I wasn't able to get away from work during Christmas so I spent the first week of 2011 on vacation at my father's place in Las Vegas. He seemed particularly eager to see a few films...or maybe he was just more compliant with my desires.
The first three films I saw in 2011 were:
The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo; directed by David O. Russell; (2010) - Official Website
True Grit starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon; directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen; (2010) - Official Website
Morning Glory starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton; (2010) - Official Website
There is not much need to recap The Fighter or True Grit. Both films will likely be nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
Melissa Leo & Christian Bale deliver outstanding performances in The Fighter. Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg are solid; Wahlberg always delivers a solid performance. Looking at her credits, I realize I've only seen one Amy Adams film - Psycho Beach Party (2000) in which she received 11th billing. As I recall, I mild about Psycho Beach Party which was a comedy.
Watching The Fighter, I was impressed with an actor who played Micky Ward's (Wahlberg) mentor and trainer who had a day job as a cop. He had a small role but he made the most of it. He looked like an Irish American cop that would spend time in boxing gym mentoring troubled youth. He wasn't a big, beefy guy who lay a beatdown on you but a small, middle-aged, roly-poly type that used earnest talk and a big heart to get through to you. As I watched the credits, I saw that the actor's name is Mickey O'Keefe. But wait, Mickey O'Keefe was also the name of the character. It turns out that Mickey O'Keefe played himself in the film and he served the same role for the real Micky Ward.
Character actor Jack McGee (Rescue Me & Crash) also deliverd a strong performance as Micky Ward's father. Of course, much has been written about the 24 actresses who play Micky Ward's sisters and I have to agree that their presence added to the film.
I enjoyed True Grit quite a bit but I have to admit that I was a fan of the original. Furthermore, I'm not a John Wayne hater. I don't think he was skilled actor but within his limited range, he delivered effective performances. What I liked about the original True Grit was that it was outside of Wayne's usual reperatory.
The 2010 version of True Grit had strong performances all around and stuck closer to the original novel by Charles Portis. The plot between the two films were largely the same but the Coen brothers used more Portis' dialogue which I have seen classifed as "hillbilly Shakespeare." It didn't distract me and I quickly grew to appreciate it. However, I caught portions of Portis' original dialogue in the 1969 version of True Grit.
If the question is which version I prefer, I'd be hard pressed to make a choice. A side-by-side comparison of the actors in their roles shows how close it is. My preferred performance is underlined.
Rooster Cogburn - John Wayne (1969) or Jeff Bridges (2010)
La Boeuf - Glen Campbell (1969) or Matt Damon (2010)
Mattie Ross - Kim Darby (1969) or Hailee Steinfeld (2010)
Ned Pepper - Robert Duvall (1969) or Barry Pepper (2010)
The 1969 version had more memorable actors in supporting roles including Dennis Hopper and the scene-stealing Strother Martin.
Morning Glory is a film that never interested me enough to get to the theater to see it. It played at the Balboa for a few weeks but I passed on it.
I may have mentioned this before but Las Vegas still has a dollar theater. The Regency Tropicana Cinemas shows second run films. The general admission price is $1.50 and on Tuesdays, they lower it to $1.00. I wonder how a theater can survive with those prices in 2011. Even more incredible, the theater closed for business and reopened with this pricing structure.
Anyway, Morning Glory was playing there. I recall the Balboa's Gary Meyer lamenting the box office fate of Morning Glory as he announced he was contemplating changes in policy at the Balboa to increase attendance.
On more than one occasion, I've heard Meyer state the discount card price of $6.50 per admission was the cheapest in San Francisco. The Balboa has subsequently raised the price of the discount card so it averages out to $7.50 per admission. After enjoying Morning Glory, I felt a tinge of guilt as I thought I saw this film solely based on Meyer's recommendation. However, $1.50 beats $6.50 any day of the week so I can at least claim it was in my economic interest to see the film in Las Vegas.
The other piece of information I learned from Meyer's post was that he is not a fan of the title Morning Glory. Isn't that a flower? Meyer tipped us off that Roger Michell, the director of Morning Glory insisted on the title because it was British slang for nocturnal penile tumescence. Michell's next project is tentativley titled The Red Cotton Pony.
Now that I've spent five paragraphs setting up the film, I'll dispense with the plot summary. Rachel McAdams was adorable as the perky, hyper and plucky producer of a network morning news show. I wish she would have dialed down a tad but there's not much to complain. Harrison Ford nails his role as a grumpy "serious" newsman forced to do fluff (or at least work with fluff) in the mornings. The only complaint I have is that he delivered all his lines in a strange, soft, monotonic growl which became tedious. Diane Keaton rounds out the cast with a loopy performance as the put-upon and insecure co-host of the morning news show.
One of the criticisms I have read about Morning Glory was that it was too superficial. It didn't address any serious issue like previous news comedies such as Network or Broadcast News. The main point of contention in Morning Glory is "news vs. entertainment." As McAdams says to Ford in the film, "We already fought that battle and your side [news] lost." One look at your television schedule should confirm the truth in McAdams' statement.
Morning Glory is a lightweight comedy and a good one at that...and there is nothing wrong with that.
47 minutes ago