“Crazy Heart” – 2009 – Expanded Review

“I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look. I never knew what a dump it was until you came in here.”

I originally saw this film in a double feature along with “A Single Man”. At that point, I was excited to see this film, and not so much “A Single Man”. “A Single Man” blew me away, and I think that took from the fact that “Crazy Heart” is truly a remarkable film. As I said in my earlier post – that I was looking for something else with “Crazy Heart”. I wanted to feel bad about the film, and for myself. I was being very selfish with my review, and what I took away from the film. I’m going to get off my soap box now and give the film a review from me it truly deserved in the first place.

Jean and Bad Blake.

By now everyone knows that Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for this film. Did he deserve it? Yes. Even though Colin Firth should have won for “A Single Man”, Bridges award was well deserved and well received. The story of “Crazy Heart” revolves around Bad Blake, a washed up country singer. He goes from small town to small town playing at bowling alleys and lounges. Even though Blake is going through the motions at these venues – Blake is most animated and alive while he performs his music. Two subplots split and take us on a journey with Blake. The first is his meeting a reporter played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and a love story begins to blossom from them. The second: Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Tommy Sweet is a rising star in the world of country music but he started as a member of Blake’s back-up band. Blake is resentful and bitter whenever he talks about Sweet, or whenever Sweet is mentioned.

The love story that grows between Jean (Gyllenhaal) and Bad is very sweet and heartfelt to watch. It’s very joyous to watch Blake play with Jean’s son. The way Blake cooks for the little boy, or the way he teaches him how to play paper football is so enjoyable to watch. You know that Bad has fallen in love with both Jean and her son. It’s also painful to watch at times because you know, you just know that Blake’s drinking problem is taking a toll on their relationship and will eventually poison it. Due to Blake’s alcoholism, something happens that Jean cannot ever forgive him for – or forget. Blake sobers up and goes to see Jean, to tell her that he’s different. That small scene is one of the many reasons why Jeff Bridges was not only nominated, but won the Best Actor Oscar, and the sole reason Gyllenhaal was nominated. It’s a heartbreaking scene that sinks right to your soul.

As for the Tommy Sweet story arc, we’re told very little about him, but every time he’s mentioned Blake coils up like a snake and get tremendously defensive. Blake is jaded that Sweet won’t do another duet album with him. Bottom line is Blake needs the money. Blake is offered to open for Sweet at his next concert and Blake reluctantly accepts because he is desperate for money. Everything is going wrong for Blake, his record label is pulling his last album from store shelves and he’s not allowed to have a tab at any of his engagements. When he shows up to open for Sweet, Blake is eating at a steakhouse and Sweet walks in. Sweet is very cautious as if he’s walking on thin ice. He sits down at Blake’s table and they begin to have a sidestepping exchange of dialogue.

Colin Farrell is absolutely perfect as Tommy Sweet. His southern accent is brooding and real. Farrell should have been nominated for his performance as Sweet, and almost should have rivaled Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor. Sweet is everything opposite of what we expect him to be. He’s very gracious and humbled in Blake’s

Tommy Sweet and Bad Blake performing "Fallin' & Flyin'".

presence. It’s as if Sweet is going to carry Blake’s torch and protect his legacy. The best scene of the film is where Blake and Sweet perform together on stage. It’s a great song, “Fallin’ & Flyin'” and they are almost singing the song to each other. “I never meant to hurt no one/I just had to have my way/If there’s such a thing as too much fun/This must be the price you pay.” Farrell’s voice as he sings is jaw dropping. He’s absolutely perfect for the role and what it requires. His voice can almost be equated to the likes of Tim McGraw.

The film’s first time writer/director Scott Cooper does an interesting job directing the film. He uses many long takes, much like John Ford did. Robert Duvall was Cooper’s mentor on the film, and was on the set everyday (although he’s only in three scenes). Cooper’s screenplay should have been recognized, and since there were ten Best Picture Nominees, “Crazy Heart” should have gotten a nomination. I didn’t, but “The Blindside” did. That’s not fair and I don’t like it.

Jeff Bridges does an unbelievable job carrying this film on his shoulders. I feel that most of the films he has been in wouldn’t have been as good if Bridges wasn’t in the film (“The Big Lebowski”, “Iron Man”, and “The Door in the Floor”). Bridges was the most underrated and underappreciated actor of his generation, but not anymore. I was so happy to see him finally get his long overdue Oscar, and he gave such a great speech. Thank you Mr. Bridges, you’ve inspired me more then you’ll ever know.

