Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Oscar Nominations Turn To The Dark Side

Another year, another time to gripe about the Academy Awards.

Nominations came out today, and while most of them are well-earned, there are obviously a few movies, actors, and filmmakers who were clearly snubbed for reasons we’ll never know. In previous years where I’ve written about the Oscars, I would build up to an infuriating rage about the Academy for not recognizing deserving filmmakers in either one category or another. Perhaps the biggest snub as far as nominations I’ve ever experienced is when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for best picture in 2009. Or when Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for best director for Argo in 2013. Or when The Lego Movie wasn’t nominated for best animated feature just last year. I don’t know. Roll the dice and tell me which is the worst. There’s lots to pick from.

This year, I’m a little more relaxed in my frustration. No, I don’t care less. The anger has just exhausted me, and in venting my emotions towards the Academy and their repeated negligence year after year, I’ve become so tired about it that it took away from my energy towards appreciating the year’s best films. So this year, I’m going to calmly state my perceptions towards this year’s Academy Award nominations. I will keep my cool for most of these, but there are a few nominees where it will be just impossible to keep my self-control in check.

For best picture, we have the hot-blooded true-story/comedy The Big Short, the British period-drama Brooklyn, the Steven Spielberg-directed Bridge of Spies, the ridiculously overblown Mad Max: Fury Road, the intelligent and funny sci-fi survival film The Martian, the brilliant and ambitious The Revenant, the indie dark horse Room, and the journalism drama Spotlight. Most of these pics are among the year’s best and deserve to be up here, though I haven’t met many people who have seen Room or Brooklyn. The biggest snub here is not one individual picture, but rather, the Academy’s capacity for potential.

Ever since the Academy announced its proposal for a max of 10 best picture nominations in 2010, they’ve never fulfilled that maximum capacity, minus the year where The King’s Speech won best picture. Every year since then has strayed slightly shy of nine best picture nominees, up until last year when they dropped it down to eight. It is unfair to do this to the movies. There are plenty of other films that are more worthy of a nomination than some of the other nominees on this list, especially including Sicario, Straight Outta Compton, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No, I didn’t expect to see these movies on the list, but that’s not the point. These were movies that had a clear and visible reaction from the public. To not notice them by snubbing them of a nomination is absurd and unnecessary.

For best director, we have Lenny Abrahamson for Room, Alejando Gonzalez-Inarritu for The Revenant, Tom McCarthy for Spotlight, Adam McKay for The Big Short, and George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. Again, these are well-deserved nominees, although I’m surprised to see that Ridley Scott was skipped over for directing The Martian. Then again, however, so was Dennis Villanueve and J.J. Abrams skipped over for Sicario and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so maybe it’s not so surprising to see great directors get snubbed at the Oscars.

For best actor, we have Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Matt Damon for The Martian, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, and Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl. This is the category that by far pisses me off the most. Great actors get snubbed for great performances every year, but there is absolutely no reason why Johnny Depp should be forgotten for his mesmerizingly evil performance in Black Mass. His performance was not just the best of the year: it’s a competitor for best of the decade, with every ounce of his appearance erasing into this sick and wicked man who doesn’t have a shred of decency in him. With all of the other nominees, you can at least see the actors’ resemblances behind the characters they portray (Yes, DiCaprio purists: that includes good ol’ Leo too). With Black Mass, there was absolutely no indication that Johnny Depp and Whitey Bulger were the same person. The only way this category could be even more ransacked is if DiCaprio doesn’t win the Oscar come awards night. Cross your fingers that doesn’t happen.

For best actress, we have Cate Blanchett for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, Jennifer Lawrence for Joy, Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, and Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn. Okay, call me out here for lack of gender equality guys: I have not seen any of the films in this category. Yes, I know, I’m a horrible person, critic, writer, throw anything at me what you will. However, it certainly doesn’t help that three out of the five nominees were limited releases, so cut me some slack. I will say that with her recent Golden Globe win, Larson is currently the leading contender for this category. We’ll have to see how the rest of awards season plays out first, though.

