YOU WILL BE MY SON, THANKS FOR SHARING and A SINGLE SHOT



You Will Be My Son revolves around a father (played by The Prophet and The Beat that My Heart Skipped’s Niels Arestrup, France’s Edward G. Robinson) who owns a vineyard that has a history and reputation second to few, and his son (played by Lorant Deutsch) who the father doesn’t love because the son just doesn’t have it in him to be the face of the wine company.    At first, the movie feels as if it’s going to be one of those been there/done that father/son dysfunctional stories that always seem to have more meaning for the filmmakers than the audience (and often makes me run screaming from the theater).  Because of this, the first third is a little hard going.
But then Paul, the father, does something.  When the manager of the estate is given six months to live, Paul goes behind his back and tells the manager’s son, shoe fetishist Philippe (who works at Francis Ford Coppola’s vineyard in the U.S.), and Philippe immediately flies back (about the only person who is perhaps portrayed here as meaner than Paul is Coppola himself whose winery won’t give Philippe time off to visit his dying father and fires him when he decides to go anyway—I’m not sure I really bought it, but it was kinda fun watching the French stick it to the U.S. in such a sneaky, underhanded way).  At this point, it becomes clear what the movie is going to be about (though it might help to know a little about French inheritance laws) and the nastiness begins, as does all the real enjoyment.
The screenplay by director Gilles Legrand (mainly known over here as a producer, including such films as Micmacs, The Widow of Saint-Pierre and  Ridicule), Laure Gasparotto and Delphine de Vigan could have used a touch more Douglas Sirk melodrama (it’s all a bit too subtle at times) and I’m not convinced that Deutsch was the best choice for the wimpy son (I mean, he’s such a drama queen one finally begins to sympathize with the father—that might have been the point, but Legrand doesn’t quite pull it off as far as I’m concerned).   But it’s set against some of the loveliest French countryside you’ll see in some time and Arestrup and Patrick (La lectrice) Chesnais (as the manager) are first rate.
Overall, a very neat, effective and perverse little family melodrama with quite a few twists and turns that is highly satisfactory.   See it with your first born.
Thanks For Sharing is a movie about sex addiction that only wants to cuddle.  I’m not sure I see the point.  It revolves around three men (Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Josh Gad) who are all in the same support group and whose stories unwind in just about the formulaic way you think they will.   Everyone is very sincere and works very hard and the three leads, along with the significant others in their lives (Gwyneth Paltrow, Pink and Joely Richardson), say their lines as if they were written by Oscar Wilde (it wasn’t—screenplay by director Stuart Blumberg and Matt Winston—Blumberg also wrote that other Mark Ruffalo starrer, The Kids Are All Right—I’m not convinced this is a step forward).  But no matter how sincere everyone is, nothing can hide the fact that the whole thing is rather routine, bland and boring.  It’s the sort of movie about addiction that actually makes you want to go out and have a drink.
A Single Shot is one of those movies about someone finding either drugs or money and what happens as a result.  Movies like this (A Simple Plan, Shallow Grave) are usually described as movies that do absolutely nothing, but do it very, very well.  A Single Shot, unfortunately, with all its strengths, only manages to do it somewhat well. 
But those strengths are often quite remarkable.  Director David M. Rosenthal and writer Matthew F. Jones have created an incredibly convincing small town mountain world where everyone knows everybody.  The daily details of this minor municipality have an incredibly realistic feel to them.  And both Rosenthal and Jones create a strong mood of despair: it never seems to do anything but rain and no matter how much wide shot country is shown, it all feels very claustrophobic.  
The movie stars Sam Rockwell and he, along with the rest of the cast (William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Kelly Reilly, Melissa Leo, Ted Levine and Jason Isaacs), give remarkable performances.  Almost no one is recognizable behind their scruffy beards; weather beaten, lived in looks; and less than Walmart quality clothes.  And they all sport accents so convincing, there is many a time when you can’t understand a word they’re saying, which is too bad, because Jones has given all the characters often strikingly beautiful lines full of local color, equipped with full blooded colloquialisms and figures of speech. 
In the end, the story never really quite comes together in a satisfyingly dramatic whole.  Part of this may be because the set up and execution is pretty familiar with a plot that’s not particularly clever.  And it’s a little hard to empathize with Rockwell’s character, as well as he plays him, because he never seems to be as stupid as he acts with this new found money (it’s a bit difficult to believe he doesn’t know he won’t attract attention by suddenly flouting hundred dollar bills around).  And the menace to the characters involved often seems just a bit too vague; in fact, the middle section feels a little slow in going anywhere.
But one could do far, far worse.  One could go see Prisoners.

