Tag Archives: aaron sorkin

Review: Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin has without a doubt been one of, if not the best screenwriter in the last 25 years. From his debut with A few Good Men to his hit show The West Wing to his Oscar-winning script for The Social Network. His dialogue driven work has lent life to stories that otherwise may not have seemed as exciting for example once again The Social Network and Moneyball. Those are two stories that while interesting don’t necessarily lend themselves to a compelling movie.

For his latest effort Sorkin not only goes behind the words but he goes behind the camera for his directorial debut. There is no doubt Sorkin has taken notes and learned a lot from some of the top-notch directors that have brought his words to life such as David Fincher, Rob Reiner, Bennet Miller and Mike Nichols. Those are some pretty good auteurs to learn the craft from and Sorkin didn’t miss anything they showed. Molly’s Game is much more of a cinema-friendly story than some of the others but Sorkin has made it beyond compelling. After the success of the underground poker film Rounders, which levitated the poker world and game to the heights it knows today, Hollywood has tried and failed to capture that world again. Enter Molly Bloom and Aaron Sorkin.

Molly Bloom was Olympic level mogul skier who after injury found herself thrust into the money hungry world of Los Angeles where her career ambitions took a left turn when she took an assistant job to a high-end realtor who also happened to play in a high stakes poker game with some of Los Angeles’ elite millionaires. After diligently learning their world and making friends with the games regular players which included an A-list Hollywood actor who, although not named in the movie has since been identified in her book as Toby McGuire as well as his longtime friend Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio she eventually starts her own game with these elite players. Determined to keep her game legal and make enough money to get her degree and the life she initially set out for herself, the greed and glam of L.A. took over as well as the vices that come with it. Battling substance abuse which snuck up on her as well as the idea that she was slightly untouched she loses the L.A. game. This leads Molly to take her knowledge and skills to New York City where the clientele is less than savory and soon includes members of the Russian mafia. Molly finds herself on trial for multiple offenses that include fraud as well as money laundering all of which add up to a possible 20 plus years in prison. Her new unlikely high priced attorney Charles Jaffey are soon building a defense as Molly reveals all aspects of her business for Jaffey.

The film is driven and I mean driven by the two stellar performances of two time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba. When working with an Aaron Sorkin script you need actors that can deliver not only a massive amount of dialogue but can deliver it razor sharp. Think of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War, Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs and recent first time Oscar nominee Allison Janney in The West Wing, maybe the greatest master of his words. Without actors of this skill and caliber, these films fall flat. Elba and Chastain master his words just as well as anyone. The quick pace he demands is maybe as difficult as any stunt Tom Cruise does in any Mission Impossible film. Chastain delivers to a point where I can’t picture a Sorkin film NOT including her in some aspect.

Jessica Chastain in MOLLY’S GAME

To discuss Sorkin’s directing abilities he shows he can hang with most directors working in Hollywood. While he didn’t bring much new to the table as Fincher did with The Social Network, for instance, he paces the film and moves the story along in a way that leads to zero dullness and keeps the viewer captivated from beginning to end. He clearly knows how to work with great actors as well as get the best out of them. In light of today’s Oscar nomination announcement, it comes as no surprise that he is once again nominated for his unparalleled writing ability. The surprise is that Chastain is left out as a best actress nominee, something that hasn’t happened to an actor speaking working words in a film since 1995’s The American President and has only happened twice out of his eight feature film scripts. To say it’s a snub is an understatement, but such is the way of the Academy. In no way is Molly’s Game a film to be missed or should I say experienced.

Kate Winslet Is The Perfect Hollywood Actress. Top 5 Favorite Films

imageWithout a doubt, one of my favorite actresses is Kate Winslet. She is the quintessential British actress, she is fearless, natural and does everything 100% and makes it great. I am excited every time I see a trailer for one of her new movies, my anticipation is its highest. She frequently uses the term “ballsy” to describe her characters. The term could easily be described about Winslet herself and her choice of films. She has never been stereotyped other than having the reputation for being great at what she does.

When I decided I was going to choose my top 5 favorite Winslet movies I realized I had taken up a very difficult topic. Professionally acting since she was very young, her credits begin in 1991 when she was 16 and it would be just 3 years her breakthrough role come to her. A small independent film with a young director, Oscar winner Peter Jackson. The film, Heavenly Creatures would be a smash hit in the independent film world and Winslet never looked back. Two years later she received her first Oscar nomination for Sense And Sensibility. The year after that she was the lead character in the juggernaut film, Titanic.

Since all of this, Winslet’s resume reads like the stats of a baseball

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

hall of famer. Since her first Oscar nomination, she has received 7 total nominations and 1 win for her performance in The Reader. She has 11 Golden Globe nominations with 4 wins. 8 SAG award nominations and 3 wins and finally 8 BAFTA nominations and 3 wins… All in the last 20 years. These are accolades equal to some of the best actors and actresses in the history of the industry. With all that said, on to the list of my top 5 favorite Kate Winslet roles.
5. Mildred Pierce

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The only role on the list that wasn’t theatrically released, the 5 part HBO miniseries was completely carried and focused on Winslet. Kate was in every scene of the epic series and her performance made everything good about the series, even better. Her ability to give the character the a fierce personality and watch her become humble and almost broken, shows the talent that we have come to expect every time out.

4. Steve Jobs

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This role in last years biopic gave her, her seventh Oscar nomination and won her a fourth Golden Globe and her third BAFTA award. The role of Joanna Hoffman was a particularly challenging one for her due to a few reasons. First this was the first time that Winslet had to tackle the difficult task of mastering Aaron Sorkin’s fast paced, back and forth dialogue. She passed that test with flying colors. The second difficulty was one that she had mastered, the slight Polish accent was beautifully done. There would have been no debate if she had taken home the Oscar instead of Alicia Vikander. Full Film Review Here

3. Revolutionary Road

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Revolutionary Road marked the second time she teamed up with extremely close friend Leonardo Di Caprio and first time working with her husband at the time, Oscar winner Sam Mendes. Movie fans everywhere had been eagerly awaiting Winslet and Leo to reunite on screen, and they did not disappoint. It proved to be the perfect choice for a reunion. They played anything but the perfect couple everyone remembered from Titanic, as well as showing how much they had both grown as actors and people. She won the Golden Globe for her performance in the leading dramatic actress category. It would prove to be a historic night for Winslet.

2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

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Her fourth Oscar nomination would come in 2004 for her masterful performance as Clemintine Kruczynski in Michel Gondry’s opus, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Playing opposite Jim Carrey, who was wonderful himself, she pulled in what has been called one of the 100 greatest performances ever. The only reason she didn’t walk away with the Oscar was because of the buzz saw that year in the form of Hilary Swank. With an all star cast, Winslet stood out, way out. Full Film Review Here

  1. The Reader

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There is no question this was her best role in my opinion. She finally took home Oscar gold for playing Hanna Schmitz. The incredibly moving and stirring story was made palpable by Winslet. The story of an eventually convicted Nazi war criminal and her intimate relationship with a young student who opens her up to all kinds of literature and stories, is so powerful it leaves an indelible mark. Winslet’s performance is a massive reason for this. It is the fear her in her cap. One thing is for sure, she’s not done churning out award winning performances by a long shot.

Steve Jobs Takes A Look At Late Innovator

imageThere have been numerous documentaries and films about the innovations that Steve Jobs created over the 56 years of his life. His contributions to the modern world and the stamp he left is indelible. What is also known about him is his notoriously abrasive personality.

Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle takes a unique look at the man behind some of the most popular products of all time. The film, fittingly titled Steve Jobs, takes a look behind the scenes of three of the biggest launch events in Jobs career and spans over 15 years. While the discussions and interactions are more than likely different compositions of various conversations and interactions with the people that had the most important professional impact on his life.

Danny Boyle teams up with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who is quite possibly the greatest writer of dialogue ever, and delivers the intensity of the crucial discussions in the career of Jobs. Michael Fassbender plays the innovative Jobs and what makes his performance great is that he does nothing to do a Steve Jobs impersonation, he just delivers the lines the way they should be.

The movie opens with an interview with famed Sci-Fi author Arthur C. Clarke describes a computer that will be in every home and does everything that every person in the world takes for granted. Steve Jobs had the same foresight that Clarke had and was almost so far ahead of his time it almost destroyed one of the biggest most profitable companies today.

Jobs first scene backstage in 1983 just before the introduction of the Macintosh home PC, which in hindsight would be the template for every home PC to come. Jobs is interacting with his longtime assistant and the closest professionally person, Joanna Hoffman played by the always on point, Kate Winslet.

In the first of the 3 launches Jobs is backstage, battling with an ex-lover over the paternity of his daughter, who he refused to acknowledge as his own. He is also seen berating an engineer over the operation of the test model.

After a montage of news highlights and newspaper quotes documenting the initial failure of the Mac and the companies ultimate imagefiring of co-founder, Jobs, the second of the three launches is about to get underway in 1988. Again, all those close to Jobs make their way into his day, from his daughter (whom he now acknowledges as his) to his mentor John Sculley (who was responsible for Steve’s ultimate firing and the other co-founder Steve Wozniak. Jobs is about to launch his newest computer with his new company NeXT. His assistant Joanna soon deduces that his new product is all a rouse to make Apple feel he is one step ahead of them and hopefully work his way back in charge.

Fast forward 10 years, Apple is on the verge of bankruptcy and Jobs is back in charge and preparing to present the release of the iMac, which is the first home computer specifically designed for surfing the internet. It is in this section that Jobs ultimately reconciles completely with his daughter and once again is confronted by Steve Wozniak and John Sculley. While the climax is ultimately Jobs and his daughter, I couldn’t help but notice how over all the time and after all the bridges he burned, he continued to be just as abrasive as ever. In the end he wasn’t a very nice guy. He gave the world some of the most innovative and used product, but at what expense to himself?

This, of course, is a movie dramatization of various accounts and that should definitely be taken into consideration. The fact that the film didn’t attempt to glorify Jobs or make him seem like someone he most likely wasn’t. Danny Boyle did a fine job with the quick pace of the typical Sorkin dialogue. Fassbender and Winslet are clearly the high points of the film and for fans of SSorkin’swork that will keep you entertained. It is an interesting way to look at the man whose legend is ever growing, other than a typical biopic format. There is a glimpse into why he was as successful as he was.

Allison Janney Shines As A Star

the-way-way-back-movie-mMany times a versatile actor/actress is very hard to come upon. When it comes to the genre of comedy it can be even more difficult. Over the last 12 to 13 years one of these people has clearly been Allison Janney. With her unquestionable brilliant work on The West Wing, which mixed her comedic and dramatic talents all at once along with a natural ability to deliver fast paced dynamic dialogue.

Janney’s career can not just be measured on screen. She was discovered on stage by true genuine Hollywood royalty in Paul Newman and  the lovely Joanne Woodward. They gave her guidance and bits of advice that would see her rise and shine to the tune of FOUR Golden Globe nominations and multiple Emmy wins.

Janney now stars in the sleeper summer hit The Way Way Back in which she costars with Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell.

I recently had the chance to speak with Ms. Janney about her upcoming film and past work.

 

If you could tell me how the project came to you and what drew you to your character.

 

This project came around my doorstep many years ago through Jim Rash and I knew Jim through mutual friends and had been a fan of his seeing his work at The Groundlings in L.A. I ha seen Nat’s work also but knew Jim personally. [Jim] sent me the script and I felt this is a character I would love to play and can get behind. When I had seen who he assembled as a cast I felt this is a great ensemble movie.

 

Jim Rash and Nat Faxon have both been writing for a while, You had a unique situation in that they are both co-directors and it was each first directing film, Did this present any kind of challenges?

 

I think ity gave them a great opportunity to make it easier some how. I am a fan of it because they would always, more than likely be on the same page about everything , because they had written together for so long and had this in their wheelhouse for a long time. They know every single moment and what they want.They were really fun to work with!

 

You are one of the few people who has really mastered the dialogue of Aaron Sorkin. How has that helped you since the conclusion of The West Wing and on into your future projects?

 

I was trained in the theater so I came to Aaron Sorkin with a good understanding. One of my debuts was an Olk Howard Play. Noalk Howard was an incredible writer where people talked fast and were smart.It’s been my dream to play that kind of woman, so who knew I was gonna run into Aaron Sorkin and he was gonna write me that sort of fast talking dame at the White House. It was sort of a perfect collaborating that happened for me. Since The West Wing part of me feels I’ve used up part of my memorizing chip (laugh).I think I was just in that habit day in and day out so I could memorize a huge chunk in 15 minutes before going into the press briefing room.th

 

You mentioned that you started off in the theater. You are credited with being discovered by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They are Hollywood Royalty as far as Im concerned.