For best supporting actor, we have Christian Bale for The Big Short, Tom Hardy for The Revenant (which is very well deserved), Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight, Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, and Sylvester Stallone for Creed. One complaint people have had with this category is the lack of diversity, with all of the nominees being tall, handsome white guys. However, I have to ask the dissenters: have you seen all of these performances? The biggest misses are the inclusions of Jason Mitchell from Straight Outta Compton, Will Smith from Concussion, or Idris Elba from Beasts of No Nation, and you could probably have switched one of those out for Rylance considering he was pretty one-note throughout Bridge of Spies. The rest of the nominees, however, are rock solid. No complaints from me as far as this selection goes.

For best supporting actress, we have Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight, Rooney Mara for Carol, Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl, and Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs. Again, there’s a lack of diversity here from tall white women, but what other actresses would you put in their place? Can you name another ethnic actresses from this year that put on performances as unique and memorable as the ones here? If you can, please reply with those performances below, because I honestly can’t remember any.

And finally, we end on the screenplay categories. For best original screenplay, we have Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, and Straight Outta Compton. For best adapted screenplay, we have The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, and Room. Both categories are guilty of snubbing not one, but two great screenplays. Those scripts are The Hateful Eight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, albeit for very different reasons. For the horrible year that Quentin Tarantino had to go through to bring The Hateful Eight into film, he delivered a very funny, witty, and memorably grotesque experience that can only be brought to life through his writing. Do I even need to explain why Star Wars belongs here? J.J. Abrams succeeded doing in one movie what series creator George Lucas couldn’t do in three: he breathed new life and energy into the science-fiction epic, providing noteworthy original content while at the same time paying homage to the classic characters and mythology that we came to love from Star Wars. Abrams continued Lucas’ epic story with seamlessness and creativity, and to not reward him and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Ardnt is disrespectful to them and their vast accomplishment.

You can click here to see the full list of nominees. In the meantime, I’m going to be staring blankly at the nominations sheet until I can decide who the Academy is going to snub next on awards night.

– David Dunn

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“BLACK MASS” Review (✫✫✫)

Fear him. Fear Whitey Bulger.

I would not recommend to any of my friends that they watch Black Mass. It’s not for everyone. In fact, I would argue that it’s not for most. It’s violent, twisted, bleak, convoluted, and has little sense of purpose other than to show us the dark depths of human depravity. In that regard, it is not a worthwhile moviegoing experience. But man, is Johnny Depp’s performance mesmerizing.

In Black Mass, Johnny Depp portrays Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster who ruled the south streets of Boston for nearly 30 years. When he was finally captured by the FBI in 2011, he faced a 33-count indictment, including multiple counts of extortion, money laundering, selling drugs, corrupting law enforcement, and committing 19 murders. That number surprises me. After watching the movie, it almost seems low.

How was Bulger able to get away with all of this for almost three decades? Simple. He had help. When his childhood friend John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) was hired by the FBI, Connolly believed he and Bulger could help each other out. As an employed FBI informant, Bulger could provide information to Connolly on rival gangs so the FBI could clean house for Bulger. Meanwhile, Connolly could provide protection for Bulger’s operations as a result of him being an informant. They both end up agreeing to each others terms and Bulger officially enlists himself as an FBI informant.

While watching this movie, I was wondering where I had heard this story before about an FBI informant using the bureau to protect himself from his own criminal operations. Then I remembered Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime film The Departed, which involved Jack Nicholson’s character also using the FBI to his own purposes. I came to find out that his character was actually largely based around Whitey Bulger’s circumstances. The only difference is that The Departed is somewhat watered down compared to the actual accounts.

Yes, I just wrote that. The Departed is watered down compared to Black Mass. What is the world coming to when Martin Scorsese looks tame?

Black Mass is a sickening, deplorable film, one that outlines one man’s lifetime of crime in disturbing detail. Yet, the film is reasonably sickening because it isn’t actively advocating for Bulger. Indeed, in most of the film, he seems more like the movie’s villain rather than its hero.

