Review: Crazy Heart

Director: Scott Cooper
Novel: Thomas Cobb
Screenplay: Scott Cooper
Producers: T-Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jack Nation, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 112 min.

Not having read any other reviews for Crazy Heart at all yet, I’ve got a million dollars that says about 90% of them make reference to either 2008’s The Wrestler or in some way invokes the name of “His Dudeness.” Either of these comparisons are perfectly fair, though not altogether negative; at least not for this reviewer. Some will argue that the novel from which Crazy Heart is adapted, was released over two decade before Aronofsky’s The Wrestler even existed; but nonetheless, cinephiles are going to see an astonishing performance from Jeff Bridges and recognize that they saw this exact same story last year portrayed by Mickey Rourke. Though I don’t necessarily fall on the side of arguing that that is a bad thing, it is a little distracting once in a while with its obviousness.

Bridges is Bad Blake; a broke, traveling musician who roams from town to town playing tiny venues to aging, but adoring fans of his country music. We soon find that Blake is suffering from alcoholism and it’s beginning to effect not only his profession but also his personal life. It’s clear his past is troubled and layers are slowly removed as the film wears on to slowly reveal what those troubles are. Relationships have always seemed to be a problem for Blake, but after meeting a young journalist (Gyllenhaal) during an interview, he finds himself smitten with this single mother and so begins a rocky and likely doomed relationship. Over rocks and bumps, Blake continues to spiral downwards and the proverbial (and literal) scrapes Blake inflicts upon himself begin to get deeper and more severe; eventually inadvertently cutting others, even the ones he claims to love.

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You Should Be Watching This: The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria

When The Young Victoria (our review) played in the UK early last year, I was a bit disappointed to find it would be agonizing months before we ever had a chance to see the film in North America. I had my chance to see it at VIFF and the film has been going through a slow roll-out over the last few weeks gaining a fair bit of attention, and for good reason too.

Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée’s take on Queen Victoria’s life is less history and more drama but it handles its subject with delicacy and care, creating a package that is gorgeously shot and which manages to stay with you for the long run; not bad for a little costume drama. Yet, for some reason, the film seems to be passed over by many of the major sites. Here’s my sincere plea for attention for a little film that really should be getting more love.

Aside from great performances from Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend and Paul Bettany, what I loved most about the film is how it portrays Victoria as a very real and strong woman, one who wasn’t about to be pushed around. Not a bad message for young, impressionable girls.

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Self-Imposed Limitations – A List



Tired of all the end of year and end of decade lists? Tired of wading through Top 10s, Top 50s and Top 100s? Yeah, me neither. But to change things up a bit, here’s a different kind of list – one not bounded by timeframes or by length. This one deals with a different set of boundaries…

The other day I was in my local Video rental outlet (the bountiful Videoflicks) and stumbled across an old 1952 film entitled The Thief. Not the most creative of titles, but it had Ray Milland’s name splashed across the front and appeared that it might be a spiffy Noir. It was enough to make me pick up the case, but it was the description on the back that instantly sold me. Though it might be described as a gimmick, its main raison d’etre seemed to be that it contained not a single word of dialogue. The limitation of no spoken words that the filmmakers imposed on themselves made for a fast moving and lean thriller – there’s few wasted scenes and a good solid build up of tension which made a pretty basic story all the more compelling. So it turns out it was indeed a pretty spiffy Noir.

It made me think (like Lars von Trier doling out assignments to Jorgen Leth in The Five Obstructions) of some other films that had limits or restrictions on how they were being made purposely placed on them. Sometimes as gimmicks, but also sometimes for a specific intent such as bringing focus to certain aspects of the story or simply as a challenge to the filmmakers. These limits can be restrictions on dialog, music or additional effects as well as constructs like a single point of view on the action or even a restriction on editing. Avoiding short films and obvious experimental efforts, here’s a few examples that came to mind:

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Eric Rohmer RIP

“New Wave” pioneer Eric Rohmer died today aged 89. Personally I don’t have a great knowledge of his work, but I’m aware of his grand presence in the history of French cinema and I imagine he will be sorely missed by a huge number of film lovers around the globe.

More details can be found here.

Marc’s Top Ten Films of the 2000s

Seeing as how everyone else at Row Three is posting theirs, I may as well include my own top films of the past decade, previously posted at my blog, Subtitle Literate.

10) No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

There’s no doubt that the Coens’ Cormac McCarthy adaptation is an eloquent, handsomely crafted exploration of corruption and the unstoppable force of human evil. But I found this film to be a little too tidy, its messages a little too clearly decipherable within the tale – almost as if the finished film came with a little tag that read, “Shelve under M for Masterpiece.” This sense of cold calculation is the reason why it’s only number 10 here, but the excellent performances from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson and, yes, Javier Bardem and its dark, powerful vision at least guaranteed it a spot here somewhere.

