Tag Archives: Bennett Miller

Foxcatcher

Career defining performances from its three leads leaves you astounded as this bizarre true story unfolds in front of your eyes.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

foxcatcher 2It’s no secret amongst filmmakers that some of the best ways to get the Oscar committee’s collective genitals tingling is to give them a true story or a good sports film (note: GOOD sports film. Adam Sandler’s crap “The Longest Yard” remake doesn’t count). So every couple of years a great sports film comes along that’s based on a true story and you just know that it’s destined for one of those DVD covers with its nominations and wins proudly displayed all over the front.

Personally, I never quite know how “famous” a story is. I’ve always loved American sports, combat sports especially and I love to know as much as I can about the sports I watch. It’s how I can spew random American Football facts few in the UK will know or even understand. But it’s also how I went into Foxcatcher already knowing the story of the Schultz brothers Dave and Mark and their time spent with John DuPont and team Foxcatcher. As such, I’m not entirely sure how well known the story is in the UK so for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free, I will keep to the basics and not reveal the end to this tragic true story.

Shortly after winning Olympic gold with his brother, wrestler Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) is invited to meet with eccentric multi-millionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell) who proposes Mark’s relocation to Pennsylvania to train for the upcoming wrestling World Championships at the newly formed Team Foxcatcher. Encouraged to bring his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) along with him to the team, Mark jumps at the opportunity. His sibling opts to stay where he is and not move his family, leaving Mark alone with DuPont.

A man used to getting everything he wants, John DuPont’s pursuit of wrestling success from his team is as unrelenting as his pursuit of Dave Shultz. What he can’t win honestly, he’ll buy. And what he can’t get dishonestly, just isn’t worth his time. Seeing success with Foxcatcher in the championships and beyond, DuPont starts to build his own little empire with him, and his ability to talk Mark Shultz into anything, at the centre of it.

It’s a bizarre true story to tell. John DuPont is a petulant child in a grown man’s body. Literally stomping his feet when things don’t go his way. But as an insanely wealthy grown up, he gets to throw money at the problem and get exactly what he wants one way or another. Combine this with him forcing himself into Mark Shultz’s life as a much needed father figure and using it to control him, there isn’t much that the weird philanthropist can’t do or get where his wrestling aspirations are concerned. As the story progresses and we see things come apart at the seams for all involved, it’s DuPont’s instability and it’s affects on all those he surrounds himself with that takes centre stage.

Director Bennett Miller is beginning to make a habit of bringing us outstanding, Oscar worthy pictures. Previously directing the late, great, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Brad Pitt in Moneyball, his latest addition to his filmography easily compares to either of his earlier offerings. I think it’s important to mention 2011’s Moneyball because I believe it holds more significance than being just another great, Oscar nominated sports film. Miller gave the world an opportunity to see Jonah Hill as more than a doofus comedy actor. He worked so hard and left such an impression on the audience that it earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination and I think this may be where Miller’s directorial genius will be recognised in the future.

Steve Carell surprised me with his performance. Besides his strange posture throughout the film that makes it look like he’s scared of his makeup slipping off. He looks like a dog trying to balance an invisible biscuit on his snout and a glass of water on his head. The entire top half of his body barely moves! That said, his portrayal of John DuPont was simply out of this world and he deserves all the fanfare that he’s currently receiving for the role. DuPont is obsessed with his power. The power he buys and the power he forces upon others. His obsession with wrestling and his need to turn himself into Team Foxcatcher’s mentor and an all-American hero consumes him and there is an air about the man that it will eventually be his downfall. Carell is almost unrecognisable as the teams self-made patriarch and if there aren’t awards in his future, I would be very surprised.

Equally deserving of praise are Carell’s co-stars. Of course, we’ve all seen Mark Ruffalo in dramatic roles before and as the older Shultz brother, he’s as impressive here as he has been in any other role. His commitment to the part shows in his build and his demeanour. Telling as much of his story with his body as the rest of the film does with dialogue. The man that’s equally as committed to his family as he is his sport shows a weariness in his movement telling of a man working hard for his team.

