Movies

Fighting Irish

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Daniel Day-Lewis knows how to make a badass entrance. on a sunny august afternoon, the 45-yeara-old Oscar winner tears up to a roadside seafood shack in rural Connecticut on a yellow Triumph motorcycle. THe locale was his choice. First, because this joint makes an excellent lobster roll. aNd second, because he has no intention of giving out his address to some journalist.

After brushing off all the doom-drenched reports about the making of ‘Gangs’ as “hogwash,” he loosens up. Especially when he talks about how he got bamboozled into playing Bill the Butcher. it started with a phne call to Harvey Weinstein, when the Miramax boss was in the hospital being treated fir a batercial infection in early 2000. “I shot myself in the foot,” says Day-Lewis, laughing. “I thought, ‘I’ll get him while he’s down,’ and I called to ask him for some money for my wife’s film, which he never gave us , by the way. And he said, ‘Martin’s looking for you!'”

The actor hadn’t made a film since 1997’s ‘The Boxer.’ He says he’s spent the past five years with his family (incidentally, his wife, write-director REbecca Miller, won the top prize at Sundance this year with ‘Personal VElocity,’ and without HArvey’s help). HE also says that during his time off, he read five volumes of Winston Chruchill’s Duke of Marlborough biography and apprenticed undere a master shoemaker in fLorence. While he’ll go on and on about Chruchill, the shoemaking thing’s off-limits (but when the tape recorder is off, he’s happy to talk about it for half an hour). During the hiatus, his agents knew not to send him scripts. Hell, Day-Lewis wasn’t even sure if he’d act again. When asked why he regards movies as such a chore and why he’s kept away from them for so long, he unspools the following metaphor: “THe image that springs to mind is when you leave e field lying fallow becayse you’ve used up all the nutrients in the soil. and you can’t grow in that soil for a couple of years.” Hmmm, let’s give him  abnother shot: “This may be an unforgiveable comparison,” he says, beginning to crack up, “but women, after a period of time, can give birth to another child because they forgot what it’s like.”

Day-Lewis finally did get in touch with Scorsese, who’d directed him in 1993’s ‘The Age of Innocence’. When they got together at the filmmaker’s Manhattan office, Scorsese immeditaly tried to seduce the actor with photographs from the period. But even through he suspected that Scorsese would need allies against “The Fat Man,” as Day-Lewis calls Weinstein, he wasn’t sure his field had lain fallow long enough. “To any other living acor, if you got a role like Bill the Butcher, directed by Martin Scorsese, in a period epic — it’s like any actor’s wet dream!” says Leonardo DiCaprio, “But I just think he needed to go through a certain process. Plus, looking Marty in the eyes and telling him ‘No’ isn’t humanly possible.”

When Day-Lewis showed up on the ‘Gangs’ set in Italy in September 2000, he was already Bill the Butcher. He spoke with Bill’s broad New York accent and already carried around Bill’s rage — a mental state he would trigger each morning by blasting Eminem while he worked out. One other thing: Everyone had to call him Bill, too. “I just met Daniel recently,” says Cameron Diaz, more than a year aafter ‘Gangs’ wrapped. “The whole time he was Bill. Never Daniel. Always Bill.” Day-Lewis lowers his head and laughs when he hears this. Then I ask if he thinks his costars were intimidated by him. “I suppose it’s a little strange. You’d have to ask them.”

Diaz: “Yes.”

DiCaprio: “You just become used to it after a while. I’ve heard stories about Method actors…and at the end of the day when the director calls ‘Cut,’ they’re still that character and they go home and beat the s— out of their wives. But if I had something I wanted to collaborate on, I never felt like he was going to pull a butcher’s knife on me.”

As much as Day-Lewis enjoyed working with Scorsese again (or, at least as much as Bill did), he’s glad to be done with the film. In fact, he says this so sincerely that when asked if it’s going to be another five years before he acts again, he shrugs and says “I don’t know” in a way that makes you think that number may be closer to 10.

——-

An excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s “Tough Turf”, Issue #668/669, August23rd/30th, 2002

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – Philomena

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Here it is, my final Best Picture 2014 nominee film review…and of course I’m writing it hours before the 86th Academy Awards air on my home television screen. What else would you expect from me? I’m a perpetual procrastinator…a piece of my personality I’m starting to combat (not so successfully I might add), but the effort I’m making to accomplish these reviews before finding out this year’s award-winners is worth appluading, right? RIGHT?! (Cue Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’ now, please!)

Enough about my procrastination. ‘Philomena’ is an incredibly touching film. Starring dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, I knew very little about this film outside of a short synopsis I quickly read on the Marcus Theatre website before heading to the theater. At times I felt sickened, at time I laughed really hard, and other times I scratched my head trying to understand what was going on in these characters’ heads. Yet again, another Best Picture nominee that left me reeling at despite how far the world has come, we really have much farther to go.

