Tuesday, February 13, 2007

February 13th Log

2006, Ryan Fleck, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Half Nelson is a film that relies on it’s strong sense of charters and performances. As a drug-addicted history teacher, Ryan Gosling continues to prove to be among the brightest actors of his generation as his performances here has quickly established wide acclaim (including an Academy Award nomination). Not to go unnoticed however are the performances by two other key characters of the film: the student who discovers his drug problem and grows a friendship with him (played by newcomer Shareeka Epps), and a local drug dealer (Anthony Mackie) that wants to lead the young girl into his life in the same way he did with her brother who is now in jail. This is the feature debut from Ryan Flick and Anna Boden and it is made with sincerity and passion. The characters are so well developed and incredibly honest without any sense of force or contrived actions. Gosling’s Mr Dunn is especially well developed in a way that you grow an emotional connection with his charming, unpredictable, and flawed humanity. Half Nelson builds in emotional through offering authentic truths in the characters and in their moral and personal struggles. The film ends without the typical conclusion, while certainly leaving hope.

2006, Douglas McGrath, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

To be fair, I’d like to avoid comparing Infamous with 2005’s Capote (both films were made around the same time but Infamous delayed it’s release). However, it is almost impossible and sadly inevitable (for either film) that they are doomed for comparisons. Most notably in the lead performance as Truman Capote. Toby Jones is terrific here, but his performance is more an imitation and lacks the depth that Philip Seymour Hoffman brought to his well-deserved Oscar winning performance. The differences of the films really rely on there original sources. Less autobiographical then Bennett Miller’s Capote, Infamous is based off a book by George Plimpton and the focus here seems to be more on the gossipy aspect of Capote’s society life in contrast to that of the Kansas town. Writer-director Douglas McGrath gives the film a light-hearted comedic feel early on before becoming more and more ambitious and message-driven as it builds. This seems determined to have more to offer then 2005's Capote (including Truman's sexuality), but it lacks the atmospheric tone and sense of the process of creation. Infamous losses track with it’s many ideas, but the performances (especially by Daniel Craig, who is especially standout as Perry Smith) and McGrath’s lively pace and humor do make this an enjoyable film to watch.


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