Channing Tatum though. I was genuinely in awe of his performance here. His portrayal of Mark Shultz opposite Carell’s DuPont is absolutely outstanding. The mental and physical abuse he allows DuPont to subject him to is played just right by an actor that constantly surprises me. What differentiates him from his Jump Street co-star’s turn in Moneyball is subtle hints of being weak willed and simple minded. Hill went from comedy actor to drama actor with a great turn. Tatum has gone from comedy actor and beefcake to a dramatic actor who stops quite a bit short of his Jump Street “my name is Jeff” performance and shows how easily the world class wrestler is influenced through his body language and his interactions with Steve Carell. We’re not talking Forrest Gump or Rain Man here. But we are talking just enough for the audience to look at Shultz and say “Man, is that dude ok?”, a turn like that from an actor mainly regarded for his abs, is just as worthy of recognition as any other actor in this piece.

Foxcatcher is a consistently brilliant drama. Stunning performances from its stars that deliver every line, every look and every grapple convincingly. All set to a perpetually gloomy atmosphere with an underlying air of menace making for an amazingly directed and brilliantly acted dramatic masterpiece.

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BFI London Film Festival 2014 Preview

It’s that time of year again – the bathroom light has to go on in the morning, loads of good American TV shows start again, and Christmas tat is starting to appear in the shops. Yes, autumn is on the way, and with it comes the 58th London Film Festival.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

lff14My initial reaction to this year’s line-up – once I had grumbled about the member’s launch being a day later than the press launch, rendering it invalid for the most part – was how many big names are missing. No room for The Theory of Everything, St Vincent (the film, not the singer), or The Equalizer; all making their Toronto debuts this week. But scratching beneath the surface yields some treasure.

First up, let’s deal with the obvious contenders. I am looking forward to Foxcatcher very much – directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball, the film stars Steve Carrell in a rare serious role alongside Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Loosely based on a true story, the film follows the struggle between two wrestling champion brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) which takes a sinister turn with the arrival of a mysterious benefactor (Carrell). Foxcatcher received stellar notices when it premiered in Cannes earlier this year and has also been prominently mentioned in early Oscar buzz. Other big hitters include The Imitation Game, the long-awaited Alan Turing biopic which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematical genius, and Fury, a World War 2 film from David Ayer (End of Watch) starring Brad Pitt. These open and close the festival respectively, and will be shown at cinemas across the country in tandem with their gala screenings. Mr Turner features an already award-winning performance by Timothy Spall as the titular JMW Turner, and LFF also hosts the directorial debut of Jon Stewart – Rosewater is the story of an Iranian journalist covering the country’s political unrest in 2009 who gets on the wrong side of the establishment.

Gala screenings I am looking forward to include The Salvation, a Danish western (!) starring Mads Mikkelsen and, bizarrely, Eric Cantona; Whiplash, a story about the relationship between a musical prodigy and his virtuoso teacher which is audaciously structured like a thriller; and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, a wuxia starring Fan Bingbing as a witch fighting to free people from tyranny during the end of the Ming Dynasty.

the immitation game

In the official competition, the film that stands out is Dearest – the story of a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son goes missing. One of the most eagerly anticipated films in the first feature competition is ’71, set in the streets of Belfast during the titular year and starring Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as a wet behind the ears squaddie dispatched to keep the peace.

The documentary strand has yielded some interesting prospects. There are familiar subjects in Hockey: A Life in Pictures, National Gallery, and The Possibilities Are Endless (the story of Edwyn Collins after his stroke), and a step into the unknown with In The Basement – a film about what Austrians do – yes! – in their basements. The love strand has one particular film of interest to me – Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple forced to leave their apartment separately. This film has gathered some notoriety in the States for being rated R for no apparent reason, apart from its central relationship being a homosexual one.night bus

1001 Grams is an intriguing-looking slice of dark humour, and Night Bus explores the sometimes intimate, sometimes scary, but always intriguing world of the London night bus (shout out to route N1). A Hard Day is described as a neo-noir slice of Korean cinema, following a policeman who is having a really bad day. The follow-up to Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent, had more creatures in the trailer than in the whole of the previous film put together, so that bodes well. There are also restored classic films scattered throughout the programme, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Guys and Dolls. And of course, the legendary shorts programmes are back, spanning all strands and giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

So although at first glance the line-up looks a bit light, a proper dissection of the schedule reveals that there is something for everyone here. The beauty of LFF has always lain in taking a chance and seeing something you would never normally buy a ticket for. I think this year will see a return to that essence for many people.

We will of course be bringing you reviews and diary entries during the festival itself, so don’t forget to check back between 8-19 October 2014 for more articles! You can find a full line up of what’s showing at the LFF 2014 on the BFI website.