More Movie Gems

The Big Short

A little more current than the rest I have surfaced, this movie was released in 2015, with a screen play written by director Adam McKay and  Charles Randolph based on the book written by Michael Lewis about the 2007-2008 financial crisis.  The adapted screenplay won an Oscar.  And there were five additional nominations for Academy Awards.  The cast included Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt (geez, again!) and Marisa Tomei, among others, all good.

“The Big Short” provides a synopsis of the financial crisis.  On the one hand, you see the workings of those involved in high finance (especially those who will profit from “shorting” the market), together with those who attempt to explain just what happened.  Mr. McKay enlists Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie in cameos to educate the viewer.  I liked Margot’s bit the best; done in a bubble bath with bubbly at hand, and with a very simple explanation of sub-prime loans (as in “if you think sub-prime, think shit”).  Then, as if bothered in the middle of her bath, she tells the viewer to “f**k off.”  Lovely.  And she is that …

A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer, said of “the Big Short,” that “this is a terrifically enjoyable movie that leaves you in a state of rage, nausea and despair, (but that) … the work of the movie’s sprawling ensemble is never less than delightful.”

For more financial sculduggery watch “Margin Call,” which features Jeremy Irons as a truly cold-hearted Wall Street type, and, dare I say,  Kevin Spacey. 

In Bruges

Martin McDonagh is an acclaimed playwright, a writer for the screen, a producer and a director.  His most recent achievement is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which he wrote, produced and directed, and which received seven nominations for Academy Awards, winning two (for Frances McDormand as Best Actress and Sam Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor).  Mr. McDonagh earlier won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, plus a number of BAFTA and Golden Globe awards.  But this is not so much about Mr. McDonagh as it is about Bruges and the two principle characters played by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell.  First Bruges: a lovely canal-based city in the north of Belgium, it would be a must stop on any European tour.  However, as portrayed in the film, in the dead of winter and seemingly always at dusk or later, very foreboding.  Bruges below on a sunny autumn day.   

Then there is Mr. Gleeson, “with that noble shambles of a face and heft of a boxer gone to seed, (in the) key role of Ken, one of two killers for hire,” as described by the late film critic Roger Ebert.  The other “killer” is played by Mr. Farrell, who seems to be quite ill-at-ease with his assignment, and who is quite good in his role.  This is Mr. Gleeson below (from his film “Calvary”) in an image that seems to capture his persona.  He is one of my favourite actors and of whom you will read more.

I might mention that the true villain in this movie is played by Ralph Fiennes, with a coldness that matches the evening chill of Bruges.

The Guard

Back to Brendan Gleeson.  In “The Guard” (from the Gaelic “garda”) Mr. Gleeson is the protagonist, a policeman who is no stranger to short-cuts and who is not quite on the level.  But do we mind? 

One might refer to “The Guard” as a buddy movie (typified by “Lethal Weapon” with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, followed by what seems like an endless stream of buddy movies) as Don Cheadle is floated into the “The Guard” as an FBI agent paired with Mr. Gleeson to thwart a major drug deal.  Difficult to fathom why an FBI agent would be sent to Ireland, and why would he need to be black?  Certainly not going undercover.  But I am a Cheadle fan, and I got past it.  And the whole movie works because of Mr. Gleeson.  At one point the Cheadle character says of Mr. Gleeson’s, “  I can’t tell if you’re really (bleeping) dumb or really (bleeping) smart.”

The movie was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh.  As a reviewer said, this movie is “really (bleeping) good.”

Mr. Cheadle and Mr. Gleeson (below) in a less-than-cordial moment.


There is something about the ladies of France,  Audrey Tautou (below) being a case in point.  Beauty underscored by a look of innocence, yet with the potential for mischief.  Audrey is the heroine of the 2001 film “Amelie.”  Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning none, but ranked, at that time, as the greatest box office success in French cinema history.

“Amelie” is one of those movies you sit through with a smile, knowing that you have stumbled upon a gem; not quite knowing what to expect, yet expecting nonetheless to be captivated by Audrey’s portrayal of Amelie.  Remarkably, “Amelie” was not screened at the Cannes Film Festival, but was well received pretty much everywhere else.  To me, it is a wonderful representation of French cinema.  There are lots of layers to this movie – all constructed by Amelie.  Most importantly for the viewer, there is Amelie in pursuit of Nino; but more importantly for Amelie, it’s what she does for those around her – whether she is playing cupid for a co-worker; or surreptitiously working to convince her father to travel his way out of his sadness; or gaslighting a store owner to the point where he no longer abuses his employee; and much more.        

As the copy says in the following image, “She’ll change your life.”

Oh, and “gaslighting?”  Had to look it up after seeing it in Wikipedia.  “Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.”  Amelie does a nice job of it.  So do politicians.

American Hustle

You may recall the 1987 film “Empire of the Sun,” which told the story of a young English schoolboy living in Shanghai at the time the Japanese invasion of China.  The schoolboy is separated from his parents and eventually lands in an internment camp.  Without providing further detail, it is a movie worth seeing, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring 13 year old Christian Bale as the schoolboy.

And that brings me to “American Hustle.”  A movie that was nominated for ten Oscars, winning none (which must be some sort of perverse record).  The cast includes Bradley Cooper (with hideous permed hair, but terrific), Jeremy Renner (terrific),  Amy Adams (also terrific), Jennifer Lawrence (hilarious and a reminder of just how good an actress she is), Robert DeNiro (in a cameo that would strike fear in the otherwise fearless) and Christian Bale (with what must surely be the second worst comb-over ever).  Christian is remarkable and his performance demonstrates just how versatile an actor he is.  He owns two Oscars; one for “The Fighter,” a second for “The Big Short,” together with three appearances as “Batman” and so much more.  “American Hustle” is worth seeing more than once.

The Intouchables

Not to be confused with “The Untouchables,” the 1987 movie starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery, “The Intouchables” is a French production starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, neither of whom you may know.  This is a wonderful movie, with M. Sy as Driss, the care-giver for M. Cluzet, as Phillippe, who is a quadriplegic.  The opening scene, with Driss driving Phillippe at high speeds through the streets of Paris in Phillippe’s Maserati, is worthy of any car chase comparison.  And the outcome of that scene is a thing of hilarity.  M. Sy won the Cesar Award (think French Oscar) for Best Actor.  He seems to me to be an engaging combination of a young Eddie Murphy and Dave Chapelle.  M. Cluzet is no slouch either, having won his Cesar in 2007 for the movie “Tell No One.”  I was touched by M. Cluzet’s character as he was able to convey so much emotion despite his disability.  Above all, he seemed to truly relish the performance of his co-star, M. Sy, who is a dude (below).      

Don’t mind the subtitles, as with “Amelie” you will find yourself quickly lost in the charm of the characters.  In the image following, “Driss” takes the wheel of the Maserati, much to the delight of “Phillippe.”

I think I want a Maserati.