we value.

Panarin's comments are distressing because they are the old party line rhetoric from the old days of the Soviet Union, harking back to a time of divisive seperatism that harmed more than it helped. The statement is an obvious attempt to divide opinion, not only among the European community, but more so here in The United States Of America, where this type of projection is meant to get us back to the old behaviors of regional bickering, Panarin hoping to inject a sense of fear and ambivelence into our daily dialogues, setting up for yet another scenario of the 'Us Vs. them' dogma the more recent Russian government so badly seems to want to return to. It is a carefully crafted media con he is putting forth, almost prankster-ish in it's ability to wind up the American media, as well as creating a new sense of Russian identity after that country lost itself in a long haze of economic down fall that left it's once powerful identity severly damaged. Now, it seems, this man is determined, through a silly little quip, to re-create the Cold War on the world stage, re-claim his countries sense of pride, and try to get the world to succumb to some sort of gossip driven propaganda. Too bad it will not stand.

Not only are Americans more proud of their country than ever, our curent economic issues included, the rest of the world-be it Europe or Asia or South America, are just not that stupid. We have moved into the age of technology and communication, the 21st century, the advances in human thought-though seemingly slight to many, have developed into a place where statements such as this, in a common sense setting of everyday people doing everyday things, is not only laughable, but down right unacceptable. We are no longer a world of divisions in the old 20th century way. This is a new world of wide open opportunity, spiritual renewal and international connection that make people like Igor Panarin come off as just more tacky hold overs from an attitude and ideal that has long since worn out it's welcome. He'll get his 15 minutes, like the pet rock and Beanie Babies before him, but his infintile attempt at projecting the future will soon be revealed as the one note joke it truly is. So, enjoy the circus while it's in town, because eventually all clowns must remove their make up.