Posts Tagged ‘Edward Norton’

2018 Berlin Film Festival Winners

The 68th annual Berlin International Film Festival was held from 15th to the 25th February, 2018

The Berlin International Film Festival known as the Berlinale takes places annually in February and is regarded as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

Golden Bear for Best Film:  Touch Me Not – directed by Adina Pintilie

Silver Bear for Best Director: Wes Anderson – Isle of Dogs  – starring Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham and Liev Schreiber

Silver Bear for Best Actor:   Cedric Kahn – The Prayer

Silver Bear for Best Actress:   Ana Brun – The Heiress

Silver Bear for Best Script: Alonso Ruizpalacios – Museo starring Gael Garcia Bernal

Performance Anxiety

Birdman

Or

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

birdman_ver3

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Lindsay Duncan

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu whose previous films include the critically acclaimed Babel, Buitiful and 21 Grams, delivers another cinematic magic realist masterpiece in the electrifying film Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance about the crazy antics which occur backstage on a Broadway production of a play adapted from a Raymond Carver story.

Birdman is comical, fantastical and brilliantly acted by a great ensemble cast but particularly by Michael Keaton as the central character Riggan, a washed up 1990’s superhero film star who is desperate to revive his acting career on Broadway.

Michael Keaton delivers a crackling performance as the erratic Riggan, an aging actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose alter ego the superhero film character Birdman keeps whispering in his ear that he should not be taking to the stage but rather resuscitating his failed film career. Riggan also seems to be constantly hounded by a multitude of neurotic woman throughout the film which feeds his own performance anxiety.

Joining the energetic Keaton who just won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy is an impressive ensemble cast including the hugely underrated Edward Norton as Mike Shiner a younger more precocious actor, Emma Stone as Riggan’s snappy daughter Sam, Andrea Riseborough as Riggan’s neurotic girlfriend Laura, Amy Ryan as Riggan’s ex-wife and stabilizing influence on his life, Sylvia. The Hangover star Zach Galifianakis as the exasperated bearded theatre producer Jake and Naomi Watts as a drama queen Lesley.

birdman

What makes Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance so utterly absorbing and in parts quite delirious is that Inarritu chooses to film the entire movie as one long tracking shot which keeps the momentum of this frenetic story alive and fresh. Besides the extraordinary direction, a very witty script, there is of course the superb performances by the entire cast who really excelled in a very difficult and strenuous acting stretch reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters In Search of an Author with a massive dash of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Magic Realism thrown in.

Visual clues abound along with multiple references to the 21st century super saturated media world of the 21st century. In one of the best scenes of the film Sam (superbly played by Emma Stone) tells her father Riggan that he has lost touch with the world, he does not even have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and is rarely on social media. As Birdman progresses and in a hilarious sequence with Riggan running through New York’s Times Square dressed only in white underpants, which is naturally captured on YouTube, his digital success changes instantly.

Then after a near meltdown with a bottle of Whisky and after Riggan tells the influential theatre critic Tabitha (a superb cameo by Lindsay Duncan) that he should be taken seriously as a stage actor, the opening night of the play arrives and no one can anticipate the final reaction or the review in the New York Times theatre page entitled The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

For anyone that has studied drama or been in a stage production, Birdman is a must see film, as Inarritu expertly captures the confidence, chaos and utter lack of self-consciousness of the wild and crazy cast of this production, as they strip for scene changes, fight with their fellow actors and generally are quite debauched in all sorts of ways unique to the Theatre world.

Birdman imaginatively emphasizes that despite all the social media around especially in 21st century contemporary America, there is nothing quite as exciting as Live Theatre.

Keaton, Norton and Stone are absolutely superb and this film is highly recommended viewing, worthy of all the attention it is currently receiving, much like what every actor in the world constantly craves: rave reviews and becoming a celebrity!

 

 

 

 

 

Fading Reign of Art Nouveau

The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand_budapest_hotel

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton

Moonrise Kingdom director Wes Anderson assembles a hugely talented ensemble cast led by the irresistable Ralph fiennes as Gustave H.  a suave Concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel who gets embroiled in a whimsical art theft after his benefactor dies mysteriously and her evil son Dimitri played by Adrien Brody pursues the eloquent and flamboyant Gustave in a fictitious republic of  Zubrowka representative of a modern day Yugoslavia or even The Czech Republic, but emblematic of a crumbling decadent and ravaged Eastern Europe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful plot, inventive, hilarious, witty and beautifully orchestrated matched by a superb ensemble cast the likes of which haven’t been seen on screen for years including Oscar nominees F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Harvey Keitel (Bugsy), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of a Vampire), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Edward Norton (Primal Fear), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) – all consummate character actors and brilliant performers in the own right.

Each perfectly constructed shot in the Grand Budapest Hotel is a pastiche of old European movies and landscapes reminiscent of a time between the wars when civility was still in fashion. When Old European Hotels were lavish and comfortable establishments with Bell Boys, Lift Operators, Chefs and naturally charming yet slimy Concierges adding to the intrigue of its elegance. When Hotels were places to spend a week, when time was plentiful and guests came to languish in the extraordinary facilities of these beautifully decadent Hotels which populated the ski slopes and small towns of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

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Even though, the fictional country,  Zubrowka is representative of a mixture of Eastern European countries which all suffered under the Nazi’s and then under the Communists, the institutional history of such a charming hotel remained the centre of a town’s attraction, where legends of its fabled guests were passed down over the decades. The Grand Budapest Hotel reflects an era when Art Nouveau reigned supreme especially in the 1930’s. This comedy set in 1932, featuring a complicated and whimsical if not absolutely witty plot is deftly handled by screenwriter Anderson who makes sure each of his cast members whether on screen for a second or for several scenes delivers a perfect performance.

