If you've already seen The Place Beyond the Pines (it opens wide today, after runs in L.A. and NYC), it'd be quite kind of you not to spill the details. Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to his 2010 heartbreak epic Blue Valentine is both larger in scope and more deceitful, as it traces a few cracked familial lineages through an unorthodox structure that should leave you shocked inside of an hour. Last week Grantland sat down with Cianfrance at the New York offices of Pines distributor Focus Features. He was wearing the meme-classic Three Wolves Howling T-shirt, and he was very easy to talk to.
Sometimes movies slip through the cracks and, for better or worse, I catch up with them. Here's a handful, all directed by a range of men, from an Italian visionary to some dude named Robert Redford.
The Place Beyond the Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance
A slow-burning drama told in three connected movements, all featuring an unusually haggard, unusually good Eva Mendes. The first has Ryan Gosling doing a version of his Drive persona, a bank-robbing, tattooed stunt biker living in Schenectady (a Mohawk word that gives the movie its title). The second miscasts Bradley Cooper as a lawyer turned cop in the same town. The last has two fantastic performances from Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan, whose relationship to each other and the rest of the movie is basically from the people who brought you Romeo and Juliet.
What Cianfrance has written has scraps of surprise and a fine chase sequence, but it doesn't reach for the stars or the emotional cosmos — or, at least, it doesn't know how to get there. He's given us plot points and episodes in search of thriller and tragedy. But no suspense. His previous movie with Gosling, 2010's martial-disaster drama Blue Valentine, was similarly unsure about how to build into something greater than shouts and murmurs. This time, you wonder whether Cianfrance reached the film's final third and realized that this was his movie, two high school burnouts who fascinate each other. But he had Gosling and Cooper and probably couldn't turn back. Once Ray Liotta shows up as his umpteenth crook, it's tempting to believe that a piece of software made the whole movie happen.
"Ryan had called me about a few months before we started shooting," says Derek Cianfrance, the director of the fathers-and-sons saga The Place Beyond the Pines, "with these ideas for who [his character] Luke would be. And he said, 'Hey D ... I wanna get a face tattoo.' And I was like, 'Really? A face tattoo?' He says, 'Yeah. Face tattoos are the coolest. And this one's gonna be a dagger. And it's gonna be dripping blood.'"
Well of course the bleeding dagger face tat in Place Beyond the Pines was Gosling's idea! That Gosling is one of our finest screen actors is impossible to deny. Also truth: The way this man does character elaborations based on physical traits or props is untouched in contemporary American cinema. Way before Ryan popped that toothpick in his mouth for Drive, we knew that this is a man who does not fear unleashing the gloriously romanticizing powers of a proper onscreen affectation.
But which of Gosling's many onscreen affectations has been most imbued with the true, devil-may-care spirit of Ryan Gosling? Herewith, in honor of Pines (out in wide release tomorrow), some ratings.
20. Chris Brown: For "beating his girlfriend Rihanna." (Duh.) "Even though Rihanna has taken him back, many music industry insiders don't trust him, perhaps because he claims to be the real victim."
19. Jesse James: "People began to turn on the reality star with reports of his cheating on Sandra Bullock, but his tone-deaf statements made matters worse."
18. Taylor Swift: "The talented singer-songwriter has not only dated what seems like every guy in Hollywood, but she's made millions bashing them in her songs!" Whatever, they're great songs and those dudes were fuckos! "She also can't seem to take a joke. After Tina Fey made a lighthearted quip about her boy-crazy rep, Taylor responded by saying 'There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.'" OMG, she was like just quoting Katie Couric! Boo, you whore.
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.
In the grand tradition of pumped-up, misplaced American exceptionalism, G.I. Joe: Retaliation steamrolled over its inherent terribleness (our own Wesley Morris called it "self-congratulation that's too brain-dead to know that it's farce") to go big at this weekend's box office. According to Hollywood.com, Joe and the gang pulled in $51.7 million domestically since opening on Thursday and another $80.3 million internationally, good for an overall ("Hang on. I'm just checking your math on that. Yes. I got the same thing") $132 million, and the biggest! international debut! of 2013!
