Crazy Heart

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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:10 am

Funny how these things work. A few years ago Peter O'Toole couldn't muster much support on his eighth nomination to pull off a win even against weak competition even though he seemed less likely than Jeff Bridges to have another opportunity waiting for him.

Colin Firth, an actor I've always liked, gives a good performance in A Single Man, but the film itself is not the kind of film that wins Oscars - it's too stylized. George Clooney, who gave the year's best performance in my estimation, has a recent Oscar for a film that's already been forgotten. Clooney and Bridges are just the latest in a long line of Oscar winners who won for the wrong film.

If Bridges pulls out all the stops and gives the performance of his career in True Grit will the Academy give him a second Oscar next year, or will they decide one is enough and give it to someone else?

Maggie Gyllenhaal is a good actress, but she's yet to have a really good role in a mainstream movie. Her best performances to date were in the critically lauded, but little seen independents, Secretary, Happy Endings and SherryBaby. Maybe the Oscar nomination will lead to her getting better mainstream offers.
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Postby ITALIANO » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:30 am

As I said, the movie isn't good and Bridges's performance not his best ever, but unlike in the Best Actress race, the fact that Firth or Clooney (unfairly) lost was the kind of Oscar mistake that one can understand and even maybe vaguely approve of - he's objectively one of the great living American actors, and he HAD to have an Oscar.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's nomination is, I admit, much less understandable. I don't know if it's the character or the actress, but it isn't a memorable performance (I've heard that she's been much better in other movies, but nothing she does in Crazy Heart suggests an extremely interesting actress or a strong screen presence). Unless, of course, the Academy is composed by a good percentage of those "old men" who gladly share the fantasy Big Magilla refers to.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Mar 13, 2010 11:55 pm

As I keep saying, it's an old man's fantasy film.

I get the love for Jeff Bridges, and I can appreciate The Weary Kind the way it's used in the film, even though it's a not a particularly good song. Neither is Bridges a particularly good singer, though Colin Farrell is and fortunately he's the one who gets to sing the completed song. Nothing else about the film, however, was worthy of a nomination including Maggie Gyllenhaal's absurd character.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:12 pm

The central love story wasn't bland and mechanical. It was baffling and sick-making. Of all the washed-up, alcoholic musical "geniuses" portrayed onscreen, Bad Blake is one of the most nauseating I've ever seen. He's nearly sixty and spends much of his waking hours in a state of staggering inebriation, he doesn't bathe, he has all sorts of fluids dripping out of him (piss, vomit, etc.), he looks as if his body vapors could kill a stable of horses, and mushrooms are growing on his mattress. And this supposedly responsible woman, this seemingly level-headed single mother, doing all she can to raise a child, keep a job, and make sure her mortgage doesn't go underwater, goes all swoony over this repulsive reprobate a quarter of a century older than she is and trusts him enough to play with her five year old. I ask you, would hire Jim Morrison as your babysitter?



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Postby ITALIANO » Sat Mar 13, 2010 6:34 pm

How many times have we been here? This could be a genre in itself, and one Americans seem to love - a story they want to hear again and again. I'm sure that it's done with honestly and commitment by all those involved, and I wasn't even exactly bored - but certainly never moved, never surprised. The Wrestler had at least a more original setting - this time we are back to country music. Jeff and Maggie don't like each other, it shows, so the central love story, which should lead to the main character's predictable "redemption", feels empty, mechanical.
It would be a rather forgettable, bland movie, but Jeff Bridges is in it, and Jeff Bridges is by now an American icon. While he doesn't have anything to do with Spencer Tracy, he reminds me of Tracy's great natural, unaffected non-acting. This is the kind of role where American actors usually shows all their narcissism and indulge in thei worst, showier tricks - Bridges always seems to want to retreat to the corner of the screen, and has moments of quiet melancholy. It's not his best performance; it's not even his best nominated performance (that's still The Last Picture Show); and it's not the best of this year's Best Actor nominees (in my opinion, at least Firth was clearly better); but it's a good acting turn and his award was far from the worst moment of the night.

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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:18 am

As I said in another thread, it's an old man's fantasy film.

It would have been much more believable if the character had been written as a woman who'd been around the block a few more times, like Marisa Tomei's character in The Wrestler, maybe a woman in her mid-forties who either had a child late in life or perhaps was the grandmother of the kid instead of the mother.

I keep thinking of The Open Road, Jeff Bridges' film that from earlier in the year that apparently nobody but me saw. It was practically the same story except that Bridges was a former major league baseball player still living on his past glory. The difference was that the the bittersweet romance was between his son and the son's on again, off again girlfriend. Bridges' love interest is Mary Steenburgen as his estranged wife.

It wasn't a great movie either but was more believable. Had it had better marketing, it might be the film Bridges would be winning all these awards for.
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Postby Sabin » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:54 am

It's also her casting. Maggie Gyllenhaal has a couple moments that don't work, but she is just wrong for the part. Imagine someone older and a little more worldly than this young, fairly together woman. I don't think she gives a bad performance per se, but she is all wrong for the part.
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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:46 am

Yes, but, the problem as I said is Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, not her performance. She does what she can with the little she's given.

