Met with John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone,” “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” “Deadwood”) this morning. What a gracious and personable guy. Right now he’s the clear frontrunner for the best actor Oscar for “The Sessions,” in which he plays a polio victim in an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity. But obviously there’s competition coming.
Then I saw three films which may or may not actually make it to theaters in Detroit — I’m not sure if any of them have found distribution yet. None of them were duds, but all of them dared to be… interesting, which is dicey these days.
First off was “The Iceman,” with Michael Shannon starring as a real-life legendary hitman. Shannon is, as you might assume, awesomely terrifying, and there was some nice support from Winona Ryder (!), Ray Liotta and Chris Evans (!). But the film was pretty linear — this guy kills people. OK.
Next was “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” an ensemble piece directed by, co-written by and co-starring Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a rambling Americana piece about a family in Alabama that becomes intertwined with a British family after a death in 1969. It’s funny and it’s sad and it’s twisted and it’s Billy Bob. The ensemble is astounding: Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt, Ray Stevenson, Robert Patrick (shining) and a lot of other under-the-radar talent. The over-riding themes are war and family and at least this is a film that has over-riding themes. There are a lot of things to like about this movie, a lot. Cinema needs it some more Billy Bob.
Last was “Arthur Newman,” with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, another rambling film about two people running away from who they are who happen to meet up and bond. Look, these are actors who can’t be ignored, they’re as good as it pretty much gets, and the script — they start out in Florida and travel to Indiana — gives them plenty of room to move, both physically and emotionally. This was written by Becky Johnston (“Prince of Tides”), who does about one film a decade, so it’s smart and interesting and alluring… to film people. Whether it has the sizzle (and that’s a sad measure) to make it to theaters is another thing. I’m guessing the art house circuit.
My favorite films of he festival (in case you can’t tell) were “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Impossible” and “The Sessions”: I see them all as major Oscar players and potentially big crowd-pleasers if marketed right.
But there are a lot of contenders yet to come. That’s a good thing.