Thursday, October 22, 2009

AMELIA

The review...
If you’re going to make a film about an aviatrix, it better soar. Mira Nair's AMELIA seems to understand this with reverent voiceovers about flight sprinkled throughout. It even begins by prepping for liftoff as we see Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) waving from her plane’s wing, about to embark on a historic flight. Unfortunately it's the historic flight, as in her last. Argh! The movie has opted for that musty old biopic framing device: Start at the famous end, jump backwards in time to see how it all began, count down with us to the famous celebrity death! When a biopic begins this way, you have to worry that it has nothing fresh to say, being closer in spirit to a Wikipedia entry than a movie.

From that initial take off, complete with an overzealous score that assumes every moment's a climactic one, Amelia the film zooms through Amelia the person's rise to fame as if we all know every detail and can't wait to get to that doomed flight. Though clearly in a rush to get there, it feels like it's crawling rather than flying toward its final destination...
Read the rest at Towleroad.

In that weekly column at Towleroad (for those of you who don't read it, it's a popular news site "with homosexual tendencies") I'm expected to cover new releases but the content and focus is of my choosing. I knew I had to write about "Amelia" since she's a lesbian icon although the movie Amelia won't be a hit with the ladies who love ladies. [Tangent: I'm unsurprised by the immediate regurgitated arguments about Earhart's orientation popping up in the comments at Amelia's official site. This always happens with historical figures who are either rumored to have been gay or are of particular fascination to the gays. It's the way of things.]

One thing I didn't mention in this review is how absolutely crazy the sanctification of Saint Amelia made me. I understand that the rarity and vast achievements of iconic historical figures practically insures that they will be viewed through a distorted lens (color, rose). They're our cultural heroes, after all. But it's anti-dramatic to sanctify your lead... not to mention historically suspect. If you're going to make a movie about a hero, allow them to have edges or curves. We know them two-dimensionally already! The casting of Hilary Swank (though she looks nearly perfect for the role) adds to this problem since she loves to be martyred and sanctified as an actress. Oh shush, you know she does!

"Sorry, haters. I got two! No takebacks allowed."

Oscar hopes? Two longshot possibilities only I think: Swank for Best Actress (they sometimes lose their minds for this sort of stiff biographical posing. See... well, see a lot of nominees) and the cinematography by the great Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, The Painted Veil). His work is part of the sanctification problem but hot damn it's pretty.

Coming tomorrow: "Antichrist" and by that I mean the movie and not Hilary Swank.
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23 comments:

Danny King said...

I look forward to your Antichrist review, that film has been quite the hot topic today.

I really hope the Academy doesn't feel the need to recognize this film. I have not seen it, but the reviews have been about as bad as Transformers 2.

Anonymous said...

Amelia is getting horrific reviews. I can't see Swank possible getting an Oscar nomination. Do you really think she has a shot?

joy said...

I don't think Swank has even a long shot of getting her
third Oscar nom. A GG nom is possible though.

It seems that both "Betty Anne Waters" and "Mother and Child" will be released next year, so she and Bening will likely face each other off again.

They must have been doomed lovers in their last life. I kinda want them to play lesbian couple.

Glenn said...

Well, Amelia is lagging behind Elizabeth: The Golden Age on RT, and that film was the worst reviewed film of the decade to receive a major category nom (pic, dir, acting)... if I'm not mistaken. It's at 22% and it seems mystifying that a movie with that score (41 at Metacritic) scoring a Best Actress nomination. Especially when there's so many other strong contenders in far stronger films.

NATHANIEL R said...

Glenn. I hope you're right but if enough precursors attempt to "predict" Oscars rather than handing out honors, she is playing a teary biopic role and the whole movie is about how awesome she is (and that pedestal placing is big with Oscar)

i'm just nervous is all.

jane said...

Nat, everything that you do is filled with "homosexual tendencies".

Mad Herod said...

The poster is false advertising as its best, as we are led to believe she was more into plane-fucking than lesbianism

cal roth said...

That makes Marion Cotillard even stronger: she'll take the popular choice votes.

Anonymous said...

Amelia is now at 16% on Rotton Tomatoes. Swank scoring an Oscar nod with this rating would be criminal...

NATHANIEL R said...

jane i don't know about everything ;) but i hope you don't mean that as an insult.

joy lol

cal why are you certain Cotillard will be so popular? We have zero reviews on this movie yet, save for test screening buzz which says the performance is good.

if there's a populist choice among the future nominees, it's totally already Streep in Julie & Julia.

adam k. said...

Yeah, a French former oscar winner playing a put upon wife in a highbrow musical directed by Rob Marshall doesn't scream "populist" to me... more like "oscarbait." But I honestly don't see Cotillard scoring in lead. I feel like they'll eventually put he back in supporting where she most likely belongs.

I've always figured Swank would be nominated for a globe this year but would miss with oscar (mostly because that's what kept happening to her kindred oscar spirit Sally Field). That may still happen.

NATHANIEL R said...

i also feel like they'll give up on the lead campaign before the season is out. why throw a way a potential nomination? (cuz, i don't think she could make it into best actress personally (attentions being too divided and lacking in the film carrying power that all of her competitors will have, save perhaps Helen Mirren who shares the film carrying load quite a bit)... unless none of the precursors are willing to think outside of the December releases.

Dorian said...

