Posted at 9:55 AM on January 29, 2008
by Euan Kerr
I joined a small but attentive crowd at the Roseville Theater late last evening to catch Amy Ryan's best supporting actress nominated performance as drug addicted mother Helene McCready. Based on a Dennis Lehane novel, the story revolves around the disappearance and possible kidnapping of McCready's daughter Amanda.
It's a brutal little story set against wretched neighborhoods in Boston hammered by poverty, drugs, and gangs. It's a place where conventional morality is often set aside, and when the issue of child abuse and abduction gets added the equation becomes so twisted as to be almost unrecognizable.
Ben Affleck in his first directorial effort makes good use of his brother Casey as private detective Patrick Kenzie. As someone who knows the neighborhood, he's asked by Amanda's Aunt Bea to augment the police investigation, and despite some initial scepticism from the cops, soon begins turning up leads.
Amy Ryan creates in Helene McCready an unlikable but very watchable character. Helene is foul-mouthed and aggressive. She has maternal instincts, but Ryan plays her as being so self-centered that it's never clear what is driving her actions. Does she want Amanda back because she misses her, or is it just a chance to be a minor celebrity in front of the wall of TV cameras set up outside her house?
Predicting this category is a real head scratcher. Ryan is up against a teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan for "Atonement,") the winner of the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, (Ruby Dee for "American Gangster,") a perennial favorite who won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton,") and the real wild card, the actress nominated for playing a male icon, who is also nominated for lead actress (Cate Blanchett as one of the Bob Dylans in "I'm Not There.")
While I am still taking in some of these films, it's hard to forget how Linda Hunt won the Best Supporting Actress for playing a guy in "The Year of Living Dangerously." At the moment my money is with Blanchett
(Also remember Casey Affleck is nominated this year for best supporting actor for his role as Robert Ford in awkwardly titled "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.")
Posted at 5:23 PM on January 29, 2008
by Euan Kerr
Chris Eska is polite and relatively quiet when compared with some of the film directors who have stumbled through the MPR studio doors. He's here for a sold-out screening of his first feature "August Evening" at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis. The film is up for two Independent Spirit Awards this year, (for best male lead actor and for the Cassavetes Awards for the best film made for less than $500,000) and he's in town looking for votes.
The film is remarkable in it's lush presentation and when he let it drop that he actually spent less than $40,000 on the film it was hard to believe. He says he was able to get a huge amount of help from his hometown of Gonzales in Texas.
The film is completely made in Spanish, which is also remarkable, given that Eska wrote the film, and he doesn't speak the language. He says he likes to make films which use the subtleties of gesture and glance to tell a lot of the story. He's had some practice. He made his first film, a short called "Doki-Doki," in Japanese in Tokyo. He doesn't speak Japanese either.
"I actually find it freeing," he says. "I don't feel that language and dialog is really what cinema does best. I find that the subtle sort of looks in people's eyes and subtle glances are really what film does best, and I find that if I don't get hung up on every single word and the syntax then it allows me to concentrate on what I feel is important in the scene."
Eska hopes that members of Film Independent will like the film and vote. He says he also hopes the film will return to Minnesota when it is released later in the year.