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Every year, the same movies snatch up a big portion of the Oscar nominations. Then, we hear about these movies for months as we lead up to Oscar night. And while this year has been a pretty exciting race (I’d say the winners for both lead acting categories are up in the air), and there were a few surprise nominees that snuck in at the last moment (what’s up, Demian Birchir?), it can get a little bit repetitive to hear about the same movies over and over again, even if you enjoyed them.
In hopes of offering a change of pace, I’ve compiled my own “Oscar” list of sorts. For my categories, I ignored all of the existing Oscar nominees and focussed on films and performances that didn’t receive as much awards attention this year. I also omitted people like Shailene Woodley, who did not receive an Oscar nomination but still got lots of attention from critics, bloggers, and awards groups leading up to the nominations.
Also, keep in mind that there are still lots of films from this year that I need to see. Shame, Take Shelter, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene are just a few on that list.
Enjoy, and feel free to post your own “alternative Oscars” in the comments.
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
It may be a small, unassuming film, but Meek’s Cutoff stuck with me in a big way this year. The film is unconventional in almost every way (the pacing, the mumbled dialogue, the refusal to punch up the story with high drama), and it’s a true achievement in cinema.
Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Carey Fukanaga, Jane Eyre
Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive
Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff
Again, I have to give this one to Meek’s Cutoff. While Nicholas Winding Refn offered a masterclass in cool and Tomas Alfredson built insane tension around old guys sitting around talking in a room, Kelly Reichardt created something truly unique. I didn’t care for her last project, Wendy and Lucy, but her deliberate pace and sparse, terse tone worked wonders in Meek’s.
Dominic Cooper, The Devil’s Double
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Tom Hardy, Warrior
Ewan McGregor, Beginners
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
Cooper masters not one but two challenging roles in this messy film. He’s chilling and downright crazy as Sadam Hussein’s son, Uday, and also deeply sympathetic as Latif, the man hired as Uday’s double. It’s a towering pair of performances, and Cooper finally realizes the potential he showed in small roles in films such as Starter for 10 and An Education.
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Keira Knightley, Last Night
Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Robin Wright, The Conspirator
Wiig gives a downright brilliant comedic performance in Bridesmaids, and sometimes that is enough for me. She throws herself into every gag headfirst, and she comes out in the end with a highly charming, perfectly executed performance. McCarthy is also great, but for me, Wiig is the reason to watch Bridesmaids.
Best Supporting Actor
Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre
Colin Ford, We Bought a Zoo
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March
Simon Pegg, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I thought Fassbender was a tad overrated in X-Men (sorry), but he reminded me why I loved him so much in Fish Tank with a similarly physical and subtly threatening performance in the gorgeous Jane Eyre. He oozes charisma here, and makes for a completely magnetic screen presence. Kudos to Mark Strong, too, for fantastic scene-stealing work in Tinker Tailor, and for converting me into a Mark Strong fan.
Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Anna Kendrick, 50/50
Carey Mulligan, Drive
Amy Ryan, Win Win
Michelle Williams, Meek’s Cutoff
It was the year of Chastain, and my favourite performance of hers (though I haven’t seen them all) was as the ethereal wife in The Tree of Life. It’s a beautiful, moving performance, and she slips seamlessly into the languid tone of the film.
Shame is probably not going to be a mainstream success, but it may get Fassbender his first Oscar nomination
- One of the most buzzed-about films at Venice has to be Steve McQueen’s new film, Shame. It earned a flurry of attention first for its gritty subject matter, and the suggestions of an NC-17 rating that came along with it. But while some feared that this could scare off potential distributors, Fox Searchlight was quick to scoop the film up. But Oscars buzz really heated up when the film’s star, Michael Fassbender, won the Coppa Vulpi award (the Venice equivalent to “Best Actor”) for his performance in the film. Literally overnight, Fassbender became a legitimate Oscar contender in the eyes of many (he originally was thought by many to have a better chance at a Best Actor nomination with David Cronenberg’s new film, A Dangerous Method). I’m avoiding making any rash changes to my own predictions, but I certainly think that Fassbender is a much more viable contender, now.
