Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Gary Cooper, Bradley Cooper & Ryan Gosling

Movies are quick corrections for the fact that we exist in only one place at only one time. When I watch the older movies on TCM, I am struck by the beauty of gray, which makes up the bulk of black and white. How can the absence of color be so gorgeous? Black and white is so tonally unified, so tone-poetic. Shadows seem more natural, like structural elements of the composition. The dated look of the films is itself an image of time, like the varnish on old paintings that becomes inextricable from their visual resonance. There is something more that draws me to TCM’s old stuff. Those films have an integrity that most of today’s films almost always lack.

If watching old movies is a form of escapism, it is at least not an escape from the human world. It is, in fact, an escape to the human world. When your own corner of the universe is hard or grim, there is dignity in escape. Yet anything that enhances your sense of reality and renovates your sense of possibility cannot be denigrated as “mere” escapism. We watch movies because life must be faced. Source:

Romantic Comedies for People Who Hate Romantic Comedies # 1. Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence play deeply flawed yet sympathetic characters who are struggling to regain their sanity and rebuild their lives. Gay fave Lawrence won the Oscar — Cooper should have too. And watching him learn how to dance is worth the price of admission. Source:

According to David O'Russell, Bradley Cooper may look "leading-man-ish in a little bit of a Gary Cooper way", and "weird" at other times. If you stood a blue-eyed, 6ft 1in, white American actor with a long nose and jutting jaw in front of a room full of admen, Bradley Cooper is probably the name they’d come up with for him. It’s a good, dependable, square-shouldered name – but with a hint of refinement: Bradley, rather than plain old monosyllabic Brad, followed by an echo of Hollywood’s past.

The first famous Cooper on film was the great Golden Age heart-throb Gary, who smouldered his way through films such as High Noon and Sergeant York as thickly and dependably as a fire log. It’s a fine legacy to hitch on to. But Bradley Cooper has never been rebranded. Cooper has been nominated for an Academy Award for the past three years on the trot: an achievement that puts him in select company. Only 20 others have managed it.

In Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, the films that yielded Cooper’s first and second Oscar nominations, he bounces around the screen, eyes shining and teeth bared – a chemically enlivened hybrid of screwball and pinball. Kyle, on the other hand, spends long sections of the film lying on rooftops, staring down his rifle’s telescopic sights. He’s a classic lone gunman in the grand Eastwood style, and the moments when we get to know him tend to be silent. His most effective weapon is that face: since it’s obviously too good to be true, it’s ideal for projecting a false front. Cooper can make a smile mean absolutely anything.

But it was just as important in the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers, in which he plays a despicable social climber with the unimprovable name Sack Lodge. Though he’s a small fish in Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s tank, Cooper throws everything at the part. In a 22-second exchange with Rachel McAdams, his smile is by turn sarcastic, patronising and furious – all in a scene that he mostly spends with his head down the lavatory.

There was also a brief marriage to the actress Jennifer Esposito: they wed in December 2006 and she filed for divorce the following May. Newly single and sober, he kept busy. Cooper tried his hand at most things, including two horrors: one with Vinnie Jones called The Midnight Meat Train, and another called Case 39, on which he met Zellweger and vomited wasps.

In early 2009, he played a supporting heartbreaker in the ensemble rom-com He’s Just Not That Into You, but it was later that summer, when audiences saw him in the stupefyingly successful comedy The Hangover, that he made the transition from actor to movie star.

If The Hangover established Cooper as a star, the next few years delivered proof: not only in blockbuster projects such as The A-Team and Hangover sequels, but also Limitless, an original science-fiction thriller whose poster didn’t promise much more than Cooper and a busy city, but was a respectable box-office hit.

This was also when David O Russell got in touch. Cooper’s performance in Wedding Crashers had stuck with the director of The Fighter, and when he needed an actor who could do manic funny, he got in touch. The result was Silver Linings Playbook, a screwball comedy in which a man with bipolar disorder finds a renewed zeal for life through his relationship with a young widow.

 Silver Linings Playbook secured Cooper his first Oscar nomination, and also established him as a great co-star, with an intuitive sense of when best to hang back and cede the spotlight. Jennifer Lawrence was also Oscar nominated for the film, and eventually won, but Cooper gave her enough space to do so.

Those instincts were even sharper in his next film with Russell, American Hustle, which yielded Oscar nomination two. Cooper plays a New Jersey FBI agent who becomes romantically involved with Amy Adams’s conwoman – and, while Adams shines as the slinky seductress, Cooper makes a perfect seducee.

That film seemed to make fresh things possible: not only American Sniper, but new films with Russell and Cameron Crowe, and also a Broadway revival of The Elephant Man that will transfer to London in May. Cooper obsessed over the role as a teenager when he discovered David Lynch’s film, and performed monologues from the Bernard Pomerance play as a drama student. He performs the part without prosthetics or special make-up – again, turning his face against itself.

But while Russell is often credited with turning Cooper into a credible actor, there’s a brilliant, undervalued film made just before Silver Linings Playbook in which you can see the transformation taking place in real time.

In Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, Cooper plays a lawyer-turned-beat cop who has a confrontation with a bank robber played by Ryan Gosling: a meeting whose consequences reach out through time like tendrils.

The film opens on Gosling as a mythic outlaw figure, following him through a fairground in an unbroken, three-minute tracking shot. But Cooper’s introduced so straightforwardly, there’s no sign he’s going to matter. He turns up around 40 minutes into the film, and the first time we see him he’s driving a police car, via an unflattering shot from the passenger seat.

But as the film progresses it shifts its focus to Cooper’s character, who’s more calculating and determined than we first realised. Events leave him racked with remorse, but his political ambitions remain undimmed, and his blue-eyed, fresh-faced look turns from straightforward all-American wholesomeness into an unsettling advertisement for itself. For me, it’s the best performance Cooper has given to date: not because it plays to his strengths, but because it turns them into weaknesses, allowing him to portray a certain type of seemingly impregnable manhood in crisis. Source:

Bradley Cooper on his role in "The Place Beyond the Pines": It was about working with Ryan Gosling, who I'm a huge fan of, and Derek. That was the whole reason I did it. I had heard how Derek works -- this idea of making it as real as possible and doing extreme things in preparation. SPOILER ALERT I thought this would be a great learning experience, even though I was not crazy about playing this guy that kills Ryan. I'm so glad I did it though, because it wound up being an experience where I fell in love with playing this role -- which was not why I got into it in the first place. This is the most complicated guy I've played for sure. It felt like I was getting in the ring with a real motherfucker. He's generous and sweet and no-bullshit and he had no weird antics -- he just works the way I like to work, too. I thought, "This just feels like home." Source:

Ryan Gosling ("Werewolf Heart") video, featuring pictures and stills of Ryan Gosling and co-stars Rachel McAdams, Michelle Williams, Emma Stone, Eva Mendes, Carey Mulligan, etc. Songs "Werewolf Heart" and "Dead Hearts" by Dead Man's Bones.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Cinema as violent experience: "My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn" & "American Sniper"

The documentary "My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn" tracks the making of Danish filmmaker Refn's 2013 film "Only God Forgives" starring Ryan Gosling. From the six-month shoot in Bangkok to the premiere of "Only God Forgives" at the Cannes Film Festival, it's recounted here — as witnessed by Refn's wife, Liv Corfixen. "My Life" lets you in on the open secret that the auteur behind such brutal, macabre tough-guy flicks as the "Pusher" trilogy, "Bronson" and "Drive" is actually a lanky, bespectacled and manic-depressive 44-year-old family man with fair-haired young daughters. And that Chilean cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky reads tarot cards. And that Gosling is a terrific baby-sitter.

Half home movie, half treatise on the anxieties that plague every artist, this documentary by Liv Corfixen (aka Mrs. Refn) offers a warm, domestic perspective on the creative process and an all-access-granted portrait of one of world cinema’s most enigmatic figures.

The biggest revelations here: The Hua Hin International Film Festival in Thailand coughed up tens of thousands of dollars for Refn and Gosling to appear, and the money went toward the budget of "Only God Forgives"; Refn had no idea what his film was about even after principal photography had commenced; and he changed his opinion on the finished product from great to awful within hours. With a running time of one hour, "My Life" probably should have just been a special feature on the "Only God Forgives" DVD. Source:

Refn: I’m not a very violent person, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is probably the movie that told me, “Whatever that movie does, I want to do.” I think cinema can be a violent experience, but there’s a difference between a violent experience and seeing something violent. I don’t particularly like seeing violent movies anymore, but I like to have the experience of being violated. Source:

Director Derek Cianfrance, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling in "The Place Beyond the Pines" (2012). "I don't think violence is beautiful. I don’t think it’s art. I don’t think it’s cool” -Derek Cianfrance.

