Butts did not fill seats when Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini’s small time mobster flick The Drop screened theatrically, which is a shame. But the film releases today for home consumption, so eat up, people! The two play cousins running a bar used to launder Chechan mob money, with Hardy adding layers and layers to a fascinating, maybe simple bartender. Shady characters, double crosses, symbolism and meager redemption keep your attention, plus there’s an incredibly cute dog. It’s worth a look.
The Drop writer Dennis Lehane has penned a number of Boston-based crime dramas, including Shutter Island and Mystic River, but the best of the bunch is Gone Baby Gone. The film that shocked us all with the knowledge that Ben Affleck is a genuinely talented director follows two private investigators working a missing kid case. Morally complicated, brilliantly filmed and boasting a career-best turn from Amy Ryan, this is a surprisingly great crime drama.
An accomplished writer and a young director combine talents in The Drop, while a masterful actor walks away with their film.
That would be Tom Hardy, adding fascinating layers to his role as Bob, lead bartender at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) place in a rough section of New York City.
Well, it used to be Marv’s bar until he, as Bob says, “blinked,” and allowed a takeover by some Chechan gangsters. Now, the bar is often used to launder cash for the foreign mob, and they don’t much like it when Bob and Marv are robbed one night after closing. No doubt, shady characters and double crosses abound, but Bob seems above it all. He’s calm, polite, a bit simple.
From the minute Bob rescues a battered pit bull puppy from a trash can, we get the drift: treat Bob the wrong way, and he may get vicious.
Writer Dennis Lehane, known for the novels that inspired Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, and Shutter Island, infuses his first screenplay with familiar themes of desperation, regret and redemption. Though not quite as gripping as Lehane’s best work, the story is effective, and in capable hands with director Michael R. Roskam.
In his debut English language feature, Roskam creates a mood of palpable dread and inevitability. Despite a few occasions when his camera gets a bit too fond of gradual focus and Scorcese-esque panning shots, Roskam finds a tone of simmering tension and displays a confident hand with his superior cast.
Gandolfini, in his final role, is customarily great, and there is solid supporting work from Noomi Repace and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), but Hardy is the force driving The Drop. He’s mesmerizing, inhabiting his character so completely it evokes memories of 1950s Brando.
Yep, he’s that good. And the movie ain’t bad either.
The Oscar nominations always cause a stir, what with the Academy’s glaring myopia when it comes to certain films. This year, the snubs were fewer and less harsh than in years past (like that year they totally ignored three of the best films of the year inDrive, Take Shelter andYoung Adult, and failed to nominate the year’s best lead actress performances). We may never get over 2011.
Still, as always, there are some very curious omissions. Here we run down our 5 biggest gripes.
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
The magnificent Coen brothers’ immersive character study set in the unforgiving winter of the Greenwich Village folk scene garnered no love for its outstanding lead performance or its pristine screenplay or its rich and textured direction or even its music! That’s a lot of snubs for one film. It would certainly have been tough to find room for the wondrous Oscar Isaac in a leading actor field more crowded than most, and though the Coens are perpetual competitors for best director (by Oscar’s standards or anyone else’s), who would we bump this year? Scorsese? That’s a hard choice.
When it comes to original screenplay, we may have dumped Dallas Buyers Club in favor of Llewyn. There’s no question that we would have given it the best picture nod over Philomena.
2. Stories We Tell
The Academy had their heads up their asses with this one. In fact, there are a number of documentaries better suited to the award than this lineup suggests, but Sarah Polley’s deceptively complicated, brave and clever film cries out for recognition. Not only among the best documentaries of the year but one of the very best films overall, we would certainly have knocked Dirty Wars from the list in favor of Polley’s film. Truth be told, the only film in the category more deserving is The Act of Killing, so we’d have been fine with kicking any of the others to the curb to make room.
The most imaginative and lovely film of 2013 went without acknowledgment in acting and directing, which is sinful. Our first order of business would be to get Scarlett Johansson a best actress nomination, even though the studio pushed her for supporting. Let’s be honest, regardless of the fact that she’s never onscreen, she plays one of two lovers in a love story. She’s the lead. And in a brilliant voice-only effort, she easily deserves Sandra Bullock’s spot. (In fact, we’d pick Johansson over Bullock, Streep or even Dench this year.)
Joaquin Phoenix should have edged out Leo (though we loved Leo’s work, it’s just a very tight race this year!). Director is as tight as actor, and while Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese are 1) geniuses and 2) nominated for outstanding work this year, we’d have given one of their places to Spike Jonze for crafting a beautiful love story set in an unerringly crafted near-future, and doing so without a hint of cynicism or derivation.
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color
Apparently France couldn’t get off its cheese eating ass to get the film released in time for Oscar consideration, which is an absolute tragedy. The film should, by all accounts, boast two nominations, one for Best Foreign Language Film and another for Best Actress. The fact that Adele Exarchopoulos’s career-defining turn in this romantic drama will go unacknowledged is a crime.
5. And the Rest
We’d rather see Julie Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said) for Best Actress than Meryl Streep. We know that sounds like heresy, but her performance in August: Osage County is so hyperbolic that it’s more exaggeration than acting. True, the weak direction of A: OC is most likely to blame, but the end result just doesn’t measure up.
We would also have given either Daniel Bruhl (Rush) or James Gandolfini (Enough Said) the nod over Jonah Hill for Best Supporting Actor.
For more on our Oscar picks, listen to George’s stint on the Sunny 95 (WSNY Columbus, OH) morning show.
How bittersweet that the great James Gandolfini goes out on such a high note. The man who may have been the all time best onscreen Mafia boss showed surprising versatility throughout his film career, and this talent is on beautiful display in one of his final performances.
Both are divorced and facing the prospect of empty nests as their daughters head off to college, and together they develop a sweet crush that is a joy to watch as it blossoms.
Disheveled and genuine, Louis-Dreyfus has never been better, and together these veterans best known for their epically impressive television careers sparkle with tender onscreen chemistry.
Holofcener’s made a career of exploring the issues facing privileged, urban dwelling women. While this may seem too trite to tolerate, her laid back style, dialed-down neuroticism and eye for casting tend to balance things out.
Characteristically, Holofcener’s focus in Enough Said is the day to day struggle with intimacy, connection, and the compromise that accompanies a relationship. Still, this film is probably her most mainstream and accessible to date because the problems themselves are more universal.
Expect the loose narrative and slice of life structure, but with Louis-Dreyfus and her infectious chuckle driving the story, everything seems cheerier, more forgivable, and ultimately hopeful.
The film’s conflict feels a little contrived, but Louis-Dreyfus’s comic timing and unadorned performance keep things honest. She’s aided immeasurably by a cast eyeball deep in talent.
The always excellent Catherine Keener and Toni Collette are impressive, of course. Ben Falcone also gets in some good lines, and keep a look out for Toby Huss as Eva’s ex. (He’s The Wiz, and nobody beats him! Seriously, it’s that guy from Seinfeld. You’re welcome.)
Holofcener’s crafted a wise and affectionate look at middle age. Her writing is just as incisive as ever, but this cast finds more heart in the humor – Gandolfini in particular. As he did with all of his best work, he uncovers the vulnerability in the character that makes him human, recognizably flawed and therefore compelling.
That’s right. He could even play the romantic lead. The guy could do anything.