127 Hours was the one best picture nominee I was most skeptical to see. I was skeptical for several reasons. Director Danny Boyle’s previous movie Slumdog Millionaire was hardly my favorite film of 2008. (That honor goes to Goodbye Solo.) Uber-renaissance man James Franco is hardly my favorite actor; I just don’t see the appeal. And, truthfully, I did not see how the story of Aron Ralston amputating his arm after spending five days trapped by a boulder could be translated into film. My cynicism when it comes to film is sometimes my worst own worst enemy.
What Danny Boyle has created is the rare film that blends raw emotions, sentimentality, and high stakes action.
127 Hours gets off to a lightening fast start. As Aron Ralston (Franco) prepares for a day of canyoneering in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, he leaves his Swiss Army Knife behind. Aron’s morning is seen in congruence with scenes of places across the world. These are a series of rapid shots made up of three panels of simultaneous action. Aron’s day, this editing technique tells us, is just like any other. Aron meets two hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) and the avid outdoorsman leads them to an underground pool. Their meeting, one girl foreshadows, probably didn’t even figure into Aron’s day.
Aron’s real story doesn’t begin until he becomes trapped in a canyon, his arm pinned by a boulder against the canyon wall. The kinetic energy established early on pares down. With Aron’s realization that he is alone and his attempts to lift or chisel away at the rock will be wasted, 127 Hours becomes a chronicle of dire survival. Aron retreats into his mind, turning to a video camera to record messages and delusions of his past experiences, family, and relationships to survive.
Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle never stray from showing you this amazing stretch of Utah wilderness and how alone Aron Ralston really was. The canyon Aron inhabits is small; in five days it becomes his home and he knows every detail of it. Without his own knowledge of survival tactics, technology and, above all, the power of his mind, there is no way he could have lived.
How do you capture what was a grueling and primarily mental event? It is, in part, the pacing and energy of 127 Hours that makes the film what Roger Ebert describes as “an exercise in conquering the unfilmable.” The film begins fast and never falters, not even in the sequences when Aron is completely alone. 127 Hours is as gut-wrenchingly powerful as it is a testament to the vitality of the human spirit. It is fitting then that 127 Hours ends as it begins. With a reminder that Aron Ralston is just another person apart of the world’s daily grind.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this afternoon that actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway will cohost the 2011 Oscars. Producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer noted that with Franco and Hathaway “personify the next generation of Hollywood icons – fresh, exciting and multi-talented.”
I have faith that Franco and Hathaway are more than capable hosts. They are both proven live performers with boundless appeal and charm. Hathaway, in particular, flashed her Oscar hosting potential in 2008 when she appeared with host Hugh Jackman in the opening number.
Something still feels off about this hosting selection. This is an obvious attempt on the part of producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer to attract younger viewers. But will it actually work? I hardly think the Oscars should worry about drawing a younger audience.
It is worth nothing that Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting stint last year attracted more than 41 million people, the most since 2005. This only proves one thing: it is not the Oscars host that matters but the movies nominated. Without an Avatar nominated for Best Picture this year, the Oscars telecast ratings will expectedly drop.
What is your take on James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscars hosts?
The 83rd Academy Award will be held on February 27, 2011.
“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
Every year there is at least one biopic that seems to be on every person’s radar. Not that that’s a bad thing. This year’s biopic is Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.
Milk tells the story of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Milk reinvented himself from a closeted New York City insurance salesman to become the country’s first openly gay politician and the face of the country’s gay rights movement. His life, his political career, and his untimely death have left an unequaled legacy on both gay rights and in American politics.
Harvey Milk is played by Academy Award winner Sean Penn, who once again shows the depth of his talent through this performance. Penn is compelling and never seems as though he is playing a stereotype, which is the greatest risk for an actor playing Milk.
Milk boasts an equally impressive supporting cast. James Franco, Emilie Hirsch, Alison Pill, Joseph Cross, and Diego Luna play Milk’s closest allies. Franco is a silent force as Scott Smith, Milk’s long-suffering partner. But Franco’s quiet yet resonate performance is outshined by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s portrayal of Milk’s fellow city supervisor and eventual assassin, Dan White, is mesmerizing and haunting. Surprisingly, White is a sympathetic villain; his descent into evil is treated fairly by the filmmakers, allowing audiences to draw their own opinions about White.
There is an eerie sensation about Milk. It is the story of a politician who becomes the voice for individual rights while spreading a message of hope and it is a story focused on a gay rights proposition in California. Two stories similar to this played out in the recent election, giving Milk an even more resounding message. In many ways, you are watching a film that is about today as much as it is about the 1970s.
Harvey Milk was a brilliant man and activist. He was funny and flamboyant; tragic and flawed; inspiring and passionate. This film is tells the story of rich and fascinating life by using any method of filmmaking possible to peel off the layers.
By the end of this film, you know Harvey Milk and that is Milk‘s greatest achievement.