Sunday, October 30, 2011

Black Sheep interviews Antonio Banderas

n 1986, a relatively unknown Spanish director by the name of Pedro Almodóvar, cast a little known young actor named Antonio Banderas, to whom he’d previously given a small part in a previous work, in MATADOR, a controversial indie film about a former bullfighter and a lawyer who got turned on by the act of killing. The successful pairing would repeat itself three more times in three more years but then Banderas would move to Hollywood. It’s been 20 years since this famous twosome last worked together.

Banderas and Almodovar at Cannes 2011

“I was in New York doing a workshop for a musical there and Pedro called me when I was in the car and said, ‘It’s about time.’” Banderas has a smirk on his face as he recalls the story of when he and his old friend decided to make another movie again. “He didn’t even introduce himself. He just called me and the first thing that I heard was ‘It’s about time.’”

Banderas in The Skin I Live In (2011)

This was still a ways back even. Banderas, now 51 years old, was working on a 2003 production of "Nine" on Broadway when he first read, THE SKIN I LIVE IN (LA PIEL QUE HABITO), and even though he knew it would be some time before the two would be able to coordinate their schedules, he was still very careful to give this script its due. “I know that the first time I read a script is the only time that I’m going to be a spectator of my own work,” Banderas says, demonstrating an appreciation for his craft I’m not sure why I wasn’t expecting. “From that moment on, I’m contaminated.”

Banderas in Matador (1986)

Banderas’s choice of words are particularly poignant in this case considering how easily THE SKIN I LIVE IN In gets under your skin. Loosely based on a novel called, "Tarantula", by Thierry Jonquet, Almodovar’s film is as stylish as one would expect but also deeply disturbing, with Banderas anchoring most of that madness as a scientist consumed by a mounting obsession. It plays with time and convention; it has scenes of costumed rape and bloody mutilation; in essence, the film is executed with an eerie and concise control that Banderas finds quite admirable. “In the formal aspects, Pedro has become more minimalist, more austere. He is now more serious, more complex, more profound.”

Banderas watching The Skin I Live In co-star, Elena Ayaya

It isn’t the mainstream he has grown accustomed to in Hollywood but Banderas believes there is a place for all forms of cinema in the world today. “I cannot ask a guy who has been working on the roads under the sun the entire week to go see 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini on the weekend,” he jokes. “What he needs is to take his girlfriend and a big bucket of popcorn to see PUSS IN BOOTS.” As both the aforementioned SHREK spinoff, in which Banderas voices the titular Puss, and the Almodovar picture are playing well to their respective audiences, he has a point.

On the set of The Skin I Live In with Almodovar

“Pedro is a genre unto himself,” Banderas states, after citing Lars Von Trier and Terrence Malick as Almodovar’s most comparable contemporaries. “In one scene, you feel like you are in the altitudes of Shakespeare and three minutes after you are in a soap opera from Mexico and everything in between.” As much of a mind melt that can be at times, especially on set, Banderas would not have it any other way. “Pedro loves to go to different places and explore the more intricate complexities of the human experience. He keeps turning the wheels.”

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Banderas returns to Hollywood next in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming thriller, HAYWIRE, and comedy in Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s follow-up to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, entitled HE LOVES ME. His break from the masses to return home to the familiar was a welcome one though. “Going back to Pedro at this particular time in my life is like a Coca-Cola in the desert. It feels good, it feels very good.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Written by John Orloff
Directed by Roland Emmerich 
Starring Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis and Vanessa Redgrave

Roland Emmerich is famous for directing disaster movies, like 2012 and INDEPENDENCE DAY. His latest, ANONYMOUS, is supposed to be a grand departure but it still felt an awful lot like a disaster to me. And what better way to distance yourself from a genre that practically ignores story completely, than to take on a story that attacks the character of one of the most famed storytellers of all time, William Shakespeare. Rhys Ifans stars as Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford and, according to Emmerich, the actual writer of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s an interesting theory but one that Emmerich executes with about as much finesse and subtlety as one would expect from the man who rewrote history in 10,000 B.C. If I were Emmerich, I would have left my name off of this one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Written by Kate Nocack and Andrew Rossi
Directed by Andrew Rossi