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – Nebraska

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If I had to choose one word out if the English language to describe the film ‘Nebraska‘, it’s this: straightforward. Plain, simple, and completely without flash and pizzazz. But that’s exactly what the film is…minus the part about the lack of pizzazz. There’s plenty of it, but not in a showy look-at-me-now sort of way. I didn’t know what to expect from ‘Nebraska‘, but of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, this one surprised me tune most and I’m so glad it did.

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – Dallas Buyers Club

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I never thought I’d see the day when Matthew McConaughey starred in a movie where he didn’t resemble a beach bum, surfer dude, or golden boy of California nature. And when I say ‘golden boy’, there wasn’t a performance where he leaves me drooling to see his bare chest again and again. He doesn’t even have flowing, tossable hair.

But after seeing ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, I’m whistling a different tune when it comes to his acting. When McConaughey said for the last couple of years, he claimed he was the only guy in his corner believing in the actor he knew to be inside himself. I certainly wasn’t a supporter. After his work here, he’s certainly not a beach bum anymore. Combine his award-acclaim worthy performance with Jared Leto’s return to the silver screen after a six-year hiatus, and you’ve actually got Academy Award gold. They have a great reason to celebrate.

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – Gravity

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Are you ready to experience a full 30-minutes of something that can only be described as an anxiety attack? Buckle up when you take your seat to watch ‘Gravity’. Not only is it visually stunning, but when hell breaks loose onscreen, you’re going to be holding on to whatever is around you, and if anything, you’ll feel a renewed appreciation for one of Earth’s most under-appreciated functions: gravity.

Seeing this film in 2-D stressed me out enough. I can’t imagine what 3-D was like. Perhaps they handed out barf bags along with a movie patron’s popcorn and soda? (Oh you know, JUST IN CASE!) Now, I should probably let you know, when I say this movie stressed me out, I mean it in a good way. The artistic approach mixed with dazzling special effects topped off with two very impressive acting performances from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (Bullocks’ performance is even more impressive when you read about how they filmed and the attention to detail she and director Alfonso Cuarón went to make her being in space that much more believable)…..You’re going to love this suspenseful action space adventure as I do. When it comes out on DVD later this month, you better believe you’ll have it in your Target shopping cart.

gravity

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – 12 Years A Slave

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I can’t lie about how terrible I felt walking out of the theater after seeing ‘12 Years a Slave‘. My mind was reeling, actually. How did America turn a blind eye to slavery for so long? Director Steve McQueen really puts it to the audience. While I say I walked out of the theater feeling terrible, I’m also highly thankful for the brutal honesty he puts on the screen. Unfortunately, slavery is a huge piece of American history and we cannot simply turn a blind eye to it. It happened, and we must bear that truth. ’12 Years a Slave‘ is the most honest storytelling I’ve ever seen, especially when it comes to the topic of slavery. While I enjoyed ‘The Butler‘ directed by Lee Daniels, it was more a showcase of the Civil Rights Movement than slavery, but it still carried the same sucker-punch feeling at certain times.

12_years_a_slave_poster1

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Best Picture 2014 Nominee – Her

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It’s only fitting that I write my review of the most romantic Best Picture 2014 nominated film on Valentine’s Day. Naturally.

Long story short without giving away too much of the plot, a man falls in love with his OS (Operating System) and we follow him in his journey of love and every emotion that comes with falling in love (be it with a person or with a non-living “being”). Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a writer for a website that makes letters for just about anyone, attempts to find himself a new path as he deals with a divorce to someone he’s been in love with since childhood. When he sees an advertisement for the new OS system that knows you better than any system ever before, he finds friendship and so much more with Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

HER

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Best Picture Nominee 2014 – Captain Philips

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When I first heard about an American freighter being taken over by pirates through the major news networks a few years ago, I really didn’t give it much thought, except for, “Pirates really do still exist, huh?” Aside from last year’s Halloween costume and the occasional Jack Sparrow binge, pirates aren’t something I worry about on a daily basis. As the film Captain Philips reveals, piracy is still very much a thing in this modern-day and age of technology. That alone intrigued me to watch. Add in Tom Hanks, an absolute nobody in Hollywood being compared legitimately to Hanks’ acting abilities, and its based on a true story…I’m all in.

You should be too.

captain philips

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Best Picture Nominee 2014 – The Wolf of Wall Street

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Sex. Drugs. Stockbroking. There…I’ve summed up The Wolf of Wall Street in three very exact words. But in case you’re dying for more, read on.

wolf

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Best Picture Nominee 2014 – American Hustle

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The Oscar race gun has sounded, and I’ve started my sprint towards seeing all 9 Best Picture nominees. Technically, ever since the Academy has started the business of nominating 10 films instead of the usual 5, they’ve only nominated  9. Why they’ve never gone for the full 10 is beyond me, but I will see all of them nonetheless!

I started the 2014 season off with American Hustle, starring my favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence! (I could write dozens of posts where I proclaim my love for the woman who plays the Girl on Fire, but I’ll spare you. For now.)

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