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New Year ‘To Watch’ List

I was checking out Bob’s A Year of Favourites on Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind and I found myself chuckling at his 5th New Year Resolution to “See more of those unwatched DVD’s hanging around the house”. However, despite Bob’s claim that “no one ever does anything about it” I felt an overwhelming urge to tackle the problem head on.

Unfortunately, I have a grand total of 248 DVD’s that I have yet to watch and the list is continually growing so to complete the task would be nigh on impossible. My idea, to help me set off on the right foot, is to open up my list to the general public for a bit of inspiration.

I want people’s thoughts on which films I should prioritize and which films I should resign to the dusty bowels of my DVD collection (some of these are obvious – I blame cheap boxsets). I’d like reasons why too (that you’d like to see it reviewed on Row Three would be a good one).

And yes, I noticed John Allison did something similar back in May 09, but I want to use my list as a tool to start a bit of a discussion, whereas John’s list unfortunately went by with not a comment to it’s name.

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The Life and Times of Ben Affleck

There was a time when Ben Affleck was the joke of Hollywood. From his tabloid-heavy relationship with Jennifer Lopez (we all remember Bennifer, right?), to a long string of laughably bad movies and hokey performances while his buddy Matt Damon’s career took a more successful route, it seemed like the guy couldn’t catch a break and to many, the blame was all his own.

Just today, I watched State of Play, a movie that despite its star-powered cast and good reviews has garnered very little attention this year. I was reflecting on it while the credits rolled and began to think about Affleck and his career. I have a strange sense of sympathy for Affleck. He’s certainly remained low-key and out of the spotlight as he has tried to revive his career into something that is not a punchline to a late night television joke. Not an easy task, considering his filmography includes the likes of the universally despised Pearl Harbor, as well as Gigli, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas, Daredevil, Bounce, Phantoms, and Reindeer Games.

Still, he’s done a pretty good job lately. My [perhaps irrational] hate for Affleck began to sway after watching Hollywoodland back in 2006, where he gave a great turn as TV Superman George Reeves, a role that managed to snag him a Golden Globe nomination. The following year, he surprised me again, although this time it was not in front of the camera, but with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, which starred his much more talented little brother. The film blew me away on first viewing and it still ranks among my favorite of that year. I remember coming out of the theater and commenting how big brother Affleck needed to stay behind the camera more often.

Watching State of Play today though and after seeing his scene-stealing role in Extract this year, I’m not so sure that having him in front of the camera is a bad thing like I had once said. I’m not convinced that he can carry a movie on his shoulders like little brother Affleck – we’ll see if he changes my mind with the upcoming The Company Men and The Town – but in the right role, he can be more than competent. You can see it in his interviews and when he speaks: he has a lot of regrets about his career and he’s aware that he was considered a joke for a long while. I do think if Ben continues to pick his roles wisely and keeps his face out of the tabloids, the days of trashing him may come to an end. Because to many people, he’s still a punchline (some people may never be able to get over Pearl Harbor) – but I think he’s better than that.

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

[Yes, Rowthree programming as usual will be continuing shortly into the new year, in the mean time, if you happen to be in a major film market, do yourselves a favour and check out Terry Gilliam’s latest, reprinted below is our pre-TIFF review of the film.]


A question: “Where are we – geographically, socially, narratively?”
A snappy reply: “The northern hemisphere, on the margins, further to go.”

There are three great surprises of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The first is that Terry Gilliam is back in top form, weaving the contemporary and the fantastical into a whimsical and dark package. Despite the death of Heath Ledger occurring in the middle of production, that which forced the subsequent hiring of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to complete the part, works charmingly well in the film. This second surprise is so deeply woven into the plot that it looks like this was the intent all along. The third one, perhaps the most surprising of the bunch, is that Terry Gilliam has commandeered the digital effects so effectively that the film retains its nostalgia simultaneously to looking modern. The films deceptively simple plot forms serves to evoke the best of former Python’s directorial work and at the same time (or so I am told) close up a loose trilogy of the imagination starting with fragile innocence of Time Bandits, carrying forward to the full blown exuberance contained in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and reflecting on mortality, wisdom (with more than a hint of melancholy) with Dr. Parnassus.

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David Cronenberg Project, The Talking Cure, Moves Forward

A little tidbit from /Film on what is likely David Cronenberg next project to go before the cameras. It has it the casting stage at least, and that in itself is intriguing (not the least of which because there are two Basterds alumni in there. The story? It involves doctors, madness, ambition, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. This tease hits the sweet spot.

‘The Talking Cure’ directed by David Cronenberg, starring Keira Knightly, Michael Fassbender, Christoph Waltz. A beautiful young woman, driven mad by her past. An ambitious doctor on a mission to succeed. An esteemed mentor with a revolutionary cure.