The cast also includes Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton. Inspired by the works of 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel is expertly crafted, dazzlingly assembled and wonderfully executed. A real treat of a film which will sure to delight audiences for years to come  much like the Hotel whose guests found its hidden charms suitably enchanting. Highly recommended viewing and a winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel is marvelous, whimsical, witty and comical with an underlying menace attached to the action, making the comedy almost tragic in its relevance.

 

 

 

Lethal Legacy Continues

The Bourne Legacy

Director: Tony Gilroy

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney, Corey Stoll, Edward Norton, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Stacy Keach, Sam Gilroy, Scott Glenn

Tony Gilroy the screenwriter for the original three Bourne movies takes the director’s chair in the fourth installment of the Bourne movies The Bourne Legacy featuring an all star cast including Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, Rachel Wiesz as Dr Marta Shering. The Bourne Legacy also features Edward Norton as Eric Nyer and Stacy Keach as Mark Turso along with brief appearances by David Strathairn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney. The Bourne Legacy has all the excitement, espionage and action of the first three Bourne movies except for Jason Bourne himself, whose character lurks in the fourth installment as a shadow, with this film’s tag line being suitably appropriate There was never just one.

The Bourne Legacy picks up soon after the third Bourne film ends, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) when Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon deftly vanishes into the Manhattan morning traffic, swopping its urban location for icy Alaska where viewers are introduced to Aaron Cross bringing a muscularity to the role is the superb Jeremy Renner another drug-modified recruit employed by a shady covert agency within the CIA, battling hungry wolves and his own survival in this gorgeous Alaskan wilderness.

Matt Damon in the first two Bourne films always had this stern yet slightly confused look on his face as he was globetrotting across Europe trying to work out who wanted him dead without vocalize his unique dilemma. Jeremy Renner is wonderfully vocal and expressive in his portrayal of Aaron Cross who soon has to flee Alaska and head for Maryland to discover the supplier of the shady drugs he is taking from a less than orthodox Pharmaceutical company in Bethesda, Maryland.

Cross soon teams up with Marta who after surviving a horrific laboratory shooting, trusts in Cross as her number 5 patient and they flee America for the Philippines.  The Bourne Legacy might lack some of the directorial flourishes of the more experienced action directors of the original visceral Bourne Trilogy Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith) and Paul Greengrass (United 93), but retains all the traits of the original movies: exotic locations, shady government agencies and of course a brilliant chase sequence in the overpopulated streets of Manila.

Two particular noteworthy scenes are Cross’s encounter with a wolf in Alaska and the superbly shot motorbike chase sequence in Manila. The chemistry between Wiesz and Renner is genuine and they make a great onscreen couple something which was lacking in the original films especially when Matt Damon’s love interest Franka Potente was eliminated in The Bourne Supremacy.

The Bourne Legacy continues in the tradition of the first three films and viewers who have seen that trilogy will be impressed by Tony Gilroy’s recreation of the Bourne universe complete with physical violence, ruthless assassins and spectacular action sequences complete with some really well timed dialogue especially between Renner and Wiesz. Gilroy as director was also responsible for the superb Michael Clayton and Duplicity and does not disappoint in The Bourne Legacy. The chase sequence in the Philippines deserves an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. Recommended viewing for those who love spy thrillers and enjoy Jeremy Renner’s always unnerving on screen performances as seen in The Hurt Locker and The Town and proves that Renner has what it takes to be a leading man.

Seduction and Salvation in China

painted_veil

The Painted Veil

This beautiful film gorgeously directed by John Curran and based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham is set in China in the 1920’s is a sumptuous tale of seduction and salvation told with an ironic eye about a young woman who marries a micro-biologist and bacterial specialist featuring superb performances by Naomi Watts and Edward Norton.

The young scientist needs a wife and the young woman needs to escape the confines of her suburban Chelsea family. Initially the young couple live in the exotic city of Shanghai and then due to an indiscretion on the wife’s part, as punishment the Doctor takes her to a cholera infected village in rural China, where she learns with humility about atonement and the true sacrifice involved in staying married at whatever the cost. The Painted Veil is shot in gorgeous colours making the most of the dramatic Chinese landscape and with a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat (who was hailed for his original music for the Oscar winning Stephen Frears film, The Queen.) and consequently won a Golden Globe award for Best Original Score for this film.

Most notable is the strong performances by the two leading actors, both entirely underrated, Edward Norton playing the brutal and slightly calculating doctor who learns to treat his wife as more than a personal assistant, and Naomi Watts who plays Kitty the naive young Englishwoman who finds salvation in the most unlikely locations and with the assistance of Mother Superior, a wonderful cameo by Diana Rigg.

This 2006 film surely did not get all the praise it was worth upon release but will remain an undiscovered cinematic gem. The Hollywood Foreign Press described The Painted Veil as one of the most beautiful films ever made. The cinematography and the mesmerizing music by Alexandre Desplat withstanding, this film is well worth watching and could easily be considered a 21st century classic.

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