WEIRDLAND

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Happy 43rd birthday, Matt Damon!

Matt Damon takes the podium at the Education on the Edge Lecture Series held at California State University on Wednesday (October 2) in Northridge, Calif. The 42-year-old actor introduced the Former U.S. Assistant Secretary Of Education Diane Ravitch as speaker that day.

"Building a strong, solid, educated middle class is ultimately the best thing for America. Someone like FDR. There's a misconception that leaders lead. They don't. They follow. Every great movement has come from the bottom up." -Matt Damon (on what kind of political leadership he supports)

-You have four daughters. Do you enjoy being the only man in the house? Damon: -I’m lucky to be the only guy in the house. It’s a man’s dream. The testosterone deficit at home makes me very special: You learn a lot by looking at the world from their point of view. I’m now convinced we’re different species, more than I thought before.

-Do you feel women understand men? Damon: -Oh, I think they understand us totally. I just don’t think we can completely understand them. Source: www.redbull.com

Vanity Fair: -What do you consider your greatest achievement? Matt Damon: -My marriage, so far. Asked by Vanity Fair for their Proust questionnaire, when and where he was happiest, Matt answered: "In our bed, making our children, and in the hospital watching them being born." Matt also revealed his personal motto is "Don't be a d-bag." Source: www.gossipcop.com

Quietly and unexpectedly, Matt Damon has become the premier Hollywood actor of the past decade. He’s lent his minutely constructed, surprisingly athletic performances to the films of directors Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, Paul Greengrass, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, a roster that’s not coincidentally produced some of the most vital and successful films of the past ten years. His remarkable career isn’t simply a matter of a good agent. It’s all in the manner in which he so carefully adapts his particular skills to the roles.

Damon’s commitment is displayed on his body, which he relentlessly crafts to the specifications of each character — he’s almost the anti-movie star in his physical malleability.

Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon in "True Grit" (2010) directed by Ethan & Joel Cohen

Damon’s preferred personas: withdrawn nebbishes or moody muscular specimens. The first group would include the “Ocean’s” franchise, “Stuck On You,” “The Good Shepherd,” and “The Informant!”. The second contains “All the Pretty Horses,” the “Bourne” franchise, “The Departed” and the forthcoming “Invictus.” “Gerry” lies somewhere in between. But each extreme utilizes his physicality, with his literally weighty roles emphasizing the slapstick and satire of uncooperative bodies instead of the precise control of his action work.

Even in “The Good Shepherd,” Damon buries himself in a trenchcoat and wire-rimmed glasses, eschewing parody but emphasizing his CIA analyst’s passivity and hyper-intellectualism. The effectiveness of Damon’s portrayals isn’t simply achieved by his physicality, however, but by the subtle variations and tics he works into them.

Damon takes a similarly detailed approach to his signature role, Jason Bourne. It’s a streamlined take that only begins with the weight trainer. He deadens his voice and clips his delivery into staccato bursts, the mark of a man only concerned with how to stay alive for the next five minutes. He stands ramrod straight, and bores holes into people’s eyes, rarely blinking. It’s a coiled readiness that’s the inverse of Bob’s closed-off vulnerability. In fight or flight scenes, he pistons his arms and legs down with mechanical regularity, bulldozing through crowds with the same speed as director Paul Greengrass’ edits.

There’s always the presence of fleshly mortality in Damon’s work, from Bourne’s elusive brushes with death to the decadent decay of Mark Whitacre’s middle-aged body.

He and Casey Affleck play wandering fools both named Gerry, who drift around Utah’s national parks after their car breaks down. They exchange opaque bits of improvised dialogue as they slowly dehydrate and collapse in the salt flats.

Damon lopes through the movie with a self-confidence verging on psychosis, as the pair’s attempts at re-orienting themselves devolve into childish game playing. Their faith in play, re-shaping words and actions into little blackout sketches, is unerring until the last desperate shot of the duo, caked with dust and dying by the side of the road.

Damon’s work in “The Informant!” extends his interest in performance and self-delusion, but in the withdrawn nebbish mode. Mark Whitacre’s body is a walking punchline, a marvel of ill-fitting suits, manicured mustaches and rapidly expanding waistlines. He’s literally coming apart at the seams physically before he does it psychologically.

The whistleblower who brought down a price-fixing scheme at Archer Daniels Midland, Whitacre is also a classic American overachiever, raking in millions from an embezzlement scheme that he kept a secret from everyone, including himself. He proliferated so many lies he began to believe some of them, almost willing himself into bipolar disorder. Director Steven Soderbergh emphasizes the man’s duality through his use of voiceover, which features Whitacre’s perplexing digressions, constantly veering away from personal revelations to ponder the weather, food prices and polar bears.

Damon’s voice is slightly nasal, flat and disarmingly vulnerable. He’s at pains to make everyone love him, but his anxiety seeps in at the edges through his constant fidgeting with his glasses, his slightly stooped walk and the furtive tugs at his delicately poofy wig. It’s a finely wrought performance, which slowly reveals Whitacre’s duplicity while never abandoning the character’s pathos.

He’s an eminently likable pathological liar, a seemingly transparent dope who hides his pain in nervous twitches and brief explosions of self-doubt. His hesitation when an FBI agent uncovers his letter forgery is quietly devastating. You can see Damon’s eyes scan back and forth, looking to construct another rhetorical defense, but he’s finally pushed past his breaking point, and even his voiceover collapses and tells the truth: he didn’t have any answers. According to the real Mark Whitacre in the Decatur Herald and Review: “It's like I was two people. I assume that's why they chose Matt Damon for the movie, because he plays those roles that have such psychological intensity. In the ‘Bourne' movies, he doesn't even know who he is.”

Matt Damon: an actor of precise physical control and dense emotional shading, whose action heroes are given the same detailed treatment as his indie film grotesques, all of which are at the center of the most influential films of the decade. He’s a subtle miniaturist who also happens to be a gigantic star, a rare and wonderful thing. Source: www.ifc.com

Other than a famous guest spot in Sarah Silverman's video, “I'm fucking Matt Damon” on the Jimmy Kimmel show in 2008, his marriage has been as solid and dependable as his career.

He met Argentinian Luciana Barroso in a bar in Miami in 2003 (she was the bartender) and married her in 2005; the couple have three young daughters and Barroso has another, Alexia, from a previous relationship. Self-deprecation is clearly Damon's style. He once quipped that his scripts were “the cast-offs from Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio”.

Promised Land has been singled out for criticism for its portrayal of fracking, unsurprisingly by supporters of the method, but also by a group of farmers living near the real-life film set in Pennsylvania. They set up a Facebook group to accuse the film-makers of having “a condescending view of farmers”. When the film was released in the US in December 2012, the industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition was sufficiently perturbed to buy an onscreen advert to be shown in cinemas alongside the movie. So far the movie has made half of its $15m budget back – but in Europe it has been more favourably received, winning a Special Mention at the Berlin International Film Festival this year.

“I don't think it deserves this kind of withering attack,” says Damon. “There isn't a scene in the movie that I would change or do differently, but it didn't get the reception I hoped for. Sometimes people find movies later on, and I personally love it. I really don't understand the criticism that I've been hearing back.” The film explored something which is particularly on the actor's mind, namely “the American identity, and what will be left behind for future generations? It's a heart-breaking situation in rural America at the moment. You think a recession hits a city hard? Go to the countryside." Source: www.independent.co.uk

"The values that I have are the values I was raised with, from where I'm from, which is a middle-class place," Damon says. "So that informs everything about me, my politics and all that stuff. I mean, politically I vote against my own self-interest at every election. I actively ask these people to raise my taxes. But I believe a solid, really strong middle-class is the key to making the country in the best way."

There is evidence that Damon will continue taking more risks with his work. He has recently completed a biopic of Liberace called Behind the Candelabra. Despite an enviable roster of talent – Michael Douglas is Liberace, Damon plays his long-term partner Scott Thorson, and Steven Soderbergh directs – the film was turned down by every major US movie studio for being, in Soderbergh's words, "too gay". Damon admits the film will not appeal to everyone – "They can change the channel" – and that it was a stretch, at least initially, for him to play a part that involved nakedness and impassioned clinches with Michael Douglas.

"If you're trying to play an everyman, you've got to have the same concerns and be struggling with the same issues as the people who are coming to see the movie. A movie about a narcissistic, rich movie star would not work, unless you were making a take-down. If you are writing a story and trying to draw an audience to come and hear you tell it, it's got to in some way relate to them," says Damon. Source: www.theguardian.com

Matt Damon as Rudy Baylor: "Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn't really mean to cross... it just happens... And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you're nothin but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water." ("The Rainmaker," directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1997)

Matt Damon as Will Hunting: "I look at a piano, I see a bunch of keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it, they could just play. I couldn't paint you a picture, I probably can't hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can't play the piano." ("Good Will Hunting" directed by Gus Van Sant in 1997)

Matt Damon as Private Ryan: "Hell, these guys deserve to go home as much as I do. They've fought just as hard. You can tell her that when you found me, I was with the only brothers I had left. And that there was no way I was deserting them. I think she'd understand that." ("Saving Private Ryan" directed by Steven Spielberg in 1998)

Matt Damon as Mike McDermott: "Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." ("Rounders", directed by John Dahl in 1998)

Tom Ripley kisses Meredith, full of future, in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) directed by Anthony Minghella

Tom Ripley: "I'm lost, too. I'm going to be stuck in the basement, aren't I terrible and alone and dark - and I've lied about who I am, and where I am, and so nobody can ever find me."

Matt Damon as Rannulph Junnah and Charlize Zeron as Adele Invergordon in "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000) directed by Robert Redford

Matt Damon as Rannulph Junnah: "You see every drink of liquor you take kills a thousand brain cells. Now that doesn't much matter 'cos we got billions more. And first the sadness cells die so you smile real big. And then the quiet cells go so you just say everything real loud for no reason at all. That'ok, that's ok because the stupid cells go next, so everything you say is real smart. And finally, come the memory cells. These are tough sons of bitches to kill."

Monday, October 07, 2013

Scarlett Johansson: Sexiest Woman Alive (twice)

In the movie she has out right now, Don Jon, she plays the hot, manipulative girlfriend of a porn addict. She makes a hootchie girl elegant, offering ascendant beauty in every scene. Hers is an unstressed beauty, which may be why her look is so mutable, more slender than buxom and fleshy.

Scarlett Johansson & Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Don Jon" (2013)

Her next movie is Under the Skin, a horror film in which she plays a flesh-tearing supernatural wandering across Scotland. In this bar today, she does not look like that horny Catholic in Don Jon for a dozen reasons you already know: She's wiped out from the photo shoot, wearing no makeup, different shoes, different bra, and so on.


"I'm exhausted and this is my last day in the world," she says, sunglasses off now. "This is the last day, and this is the last piece of work. Then I'm taking a month-long vacation. But I'm not going anywhere, which just makes it more of a staycation. There's luxury in being near home. When you spend a lot of time, like I do, just standing around and waiting, or being moved from place to place, every minute gets consumed by something someone else has set up for you. And it's not like I'm always in a beautiful place wearing something gorgeous. I've stood around bogs wearing half a million dollars' worth of jewelry, up to my knees in the rot, thinking how much more or less the place smelled like a sewer than it did the day before. And that is not what you'd call a problem exactly; it just wears you out. What I want to do right now is sleep late, read the paper. I've come to see that there's something pretty great about having two hours to read."

Why accept the title Sexiest Woman Alive if everything is so busy just now? Here, she shrugs. "I'm the only woman to win it twice, right?" she says.
"So it's okay, even if you have no reason to be jealous?" I ask. "Look, I'm with a Frenchman. I think jealousy comes with the territory. But I'd rather be with someone who's a little jealous than someone who's never jealous. There's something a little dead fish about them. A little bit depressing. It may not make sense, but you need to feel it a little. I know, irrational, right?" She sips water and thinks. "I didn't think I was a jealous person," she says, "until I started dating my current, my one-and-only. I think maybe in the past I didn't have the same kind of investment. Not that I liked my partner less, I just wasn't capable of it or caring that much."

Scarlett Johansson & Josh Hartnett in "The Black Dahlia" (2006)

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in "We Bought a Zoo" (2011)

I can muster only this: "Do you like wearing sunglasses?" To which I add: "I guess you'd have to." Brilliant. "Oh," she says, emphasizing the Oh before she looks away. She lifts and drops the glasses in place on the bridge of her nose. "I do. I have sensitive eyes. The light really gets me." She looks out to the sea, across the road and over a dune, as if testing things. I believe she sighed then, but I can't really say. What she said: "There's that. And, well, you know. I have to live behind them, because I'm a movie star." She lifts an eyebrow, acknowledging the simple truth of it. It's her trademark I-dare-you glance. Then, with some lip-pursing and a calculated shrug, she pinches her eye and mutters, just like some old guy making sandwiches in his kitchen apron, "Whatta you gonna do?" Source: www.esquire.com

Friday, October 04, 2013

Jake Gyllenhaal, the mysterious gumshoe in "Prisoners", Invented physiognomy

Jake Gyllenhaal in Elle Men (China) magazine, 2013

"I love that my man Jake Gyllenhaal is back as a hard-hitting actor. His portrayal of Detective Loki is mysterious, empathetic, tough, and believable—all without a backstory. All we know about Loki is that he spends Thanksgiving alone at a Chinese restaurant and that he has never foiled a case. He is the perfect engine for this contemporary noir where each turn (well, almost each turn) in the narrative is believable and gripping. But more than that, he embodies the “complex simplicity” that Thoreau speaks of. He tells little with words but tells so much with presence and clues. Clock my man’s crazy tattoos and the erratic blinking he does whenever he is thinking hard about something. Scope his shirts buttoned esse-style, all the way to the top.

These are the signals of a confident and searching actor and they signify to viewers that Detective Loki is a force to be reckoned with in his world. Even though Loki has a shadowy backstory, these little clues are all we need to fall in love with him." Source: www.vice.com

As Max Allan Collins points out, in contrast to the gumshoe heroes of Black Mask, Dick Tracy began as a landmark police procedural, with Tracy performing ballistics tests, using lie detectors, and tracing fingerprints, combining criminal forensics with a ratiocinative mode that updated Holmes for a modern urban America.

Nevertheless, the unprecedented violence that Gould brought to Dick Tracy combined with the vividness of his villains to ensure that the unambiguous moral universe of the strip avoided sanctimoniousness. Many major 1930s’ adversaries were based upon real-life criminals such as Al Capone (Big Boy) and John Dillinger (Boris Arson); others, as Richard Pietryzyk notes, were “caricatures of various Hollywood personalities such as James Cagney, Greta Garbo, and Boris Karloff ” (who would belatedly embody this by appearing as the deadly Gruesome in RKO’s Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (John Rawlins, 1947)). The 1940s saw the wartime strips escalate both the levels of violence and the grotesqueness of the villains in tune with the times, reveling in what Garyn G. Roberts describes as an escalation of “invented physiognomy.” -"A Companion to Film Noir" (2013) by Andrew Spicer & Helen Hanson