"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, Are You Not Entertained?, Dear..., directors, Film Spotlight, movies

Dear Jane Campion,

Benedict Cumberbatch has an excellent shot at an Oscar nomination/win.

I wanted to thank you for adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel and directing The Power of the Dog (2021). Your films feel like good books that beg to be analyzed. Take The Piano (1993), for instance, your signature film for the past thirty years.

I taught it in English Composition class as a visual text twenty years ago. We discussed how the piano was a character in the film. Was it not the voice of the mute protagonist Ada? Was it not a metaphor for the treatment of women in a patriarchal world in 19th century New Zealand? That is, the piano was a burden to men. It was carried, abandoned, tattooed, mutilated, and drowned at the bottom of the sea.

We compared and contrasted the spiritual connection of Ada and George Baines while the clueless colonizer Alisdair Stewart (one of Sam Neill’s best roles) attempted to control his environment, the Maori people, and his wife with disastrous results. The best character was the eight-year-old daughter, Ada. Flora was a precocious, mischievous “angel” who becomes a little demon, manipulating Christianity to punish her mother for choosing to distance their bond for another man.

You embraced the wild scenery with a passion. It was necessary for the piano to have a complex voice. Michael Nyman‘s score is still breathtaking.

Today, I’m awestruck with my favorite film of 2021. I feel compelled to write you and extend my gratitude for your adapted screenplay and direction of The Power of the Dog (2021). The emotional wrestling between the characters makes it worth many discussions. Set in Montana in the 1920s, you embraced the topography and shared to the audience the beauty and harsh realities of the cowboy culture and the ambitions of a ranching family.

Kirsten Dunst plays Rose, a fragile mother who is intimidated and close to ruin by the bossy, jealous Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch). Photos courtesy of Netflix.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, smoldering, complex, and exciting to watch.

Jane, your characters are never one-dimensional. Their motivations are hidden. Their feelings are hidden. Their narrative arcs are complete. Through the camera’s lens via close-ups, staging, and the stark lines of the setting, you flush out their feelings. To some, the characters may seem too hidden, but I’ve always been a fan of inference and subtlety. That disturbing score heightens psychological warfare. You have created a beautiful film and given me hope that the art of filmmaking has returned.

Sincerely,

Your Favorite Fan

P.S. What did Phil Burbank see in the hills? What was he staring at? Ah, the lines of the hills are hips, torsos, legs of a lover’s embrace. Perfect.

actors, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Best at directing and Acting

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. For new followers, this is about sharing your thoughts in a positive way with one another on the 13th of the month. Over the years, I’ve had co-hosts and that makes the day even better. If you are interested in co-hosting a topic about the film industry, email me at cbruchman@yahoo.com, and let’s come up with something.

Sir Richard Attenborough has been on my radar lately. He was born in 1928 and passed in 2014. He shared his long life with wife Sheila Sim. He served for five years in WW2 and was an accomplished actor and director winning many top awards for both. He was a verified presence on the movie screen for more than sixty years.

If you need a reminder of his best acting roles, read Neil Mitchell’s article about “Dickie” FOUND HERE.

 What I enjoy best about his acting are his flawed characters. He is the stereotype of the composed, polite Englishman. Yet, his characters have serious foibles. That’s a seductive contrast. Whatever the role, he elevates the film by his presence. I also respect him for wanting to make important movies. He used his star power to bring awareness of the plight of the unfortunate even if it meant satirizing his native country.

What is his best acting role? What is his best directing job? How would you rank him with other actors/directors? That is, who has had equal success as a director and actor?

actors, Are You Not Entertained?, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Regionalism in Coen Brothers Movies

Welcome back to another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club featuring the Coen Brothers. Your friendly opinion is welcome here–don’t be shy–let’s talk to one another. I pulled from Wikipedia their eighteen films and each has a link that provides a synopsis in case you need a refresher.

After thirty years of filmmaking, we all have a favorite Coen film. When I was younger, my eyes and ears appreciated their strange storylines, quirky supporting characters, and their dark humor. As I aged, my interest in their work varied upon the project. Sometimes I felt their balance was off, that is, the story was too ludicrous for me to back emotionally–but always, throughout the decades, an element in the whole, a nugget in the creek, makes watching the film worth it. A performance. A character. A scene. A song. An idea that harkens back to the Greeks, and I like that about them; there is an endearing, universal quality about their stories. As screenwriters, they are the gods taking mythical pokes at the foolishness of man. They employ dramatic irony and we laugh. Well, I do.

I like Mojo.com. Have fifteen minutes? Watch this to help you remember the laughs and the technique of the Coen Brothers.

When I think of the Coen Brothers, here’s what comes to mind: 

  1. They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
  2. They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
  3. They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
  4. The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
  5. The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
  6. The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
  7. Romanticism. Naturalism. Modernism. Post-Modernism. It’s all there in the visual form. Like watching instead of reading the assigned anthology of the second half of a U.S. Lit course. While I still prefer to read the anthology, I enjoy seeing the stories on the screen.

Which region do they personify best? Also, what performance or character resonates? Which repeat actor starring in a Coen film grate on your nerves? For me, that’d be Frances McDormand. I like Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi.