Tagged Tim Blake Nelson

Minority Report’s Speculative Fiction is All Kinds of Awesome

Minority Report. 2002. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay by Jon Cohen & Scott Frank; based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick.
Starring Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Neal McDonough, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jessica Capshaw, Anna Maria Horsford, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Tim Blake Nelson, Lois Smith, Mike Binder, Jessica Harper, & Peter Stormare. Amblin Entertainment-Cruise/Wagner Productions-Blue Tulip Productions.
Rated PG-13. 145 minutes.
Action/Mystery/Sci-Fi

★★★★1/2
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Steven Spileberg is one of those directors whose work usually calls me back to a specific time in life. The memorable cinematic experiences of my early days were informed by Jaws which is the reason for my fear of deep water, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and its long lasting effect on my strange interests (aliens, paranormal, so on; even though I’m a major sceptic), as well as the adventure and thrill I found in Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course the emotional ride that is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. So many times, Spielberg wowed my young mind, as he did to so many, many others long before me. And yet even while I grew up the classics kept on coming. Jurassic Park changed my life in terms of how I saw movies, that they could be action-oriented and full of science fiction, that the adult and childhood interests in dinosaurs could find a way to fuse in one exciting bit of fiction. On top of everything, Spielberg has dipped his talent into producing a vast number of projects, many of which are classics in their own right without him having taken the reins as director. So usually if his name is attached, I’ll watch a movie simply for that sake, no matter how it turns out.
Minority Report didn’t get ravaged by critics, in fact it generally received a positive turn out. Furthermore, the movie did well domestically and overseas; the profit was more than triple its budget of just over $100-million. At the same time, I feel it’s not as well remembered as it ought to be when considering how great a movie it is, from acting to the direction to the overall look and atmosphere. Reason being that 2002 was a massive year in film, including releases such as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Men in Black II, Die Another Day, Signs, The Count of Monte Cristo, and those are just the big ones. Getting lost in the cracks, Minority Report is one of Spielberg’s best post-2000, and one of the last legitimate dives into sci-fi that he took (until taking on duties for Ready Player One). There’s enough excitement and intrigue in this movie to fill a few of them. Cruise gives a solid performance, and Spielberg keeps us on the edge of our seats while we roam the futuristic landscapes of an America that feels not too far off. Ultimately, Spielberg and the writers explore Dick’s story while asking if the technological advancements our society is capable of can manage to outwit the corruption and moral weakness at the hands of the people tasked with using that very technology. The bottom line of Minority Report concerns morality, humanity among the advancements of science, and the will of man to do evil, despite all odds.
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The entire process of the Precrime system is a ton of fun. Spielberg really went to town on coming up with the whole thing. I’d like to know more about how the design was decided. Just that room where Cruise’s character does his thing with the screens, those tailor-made wooden, varnished balls, every last detail is incredibly fun. Of course part of this most likely comes from the original short story by Philip K. Dick, though as I understand it the story’s been changed a good deal. I don’t doubt Dick’s story definitely has plenty of the detail Spielberg then used to come up with the look of his Washington, D.C. law enforcement facility of the future. However, part of it is definitely the master filmmaker himself putting his mark upon the adapted material.
One thing I’ve always loved is the design of the roadways, even the cars themselves. The chase scenes are incredible. Funny how certain reviews out there, by professional critics, have claimed these scenes are silly. Really? Are we watching the same movie? Because these chase scenes are perfectly science fiction and every bit the epitome of action. Totally exciting. That first sequence where Cruise is jumping down across the various vehicles is heart pounding. As far as the visual effects go, there are only one or two slight missteps. When you’re not dealing in practical effects, CGI and the like can sometimes let you down. Luckily, these moments are seldom, only one or twice throughout the over two hour runtime. The large majority of the effects look great, keep the pulse thumping, and add another nice element to the dark, gritty nature of the story and its feel.
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A huge part of what interests me is the idea of the surveillance state. We’ve almost got this amplified version of the CCTV-laced streets in the U.K. in this future vision of Washington, D.C. and other areas. For instance, as Anderton first tries to get away he moves through the malls and the subway stations, and every screen nearby is flashing his name, speaking to him through personalised advertisements, the newspapers in other passengers’ hands read pop-up headlines about John and his Wanted status. Overall there’s a really great riff on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in that Dick, as well as the screenwriters here, further explore the concept of the ‘thoughtcrime’, the idea that basically forms the foundation of the Precrime Division and their precognitive awareness/action on crime.
This entire angle makes for incredibly interesting plot developments. The fact Anderton is tagged in every way to be recognised by all the various computer systems makes for a tough predicament. There’s an optical recognition system around the entire city, which heightens the police search, as it’s not as simple to just hide away when every street corner, every sidewalk is seemingly rigged to scan your eyeballs and go straight to the source for your identity. Eventually, John finds a doctor whose talents lie in the black market – eye surgeries, to be exact. That’s actually one of my favourite sequences, including a cameo for one of the best character actors Peter Stormare; the whole thing is dark, gritty, weird, it’s an awesome bit that adds to the atmosphere, and turns into a nice addition to the chase elements of the screenplay. What I love most about this whole part of the film is that it speaks to the loss of privacy, the great lengths to which some will go in the future to avoid all the intrusion on their personal lives by way of technology, and so on. Before the film released, Spielberg talked about the technology he envisioned for the movie, and it’s also interesting to note he usually consults a lot of technical experts when making science fiction in order to try and bring some degree of realism to the subject matter. So go check out the TED talk with John Underkoffler, a scientific adviser who worked with Spielberg on the film. Then try and tell me we won’t see more of that in the future. In turn, we’ll watch our privacy disappear, more and more. Online ads are already tailoring themselves to our Facebook and Twitter accounts, our personalised information that’s floating around inside the internet. Soon enough, we’ll walk down the street, just like Anderton, and find the screens looking out at us, scanning, tailoring their ads to who we are as people. Most of all, Minority Report isn’t merely thrilling action: it’s a scary vision of a future world towards which we are headed, if we’re not too careful.
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The performances are good, from Cruise in the lead to Farrell and Max von Sydow in their respective supporting roles. Above anything, the atmosphere is what makes this one for me. I love Spielberg’s movies and every one of them feels different, though each of them also has that same magic. Despite moving from genre to genre, as well as through many types of characters and stories, Spielberg always retains that classic style. No matter if the subject material and themes are dark, friendly and youthful, or if they explore a world completely foreign to our own, his films are all capable of transporting us into a sacred space, one beloved by many cinephiles around the globe. Minority Report is one of his best in recent years. There’s a constant excitement, even in the more low key moments. The pacing is exceptional and keeps the whole thing going, allowing Spielberg to stop between his big chase scenes to flesh out a deeply personal, emotional story involving a father and the loss of his son, the crumbling of the relationship with his wife, all of which is folded up in a wonderfully compelling sci-fi tale. Don’t sleep on this one. If you’ve yet to see it, get out and do yourself a favour. Especially if Spielberg gives you the nostalgia feeling in your stomach the way he does for me.

As I Lay Dying is Stream of Consciousness on Film

As I Lay Dying. 2013. Dir.  James Franco. Screenplay by Franco & James Rager; based on the novel of the same name by William Faulkner.
Starring James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, Ahna O’Reilley, Logan Marshall-Green, Brady Permenter, and Danny McBride. Millenium Films.
Rated R. 110 minutes.
Drama

★★★★

It’s not always necessary for someone to read a novel before they see the film version, however, with James Franco’s As I Lay Dying, an adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel, I believe it’s very necessary for someone to have read it.

After that, have a look at Franco’s film.

as_i_lay_dying_poster-storyThe reason I say this is because a lot of people don’t really understand, or see the point to, why Franco chose to use a lot of split-screen sequences. First of all, if you’d read As I Lay Dying, you might possibly understand it as how Franco chose to present all the point-of- views within the book. The whole novel is divided into chapters, each one labelled by the name of which character we are hearing the story from- this is why I think Franco wanted to use split-screen a lot.

Sometimes in the novel, you almost have to flip back and say to yourself, “Okay this is Darl’s chapter, this is Addie’s chapter (who in the novel sort of speaks ‘beyond death’ as well)” and so on.
It’s not easy to read William Faulkner in general; I’m a fan, and I still struggle to make it through a novel of his I’m reading. He was one of the first great American writers who was interested in stream-of-consciousness writing. Franco did a great job at trying to recreate that stream-of-consciousness feel.
asilaydying-01Second, I love the acting here. Some may disagree, but each of the main actors in particular brought some great work to the film here. Tim Blake Nelson as Anse is incredible. In the novel, it’s known that Anse is not particularly easy to decipher, nor does he always necessarily make any sense either, and he is not a good man, regardless of him agreeing to bring his wife’s body back to Jefferson. Nelson brings the downhome Southern quality to Anse, and I loved every second of the portrayal.

Franco was also a good here. In the book, it’s not always clear if Darl is mentally unstable, or what his deal is, until you read further and further. Franco did well subtly portraying Darl’s his personal journey.
Logan Marshall-Green did a perfect job with Jewel. There is a raw intensity about Jewel, here and in the novel, so his character was one of the best that came through on film. Marshall-Green is fast becoming a favourite of mine. There are more nice performances here, smaller ones, and they hit some great notes. I dig how most of the characters translated into film. It may not be the perfect adaptation, but it was great in terms of acting.
As-I-Lay-DyingI certainly give this a 4 out of 5 stars.

I don’t feel it’s perfect, but find it close. Franco understands Faulkner, in the way I understand and enjoy him. I’m not saying I’m right about how I view Faulkner’s work, or that Franco is right, or that I’m even correct about feeling the same way as he does about the famous author- I just know what I feel.
There are great moments here, classic moments, in my mind. The split-screen works for me. It really brought to the surface an idea that we were seeing the story through the eyes of the entire Bundren family. That’s how the novel worked, that’s why it was so compelling. Faulkner was a master of the craft. I continue to read his work, and hope one day I’ll have read it all. His novels, short stories (et cetera), are not for everyone. However, they are engaging, and have, for decades, stirred up many debates and critical opinions from one end of the spectrum to the next.
Franco gets what Faulkner was doing in As I Lay Dying. I hope he’ll be able to capture the same understanding with his adaptation of The Sound and the Fury.
asilaydying-04Highly recommended. Even if you don’t enjoy it, don’t be one of those people who turns it off after 20 minutes to half an hour. You can’t judge any movie that way. Sorry- you just can’t. Just like a novel. Sit through until the end, and I suggest reading the novel if you enjoy the story, or want to understand Franco’s intentions here.