Tag Archive: Michael Keaton


Spotlight – Movie Review

The investigative thriller is a great subgenre that doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves. Part of the reason for this might be because these films work best when they’re based on a true story. Probably the greatest film that falls into this category is 1976’s All the Presidents Men. That film looked at how the Washington Post investigated the Watergate Scandal and it continues to shed new light on a topic that is taught in history classes across the country. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight feels like the modern day equivalent to that film. It’s portrayal of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic priest child molestation scandal is truly engaging and also devastatingly realistic. It’s definitely one of the year’s best films, but it’s also a film that covers such dark subject matter that it feels like it takes a piece out of you.

The year is 2001 and the Spotlight section of the Boston Globe is working on a case to expose some form of corruption with the Boston Police Department. The team is led by veteran reporter Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) who is welcoming in Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) the newspaper’s new editor. When a piece of information arises that implicates a Catholic priest in a charge of child molestation, Baron encourages the paper to investigate this piece of information. Most of the reporters at the paper are initially skeptical of pursuing this route because they don’t want to offend their mostly Catholic subscribers. But as they continue to dig up more information, the reporters of Spotlight soon begin to realize that they’ve stumbled onto one of the largest scandals of the 21st century.

Two hours of investigative reporting might not sound like exciting cinema, but Spotlight moves forward at a propulsive pace that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The film covers some heavy material and you become absolutely invested in these reporters discovering the truth. It’s shocking to think that something so horrible was going on for such a long period of time, but there were plenty of institutions who helped bury the truth. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to keep a secret this big and organizations all over Boston helped keep the truth under wraps. It’s people like the reporters at the Boston Globe that keep these institutions in check.

And the cast successfully brings all of these reporters to life. Michael Keaton is nothing short of fantastic in his role as Walter Robinson. From his mannerisms to his subtle Boston accent, Keaton nails every nuance of Robinson and delivers a performance that is sure to score him his second Oscar nomination in two years. Rachel McAdams shines as Sacha Pfeiffer, particularly in the relationship that she shares with her grandmother. Pfeiffer’s grandmother is a devout Catholic and it’s really interesting to see how their relationship changes throughout the film. Brian d’Arcy James might not be an A-lister like the rest of the cast, but he more than holds his own as reporter Matt Carroll. The highlight for his character occurs when he discovers that a rehabilitation center for abusive priests is located only a few houses down from his own. Liev Schreiber also stands out as the Globe’s new editor, as does Stanley Tucci as short-fused lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. If there’s a weak spot in the cast, it’s unfortunately Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo’s a great actor, but his Boston accent feels forced and sticks out in a bad way.

By the time Spotlight reaches its conclusion, you really feel like you’ve experienced the incredible amount of effort that went towards this story. And the final seconds of the film are absolutely phenomenal, ending off on a truly dark note that will have audiences shaking as they leave the theater. People may tell you that this is an important film and while that sounds cliché, it’s absolutely true. When we read about stories like this one in the paper, we rarely hear about the extensive amount of reporting and research that brought out the truth. You may think you know the story, but Spotlight places this scandal in a whole new light.

Spotlight receives 4/4

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My 2015 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl

– 

Best Director

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Will Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Should Win: Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Snubbed: Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Will Win: Michael Keaton – Birdman

Should Win: Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Snubbed: Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Will Win: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Should Win: Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Snubbed: Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Will Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Snubbed: Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Will Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Should Win: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Snubbed: Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Will Win: Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Should Win: Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Snubbed: Locke – Steven Knight

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Will Win: The Imitation Game – Graham Moore

Should Win: Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Best Animated Film

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 I guess, but I honestly don’t care

Snubbed: The Lego Movie, obviously

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida

Leviathan

Tangerines

Timbuktu

Wild Tales

Will Win: Ida

Should Win: Out of all the nominees, I’ve only seen Ida. So Ida, I guess.

Snubbed: The Raid 2

Best Documentary

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

Will Win: Citizenfour

Should Win: Virunga

Snubbed: The Overnighters

Best Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Will Win: The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Should Win: Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Snubbed: Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Will Win: “Glory” from Selma

Should Win: “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

Snubbed: “I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar – Richard King

Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Fury

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Will Win: American Sniper

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Fury

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic , Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner,  Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner – Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman

Ida – Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Should Win: Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Snubbed: Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Will Win: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Snubbed: Snowpiercer

Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges

Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood

Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard

Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snubbed: Edge of Tomorrow, as long as the exo-suits count as costumes

Best Editing

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Snubbed: Gone Girl

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

Snubbed: Godzilla

My Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday and it’s easily the biggest night of the year that Hollywood has to offer. Some great talent is sure to be honored, but I’m also sure that the Academy will fail to honor some of the more worthy individuals. Since I am not a member of the Academy and can’t actually choose who gets to take home the gold on Sunday, I decided to create my own awards. They may not be quite as prestigious as the Oscars, but maybe some of this year’s nominees will appreciate the praise that I’m giving them. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Denis Villeneuve – Enemy

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy – Locke

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Scarlett Johannson – Under the Skin