 

Mmmmm I love them. I totally give them that credit too. Because I did work with them and I was working with Paul Newman when I was freshman in college and Paul always said “ if you ever need favor, all you have to do is ask.” I never asked him for that favor because I could never think of the right one to ask. I love that I never used it but always had it in my back pocket, it gave me incredible confidence. I think they were invaluable to me in terms of building my confidence and starting me out on the right foot. I adore them.

 

Is there any one piece of advice they gave you that stuck with you and still sort of drives you?

 

Joanne always told me not to make fun of the material no matter how silly, just don’t make fun of it. That always somehow made sense to me, I understood what she was talking about.Because you have to own it and believe it. She also talked about the right shoes for the character so I’ve always been obsessed with finding the right shoes for the character.

 

You have worked with a lot of directors early in their career much like Jim and Nat. You worked with Sam Mendes first movie and one of Ang Lee’s first films. Do you enjoy working with first time directors?

 

i do. So funny I guess that’s really true, I’ll tell you every single experience I think there has been a real appreciation and  excitement they have. Everyone wants it to go well so everyone’s on the same team.

 

One thing that came across when speaking with Allison Janney is her love for her craft. When speaking about Paul Newman and Ms, Woodward there was a genuine sense of love and reverence for them. Her voice tone immediately changed in a sentimental tone and you could almost feel her love for them.

Allison Janney is a true star and great actress in this industry. Look for no less from her in The Way Way Back.

Moneyball Proves It’s Hard Not To Be Romantic About Baseball

Baseball season is officially underway which means summer is right around the corner. Having already put out a top five baseball movie list, albeit to some controversy for leaving out Field Of Dreams, it’s time to take a deeper look at the movies on the list and we will include Field Of Dreams when we look at each movie.

“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” could have easily been the best line in a baseball movie in sometime and basically summed up last summer’s great movie and Brad Pitt’s best movie in a while, Moneyball.

Moneyball is the true story of the second poorest team in the major leagues in the Oakland A’s and their determined general manager Billy Beane and how he changed the way teams are built and players are evaluated. Sabermetrics is a mathematical system that evaluates the hundreds of stats that baseball has kept track of for 100 years and finds the most productive player at each position and for the best value. Sabermetrics was developed by Bill James many years ago and he was nearly ostracized from the game for trying to change the way people look at this beloved game. Billy Beane’s very controversial use of this system to try and put a winning team on a minimal budget was not well received until it started to work. The A’s of 2002 shocked the baseball community by being competitive and setting records, most notably winning an astonishing 20 games in a row.

Written by Academy Award winner of the previous year, Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball is one of the finest made movies of the year and certainly one of the finest baseball movies in many years. Brad Pitt’s wonderful performance as the beleaguered GM is one of the best of his career. With near perfect dialogue delivery and a comfortableness with his role, Pitt makes you forget you are watching an actor and draws you in and has you pulling for him and the A’s within minutes of the movies beginning.

Moneyball truly shows how romantic baseball can be and how deep the love of the game goes and shows the parallel business side of the game which can be as heartbreaking as any postseason loss there is. Baseball is first and foremost a business despite the passion it’s fans have and the love of the players. It can be a hard and ugly business that shows that unfortunately in the baseball world money talks and money walks. It is near impossible for the poor teams like Oakland and Kansas City to compete with New York and Boston. Beane mentions early on, it’s an unfair game, and it is but that doesn’t curb it’s fan’s love for the game and doesn’t stop it from having those feel good stories like Oakland and Tampa Bay.

Billy Beane changed the near 200 year old game of baseball. He has no ring or banner or pennant to show for it. He turned down the largest contract in GM history after his historic 2002 season because of his love for his team and the game.

Baseball has a special place in Hollywood, it has made some of it’s most romantic scenes and movies. Hollywood makes everyone see how special it is. Hollywood has not made nearly as many memorable football or hockey or basketball movies as it has about baseball.

Moneyball may be a niche movie that could easily be lost on people who don’t like sports or baseball or the statistics that go along with baseball but its a great movie non the less. Pitt and Jonah Hill are a great unlikely team and they make you root for them and the team the whole time.

The movie did show one thing, Billy Beane was right, it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.

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