As you’re reading this review online, you are already hip to the changes in the air. In case you haven't fully noticed, it would appear as though journalism as we’ve known it for all our lives is changing and changing fast. The print newspaper is desperate for advertising to avoid its demise and the definition of journalist itself has been drastically altered in the digital age. Andrew Rossi’s third feature, PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES is a fascinating and engaging look at these issues as dealt with by the world leader in print journalism. Despite its behemoth status, even the NYT is not immune to this decline and Rossi will have you wondering where we all be when, not if, it falls too.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Sheep interviews Elizabeth Olsen

What’s in a name? In the festival circuit breakout, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, the heroine has four of them. Meanwhile, the actress who plays her has a name you’ve likely never heard before. With five films being released over the next year and mounting awards season buzz for her first though, you will know the name, Elizabeth Olsen, soon enough and you’ll be hearing it for a long time to follow as well.

“I try not to think about things like momentum and trying to act fast while things are hot,” Olsen tells me, over the phone, after I suggest that things are indeed hot for her right now. “I’m just going to try to continue making choices based on script, character, project, who’s involved, rather than try to jump on some sort of momentum.”

Olsen as Martha, Marcy May or Marlene

Her choices thus far have been pretty sound or at least have the potential to be. Her upcoming projects include working with filmmakers like Bruce Beresford (DRIVING MISS DAISY), Rodrigo Cortes (BURIED) and Josh Radnor (Ted from How I Met your Mother). It is her breakout in MMMM (cool acronym, huh?), with first time feature filmmaker and now good friend, Sean Durkin though, that will serve as her ultimate unveiling.

“Sean wanted to cast an unknown actress for Martha,” Olsen reveals. “He thought it was really important for the audience to see it without any baggage from someone’s prior work because it is such a specific story.” The story in question centers around Martha’s escape from a cult and her difficult integration back into the family she ran from. Her memories and her nightmares become intertwined, making for a unique and haunting film experience. (Read the 5-star Black Sheep review here.)

Olsen with Oscar nominee, John Hawkes

While It is true that people may not know her name, it is a stretch to suggest Olsen comes without baggage. Olsen is the younger sibling of infamous twin sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And while she may bear a distinct resemblance to them physically, it only takes about five minutes of watching her on screen to realize she is where she is right now based on the sheer magnitude of her talent and not her connections.

This talent is the reason I chose not to discuss her sisters with her during our interview. It is also the reason that the possibility of an Oscar nod is being tossed around for her turn in MMMM. “First off, that’s just like so, it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around it because this is my first movie being released,” Olsen declares, clearly humbled and reluctantly excited by the possibility. “It’s so difficult for me to see that as part of my reality. For me, what I hope comes out of that mere buzz is more people will end up seeing the movie because of that.”

Olsen with co-star, Sarah Paulson

A significant audience would certainly vindicate the five week shoot, in which Olsen only had one day off and two weeks to prepare for, not to mention the dark places she had to visit in her mind to make Martha believable. “I have a pretty active imagination,” Olsen explains when I ask how she was so convincingly able to look like a shell of a human being on screen at times. “I just would put myself in situations, not like Martha’s situation, but more like something I could relate to, that would be more like a parallel. It makes the movie harder to watch because you remember the things that you were trying to figure out for yourself when you played those scenes.”

It may be dark but MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is nothing but a bright beginning for an exciting new actress with great promise. “At the end of the movie, I did feel sad to leave her behind but I also felt relieved,” Olsen confides, showing genuine conflict. Now many months later, there is no question of the pride she derived from the experience. “I truly believe it’s an original and different cinematic experience for modern day film. I don’t think a lot of films are made like this anymore and I hope people just come game to have a whole different type of experience watching a movie.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Written and Directed by Sean Durkin
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy and John Hawkes

Martha: Do you ever have that feeling where you can’t tell if something’s a memory or if it’s something you dreamed?

Instantly uncomfortable, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, is unlike any experience I’ve had at the movies. It is at times both eerily quiet and dishearteningly noisy; it is painfully present but yet also lost in a haze of what is real and what is imagined. It inspires great sympathy and even greater anxiety. Its tension is palpable and its style is distinct and effective. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is a truly accomplished piece of filmmaking from writer-director, Sean Durkin, a first time feature filmmaker. With that in mind, it is just plain shocking across the board.

