Posts tagged “Alan Arkin

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)The premise of this sweet and sentimental film is simple enough, for a family to get their daughter to a beauty pageant. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) is as fresh as American Beauty (1999) was innovative in how it portrayed the average American family, as dysfunctional and more normal than before. Combine that with a road trip film that usually don’t fall into family comedies, bringing to mind Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), usually a male genre which has been turned on its head.

For once I am seeing Steve Carell away from the usual wacky roles for which I’m used to seeing him in. Playing a darker role with the wit turned down a notch amongst an ensemble cast. Everyone has a chance in the limelight, even though it’s really about getting the youngest to a beauty pageant that takes up about a fraction of the running time.

The Hoover family their uncle Frank Ginsberg (Carell) come to stay with them after a failed suicide attempt, not the best of starts to a film, Staying with his sisters Sheryl (Toni Collette) family where her father in law Edwin Hoover (Alan Arkin) a heroin addict. Whilst her husband  is struggle to keep his life coaching franchise going, waiting for a phone call that could make or break it. And a teenage son Dwayne (Paul Dano) who has not uttered a word for 9 months. Whilst almost oblivious to all that is going on seven-year old Olive (Abigail Breslin) is lost to a world of beauty pageantry, the glamour that comes with this shallow industry that puts beauty above real talent. A staple in American culture in some families who dedicate their daughters lives to winning.

Through a reason of default Abigail is through to the final of Little Miss Sunshine, that means the Hoovers of Albuquerque have to make the long haul drive to L.A. Something that can’t really afford, not wanting to leave Frank on his own they all decide to leave in a classic yellow VW bus, old, worn out and full of surprises as we learn, carrying the family across the country.

The road trip is very eventful for all, from the clutch giving out, forcing them to all getting out to start them off each time. To more poignant and sombre moments that see the family lose the grandfather (Arkin) who had lived a full life and always spoke his mind, never lost for words. Which deservedly won Arkin a best supporting actor Oscar, compared to his more recent Argo (2012) nomination that really wasn’t worthy. His character’s death, instead of stopping them in their tracks, encourages them to go on, even in the face of an unsympathetic Bereavement officer Linda (Paula Newsome) who would have trapped them in paperwork, that no-one wants to deal with.

All the events bring the family closer together for the pageant, where we see young girls being placed under pressure to perform and be judged on the merits of beauty, a very subjective aspect of life. When finally the talent portion of the events arrives and it’s Olives turn the male members rush to bring everything to a halt. Thankfully Olive rises to the challenge throwing the contest on its head, cranking it to the extreme.

Full of laughs and tender moments that could tear a family apart, instead bring them together, and show that a road movie is not primarily for men on bikes or in cars. Life carries on when the Hoover’s hit the road. Something we can all relate to, as we travel long distances in such close quarters of other family members for extended periods of time. A holiday film just would cut it for what we have here. Anything and everything happens, slightly cliché on the right level for it to all work and come together.


Argo (2012)

Argo (2012)After being stuck in what seemed like the 1950’s for my film viewing recently, I needed to be pulled almost bang up-to-date with something that I had been finding the right time to watch, which this time was Argo (2012) this years Oscar winning film, after being snubbed in all the major categories bar the really important one – best picture, which is won. Somehow after getting up from it, I would have gone for Life of Pi (2012). I can see how it won however, the old Hollywood loving itself number which they pull out every-so-often. And it allowed actor/director Ben Affleck to still pick up one of those trophies. I could spend the review trying to argue why it shouldn’t have won, in place of Ang Lee‘s masterpiece of storytelling, but that argument has probably been had by now.

Instead I’ll focus on why it won beyond the point I just made which is blinding the obvious as C.I.A agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) is given the job of providing the best worst option of rescuing 6 hostages from Iran in the 1980 when Iranian and American relations were at their worst when America was offering asylum to one of their leaders. Add to that the coup they helped to pull off with the U.K. years before didn’t really help matters.

The idea that Mendez brings to the table is as crazy as it gets, to set up a fake movie, complete with crew as a cover-up in order to get the 6 U.S workers out of the country to safety. At first the idea is seen as a joke, the only joke that is serious enough to be given the green light. Allowing Mendez to fly off to Hollywood and set up this fake film. Which sounds odd when you think about it. (I could go on forever explaining the falseness of the film, when films are just illusions). Where he meets make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) who finds the idea exciting, believing he will fit right in. Knowing that if they are to pull this off they need a fake crew and production company. All the back-story and material to make this all seem real. Even going as far as having a script reading at a convention. There is a clear counterbalance between the madness of the idea and the political tension that leans to madness in Iraq, needed to ease the situation. Turning then to find a producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) who would be mad enough to go along with it all. I’m not sure why Arkin was nominated for his supporting role which was more deserved by Bryan Cranston who had more screen-time and was with Mendez the whole way on the operation.

Once the plan is set-out and in motion in Hollywood, it’s time to head over to Iran to meet and train the hostages in order get them out with plausible stories, knowing their aliases inside-out and back to front. There’s a leap of trust that needs to be made by all of them, something that comes easier to some rather than others, especially Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy) who first persuaded them to leave the U.S. embassy when the riots began. his judgement is questioned when he fails to trust what is essentially their last hope to exit the country alive. If we didn’t have this tension the film would lose its attraction and become predictable. The rest of the hostages are more willing whilst still scared, especially when they go on a location scouting trip where things really heat up for the team.

The sense of danger is always there, even when we don’t see it, we feel it in the other scenes making all the more believable. The look of the film with the blend of new and archive footage is not that of seamless, instead an acknowledgement that this really took place, just being adapted slightly for the screen ratio. Whilst other footage is sewn more seamlessly to create the atmosphere of the time. Of course theirs a sense of nostalgia which goes with any film set in another period, mainly in the fashions and the set design. It all works perfectly.

Why did this win the best picture Oscar then? It was because Hollywood was part of a successful C.I.A mission and they wanted to celebrate that fact, It’s also a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not too flashy and not too dark. Even with Affleck in the lead role he doesn’t come across as he owns the picture and no one else can touch it It’s about the hostages and how there were saved, giving them ample time. Whilst its competitors which I saw had their strengths, Life of Pi in the art of story telling and the use of C.G.I, whilst Lincoln was a superb depiction of Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) to abolish slavery and end the civil war, it was too long and taxing on the audience with all the speeches which can overshadow the grand and classic performances. Whilst I never saw nor was interested by Zero Dark Thirty, the discussion of torture may have hindered any real prospect of getting that all important award. Leaving it between Argo and Life of Pi for me.