Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So: 127 Hours & Fair Game

It's a true story double feature for this installment of Yes, No, Maybe So, in which we break down personal reaction to movie trailers.

We'll start with Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire follow up -- and boy does this trailer not let you forget that this is the follow up -- which is called 127 Hours. In the movie, James Franco plays Aron Ralston who gets pinned under a rock and the rest is, well, his arm is history.

Yes James Franco is on the rise and this could be the movie where he finally proves the extent of his talents. He does have to hold the screen for virtually the full running time. If I've understood the prerelease mumblings correctly, what we're seeing in the trailer is only clips from the first half hour ish of the movie. I'd actually love to have that be the rule for Hollywood. You may not use anything past the 30 minute mark in your trailers. Begone Spoilers! (Not that people don't know what happened in this particular story since it's so easy to sum up and everyone has already been summing online for months.)

Also Moab, Utah is ridiculously beautiful even when shot by cinematographers far less gifted than Oscar winner Anthony Dod Mantle or Enrique Chediak. I know because I once lived in Utah and every photographer, good or un, has a million photographs capturing the rocky beauty of southern half of the state.

No For lost in the desert existential survivalist drama, I'll take something more contemplative like Gus Van Sant's Gerry. Will this be too tricked up to combat those nerves filmmakers so often have about how long they can hold the audiences attention? (Hence the current ridiculous average shot length being under 2 seconds problem.)

Maybe So
Even though I wasn't crazy about Slumdog Millionaire -- it's actually my least favorite of his filmography (that I've seen) -- I do think Boyle is an energetic and often interesting filmmaker. My Boyle heirarchy would break down like so.
  1. Trainspotting ...choose life
  2. 28 Days Later ...choose the future
  3. Shallow Grave ...choose a starter home
  4. Sunshine ...choose a fucking big television
  5. The Beach ...choose a family
  6. Slumdog Millionaire ...but why would i want to do a thing like that?
Love the top three and admire the fourth quite a lot. Slumdog and The Beach are like weird twins of the B-/C+ overrated & underrated fraternal variety. So I'm curious about this movie. Where will it fit in?

Verdict: I'm a yes all told. I'll see it opening weekend in early November if I somehow miss the critic's screenings.

In Fair Game, Naomi Watts plays CIA Operative Valerie Plame and Sean Penn her husband the journalist in this true story that's already been covered at the cinema in a movie with Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga that nobody went to see called Nothing But the Truth. (It's on that annually expanding list of December Glut Plague victims)

Yes We need to be reminded of stories like this. Particularly since the sins of the past administration are still haunting us. It's definitely a compelling and resonant story about a nation that chucks their integrity and bedrock values for political point scoring (sound familiar? see also: current events).

No On the other hand, do we need to be reminded of it again this quickly? And doesn't the casting of Sean Penn in a liberal political type movie feel a bit too preaching to the choir, a bit too on the nose?

Maybe So I'm intrigued that they choose to end the trailer with Naomi Watt's defiant line reading...
They push you until they find the point at which you break. You can't break me. I don't have a breaking point.
(even though the underscore is laughably OTT) because I feel the exact opposite about her as an actress. She often seems so broken before a movie even begins. I think she's Oscar worthy in Mulholland Dr and nomination worthy in The Painted Veil (easily her two best performances) but my principal problem with her intensely pitched work is that she always seems ahead of the character arc, rather than developing it organically towards narrative peaks. I'm hoping she's calm and nuanced her at least before they threaten to break her.

Verdict: I'm a no in terms of desire, but I try to see everything if Oscar buzz becomes involved. So if awards seasons starts calling on Naomi, I'll definitely catch it.

How do these trailers breakdown for you in the yes no maybe so sense? Have at it in the comments. Whether you're pinned under a rock or your dangerous secret has just been outed, nothing is more urgent than blog commenting!


A.R. said...

Well, the trailer for 127 Hours is beautifully edited, as are the 3 Boyle films I've seen (the first 3 on your list). It's definitely got potential.

Not quite sure how I feel about Fair Game. I share your doubts, but I'm rooting for Watts.

James T said...

I'm a maybe-so on both.

I have higher hopes for 127 Hours both for the sense of adventure and the, admitedly depressing, fascination his suffering migth provide. I mean, what does a person under these circumstances do? Plus (and most importantly), it's Franco!

Wes said...

"Slumdog Millionaire" was excellent, so I'm very much looking forward to Danny Boyle's follow=up. Not as excited for James Franco, but if he can rise to the occasion with this film, then more power to him.

Talone said...

I really love Danny Boyle work and I'm looking forward to 127 Hours, from what we see in the trailer, it looks very boylian...

but slumdog millionair was his first film I didn't like.

My list:

28 Days Later
Shallow Grave
A Life Less Ordinary
The Beach
Slumdog Millionaire

I love Naomi Watts, but Fair Game seems generic and all surface...but I have to remember she gave a very funny performance in I Heart Huckabee's and a very emotional one in 21 Grams (I really do think it should be an overplayed performance)


Talone -- she was funny in huckabees true. I think that was such a smart casting decision, totally playing wonderfully off of her persona.

james t -- right. it's like the car wrech phenomenon. you don't really want to see but you still look.

Alex said...

I'm so-so on Boyle and the new trailer. It doesn't look anything amazing to me. I've made the comparison before, but this looks like everything I was glad "Into the Wild" didn't end up being.

If this were a year without Bening in the mix, I think we'd be seeing Naomi Watts take the gold for "Fair Game." Overdue actress in a controversial political biopic (or about something controversial). It's the Helen Mirren slot, right? I think she'll be nominated for sure. And I actually do want to see it.

