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The Bottom Shelf #97

03.01.2007

As I'm entering this into JoBlo's backend (hold your tongues!), it's February 25th, the day of the fateful Oscars and the ceremony has not yet been aired. I don't know who's won and who's lost. I still maintain hope that my personal favorites will prevail. Every year I pick out winners for a friend of mine, those selections being the people that I've decided will win based on the politics of the game. Yet I also have a separate list. The list of those people I think SHOULD win. (Hell, there's also the list of people that I'm pissed about not getting nominated. Adam Beach, I'm in your corner, chief.) The selections for this week include a couple of movies that had performances by actors who were on my "Shoulda" list for their respective years.

SEXY BEAST (2000)
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone

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I kept hearing all kinds of good things about this movie, from my hipster friends right on down to my own mother. All of them proclaimed that it was one of the best movies that they'd seen. That I NEEDED to watch it. So I brought it home form the video store last week and finally got around to watching it. Let's just say that I've never considered myself easily manipulated. I'm someone who takes option one or three whenever I hear the phrase "Lead, follow or get out of the way."

I point all of this out because as a whole, SEXY BEAST is actually a boring movie. Detailing the life of some bloated, overly tan man with a past that is alluded to but not directly addressed until an unwelcome visitor appears on his doorstep, I honestly was beginning to wonder if everyone I knew had been given a great big crack rock to smoke before watching this movie. Then in comes Kingsley as Don Logan. You get to find out that the bloated handbag used to be involved in large heists and Logan has come to retrieve him for a new one. The entire appeal of this movie rests solidly on the shoulders of the man best associated with playing the eternally non-violent Ghandi. Kingsley slashes his way through certain scenes, yelling, screaming and making a fuss. In others he controls the mood of the room by speaking in a low and stilted tone.

I'd liken this movie to another recent head scratcher for me, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. That movie was much like this one, in that it had a boring storyline and a lead character who was quite clearly not the appeal of the movie. What do you do when you have a movie where there is a character so memorable played with radical intensity by an actor who acts as if there's nothing left to lose? You recommend the movie to people, telling them that they NEED to watch it. It's a good gauge to see who's easily manipulatable and who would have shot that unwelcome guest on sight.

Favorite Scene:

When Kingsley gives his flawless explanation for why he freaked out on the airplane.

Favorite Line:

"I am going to have to turn this opportunity down."
"No, you are going to have to turn this opportunity yes!"

Trivia Tidbit:

Kingsley claims the character of Don Logan is largely based on his grandmother.

See if you liked:

THE LIMEY, LAYER CAKE, LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS

THE COOLER (2003)
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
Starring: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

There are actors who have been around for years, consistently making movies and turning in great performances. I'm sure that the first thing that comes to mind for you is William H. Macy, a killer character actor who has been in everything from drama to comedy to action films. He's a good reason why this movie is so good. The other was watching Alec Baldwin fully come into his own as an older actor who wasn't pandering to his supposed sex symbol status. Yet I wasn't really referring to either one of those actors when I voiced my initial sentiment. I was referring to Maria Bello.

Bello is that good looking and yet not drop dead gorgeous actress who manages land mostly girlfriend/wife roles. She's so quiet that she tends to blend right into the background and make you forget that she's even there. While most performers are lauded for their turns as scene stealers, without the glue that is the convincing side player, the movie couldn't hold itself together. THE COOLER is about a man who has such bad luck that he's referred to as "kryptonite on a stick." His job is to be the Cooler for a small casino, walking the floor and visiting the players who are on a role to stop them in their winning tracks. When he hooks up with Bello, he finally finds his lady luck and is unable to continue on in the role that he had previously been so good at.

Bello may not be a Charlize Theron, golden in translucent beauty and she might not have the charm of a Julia Roberts, but she has a glow around her. There is something within her that makes her the best that a poor schmo could get. In her wide brown-eyed gaze, you can understand where a man could find hope, see his future being more than he expected it to be. Her fearlessness in being nude in the majority of her movies doesn't come off as that poor starlet willing to do anything in a role to get noticed. Instead, it reads as brave and sexually liberated. Men might think that they want the most beautiful woman out there; In reality they want the best that they can get. Bello embodies that. Just pretty enough, just smart enough, just together enough. The best that most of us could hope to get, let alone actually catch.

Favorite Scene:

When Bernie and Natalie get back at his loud next door neighbors.

Favorite Line:

"What? You mean that Disneyland mookfest out there? Huh? Come on, you know what that is? Huh? That's a f*cking violation is what that is. Something that used to be beautiful, used to have class, like a gorgeous high-priced hooker with an exclusive clientele. Then along came that Steve Wynn c*cksucker and knocks her up and put her in a f*cking family way. Now she's nothing but a cheap, fat whore hiding behind too much f*cking make-up. I look at her and see all her f*cking stretch marks. It makes me want to cry because I remember the way she used to be."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie originally received an NC-17 rating and was re-cut to achieve an R. The details of the rating dispute are documented in the film THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, which shows some of the deleted footage.

See if you liked:

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, SWINGERS, HARD EIGHT

One of these days there will come a time when the Oscars are voted on "American Idol" style. Of course, that will probably happen after they've implemented it for the presidential election. Gotta have our priorities in order, right?

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