Category Archives: Ryan Gosling

Valentine’s Day: The Best Anti-Romantic Romance Movies

SPOILER ALERT: This post vaguely reveals the endings to the movies listed below. This is not to discourage you from reading, but I advise that you proceed with cautions. Although at this point, it’s hard not to know the ending of “The Graduate.”  

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Some common themes on this list are couples who act cutesy and people making big decisions without putting much thought into them. After breaking up, Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) get the memories of their relationship erased, only to realize there was something there that was worth remembering. It’s peculiar that movies about love going wrong have the most to say about love in general. Being treated to Joel and Clementine’s relationship crumbling from the top to bottom is just as devastating as it sounds.The ending leaves a bittersweet feeling: they are finally getting back together again, but they are also subject to hate each other again as in their previous relationships. The question of whether or not the two of them are meant to be together, or if they constantly breakup because they truly hate each other, haunts me to this day.

2. Annie Hall

Sure, Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) have fun together and they both enjoy playing with live lobsters and making fun of Truman Capote lookalikes, but they are far from soul mates. Alvy is New York (close-minded, uptight) and Annie is Los Angeles (free-spirited, unpredictable). “Annie Hall” contains some of the grandest romantic moments in the movies (Alvy and Annie in front of the Brooklyn Bridge), yet in its ending, it reduces relationships to a need, and not a desire. Nonetheless, this is one of the most enjoyable instances of a failed relationship you’ll ever be a part of.

3. The Graduate

Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) sweeps in and saves Elaine (Katharine Ross) on the day of her wedding to tall, blonde, and handsome Carl. The shot of them sitting on the back of the bus together, laughing and smiling over what they have just done, could bring the hopeless romantic in all of us to tears. But then, reality, unhappiness, and ambiguity quickly set in. Maybe these two were acting on impulse and not calls of fate. Maybe they are making the same mistakes their parents once made, which they both wanted to escape from. The uncertainty of the future lies ahead for them, one likely filled with Vietnam War protests and occasional acid flashbacks.

4. (500) Days of Summer

Sure, Tom’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) belief in true love is reaffirmed in the end when he meets Autumn, but the path to getting there is filled with doubt. Watching Tom be misled into a relationship with Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is as painful as it is funny. While Tom goes on a tirade against greeting cards and pop music, there is no need to start protesting Hallmark or plan a mass burning of Smiths records. Rather, try not to fall in love with someone because they also think “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is a good song. A lot of people like The Smiths.

5. Blue Valentine

Most of these movies end with the main character meeting someone who they at least think they will spend the rest of their lives with. If you were looking for a movie that could diagnose you with chronic depression, than look no further. “Blue Valentine” is about a marriage completely falling apart in grueling detail. Any movie that could make you want to punch Ryan Gosling in the face must be well made because seriously, nobody hates Ryan Gosling.* “Blue Valentine” is ultimately a cautionary tale, and its greatest lesson is that you should never marry anyone just because they can play your favorite song on the ukulele.

*This is not an assumption
Thanks to friend of The Reel Deal Josh Fisher for the “Blue Valentine” suggestion.

Oscars 2012: For Every Great Nomination, There is a Terrible Snub

For every one satisfying Oscar nomination, there are endless movies, directors, and actors that could have filled that spot as well. This year, a surprising amount of suspected shoo-ins were snubbed, along with many that may never have had a chance. This year, who will join the ranks of “The Searchers,” “Touch of Evil,” and “Do the Right Thing” for most egregious snubs of all time? It is time to celebrate those who didn’t make the cut.  

Best Picture: 50/50
            Usually, Best Picture is associated with large scale, historical spectacles. What the Oscars really love, however, are stories of triumph in the face of adversity. No other movie could have better fit that label than “50/50,” Will Reiser’s funny and moving autobiographical story of coping with cancer. It deals with both the dire and the mundane in ways that few movies about cancer before this ever have. It might not have caught the Academy’s eye, but the impact of its naturalistic writing and effortless performances will long outlast the February 26 ceremony.

Best Director: Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

            Spielberg is known at times for letting his emotions get the best of his movies. However, his sentimentality toward movies and re-creating history are at their best here. This is perhaps the most detailed depiction of World War I in film, and the ending, evoking John Ford’s most famous westerns, could make even the most hardened movie buff cry.

Best Actor: Ryan Gosling (Drive)

            Gosling pulled a hat trick this year with memorable performances in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “The Ides of March,” and “Drive.” His against-type performance in “Drive” was the best of these. Conveying so much with so little dialogue, his transformation from a stellar getaway driver to a psychotic killer in the film’s final act is shocking in its subtle believability. Gosling helps elevate a flawed movie by turning The Driver into one of the most unforgettable movie characters in years.


