Based on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, this film holds its heavy emotional weight in check right up to a rather overwrought conclusion. But along the way, its characters worm their way under our skin.
Oskar (Horn) is the son of a jeweller (Hanks) who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. A year later, he's still struggling to make sense of what he calls "the worst day", worrying that his sense of his father is fading away. So when he finds a key in his father's things, Oskar embarks on a quest to find the lock. His mother (Bullock) is lost in her own grief, but Oskar finds companionship in the mute stranger (von Sydow) who rents a room from his granny (Caldwell).
With a dense Alexandre Desplat score, textured Chris Menges cinematography and fluid editing by Claire Simpson, this film feels almost like a wave that engulfs us right from the eerily effective opening shot. Daldry has done this before (see The Hours), although this film also has a more manipulative plot in which each character and situation seem to be packed with deeper meaning.
Fortunately, Oskar's sense of yearning helps undermine the sentiment.
Horn is terrific in every scene, beautifully bringing out Oskar's autistic quirks without letting us feel any pity. The way he so brutally dismisses his mother is heartbreaking because it's so honest, and his growing bond with von Sydow's enigmatic, engagingly cheeky renter is fascinating to watch. Bullock gets her most complex role since Crash, and Davis gives yet another terrific supporting turn as one of the first people Oskar encounters on his journey.
Where the film wobbles is in its over-reverent treatment of 9/11 itself, as if Oskar's grief is any more intense because his father died in such a public way.
It's the quieter, more personal aspects of the story that are far more moving, especially as the plot takes some lovely twists in the final act. But Daldry and screenwriter Roth seem even more obsessed with finding a cathartic resolution than Oskar himself, leading to final scenes that feel tidy and a bit sappy. Even so, the film leaves us emotionally stirred in all the right ways.
Eric Roth, Dr. Ed Catmull and Jeff Okun - Eric Roth, Dr. Ed Catmull and Jeff Okun Los Angeles, California - 8th Annual VES Awards held at The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza - Arrivals Sunday 28th February 2010
An intelligent director, Fincher cut his teeth on television commercials and music videos before making his feature debut in 1992 with a forgettable and regrettable installment in the Alien franchise. It was all uphill from there. Fincher's next five films arguably are modern classics, each impressively different from its immediate predecessor. Gen X fanboys idolize him for the basement-dwelling aggressions of Fight Club. The director brought flash -- and a needed backbone -- to pulp thrillers like The Game and Panic Room. And cineastes found plenty to appreciate in the meticulous musings of Fincher's cold-case police procedural, Zodiac.
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Completed in 2005, Lucky legendarily shuffled around Warner Bros.' release schedule (bad sign) before the studio dropped it on the summer's first massive weekend (good sign) where it could compete with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 for an audience (suicidal sign). Watching it, you easily forget the picture's age and subsequent shelf life until Drew Barrymore's character -- an aw shucks rube from Northern California trying to make it as a lounge singer in Las Vegas -- tosses off a Dr. Laura Schlesinger reference. Hanson even opens with Bruce Springsteen's "Lucky Town," an old-school track off The Boss' similarly titled album that brought me back a few years, but which actually fits the story well.
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While the CIA's roots in the WWII-era OSS (Office of Strategic Services) are well established, very few films have rooted the American spy service as firmly as this one does in its starched, prim and proper WASP world. Wilson, played by Damon as a tight-lipped, practically invisible cipher, comes from one of that world's better families, and so is a shoo-in for Yale's secret Skull & Bones society once he does a little snooping for the FBI on his pro-Nazi poetry professor (Michael Gambon). Smart and stoic, Wilson shoots up the OSS ranks and soon is masterminding the CIA's global subterfuge against the Soviets.
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What makes Munich even more ambitious than films like List or even Empire of the Sun is that it's not as recognizable a film as those classically-structured epics. This film is part spy thriller and part meditation on violence but not completely either. The result comes out as somewhat scrambled by the end, with the pieces of about a half-dozen lesser movies mixed around inside, but there's rarely a moment when it's not grabbing you by the collar and demanding your undivided attention. We should have more of this kind of thing.
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But what a crazy chain of events Forrest Gump has spawned: a poorly-received book sequel, a restaurant chain, and hordes of imitators -- not to mention a critical backlash.
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Yes, I'm talking about The Postman. Post-millennial, post-apocalyptic, and post-intelligence, The Postman is the story of patriotism being reborn (ironically, the patriotism is in opposition to nationalism, which is the flip side of the patriotic coin) in the form of Postal Carriers. OK. It's dumb. The United States has become defunct, a racist psychopath holds all of the power, and the first thing that the new US Government is trying to get working is the mail.
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They say you should never see two things being made: Sausage and legislation. Add journalism to that list. I've been in this racket long enough to know that objectivity is painfully lacking in the places you expect to find it the most. Backroom deals make strange bedfellows of interest-conflicted parties (e.g. Time-Warner owns Entertainment Weekly magazine, which reviews Warner Bros. films, etc.) So when 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) decided to do a story about the hazards of cigarettes in 1996, he found himself embroiled in controversy.
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Now, with Michael Mann's lengthy biopic of the heavyweight king hitting theaters, kids can think of former "Fresh Prince" Will Smith. And I'm still not sure if that's a good thing.
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