MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

Frenzy on the Wall: How About Some Awards Buzz for These Guys?

Every year around this time, the award-season storylines begin to take shape. You see, like in politics, it’s not always the best candidate or film that gets awarded, it’s usually the one with the best publicity, the best “story.” When Best Picture actually goes to the best film, all it means is that the best particular film that year just so happened to have a great hype machine behind it. As a result of this, a lot of really deserving films and actors don’t get the recognition they deserve.

This is where critics and film writers are supposed to come in; they are supposed to be the ones who point out the films and performances that you haven’t seen, but should.

More and more, it seems like film writers on the beat are merely “covering” the awards and prognosticating rather than offering opinions. Just because the “buzz” is telling a writer that a certain film is a “lock” to get nominated, it doesn’t mean they should just parrot back that buzz. Most of the “buzz” comes from PR folks anyway, or people with a vested interest in what gets talked about as a front-runner. As a film lover first and foremost, I will never stop proselytizing when I believe I’ve seen something noteworthy.

So, I’d like to bring your focus to a few different films and performances that should be talked about more as contendersthis awards season.

Please Give

Nicole Holofcener’s film is a wonderful little movie about what it means to be kind and caring. It follows the lives of two families in New York City: Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt are a husband and wife with a teenage daughter who live next door to a cantankerous 91-year-old woman. That old woman is cared for by her loving granddaughter, played by Rebecca Hall, who lives with her blunt and uncaring sister Amanda Peet.

There are a lot of little moments that I found especially touching, but especially the performances of Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall. They are playing women who are good and decent, striving to be better people. What makes them so fascinating is that they aren’t portrayed as martyrs; they have flaws too, like real people.

I found it especially touching when Keener goes to a school for mentally disabled children, with the hopes of volunteering and helping, but is so overcome by sadness for these children that she breaks down crying; she cares too much, she feels too much, to help. Or, perhaps it’s knowing that no matter how much she tries to help these children, they will never get better.

Holofcener is a fantastic and underrated writer/director, who continues to get great performances from all of her actors and writes films that are filled with nuance and poignancy. So, of course, she’s never been nominated for her writing or directing. I wish I could say that it would change this year, but it probably won’t. But do yourself a favor and check out her latest movie.

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John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone

Jennifer Lawrence is justifiably getting a lot of credit and award-buzz for her lead performance in Debra Granik’s gritty, dirty film. But Lawrence doesn’t even give the best performance in Winter’s Bone and it’s not to say that Lawrence isn’t fantastic – she is – but rather that John Hawkes is so utterly brilliant that he blows everybody else off the screen.

Hawkes has long been an actor I’ve admired, one that is consistently underrated, but as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone, he really cements himself in my mind as one of the finest character actors out there. From the second he shows up on screen, he’s got this quiet ferocity that is always bubbling beneath the surface. There is always doubt as to what his motivation is or whether or not he’s a “good guy.” But one thing is certain: he is terrifying.

One of the best scenes I’ve seen all year is when Teardrop and Ree are pulled over by the Sheriff. With just a few words and that scary, unmoving presence, Teardrop not only convinces the Sheriff that it would be best for him to get back in his car, but he convinces us that the Sheriff makes a good decision by walking away.

In a better world, Hawkes would be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor right now; as it stands, I haven’t heard any “buzz” about him at all.

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Rachel Weisz in Agora

Agora is one of my favorite films that I’ve seen this year and it came and went in a blink without anybody paying much attention. In an article I wrote earlier this year, I called it “The Great Atheist Film.” I stand by that.

It’s a film that stuck with me, a big-budget epic that decided to tackle the controversial topic of religious intolerance. Alejandro Amenabar deserves heaps of credit for not only attempting to dive into the topic, but successfully structuring an engaging story around it (not to mention the monumental task of getting it funded).

But the film doesn’t work at all if it doesn’t have the great Rachel Weisz as its lead character, the astronomer Hypatia. In my earlier column, I said about her performance: “Rachel Weisz is truly astounding in this film, as she often is. Hypatia is not an easy character to play; she must be idealistic yet intelligent, a dreamer but a realist. Weisz is such a wonderful presence, so charismatic and likable that although her character is not as fleshed-out as she could be, she is still imbued with a certain vigor and humanism.”

I’d also add that it’s a performance that is reliant on not just her words, but in the passion behind those words. Weisz has to deliver lines that might not necessarily roll off the tongue easily and she pulls them off. Weisz also does something that I love to see actors do: allow their characters to think. When Hypatia comes to a conclusion about something, Weisz lets us see the wheels turning in her head, her eyes darting back and forth.

Weisz has won an Academy Award for her exquisite turn in The Constant Gardener, but she should be getting buzz in the lead category for Agora. Alas, I don’t think anybody has seen it besides me.