So who is the main protagonist then? The movie doesn’t have one. It’s unusual, but it works for this sort of film. This isn’t a story we’re watching, but a report: an account on real-life events that is driven to inform on every detail as accurately as possible. The writers of the original novel, Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, served as consultants on the film, working specifically with director Scott Cooper on what did or didn’t happen based on their experiences.

It is reasonable to say they’re credible sources. Lehr and O’Neill have written numerous books on Boston crime, and Bulger was a key figure in all of their research. Their reporting was thorough and in-depth. They’ve met John Connolly on numerous occasions. Next to the gangsters that have lived alongside Bulger, these two would be the next best accountants on him and his life.

Bringing them on as consultants was wise of Cooper, and his attention to their details brings authenticity to the picture. In one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, Bulger is choking a hooker to death inside of a house. Cooper paused filming this scene because Lehr and O’Neill said one of the gangster that was present in the original events was not present on the set. The fact that Cooper paused filming for such a small detail impresses me. The fact that Bulger wipes his feet, shrugs, and says he’s taking a nap so non-chalantly after killing her disturbs me on how true this is.

Depp is another story altogether. He is completely and utterly eerie as Bulger, perfect in capturing the character’s details and relentless in portraying his acts of violence and cruelty. It’s not just that Depp gives a convincing performance: I literally can’t see any indication that Depp is even in the movie. His being is erased into Bulger’s existence, in his cold, steady stare and his fixed, stoic posture. He’s disturbing in the slurred, snaky voice he speaks in, and how he so casually inflicts pain and death as if he were the Grim Reaper himself. Depp is the highlight of the film, with his portrayal of Bulger evoking memory of Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs or Jack Torrence from The Shining. His performance isn’t just the best of the year: it’s a challenger for the best of the decade. It’s that momentous and memorable.

If I were reviewing Depp’s performance alone, he would be given four stars, because the truth is his performance is perfect. However, I am not reviewing one actor’s performance. I’m reviewing the movie, and the truth is the movie is sloppy. The camerawork by Masanobu Takayangi is smooth and steady, but everything else in the film is lopsided and rocky. The editing by David Rosenbloom is scattered and choppy. The chronology of events is non-linear and hard to follow. And the screenwriters of the film Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk skip an important part of Bulger’s story, which is his upbringing. It doesn’t have to be a flashback either; just simply explaining where the character came from and why he acts the way he does would have sufficed. We’re given clues throughout the movie, but no answers. We are asked to fill in the holes as the movie skips over important questions and just goes to Bulger’s tirades of violence.

Why is the movie called Black Mass? In the 19th Century, a Black Mass was secretly held by a Roman Catholic Church for Satan worship and in mockery of the Christian faith. A Black Mass is a crooked sermon concealing evil intentions. I believe a black mass was made when the FBI enlisted one of history’s most notorious gangsters as an informant. A black mass is also made when we enter the movie theater. The devil’s name is the same in both cases: Whitey Bulger.

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“21 JUMP STREET” Review (✫1/2)

Two 30-year old cops pretending to be in high school.

21 Jump Street is a film that pretends to be a parody on action-comedies and instead collapses under its own pretension. It’s a silly, stupid, obnoxious film, a movie that feels like a kid poking a wet willy into your ear and refusing to stop because you’re laughing inexplicably for some reason. Is it possible to feel this annoyed, or for that matter, this violated? Apparently so. This is a movie that is okay with constant profanity, blatant stereotypes and unfunny penis jokes to the point where it feels like these cops are pretending to be in elementary rather than high school.

