Tag Archives: Julia Ormond

Temple Grandin (2010, Mick Jackson)

The best thing about Temple Grandin is Claire Danes’s performance. She even gets through the parts where she’s thirty playing fifteen. It’s a biopic, there a lot of flashbacks. Director Jackson tries to use a lot of visual transitions for them, but they really succeed because of the teleplay and the performances. To give some credit to Jackson though, it’s not like there’s a lot of de-aging attempts. Temple Grandin’s stylistically simple, but Jackson does seem to understand Danes is the whole show and do everything he can to facilitate her performance.

In a way, having Danes portray the character or is it person when talking about a biopic–anyway. Having her play in the flashbacks forces the viewer to think about the actor, think about her performance. Jackson’s so bland, you’re not even considering it as a creative choice. Instead, the film creates another narrative track. Where’s Danes performance going?

Christopher Monger and Merritt Johnson’s teleplay has a lot of detail, but not a lot of exposition. The information dumps are sudden and big. There’s barely any time spent enjoying or appreciating. It’s functionally fluid, pragmatically plotted.

Then sometime in the second half, after all the flashbacks are done, Julia Ormond–playing Danes’s mother–comes back into the film. Even though Ormond and Danes don’t have any relaxed scenes together for the first third at least, gradually–after Ormond is off-screen for a bit–it becomes clear there’s a similar performance. Danes’s performance is off Ormond’s performance. And then when they’re together more often in the second half, there’s so much more of it to see. It’s really cool and, you know, phenomenal acting.

David Strathairn’s great as Danes’s mentor. Catherine O’Hara’s good as her aunt (and Ormond’s sister). They’re both functional parts, but Strathairn gets a lot more to do. By the second act, O’Hara’s only around to tell Ormond what Danes is doing or not doing. Like I said, it’s a functional film. Very functional.

There aren’t any other standouts in the supporting cast because there aren’t many distinct characters. There are likable caricatures and unlikable ones. No one has a role so much as a function–give Danes something good to play off. And they all do.

Temple Grandin is an superior television biopic. (It’s not TV, it’s HBO). But Danes, Ormond, and even Strathairn and O’Hara could’ve done a lot more if they’d had an ambitious director. Still, Jackson does understand how to showcase his actors. So the performances don’t suffer, they just deserve the same level of filmmaking. And, like any biopic, it helps the real Temple Grandin’s got a terrific life story.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Mick Jackson; teleplay by Christopher Monger and Merritt Johnson, based on books by Temple Grandin and Margaret Scariano; director of photography, Ivan Strasburg; edited by Leo Trombetta; music by Alex Wurman; production designer, Richard Hoover; produced by Scott Ferguson; aired by Home Box Office.

Starring Claire Danes (Temple Grandin), Julia Ormond (Eustacia), David Strathairn (Dr. Carlock), and Catherine O’Hara (Aunt Ann).


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Captives (1994, Angela Pope)

Nearly seventy percent of Captives is a fantastic romantic drama. Julia Ormond is a newly divorced dentist who starts working part-time at a minimum security prison, where she begins a liaison with inmate Tim Roth. Frank Deasy's script concentrates primarily on Ormond and her experiences–with occasions scenes for Roth amongst the inmates, but that first seventy minutes of the film is from Ormond's perspective.

Director Pope carefully, meticulously presents Ormond's story, from her experiences with her ex-husband, her friends, her family, herself. The romance with Roth is an otherworldly occurrence, much different from the noise and movement of Ormond's regular life. Most of their initial scenes–he's on a release program so he can attend college (the film establishes him as an okay guy real fast)–are in static environments. It's actually after that seventy minute mark, when Ormond disappears for a week of the present action and Roth becomes the protagonist, where Pope finally brings Roth into Ormond's motion-filled world.

It's a terrible scene too; they're arguing on a busy roadway. The acting's great, but the scene's bad, because after the seventy minute mark, when Captives all of a sudden becomes a thriller and no longer a quiet mediation on class and marriage and other such things, the movie falls apart.

Ormond's work here is indescribably fantastic. Roth's great and everything, but Ormond's performance is singular.

