The Parnassus Times

March 21, 2009

The List is Life: #75

75.

The Dame;

Rachel McAdams.

Taking up acting at the age of 12, at a summer theatre camp, Rachel McAdams went on to earn a BFA degree in Theatre from Toronto’s York University. Following graduation, a few bit parts on TV lead to a role in 2002’s  The Hot Chick, yet it would be another 2 years before the London, Ontario native found fame, first as superbitch Regina George in Lindsay Lohan vehicle, Mean Girls, a show she all but stole from a very talented cast, and then as one of the leads in epic, decade spanning romance, The Notebook, alongside real life boyfriend Ryan Gosling, the two shared a sizzling chemistry that lit up the screen and displayed the great potential of McAdams as a leading lady. The next year brought further success, first as Owen Wilson’s love interest in box office hit  Wedding Crashers, playing a pretty underwritten role, but instilling it with her effortless screen charm, as part of a large ensemble in  The Family Stone, she managed to stand out from the pack, and alongside Cillian Murphy in Wes Craven’s  Red Eye she took another lead role and knocked it out of the park, the two leads working brilliantly off one another, McAdams filled her character up with a sweet naturalism that had you falling for her in an instant. Though the last few years haven’t brought much in a way of major roles, she’s clearly displayed enough talent and range to make her a major name of interest in the future of cinema’s leading ladies.

The Dude;

Michael C. Hall.

Michael C. Hall’s career began Off-Broadway, he spent his time working in productions of  Macbeth, Cymbeline, Timon of Athens and  Henry V, in addition to his Shakespearean work he appeared in controversial, modernizing and homosexualizing Jesus tale, Corpus Christi and displayed his musical abilities in an early incarnation of what later become Stephen Sondheim’s  Bounce, and then in his first Broadway role, as the Emcee in Sam Mendes’ Broadway revival of  Cabaret. It was this role that lead Mendes to suggest Hall to his  American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball when he was casting for his new HBO series, Six Feet Under. Over the next 5 years his Emmy nominated work as David Fisher brought great internal anguish searing onto the screen, the viewer feeling his pain, his conflicts all the way. Since that shows conclusion in 2005, Hall has spent the past few years finding widespread fame as a righteous serial killer, in Showtime’s hit Emmy winning and Golden Globe nominated, Dexter. His drier than dry wit, and seamless transition from loving brother and boyfriend to vicious killer all working easily and effortlessly in his hands.

The Director;

Jean-Luc Godard.

Godard first rose to prominence alongside contemporaries, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette writing film criticism for Andre Bazin’s Cahiers du Cinema in 1951, across the next decade he tried his hand at documentary making and produced a number of short films, before in 1960 he directed his first feature, A Bout de Souffle, the film came to encapsulate the Nouvelle-Vague movement, with its frenetic jump cutting, and character asides, it also saturated itself with numerous references to popular culture, most notably the American movies Godard was influenced by. The prime of his career lasted for about 7 more years, turning out films like  Le Mepris, Bande a Part, Alphaville, and Pierrot le Fou, films that generally worked to conventions and with reference to cinematic history, and very often featuring his wife and muse, Anna Karina.  Following the couples divorce in 1967, Godard’s career took a great swerve, suddenly, as if in line with the youth of the nation, his work became almost revolutionary, certainly anti-establishment, he was tagged as everything from a militant, a radical, even a Maoist, he began to delve far deeper into political and social issues that had been there before, but that now sat at the forefront of his work. Along with this change came a denouncement of much of cinema’s history as bourgeois, and thus without merit. He continues to work to this day, turning out usually at least a film a year, aged 78, he shows no signs of slowing down, and no signs of softening his edges.

The Picture;

beauty_and_the_beast1

Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise, 1991)

The story, Beauty and the Beast, can be traced as far back as 1740, written by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, a variety of different versions of the story evolved out of this one over the next few decades, abridged, and transformed into stage plays and opera form. The first major cinematic version was Jean Cocteau’s 1946, La Belle et la Bette, starring Jean Marais. However it was in 1991 when it came into the hands of the mighty Disney that it was forever immortalized for global audiences, and remains to this day, the only animated film to ever be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The production lends the story an epic grandeur rarely seen in animated movies up till this point, giving it a real feel of prestige, usually reserved for live action pictures, it maintains the tales classical feel perfectly for adult audiences, perfectly portrays the greatly conflicted central relationship that turns from hatred slowly to love for a younger more romantic generation, and fills itself out with a host of wondrously entertaining supporting characters to enthrall children everywhere. The songs are gorgeously written, and brilliantly vibrantly visually realized, as is the entire movie, whether playing out in grand ballrooms, dark forests, or drunk taverns, you can feel the atmosphere shining through the screen. It is a beautiful film to behold, turning a story two and a half centuries old into something both modern and old fashioned, for the young and the old, for lovers of  story or of visuals, it is truly universal, and a real classic for all time.

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March 15, 2008

The List is Life: #97

97.

The Dame;

Cate Blanchett.

A decade on from her breakthrough role as Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur’s biographical drama, Cate Blanchett has firmly established herself as one of the most respected and acclaimed actresses in the business. Here is a woman who can play seemingly any role from virginal young British queens to male American rock stars, one Oscar already under her belt and many more sure to follow. Though the accusation of cold and mechanical has often been shot her way, the Australian has shown immense talent in the utterly free flowing and naturalistic Veronica Guerin, a very underappreciated and underseen film that may just be her best performance to date.

The Dude;

Marcello Mastroianni.

One of the great stars of European cinema, Marcello Mastroianni was one of the most naturally charismatic and effortlessly cool stars to ever stride across the silver screen. This was a man from a small Italian village, a man that during the second world war was interned in (and escaped from) a Nazi prison. Yet all this could not stop him from achieving international fame and the reputation of Italy’s finest actor. Despite being one of only two actors to win the Cannes film festival Best Actor award twice, Mastroianni is most remembered for his perfectly underplayed but endlessly effective starring roles in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, two of the sixties most revered and iconic films, thanks in large part to him.

The Director;

Claude Chabrol.

When talk of the French New Wave is brought up, it is the names Godard and Truffaut that are most readily heralded, yet in 1958, aged just 28, Claude Chabrol directed his debut film Le Beau Serge, and with this small town examination of opposites he is the man who essentially kicked off the movement that revolutionized French cinema. In the half a century since then, Chabrol has continued to probe the depths of humanity as well as establishing himself in the mystery and thriller genre as a sort of French Hitchcock. Though most of his peers have either passed away or simply passed their best, Chabrol continues to work efficiently into his 78th year.

The Picture;

Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

Everyone knows the statistics, 1.8 billion dollars at the international box office (that’s roughly 700,000 ,000 dollars more than it’s nearest rival. 700,000,000 is about the international box office gross of Michael Bay’s Transformers) a record equaling 14 Oscar nominations and a record equaling 11 Oscar wins. Yet at heart it is all very simple, this is a story about rich and poor united in the face of the most immense human tragedy, a story about the destructive nature of man’s continuing struggle to ascend to immortality, a story about breaking free, about love. It is, in the end, of the same stock as the old romantic epics in Hollywood history, and more than worthy of that status. It is a modern classic, that blends both blossoming romance and epic disaster to create one of the great stories in cinema. The ship may have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but as far as the film goes, there is nothing but ascension on the horizon.

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