Posts Tagged ‘philip seymour hoffman’

 

Release date: October 7th, 2011

Running time: 101 minutes

Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon

Based on: The play Farragut North by Beau Willimon

Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood

The Ides of March is a political thriller revolving around Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a young campaign manager for Mike Morris (George Clooney) a democrat who is running for president. Stephen is assisted by senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and opposed by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) who is running the campaign for the opposition. Duffy approaches Stephen and asks of he’ll work for him instead of Paul. This, on top of being involved with a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), pull Stephen into a world of secrets and lies.

I should say right now that politics don’t interest me in the slightest. Perhaps it’s because of my age, but I can’t of too many things that bore me more than politics. Yet in spite of that, I still really enjoyed The Ides of March. While the story is very political, it’s written in a way that makes it accessible to any audience. You don’t have to know the inner workings of politics to understand the drama of the film. This is because of a great script with great dialogue that gets better as the film progresses.  The film starts out good, but starts to really excel as the film hits its second act. From there, the film just continues to improve scene after scene until it eventually reaches its great ending.

What really shines through in this film is the acting. I’ve been a fan of Ryan Gosling for a long time. Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Drive, and now The Ides of March. I wouldn’t say his performance in this is his best role, but it ranks among his best. Stephen is a character who is a good guy and genuinely believes in what Mike Morris stands for. He’s smart and efficient, and Gosling brings a lot of charisma to the role. Stephen also goes through a very interesting arc through the film. He starts out as an innocent man who genuinely believes that he’s doing the right thing. But the deeper he goes into this world the more he begins to question his morals. The arc is very reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s in the first two Godfather films. Even the final shot of The Ides of March is evocative of The Godfather Part Two.

The film also has one of the strongest supporting cast I’ve seen all year. George Clooney isn’t exactly doing any acting stretches, but he is perfectly cast as presidential candidate Mike Morris. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also quite good as the senior campaign manager Paul. Hoffman is very commanding in the role and there are times where you can’t take your eyes off him. He brings in a lot of intensity when necessary, but he also gives the character a lot of credibility and makes Paul feel very wise. But for me, the best supporting performance came from Paul Giamatti.  Tom Duffy isn’t a flat-out villain, but Giamatti gives the character such a threatening presence that he dominates any scene he’s in. One of the best scenes in the film is a confrontation near the end between Duffy and Stephen. Giamatti doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he does a lot with what he’s given and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an Oscar nomination. The film also sees strong performances from Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei.

If the film has one weakness, it’s that the revelation that politicians play dirty is not a very surprising revelation. After decades of films, books, and music about how corrupt politicians are, it isn’t a very big reveal. We also live in a world where information is leaked immediately. Politics don’t have the same dark and mysterious feel they use to. This isn’t a big problem mind you, and the film is more than smart enough to make up for this.

If I had to compare The Ides of March to one other film, it would be last year’s The Ghost Writer. Like that film, The Ides of March is a thriller that doesn’t rely on shoot outs and explosions to thrill the audience. It doesn’t bother with pointless action scenes that don’t mean anything. Instead, The Ides of March is film that stands on it’s excellent drama brought to life by some terrific performances. I highly recommend The Ides of March, easily one of the best film’s of the year.

Rating: A

Release date: September 23rd, 2011

Running Time: 133 minutes

Written by: Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian

Based on: The novel “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Matthew Lewis

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Chris Pratt

Moneyball tells the true story of Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics and a former professional baseball player himself. Beane was believed to have been an all star player back in the 80’s but unfortunately he never panned out. Jump a head twenty years and Beane is managing the Oakland Athletics, a team which doesn’t have the money to compete with other teams. Frustrated by so many losses, Beane attempts to rethink how they scout players. He meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young kid who views players as statistics. He eliminates all the factors of recruiting players that don’t come down to mathematics. Several of the players Brand sees as having a lot of potential are undervalued by everyone else. Beane and Brand use this information to put together a successful time that threatens to change the baseball industry.
The thing that got me excited for this film was knowing the script was co-written by Aaron Sorkin, who is known as a master of dialogue. Indeed, there is a lot of fantastic dialogue in Moneyball, which is one of the highlights of the film. However, the actual story is not very compelling. We don’t know very much about any of the characters in this film. They’re all just there to fill their part in the plot. The only exception is Billy Beane. We do see some insight into Beane’s past and see the drama of Beane’s life unfold. But I never found this drama very compelling. This leaves the actual baseball statistics of the film. I don’t care about baseball, but I did find some of the insight that Peter Brand brought pretty interesting, at least at first. The problem is the film relies on that so much that my interest gradually waned.

 

A big part of the blame has to go to director Bennett Miller. To add on to the already not very interesting story is the extremely slow pace. At times the film just felt like it dragged on and on. Compare this film to the Aaron Sorkin penned The Social Network. The characters spend a lot of the time talking about things I don’t care about and yet I was constantly engrossed with what was going on. Part of that was because the characters were interesting, but also because David Fincher brought a sense of intensity and excitement to everything with his direction. I’m not saying the direction in Moneyball is bad, in fact the film is well made in the technical sense. It just doesn’t have any passion or excitement.

What saves the film, apart from Sorkin’s dialogue, is the performances. Everyone in the cast delivers a good performance. Brad Pitt is great as Billy Beane. Despite my problems with the drama coming from his story, Pitt still managed to win me over and I did find myself rooting for him. For most of the film, Beane keeps his emotions on the inside through most of the film, only having it come through in short bursts. Pitt does an excellent job trying to keep his emotions inside and makes Beane a far more intriguing character than he seems in real life. I also really liked how Pitt balanced the comedic side of the character, as well as the deeper and more personal side.

The supporting cast is great too. Jonah Hill is popular for his comedic roles in films like Superbad. The character he plays here does have some funny moments, but is mostly a serious character. I really like the way Hill played Peter Brand as an awkward nerd who is also very good at what he does. Philip Seymour Hoffman also has a nice small role as the manager of the Oakland Athletics who doesn’t approve of Beane and Brand’s methods. I was worried they’d make him the default villain of the film, but thankfully they didn’t. While Hoffman isn’t given much to do, it’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s almost always great. There’s a lot of great bit parts here and there too, like Beane’s daughter, the scouts for Oakland, and the players on the team. I must admit I do find it odd that Robin Wright is here playing Beane’s ex-wife and is given next to nothing. Why did they bother getting Robin Wright if they weren’t going to use her? Unless of course there’s a bunch of cut footage.

If one looks at good sports films, one will notice that most of the good ones aren’t really about the sports. Raging Bull isn’t about boxing, it’s about a man who’s rage and inner-demons pushes away his loved ones. This year’s Warrior isn’t about mixed-martial arts, it’s about how two brothers drifted apart and where they ended up. Moneyball is about baseball, plain and simple. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll likely really enjoy it. Otherwise, then I’d recommend this film as a rental, or at best a low matinee. Apart from the acting, there isn’t anything special about Moneyball.

Rating: C