In Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Gus Van Sant is a warmly holistic filmmaker, typically taking affectionate approaches to outsiders or internalized characters in fictional and true stories alike. His latest film, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot looks compassionately at cartoonist John Callahan as he copes with alcoholism and the paralysis that resulted from a booze-induced accident. But unlikely Van Sant’s more complete visions, this film is defined almost exclusively by those cozy feelings to dull effect.

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In Review: “A Ghost Story”

David Lowery’s A Ghost Story was filmed in secrecy last summer, both in a response to and with the financial aid from Lowery’s experience creating the big-budgeted Disney remake of Pete’s Dragon. That off-the-grid air is present in the film, feeling like a found artifact or talisman from beyond. But what makes the film really register is the deep well of feeling that made Lowery’s Disney effort more than a retread into familiar emotional territory. Here, Lowery delivers something more than the cosmic and intellectually minded. What surprises in A Ghost Story is that it comes from the heart.

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filmmixtape’s Best Actress of 2015

What a year for leading actress performances. The first longlist for my Best Actress picks yielded over thirty serious candidates and it was like pulling teeth to narrow down to a final five. Fan favorites and personal darlings had to be dropped with thoughtless abandon, so forgive the many exclusions. The lineup I’ve chosen was ultimately the ones that lingered hardest in my brain and wouldn’t leave my mind.

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Cate Blanchett – Carol

  • She’s physically indicative of Carol’s mental state and intentions, but never delivers a mannered or cheaply telling moment. Her every longing and regret is so present in her physicality that she creates an aura of unspoken emotion around herself. Once she finally speaks her mind, Blanchett becomes the source of the film’s catharsis and appropriately unfetters Mara’s Therese (and the audience) anew.

Emily Blunt – Sicario

  • Blunt plays Kate as a knotted muscle of blind morals and ambition, becoming the surrogate for the audience’s increasingly unbearable tension. The film wouldn’t click without the humanity she brings to the role and her economy in suggesting Kate’s unspoken depression. The threat of violence and potential for irreparable sacrifice is plain on her face from the word go.

Brie Larson – Room

  • Filled with specificity of Ma’s pain, but open enough to acknowledge that there are things about her experience that will remain unknowable to her loved ones and the audience. She makes Ma more than a savior, but a complex woman frozen by trauma into the immature mind of a teenager. Like the film itself, Larson modulates her anguish for the sake of Jack and the audience while remaining fiercely honest.

Rooney Mara – Carol

  • Her Therese is changed by love both in the moment and over the course of the film in clear ways, but Mara never cheapens them with obviousness. She may be flung out of space, but she’s also unexpectedly plain spoken, allowing Mara’s natural screen presence to take hold. From her sense of longing, to her anger, to her cold heartache, she is always the perfect compliment to Blanchett’s Carol.

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

  • A performance that’s at its most transformative in the silences, with whole revolutions happening on Rampling’s face as her understanding of her marriage crumbles. Her consciously dissipating connection to Courtenay as she becomes more interior predicts the conclusion’s sharp turn without diminishing its impact. To put it cheaply, it’s as if she’s living on the screen rather than acting in it.

The Winner is after the jump!

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In Review!: “Carol”

As gay people, we’re acutely cognizant of nuances of perception and communication. When a portion (or entirety) of one’s life is spent forced to suppress self-expression, we become scientists of our own behavior and scrutinize how any minute tic will reveal our identity. Whether we have hidden because of social norms or for safety, the necessity to do so results in a social class of experts in subtle social interaction. The hyper-sensitivity electrifies when we meet one of our own and use these adaptive skills to acknowledge shared truths, to show compassion, to express romantic interest. The liberated YouTube generation knows nothing of the experience of not being able to speak plainly to your own camp.

Somehow, we find eachother.

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Such are the fascinations of Todd Haynes’s passionately observed Carol, a love story of stolen glances and charged embraces that is as interested in the queer longings of the central duo as it is with what remains unspoken between any of Haynes’s 50s era denizens. Rarely has every frame been so essential and packed with specific behavior in contemporary cinema, and the film is a staggering assemblage of craft that services the truth for which Haynes reaches and richly achieves. Haynes captures the breathlessness of flirtation and first touches, the cured infection of prior loves into the dynamic, the ease of feeling accepted fully. Yes, it’s relatable to anyone who’s been in love, but make no mistakes: this is a gay story, the stakes raised by the language unavailable to two women in a time where they have to hide in plain sight.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is an unimposing shopgirl whose life gets a kickstart by the intrigued Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), a soon-to-be divorcé shopping for a Christmas present for her prized daughter. Naturally, things are complicated by Therese’s boyfriend (Jake Lacy) pushing for next steps and Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler) open to reconciliation if Carol plays it straight. The vulnerability that Mara and Blanchett bring to the lovers as they discover each other in the moment is breathtaking as Therese and Carol are by turns awkward, turned on, patient, and enamored. These women aren’t stoic enigmas, but social outliers discovering how to communicate their mutual interest without words.

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Coming Soon: Rooney Mara & Ben Mendelsohn in “Una”

Two images have arrived for next year’s Una, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn and based David Harrower’s play Blackbird. We get a small hint of the intensity of the source material, an intimate two-hander where the adult Una finds the man who sexually abused her to confront him about the aftermath of their relationship.

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Mara is flawlessly cast here, a natural fit to embody Una’s simmering rage and deep longing. With as much discomforting material that has to be met head-on, it requires a performer as game as Mara. Mendelsohn is called here to play a little more passive than we’ve seen from him, and he is a bit miscast. His skill with intensely focused one-on-ones (especially seen in Netflix’s “Bloodline”) will be an asset here, though.

The play is written in clipped, overlapping dialogue, with Una and Ray often unable to complete sentences before other details sidetrack them. It vibrantly immediate and intimate, giving the actor’s such a tool to create the tensions within themselves and between eachother. Harrower is adapting himself, and the play will be opened up to more than the two central characters (with Nightcrawler‘s Riz Ahmed showing up). If their is an element to hope is kept in transition, however, it is the real-time unfolding of events.

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The incendiary elements of the play – do Una and her abuser Ray still harbor affection for one another – are going to have a tough battle with audiences and film Twitter, especially if not downplayed in the adaptation. Perhaps we’ll see how a broader audience handles the material, as Broadway will see an new production this spring, with Jeff Daniels (reprising his role from the original off-Broadway production) and Michelle Williams.