Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In Search of a Masterpiece

Once upon a time in the far off and whimsical land of Jersey—the “New” version—a young girl dreamed movie dreams and begged her parents to take her to see Rocky as often as they could stand it. She and her older brother would listen to Bill Conti’s glorious theme and reenact the final, tear-jerking moments, complete with a gut-wrenching yelp of “Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!” It was, in her 6-year-old opinion, the BEST MOVIE EVER.

A year later, she changed her mind, having been introduced to a new man—we’ll call him “Han” for short—and Star Wars ruled the day.

Years have gone by. The young girl is in her thirties and has loved many films and performances since those heady days of cheering for the contender. But her affection for him (and Han) lingers.

Of course, I’m referring to myself. And as I observe the debates over this year’s five Academy Award Best Picture nominees, I think it’s important for all of us to remember that inner film geek and how we got here in the first place. I’d guess a lot of us have “first film loves” that we cling to, even as our tastes have matured. I know that the Oscars are all about rewarding the “best” NOW, but I also think that whatever the film, it’s important to understand that our perceptions and feelings aren’t static. Despite this, most film reviews are the artistic version of a phone call to a friend after a first date. It’s all about snap judgments—over praise or dismissal in an instant.

Read the rest here.

Talking STP

Recently, I had a chance to TALK film online versus just writing about it when my friend Nathaniel at The Film Experience asked me to participate in an Oscar nominations discussion as part of his new podast feature. Joe Reid of Low Resolution also pitches in.

The segment follows an interview Nat conducted with 12-time sound Oscar nominee Greg P. Russell, who is up for another sound Oscar this year for the Transformers.

Download the conversation here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Marisa Tomei Shares Pieces of a Part

By Susan Thea Posnock

A performance is in many ways a collection of fragments: Take one versus take five; an edit here or there; a close-up versus a long shot. The filmmakers decide what the audience will see onscreen. Yet elements that don’t reach the final cut can still inform it.

For actress Marisa Tomei, some of her personal pieces in this process are literally collecting dust. That’s because with each role, she keeps a black-and-white composition notebook. It’s her way of finding time to “daydream” about the person she must become.

“I’ll have ideas or images or the timeline of the character’s personal history, or just questions [in the notebook],” she says.

Once she moves on to the next persona, she throws the books down into her basement. Who knows, maybe that’s one reason Tomei, who turned 43 in December, looks so damn good. Perhaps those notebooks are a kind of “Picture of Dorian Gray.” In addition to the immortality offered by movies, her filmography lives on, discarded but not destroyed in those books.

Read the full post here.

Lovemadness, Puerto Rican Style

By Susan Thea Posnock

Early on in Maldeamores (Lovesickness) I realized I wasn’t watching a conventional take on romance. In place of bright-eyed, beautiful protagonists who have a “meet cute” and then pretend to hate each other for an hour, the film—which is the official Oscar foreign language entry for Puerto Rico—features stalkers, adulterers and most compelling and surprising of all, old folks.

It was written by Carlitos Ruiz Ruiz and Jorge Gonzales. Ruiz co-directed with his wife, Mariem Perez Riera and his brother Luillo Ruiz is the producer. It features an ensemble led by Luis Guzman, who plays a cheating husband, a part that was written for him. Actor Benicio Del Toro served as an executive producer and it was one of the first independent films to receive funding from the Puerto Rico Film Commission’s new incentive law.

This isn’t a Sleepless in Seattle version of “love in a movie,” but a messy, heightened mixture of love, sex, and hate—blended together with a strong dose of humor. It shows how the onset of these emotions can afflict people of all ages, but it was the septuagenarian love triangle I found most intriguing.

Read the full post here.