…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Woody Harrelson

PRIM-rose EV-er-DEEN!

That’s who representative Effie Trinket chooses out of a glass bowl to see who will play in the futuristic, titular 74th annual Hunger Games. It’s the nightmare scenario for the girl bearing that name (Willow Shields), as well as for her sister, our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), because the former will be too young to survive the bloodbath that comes with these games. Imagine if the neon lights of “American Idol” have younger and more homicidal contestants. But let’s get back to the real issue – this representative looks so ridiculous that I didn’t even know that Elizabeth Banks was playing her. It’s as if Nicki Minaj apparently is the face of the future, one of the adults from Panem’s Capitol – the seat of power of a futuristic version of North America – who all look like anime villains. And I haven’t run out of metaphors and references – as if Zac Posen and the now-defunct Heatherettes’ palettes puked on Stefano Pilati and Viktor and Rolf’s otherwise perfect tailoring, these futuristic designs fitting within the uber-capitalistic society, the latter’s flag looking like an Aryan bastardization of Rome built in the Rockies. It reminds me of what Walter Benjamin said about how France under Napoleon emulates Rome. And it’s not just because science fiction stories, by nature, are pretty much ideas and fashions and designs from the present day set in titanium. Present and future societies will always repeat their past. And these games are a reminder of the past, Effie repeating the words of the video she shows to the district about how the games are the Capitol’s way of giving peace and fear, indoctrinated that her messed up world is perfect.

I also noticed the differences between the people in the Capitol and Katniss’ peasant-like District 12, where pastel and steel are separated from earthier tones. She’s her family’s provider but when she volunteers as the district’s female tribute to replace Prim, she transforms. Her earlier ‘masculine’ habits of hunting are still intact. I never imagine her in a beautiful dress, as I’m supposed to, but there she is wearing a red number in her publicity tour as one of the tributes. She even twirls and shows off her ‘fire’ for the audiences. I saw this as a change from awkward, unsightly adolescence to full-blossomed adulthood but that binary is complicated that she’s one of twenty-four chosen while the rest of the people in many districts are stuck without ‘growing.’ But then again that seems more realistic, that the glamourous adulthood of our imaginations can’t come true for everyone. And even with being chosen she still has to compete with twenty-three other youths to ‘have it all.’ It’s like what Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland) says to the man presiding the games (Wes Bentley), that this kind of entertainment brings false hope to the masses. Dystopic sci-fis are really great in bringing up these issues in exaggerating present day conundrums and it’s really to Suzanne Collins’ – who wrote the original novels and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Billy Ray and the movie’s director Gary Ross – credit to have created such a detailed world.

And Lawrence, playing a younger version of her Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, is one of the foundations that make this world more solid, especially with the contradictions within her character. Her full cheeks masks her eyes’ rage and curiosity. She’s awkward – during athletic/publicity training she asks her designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) how she can make people like her. Effie criticizes her for being ill-mannered after many conflicts against the sponsors and her co-tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). But this young woman eventually finds and protects her new family, inadvertently becomes the face of a new rebellion and rides out a semi-fabricated story that she and Peeta are the games’ star-crossed lovers. That the characters, Collins and Ross’ final and cynical word on their love feels subversive for a young adult narrative. Although at least some of their love is real, Katniss bringing him medicine and both saving each other’s lives during the games.

If there’s anything I’ll strongly say against this movie, it’s that Ross and cinematographer Tom Stern bring their camera too close and fast, especially in its opening sequences. As much as I would like to be acquainted with these characters – the shaky cam replicating her perspective as she walks and runs through her journey – I also want to see the world where they belong. The Bourne-style quick-cutting also doesn’t help with the violent scenes. Seeing those deaths, admittedly, was part of the sadistic fun and it kind of sucks that the audience doesn’t get to fully experience this. The cast also includes Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Alexander Ludwig. Image via Villagevoice.

Short Take: Hello, Diana.

I love him and all, but it’s strange that out of the main cast of Indecent Proposal, it’s Woody Harrelson who’s more famous. Well, not really, as Demi Moore is making headlines with her nervous breakdown and Robert Redford has Sundance. The proper phrase for Harrelson might be the one getting the most acting work. To whichever number of you who don’t know, Indecent Proposal‘s conceit is that Redford’s character has to pay a million dollars to bed someone, Diana Murphy (Moore) who leaves him for anybody else, that being her husband David (Harrelson). I wonder what younger generations will think of this already dated movie. If they’ll buy the sex symbol status that I’m old enough to have gotten from him unlike say, Warren Beatty who I never got until I saw Splendor in the Grass.

I saw the ending before watching the movie and as with every movie where I’ve done that, the last scenes are mostly a deal breaker for me. David gives an architecture lecture that reflects his life. Although despite the score and director Adrian Lyne’s many tendencies, it’s sentimental but not as I previously thought. Long process of healing, etc. Supporting cast include Oliver Platt and Billy Connolly, the latter playing himself in a situations when he’s probably been.

Once Upon a Time, Larry…

…Flynt (Woody Harrelson) discovers God. An old woman named Ruth wearing pastel-coloured suits leads him to this path. He gets baptized in a river, accompanied by stereotypical black gospel singers, robes and all. He misinterprets the word of God or our traditional understandings of it. He tells his editorial staff that he wants to show hardcore depictions in his magazine or have a golden plaque that says Jesus H. Christ on his office table. The older woman drives a wedge between Larry and his ex-stripper wife Althea (Courtney Love).

There’s musicality in the scenes’ speedy montages in Milos Forman‘s The People Vs. Larry Flynt, reminding us that he’s the same guy who directed Hair and Amadeus. Nothing is impossible, not ‘surprise ending’ impossible or ‘special effects’ impossible in 1996 but 1970’s impossible, when anyone can make a big budget film about a man who made an empire out of prurience. Imagine what Orson Welles and Michael Cimino would do if they collaborated, without the indulgences and the meticulous crazy. Who else but Milos Forman, who makes out with Catherine Deneuve in movies now instead of making films as ambitious this.

Even the decline of Larry’s Jesus years play like trumpet notes in the wind. After facing another obscenity trial in some Southern town he gets shot, paralyzed. The older woman comes to him and he laments that he can’t make love to his wife again. Despite her comforting words and his paralysis he says something that shocks the non-practicing Catholic in me. ‘There is no God.’ Powerful stuff.

Then Althea says ‘We are porn again’ with such executive delivery, as if it isn’t Love’s post-Hole acting.

I first saw this film in Media Class in Grade 11. It was my semi-formal initiation into art house films, a class that taught me about the appearances in the media and how they fool their demographics. The People vs. Larry Flynt is one of the movies my teacher showed us. And it was a perk because I worshipped Love because she was skinny and had the right amount of crazy. Because we were in a Catholic school, he told us to promise not to tell anyone that he’s showing us this movie. That makes my guitar teacher who taught us heavy metal riffs look way innocent by comparison.

This movie tells a story about a slightly incapacitated Goliath slinging stones at his own demons, from a poor country boy to starting Hustler magazine. Since the magazine’s foundation he’s been trying to reclaim his control of his publications despite of enemies from without and within. He knows exactly what he wants in his magazine, which forbidden body pats these women will be showing, what or who the women will be with and how it is going to look on the magazine’s matted paper. And will not apologize because of it.

In 1996 this is another male character paralyzed because of his job while his devoted and altruistic wife inflicts harm upon herself. In Althea’s case she keeps taking opiates way after her husband has quit taking them. Their physical challenges intertwined like a bittersweet tragedy, this time playing out within the tacky opulence we expect from an adult entertainment mogul.

I think it difficult for Love to play a drug addict or easy, depending on what you think and/or know about her. And if Harrelson, who got an well-earned Academy Award nomination for this role, loses the physical charm that he gives Larry in the movie’s first half, he becomes one of many actors playing physically challenged roles excellently, using his face to deliver emotion, compassion and affection. His eyes go to and fro before the words slowly leave his tense jaw, talking with the direct authority and a cultivated deep slur that the real Larry Flynt still has. His blue eyes mark the traces of handsomeness, coming out through the unkempt hair. And he gets to play around with the wheelchair quite a bit too.

Larry Flynt offended middle America both with pornography and irreverence towards sex, politics and religion. What ensues are many courtroom scenes where, among his many troubles with the law, he and Jerry Falwell challenge each other. Falwell sues because of a satirical Campari ad claiming that he had committed incest while Larry counter-sues because Falwell restrains on his right to satire. These litigations are taking place while Larry’s lawyer (Edward Norton) is babysitting him, even getting a laugh from the Supreme Court. The movie should have some credit for America giving Flynt respectful indifference while Falwell, revered in Reagan’s years is now one of the most hated men in America.

The Messenger

(First week at the Cumberland.)

(Olivia Peterson before flinching at the sound of gunfire ph: secret)

I’ve been reading some of the reviews of this movie in papers and in iMDb, and I saw in the latter that some anonymous person conclude that “The Messenger” is not a war movie (Faux pas alert, especially for a n00b like me: I shouldn’t be reading other people’s reviews because it’s gonna bleed into mine. Also, I shouldn’t be reading fucking iMDb. Not dissing the creators). It IS a war movie. As the actual soldiers die, the next of kin continues the battle for them. They carry the soldier’s pain and translate them emotionally. They often exhibit rage. Some accept the casualties of war, hide their wounds, and move on.

Woody Harrelson’s character Capt. Tony Stone (subtle) is an example of the latter, instructing his protege Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) (will as in future? Why am I writing this review like I’m still in college?) to shoot the message and the sometimes, the next of kin might shoot you. He’s baffled why the next of kin can’t get the concept that soldiers die in war and even introduces the idea to televise military funerals so that people will get used to it. And Stone unknowingly encounters a mirror image in Samantha Morton’s character Olivia (don’t know what her name means, ok), who reacts to her husband’s death by telling the messengers how hard it is for them and shaking their hands. She’s a dutiful, stoic soldier’s wife with unwritten regulations thrusted upon her, perfect and therefore suspicious.

Another battle begins to exist between Stone and Montgomery, the latter finding his own way to deliver a script nobody wants to say. At one point Montgomery tells the next of kin about their son’s death in the most awkward places to do so and turns it into a powerful moment, only for Stone to abscond him.

We see characters with different ways of coping with grief and war. Like your independent drama, it pulls on the strings without insisting on orchestrated high notes. Also in the film are three rewarding cameos.