Wayne's Recommendations of the Week
"Funny Games" 2007 (a remake of the original 1997 film)
Fair warning, this is a psychological thriller about torturing people. If this stuff makes you queasy, then watch with friends, or not at all. Reviews regarding the subject matter and the value of the story varied, and while the film is intended by creator Michael Haneke as an incisive calling-out of our voyeuristic tendencies in cinema regarding violence, it reads as very similar to an exploitative horror film itself.
However, for actors, horror films are often overlooked as examples of honest and complex acting. It doesn't help the genre is ignored by awards' committees as well. But to sincerely play these emotions that cut to the very core of our deepest, visceral fears as humans? That's going close to the fire, indeed, as an actor. The performances here are without embellishment.
Now for torture of a different variety. For those who don't know, this film deals with issues regarding religious "conversion therapy," and honestly depicts the abusive and brutal realities of conversion therapy. There's been a thrilling rise in cinema of silver-screen narratives for the LGBTQ+ community; some that focus on more gently optimistic themes and some that focus more on the traumatic experiences many have endured.
As an actor, there's something very powerful in watching two incredible actors embrace their age and experience and grow into a new era of their careers. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe both are taking roles far from their early career types and finding new avenues to show their talents. Rather than settling into old "types" and refusing to change, they are both opening themselves to new possibilities. Nowhere in this film do we see the "Gladiator" Crowe of old. The art of aging gracefully is important to the longevity of a Hollywood career.
If you're a currently working actor and you haven't seen this show, watch it now. Thanks to the rise of high-budget, high quality networks and streaming services, television acting is rivaling film acting in style and technique. Nowhere are the blurred lines between worlds more evident than this show. The writing is excellent. The characters aren't cast with interchangeable actors and actresses you can't tell apart. And you honestly can't tell who's allegiances lie where, and what is truly honest.
This is not the only show following this trend of darker, grittier, subtler acting and subject matter. But it's an excellent example that all young actors should be familiar with. After all, this trend will likely continue for a while longer as long as it continues to be rewarded by awards season and critics.
She snuck up on me. I didn't much notice her at first, but over the years I've become a real fan. She's not a glamour-puss kind of Hollywood starlet. She comes off as a cute, real person. And yet, she managed to take early roles as a scream-queen and a supporting romantic interest, and turn them into a diverse, long-lasting career. From earthy Ruby in "Cold Mountain" to sweet, everywoman Bridget Jones, to sexy Roxie Hart in "Chicago," Renee Zellweger delivers. She manages to present a new side for us to see and appreciate every so often. And she commits to the work required for each role. For Roxie, she really dances. Rather than moving seductively to dumbed-down choreography.
And her most recent growth has been as Judy Garland. Here, we see everything that Renee Zellweger can offer. True study of character--her actions and mannerisms are true to form. Musical and physical ability--Renee sings Judy's famous pieces herself, focusing more on presenting the true emotion Judy Garland encapsulated, as no one can sing quite like Judy could. Vulnerability and accessibility, even when playing an icon. Zellweger plays a Judy Garland only months from the end. This requires her to present a woman who has come from the bottom to a hard-fought stardom that changed the world, and then fallen into a tired vulnerability that only years of being bought and sold can have wrought.