It has never surprised me that Sarah Polley has become such a nuanced and accomplished director. Her performance in The Sweet Hereafter, a haunting, get-under-your-skin movie directed by Atom Egoyan, stuns; she plays a willing incest participant with compassion and grace, though “willing” is doubtless the wrong word when talking about the coercion of one’s adolescent daughter. Polley’s direction, and in the case of Take This Waltz, writing, is similarly sensitive, empathetic, yet also razor-sharp; she cuts deeply and accurately, and with such a clean blade that it doesn’t hurt until you think about it later.
A.O. Scott’s review captures the film nicely. My only quibble is that I can’t understand how a guy who drives a rickshaw for a living can end up with a woman who never seems to do any work occupying a loft the size of a city block. I mean, I know Toronto’s not New York, but…still.
Michelle Williams does that Michelle Williams thing, which is awesome, but Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen are both absolutely terrific, finally cast with roles that allow them to do something besides one-liners and, as Silverman says in the very good making-of doc on the DVD, poop jokes. Just when you think the movie is going to end predictably and annoyingly, it doesn’t. Polley pulls no punches, even though she wears velvet gloves.
I saw Zero Dark Thirty just a couple of days before the ceremony. I was surprised that Jessica Chastain was not super great; like a lot of young actors in talky, earnest roles where they have to spout a lot of facts, she kept tremendous tension in her head and neck instead of pushing that energy into the lines. But Kathryn Bigelow isn’t an actor’s director; she is instead one hell of a combat photographer, or rather a simulated combat photographer. She has an absolutely amazing mastery of how to convey the heat, intensity, claustrophobia, and white-knuckle terror of being in battle. She also clearly learned a thing or two from her ex; more than once in the raid that climaxes the movie, I was reminded of the marvelous spacecraft landing sequences in Aliens. I was also shocked that Zero Dark‘s score by Alexandre Desplat didn’t get nominated; it was terrifying and hauntingly lovely by turns.
I loved this piece over at flavorwire on Oscar categories that should be added; BIG LOVE to the best casting award. Why this crucial aspect of the filmmaking process is overlooked is mysterious and dumb. While I don’t agree with a friend who says that “there is no great acting, only good casting,” I do agree that casting is about 9/10ths of the battle. The article also jokingly puts up a “best female director” category, including the two directors above, as well as the delightful Julie Delpy and the bright bold Lynn Shelton; I don’t know Lorene Scafaria yet, but by damn she’s on the radar; anyone smart enough to cast my crush, Keira Knightley, gets my instant approval. As the article states, “Actors are separated by gender; why not directors?” At least then, Hollywood would be forced to recognize as many women as men in that category every year. Trust me, it won’t be a problem.
I’ve never quibbled that Lawrence is good; she has great onscreen presence. I don’t think her range is particularly huge. It shouldn’t be. She’s 22, for heck’s sake. However, her reactions here have made me a fan. It takes a great deal of self-possession and a little sang-froid to field idiotic questions with such honesty and aplomb. Go, Lawrence. You rock. And press? Listen to yourselves. Good thing we can’t see your faces. The shame would be unbearable (at least, to a human being, but maybe these folks are the soulless robots they sound like).