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I’m counting down all the movies released in 2012.  The ones I’ve seen, at any rate.  In what is unquestionably a timely manner.

#100.  Farewell, My Queen

Nominated for a ton of Cesar awards, it mostly lost out to Amour and Rust and Bone in the major categories, only managing wins for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Production Design.  Seeing as how those two movies already showed up on my list, I’d say it wasn’t a terribly good year for French film, at least in my humble opinion.  The film did have an interesting concept, I thought, with Lea Seydoux playing a reader for Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), who would do anything for her queen.  The final, oh, ten minutes or so are actually fairly gripping, as Seydoux’s character has to come to terms with what her devotion actually means.  The rest of the film, though, is all over the place, with subplots going all over the place and not doing much to support what I thought was the main crux of the movie.  In some sense, that may have been intentional, as the film depicts the uncertainty of the court following the storming of the Bastille.  But the chaos of the film doesn’t translate to an interesting viewing experience.  Don’t let the trailer fool you, the Sapphic nature of the relationship between the three gorgeous ladies is a very minor part of the plot.  And the cast is always kinda wasted, though maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not sure any actresses do cruel better than Seydoux and Kruger can.  Someone needs to write them a withering look-off, stat.

#99. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I like the idea of this movie more than the movie itself, I think.  It was a story of redemption for director John Madden, who had seemingly spiraled into directing increasingly obscure and, well, not good movies after helming Shakespeare in Love fifteen years ago.  It was a story of Hollywood economics, where everyone seemed stunned that a film starring a bunch of elderly British actors cavorting around India could be crazy profitable.  The only thing without a compelling story, as it turns out, was the film itself.  The premise was solid.  And the cast is fantastic.  I mean, any film with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson is going to be watchable on some level.  But the characters all had only the minutest of progressions.  As a pilot for a TV show, it got the job done.  As a complete movie, it seemed like the film got lost in all the characters and didn’t have enough time to give them all engaging arcs.

#98.  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I can still remember when last year’s Golden Globe nominations came out and the sheer befuddlement upon realizing this film, which had rather quietly come and gone from theaters, and had received pretty much zero awards love anywhere else, managed to pull down not one, not two, but three Golden globe nominations.  Never change, Globes.  Never change.  Not having read the novel, I can’t say for sure if it is the source material or the script (written by Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire along with nominations for The Full Monty and 127 Hours), but the film has a terrible case of ADD.  Subplots are picked up and put down seemingly at random, only to be picked up again several scenes later, when they’ve completely lost their resonance.  Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt are fine, if not terribly stretched.  Kristin Scott Thomas definitely made the most of her turn, and with a stronger script, probably could have received some awards attention.

#97.  Savages

We’ll talk more about Taylor Kitsch as the countdown goes on, I’m sure, but sure seems like Riggins’s luck has carried over from FNL.  Because I don’t see any way you can blame his string of flops on him.  Correlation does not equal causation!  Take this film.  Doesn’t matter who you put in his role, the film isn’t going to make any more sense.  For me, the film was one of those that wasn’t anywhere close to being as sexy, innovative, and envelope-pushing as it seemed to think it was.  Instead, everything felt unnecessarily over the top and campy without having a sense of humor at all.  So, boring, really.  Which is the worst crime of all to commit.  Especially because it wasted such a bizarre and fascinating cast.

#96.  Arbitrage

I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference between this film and a made-for-TV movie Hallmark mystery, other than this one had a better cast and the Hallmark movie would likely have more interesting twists.  Richard Gere generated some awards buzz, including a Globe nom, but I think that was more due to Richard Gere playing a douche than anything specific to the performance.  Not to take anything from Gere, the character just didn’t lend itself to anything career-defining.  The machinations related to various business deals aren’t anywhere near as interesting as it seems like they should be, and there’s a poorly-done subplot involving license plates that’s been done better by probably dozens of mystery shows.

#95.  Keep the Lights On

John and I discussed this film some in our Spirit Awards post, as the film received four nominations: lead actor, screenplay, director, and picture.  I thought Thure Lindhardt was pretty great, but the film didn’t do a whole lot for me.  I guess I sorta felt like I did about The Kids Are All Right, if the film was about a heterosexual couple, would it have received as much notice?  Obviously, in some sense that’s not fair at all.  Gay and heterosexual couples certainly had different experiences in the mid-90s, and I don’t mean to give that short shrift.  My point is more than I personally felt the hardships a gay man faced in the time were used, not necessarily as a crutch, but as a way to give more import to the characters than they may have otherwise deserved.

#94.  Think Like A Man

This movie raked in $90 million dollars, for the record.  Which says something.  The film heavily employs one of my least-favorite trappings of romantic comedies: boiling relationships down to a small set of rules which magically grant you all the power over the person you are chasing.  That said, the film is based on a relationship book by Steve Harvey, and I, for one, am not going to disagree with anything Steve Harvey has to say.  So the movie is basically the girls read the book, take the power in the relationships, and then the guys find out about the book and then they get the power.  Hilarity ensues somewhere along the way, I guess?  The biggest shame is how badly the cast is wasted.  Taraji P. Henson is all kinds of amazing and really should be getting better roles.  I’m hoping Almost Human works out for Michael Ealy, because he deserves a good vehicle (and not just because he’s from Silver Spring).  At this point in her career, Gabrielle Union should finding her way into more awards bait, instead of being an on-screen couple with Turtle (?!).  Etc.  Etc.  Pretty much the whole cast is coming back for a sequel, though, so look for it in theaters in June 2014.

#93.  Looper

The time travel/sci-fi movie for people who don’t like time travel/sci-fi movies.  Maybe my expectations were just too high for a time travel film directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and involving hitmen, Emily Blunt, and Jeff Daniels, but this movie just didn’t do anything for me.  All of the genre stuff was undercooked, the rest of the film wasn’t terribly interesting, and aside from maybe two or three scenes, Johnson’s signature flashy style was nowhere to be seen.  Where Brick was a fantastically creative take on noir, this one felt flat and uninspired.

#92.  Hope Springs

I made sure to watch this film for two main reasons.  First, I know John loved it.  Second, to more fully appreciate this subplot of a Bunheads episode.  Oh, Bunheads, you were gone too soon.  Anyway, turns out Tommy Lee Jones being uncomfortable with his sexuality is not enough to get me to like a movie.  Who knew?  I look forward to John calling me out in the comments, but as far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the whole premise of the movie, along with Meryl Streep, playing his wife, learning to stand up for herself a little more.  I mean, yeah, I guess it is charming at times, but the film has no real shape and isn’t particularly funny.

#91.  The FP

The Vegas line on where this film would end up on my list had to be around, like #10, right?  Basically a modern take on an 80s post-apocalyptic movie where gangs battle via a Dance Dance Revolution clone.  I mean, that sounds like a pure genius.  But I’m not sure I quite got the joke they were going for, or that they played the tone right.  1980s camp is a surprisingly difficult thing to emulate, I think.  And they played this one pretty straight, which I’m not certain was the right call for a story that never really made any sense at all.  I really wanted to like this one, but it just wouldn’t let me.

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You guys.  Oscar nominations come out January 10th.  Let’s get excited!  As is tradition, I’ll take a look as to where the race appears to be.  First up: Supporting Actor

VIRTUAL LOCK

(none)

GOOD BET

  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This category worries me a bit, but Tommy Lee Jones seems pretty safe to make it through to the next stage.  He’s riding a crowd-pleasing role in the presumptive favorite for Best Picture.  And he has history with the Academy (nominated for Best Actor for In the Valley of Elah, and Supporting Actor for JFK along with a win for Supporting Actor for The Fugitive).

LIKELY IN

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Alan Arkin, Argo

I haven’t seen The Master yet, but Hoffman’s role is apparently quite meaty.  Like Tommy Lee Jones, he’s got two unsuccessful Oscar noms (Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War and Doubt) and a win (Capote).  The only knock is that The Master seemed to have run out of steam about a month ago, so it is hard to say for sure that he’ll be safe.

Wanna take a guess when Robert de Niro last received an Oscar nomination?  That’d be 1992, for Cape Fear.  He also has noms for AwakeningsThe Deer HunterTaxi Driver, and wins for Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II.  Sure seems like the Academy would LOVE to get de Niro back in the conversation.  The catch is that he actually isn’t terribly good in the movie, it just seems that way compared to the rest of his output over the last two decades (save for Stardust).

Alan Arkin has an Oscar win for Little Miss Sunshine and prior to that had two noms in the 60s for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming.  He’s good in a small role which happens to be a movie producer, complete with a catchphrase, in a likely Best Picture nominee.  The only question mark is that there isn’t a ton to the role in a film that has a huge ensemble.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Javier Bardem, Skyfall
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
  • Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
  • Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
  • Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

The fifth slot could go a ton of different ways.  “Genre” movies can occasionally break through, with Heath Ledger the obvious recent example.  Bardem’s role wasn’t quite in that league, but he’s been receiving a decent number of accolades and has a history with the Academy, plus Skyfall appears to have a chance at some Oscar traction.  Django Unchained came out late, of course, and it is still hard to gauge the reaction.  DiCaprio and Jackson both appear to have a lot of fun playing heavies, but Waltz is in a much larger role.  Matthew McConaughey has had a heck of year, which could lead voters to rally around his solid role in Magic Mike, buoyed by all those stories you hear of the film making $100 million off a $7 million dollar budget.  That said, it remains to be seen if the Academy is gender neutral about their strippers with hearts of gold.  I don’t know what to do with Les Miserables at this point.  Some people love it, that’s for sure.  Maybe that will mean enough support for Redmayne, since I don’t see people going for Crowe.

DARK HORSES

  • Russell Crowe, Les Miserables
  • John Goodman, Argo
  • John Goodman, Flight
  • Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ewan McGregor, The Impossible
  • William H. Macy, The Sessions

Crowe is dealing with criticisms of his singing.  Goodman has to deal with votes being split between two tiny, but showy, roles.  Henry has to deal with fewer people seeing his movie.  What little capital The Impossible has left is being spent on the push for Naomi Watts.  And The Sessions is suffering from a lack of buzz, which would be needed to garner this nomination.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe
April 2019
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