That the movie managed that kind of public outreach isn't surprising only because of its critical taken-behind-the-wood-shed'ing; many assumed a smaller role for gold-heart-having stripper Channing Tatum would hurt Joe, as well. But as producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura pointed out, sequel king Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson managed to pick up the Tatum slack: "I believe in movie stars, that's for sure. And he certainly is one. He's this amazing specimen.
"Also, sometimes he'll bust out The People's Eyebrow right in the middle of a table read, and that is just the most adorable thing ever," Bonaventura did not add.
Angelina Jolie is "Surprise! Boring in bed." Whaaaaaa? This alleged information comes from shade thrown by her ex, Billy Bob Thornton, who has said, "sometimes, with the model, the actress, the 'sexiest person in the world,' it may be literally like fucking the couch." FUCK YO COUCH, BILLY BOB!
Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton: Splitting up is not on the table for the country supercouple. Lambert says she's questioned whether her marriage to Shelton will last "a million" times. "Divorce is not an option," Lambert said. "I will fight to the death. I am a ninja." That seems like a weird thing to say about your relationship. In order to keep communication open, Lambert and Shelton "are allowed to snoop through each other's phones." Has she never heard of a burner? They never spend longer than two weeks away from each other. "We text a lot. Even if it's just sending a picture of the onion rings we're eating!" OK, that seems less weird. They bond at home, "hang out on the porch, drink beer and cook burgers." Lambert says "I think it's important as a married couple to be friends." This all feels strangely defensive. I'm rooting for Lambert (how could I not be?), so I hope things work out.
Lindsay Lohan Is a High-Paid Escort: According to her father, Michael Lohan, Lindsay "is getting paid to date rich men. Dina is pimpin her out. It's disgusting." A second source confirms the story. "The dates last for days, and the guys pay for everything — hotel, travel costs, food, whatever — as well as jewelry and other gifts." While she might just be receiving a fee to act as "arm candy for wealthy men who like to be seen with beautiful and famous women." Clients include Prince Haji Abdul Azim, third in line to the throne of Brunei, and Spanish-American painter Domingo Zapata.
"Domingo let Lindsay live in his penthouse at the Bowery Hotel in NYC for free and at his L.A. pad at Chateau Marmont." Zapata rescinded his kindness after Lohan's hit-and-run incident in September. "He said that Lindsay kept taking, taking, taking and asking for more — cars, dinners, clothes, everything." Lohan is now hanging out with "Vikram Chatwal a.k.a. The Turban Cowboy, who owns a chain of luxury hotels." Is that a self-appointed nickname? Michael Lohan says "Dina is exploiting Lindsay because she's broke too and gets 20 percent of everything Lindsay makes." Michael Lohan is not the most reputable source, though. A friend of Lindsay's says her escort work is "no big deal" because Lohan is "totally broke and in serious debt, and no one will hire her." Plus Lindsay thinks of it as a kind of method research for some future role. "Being an escort is just an easy way for her to stay above water. [Lindsay] says she's an actress and won't turn down getting paid good money to act a certain way!"
With few exceptions, such as Friday's wide release of Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, the two-month period between the New Year and the Oscars is Hollywood's wasteland, a long stretch of bad cinematic road where it casts out its unloved misfires, its low-achieving genre fare, and, occasionally, its hidden, wolf-punching gems. We call this time "Dumpuary," and from now until the Academy's final statuette is handed out, our Dumpuary Movie Club will shine a light on the soon-to-be-forgotten films cruelly languishing in the shadow of awards season. This week: Gangster Squad.
Mark Lisanti: Let's start at the beginning. Or maybe the end. What did we just see? Because I honestly don't know. Was it The Untouchables? Was it Dick Tracy? Was it Sin City with 1929 gangsters and a full color palette? It's probably a little unfair to come right out of the gate trying to compare it to other things, but it seemed to jam its arm elbow-deep into that grab bag of influences and run with whatever it pulled out before any given scene. It wasn't bad enough to be bad-fun, and it wasn't good enough to be good-fun. It was a confusing thing that happened to a couple dozen people in a theater in downtown L.A. on an early Friday afternoon.
Silver: I’m an ardent Danny Boyle fan (I even like The Beach), and him directing with Trainspotting and Shallow Grave writer John Hodge on an intimate crime caper is just what I’d want from him for his first film released post-Olympics (fun fact: The film was actually shot prior to Boyle’s work on the Opening Ceremony). And almost all of his signature stylistic touches pop up in this trailer: switching back and forth between film and video, unconventional camera angles during action scenes, the utilization of reflective surfaces. So what if the hypnotism element is a little cheesy? This looks like classic Boyle. And I, for one, can’t wait.
Browne: The hypnotism element is more than a little cheesy, Dan. I just get the sense this is one of those films that you're not supposed to find funny, but is filled with moments that cause muted laughter anyway. I'm sure it'll be good and hold my attention, because Boyle knows what he's doing, and the cast looks strong, but when they bring out the tarot cards two-thirds of the way in, I'm not going to be able to keep a straight face.
Bethenny Frankel & Jason Hoppy's Split: Lunching with a friend in New York, Frankel and a friend "shared a plate of octopus, spaghetti, and a solemn conversation." How does one share a plate of octopus? Four tentacles each? Bethenny "wasn't smiling or laughing. She looked serious." Not to mention, her wedding ring was off. "So much for Frankel's happily ever after." Hoppy is still wearing his wedding band, and "feels used — like she just wanted him for a baby." He plans to fight her over custody of their daughter in court. Despite constant fights, Hoppy "was hoping she was just going through a phase." Friends claim he is wearing his ring as a plot to garner public sympathy. "It's definitely an image thing. He knows he's getting photographed. He's a smart guy." Frankel wants him to move out ASAP but he has been taking his time. "He's just not sure where he wants to go." Hoppy is angry, and "feels like he gave up his career for her. He basically stopped working to support her and wants to be compensated for it."
The couple got together in 2008 after meeting at a New York club. Sources say Frankel's no-holds-barred ambition is to blame for the union's downfall. "She got obsessive about her career." Bethenny's empire of Skinnygirl products had netted her at least a hundred million, but she still wants more. She also apparently "has high expectations that no man could ever live up to." With a new talk show rolling out soon expect to hear plenty more about the split, and possibly for it to get ugly.
Hey, we've been gone a while! Since before Christmas, to be exact. And seeing as you've surely spent that time stomping joyously through mountain passes and heartily breathing crisp, fresh, wintry mountain air and expertly plucking fish out of mountain creeks with your bare hands and otherwise avoiding the Internet in favor of life-affirming mountain-based recreational activities, let's catch up on what we missed. The Last Week in Pop Culture Review starts … right now.
After seven years, several serious-ish boyfriends, and countless offscreen episodes of TGS, Liz Lemon is a married woman. Last week's 30 Rock saw Liz making it legal with handsome slacker boyfriend Criss Chros (James Marsden). Liz eschewed her original plan to elope in sweats at City Hall in favor of a more formal event, replete with Tony Bennett and a Princess Leia bridal gown. You'll have to forgive me for replicating the famous Lemon eye-roll when I learned that Liz had secret white-wedding fantasies concealed under all her anti-romance bluster. It was somewhat trying to watch Liz realize that her tireless hatred of the culturally enforced marriage-industrial complex was a defensive reaction to her true heart's deepest wish, which just happened to be a ceremony like the ones on Bravo's Wedding Bitches. I found myself rooting for witness Dennis Duffy (Dean Winters) to pound on some glass and break up the wedding, The Graduate–style.