The last thing I would like to talk about is the original music for the film. I’ve never been much of a fan of country music, aside from Cash, Nelson, Jennings and those guys, but the music that Bridges sings in the film is reminiscent like that of Leonard Cohen, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristopherson. The songs in the film by Stephen Brutton and

Bridges and Burnett perfoming songs from the film.

T-Bone Burnett are fantastic. “Hold on You” plays during the opening and Bridges later perform part of later in the film and the song is absolutely amazing. It’s the best song in the film. The lyrics are amazing to these original songs, but the way Bridges conveys – performs the music is outstanding. The fact that Bridges is an accomplished musician in his personal life added to the realism and authenticity of his performance. “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett is an amazingly great song. It’s an unbelievably sad song. It was so well deserving of Best Original Song at the Oscars, but if I had to choose, “Hold on You” would have won.

I’ve watched this film twice since I saw it in theaters and it has sunk in. It’s a much better film then I told you it was months ago. It is a very tight film, and doesn’t drag or bore you. Bridges, Farrell, Duvall and Gyllenhaal captivate you, and command your attention in every scene.

What I take away from “Crazy Heart” is that it’s never too late to change yourself; to become a better person. No matter how hard of life you’ve lived, and how many mistakes you’ve made – you can still find redemption, there is still hope. Fail, fail again, fail better. The film is heartfelt and sincere. “Crazy Heart” will stand the test of time, and I think it has more staying power then a lot of films that came out this year. As more generations explore Bridges, and see him as The Dude, they will ultimately discover his Oscar winning portrayal where he bears his soul and shows us his weak side. We all have a little Bad Blake inside of us. Be kinder then necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

All the fire that I walk through/Only tryin' to get a hold on you.

Review: 9/10

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Oscars: Predictions and Thoughts.

Best Picture Nominees:

I would first like to say that the fact the Academy decided to have ten Best Picture Nominees completely cheapens the award. I am disgusted that “The Blind Side” was nominated, but “Nine”, “The Road” and “A Single Man” weren’t. Also: “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”, “Antichrist” and “The Watchmen” are just as deserving but unrealistic. My theory for “Inglorious Basterds” winning the gold is that the Academy voters will split between “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” and “Basterds” could eek by. If “The Hurt Locker” didn’t exist, “Avatar” would win hands down, and the same would go for “The Hurt Locker” if “Avatar” didn’t exist. I do also think that since that producer of “The Hurt Locker” sent out that mass email to the Academy voters saying they should vote for the small film instead of the 500 million dollar film will hurt their chances as with voters who had yet to cast their ballot. The Academy likes to be romanced and courted – not be told what to do. I just can’t see the Academy giving the most prestigious film award to a film that grossed a minimal amount of money. If “The Hurt Locker” does win, it will be the lowest grossing Best Picture winner of all time. “Basterds” is an interesting film, when I saw it in theaters I didn’t like it very much, I thought it was long and very extreme. It got mixed reviews at the time of its release too, but now everyone loves it. It won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild which is a somewhat odd barometer for Best Picture. When I purchased “Basterds” on DVD, I watched it over and over again. It holds up well to repeat viewings and is so goddamned enjoyable. I think that many people feel that Tarantino is long overdue for an Oscar, even though he already as an Original Screenplay Oscar for “Pulp Fiction”, but let’s face it, “Pulp Fiction” should have won everything 15 years ago. But, if critics ran the Oscars, “The Hurt Locker” would win hands down.

What I think will win: “Inglorious Basterds”

What should win (that’s nominated): “A Serious Man”

My personal pick: “A Single Man”

Best Director:

I like the nominees for best director. If you want to know what the “real” Best Picture Nominees are, just look at the five directors nominated. In a perfect world where I had a say, the Nominees would have been: Tom Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Joel & Ethan Coen, James Cameron and Rob Marshall.

Who I think will win: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Quentin Tarantino for “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: Tom Ford for “A Single Man”

Best Actor:

Best actor seems to be a lock this year. The only upset I could see happening with this category would be Colin Firth. I am a HUGE Jeff Bridges fan, and I believe he is long overdue for an Oscar – but I don’t think he gave the best performance this year. The top four nominees had been set in stone with: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth and Morgan Freeman. The fifth, Jeremy Renner – who was very good in “The Hurt Locker” – isn’t as deserving for a Best Actor nomination as Daniel Day-Lewis (“Nine”) or Viggo Mortenson (“The Road”) or even Nicholas Cage (“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”). Cage did win the Toronto Film Critics Circle, which should count for something – right?

