Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TIFF Capsules: Let Me In, Tamara Drewe, The Illusionist and Stone.

Normally my friend txtcritic who must remain anonymous just, well, texts me. Usually in the form of pithy sentence long reviews or moviegoing observations. But this time he sent capsules of his Toronto experience thus far. Enjoy.
"The Illusionist" shifts downgear from the infectious exuberance of "Triplets of Bellevile" to a more melancholy, low-key thing. It's largely lovely and endearing, but leaves one with a lot more to admire than to get caught up or involved in (though many others seem to be ringing the "masterpiece" bells). The film's incremental snowballing cynicism will ultimately leave you either profoundly sad or oddly cold/disengaged. I'm somewhat between the two, but I'd like another viewing. B

Leigh, Manville, Ruth Sheen & Jim Broadbent @ TIFF

"Another Year" belongs in Leigh's upper-tier. Lesley Manville gets the showy role. At first, I was ready to cry 'overhyped' but her character subtly shifts and slowly grows more downtrodden in such a realistic way that it will make some uncomfortable with recognition. As a whole, the movie's consistently absorbing and lovely in character detail, but Manville's performance is what makes it a heartbreaker. A-
Consensus definitely places Lesley Manville as an Oscar nominee. We already know that Oscar voters respond to the women in Mike Leigh pictures. But will it be a lead or supporting campaign? That probably depends on how the studio feels about her winning chances in either category. I'll be seeing this picture in a couple of weeks. I loved Manville & Broadbent's chemistry together in Topsy Turvy (1999) and though they're not a couple this time I hope they have plentiful scenes together.

Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton at the Tamara Drewe premiere to your left. About Stephen Frears latest....
Based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, "Tamara Drewe" constantly alternates between amusing and irritating. It's devoid of substance and aggressively quirky, while never being less than watchable. Certainly a change of pace for Stephen Frears, but makes you wonder why he decided to make this movie. Tamara (Gemma Arterton) is an empty vessel who barely registers as a character and the only one who gives a performance of any depth or complexity is Tamsin Greig as a cuckolded wife. B-/C+

Though it's to be commended for reaching for something beyond the conventional movie the trailers are selling, "Stone" only barely falls just short of Trainwreck designation. It has enough batshit moments to never lose your interest, but it's ultimately the very definition of a "mess"; there's nary a coherent thought in its head. No one seems to have been given much direction, and we're as dumbfounded as how we should feel about their characters as they seem to be. De Niro shows early signs that this will be his first inspired performance in years but then loses his way, and I never could quite get a handle on what Edward Norton or Milla Jovovich were doing. D+
Finally, the early buzz on Let Me In is good dashing our hopes that critics would crucify it. Now normally we don't root against pictures we haven't seen but why was it remade in the first place? Read on...
While "Let Me In" remains an 'unnecessary' remake throughout, Matt Reeves has crafted a surprisingly successful, respectful 'cover' version of the beloved "Let the Right One In." Aside from one or two (superb) sequences, and some amped-up suspense and gore, not much new has been added here. What most impresses is how the film avoids pretty much every possible expected "remake" decision where it could have pandered or "broadened" appeal or caved to general American sensibilities. Reeves absolutely nails the tone of the original film, imposes largely the same look (often even paying homage to the original shot compositions), and the perfectly cast chief actors -- Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas -- feel just right in their roles. Skeptics, put away your knives. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. A-
I'm not sure I'll be pleasantly surprised. So far I've read a couple of reviews proclaiming that it's better than the original and several going to lengths to describe how meticulously director Matt Reeves has transferred the visual aesthetics, mood and even the shots of the original. How is a carefully detailed copy ever better than an original? Or at least how does whatever praise it garners seem like more than an interception? Please to explain. Whatever we love about it, must be credited to the original, if what we love was originated there. It's like when some people wanted to give Zach Snyder credit for the visual aesthetics of Watchmen when what he was essentially doing was following the storyboard and character designs provided by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in graphic novel form.

Kodi Smit-McPhee gets bullied in Let Me In

Sorry, sorry. I know I'm off consensus on this topic. But faithful remakes they make-a me crazeeeeeeeeeee. This is why, ironically, I respected Gus Van Sant's Psycho (1998) so much. See, that widely hated film purposefully billed itself as a recreation... it was, therefore, an honest aesthetic experiment and cinematic exercize rather than a movie made to replace another movie for people who can't bring themselves to read subtitles or watch older films.

Maybe I'll calm down once I've seen it if it's good. Maybe I just don't relish having to watch Chloe Moretz every time a film needs a teenager this coming decade. They're casting her in everything (8-10 projects already on the way) and even if I loved her more, I always enjoy a variety of faces in my moviegoing.


John said...

I watched Another Year at TIFF as well and I'm really not sold on Lesley Manville as an Oscar nominee just yet. Does she deserve it? Yes. (In fact it's the best performance I've seen all year, including Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole). But Sally Hawkins also deserved it as well. Where did that lead her? Snubbed at the Oscars and the BAFTA (aka WTF?).