Best Actress: Charlize Theron (Young Adult)

            It may be tough to make the bitchy former high school prom queen likable, but in “Young Adult,” Charlize Theron shows that it is at least possible to make her relatable. Theron so perfectly disappears into Mavis Gary’s self-denial that sometimes, it is hard to even tell whether it is really self-denial. “Young Adult” doesn’t give Mavis the fairy tale redemption ending that a lesser movie would have resorted to. While she doesn’t deserve our sympathy or attention, giving it to her doesn’t seem like such a crime.

Best Supporting Actor: Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)

            Awards season is usually kind to comedians who take a stab at dramatic acting. However, Patton Oswalt, who had not one, but two, fantastic dramatic turns, first in 2009’s “Big Fan,” and this year in “Young Adult,” has yet to be nominated. Oswalt’s performance is much more toned down than anything usually seen from him. He serves as a perfect foil to Theron, wallowing in self-pity, but also displaying a great deal of self-awareness. While his life has fallen apart, he never seems disturbed by it. An actor’s job is to make an unlikable character likable, and Oswalt takes a loser and turns him into something much more unique.

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

            This breakout performance from the 20-year-old Shailene Woodley has been inexplicably left out of the race. Woodley delivers one of the most devastating moments of the year: after hearing that her mother is in a coma, she goes underwater to cry. Making the leap from an ABC Family melodrama to holding your own against George Clooney in an Alexander Payne movie is the mark of a promising movie star in the works.  

Honorable Mentions:
Brendan Gleeson (The Guard): For the ten of you out there who actually saw this movie, you’ll know that Brendan Gleeson is the only person who could make a bumbling and racist Irish cop hilarious and a bit of a sneaky genius. 
David Fincher (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo): Fincher turned a pulpy story into a haunting Swedish noir. Seriously, after this, “The Social Network,” and the various other movies he hasn’t even been nominated for (“Se7en,” “Fight Club”) how has this guy not won an Oscar yet? Perhaps Fincher is the Academy’s new Scorsese. 
And a few more: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50), Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March), Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris), Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
You can also check this article out at The Daily Orange. It is also available in print. Yes, print still exists. 

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Marketers and advertisers are supposed to fool us into believing that some product, usually an inferior one, is gold. Sometimes though, they fail to make a superior product look good. Point in case comes with “Crazy, Stupid, Love” a movie that perhaps no one knew how to sell, because it doesn’t at all try to be a part of the genre that everyone wants it to be in. But hey, sometimes lying is the only way to make a buck at the box office nowadays.

In a culture of showing everything and giving it all away, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” surprisingly surprised me, and it pulled off a surprising twist that could make even M. Night Shyamalan blush (is that joke still relevant?). “Crazy, Stupid, Love” has something most comedies could use these days: fully-formed characters. The movie starts off as with Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and wife Emily (Julianne Moore) out at a restaurant. He asks what they could share for dessert, and the first thing she blurts out is ‘divorce.’

Before any of this is even said, it is already clear what is wrong with this marriage. Cal wears a distinctly beat up pair of white New Balance shoes, and typical rectangular glasses made simply to help him read, and not at all to distinguish him from any other man his age. He has been so lost in his marriage that he just lives to function. So little fight is left in him that when Emily wants to talk about things on the ride home, he simply opens the car door and jumps out in the middle of the road. What he barely got a chance to hear about was that Emily cheated on him with her boss (Kevin Bacon, in a subtletly sleazy role).

Following the divorce, Cal lives a sad sack life, and frequents a hip bar that seems too trendy for someone who doesn’t even know what a trend is. Meet Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who is basically a walking male fashion trend. Jacob is smooth in every sense, and can even casually drop some Yiddish into conversation. Jacob leaves the bar every night with a new woman until one day when he decides to drop everything and take Cal under his wing.

Jacob’s idea of changing one’s life around is a complete change in wardrobe. After disposing his New Balances and throwing on a new suit, Cal becomes Jacob’s clone. This leads him to picking up a series of women, one of them being a teacher (Marisa Tomei) who is just as self-loathing as he is. All the while, Cal’s family makes some other stupid mistakes, and his son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) tries to figure out what love is amongst the madness of divorce.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” works not because it is the kind of romantic movie in which we are forced to root for a bunch of bad people who one day decide to do something good, but rather it is about a bunch of genuinely good people who sometimes act against their better judgement. Cal and Emily’s divorce made me think of “Kramer vs. Kramer” in its honesty and its ability to not pass down judgement onto its characters. Just as it occurs in reality, every action and every reaction has a purpose in the eyes of each person who carries it out. It has a bit of the he-said she-said mentality, but the movie is really about how their broken love affects a wide range of people, and not just the two of them.