You hated a Hilary Swank film. SHOCKING. But the rest of the world hates it right along with you, so everybody wins. Yay! I would say that I feel bad for ole' Hils, but it's not like she's crying naked (ha) in bed over this one, not with her two Oscars to keep her warm at night. Take that, haters! LOL. And next year, I'll be so ready for Hilary vs. Annette, part III. It has to happen! It is written.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I don't think she has a chance. She isn't Cate Blanchett who gets nominated for bad movies. And I haven't seen Amelia, but I don't think The Golden Age could be as bad.

But what do you say Nathaniel
THE GOLDEN AGE>AMELIA?

Glenn said...

WHERE'S ANNETTE BENING?! I imagine she has something to say about all of this.

NATHANIEL R said...

Andrew.

The Golden Age is definitely > than Amelia because at least Cate Blanchett has fun being overtly theatrical. Swank is not a fun actress.

they're both bad movies though.

in fact when i was watching Amelia I kept thinking about how much better Blanchett (or Julianne Moore) would have been in the role. Because both can fill the closeups with such inner mystery and fire and Amelia needed some psychic charge that it just wasn't getting from chemistry-proof romances and color within the lines storyline.

Gwen said...

And I thought this movie would do well after watching Amelia Earhart references in 2 movies this year. The first in Night at the Museum with Amy Adams playing her, and then in Whip It. Oh well :(

So does this mean Emily Blunt has a better chance at a nomination??? I'm sorry but I would much rather see her be nominated than Carey Mulligan (I know,I'm one in million!!!!!). I think Emily is long overdue in receiving an Oscar nomination. :)

The Know Nothing Know It All said...

I'm glad to know that Swank is out. I know Nathaniel's hatred of her makes him a little paranoid, but she's not the type of actress that can get into the race unless her film is acclaimed as well (although I may be projecting). It's strange...her first Oscar winning performance is, for me, one of the best that the category has cranked out in the entire history of the awards. Yet I'm so very indifferent about the actress herself.

Is it crazy that I think Sidibe is going to win? I just don't see Streep or Mulligan (the other two actresses that people are certain will get nominated) generating enough excitement. I would never begrudge Streep a third Oscar, but she'll really have to knock it out of the park for that to happen. Her turn in "Julie & Julia," impressive as it is, will read as facile in the eyes of many voters. Mulligan was fantastic in "An Education" and she just got Ebert's seal of approval, but she won't win. An actress like her will surely have countless chances to prove herself. Young? Hot? British? She'll be here again, and soon if she's smart about her career.

Then there's Sidibe. Ebert has yet to review "Precious" in full, but his brief blurb indicates he's fawning over it. And as much as he likes Mulligan, I have a feeling he's going to LOVE Sidibe. They sometimes like to give it to great performances from actors who have very little chance of showing up again. As sad as it is, an actress like Sidibe is virtually uncastable in Hollywood outside of roles like this. I have a feeling she's their girl.

Glenn said...

Gwen, I highly doubt Emily will be getting an Oscar nod (perhaps a Golden Globe nomination) since she's a) not very good and b) the film is a total tax write off for the producers (Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson amongst them).

Dwayne said...

If Hollywood is into quotas, then Sidibe is gonna win.

Simple as that.

NATHANIEL R said...

i don't think Sidibe is going to win. The nomination will be seen as more than enough reward for a first time actor.

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

I'm glad to know that Swank is out. I know Nathaniel's hatred of her makes him a little paranoid, but she's not the type of actress that can get into the race unless her film is acclaimed as well (although I may be projecting). It's strange...her first Oscar winning performance is, for me, one of the best that the category has cranked out in the entire history of the awards. Yet I'm so very indifferent about the actress herself.

I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like at other places that I'm perceived as being a big Hilary hater like Nathaniel is, but I'm pretty indifferent to her. I thought she totally deserved her first Oscar, and agree that it was one of the best choices that the Oscars have made, since it could have went to La Bening, who I thought was really overrated. She totally didn't deserve her second Oscar though, imho, and I think she's been just okay or mediocre in just about everything else she's been in. Sure, I think she does try to pick interesting projects, well perhaps not interesting, but certainly baity projects a lot, and things that seem like they might do well at the box office, but when she's in one of her many flops, she's just so uninteresting as an actress. Even my favorites like Laura Linney, the C/Kates, Samantha, and even Meryl have been in bad movies, but I feel like they do bring something interesting to their parts even if it's not necessarily in a positive way, so at least they're never boring.

Is it crazy that I think Sidibe is going to win?

No, I don't think you're crazy. I do feel like this is Meryl's year finally since she also has It's Complicated to help her, but I actually think Sidibe is more of a threat than most prognosticators believe right now. I just have a feeling that they're going to go really nuts over Precious like they did Slumdog Millionaire. I could be wrong, but if all the gossip about Mo'Nique being difficult right now (which I don't think should hurt her, but a lot of pundits can't believe that there are more important things in her life than winning an Oscar), perhaps more of the focus will shift to Sidibe winning. Plus, sadly you're right, this will probably be Sidibe's only chance, while Mulligan, who has The Seagull, and of course Streep will of course be nominated again.

Dorian said...

I love biopics, but "Amelia" was quite facile when it could have been so much more. Hilary plays her so saintly and surface, and just when they can show some dimension with Amelia (like her affair with Gene Vidal), they whitewash it completely. They PG'd it to death, and it shows. The last 15 minutes or so were excellent, and if the rest of the film lived up to that, Hilary would be a strong Oscar contender again. But it didn't, and she won't be. Wasted opportunities left and right here, and that really pisses me off. The subject matter deserved better coverage than this.