THE AVENGERS


The Avengers is a very entertaining movie and gets the adrenaline going, which isn’t quite the same thing as saying it’s totally successful or rises that far above what it is.  Written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn and directed by Whedon, it’s an oddly schizoid movie.  On one side are wonderfully witty lines with often hysterically snarky dialog while on the other side are serious, earnest and highly dramatic tete a tetes that fall flat on their face.  On one side are the vibrant actors and Oscar nominees (Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Renner) and on the other are film personalities with pretty faces (Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Evans)–and no matter how equal the writers may try to make the various superheroes when it comes to their powers, Evans will never be able to Eve Harrington Downey when it comes to Stanislavksy.  (For those keeping score, Scarlett Johansson falls somewhere in the middle, which in many ways reflects her role in the movie, a character trying to bridge the gap between all the antagonistic good guys.)  And finally on one side you have large scale action sequences filled with massive set pieces of uninhibited, glorious destruction (Manhattan now seems to be the new Tokyo, destined to be destroyed on a regular basis due to the specter of 9/11 in the way Japan is haunted by the atomic bomb) and on the other side is very little death (see Battle for LA in contrast—for The Avengers the studio apparently wanted to challenge the audience, but in a very non-challenging way).  As was noted, Whedon and Penn have a way with a snarky line (the best written scene is when all the heroes are in one room and due to the influence of Loki, get under each other’s skins saying all the mean things everyone in the audience is thinking).  But when it comes to heavy scenes, the authors can do little but immediately make fun of them once they’re over (Whedon had the same issue in Cabin in the Woods—the unbearable scenes of overage teenagers in distress were only made palatable, if that, by the more comic scenes of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford).  These more serious sequences might have had a better chance if all the actors were of equal caliber (there’s actually a very nice one between Ruffalo and Downey that suggests this); but this was ultimately a battle, unlike the one against Loki, the superheroes simply could not win (for an example, take the scene between Thor and Loki that Iron Man aptly described as Shakespeare in the Park).  The whole thing culminates with a knock down, drag out for the Big Apple when some aliens resembling the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz make their way through some sort of space time continuum and unleash their blitzkrieg upon an unsuspecting metropolis.  The battle itself is not exactly boring, but it also isn’t that imaginative and all in all, pretty derivative (again, it’s the snarky wit and two hysterically funny bits by the Hulk that really made this work as well as it does).  The special effects are, of course, first rate, though none may quite equal the SFX of Gwyneth Paltrow in Daisy Dukes (though one does shudder at the idea of this fashion style making a comeback since very few people can get away with short shorts—I know, I’ve tried).  The ending is resolved through a deux ex machina provided by Stellan Skarsgard (let’s face it, the plot is a bit clunky—c’mon, be honest with yourselves and give the devil his due) as well as an inconsistency with how much control Bruce Banner has over his green (ho, ho, ho) alter ego (apparently, it corresponds to the needs of the script at any given time).  But in the end, The Avengers is a perfectly fine time waster.  It’s no Iron Man or The Dark Knight, but, hey, it could have been worse.  It’s also no Spiderman III, Superman or Fantastic Four.

TALKING TURKEY TWO: Predictions on the 2010 Oscars, Actor and Supporting Actor


The winner for Best Actor has generally been considered a shoe in: Colin Firth. This way the Academy can apologize for not giving it to him last year for A Single Man, when instead the voters gave a career award to Jeff Bridges (with irony attached—Jeff Bridges is supposed to be up against Firth again this year). However, now that the movie has opened, it also helps that it’s an excellent performance in the movie that is probably going to win best picture. Actually, though, Firth’s win was considered a shoe in a few months ago when the movie was just a gleam in its daddy’s eyes and nobody had seen it yet. This is sometimes called the Bette Davis or Jimmy Stewart award (Bette Davis won for Dangerous after not even getting an initial nomination for Of Human Bondage—though she did get enough write in votes to eventually put her in the top five; and Jimmy Stewart won for The Philadelphia Story to make up for not giving it to him for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington).

Firth’s main competition as of now is, contrastingly (yes, that is a word, or at least it doesn’t come up on my spellcheck) enough, James Franco for 127 Hours. I have to be honest; I don’t see Franco winning and I think this is more a case of wishful thinking on those who loved the movie. 127 Hours has only just opened and as the awards in fighting goes forward, I believe Franco’s possibility of capturing the gold plating will fade. Franco has worked incredibly hard to become a serious actor the last few years and though he has made great strides in that direction, I think the Academy hasn’t quite been convinced yet and would rather wait and see, rather than give him an award now. And besides, Firth has the Weinsteins behind him (can you say Gwyneth Paltrow).

The other nominees as of now will be Jeff Bridges for True Grit (with that irony thingy attached) and Javier Bardem for Biutiful, though neither have opened yet, so no one can be sure. But the buzz is very buzzy for them. The last position I’m giving to Jessie Eisenberg, who will be carried along by the support for the Social Network. There is talk of Michael Douglas, but rumor has it they are going to try to push him for Supporting Actor. Robert Duvall has years of reputation behind him for Get Low, but it’s a picture that’s come and gone and it’s hard to believe that his supporters will be able to renew excitement in it. Aaron Eckhardt has the least interesting role in The Rabbit Hole, which can’t help, and Ryan Gosling is one of our finest actors, but it looks like Blue Valentine is going to get lost in the holiday shuffle.

Supporting Actor again seems a shoe in for Geoffrey Rush, for a few reasons: It’s actually a lead; it’s been a pet project of his for some time (and the Academy likes to pet pet projects); and can you say Weinstein. He’s also great in it. His main rival seems to be Christian Bale for The Fighter. The movie has yet to open, but again, the buzz is very buzzy. But the winners in the supporting actor category tend to be a bit older (as opposed to the Supporting Actress category). The next two almost guaranteed a position are Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right (a well respected actor the Academy has always wanted to nominate, but for some reason the stars have never aligned in quite the right manner to do so yet) and Andrew Garfield for The Social Network, a rising star from England (and the next Spidey Man, so he better get a nomination now before Hollywood destroys all his credibility as a serious actor).

The last position is a knock down drag out fight among Michael Douglas (if they push him for Wall Street II); Matt “True Grit” Damon (another of those well respected actors who the Academy just hasn’t been able to nominate, at least since Good Will Hunting); and Jeremy Renner (who probably deserves it for The Town). There’s some support for Sam Rockwell, but the movie’s come and gone. Other actors have been mentioned; in fact, a large number of actors have been mentioned (Aaron Eckhardt, Vincent Cassel, Justin Timberlake, Sean Penn, Jim Broadbent, Bill Murray), basically meaning that this last position is really up in the air. In the end, it all depends here on how those damn stars align.

Next Actresses.