Tom Shone


    At the Cinema: in “Everest” we see a new kind of hero, as Hollywood’s idea of heroism runs into harsh reality

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, September 14th 2015

    The opening 40 minutes of Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” are probably the best of any film you will see this year. He kicks off with a bang, when a SWAT team rams a truck into a living room in suburban Phoenix. But look at the delicate lozenges of sunlight playing on the curtains before they hit, or the dust that envelops the FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt, pictured), once inside, and her shaking fingers after a chamber of corpses is found entombed in the walls. Villeneuve, as his previous film, “Prisoners”, suggested, is not interested in the violence itself so much as the trembling prelude and jittery aftershock. He has made a real rattlesnake of a movie, all coiled stealth and hidden sting, as befits a film about the drug trade.

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 27th 2015

    In just two years, Oscar Isaac has proven himself the most versatile screen actor to emerge from Hollywood in the last decade. He came to fame playing the self-absorbed folk musician at the heart of the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013). In the two years since, he has played a Greek con artist in the largely unseen but highly rewarding “Two Faces of January”, a Queens oil importer struggling to stay on the right side of the law in J.C. Chandor’s excellent “A Most Violent Year”, and a sleazy, tech-era Mephistopheles in Alex Garland’s equally excellent “Ex Machina”. In each case, he has pulled off assured, unshowy performances without a single whisper about his “commitment”, his “transformation” or his “unrecognisability”—or any of the other buzz words with which actors hold their own against ever more spectacular special effects: come see the movie star morph!

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 14th 2015

    The actress Greta Gerwig has had the same liberating effect on Noah Baumbach as Diane Keaton had on Woody Allen: she has opened him up, lending his films a giddy sense of release. Like Allen, Bambauch’s tendencies are Eeyoreish: his characters, in films such as “Greenberg” and “Margot at the Wedding”, are hyper-articulate injustice collectors who play their nerves like violins. But “Frances Ha”, Baumbach’s first film with Gerwig in 2012, about a young woman trying to find her footing in Manhattan, inhaled deeply of the French nouvelle vagueblack and white cinematography, Georges Delerue soundtrackand outlined in sketch form a new type of screen heroine, a sort of Annie Hall for millennials: absent-minded, free-spirited and a little dizzy, half in love with her own failures, lolloping from one humiliation to the next as if they confirmed her refusal to join the adult world.

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 6th 2015

    The suspicion that the rest of mankind is lying to you is a keen insight in an actor and, at the same time, a recipe for great personal unhappiness. “The most mistrustful man I’ve ever met and the most watchful,” said the screenwriter Stewart Stern of Marlon Brando, a man who raised screen acting to new levels of truthfulness but recoiled from offers of love or friendship as if they were a lie. It’s not that he was gifted but troubled. The gifts were the trouble. Brando saw through everything. “The face can hide many things,” he says in a new documentary, “Listen to Me Marlon”, directed by Stevan Riley and drawing on 300 hours of personal tapes found in the actor’s Beverly Hills home, in which Brando ruminates on his fame, his talent, his failings as a father, voicing regret for a life he feels to have been largely wasted. “I searched but never found what I was looking for,” he confides in that familiar, plummy rasp, like King Lear with a head cold. “Mine was a glamorous life but completely unfulfilling.”

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, August 5th 2015

    There’s been a demob-happy, end-of-school looseness to Jon Stewart as he counts down to his final “Daily Show” on Thursday night. For one thing, he has been blowing kisses to Donald Trump with undisguised glee, not just for being a gift from the gods—“comedy entrapment” as he put it—but for helping to push him across the finishing line. Doing a bit on Mike Huckabee’s characterisation of Obama’s Iran deal as marching Israel “to the door of the oven”, Stewart bypassed words altogether, miming slack-jawed amazement, eye-popping incredulity and Scooby-Doo befuddlement (“Urrgh?”) in what amounted to a small masterclass of silent clowning. The idea seemed to come from Stewart’s dismay at having to write another eye-rolling commentary for another burst of Republican crazy-talk, depletion forcing further invention from him. Exhausted, he still riffs, in part because exhaustion is the correct response to a country in which a deal aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons is compared to the Holocaust.

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, July 15th 2015

    “Back to the Future” celebrated its 30th birthday earlier this month—or so they claim. Time is always a little elastic when it comes to this movie. Thirty years is the amount of time Marty McFly travels in the first film, from 1985 to 1955, inadvertently messing things up for his parents and putting his own existence in jeopardy. And it’s the amount of time that Biff Tannen travels in the second film, from 2015—yes, 2015!—to 1985, in order to take over Hill Valley. The idea that “Back to the Future” was not released in 1985 at all, but put there by time-travelling movie executives eager to plant the idea of a four-quadrant summer hit—a movie, that is, which appeals to Marty McFly, his sister and both parents—in our collective movie-going subconscious cannot easily be discounted. 

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, July 1st 2015

    Collecting movie posters has always been among the more socially acceptable of cinema-related perversions. Above my desk hangs a 5ft Polish poster of Jonathan Demme’s 1986 film “Something Wild”, featuring a geometric rendering of two parted female legs by the acclaimed designer Andrzej Nowaczyk. I bought it not because I speak a word of Polish but because I have always wished for my writing career to proceed from a point equidistant between the knees of Melanie Griffith.

    “It was part of this urge or impulse to possess the cinema experience,” Martin Scorsese has said of his own collection, begun in the 1970s and now numbering some 3,000 posters, 34 of which are currently on show in “Scorsese Collects” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The posters range from Raoul Walsh’s silent classic “Regeneration” (1915) to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). But the great majority hail from the 1940s and 1950s, when Scorsese was a teenage movie fanatic, marinading in flicks like Joseph Lewis’s “Gun Crazy” (1950) or King Vidor’s “Duel in the Sun” (1946), which he remembers for its “bright blasts of deliriously vibrant colour, the gunshots, the savage intensity, the burning sun, the overt sexuality.” He was, at the time, just four years old, an age when most of us are taking in “Bambi”. And you wondered why “Raging Bull” is a little intense.

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    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 15th 2015

    An animated feature for kids acknowledging the cognitive importance of sadness? It has to be a Pixar movie. One day our children will ask us what it was like to be able to roll up and see the new Pixar film the same way we asked our grandparents what it was like to put down a dollar for “Snow White”, “Pinocchio”, “Dumbo” or “Bambi”. Pixar have already matched Disney in the 1940s with a running flush of their own, which includes “Toy Story”, “The Incredibles”, “WALL-E”, “Ratatouille” and “Up”, although there were rumblings of discontent over “Cars” and “Brave”. But good news: the studio’s new film, “Inside Out”, runs the full gamut of emotions we’ve come to expect from Pixar—joy, sadness, anger, fear—with one crucial difference: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear are also its stars.

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    At the Cinema: how do you follow Gandalf and Magneto? With a Sherlock who is 93 and fighting off senility. Tom Shone is on the case

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