I have been a fan of Steve Carell, since his days as a correspondent of “The Daily Show.” He can make anyone fall in love with even the goofiest characters (Michael Scott, Andy from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), but he’s never displayed the kind of range he shows in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” In past roles was he had to make an unsympathetic character sympathetic and here, he has to do the exact opposite. He excels at this challenge and shows some dramatic chops he’s been hiding. Gosling meanwhile, has more dialogue than he had in both “Drive” and “The Ides of March” combined, yet he displays that same ability to play someone who is almost like a blank slate with one defining quality (driving, political knowledge, and here, clothes). He is described at one point as looking “photoshopped” and indeed, he makes Jacob look photoshopped. His transition into relationship man is surprisingly believable, with an extra thanks to Emma Stone, who’s importance to the story has a drastic change towards the movie’s end.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the kind of funny that’s quiet and smooth, with each joke not attempting to be a gag but rather just a part of what anyone in the cast would say or do. The surprisingly refreshing script from Dan Fogelman (“Fred Claus”) gives every single character in the ensemble a purpose. Here is a movie that throws away the idea of throwaway characters and subplots. The movie’s only real flaw is a graduation scene final speech that feels a little too calculated, and while the happy ending feels earned, it ties things together too simply, especially with the cynical tone the movie carried throughout. Then again, for everything the characters went through and how they eventually prove themselves to the audience, maybe they deserved this conclusion.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” made a mockery of the people who released it, proving that a poorly chosen title and some ads that seem to give away everything don’t necessarily rightfully represent the movie. Watching it made me think of a slightly lighter version of “The Descendents.” Like that other movie, there was a rare, genuine feeling behind the humor of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” that didn’t make me feel stupid for enjoying it, and certainly doesn’t make me feel crazy for endorsing it.

Movie Review: The Ides of March

I remember when I first started getting interested in politics. I was a junior in high school, and Barack Obama and John McCain were running for president. For the first time ever, I actually felt invested in the idea that someone might become president and change things for the better. Then I waited a few years and realized that nothing changes.

“The Ides of March,” the fourth film directed by George Clooney, is the perfect film for all of us cynics out there. Some might be turned off by the film’s dark tone, but it is the touch of realism that Hollywood fairy tales about politics so desperately needed.
At the beginning, the optimist will feel like Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the young and ambitious junior campaign manager for presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). Meyers is highly admired and sought after for his skills. It may be less because it is talented and more because he is clueless.
Morris, an obvious allusion to our current president, runs on a campaign of hope and change. His speaking ability and intelligence seem too good to be true. No candidate is good without a loyal team behind them.
Things are going well for the Morris campaign as they make their way through the Ohio primary. Morris looks like the candidate to beat, and Meyers get more and more acclaim from his peers. But after Stephen is approached by the rival candidate’s campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) things go down hill. This, topped with the discovery of a shocking scandal, throws the whole campaign into chaos.
“The Ides of March” made me think back to a quote from one of cinema’s shadiest politicians, Harvey Dent, in which he claims, “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The dehumanizing process of politics has been touched upon in movies time and time again, but in “The Ides of March,” there is no white knight, only a bunch that are stuck in the gray areas of life. As a viewer, you grow to like every character, and then you grow to hate them. By the end, none of them even look like good guys or bad guys anymore. This is a tale of the most twisted morality possible.
While Morris is the film’s central character, his physical presence is sparse throughout. He is like this film’s Gatsby, as our view on him is shaped more by the perceptions of others than by his actual presence. And when we do see him, Clooney plays him more as a blank slate who can easily be swayed in either direction. His views are called idealistic for a reason. By the time a campaign ends and an election starts, a candidate is no longer a reflection of their views but rather of everything they need to win.
Despite the importance of the candidate, Gosling ends up stealing the show as the naive Stephen Meyers. Gosling has been getting better by the movie, and this role should earn him his second Oscar nomination. He has developed a talent for playing characters with a kind and almost innocent outer shell, but with very dangerous tendencies. Here, the danger he holds is in in the naivety of his actions, including his fling with an intern (Evan Rachel Wood). By the end, when he his own voice has been reduced by the endless political commentary running through his headphones, he has officially become a victim of politics. That final expression is stoic yet screaming in inescapable pain.
Watching “The Ides of March,” I was reminded of the recent, equally pessimistic films such as “Michael Clayton” and “The Ghost Writer.” Something that “The Ides of March” has is the ability to make the trivial thrilling. A scene in which Morris’s senior campaign manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) steps into a car is so thrilling even though the camera remains stationary. We know something bad is going to happen, but we are denied seeing what exactly it will be. Clooney can make a situation go on for longer than it should, and make us want to keep watching it. Much of the movie is like a ticking time bomb that takes its time to go off, just to mess with its victims.
Clooney shows improvement as a director and unlike many actor-directors, he is not just directing for good performances and writing, but rather for the movie as a whole. He really cares about the consequences of where a camera is placed. The lighting emphasizes shadows. One of the most memorable shots in the movie is of Gosling, in silhouette, standing in front of a giant American flag. Behind this flag, a symbol of freedom, what keeps this country free and democratic is a shadowy, corrupt underworld of lies and false intentions.
In trying to make the small things meaningful, the writing turns dull, political jargon into a fast-paced function of the thriller itself. In “The Ides of March,” ideas and meetings are more action-packed than shootouts and car chases.
Republicans may swoon over the movie’s treatment of the Democratic Party, while Democrats will balk. But the great part about this movie is that it is an allegory not on political beliefs but rather on political corruption. At face value, this is a movie about the disappointments of Barack Obama. Deeper down, Morris is a politician who is more like John Edwards; on the outside, he is a friend of the people but truthfully, he is just fending for himself.
The movie takes its title from the day in which Julius Caesar, who’s power was increasing, was assassinated at the heads of the members of the Roman Senate. This accurately describe the heated relationship between Morris and Meyers, as well as the morally hazy intentions of every character in the movie. Nowadays, few people ask the right questions about our political system. “The Ides of March” is provocative enough to do just that.