Pope's direction is solid; good supporting turns from Keith Allen and Colin Salmon.

Excellent photography from Remi Adefarasin.

Captives misfires, Ormond and Roth do not.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Angela Pope; written by Frank Deasy; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Dave King; music by Colin Towns; production designer, Stuart Walker; produced by David M. Thompson; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Julia Ormond (Rachel Clifford), Tim Roth (Philip Chaney), Keith Allen (Lenny), Siobhan Redmond (Sue), Peter Capaldi (Simon), Richard Hawley (Sexton), Annette Badland (Maggie), Mark Strong (Kenny) and Colin Salmon (Towler).


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Che: Part One (2008, Steven Soderbergh)

There’s a majesty to Che: Part One, the endless, blue Puerto Rican (I think) sky standing in for Cuba. Soderbergh loves that sky. Soderbergh’s Panavision frame doesn’t allow for much in the way of lyricism–I think the first shot of that nature comes in the last twenty minutes of the film. It’s a great looking film throughout, but Soderbergh lets the subject matter control the viewer’s perception. When he finally does throw in this wonderfully composed shot, it gives the viewer pause, reminding him or her it’s just a filmic narrative.

It should be hard to forget Che‘s a narrative–Soderbergh applies some of those masterful filmic pseudo-non-fiction skills he used in Traffic (to a similarly dispassionate result)–since it opens in a rather traditional manner. A (temporarily) unseen Julia Ormond is interviewing Benicio Del Toro about the early days of the Cuban Revolution, the planning days, and–on cue–the film flashes back. This interview–Ormond finally shows up visually following her introduction in the regular narrative–frames the entire film. It’s a traditional move and probably not a good one. Che‘s an epic biopic–it’s essentially the Lawrence of Arabia treatment, if a tad shorter–it doesn’t do anything to break the format. Like most biopics, Che keeps the viewer outside Che’s head. Del Toro gives a great performance, especially since his character is the least dynamic in the entire film.

Che’s a passive character in the film, certainly not as charismatic as Demián Bichir’s Castro. Del Toro infuses the character with a righteousness–there’s never a moment of doubt the man isn’t fully committed to doing what he says. I’d heard the film doesn’t paint Che in a positive light, but I must have had water in my ears. Soderbergh and screenwriter Peter Buchman tell the film from a viewpoint where there’s no way not to see Che as a hero. Che: Part One‘s Communist propaganda to be sure–it’s no wonder it didn’t get a real American distributor–but it’s impossible to imagine it told in any other way. The only time the film ducks out on any responsibility is in terms of Che’s marriage. There’s a big, “I’m married,” revelation scene with adoring revolutionary Catalina Sandino Moreno… immediately followed with Del Toro flirting with her every few minutes. It’s a cheap move–the film goes far to avoid giving too much background on Che, instead letting Del Toro do incredibly heavy lifting creating the character with little story support–the scenes where he’s acting as a physician are incredible, since this element’s introduced early on, so watching the soldier back down in an internal struggle to the physician… it’s lovely.

Soderbergh hasn’t fired Peter Andrews yet and Andrews’s cinematography is beautiful. It’s not just that blue sky, it’s the lush greenness. The last quarter or so of the film is a big urban battle sequence and it’s absolutely amazing. Che‘s never really a war movie, but Soderbergh’s direction of the city-set battle is peerless.

The film’s got a large cast and lots of characters have nicknames, lots have distinctive physical characteristics (so the viewer can recognize them immediately). At times, it feels as though Che wouldn’t be about Che if the film didn’t have the framework (there’s more than the interview, it also covers Che at the United Nations). The film doesn’t do anything to lionize the character in a general sense (it’s impossible to reconcile that iconic image of Che with Del Toro’s creation)–he’s a hero, but because of the way the film’s story is told.

Soderbergh films like Che: Part One always make me forget he’s capable of real emotional depth. It seems like he reserves such explorations of the human condition for his lower budgeted projects. I wish, just once, he’d try the reverse.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Steven Soderbergh; screenplay by Peter Buchman, based on a memoir by Ernesto Guevara; director of photography, Peter Andrews; edited by Pablo Zumárraga; music by Alberto Iglesias; production designer, Antxón Gómez; produced by Laura Bickford and Benicio Del Toro; released by IFC Films.