Who I think will win: Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Colin Firth for “A Single Man”.

My personal pick: Colin Firth for “A Single Man”.

Best Actress:

This has been the most interesting category as far as tracking goes this year. Meryl Streep seemed to have it in the bag – until she was blindsided by Sandra Bullock (I’m sorry, I had to do it…). I think this is the weakest category this year; Streep gives a very good performance, but not nearly as good as her previous performance in “Doubt”. Carey Mulligan was good in “An Education”, but the film itself left me bored and waiting for it to be over. I have not seen “The Blindside” – nor will I. I refuse to be pulled into this celebration of mediocre filmmaking that rests itself on pappy crap. Helen Mirren seems like the odd nomination here considering everything I’ve heard about “The Last Station” is that it’s a train wreck of a film but is brilliantly acted.

Who I think will win: Sandra Bullcok for “The Blindside”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Meryl Streep for “Julie and Julia”.

My personal pick: Charlotte Gainsbourg for “Antichrist”.

Best Supporting Actor:

This category lacked acknowledging a few performances I would have liked to have seen nominations for: Mathew Goode for “A Single Man”, Jackie Earle Haley for “Watchmen”, Robert Duvall for “The Road” and Colin Farrell for “Crazy Heart”. The only one of those I thought might have grabbed that fifth spot would have been Duvall for “The Road”. I know he had minimal screen time in “The Road”, but the Academy loves supporting performances from well respected actors, think about it: Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), William Hurt (“A History of Violence”), Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild”), James Coburn (“Affliction”) although I suppose this year it’s Christopher Plummer for “The Last Station”. I think Waltz is pretty much a lock, since he’s won every single award for his role in “Basterds”, but if anyone can beat him, it will be Plummer – and if Plummer does win, it will be strictly for merit for his long and distinguished career. One thing I would like to note is that Stanley Tucci is the only redeeming factor in “The Lovely Bones”, it’s a film that is wretchedly horrible. Tucci turned out two very good performances in “Bones” and “Julie and Julia”. I think his performances are equally as great, but he should have been nominated for “Julie and Julia” if only to be spiteful. I would have also liked to see Brad Pitt be nominated for “Basterds”.

Who I think will win: Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

Best Supporting Actress:

This category has the lamest nominees, I’m sorry but it does. When Mo’Nique was acting like a diva a couple of months ago, and not promoting “Precious” and not showing up to collect her awards I thought for sure the Academy would resent her behavior and not award her the Oscar (kind of like Eddie Murphy’s behavior problems when he was nominated for “Dreamgirls”). I also thought that “Nine” would garnish two, if not three Best Supporting Actress nominations; but this was before it got a much unwarranted and undeserving backlash from critics. I think Cruz should not have been nominated for the film, if anyone I would have wanted Judi Dench. I thought Sofia Loren would have gotten nominated as well, considering she’s the last of the Golden Age of Hollywood, much like Plummer. I thought Loren would have followed in line with Lauren Bacall’s nomination for “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and Gloria Straut’s nomination for “Titanic”. I was wrong, very wrong. I think Julianne Moore was snubbed for “A Single Man” and Vera Farmiga’s nomination is undeserving, and she should have been nominated for “The Departed”. If anyone can upset Mo’Nique it would be Anna Kendrick. I think the other obvious Oscar snub is Melanie Laurent for “Inglorious Basterds”. Also remember, there have been previous Supporting Actress surprises before, Marcia Gay Harden for “Mystic River” and Tilda Swinton for “Michael Clayton”. Also: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s nomination for “Crazy Heart” is the one sleeper nomination I was telling everyone about, although my sleeper pick was Duvall for “The Road.

Who I think will win: Mo’Nique for “Precious” (I refuse to type the full title because that is contrived).

Who should win (that’s nominated): Mo’Nique for “Precious”.

My personal pick: Julianne Moore for “A Single Man”.

Best Original Screenplay:

This category seemed to be a lock for Tarantino, but the tides are slightly turning. The more weight that’s being pulled by Tarantino for Best Picture, is pulling “The Hurt Locker” closer to Best Original Screenplay. Face it, they have to award “The Hurt Locker” – even though Bigelow seems to be the frontrunner (with a possible upset by Cameron), the Academy still has to award this film another prominent award. I have always felt that this category is a runner up for Best Picture. I almost want to say if Tarantino wins for this award, “The Hurt Locker” has it in the bag for Best Picture, but if “Locker” wins this award it should give a slight edge to “Basterds” for Best Picture.

Who I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): “A Serious Man”.

My personal pick: “A Serious Man”.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

I have not seen “In the Loop” but I hear nothing but great things from my friends Kevin and Peyton. I will watch it before Sunday. I think this award is pretty much a lock for Jason Reitman since “Up in the Air” won’t receive any other major awards. I’m not sure how to feel about Jason Reitman. I thought “Thank You for Smoking” was very good and “Up in the Air” is phenomenal; as for “Juno” I couldn’t stand it. I thought it was contrived and smug and I couldn’t sit through it. Reitman is the greatest example next to Sofia Coppola of nepotism. The hard part is, they are two of the most talented filmmakers of our generation. How could Reitman not finance or be able to distribute his films? His father is Ivan “Ghostbusters” Reitman. I also think “The Road”, “Nine” and “A Single Man” should have been considered for this category too, especially “A Single Man”.

Who I think will win: “Up in the Air”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): “Up in the Air” – pending a viewing of “In the Loop”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Cinematography:

This and editing are my two favorite technical awards. I think this can help make a good movie great, or a great movie good. I haven’t seen any “Harry Potter” films, or “The White Ribbon”. I think that “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”, “A Single Man”, “The Road” and “Antichrist” should have been nominated, but what can I say… I will see “The White Ribbon” before Sunday as well.

Who I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”

Who should win (that’s nominated): “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: “Antichrist”, but more realistic: “A Single Man”.

Best Editing:

Editing is a tough category because it’s so difficult to be perfect. What’s distracting to me is when there are simple mistakes. Take for example “The Departed”, during the opening scene with Nicholson doing his voiceover monologue towards the end when we see him from behind, looking over his shoulder as he’s walking towards a young Matt Damon, Nicholson is talking and has a cigarette in his mouth. When the shot cuts to a point of view shot from young Matt Damon to Nicholson, he doesn’t have a cigarette in his mouth as he finishes his line of dialogue. Come on! That is so simple to fix! Why leave it? That being said, I looooove Thelma Schoomaker, Scorsese’s long time editor and friend. Its simple things like that, which can ruin certain parts of movies for me. A good way of watching for good editing is if a lot of characters smoke watch for the continuity of the length of cigarette, and the characters inhaling and then exhaling the smoke. A lot of movies fall victim to “magic cigarettes”, much like “The Usual Suspects” when the “suspects” all leave the jail after the famous line-up scene, Gabriel Byrne is outside on the steps smoking while his girlfriend is talking to him, and Byrne watches the other “suspects” and cuts between them watching Bryne, and Byrne watching them. There is no continuity of Byrne inhaling, and continuously exhaling the smoke. The director’s commentary is funny due to the fact of Bryan Singer making fun of the scene because Byrne is smoking a “magic cigarette”.

What I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”

What should win (that’s nominated): “Inglorious Basterds”

My personal pick: “Nine”.

Best Art Direction:

At least “Nine” got this nomination! Boo-ya! That being said, “A Single Man” should win, but once again it’s not nominated.

What I think will win: “Avatar”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “Nine”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Costume Design:

Here’s where my frame of reference starts to wear. I haven’t seen a lot of the films in the tech categories, so I shall do my best.

What I think will win: “Nine”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “Nine”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Make-up:

What I think will win: “Star Trek”.

What should win (that’s nominated): Anything but Star Trek.

My personal pick: “Watchmen”.

Best Original Score:

Once again, “A Single Man” was snubbed. I am actually really surprised it wasn’t nominated in this category, it was incredibly haunting, and filled with deep emotion.

What I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”.

What should win (that’s nominated): I can’t make a prediction since I haven’t seen most of the nominees.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Original Song:

This is an easy one with very little competition. I really hope they go back to having each individual song performed by each nominee, but I don’t think it will happen.

What I think will win: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

My personal pick: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

Best Animated film:

Shouldn’t “Up” automatically win since it’s the only animated film nominated for Best Picture? I know there was an oddity at the BAFTA’s that my friend Kevin told me about, but seriously!

What I think will win: “Up”.

What should win (that’s nominated): Pending my viewing of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

My personal pick: Pending.

For the rest of the categories, I believe “Avatar” will win all the sound and visual awards. As for short films, I haven’t seen any. And as far as documentary’s go, I’ve always seen “Food, Inc.” and from the best of my knowledge, “The Cove” is probably going to win.

I really hope the Academy goes back to showing clips of each actor for each category, but I’m not sure what the final word is on that either. What I am truly looking forward to is Alec Baldwin and Steven Martin hosting. What a treat that is! Please, please, please Academy! Don’t leave me bitter this year!

Let me know what you guys think. I will try and proofread at the best of my ability!


Top Ten Suppoting Performances of the Decade (Male) – Richard Gere, “Chicago”.

Number 10 – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”.

The ruling on Gere’s performance in “Chicago” is that he was a lead.  I disagree, but the Screen Actor’s Guild didn’t when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role, nor did the Golden Globes when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.  But, the Teen Choice Awards did nominate him for best movie “villain”…even though he wasn’t…  In any event, I seem to be in the minority on this, so I digress.  In Rob Marshall’s “Chicago”, the role of Billy Flynn was the role that held the film together, in a predominantly female cast – Billy Flynn, the smooth talking, suave and charismatic lawyer was the role for a talented actor like John Travolta, or Kevin Spacey – an actor who could not only act, but sing and dance as well, and both Spacey and Travolta had that talent and I’m sure they would have made a fine Billy Flynn.  Rob Marshall decided to go with an actor who hadn’t been in previous films where he sings and dances (although in Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” Gere does show some musical savvy).  Gere, to this point hadn’t had a whole lot of hits, “Autumn in New York”, “Runaway Bride”, “The Jackel” and Robert Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women” were all films he had done prior to 2002.  They were mostly forgettable films, it appear as if he played out his card in just starring in “chick flicks”.  But that year Gere came out with two stellar films, with two great performances, one in “Unfaithful“, and the second of course being “Chicago”.

Richard Gere as "Billy Flynn" in Rob Marshall's "Chicago".

Richard Gere magically pulled off the dance and singing numbers that were required by this George Clooney esq character.  Gere was perfect on the outside he had all the makings of Billy Flynn, a dashingly good-looking man, that oozes with wit and charm.  But what Gere lacked was the vocal ability to sing the three numbers in the film that he is apart of.  I remember first seeing the film in theaters seeing Gere gliding around in his first musical number singing in a campy Chicago accent.  But Gere did pull it off.  Then he pulled it off again, then again, and again.  Gere proved something in this film that he hadn’t prior, and very well may not in the future either (although I’m calling a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest”).  He showed us he is an amazing talent, that he can act, sing and dance.

I tend to agree with Sean Penn that Golden Globes are meaningless, that they don’t hold much clout.  I agree to a certain point (although if I won one, I would thank my Mom, and cry for joy) but in certain cases, I do believe that they mean a lot, they sometimes get it right.  When Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges”, and the best picture going to “Babel” and when Richard Gere won his Globe for Best Actor (Musical/Drama) for “Chicago”.  I was just pleased that he was recognized, and I was pleased that the SAG recognized him that year too.  I am saying that Gere gave the best performance that year?  Absolutely not.  Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance that year in “Gangs of New York”, a close second would be a tie between Gere and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” but the Academy didn’t even nominate Richard Gere, and completely ignored him.  He must have had the Mickey Rourke syndrome of having burnt, no wait, blown up his bridges by being a tough star to deal with when he was younger.  But of course the Academy was being political and making a statement with Awarding it’s Best Actor, to Adrien Brody for Roman Polanski’s holocaust film, “The Pianist”.

Richard Gere with fellow winner Renee Zellwiger at the 2002 Golden Globes.

Gere’s outstanding performance in “Chicago” launched him back into the A list where he made “The Hoax” which in an incredibly underrated film where he gained weight and wore a prosthetic nose about a wannabe writer who sold his BS story to publishing companies about his character, Clifford Irving, was set to help Howard Hughes write his memoirs.  He also stared in “I’m Not There” playing the Billy the Kid persona of Bob Dylan.  I am very excited about Gere’s upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest” where in the restricted promo trailer shows Gere waking up to his alarm clock and sitting up in bed – quick cut to Gere at his kitchen table in front of a bowl of cereal where he sits, isolated, and reaches and puts the barrel of his service revolver into his mouth.  My only fear is Gere peaked with “Chicago”, but I am hoping that his best is still to come.