Now this is more like it. Finally, a movie outrageous enough to make people stand up and boo. The honor goes to Only God Forgives, 90 minutes inside a barrel of Nicolas Winding Refn's subconscious sexual nightmares. All the slicing and hacking makes it obvious: Refn is scared someone wants to take away his penis. It's true that some of the audience came to the film's rescue with applause. But after the final pair of limbs had been slashed off, you knew what the jeering was all about. Some of us were hoping Refn would top the flamboyant brooding of Bronson or the neon ecstasy of Drive. We got instead a work of regressive junk.
Ryan Gosling returns, this time as some kind of Refn surrogate. He's a drug dealer and the owner of a Bangkok muy thai boxing gym prone to walking very slowly down corridors lit, like most of the movie, in emergency-exit red and dreaming of reaching for a door and having his arm slashed off. This guy is seeking revenge for the murder of his brother — even though the brother is a psychopath who raped a teenage girl and bludgeoned her to death. Gosling is once again horny, silent, and deadly, but because this is a Western movie in Thailand, the only woman a man can find is a prostitute.
Reese, in pieces: Here is yet another video of Reese Witherspoon mismanaging her husband's DUI arrest. In this clip, Toth informs Witherspoon that she just "turned it really bad." Ah, scenes from a marriage. Police dash cams just make me feel more nervous about Google Glass.
If you have a couple of minutes today, do yourself a favor and check out this joint Moviefone interview with Ryan Gosling and his Drive director, Nicolas Winding Refn, back from 2011. They may well be playing it up for the cameras, but Ryan and Nic seem like the chummiest of old pals: just two dudes, giddy that someone's let them make a movie about all the gnarly shit they used to draw in their notebooks.
It’s been almost six months since I wrote my first column on the 2012 Oscar race, and we’re finally at predictions week. The ballots are in (or will be by tomorrow); the votes are soon to be tabulated; the hopes and dreams of 80 percent of the nominees are currently being ground into a fine powder. And it’s time to put your money where my mouth is. All this week, I’ll be announcing my guesses and doing my best to simulate an actual Oscar telecast, meaning that I will be starting with the stuff you don’t care about, taking immensely long pauses, and making you wait forever for the whole ugly business to end. Join me, won’t you? Imagine that Billy Crystal has already done his shout-outs to Brad and George in the front row, made a Harvey Weinstein reference (cut to reaction shot of Harvey looking amused/anticipatory/terrifying), and made one really funny joke I can’t think of that will end, “ or, as they’re known in Hollywood, The Help!” Hooting! Approving applause!
Voice-over! “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage two of our brightest stars, Cynthia Nixon and Sean Hayes!” No, wait, that’s the Tonys. “Please welcome to the stage ” Hmmm. Who’s big enough for an Oscar presentation but new enough so that you can stick them with the awards nobody else wants to give? Oh, my God, it’s CHANNING TATUM AND EMMA STONE!
Dan Silver: Last week Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a film I was looking forward to mocking, shunning, and then secretly renting on VOD one night after my wife and kid went to bed. But after seeing the brooding, visually vibrant, and downright bad-ass first trailer, I quickly became excited to fork over my $11 on June 22. So it pains me to say that the film’s international trailer diminishes my enthusiasm somewhat. With its orchestral score and all too typical hyperbolic, out of context, monologue/VO, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter now feels like the tonally askew, narratively disjointed, bland summer blockbuster I always thought it was going to be. More specifically it’s smelling a little like Jonah Hex. [Ed Note: OUCH.]
I’d like to thank the Academy for throwing an extra mystery at those of us who treat predicting the Oscars as something between a hobby and a blood sport: This year, we have to figure out not only which movies will be nominated, but how many. After concluding that the appropriate number of Best Picture contenders was five for 65 consecutive years, and then 10 for two consecutive years, what the Academy’s board of governors has now settled on is “from five to ten.” How can we narrow that down? Well, the Academy did offer one clue by revealing that when it experimentally retabulated the ballots from 2001 through 2008, the results yielded, in different years, five, six, seven, eight, and nine nominees — but never ten.
The most sentimental and manipulative movie of 2011 stars a great, stoic beast that is something of an enigma to those around him. Lacking words, he seems to have an almost human sense of what people need and expect from him — although they often underestimate his strength and endurance. Some audience members may be irritated by the self-consciously mythic way he’s presented, or by his uncanny, not particularly believable ability to survive despite the carnage that surrounds him. And it’s easy to feel jerked around by a score that seems to oversell his heroism at every turn, or by a visual style that overtly evokes movies from decades earlier. But by the climax, your heart may swell when you realize that he’s come through, the hard times are over, and he’s going to be okay. Don’t you hate sappy clichés like that? I do too. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed Ryan Gosling in Drive.
