Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Calendars, movies take a few serious turns

The frivolous summer is over and so, by gosh, is September, generally the weak sister of movie-releasing months. So, bring on October and the rush toward another awards seasons. Can’t we all just hardly wait?

At least two – ahem! – serious films go full speed ahead this week alone. “Blindness,” which takes itself very literally with a Don McKellar screenplay (adapted from Jose Saramago’s heavyweight novel), arrived at the Toronto Film Festival early last month minus some running time, not to mention the Danny Glover narration that some critics apparently despised in Cannes.

“Fernando (Meirelles) has a very, very delicate hand,” the always-compelling Julianne Moore said about her director during a Toronto fest interview. “He really sees a lot. The thing about his film is that he makes these movies about these huge things – these huge global ideas about who we are and what we are becoming and what we are responsible for – then he shoots people with incredible delicacy.

“The speech is sometimes awkward, it’s very realistic, it doesn’t sound scripted and it doesn’t seem acted, all of which I love. It kind of wakes you up,” added Moore, who plays the wife of a stricken doctor (Mark Ruffalo) fighting the title epidemic. “Then, when you see how (Fernando) edits it – and how he chooses expressions -- he will choose something where someone’s face lights up for a minute then goes away. I think it’s incredible what he sees.”

Of course, it was Meirelles, Oscar-nominated himself for directing “City of God,” who put Academy Award-winning Rachel Weisz through her supporting actress paces in his last film, “The Constant Gardener.”

Similarly, the gifted Ed Harris’s previous film behind the camera, “Pollock,” earned a supporting actress win when Marcia Gay Harden walked away with Mr. Oscar in 2000.

Now, Harris is helming and starring in “Appaloosa,” which initially marked its gravitas by opening last week in the requisite “select cities” before going very wide Oct. 3. It certainly might be called the best western since “Open Range” or perhaps “3:10 to Yuma,” but face it: How many horse operas have been released in the last few years, anyway?

“One of the things I do like about our film is that it is very detailed with a lot to see in there,” Harris said from a Toronto podium. “The more you watch it, the more you see how much attention was paid to detail in all aspects of the production.

“Technically, I'm not some guy who is going to go whizzing the camera all over the place. I didn't want to do a bunch of close-ups, bam, bam, and not know where I was. We really wanted to shoot kind of wide and let things take place. That way, we could still get to know these characters as intimately as possible. It’s the way we wrote it, the way we've always envisioned it, and, hopefully, the way it turned out.”

Regardless, for down and dirty entertainment, this week’s top film could be “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” a sweet little charmer that won’t win any awards but does produce a star-is-born-role for supporting girlfriend Ari Graynor.

“I have a lot of love for Caroline without a lot of judgment for her attached,” Graynor says about her character getting drunk and lost in New York City while Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) get to know each other.

“I just think that it’s one night that everyone finds themselves in at some point. I’m certainly not condoning binge drinking or high school kids getting themselves into some horribly disgusting situation. It’s just a kind of rite of passage that often occurs, and she’s really smarter than she might appear to be.”

One “disgusting” moment finds Graynor/Caroline on the floor of a bathroom salvaging her gum from “some repulsive concoction of water and graham crackers.”

“I can proudly say that I did not take that gum that was in that toilet and put it in my mouth,” she says when pressed about the really gross scene. “We had a secret, freshly chewed gum stash right next to the toilet, and I made sure there were a lot of people helping with the gum continuity that day.”

Graynor can next be seen in “Youth in Revolt” (which also stars Cera) and “Whip It,” Drew Barrymore’s feature directorial debut, opposite Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig.

(My review of “Nick & Nora” and Q & A with Cera can be found in this week’s Sun News, along with my review of “Religulous” and more “Appaloosa” talk from Harris and his co-stars, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.)

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