As skillful as Durkin proves to be, he has help, led by a star-making turn from lead actress, Elizabeth Olsen. Olsen, who incidentally is the younger sibling of Mary-Kate and Ashley (and I’m sure never tires of seeing that repeated in print), is incredible as Martha. We meet her when she is Marcy May, her name changed when she entered a seemingly loving commune. Her new family turns out to be an abusive cult, led by recent Oscar nominee, John Hawkes (WINTER’S BONE), but the warmth they show her is still enough for her to leave behind the family she had always known. Olsen carries so much depth in her composure, her face and general demeanor are cold and lifeless. Still, there is fight inside her that breaks through the surface from time to time, hoping to make its presence more permanent. Olsen makes Martha’s struggle so grave, you feel as though she could slip away from everything at any moment, never to return. She is simply captivating and I could barely breathe as I watched her push back from hell.

Durkin takes this towering performance and drops it in the middle of a world of bewilderment, bouncing back and forth in time and place between Marcy May’s time with her adopted “family” and Martha’s attempt to reintegrate into society with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her husband (Hugh Dancy). At times, many of them in fact, she cannot distinguish between the two experiences and subsequently, neither can we. Her transition is never simple and both situations place rules on her that she struggles against, leaving it open for debate as to which scenario provides her with real love, if any. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE is as disturbing as you would expect from what I’ve described but it is also just as revelatory.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Black Sheep interviews MICHAEL SHANNON

When I sat down to speak with Michael Shannon about his mesmerizing performance in Jeff Nichols’ equally transfixing film, TAKE SHELTER, Hurricane Irene had just paid a visit to his hometown, Manhattan. The media had made out the event to be potentially catastrophic but the weather came and went without much damage to mention. The media may have had egg on their faces but what if they were right? One day, they very well might be.

In TAKE SHELTER, Shannon plays Curtis, a husband, a father, a construction foreman and a good man. Curtis has a secret though; Curtis is having visions that a storm that could end all storms is coming and he isn’t quite sure how to deal with that. “I don’t think he’s a prophet,” Shannon begins to explain of Curtis. “I don’t think Curtis has necessarily even thought it out to the extent that he thinks the end of the world is coming. I think it’s much more poetic than that.”

That it certainly is. When Curtis dreams, he sees rain of a different colour than we are accustomed to, falling from the sky. Whatever it is that is falling from the sky, it is potent and powerful and it will be the game changer humanity has managed to avoid for centuries now. Rather than presume too specifically what that would will be like though, Nichols chooses to keep things ambiguous, which is what Shannon loves about the film. “The sky is such a beautiful poetic image. People ask why can’t he just run but you can’t run from the sky.”

The supernatural elements of TAKE SHELTER are counterbalanced with Curtis’ family life, which is tested greatly by his mounting paranoia. In yet another stellar supporting turn, Jessica Chastain plays opposite Shannon as his wife. Their marriage is already braving its own storm of sorts, with their daughter facing the possibility of permanent and total hearing loss. It was the scenes with Curtis’ daughter (played by Tova Stewart) that Shannon found most disturbing and difficult. “I have a 3-year old daughter. The thought of some disaster happening to her, it’s not something I can digest. I think that’s what is so terrifying about what’s happening to Curtis is that he’s lost the ability to block it out.”

That’s an understatement. Faced with a potentially apocalyptic storm, Curtis begins expanding an underground shelter in his backyard. Naturally, this tips off his friends and family to his increasingly bizarre behaviour. Complicating matters further, Curtis’ mother (Kathy Baker) was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was roughly Curtis’ current age. This begs the question, is this madness or is this divine intervention?

“I think what Curtis is experiencing beyond schizophrenia is just feeling unsafe because he doesn’t know who’s running the show,” Shannon clarifies. Curiously enough, Curtis is not a churchgoer, unlike the rest of his family, and yet God has chosen him to warn of what’s coming. Or, he’s totally losing it. It could go either way. “For me, one of the reasons I was interested in doing the film, is that more metaphysical, spiritual component,” says Shannon, a non-churchgoer himself.

It is these kinds of delicate layers that inform both Shannon’s performance, one that will certainly come up come awards season, and the effectiveness of TAKE SHELTER itself. “To me, the inherent question is, if you don’t believe in God or if you’re not religious, then isn’t the world a terrifying place?” Shannon asks, of both his audience and himself. “Because everything is arbitrary and nature is very arbitrary. Nature is not malicious; it’s not like it wants to destroy your house but its there and its undeniable. It’s been that way for centuries. Just ask the dinosaurs.”