The next month of the Oscar campaign — from today until January 13, when nomination balloting closes — is in some ways the most interesting phase of the process. There are no more tea leaves to read, no more wild cards, no more embargoes on the expression of opinion, no more “precursor” awards that could seriously reshape the race. As Hollywood shuts down for a vacation, thousands of Academy voters will watch the contenders — or, more importantly, decide which contenders they feel like watching. And the tectonic shifts that result can be so gradual that you won’t know anything has changed until you realize a couple of weeks from now that a particular movie has somehow lost momentum or pushed forward in the pack.
A couple of days ago I asked Oscarmetrics readers to tweet me the movies they wish were in the Best Picture discussion right now. I ruled out what I think is the current consensus top ten (The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life and War Horse). Anything else was eligible. I got an earful: Impassioned and thoughtful (within a 140-character limit) arguments for 32 different movies. And, by a landslide, the one you’d like to nudge into the discussion is the one in which Ryan Gosling kicks ass and takes names while maintaining an expression of such frozen imperturbability that a climactic twist pivots on your inability to figure out whether he’s dead or just concentrating. In any event, as the song says, he’s a real hero and a real human being (give or take), so bravo!
Inspired by the recent lawsuit against the makers of Drive — filed by a woman, who, not unreasonably expected the movie to feature more driving and fewer exploding heads — this week's installment of YouTube Hall of Fame collects the movie scenes that were so bad we'd like to take someone to court.
Splice (Katie Baker): A few months ago I was spending a kickin' Friday night all alone in a hotel room, idly flipping channels on one of those hotel TVs that has no "guide" and no HD. There was NOTHING on, so when one channel flashed Adrien Brody's face I stopped there, trusting that anything with him had a potentially good chance of not being that bad. The unrecognizable movie was kind of weird, but compelling/confusing enough that I never felt like changing the channel.
I had missed the beginning, but basically it seemed like Adrien Brody and another lady scientist had created some sort of mutant life form in their lab that was part human but also part other things (for example, the life form, named "Dren", had really wide-set eyes and a long rat-like tail and rabbit-type legs and spoke only in dolphin-like clicking noises) and were now secretly really attached to it, putting it in a dress and treating it like their child. Anyway, one of the characteristics of the mutant being was how rapidly she/it aged, and you could tell that this was going to present some problems down the road for the scientists as the being got bigger and more aggressive and stronger-willed and all that. Just your typical "I've created a monster!" fare, no big deal, nothing I couldn't handle, and the movie was … kind of good?
Ravaged by robots and reboots, attacked by apes, and asphyxiated by the ‘80s, the moviegoing public has had enough. But how best to express their outrage? The old Muppet-y trick of hurling your popcorn and candy at the screen is both ineffective and cost-prohibitive, especially since, due to inflation, a single jujyfruit is worth approximately 2.2 Argentine Pesos. There’s always civil disobedience but Occupy Burbank fizzled out after the die-hard cineastes camping out in the middle of Barham Boulvard realized the only people who stick around there after dark are Jay Leno’s mechanics. So enterprising consumers are instead doing the most patriotic thing of all: suing.
This weekend, one movie divided America like no other. Though Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Drive finished a solid No. 3 at the box office, it seems audiences weren’t as enamored of this inaction thriller as critics (or the Cannes jury, which awarded Refn their Best Director prize). While Drive’s Tomatometer stands at 91 percent, its Cinemascore audience-approval rating is a dismal C-. (By way of comparison, even I Don’t Know How She Does It got a Cinemascore of B-.)
But which score matters more to the Razzies? Could Drive take audience disappointment on a fast ride to Razzie glory? Let’s take a closer look.
Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s hyperviolent ode to fast cars and pink fonts, is crammed with memorable visual details: a tense, gloved hand on a steering wheel, Carey Mulligan’s doe-eyed gaze, Ryan Gosling popping skulls like Birdman pops bottles. But the most iconic image of the film is the white satin jacket worn by Gosling’s character, Driver. Pitched perfectly between immaculate throwback and haute hipster, the ever-present jacket — which becomes ever more bloody as the film progresses — was the work of costume designer Erin Benach, a veteran of films including Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, and even a few not starring Ryan Gosling. We spoke with her about her greatest creation.
Nicolas Wending Refn’s Drive is about a stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night played by Ryan Gosling. Among its many recommendable qualities (the performances, Refn’s visual virtuosity, bringing back toothpicks and satin jackets) are the film's fully analog car chases and stunts. So who was responsible for Drive's action? Meet stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott. We spoke with him this week about his career, Ryan Gosling, and a funny thing that happened one day on the set of the Jet Li/DMX classic, Cradle 2 the Grave.
Headed to the movie theater this weekend? Here are the new trailers you might miss while waiting in line for popcorn. 50/50 (September 30)
In 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an urban twenty-something battling cancer. This is the film's second trailer, and though the first one was by no means a downer, the new one is noticeably more upbeat. Gone are the tumors, sterile doctor's offices, and old men receiving chemotherapy. In their place are more Seth Rogen, upbeat music, and a title card that says, “From the guys who brought you Superbad.”