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May 20, 2008


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"Two Lovers" isn't really on my radar, but I'm always in the mood for new Eastwood, especially given his recent hot streak. Great review. Looking forward to checking this one out.

Mark J

I always felt 'The Yards' was underrated. Looking forward to Gray's new film.


I think many of these bloggers and want a be film critics (JEFF WELLES!!!) are completely out to lunch. james gray is one of America's most interesting filmmakers. he's a writer/director with a forceful sense of visual/sound grammar. there are only a handful of such filmmakers in america (PTA most notable among them). "the yards" is a terrific film as is "we own the night." both films are dense and rich in terms of character and characterization as well as thoughtfully/meticulously/effectively crafted visually/sound. there are two sequences in "we own the night" that are truly visceral and terrifying (drug factory where the shit hits the fan and the car chase where duvall is killed). sequences that are not simply visual/sound spectacles but rather are crafted in a very precise way designed to achieve subjectivity and ultimately 1) furthers the story 2) conveys important notes/ideas about the characters 3) allows the audience to experience the film from a very particular point of view, etc. to quote a wonderful film "wonder boys" "writers make choices" well so do good filmmakers. gray makes a lot of choices. he weighs all the possibilities and advances with the seemingly best way of doing things. he has vision and perhaps more importantly he's not lazy and as a result his films are rich. in my judgment, it appears most of these so called critics know very little about moviemaking and in turn offer their unthoughtful insights at the expense of the filmmakers. look at a movie like 'iron man' for example. a lazily crafted movie in which the story is a mess/characters are one noted, in addition to it being visually unthoughtful, etc (favreau seems to be a nice guy, but let's face it, he didn;t make a great film probably because he 1) lacked the insight 2) was lazy about it) and yet it's praised because of an oddball casting choice. while gray's films are rejected on the grounds of it being emotionally/logistically dubious??? what about all the other wonderful qualities? man that's just offensive. hate to say this kenny but you're in fear of falling into the Wellesian uninformed film critic territory. pauline kael is turning over in her grave!


Mike De Luca

Hey Shawn, for a guy who cites Pauline Kael, you seem unwilling or unable to enjoy "great trash", much less the best superhero picture since the original "Superman". And if you find Downey's harrowing evocation of a man reconciling his demons with an overpowering drive and good humor, to be a one-note characterization, then I suggest you retire to a less demanding blog. You anti-Ken Jones! "Wellesian uninformed critic territory"? Of all the pretentious drivel...

Mike De Luca

Sorry, Kent. Left out the "t".


Lovelovelove James Gray. Good to know you liked "Two Lovers".

Glenn Kenny

Damn. Imagine if I HADN'T liked "Two Lovers."

For the record, Shawn, the sequences you cite from "We Own The Night" are greatly admired by this, um, critic. The film goes off the rails for me in the orgy of bad melodrama, sentimentality, and overwriting in the climax and coda.

Neil Husband

Some inelegant thoughts:

1. Never can understand the praise heaped upon Director Eastwood. I find his movies totally pedestrian, solid in a meat-and potatoes kind of way.

2. Amy Ryan is ten times the woman Angelina Jolie is and in a fairer world she would be the lead in The Changeling. I'm going to have a hard time buying Ms. Pitt as a 1920's mom when I know that underneath her blouse there are 15 tattoos, that she has a taste for Asian female flesh, and that she drank Billy Bob's blood. Actors don't get more contemporary than Jolie. But I guess that's why they call it acting, right? Whatever.

3. Joaquin Phoenix does not cut it as a Jew. Not now, not then, not never. Neither does Rosselini. I mean, it's insulting. Jews don't look like Joaquin.

4. James Gray has passed over from Underrated to Overrated in the blink of an eye.

5. I'm assuming that since Commandant Penn is the head of the Jury, that Eastwood will either walk away with Grand Prize.


@ Shawn

I look forward to a clear, cogent explanation as to just what "Iron Man" and James Gray have to do with each other.