A quick note on "Nothing But the Truth": it wasn't a victim of December glut exactly. The company that was distributing (Yari Film Group) went bankrupt and filed for Chapter 11. All further plans for the movie beyond a VERY limited NY/LA run were halted. Too bad, because Vera Farmiga is so good in it.

Anonymous said...

I'm all in for Fair Game, which might cover part of the same general story as Nothing But the Truth, but which looks quite different in focus and tone.

As far as 127 Hours ... eh.

Robert said...

I have the same issue you do with 127 Hours. Boyle's ADD filmmaking annoys me (oddly enough I like Aronofsky's, even I don't get it). I'm intrigued how the movie will reconcile this with the natural slowness of the story. The trailer is a bit worrisome.

As for Fair Game, I agree that it feels dreadfully generic.

MRRIPLEY said...

watts bores me too tears!!!! she needs to lighten up.

Volvagia said...

As I said about The Walking Dead: Generic isn't a problem. If you get every other thing right, people will ignore that minor quibble. And, unless what makes the movie great is solely visual (like Scott Pilgrim or a Terrence Malick), it's hard to tell if a generic looking trailer is great yet generic or bad and achingly generic to boot.

jbaker475 said...

The 127 Hours trailer all but screams, "GUARANTEED BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY NOMINEE!" but I'm iffy about the film as a whole. I've been nervous about this project since it was announced, and the trailer has done little to ease my fears that the story won't translate to the screen well.

Fair Game looks solid, but it might be just a liiiiiittle bit too soon, and I agree about Penn's casting being too on the nose. I'm excited for Watts, however, because I think this picture sums up what the performance is going to be like:

Aaron said...

I'm a yes for both, although I am more looking forward to Fair Game than 127 Hours. I'm really rooting for Watts--I think she's a fascinating actress (her perf in Mulholland Drive is one of the best ever, IMO, and I loved her tons in Huckabees, 21 Grams, King Kong, and We Don't Live Here Anymore).

I don't think 127 Hours looks bad, per se, but the choppy trailer and the kinetic, fast paced editing that's such a trademark of Danny Boyle really starts to bother me. I got more of a "The Beach" vibe than a "Slumdog Millionaire" one for this, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

I just wanna thank you for that little shout-out to Gerry. I've always wanted to defend that masterpiece.

Roark said...

I'm with Aaron - got a distinctly Beach-esque vibe from the 127 Hours trailer (not a bad thing, for me) - though I'm not sure Franco's character is meant to be as unlikeable as was DiCaprio in The Beach. I have a hard time believing Boyle will pull this movie off (I'm not really a fan of anything he has done since 28 Days Later), but I'm interested, so yes, I'll see it.

Fair Game looks way more interesting than I though it would, but I agree that the Sean Penn casting seems obvious and, worse, distracting.

As for Watts and awards, I thought she also deserved a nomination and a win in 2005 for King Kong. I really believed she cared for that big fake gorilla.

pomme said...

for "127 hours",i say MAYBE because even if the story is interesting and i liked Franco in Milk and Sonny,i dislike the directing of the teaser(very MTV in 90's)

for Fair Game,i'm french so i don't follow the real story who is interesting and i like the lead cast but it looks generic

MD said...

I pretty much hated Slumdog Millionaire apart from the cinematography and soundtrack. But I'm looking forward to this film, based on what I've read.

And the trailer for Fair Game is iffy, but I'll go see it for Watts. I didn't like her much in 21 Grams, but I blame a lot of that on the movie itself. I loved her in Mulholland Drive and Funny Games.

IslandLiberal said...

I loved "Slumdog". This looks like an interesting premise, though it could be difficult to pull off such a confining premise once he gets stuck (in particular, it seems like something that would rein in Boyle's favourite camera techniques).

Plus, Amber Tamblyn, one of my favourite oft-overlooked actresses.

Stella said...

Oh, so THAT's it about Naomi Watts. I guess you've nailed it again. I could never really figure out what is was about her.

Franco in 127 Hours comes off as very "Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild" to me.

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy but I fail to see how Fair Game won't win any awards. The film looks so blandly competent it could be utter sh*t and they'd STILL manage to give it at least one trophy. That being said I, too, am rooting for Watts.

And 127 Hours looks better than I expected.

Nick Duval said...

Yes for Fair Game. Clip I saw was excellent. Sure it'll be better than "Nothing But the Truth."

Maybe so for 127 Hours. Insane cinematography (mindblowing, hyperkinetic, though a little show-offy), but what the freak was that all about in the trailer? Never seen a spot flip on itself like this one did. "Slumdog" split me: first viewing, ecstatic, second viewing, although it was a little biased to be not-so-great, detracting.

Glenn Dunks said...

Fair Game looks like a solid adult thriller to me so I'm in. I'm still burnt by the praise for Slumdog Millionaire so I'll be going into 127 Hours will caution.

Linda said...

I suggest reading the book, Between A Rock and A Hard Plce, which the movie is based.

It's just a little over 300 pages and it a smooth read. It may give you an idea of what the whole film will kind of be like. A lot goes on with Aaron when he is trapped, that a tiny little teaser can't show you. You will get to be inside of his brain through the whole time he is stuck. Feelings of depression, immense fright, contemplation of how he ended up in that spot, flashbacks of the good times, what might have been thoughts if he doesn't survive, the nerve to build up courage to be able and pull off what he dreads doing to escape.
Just lots of things that will take up space for the film.
Go check out the still have time.

Kyle said...

I know I've said this before...but I so very much want to see another teaming of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland.

jake said...

Naomi looks great in Fair Game, there's a photo on imdb where she really resembles Plame, and she looks way more cold in this and in other films. She got very good reviews in Cannes, the film less so