Starring Benicio Del Toro (Ernesto Che Guevara), Demián Bichir (Fidel Castro), Santiago Cabrera (Camilo Cienfuegos), Vladimir Cruz (Ramiro Valdés Menéndez), Alfredo De Quesada (Israel Pardo), Jsu Garcia (Jorge Sotus), Kahlil Mendez (Leonardo Tamayo Núñez), Elvira Mínguez (Celia Sánchez), Andres Munar (Joel Iglesias Leyva), Julia Ormond (Lisa Howard), Jorge Perugorría (Vilo), Édgar Ramírez (Ciro Redondo García), Victor Rasuk (Rogelio Acevedo), Othello Rensoli (Pombo), Armando Riesco (Benigno), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Aleida March), Roberto Santana (Juan Almeida), Norman Santiago (Tuma), Rodrigo Santoro (Raúl Castro), Unax Ugalde (Vaquerito), Roberto Urbina (Guile Pardo) and Yul Vazquez (Alejandro Ramirez).


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Sabrina (1995, Sydney Pollack)

I remember the back of the laserdisc for Sabrina said something about how, going in to the film, one knows what’s going to happen, but the film’s about enjoying it happen. For a back of the disc blurb, it’s incredibly accurate. Sabrina is a joy from start to finish, mostly because Sydney Pollack has put together a perfect film. The more obvious compliments will follow, but I need to mention the importance of Harrison Ford. Obviously, the film works because of Ford, but the way he makes it work is interesting. His performance is excellent because–for the film to work–the viewer has to be examining each of his mannerisms, each line delivery. There’s little things he does, especially towards the end, I think I’ve seen him do before, but never so well. The film focuses on him in a particular way–he’s not exactly the protagonist, not exactly not–in the last scenes and it’s wonderfully done.

The next obvious essential is Julia Ormond. She does the nebbish well, she does the posh well. But when it becomes clear the posh was just a cover, obscuring the intelligent woman underneath, that discovery is also fantastic. Her best scene, though, is her last one with Greg Kinnear, when she does this thing with her eyes. It’s amazing. Kinnear–another of Pollack’s casting gambles for the film (I wonder if he decided Ormond was perfect when testing her for the voiceovers, she does these brief dips in volume and they’re perfect)–is great too, especially since his character has the second most visual change throughout the film.

The supporting cast–Nancy Marchand, John Wood, even Richard Crenna–is all great. Sabrina also features John Williams’s last (as far as I can tell) explorative score–it’s fantastic–and some great editing. Fredric Steinkamp almost cuts the scenes too fast, not allowing for a breath following the punch lines. It makes the comedic scenes tight, but it also does something with the romantic and dramatic ones. It contributes to Sabrina‘s particular feel, which the wonderful location shooting in Paris obviously does as well.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Sabrina–less than ten years, nearing it–I don’t know if I was hesitant about watching it… I suppose I was a little, worried it wasn’t actually good. It’s better than I remember. From the moment the Paramount logo fades at the beginning, its excellence is clear.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sydney Pollack; written by Barbara Benedek and David Rayfiel, based on the film written by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman, from the play by Taylor; director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno; edited by Frederic Steinkamp; music by John Williams; production designer, Brian Morris; produced by Scott Rudin and Pollack; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Harrison Ford (Linus Larrabee), Julia Ormond (Sabrina Fairchild), Greg Kinnear (David Larrabee), Nancy Marchand (Maude Larrabee), John Wood (Tom Fairchild), Richard Crenna (Patrick Tyson), Angie Dickinson (Mrs. Ingrid Tyson), Lauren Holly (Elizabeth Tyson, MD), Dana Ivey (Mack), Miriam Colon (Rosa), Elizabeth Franz (Joanna), Fanny Ardant (Irène), Valérie Lemercier (Martine) and Patrick Bruel (Louis).


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