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Naomi Watts – Birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Calvary – John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Locke – Steven Knight

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

Enemy – Javier Gullón

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin – Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer

Wild – Nick Hornby

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Foxcatcher – Greig Fraser

Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth

Interstellar – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score

Enemy – Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Best Original Song

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

 

Best Editing

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Gone Girl – Kirk Baxter

Interstellar – Lee Smith

The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Arthur Max

Foxcatcher – Jess Gonchor

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley

Snowpiercer – Ondrej Nekvasil

Best Sound

The Babadook – Frank Lipson

Edge of Tomorrow – James Boyle and Dominic Gibbs

Fury – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Godzilla – Erik Aadahl, David Alvarez and Ethan Van der Ryn

Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten and Richard King

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

Despite having acted in films for over two decades, Michael Keaton has never developed into an A-list star. He’s certainly had success and he’s even starred in some truly iconic films, but he’s never become a household name. That’s precisely why his casting as Riggan Thomson in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is so perfect; Keaton and Thomson have had similar careers with only sporadic successes. Keaton portrays Thomson with an almost self-aware commentary on his own acting career. He’s always interesting to watch, but the script never delves below surface level in its exploration of fame, success and Hollywood. But even though the script may be mediocre, fantastic direction and powerful performances elevate Birdman into a mostly solid film. It may not be one of the best films of the year like some are claiming it to be, but it is a nice watch, especially on a technical level.

Thomson had starred in a massively successful superhero trilogy, in which he played the character of Birdman. He eventually walked away from the franchise and has been unable to find success ever since. But now he’s writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What we Talk About when we Talk About Love. Thomson is hoping this could be his career comeback, but it’s not going to be easy. His daughter (Emma Stone) is a recovering drug addict, his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) announces that she’s pregnant and Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), the newest actor in the play, is extremely difficult to work with. All of this is happening with the success of Birdman hanging over Thomson’s head. Will his play mark the beginning of a comeback or will it end up being the death of his career?

Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu seems to think that he’s tapping into some profound messages regarding the state of Hollywood, but all the themes that the script brings up are straightforward and fairly obvious. It certainly didn’t take an entire film to tell us that Hollywood always seems to be moving onto the next best thing. The script also tries to be funny, but it rarely ever is. There’s so much crude humor present that feels out of place in the context of the film and what Iñárritu is trying to do. There are numerous references to testicles and there’s even a scene where a character gets an erection on stage. Jokes like these may work in raunchy comedies, but for them to be present in a film that is clearly aspiring to be seen as profound feels strange. Perhaps the fact that the script was written by a whopping four writers (Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo) can account for some of its weaknesses.

But even when the script underwhelms, Iñárritu’s direction remains on point. Nearly the entire film is shot to give the impression of it being one continuous take. I’m still not entirely sure what purpose this is supposed to serve, but it’s stylistically great and it makes the film more interesting than it probably would have been otherwise. A few minor problems arise from shooting the film this way, such as the viewer continuously searching for where they secretly place a cut within a scene, but the long takes are great to watch and they ultimately help the film more than hurt it. What’s most impressive about the film from a technical standpoint is the gorgeous cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. Lubezki is one of my favorite cinematographers working today and the look that he gives Birdman is nothing short of astounding. A lot of the film takes place inside the St. James Theatre on Broadway and Lubezki allows each new scene to feel fresh and exciting. Lighting and set design are manipulated to give each room in the theater a completely unique feeling and sensibility. What might be most impressive is that the scenes are shot using a single camera, but Lubezki still manages to create beautiful images without relying on a multiple camera setup. This is easily one of 2014’s most beautiful films.

Having starred in two Batman movies over 20 years ago, Keaton may have been perfectly cast in the film, but great casting doesn’t always equal a great performance. So kudos to Keaton, who gives one of the best performances of his career as Thomson. Thomson seems to be going through a midlife crisis and Keaton makes us feels his characters tragedy and anxiety in equal measure. Every scene he shares with Amy Ryan is touching and haunting, these two actors sharing a believable chemistry together. He’s also quite funny in the film and a sequence where he’s forced to run through the street in nothing but his underwear is one of the film’s highlights. The supporting cast is also great, with Norton, Stone and Naomi Watts giving particularly strong performances. Norton seems to be playing a hyperbolized version of himself; Shiner is bizarre, difficult to work with and quite funny, with Norton responsible for many of the film’s big laughs. Emma Stone brings a spunk and ferocity to her performance, making her completely believable as the child of a washed up Hollywood star. And Naomi Watts is touching as Lesley, particularly in one tragic sequence in her dressing room after a performance gone wrong.

It’s a shame that the script for Birdman is so mediocre, because everything surrounding it is so great. The cast is easily one of the best of the year and Iñárritu’s direction is tremendously skillful. The unique Broadway setting gives the film a distinct flavor and the percussion heavy score from Antonio Sanchez is strange in the best possible way. This is a film that remains consistently good throughout its two hour runtime, but it’s never able to achieve the status of greatness that it so desperately desires. Watching it is a lot of fun, but the results don’t end up adding up to much.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) receives 3/4