Would that I could but we all know how that turned out. If only the dinosaur having premonitions had spoken up.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Written and Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn

Mrs. O'Brien: You'll be grown before that tree is tall. 

Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE is the most polarizing film I’ve seen in ages. It was widely reported that plenty of patrons walked out and angrily demanded their money back while just as many fans vehemently defended it, proclaiming the film a modern masterpiece. In fact, this pattern began at the Cannes film festival, where the film made its debut, when half the audience took its feet in ovation while the rest booed and hissed loudly. To be fair, Cannes audiences do tend to err on the dramatic side of things but this divide was very real. No word of a lie, I hold THE TREE OF LIFE personally responsible, at least in some small part, for actually ruining a very close friendship of mine. It doesn’t matter which side of the line you fall on though; what matters is that for those who see it, the reaction it inspires is a strong one.

All I knew after seeing THE TREE OF LIFE in theatres was that I would need to see it again to truly form a full opinion of it. I knew that seeing it again would either leave me feeling more detached from it or more involved in it. When I saw the film with an audience, I was surprised and moved by how quiet and attentive everyone was. The film demands your attention and it certainly had it in that room. A few people left, including the couple sitting in front of me. (I knew when they sat down that it was only a matter of when.) At the time, my original review praised the film’s aesthetics, calling them nothing short of genius, but I also felt the film came across as somewhat self-important, as if Malick portended to know something we didn’t.

After seeing the film again, in stunning high definition in my living room, I feel as though I have seen THE TREE OF LIFE in a whole other light. The film is an odyssey of sorts, one that the viewer must choose to embark upon freely in order to enjoy. At two hours and eighteen minutes, the film is not particularly long but it can feel that way at times because it requires such delicate contemplation on the viewer’s part, as well as some very focused observation. It’s almost meditative. If you can find that state of balance and calm that Malick mysteriously manifests on film though, the experience itself can be transcendent. Every frame of this film is magnificent, bursting off the screen with beauty like you’ve never seen, rendering the action taking place superfluous most of the time.

There is no succinct plot in THE TREE OF LIFE. Having one would almost defeat the point, or at least the new point I’ve taken away from the film anyway. I feel more now as though Malick is not telling us what he thinks he knows about life but rather asking us to see life as the splendid miracle it is, to appreciate it fully and to understand that not only could it disappear in an instant but that one day it will. And so instead of story, Malick gives us random moments, some mundane, some meaningful. Moments are what make up our lives and from these moments, spring the stories we create in our minds. We invite shame and suffering into our homes and into our bodies when we don’t need to. Our lives are but blinks of an eye and all that we should see in that instant is love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Written by Karl Gajdusak
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage

It is mind boggling to me that A) films as thin and contrived as TRESPASS still get made and B) that any actors still working today would sign on to work with director, Joel Schumacher. Both TRESPASS stars, Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage, should have known better considering each of them has worked with Schumacher before in what are considered some of the worst titles on their resumes (BATMAN FOREVER for Kidman and 8MM for Cage). By starring in this home hostage thriller, Cage is reduced to sniveling cowardly on the floor and Kidman simply screams girlishly from a corner throughout. TRESPASS is an embarrassment for all involved, including those who see it. Heed my warning: Keep out of TRESPASS.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I must have seen Disney’s THE LION KING a great number of times as a kid because when I finally sat down to watch the film again as an adult, I could practically recite it word for word as it played in front of me. The film’s recent theatrical rerelease success proves that THE LION KING is unquestionably one of the most well loved animated films of all time. And its debut appearance on Blu-Ray is a clear reminder why.

The 1994 Oscar winner is back and as majestic as it’s ever been. From the moment the procession of elephants, giraffes and zebras makes its way to Pride Rock for the unveiling of Simba, the newborn lion cub who will one day be king, THE LION KING roars loud enough to earn its moniker. The African savannah is breathtaking in its yellow and orange hues and the Elton John/Tim Rice song, “Circle of Life”, is a true triumph (one of many on the jubilant soundtrack). This ceremony is a celebration and the film itself is just as much of one. Its message of overcoming your fears and past to become the king you are inside, holds true to this day without falling prey to cliché.