The question of lead vs. supporting is tricky because at first glance Ruth Sheen does seem like the lead female as each story does revolve around people gathering towards her and Jim Broadbent. However, Manville does appear in each season section and in the end isn't it really her character who we know the best and learn the most about? In the end isn't it kind of her story? Or is her performance so powerful we're just draw to assume it. I would put her in lead but it seems like something the Academy would put in supporting. If she does make it, I'd be surprised.. although she unquestionably deserves it.

Simon said...

She's going to be playing Katniss, apparently. So no. Absolutely not.



simon -- what? i'm confused.

David Coley said...

I agree with you about Let Me In (and Watchmen for that matter). For me, it almost doesn't matter whether it ends up being any good or not. I still won't have any interest in seeing it. The original is good enough for me, so I'll be skipping the "cover version."

Simon said...

Hit Girl is in contention to play Katniss from The Hunger Games, and I will have none of it. Sorry, I typed that in a hurry.

Volvagia said...

Hmm...I don't mind "covering" for one, and did Snyder ever actually say that he was trying to be original? Like the idea of Van Sant's Psycho, I think it was an interesting and GOOD experiment, but not a GREAT FILM. Watchmen the movie: B-. Watchmen the comic: A. Scott Pilgrim the film: B Scott Pilgrim (the whole comics series): A+. Volumes judged alone: Vol 1: B Vol 2: A Vol 3: B- Vol 4: B+ Vol 5: A-. Vol 6: A- (not as funny as previous volumes, but it cuts off all loose ends, while still leaving it open if the writer changes his mind later. A thoroughly comic book decision.)

OtherRobert said...

I don't remember the boy in Let the Right One In only being required to stare blankly at the camera and mumble dialog. Therefore, I'm convinced the casting in this film cannot be perfect.

I'm also of the "why remake it if you're just going to do a shot for shot transfer?" belief and the "why didn't they just release the original wide?" belief with this film. I'm so against the idea of this remake that I doubt I could objectively view it. I will be scouring the screen for the slightest of imperfections to declare it a disaster and an insult to the original.

Castor said...

I share your skepticism about Let Me In. Every frame of the trailer looks like a mirror copy of the original so why even bother remaking it? I don't know, we shall see.

Steolicious said...

I'm so not looking for the "Let the Right One In"-Remake, maybe I'm not spoiled enough (I don't have problems with subtitles).

Happy for Leigh, lucky for me - love his work and the clips with Sheen and Manville looks great!

Kyle said...

Sadly, I understand the subtitles on the "Let the Right One In" DVD were trunicated and cut out alot of the darker humor present in the film...so I felt like I never got to really see all of the movie, so I look forward to not having that problem with this remake.

Rax said...

John - I don't think Lesley Manville can really be compared to Sally Hawkins, aside from the fact they are/were both in Mike Leigh movies. Manville has a much more traditionally Oscar-friendly role, doesn't she? And actresses with these kind of roles have gotten in for Leigh films. Hawkins, on the other hand, had a very polarizing charcter, and unfortunately more people that didn't care for it than love it.

Volvagia said...

And that's the problem: If you can't get mainstream acknowledgement as great by playing a character that people may find annoying, then many actors have got to really consider that, maybe, they really don't know how to actually judge their own art. Because if she can annoy, that proves 1 thing: She's making an impression. Can anyone say the same thing about Jolie's Christine Collins?

Anonymous said...

Give "Let Me In" a chance before you crucify it. Damn. It's not that serious.

Cloke said...

Yeah, I wanna give Let Me In a chance. A film is a film is a film. I loved the original, and I wanna see what Matt Reeves can bring to this piece.

It should be judged on it's own individual merits and not solely in comparison to the original.


anon & cloke -- i get what you're saying -- i know i do take this too seriously but its just depressing that remakes often function as replacements -- but anyway how do you judge something's own merits when it's a copy? that's a serious question that i don't think is too serious. ;)

MRRIPLEY said...

A bit of trivia re best actress and what it may mean for 2010's ladies in the past 40 years on only 4 occasions 1970,1974,1992 & 2002 did the line up fail to include a past best actress winner.

Our past winners in contention this year inc

nicole kidman
reese witherspoon
helen mirren
gwyneth paltrow
hilary swank
juila roberts

worth noting nat when doing your top 5 line up predictions.

A.R. said...

Totally agree about the remake of "Let Me In." Even if it's a good movie on its own terms (which seems likely), what's the point of a practically shot-for-shot remake? Honestly, when I saw the trailer for the remake, I was so disappointed to see the same wintery setting.


A.R. yes it begs the question of why they relocated the story to a region we think of as warm, if they were just going to go with winter again.

Lachlan said...

I don't think Let Me In will be good. It seems like blatant plagiarism. So many shots have been lifted from the original. It reminds me of the scene-for-scene remake of Psycho, which was a failed experiment.
The constant remakes (and rejuvenation of film series like Spider-Man and even the horrible Fantastic Four) make me wonder at the lack of imagination of Hollywood executives.
Let Me In is a disheartening, cynical and completely transparent attempt to jump on the vampire bandwagon. Let the Right One In was a classic and original film, and the current interest in vampires had nothing to do with its success. I can't wait until the vampire fad expires.