The Ides of March may not be the Oscar juggernaut many once thought
- While the film did receive mainly positive reviews, the critical buzz for Clooney’s latest flick was more muted than a lot of people had expected. As well, Ryan Gosling, who was previously considered a strong contender in the Best Actor race, received somewhat tepid reviews for his performance. I’m not counting it out yet, though.
Fish Tank was not a fluke
- Director Andrea Arnold received raves for her direction of Fish Tank (which starred the omnipresent Michael Fassbender), and it looks like she’s crafted another moody gem with her adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which won the Osella award for Best Cinematography. Though the film did receive mixed reviews at Venice, those who liked it seemed to love it, and many critics championed it dark tone and visual style.
Watch out for Gary Oldman and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy took the spotlight early on at Venice, and the response seemed to be quite positive. Gary Oldman, especially, earned raves, and it looks like it could be the crowd-please that The Ides of March might not turn out to be.
Critics didn’t love Albert Nobbs, but they did like Glenn Close and Janet McTeer
- The period drama Albert Nobbs failed to garner much buzz at the festival, and reviews were quite mixed, but its two leads did receive praise. Close received predictably strong reviews, but the early lack of enthusiasm about the film could hurt her Oscar campaign. However, Janet McTeer can only benefit from the strong reviews for her performance. I still don’t think she’s a major contender, but she’s certainly not out of the race, either.
Carnage and A Dangerous Method didn’t excite
- Though they received generally positive (but not glowing) reviews, Carnage and A Dangerous Method didn’t turn out to be the critical darlings that many had predicted. While films like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Shame are on the upswing after Venice, these two didn’t seem to gain or lose much from the critical response.
Almost all of these films are screening at TIFF, so we’ll certainly be hearing about them over the next few days. All of this can easily change, but I found it interesting to gauge what the buzz was like at the first huge festival of Oscar season.
And for more photos and news from Venice (as well as the latest Oscar news, as always) be sure to check out Times Like Those on Tumblr!
I like a good superhero movie as much as the next person. I really liked the first two Spider-Man and X-Men movies, and The Dark Knight even found its way into my top 10 movies of the decade list. But I feel like we’re getting a huge overkill of suited-up action capers. Now we’re even getting superhero franchise reboots within five years of each other, and a lot of Hollywood’s most promising young stars are suiting up.
The cast of X-Men: First Class is coming together nicely. James McAvoy (Wanted, Atonement) is playing a young Professor Xavier, while Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Inglourious Basterds) will play his nemesis, Magneto. And just today, it was announced that Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man, About a Boy) will be taking on the role of Beast, while Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) is rumoured to be playing a young Cyclops. As much as I like all four actors, I feel like the X-Men movie franchise wore out its welcome a while ago. X-Men: The Last Stand (if only it had lived up to its title) was borderline awful, and last year’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine felt totally unnecessary.
The same goes for news of the Spider-Man reboot, which will star Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus). As well, Chris Evans (who is no stranger to superhero movies) will be taking on Captain America, with An Education‘s Dominic Cooper joining the supporting cast.
But I suppose most actors try the mainstream at some point in their career, if they can. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an actor known for his decidedly smaller film choices, is making his way to IMAX screens with his work in Inception, and his upcoming roles in thrillers Premium Rush and Looper.
To be clear, I don’t blame any young actor for taking a role in a big-budget movie. The goal is to get your name out there and increase your paycheck, and starring in films like Boy A and Rory O’Shea Was Here for the rest of your life is hardly the best way to accomplish that. But as I see more and more of my favourite young actors sign on to these superhero romps, I can’t help but feel slightly disheartened. As great of an opportunity as a big role in a summer blockbuster can be, I feel like a lot of these actors were already on the rise. And maybe I just take my movies to seriously, but I’d much rather see talented actors in roles that push them and evoke emotion from me. Even when I see Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, which is undeniably fun, I kind of just wish that I was watching him in a different movie, instead. It’s not so much that I’m blaming the actors for taking the roles (because, really, who could resist?), it’s more that I’m getting sick of superhero/comic book adaptations.
**(Side Note: Now that I think about it, perhaps the parade of highly-coifed photos at the top of this post, while quite enjoyable, doesn’t really fit with my plea to respect acting skill over marketability… But that doesn’t mean I’m going to ditch the eye candy any time soon.)