The new Blu-Ray edition contains many of the same features that previous DVD editions did but it does also contain some never before seen deleted scenes, as well as a newly “discovered blooper reel featuring most of the original voice cast, from Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba to Jeremy Irons as the villainous Scar. Regardless of how many new features there are, the high definition transfer itself is well worth the upgrade. THE LION KING is simply a must-own for any family film collection.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Black Sheep interviews Max Minghella

The cast of George Clooney’s THE IDES OF MARCH is practically mammoth. Aside from Clooney himself, you have Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood. If you go one more name down the list though, you’ll come by one Max Minghella, and once you see the film, you’ll know why his name deserves to be included amongst all these others.

Minghella with Hoffman, Tomei and Gosling

“It’s an amazing privilege to work with people like that,” the 26-year-old, London native tells me in his charming accent. “It was such a useful experience in terms of education.” Personal benefits aside though, Minghella, who was part of another impressive cast last year in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, hopes the film’s pedigree does not hurt its chances of being seen. “There are so many prestigious actors, I hope it doesn’t turn people or get them to not root for the movie because I think it has a really strong heart.” So why the elaborate casting then? “I don’t think its cast for the sake of casting. It happens to have an extraordinary cast but they’re all the right people for the parts.”

In The Social Network

Minghella, the son of the late filmmaker, Anthony Minghella, was “obsessed” with Beau Willimon’s “Farrugut North”, the play this film is based on (“I saw it a lot”). He is happy that Clooney has done such a fine job directing. “All of the things I loved in the play are retained but George has managed to stretch it out on a much bigger canvas,” he states with some relief. And what of Clooney as a director? “He’s very clear. He’s a very pragmatic filmmaker, which makes you feel very safe as an actor. You feel like you have a real boss who knows where he needs to be and knows where he needs to take us.” Incidentally, Minghella and Clooney have worked together before; he played Clooney’s son in Syriana.

Minghella and Gosling

“I never thought I was going to be an actor but I always knew I would be in film,” Minghella tells me when I ask if this is always where he saw his life headed. You might suspect that Minghella’s interest in filmmaking came from his Oscar-winning father, but in fact it was his mother who peaked his interest at a very young age. Carolyn Choa is a choreographer now but when Minghella was still a baby, she worked for the British Board of Film Classification, the British equivalent of the MPAA. “When I was a baby, she’d have to watch like five or six movies a day, and she’d tell me the plot summaries for each of these movies as my bedtime stories. So my imagination as a person is totally intwined with film as a medium. I wouldn’t know how to do anything else.”

So while Minghella’s name may not be above the title, he is honoured to have been a part of THE IDES OF MARCH. “I’ve never had this kind of fairy tale experience before of really wanting something, feeling like you’re the right person for it, and then it working out so simply. That’s never been my story before.”

And with that, a new story begins.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Alison Janney

Lisa Cohen: I just need to talk to somebody who doesn’t completely misunderstand who I am or what’s going on inside me.

It isn’t easy growing up, no matter who you are and no matter what you have to live through while you’re doing it. Take Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) for instance. She is a 17-year-old girl living on the Upper West Side in New York City. She goes to a private school and comes from a broken home. Her pre-occupations are not unlike any other girl’s her age - she bickers with her family, she wants to lose her virginity, she has opinions about worldly subjects she is only beginning to understand. And she is only just realizing that it is up to her to make sense of her own world when she inadvertently causes a fatal traffic accident. Suddenly, the world makes even less sense than it did just moments earlier.

MARGARET is writer/director, Kenneth Lonergan’s highly anticipated follow-up to his Oscar nominated 2001 feature, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME. The film went into production in 2005, when the now 29-year-old star, Paquin, who certainly gives a vibrant and youthful performance, was but 23. It then spent years in turnaround as Lonergan tinkered with the lengthy 3-hour+ runtime, trying to get distributer, Fox Searchlight, to sign off on it. It was scheduled to be released in 2007 but the cut was deemed unreleasable. In the midst of legal battles, Martin Scorsese and his faithful editor, Thelma Schoonmaker came on board to see what they could make of it. Their edit is the official theatrical release and both company and director are apparently happy with the end results.