In "American Sniper", Hall’s script, Eastwood’s direction and Cooper’s masterful performance give us a film that accomplishes much more than the failed biopic so many critics have described. In the tradition of the greatest westerns, from “The Searchers” to “Unforgiven,” “American Sniper” offers up its familiar western narrative not as a triumphalist myth but as a disturbing object for contemplation and critique. From the violence that is visually foregrounded in the now infamous “sheepdog” scene until the shot that foreshadows Kyle’s murder, “American Sniper” tells a story of a man who is unable to insulate his family or his homeland from the violence of the war he is fighting. Like John Wayne’s character, Ethan, in “The Searchers,” his own character is under threat of being overtaken by the very savage violence he set out to quell. Source:

Eastwood does here what he’s done repeatedly in his career: he resolves his hero’s ambivalence, psychic pain and sense of structural powerlessness through masculine honor, sacrifice and vulnerability (often played out on a highly racialized landscape). In Eastwood’s rendering of Chris Kyle, Kyle’s need to be a killer of almost superhuman proportions makes him not sociopathic, but rather the sheepdog: someone who operates in a state of constant, anxious alertness against inevitable attack. With this characterization, Chris Kyle’s violence is justified in advance. Ultimately, American Sniper dispenses with conventional political ideology to portray the raw, emotional core of white vulnerability. Chris Kyle evinces a wounded-ness (a kind of powerlessness) that does not re-establish white male superiority. Source:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence in Depression drama "Serena"

"Serena" Featurette - The Story (2015) -  starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, directed by Susanne Bier. In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton's timber empire becomes complicated when it is learned that his wife, Serena, cannot bear children.

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In an exclusive clip from “Serena,” Lawrence’s on-screen reunion with “Silver Linings Playbook” star Bradley Cooper, we have just that type of dazzling majesty on display. Cooper’s character, George Pemberton, has not yet met Serena (Lawrence), and is totally enthralled watching her ride around on the horse, while Agatha (Charity Wakefield) gives him the scoop on Serena’s sordid past.

“I hit the jackpot being able to work with Jennifer Lawrence twice in a row on ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ and now on ‘Serena,’” Bradley Cooper says in this new feaurette for Susanne Bier’s drama “Serena." “She is a wonderful, wonderful actress.” While that may be true, “Serena” got hammered with negative reviews back in the fall of last year — which wasn’t a huge surprise given the movie was delayed for almost two years.

Official synopsis: North Carolina mountains at the end of the 1920s – George (Bradley Cooper) and Serena Pemberton (Jennifer Lawrence), love-struck newly-weds, begin to build a timber empire. Serena soon proves herself to be equal to any man: overseeing loggers, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving a man’s life in the wilderness. With power and influence now in their hands, the Pembertons refuse to let anyone stand in the way of their inflated love and ambitions. However, once Serena discovers George’s hidden past and faces an unchangeable fate of her own, the Pemberton’s passionate marriage begins to unravel leading toward a dramatic reckoning.

“Serena” does not arrive in theaters until March 27th, but it hits VOD this Thursday, February 26th. Watch a new international trailer, a clip from the film, and the aforementioned featurette below, plus check out a handful of new photos. Source:

The situation, tragic and stormily fateful, will be familiar to anyone versed in wide-screen Hollywood outdoor romantic tragedies of the late 1940s and early fifties. If you squeeze your eyes tightly enough, Serena might drain its colour to evoke a black-and-white Robert Ryan/Barbara Stanwyck vehicle directed by King Vidor or Raoul Walsh. But open them again and you’re still watching Serena, one of those movies that proves that the mere presence of all the right ingredients does not a happy meal make. It’s all in the mixing.

Filmed two years ago (between Lawrence and Cooper’s bell-ringing collaborations in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), the delay of this movie is mysterious given that its stars may only be more bankable together than they already are apart. How could you lose with a retro-romantic period noir about a love so toxic it clear cuts the Carolina hills? The answer, it seems, is simply to stand back and hope chemistry will do its own work.

But even nitro and glycerine won’t go boom unless they’re properly mixed. For Serena to have succeeded, and to have lived up to the promise of a modern-day classic Hollywood throwback, it needed to get so deeply inside the madness of the attraction between Serena and George that nothing else would matter. Source:

An arrestingly nihilistic Depression melodrama, marked by courageous performances and exquisite production values, this story of a timber-industry power couple undone by financial and personal corruption nonetheless boasts neither a narrative impetus nor a perceptible objective. The result is both problematic and fascinating, an unsympathetic spiral of human tragedy that plays a little like a hand-me-down folk ballad put to film. It’s not hard to see why a U.S. distributor has been slow to step forward.

Magnolia Pictures, sister outfit of the pic’s production company 2929, will ultimately release “Serena” Stateside in 2015, while Blighty auds will get to see it later this month, hot on the heels of its London festival premiere. Marketing for the film is already positioning it as a throwback romance in the “Cold Mountain” vein, with understandably heavy emphasis on Lawrence and Cooper looking scrumptious in Signe Sejlund’s impeccable period costumes. As a study in mutually destructive marital abrasion, “Serena” boasts no less bleak a worldview than David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” with which it would unexpectedly form a canny double bill.