Sarcasm aside, I'm pulling for Gray to become a better filmmaker; I really think he could become huge if he hits the right beat. He's got a good visual sense, and he works well with actors. He just needs a good script; what killed "The Yards" and "We Own the Night" for me was the uninspired writing.


i'm glad lots of readers are enthusiastic about iron man. i personally lost complete interest in the film about 20 minutes in. the plot gave up and downey's character seemed to have everything figured out. there is no struggle, nothing to speculate about, nothing to look forward to oh that's right aside from building this damn suit. he determines in the cave that he needs to clean up his act. also i can't believe paltrow and howard agreed to be in the film. pretty flat characters if you ask me. anyway, i dig the back and forth. i agree 'we own the night' went a little long and perhaps astray in it's epilogue but ultimately the film has many great qualities that far outweigh any concerns i have with the movie. i love the melodrama label. it's exactly what gray is after. probably not cool to bring pauline kael into a blog discussion you're right. just trying to make a point about the thoughtfulness of some critics.

to kenny:
i was just trying to make a point about how it's irresponsible to hammer a movie without thoughtful consideration. this whole notion of live bloggin makes me uncomfortable. i think if you're going to write a news/celebrity blog like jeff welles you should stay away from assaulting movies. or at-least preface your reviews with "i have bad taste and know nothing filmmaking but..." welles is clearly a mean spirited guy which is why i feel no discomfort in saying these things. i know you have an extensive, praised background in film criticism, ive been reading your reviews for years so i hope you won't fall into the above.

long live elvis mitchell.


That reminds me of that movie with the woman on the plane whose kid disappears and nobody believes her... am I making that up? I swear this was almost already a movie. That one wasn't a true story as far as I know though, and that aspect of it certainly makes it a lot creepier and more interesting to me.


That still from Changeling is beautiful.

Looking forward to that movie so, so much.


Oakling, you're thinking of "Flightplan", and it was god-frickin'-awful.

Joseph Tura

'..as a friend observed, people don't actually get up in the morning relishing the idea of how evil they're going to be, the way this guy does.'

But how would he know?! Anyway Changeling appears to have amassed enough raves to qualify as another fine Eastwood pic which is good news. Can't wait to see it. Strange how Eastwood, nearing 80, is doing such consistently fine work while so many other American directors - particularly Scorsese - appear to be regressing what with hollow Oscar-baiting rubbish like The Aviator or the self-parody of The Departed.


@ Neil Husband: "Asian female flesh" tells me enough about you to place your opinions where they belong - in a dustbin.


Regarding Joaquin Phoenix being an insulting choice to play a Jewish man, it was not specified in this review, but I have read elsewhere that he is adopted by Russian Jews.
Though your keen eye for who has enough 'Jew-ness' may be surprised to know that Phoenix actually is part Jewish...on his mother's side.

Anyhoo, love Phoenix, and have faith in James Gray to provide at the least, emotional, evocative pieces--something you can't say about many directors, so I'm looking forward to Two Lovers.

As for The Changeling, eh.....I fing Jolie exhausting.


Okay, I looked it up, apparantly 'fing' is not word--who knew?!?! I guess I meant 'find.'


"Joaquin Phoenix does not cut it as a Jew. Not now, not then, not never. Neither does Rosselini. I mean, it's insulting. Jews don't look like Joaquin. "

What the hell does this statement mean? First of all, Phoenix's mother is 100% Jewish herself (although granted, Joaquin looks more like his father, while River Phoenix looked more like their mother).

Anyway, I don't understand what you're saying. Presumably you're Jewish yourself, so you're against the Nazi caricatures of Jews, and yet you appear to be saying that any actor who doesn't fit those disgusting stereotypes automatically is not convincing as Jewish? Well, what about Sen. Joe Lieberman? Actress Lauren Bacall? Kirk Douglas? They don't look like Woody Allen, so are they not convincing as Jewish? Is Condoleeza Rice not convincing as a black woman because she has a good education? Is any member of an ethnic minority that doesn't fit the most vile and disgusting stereotype of that group not convincing as a member of it?


I know I'm REALLY late to this particular party, but having just seen "Changeling" over the weekend, I wanted to say how great I thought it was, and how dead-on your review is, Glenn. I think Dononvan is actually pretty good -- his Irish accent comes and goes, but oh well -- and I thought he was not quite the frothing villain you claim. Oh, he plays a rotten son of a bitch, all right, but I thought he was playing arrogant laziness more than outright evil. And I thought Michael Kelly was outstanding. His scene with the kid at the farm, when he tells the boy to get digging, was magnificent.

And Jolie...you know, I don't think I've really seen many of her films, or at least not many in which, on reflection, she really registered for me. But she's dead on here. I think she does some amazingly subtle work here, especially in the more low-key scenes with her substitute son, and in her scenes in the asylum when, after having the score laid out for her by Amy Ryan, she finds that she doesn't know how to act.

Anyway. This movie really got a raw deal, I think. I loved it.

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