Movie Review: Blue Valentine

If there ever was such an honor, “Blue Valentine” would win the award for most depressing film of 2010. This honor is not meant to put down any of the achievements of the film, but rather a heads up that this is not a film about the world’s happiest marriage.

“Blue Valentine” has two settings and two time periods: rural Pennsylvania and New York City, past and present. In present day, married couple Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are on the verge of a breakdown. Cindy no longer feels any affection for her husband, and Dean remains in an aloof, child-like state. The marriage between Dean and Cindy is the ultimate portrait of disappointment.
In flashbacks, the story behind Cindy and Dean’s love is revealed, as the audience slowly finds out that at one point, there really was love to be had in this marriage.
The story of a couple falling in love and becoming bored and suppressed with age is a story that has been portrayed on the silver screen over and over again. “Blue Valentine” does manage to be saved from being one big cliche. Unlike other films about broken marriages like “American Beauty,” “Blue Valentine” is as much about the joy of love as it is about the pain. Most films about marriage portray how a marriage can fall apart. Few also show how they are built.
The flashbacks in “Blue Valentine” are certainly the most effective part of the film. Not only do they build backstory, they also build emotion. The contrast between the clear, digitally shot present day and the shaky hand-held filming of the flashbacks show misery becoming clearer and clearer. The flashbacks are marked by youthful innocence, and the present day is marked by sad awareness in older age.
“Blue Valentine” would not be the same without its two outstanding lead performances. The two actors play the parts perfectly in both old age and youth. Despite his image, Gosling is not afraid to get dirty in order to play his role perfectly. Throughout the film, he looks less like Ryan Gosling and more like Nicolas Cage in “Raising Arizona.” With his scruffy looked and muffled voice, he is almost unrecognizable.
His female counterpart, Michelle Williams, gives one of the best female performances of the year. She seems to have a thing for playing alienated wives (see: “Brokeback Mountain”), yet here she does it better than she ever has. There is one scene where she pulls off a rare feat and manages to act with her eyes when the rest of her body isn’t shown. In those eyes we see so much sheltered pain getting ready to come out. In those eyes we see, there is no love for her husband to be found.
“Blue Valentine” can loosely be described as a he said-she said type of story. Here is where the film’s major problem lies: it tries to make us choose who to be sympathetic for. At first, it all seems to be the wife’s fault. Then, it suddenly all becomes the husband’s fault. In the end, it strangely doesn’t acknowledge the problems on both sides and it makes us feel inclined toward only one character. The film could have used a smoother transition, or maybe more of a reconciling.
What drove me to this film, and what might drive many more of you, is the controversy surrounding the film. “Blue Valentine” originally carried a deadly NC-17 rating. After protest, that rating was brought down to an R. The NC-17 came mainly from the sex scenes which are graphic, but not pornographic. They are used not to give the audience some unholy pleasure but rather to show the different stages and feelings of the marriage.
Perhaps its rating was also raised because the MPAA felt that younger viewers would be too disturbed by this film to want to see it anyway. What is to be afraid of? Reality? Anyone who is mature enough to want to buy a ticket for “Blue Valentine” is mature enough to view it.