Indeed all parties should be pleased as MARGARET is an engaging coming of age story. Lisa does not know how to process what she has witnessed and has no idea how to make right what she caused. She looks down every road for solace but constantly runs into walls and subsequently, she begins to act out as a means to make her life about something other than that accident. Perhaps in her own self-destruction, she can eradicate her guilt. If only life were that simple though. If it were, not only would Lisa find a simple path to peace but Lonergan would have found a simpler path to finishing this film. Life allows for things to pass in their own time though and with that, MARGARET needed to take this long to be released. Like Lisa, it too had some growing pains to go through first.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Directed by George Clooney
Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman 
and Evan Rachel Wood

Stephen Myers: Nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing.
Governor Mike Morris: Is that your personal theory because I can poke holes in it.

George Clooney has been mulling making THE IDES OF MARCH for a few years now. When he first wanted to make it in 2008, he decided to put his plans on hold because of the political climate. The United States were on the cusp of a monumental election and a financial crisis and he did not want to take advantage of either. Three years later though, Clooney and his longtime production partner, Grant Heslov (GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK) think the timing is now right to unveil their political thriller to the voting public. Apparently, it is acceptable to be critical of their government again.

Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris, a seemingly genuine and upstanding gentleman, who is trying to secure the democratic party nomination for the upcoming presidential race. Naturally, nothing is as it seems and it would appear that no one can get to such great heights without stepping over a few people along the way. To get where he is, you also need a crack team behind you and Governor Morris’ includes actors as diverse and talented as Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood. Hoffman is the veteran, Wood is the intern and Gosling is the shiny new guy who is clearly on his way to greater things. In fact, Gosling’s career appears to mirror the position of his character, Stephen Myers. The man is certainly on his own streak and his lead performance here is another that will certainly continue to propel him forward.

THE IDES OF MARCH is a compelling and engaging thriller, despite not bringing much new to the table. Gosling’s Stephen gets caught up in the political crossfire behind the campaign scenes and it becomes a pretty harrowing challenge for him to ensure he still comes out ahead of everyone else. And while Clooney’s execution is smooth and effective, it does cater a little too often to his own political views. Clooney did not want his character to be a republican as he thought the criticism would be too obvious. As a democrat though, he gets the chance to voice all of his platforms on topics as heated as gay marriage and tax incentives for the super rich. Everything he says seems so sensible, the film becomes something of a criticism for all politicians, as if to suggest it could be as easy as he claims if they would just get it together. And while Clooney may not be ready to run for president, he earns my vote for being a top notch film director.

Monday, October 03, 2011


Written and Directed by Richard Ayoade
Starring Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine

Oliver Tate: I live in a large house with my parents. It has breathtaking scenery. I’m not sure I believe in scenery.

The adolescent mind can sure be a dramatic one and that intensity is played up to hilarious heights in Richard Ayoade’s narrative feature film debut, SUBMARINE. The mind that we are given unadulterated access to belongs to one Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a 15-year old only boy obsessed with but two things - a girl in his class (naturally) and preventing the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. It his belief that these fascinations and the way he deals with them would make a great film and despite this blatant narcissism, he is actually spot on about that.

Oliver is an unassuming chap. When he speaks, he can barely form a proper sentence without tripping over nearly every word. He watches the people around him while hiding behind corners, all the while fearful that if he doesn’t intervene, they won’t get it right. That said, he rarely speaks up because he does not yet know his own voice, or more specifically, he has not yet learned how to make that voice heard by others. In his own head however, his world is the center of all worlds, typical of most teenagers and sadly, fairly typical of most adults I know as well. And while his problems are hardly unique, it is the way in which Oliver tells his own story that gives them all the importance required to make them seem monumental. 20-year-old, Roberts, is brilliant as Oliver, making him the most memorable angsty  adolescent on film since Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer in Wes Anderson’s RUSHMORE.

The actual man behind Oliver’s movie in his mind is Ayoade and the choices he makes in SUBMARINE are inspired and incredibly clever. By constantly drawing attention to the filmmaking process - calling out his shots before they happen, pointing out conventional approaches to storytelling and then carrying out those exact same approaches - Ayoade demonstrates a fine understanding of film language and great ability to make memorable moments. Once you dive in to SUBMARINE, you will not want to surface again.