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Trash Humpers

Okay, there is no world that exists where a film like Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers would get an Academy Award. This is a truly bizarre film without any coherent narrative and is probably one of the most visceral films I’ve ever seen, a film whose goal seems to be to unnerve and annoy its audience. It might not have the same pretentious attitude of a lot of Godard’s later work, but it reminds me a bit of that man’s experimental spirit … albeit with a bit more of a sense of humor.

This was a film that I saw a few months ago and wanted to write about, but I just didn’t know how. As I was watching it, I wouldn’t exactly say that I enjoyed the experience. But in retrospect, I really love what it does. It’s a film that is just a series of weird scenes where four bandits in old-person make-up just kinda fuck shit up in Nashville. They trash houses, break electronics, and yes, hump trash. And if the whole film followed that pattern, I don’t know that I would think it was anything more than an interesting – failed – experiment.

But then something happens in the last reel of the film. It changes. We no longer focus on all four of the bandits, but two. These two bandits, Herve and Momma, are played by Harmony Korine himself and his wife Rachel. It’s unclear how, but the two of them splinter off and somehow have possession of a baby. They aren’t destroying things anymore and the film ends (spoiler alert, I guess) with Momma singing to the baby as she rocks it back and forth in a pram.

Now, maybe I was in a strange mood, but I found this extraordinarily touching and affecting. It was probably the most personal moment in any of Korine’s films, at least in my eyes, because it seemed to be so much about who he is as a filmmaker (and perhaps a person). He used to be the enfant terrible of indie cinema, happy to be the wacky artist who trashed everything (including his own body for a discard comedy called Fight Harm, look it up). But now he’s grown, he’s matured and he’s moved on from being that person. And despite the fact that Trash Humpers is about people giving fellatio to trees and looks like a found VHS tape, it might be the most mature and confident thing he’s directed.

It’s not a film that will win any awards, but for the patient viewer who understands what he’s signing up for, it might be a real find … or you’ll think I’m insane.

8 Responses to “Frenzy on the Wall: How About Some Awards Buzz for These Guys?”

  1. AdamA says:

    I was lucky enough to see Agora in theaters in Dallas, TX during its brief run and am in complete agreement with you on Weisz. It a shame that such a high-end (budget, scope, director)film went completely invisible in the American film consciousness. Its a very ambitious film that deserves greater attention.

  2. Dazza says:

    I’m with you on Hawkes. Can’t believe he’s got no Awards heat at all. Maybe a few critics groups will stand up for him and get him on the radar.

  3. Daniella Isaacs says:

    I remember how Vera Farmiga got no love at all for THE DEPARTED, even though she was fabulous. Then, a couple of years later, she was… well about the same level of fabulous in UP IN THE AIR, and suddenly there was all this buzz, so she got nominated. It seems so arbitrary, especially since THE DEPARTED was hardly a tiny little indie film. Also, you’d think there’d be more buzz for Tilda Swinton in I AM LOVE, she performed in ITALIAN WITH A RUSSIAN ACCENT, and yet I’ve only read one sentence in one article suggesting she might actually be a contender. Maybe she didn’t pay off the Buzz Mafia this year.

  4. aframe says:

    If there were justice, Idris Elba in the barely-released LEGACY would be majorly in the Best Actor mix…

  5. Keil Shults says:

    I finally got around to seeing Winter’s Bone a couple of weeks ago, and while I found the film a bit overrated, I definitely came away asking, “Why is is there no awards buzz for John Hawkes?” Yes, Lawrence was really good (though again, I felt a tad overhyped), but Hawkes, who was excellent (as he always is), isn’t showing up as a potential nominee on most prognosticators’ lists.

    I haven’t seen the others, though I do remember reading some good things about Agora and Please Give when they were first released. I’ll make it a point to rent them ASAP. As for Trash Humpers…it’s a film I’ve wanted to see for ages, even though I’ve tended to use it as a punchline in various jokes over the past year. Unfortunately, it’s not available for rent anywhere near me, or on Netflix, so I may have to download it from the official website (or see if it’s on iTunes, I guess).

  6. Robert Hamer says:

    I was not as enamoured with Please Give as you were (that dinner scene excepted). It struck me as the kind of self-consciously precious indie with characters defined by their “quirks.”

    However, I do think that Ann Guilbert, as the cranky old resident of the apartment, is worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. I’m surprised and disappointed that you didn’t single her out for praise.

  7. sue says:

    I don’t think anybody else saw INHALE expect me but I thought Dermot Mulroney’s performance was incredible. I don’t know of any other performance this year with that kind of intensity. It was such an unexpected performance from someone who is known for a different type of movie star appeal. I think he should be strongly considered for a nomination.

  8. Michael says:

    I’m with Sue. I saw INHALE and still have chills running down my spine due to DERMOT MULRONEY award worthy performance!!! I haven’t seen any other mention of this movie. Why isn’t Mulroney’s performance getting MORE ATTENTION???!! Damn.

Frenzy On Column

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima