127 Hours reviews

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Postby Reza » Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:58 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I don't quite understand this latter-day propensity for establishing favorites before we've seen the full field.

I agree but it's usually based on a feeling. Could be, as you mentioned, a case like Helen Mirren's (or Jeff Bridges last year) where the actor has had a long and distinguished career but never been rewarded. It can also be a particular role coupled with an actor who recently fell through the cracks and lost the Oscar race. Firth falls into the latter category.....a decent enough and fairly popular actor playing a British monarch (with an affliction to boot) and who gave a superb performance last year in A Single Man but lost the award.

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:56 pm

Big Magilla wrote: I was right last year, however, when you all scoffed when I predicted Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock months before either performance was given much of a chance.

I'll give full credit for Sandra Bullock, but I don't recall a soul scoffing at Jeff Bridges. I know the moment I heard he had a serious entry I viewed him as very viable, and only hoped it didn't turn out to be a typical false alarm.

In general, though, I'm with flipp -- unless an early performance seems for-the-ages, or is the work of a clearly overdue veteran like Helen Mirren, I never view anyone as more than a contender till the year-end awards. I don't quite understand this latter-day propensity for establishing favorites before we've seen the full field.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:46 pm

Either/or but I suspect this is the more commercially viable of the two. Hopefully he won't fail to be nominated due to vote splitting, and I declared Firth the front-runner months ago.

I also declared Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) the front-runner in the Best Actress category months ago. Except for Toy Story 3 in Animated Feature, however, I have no clue in any of the other categories.

Front-runner does not necessarily denote a winner. I called Julie Christie the front-runner three years ago and we all know how that turned out. I was right last year, however, when you all scoffed when I predicted Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock months before either performance was given much of a chance.
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Postby flipp525 » Sun Sep 05, 2010 1:03 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Yep, Franco's a contender but Firth's the front-runner.

Oh, goodness. Are we really declaring "front-runners" in the opening days of September? This is part of what makes the entire awards season seem like such a foregone conclusion.

Does Franco stand a better chance of being nominated for 127 Days or for his even more Academy-friendly role in the Allen Ginsberg biopic, Howl?

Edited By flipp525 on 1283714272
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:54 pm

Variety's take.

127 Hours
A Fox Searchlight release presented with Pathe of a Cloud Eight/Decibel Films/Darlow Smithson production in association with Everest Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Down Prods., Big Screen Prods. Produced by Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, John Smithson. Executive producers, Bernard Bellew, John J. Kelly, Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Lisa Marie Falcone, Tessa Ross. Co-producers, Tom Heller, Gareth Smith. Directed by Danny Boyle. Screenplay, Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, based on the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston.

Aron Ralston - James Franco
Megan - Amber Tamblyn
Kristi - Kate Mara
Rana - Clemence Poesy
Aron's Dad - Treat Williams
Aron's Mom - Kate Burton
Sonja - Lizzy Caplan

Danny Boyle has taken us to the surface of the sun ("Sunshine") and the end of the world as we know it ("28 Days Later"), testing the limits of human endurance with each radically different project. "127 Hours" takes the adrenaline rush one step further, pitting man against nature in the most elemental of struggles as Boyle compresses the true story of rock-climbing junkie Aron Ralston, who spent five days wrestling with a boulder after a rockslide pinned his arm against a canyon wall, into an intense 93 minutes. Marketed correctly, pic should spell another hit for the high-energy helmer.

On paper, "127 Hours" would seem to buck convention on multiple fronts: The film revolves around a single actor (James Franco) stuck in one location ("Between a Rock and a Hard Place," to borrow the title of Ralston's memoir) for most of its running time, and though it packs an uplifting ending, that emotional victory comes at the expense of the hero's right arm -- depicted in a gruesome climax that caused a number of people to faint at the film's premiere in Telluride (located just three hours from Bluejohn Canyon, Utah, where the events took place).

Blatantly noncommercial elements aside, Boyle and co-writer Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire") have managed to craft quite an accessible film after all, opening up the action with a sexy prologue featuring two lost hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, whose carefree early scenes would feel right at home in Boyle's "The Beach") and using several hallucinatory visions drawn directly from Ralston's book, all the better to re-create his frame of mind at the time -- a task that relies on two cinematographers, Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, to achieve the film's gorgeous supersaturated look.

While Franco can sometimes be a wild card, getting increasingly self-conscious with recent roles (most notably his guest-starring stunt on "General Hospital"), his take on Ralston feels both credible and compelling; few actors could have made us care so much, or disappeared so completely into the role. With very little time to establish the young man's backstory, Franco uses his Method acting technique to slip into Ralston's skin, making it that much easier for us to vicariously do the same. We "get" him instantly, thanks in part to an energetic opening montage, spread across three rapidly changing screens and cut to Free Blood's "Never Hear Surf Music Again," that places the young engineering student's interest in the outdoors within the broader American phenomenon of extreme sports. Ralston may be rather reckless, flipping his bike and so forth on his way to the canyon, but he knows what he's doing, and the accident wasn't necessarily his fault: While he was testing his weight on a loose chockstone, the rock gave way and crushed him beneath it.

Over the course of the next hour, Ralston will cycle through all five stages of grief (with "acceptance" ultimately being the decision to remove his arm), while making room for some serious soul-searching. With death looming, he replays memories of his family, an intimate night shared with g.f. Megan (Clemence Poesy) and his eventual breakup -- all serving to interrupt the monotony of dehydration and helplessness. As the days pass, his visions become more vivid and abstract -- one day he hosts an unsettling gameshow-like monologue with himself, complete with laugh track, the next he dreams of a harrowing flash flood -- before culminating in a fateful premonition.

Just as director Rodrigo Cortes did in the recent stuck-in-a-coffin thriller "Buried," Boyle constantly repositions the camera to help dispel the potential claustrophobia of it all, sometimes pulling weird trick shots (such as the straw's-eye view of Ralston's dwindling water supply). Since the real Ralston brought a camcorder along on the hike, the film treats some of the footage as if the character were documenting the situation himself, letting the writers get away with a fair amount of explanatory dialogue, along with the occasional tension-breaking one-liner.

As nerve-racking as the whole predicament is, it's surprising how much humor manages to sneak in, with A.R. Rahman's Western-sounding synthpop score building from tension to ultimate triumph (with a boost from the original Dido collaboration "If I Rise"). Many will come out of sheer curiosity about Ralston's self-administered amputation (whether or not they manage to keep their eyes open during the scene itself), but the scenes that follow are even more effective, right up to the closing images of the real Ralston, still chasing the adrenaline dream.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:18 pm

Yep, Franco's a contender but Firth's the front-runner.
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Postby Sabin » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:14 pm

...and some other notes. I'm certainly interested. It looks like a reasonable challenge to keep a movie like this compelling. Franco seems to be a decent bet.

Danny Boyle Comes Back To Telluride Film Festival As Oscar Hopefuls Start Screening
By Pete Hammond | Saturday September 4, 2010 @ 5:26pm PDT

TELLURIDE: Danny Boyle says there are still a couple of things to “figure out” before a final print can be struck. But the Oscar-winning director returned today to the Galaxy Theatre at the Telluride Film Festival with the “unofficial” world premiere of 127 Hours -- his first film since Slumdog Millionaire took home 8 Oscars just 1 1/2 years ago. It’s a good luck spot for Boyle as he had just finished Slumdog three days before its Telluride premiere, which became the launching pad for what would become an awards season blowout for the popular movie.

It was déjà vu this afternoon for me and others who were there that Saturday two Tellurides ago in the exact same venue. Today, the house was packed for both the 127 Hours screening and the Q&A that followed featuring Boyle, his producer Christian Colson, star James Franco, and the real life inspiration for the film, Aron Ralston, whose memoir Between A Rock And A Hard Place was the basis for Boyle’s and Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation. It's about the harrowing true story of a young canyoneer who gets trapped in a deep narrow cave for 127 hours before extracting himself from a crushing boulder by cutting off his right arm with a small knife. And it has been expertly brought to the screen by the director who finds a way to put “urgency” in every frame despite the fact that the entire film is basically one man vs. the elements. It’s a tour-de-force for Franco, virtually never off screen in the same way Spencer Tracy triumphed in the similarly spare The Old Man And The Sea (1958). Franco's performance could put him in contention for a best actor Oscar nod just as Tracy’s did over 50 years ago. It should be noted that Franco’s “farewell to arm” scene is graphic and not for the squeamish.

Using fast cutting, flashbacks and two cinematographers, Boyle makes this thing cook even though he ironically admitted afterwards that he’s really an “urban” filmmaker, hates the countryside, and thinks most “wilderness films are boring”. That initially made the outdoorsman Ralston wonder why Boyle wanted to film the story in the first place. Seeing it nearly finished for the first time today, Ralston says he was in tears through the second half, right from the moment the “sunlight” poked through.

For distributor Fox Searchlight, which plans a November release, 127 Hours is just one of three awards season players they have brought to Telluride. Friday night, Never Let Me Go stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, director Mark Romanek, screenwriter Alex Garland and the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, all turned up to introduce the first-ever public unveiling of this highly unusual sci-fi film dealing with themes of love and death. It's distinguished by superb work from its promising young cast, led by Mulligan and Garfield, who all drew special praise from its very pleased author Ishiguro who described the film version of his best seller as a tremendous showcase for new British acting talent who are “inventing a style all their own”. Romanek (One Hour Photo) told the nearly sold-out crowd he had two dreams: to make this book into a film, and to come to Telluride. On Sunday, Searchlight’s Black Swan (December 1) and troupe blow into town direct from their Venice triumph for the unofficial North American premiere, billed here as a “sneak preview”.

Earlier Saturday, at the Chuck Jones theatre, a packed house caught the first screening here of The Weinstein Company’s Best Picture contender and Thanksgiving release, The King’s Speech. Afterwards the crowd greeted director Tom Hooper and stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush with a standing ovation. This stylishly entertaining, brilliantly acted period piece about the stuttering problems of England’s King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth) and his relationship with a speech therapist is, to put it simply, catnip for Academy voters. No doubt Harvey’s already got one of the ten Best Picture slots locked up for this. Firth will be the recipient of a special tribute to his career Sunday night.

This morning, across town, there was an emotional screening at Masons Hall for a new documentary from director Shlomi Eldar, Precious Life, the agonizing story of a young Gaza woman who goes to an Israeli hospital to save the life of her five month old son Muhammad suffering from the same genetic disease that took the lives of her other two children. Against the background of death and destruction all around them, this is a film that asks what is the value of life. Immediately following the showing, the real-life mother, her husband, and now three years old (and thriving) Muhammad were “Skyped” in from their Gaza home for a remarkable modern-age Q&A with the 150 members of the Telluride audience. Producer Ehud Bleiberg, most recently at the Festival with Adam Resurrected and The Band’s Visit, told me a deal was just closed with HBO Documentary Films. HBO plans to air it in the second quarter of 2011 -- but not before qualifying it for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar next week with 7-day runs in LA (at Laemmle’s in Encino) and NY. At the pay channel’s request, the director got the HBO logo on the front of the film just moments before hitting Telluride. Due to the gut-wrenching but ultimately hopeful subject matter and execution of this effort, a strong list of Doc contenders just got stronger. Bleiberg is determined to have this film seen everywhere around the world even if it means “we have to pirate it in the Middle East”.

And speaking of docs, Oscar winning documentarian Errol Morris (Fog of War) is premiering his hilarious new work, Tabloid, a have-to-see-it-to-believe-it story of a wacko former southern beauty queen who became a sex-in-chains bimbo tabloid sensation in England in the 1970’s and has lived to tell the tale. Morris discovered the 2006 Boston Globe story about her more recent efforts to clone her dearly departed dog, Booger. Morris shot all his interviews in just three days for this unusual and lively doc causing lots of talk on the streets here. It’s sure to get a distribution deal – and fast.
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