The film is closer in tone to Tender Mercies than it is to The Wrestler.
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Postby Sabin » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:17 am

SPOILERS FOR CRAZY HEART and AN EDUCATION...
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...I'm trying to think of a time in the history of the planet Earth in which Maggie Gyllenhaal's character would allow Bad Blake to be this visible around her child. He is clearly not worth a shit, married five times, and will only present a father figure to him and inevitably disappoint. Sometimes a film will make a narrative choice that is impossible to overlook. I never believed for a moment that Carey Mulligan's character in An Education would go back to school. It's just inconceivable to me that after all Jenny has been through she would just up and go back to school. Carey Mulligan is too convincing as a rebellious spark plug, and the filmmakers just should have chosen somebody else for the part if that was the road they were going to go down. So there's roughly 9/10ths of a very strong performance in An Education to follow. In Crazy Heart, Maggie Gyllenhaal barely gets two or three scenes before I bail on her as a narrative construct. I've read that the novel is based on the singer/songwriter Hank Thomas and, Lord knows, I have no Earthy idea how much of this actually occurred but it certainly isn't believable for a second.

Jeff Bridges is basically winning Mickey Rourke's Oscar last year. I'm still happy with the Academy's decision to award Sean Penn, but Rourke was something truly special in The Wrestler. Actors win Oscars for distillations of their career or surprising transformations. This certainly is a very Jeff Bridges performance, but I can't say it deserves to rank among his five or ten best. It's very difficult to begrudge him a win because he sorely deserves an Oscar, but shouldn't Jeff Bridges win for a performance that's better than half as good as the same one Mickey Rourke gave last year? My writing partner bemoans a tide of what has been described on this board (I think by Tee) as films about "Losers Losing", where you take Americans and drag them through the mud on the way to a redemption that may or may not be waiting. His problem is that they must be made to suffer indignities. I like The Wrestler. I think it's a fairly generic film with very strong directorial touches and an excellent lead performance. Crazy Heart might not seem as generic had the same movie not come out the previous year, but if I were to learn that Jeff Bridges had directed this film I wouldn't doubt it. It is tailor-made to his rhythms, but also androcentric, myopic, and intensely indulgent. By now the words "Jeff Bridges" and "effortless" go hand in hand. This performance Is effortless! The reason that Crazy Heart is being praised is that there really are worse things in the world than hanging out with Jeff Bridges as a drunken country singer. It's a reasonably fun experience, if not a successful film.

But what on Earth compelled those involved to think that this love story would be any kind of believable or compelling? It makes no sense that any of this would happen? Especially considering that Bad Blake pining after Maggie Gyllenhaal's "reporter" and trying to prove himself might be the funnier and more truthful experience towards his redemption. It takes zero effort for this almost-sixty years old alcoholic disaster to lock down a smoking hot single mother and son. So we're treated to idyllic scenes of them together that he hasn't entirely worked for. And he should. I mean, if you're going to rip off The Wrestler, do it correctly. I spent an hour of Crazy Heart just waiting for Bad Blake to lose that kid...and sho' nuff...

I wish I liked Crazy Heart. That would be cool. But it's not good. Maybe had it not arrived with an avalanche of hype, I might be kinder. More than being memorable for Jeff Bridges Oscar-winning performance, it lingers as rewarding one of the lamest moments of Maggie Gyllenhaal's career of which there have been far too many as of late. A marked improvement on Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight, sure, but not much else. She survives the evilness of her character in Away We Go, but it's such an unpleasant role. After half a decade of very commendable performances, this may be her nadir. She is a young actress of rare integrity who is failed by this movie. And got an Oscar nomination for it.
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Postby Big Magilla » Fri Jan 08, 2010 5:29 pm

Another year-end movie, another disappointment.

If Jeff Bridges wins the Oscar for this it will clearly be career achievement based. His performance is essentially the same one he gave in Open Road, the little seen film from earlier in the year for which he received scant attention. It's all in the marketing.

My biggest problem with the film is Maggie Gyllenhaal's character. Why would such a beautiful, been hurt before, young divorcee want with a down-and-out alcoholic old enough to be her father, if not her grandfather? And why would she trust him alone with her impressionable four year old son?

At least in Open Road it's Bridges' son (Justin Timberlake) who gets to love and lose the girl.

Why, aside from the fact that he produced the film, was Robert Duvall billed over the title for his nothing role as a bartender? Unbilled Colin Farrell had a bigger and better part as Bridges' former protege who has passed him by.

The story has no emotional pull. Scenes that could have had big emotional payoffs such as Bridges' call to the son he abandoned and the search for the missing child just fizzle out. If there is an emoptional high point, it's when Farrell joins Bridges on stage or when Farrell, not Bridges, gets to sing the film's theme song in concert, but even those scenes are played without dramatic build-up or tension.

And the music? You've got to be kidding me. All the songs sounded the same including The Weary Kind which is played and sung in snippets throughout, then by Farrell and finally I believe by composer T-Bone Burnett over the closing credits, but as often as I heard it I still can't remember one line from it.
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Postby Damien » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:31 am

I love Jeff Bridges and hope he wins the Oscar and I like (authentic, not pop-style) country music, but I just can't work up any enthusiasm for seeing this film. I think it's because it has the feel of a Tender Mercies redux, and I hated that movie.



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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Dec 30, 2009 12:34 am

Well, possibly you guys lowered my expectations, but I responded to the film quite a bit -- WAY more than The Wrestler, which I still think was as dreary and overrated as anything I saw last year.

This isn't to say Crazy Heart is anything major. It has all those familiar tropes BJ recounted, and, in the final 15 minutes, it more or less confesses it didn't have all that much on its mind to begin with. But I enjoyed the ride. The dialogue and acting have a sprightliness to them that was totally missing in The Wrestler (I don't know if I'd be making a direct comparison without BJ having prompted it, but, having read it, I couldn't help thinking this throughout the film). I appreciated the fact that, while Bad Blake is a screw-up, he's not a loser: he's stilll shown to have talent, and to be enough of a pro to mostly please his audience and sustain his career. The developments in the plot also don't seem to carry the portentousness that Randy the Ram's ups and downs did. Disasters don't arrive on schedule, and often turn out minor irritants rather than the arrival-of-doom events I feared (prime example: the car wreck, which came unexpectedly, and, when you get down to it, led to a pleasant interlude at Janie's rather than something catastrophic). I acknowledge there's one exception to this: the fateful loss-of-Buddy -- the one time my "Please don't let this happen" prayer went unanswered. It..and the subsequent side trip to rehab...are why I think the movie fades near the end -- though I do think the final scene between Bridges and Gyllenhall is perfectly pitched, both in detail and in playing, and send me home content.

Above all, what the film has that Aronofsky's film lacked almost entirely is abundant humor -- not of the laugh-out-loud variety, but of the more or less constant smile. I LIKED being in this world. It didn't bum me out. It pleased me.

Which is my reaction to Bridges, too: so much of what he did -- singing, seducing, griping -- just made me smile...at his skill, and at being able to watch a wonderful performer in a role that fits him like a glove. It'll be a while before I can make a call in the best actor race -- for some reason I've seen almost all the female contenders but few of the men -- but I can say I'd have no problem at all with Bridges' winning for this.

Gyllenhall I also liked, though I thought her putrative big scene -- the tears over his writing a song on her bed -- was the one that rang least true.

I'm not remotely a country music fan, but I liked pretty much all the songs. Are the others, besides Weary Kind, pre-existing and Oscar ineligible? Because I think I liked the Falling/Flying tune almost better.

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Postby OscarGuy » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:08 am

I can see where someone might link the two, but the similarities are all plot-based. Gyllenhaal's character has very little depth (whereas Tomei's had significant background and personal defects and was a sympathetic character). Other than liking Gyllenhaal as an actress, I can't say there's much of interest here from her. Amazingly enough, I was most surprised by Colin Farrell. I know he's got talent, but he drops his brogue and picks up an American country singer's accent without making it sound like some regurgitated acting school fake accent.

Jeff Bridges is definitely good, but I don't feel the personal or emotional connection to his character that I felt for Mickey Rourke (if we must compare the two). And I like Jeff Bridges, and he was probably the best fit for this film, but the construction of the film didn't really give me a deep love for his character or a measurable appreciation for his character. Of course, all of my problems come from the fact that this film feels very much like every country song ever written.
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Postby Okri » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:51 am

I was wondering if it was The Wrestler redux from the trailer.

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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:18 am

The best thing about my viewing experience of Crazy Heart was that, after the film, writer-director Scott Cooper and producer-costar Robert Duvall showed up unannounced to do a Q&A about the film. That was pretty cool -- both were enjoyable speakers and had lots of interesting and humorous anecdotes about the film and for Duvall, his career.

But the movie? Well, I feel about Crazy Heart the way the detractors of The Wrestler felt last year -- my god, how many times do we have to see this story? Bridges plays a down-on-his-luck, washed-up, has-been singer (check!), with an alcohol problem (check!), who falls in love with the MUCH younger beauty Maggie Gyllenhaal (check!). He also has an estranged child (check!), and the film is about how his character, Bad Blake, struggles to reach life redemption (CHECK PLEASE!) I liked The Wrestler last year, but I think the difference between these two films shows how a director with real talent (like Aronofsky) can truly elevate not-groundbreaking material into something more special than what we get with Crazy Heart.

As for Jeff Bridges, he's good. The actor's combination of gruffness and amiability -- something which has made him an appealing screen presence over the years -- fits this role very well. But there's not anything here that would make me really root for an Oscar win, other than career points. (On the other hand, based on those career points, I wouldn't much object to a win either.)

I loved the song "The Weary Kind," though, which we hear snippets of throughout the film, as Bridges's character writes it, and which is finally performed at the film's finale, at the story's emotional high point. After the Springsteen fiasco last year, and all of this year's bizarre rule changes, I'm not about to declare anything a sure bet in that category. But this is just about the only song all year I've heard that I'd want to recognize in Original Song. Here's hoping it doesn't get left out in the cold.


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