The Stanwyck comparisons lavished upon Lawrence’s Oscar-winning work in “Silver Linings Playbook” resurface here; she certainly looks every inch the Golden Age siren with her crimped vanilla locks and array of creamy silken sheaths that, true to vintage Hollywood form, never seem to get sullied in the wild. The star also makes good on her proven chemistry with Cooper, who acquits himself with stoic intelligence and a variable regional accent in an inscrutable role that, for its occasional flourishes of Clark Gable bravado, is equal parts hero, anti-hero and patsy. Source:

Bradley Cooper's (Film Progression) video, featuring pictures and stills of Bradley Cooper & co-stars Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Sienna Miller, Zoe SaldaƱa, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Heather Graham, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Jaime King, Sandra Bullock; ex-wife Jennifer Esposito, girlfriend Suki Waterhouse, etc. Soundtrack: "Treat Me Nice", "Stuck On You", "She's Not You" & "Paralyzed" by Elvis Presley, "The Greatest Love" by Lee Dorsey, "Little Boy" by Eileen Barton, "Whole Lotta Loving" by Fats Domino, "Baby Be Mine" by The Jelly Beans, and "Oo-Wee Baby" by Jeff Barry & Darlene Love.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscars' Nominees and Winners - Next Projects

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher - Carell, 52, has wrapped the indie drama Freeheld, starring Julianne Moore, and next shoots The Big Short with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale. He also is executive producing the TBS comedy series Angie Tribeca, starring Rashida Jones.

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper - He'll reunite with Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence for Joy in March. After Cooper, 40, performs The Elephant Man onstage this summer in London, he will produce and possibly star in Warner Bros.' human-slavery drama Orphan X.

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night - Cotillard, 39, wrapped The Weinstein Co.'s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender, and they'll reunite on Fox's Assassin's Creed. Before that, she has auteur Nicole Garcia's romance Mal de Pierres.

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game - The 38-year-old Brit will play Hamlet starting in August at the Barbican Centre in London before transitioning to the lead role in Doctor Strange for Marvel, scheduled to shoot in the fall.

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything - Jones, 31, won the female lead in the Star Wars standalone movie directed by Gareth Edwards. Before that, she'll appear in J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls (Oct. 14, 2016) and will shoot Ron Howard's Dan Brown adaptation Inferno with Tom Hanks in the spring.

Michael Keaton, Birdman - Keaton, 63, has wrapped the Catholic Church sex-scandal pic Spotlight and is attached to make Universal and Legendary's King Kong: Skull Island and will play Ray Kroc in The Founder, about the origin of the McDonald's chain.

Julianne Moore, Still Alice - Moore, 54, will go straight from an Oscar win to Maggie's Plan with nominee Ethan Hawke. She has the final Hunger Games in the fall and wrapped Freeheld, in which she plays a gay detective.

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl - Pike, 36, will join Charlie Hunnam in the romance The Mountain Between Us and is attached to a diving thriller titled The Bends.

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything - The newly crowned best actor winner, 33, has Jupiter Ascending currently in theaters and is reuniting with Les Miserables director Tom Hooper on The Danish Girl, in which he plays a transgender artist.

Reese Witherspoon, Wild - The actress-producer, 38, is in Warners' Hot Pursuit (May 8) and is attached to Alexander Payne's Downsizing with Matt Damon.

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood - Arquette, 46, is returning to television with the CSI spinoff CSI: Cyber, which premieres March 4 on CBS, following her win Sunday at the Oscars.

Laura Dern, Wild - The 48-year-old actress next appears in the Toronto Film Festival drama 99 Homes, with Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon. She also is developing an ensemble comedy with Judd Apatow about female football fans, and she's in talks for Kelly Reichardt's next film with Michelle Williams.

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game - The 29-year-old Brit next stars in the thriller Everest (Sept. 18), with Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin. She hasn't taken another movie role because she's expecting her first baby in the spring, and then she'll make her Broadway debut in an adaptation of Therese Raquin, set to open in October.

Edward Norton, Birdman - Norton, 45, has done voice work on Seth Rogen's Sausage Party and is producing HBO's Lewis and Clark miniseries, which shoots in the summer. He also produced a Netflix doc about fathers and sons (March 6).

Emma Stone, Birdman - Stone, 26, has Cameron Crowe's ensemble dramedy Aloha out May 29, and she has wrapped Woody Allen's latest, Irrational Man, which Sony Pictures Classics will release in the summer. She also is developing a project with Easy A director Will Gluck and a comedy called Little White Corvette.

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods - Streep, 65, the most-nominated actress ever, has finished work on two projects: Suffragette, playing a woman fighting for the right to vote (Helena Bonham Carter co-stars); and TriStar's Ricki and the Flash, in the role of a fading rock musician. Source: