Blue Jasmine

Blue-JasmineIt’s very rare that I see a performance in a film that absolutely takes my breath away. While elements of the film, and there are minor quibbles here, I wish were improved, Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Jasmine is nothing short of brilliant. It’s such a naked performance, that, in its final moments, surpasses anything she has ever done since her first role in Oscar and Lucinda.

Not often does an actor go so far out on a limb to reach the core of a human being unraveling and yet grasping at the shreds of life before succumbing. It’s fascinating to watch. I’m reminded of Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice or One True Thing where she must carry the film and everyone with her so that the film is elevated to high art.

Ms. Blanchett and the supporting cast of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which includes, most memorably, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Bobby Cannavale takes a story that combines both Bernie Madoff and elements of A Streetcar Named Desire, and makes you care about people on the edge of life, despair and delusion.

Go see her performance and be amazed.

Advertisements

Best Films of the Year: 2012

hr_The_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower_8-560x827Here’s my movie round up for 2012, which was a far better year for film than last year.

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Total surprise here, but this was a movie that was filled with memorable performances from a young cast including Emily Watson, Ezra Miller, and in particular, Logan Lerman. This movie was unsettling, incredibly moving, and will sadly┬ábe left in the dust during Oscar time.

2. Lincoln – I saw Lincoln twice in a weekend just to listen to the words from Tony Kushner’s literate screenplay and the extraordinary actors who gave them their due. Not too often do we get to revel in language on screen, and Spielberg managed to get himself out of the way and keep the camera still.

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild – An amazing blend of raw acting, locale, story and myth told with such sensitivity that, at the end, was a wonder to watch. I loved the father, the girl, and especially the scene when she reaches the bar and navigates through a maze of people the world has left behind and forgotten. An extraordinary achievement.

4. Zero Dark Thirty – A hard-core piece of film-making for sure and even though you know what happens at the end, you are still on the edge of your seat all the way through. The torture scenes are very difficult to sit through, but I found myself moved by how unjust torture, for any reason, is. Jessica Chastain should win the Oscar for this performance, and the many others she had last year.

5. Magic Mike – What could have been just another sex-ploitation romp through the world of strippers became fun and riveting due to the story, and Matthew McConaughey’s performance in which he just lets it all hang out. You have to hand it to Channing Tatum as well for anchoring the film with an understated performance.

6. Argo – Ben Affleck’s riveting film of the Iran Hostage crises, which manages to be funny, sad and surprising given the storyline. Performances are terrific throughout, but it’s the recreation of the seventies milieu that was a resounding success. This should win for Art Direction in my book.

7. The Master – While the film as a whole was ultimately unsatisfying, the performances, cinematography and compelling story made it highly watchable and engrossing. Unfortunately, I have to find someone to care for in a movie, and in this one, most everyone was a mess on some level and certainly unlikable. You have to hand it to PT Anderson, however, for his sheer nerve and willingness to go there.

8. Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence steals the picture just barely from Robert De Niro who gives his best performance in years. Speaking of messes, everyone is a mess in this movie, but they’re entertaining in their messiness, and the final scenes at the dance contest are terrific. Kudos to David O. Russell for crafting a fine film and turning romantic comedy on its head.

9. Cloud Atlas – A huge disappointment at the box office, but I predict that this film will become a cult classic as people engage with it on a personal level. Very theatrical in its devices, and very much a roller coaster ride through time. I loved the ride.

10. Life of Pi – For one, I want to congratulate the CGI Tiger creators who did amazing work on bringing to life this story for film – and kudos, once again, to Ang Lee for making the unbelievable believable again. I wish he’d left out the bookends because they were superfluous to the film, but everything in the middle was absolutely beautiful to watch.

Biggest disappointments for 2012 for me were Les Miserables, The Hobbit and Brave.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Atlanta

Bruce Springsteen in Atlanta: I’ve seen countless Springsteen shows in all the various configurations over 30 years and this show was, hands down, the most emotional. I was a chocolate mess.

Going in, I thought it would be very different: solemn, something missing, large gaps in the music where Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici would have been – they were missed, to be sure, those long, elegant sax lines and organ runs. I got used to Danny missing on the last tour, but when the “Big Man” passed away, I didn’t think that it would be possible to fill those shoes. Gladly, the E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen, are soldiering on amidst great loss. It is different, and they are honoring, and giving the audience the release they need by the roll call in “My City of Ruins” and then a penultimate moment during “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” when the big man joined the band. Here, the entire band stops the music and the crowd erupts into a sort of cosmic call and shout, screaming as loud as we can so that others might hear. I’m hoping that the audience’s engagement is helping the band along during what has to be a bittersweet experience on this tour. Now, a whole town is up on stage marshaling the community that is The E Street Nation to continue down the road despite obstacles and loss. I believe they are saying, “gather your loved ones close, celebrate them, move on and have as much fun and joy as you possibly can until it’s your turn.”

I’m looking forward to Los Angeles and the shows after. My thanks and love to John for making Atlanta happen, and the many hours I spend listening to the live concerts I have. The shot above was taken during “The Rising.”