Posts Tagged ‘Louis C.K.’

Demonizing Dalton

Trumbo

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Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C. K. Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Roger Bart, Dean O’ Gorman, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director Jay Roach really gives audiences an opportunity to witness Bryan Cranston’s acting talents first hand as Cranston plays the Oscar nominated role of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in California in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950’s.

With the rise of McCarthyism in the early 1950’s and the vindictive Committee on Un-American Activities whose sole aim was to root out the perceived communist threat within Hollywood and many other facets of American society, the anti-communist witch hunt become notorious for ruining reputations and lives of artists, actors, directors and screenwriters. Even the famous playwright Arthur Miller was perceived as a threat and his persecution was illustrated in his classic play The Crucible.

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Dalton Trumbo, wonderfully played by Cranston, is an unconventional yet brilliant screenwriter who becomes one of the Hollywood Ten perceived by the Committee as harbouring Communist sympathies. Trumbo was, as his friend Arlen Hird played by Louis C. K. said, a Socialist with Champagne tastes. His flamboyant cigarette smoking, his unusual method of writing screenplays in the bath, his reliance on Benzedrine were all traits of a fierce creative genius who was ripe for prosecution.

Michael Stuhlbarg also gives an impressive performance as Edward G. Robinson who will do anything to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

In one of the great artistic injustices, Trumbo is found in contempt of the Supreme Court and sentenced to a Kentucky penitentiary for close to 18 months. Upon Trumbo’s release he is faced with the prospect of supporting his wife Cleo played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and three growing children, one of which is his feisty daughter Nicola superbly played by Elle Fanning (Maleficent).

Trumbo approaches a B-Grade studio, King pictures and soon does rewrites under a pseudonym under the guidance of the studio boss, Frank King boisterously played by John Goodman (The Gambler, Barton Fink). Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) pops up looking suitably glamorous as the Hollywood actress turned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who ambivalently supports the Communist witch hunt and soon suspects that Trumbo is indeed writing Oscar winning screenplays under another screen writer’s name.

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The Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck romance Roman Holiday was credited to Ian McLellan Hunter, played by Alan Tudyk in Trumbo, but was actually written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Roman Holiday won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and went to McLellan Hunter acting as Trumbo’s front.

In steps Kirk Douglas played by Dean O’ Gorman who secretly approaches Trumbo to write a screenplay about a man taking on the world. That film was to become the blockbuster Spartacus.

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Besides the cinematic historical value of Trumbo, the injustices he suffered both personally and artistically, what carries Jay Roach’s film, is Bryan Cranston (Argo) who never falters in his brilliant portrayal of the legendary Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo is a brilliant film, perhaps slightly uneven at times, but a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to get his name cleared and eventually receive the recognition from Hollywood that he deserves, especially for his talented contribution to film.

Trumbo is highly recommended viewing especially for cineastes and film historians, a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood in the 1950’s and the persecution of intellectuals by the American government of the time, whose paranoia concerning the cold war with Russia reached unreasonable proportions.

 

That Seventies Con!

American Hustle

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Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Shea Wingham, Robert de Niro, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena

Acclaimed director of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell delivers another cinematic masterpiece with his latest film American Hustle about a couple of con artists in New York in 1978 during the Disco era. Think fabulous Seventies costumes, broad Jersey accents, big hair, the brilliantly ensemble cast of American Hustle all deliver top notch acting along with some sassy flair and loads of self-deception.

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Oscar Winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) is brilliant as  Irving Rosenfeld a two-bit con artist with a chain of dry cleaning businesses which also double as a front for selling fake art to unsuspecting New Yorkers who teams up with Sidney/Edith a sexy pole dancer turned grifter superbly played by Amy Adams (Doubt, The Fighter) at a Jersey pool party in January!

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Together the ever glamorous Edith sporting a fake British accent and the smooth talking wily potbellied Irving unveil their small scams selling unsuspecting lines of credit to gamblers, pimps and two bit hustlers. However their duplicitous lives are crossed by unstable Richie diMarso energetically played by Bradley Cooper (Place beyond the Pines), complete with a perm and a pent-up attitude who is in fact an FBI agent out to catch bigger fish from corrupt politicians to American mobsters who control the Florida casinos in Florida are looking to reinvigorate Jersey’s den of iniquity Atlantic City with its newly acquired gambling licences.

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The setting is New York, 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, when the American public are distrustful of smooth taking politicians and economically hangover from a 1977 oil embargo and a costly Vietnam war. Director Russell captures the ambience of the late 1970’s Americana perfectly heavily influenced by the films of that period including The French Connection, American Gigolo and even the 007 film Live and Let Die. As the narrative unfolds a complication comes in the form of the no-nonsense confident chain smoking wife of Irving, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, a knockout performance by Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook.

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American Hustle follows a cleverly scripted and elaborate plot about these four drifters and cons who not only try to out wit the FBI, the mob and a shady Jersey politician Mayor Carmine Polito a well coiffed Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy) involving shifting money for fronting an imaginary investment into the revitalization of Atlantic City casinos. Oddly enough the con also involves funds from a mysterious Abu Dhabi Sheik, comically downplayed by Michael Pena who is in fact Mexican.

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Amy Adams gives a tour de force performance as Sidney/Edith a vulnerable yet shrewd woman who can smooth talk any man out of his cash which is certainly Oscar worthy along with the rest of the brilliant ensemble cast making up regulars from David O. Russell’s two previous hit films Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter.

Alessandro Nivola (Coco Avant Chanel), Robert de Niro (Casino) and Shea Wingham (Savages, Take Shelter) also make a welcome appearance. Any viewer who experienced or grew up in the sassy disco inspired 1970’s will appreciate every aspect of authenticity of this ambiance infused con drama featuring magnetic performances by the four leads along with a witty, comic and incisive script co written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer.

American Hustle is a sophisticated sexy adult drama dripping with menace and deception, complete with a dynamic plot in the lines of Stephen Frears excellent The Grifters and Sam Mendes American Beauty. It’s the ultimate homage film about that Seventies Con featuring the unrivalled power of intention and people’s limitless capacity for survival, love and betrayal.

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