As much as they’d like to make you believe, 21 Jump Street is not an expansion of the original television show it was based on. This movie follows an entirely new duo, this one much more clumsier and haphazard than the Johnny Depp-Peter DeLuise relationship in the original show. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are a dysfunctional pair of police officers that can’t shoot a gun or recite the miranda rights worth a damn. Schmidt plays the fat kid stereotype who can barely do a leg lift in the morning while Jenko is the strong-but-stupid stereotype that looks at answer choices on a test like they’re written in Chinese. Together, this lopsided duo plans to pursue a life of stopping crime as police officers. Little did they know that they’re starting duties included patrolling the town park, honking their horns and yelling at kids to not feed the ducks in the pond. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Well believe it or not, they mess even that up too. When arresting a gangster for cocaine possession, the gangster is eventually let go because he was not read his miranda rights. The duo is since transferred to this secret operation of undercover police work, located at a nice little chapel addressed at 21 Jump Street.

Sounds like a nice revisitation of the good old days with Johnny Depp, right? No. It isn’t. Whatever you hear about 21 Jump Street please hear this: that this is a complete deviation from the source material, and has been meat-processed through the unfortunate action-comedy formula into another recycled blockbuster.

Oh boy, where do I begin. First of all, let me start by looking at the most important part of the film: it’s leads. Hill and Tatum both served as executive producers for the film while Hill himself holds a story credit to the film. You would expect that, considering both of them have acted in comedies before this, that they would understand that most important element in comedies it the characters. With these two portrayals, they’re okay, but they’re only as good as their stereotypes will let them be. Jonah Hill is sheepish and clumsy while Channing Tatum is moody and stupid, and their characters don’t get much more expressive, or memorable, than that.

Oh no, they don’t go into an inch of smart or sincere territory, and their silly, childish interactions prove it. In one scene, Channing Tatum was whacking and tea-bagging Jonah Hill while he’s on the bed talking to a girl on the phone. In another, they’re fighting in the middle of a stage production while Hill is attached to a harness and Tatum is throwing plastic rocks and trees at him. Watching this duo makes me miss the smartly ironic and genuine chemistry that was shared in between comedic greats such as Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau in Grumpy Old Men, or Steve Martin and John Candy in Plains, Trains and Automobiles. That’s better than the hopelessly slapstick mess we have here, at least.

There is another issue we have at stake here: that this is not an adaptation, doing more disservice to itself by linking it to the source material that it was inspired by in the first place. The original television show was a crime drama about a group of teenagers trying to prove themselves as cops and as heroes. The movie is an action-comedy that deconstructs that idea and makes fun of it before killing it off at the start of the film’s climax, though I won’t say exactly how. All I will say is that fans of the show will be extremely disappointed by this new outing, and even if they won’t be, they’re going to have to let go an important part of the show in order to enjoy this new one.

None of that is really important though. The actors, the faithfulness, nothing. The most important question is this: did it make me laugh?

Kind of. Most of the time my face was as plain as a checker board, erroneously letting the stupidity and immaturity of the film rub off of me as I continued to tolerate its runtime. There were a few fun, clever moments in the film, but seeing them was as rare as Jenko getting a C on his chemistry exam.

I will also admit that I’m not much into raunchy humor, but why would I be? It’s cliche and cheap. It’s plastic, mundane and annoying, butting its head in the way of genuine, clever humor birthed by dialogue and satire, rather than the jumbled action and sex jokes we have to deal with in this movie. Plus, when your best joke involves a police officer shooting off a guy’s penis, and then watching him grab it with his mouth trying to reattach it, I think there’s something seriously wrong with this films humor.

I do predict that this movie will fare well with audiences though. Why? Because this is what people want, that’s why. When I ask for John Hughes, I get Adam Sandler. When I cry for Ridley Scott, I get Paul W.S. Anderson. When I praise Inception, I log onto box office mojo to discover that Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen grossed ten million more than it.

The more I think about this movie, the more frustrated I become. This movie has little to no redeeming factors, the phrase “it was fun” being its only flimsy crutch. There will be no doubt people who will defend it, and these are the people who also enjoy raunchy sex jokes, Channing Tatum’s mug and Jonah Hill’s clumsy failings. When other action comedies exist out there such as Scott Pilgrim and Zombieland, why on earth would I waste my time seeing this? If 21 Jump Street was supposed to assault me as much as it did, I wasn’t read my miranda rights.

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