Tag Archives: Nicole Kidman

Film on TV: March 26-April 1

There seems to be a crime/thriller theme going on in my picks to highlight this week – I didn’t initially do that on purpose, but I guess I do kind of like that sort of thing. Also, TCM is still doing their film noir thing, I think, which means a lot of good crime-related stuff to choose from. A lot more good stuff is playing this week, though, including a higher-than-usual number of things I’m featuring for the first time, so head on over to Row Three to see the rest.

The Night of the Hunter

Tuesday, March 27 at 12:00M on TCM
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Laughton. Starring: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish.
Must See

Love Crime

Friday, March 30 (late Thursday) at 12:05am on Sundance
Alain Corneau’s final film is a Hitchcockian thriller of business intrigue heightened by personal emotions, with icy blondes facing off against each other trying to gain the upper hand both at their company and in their personal lives. It’s got a lot of twisty turns, and ends up being quite satisfying by the end. My only complaint is that the stylistics don’t match up to the plotting or the acting, but I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s a quibble.
2010 France. Director: Alain Corneau. Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille.

The Others

Friday, March 30 at 8:00pm on IFC
More than ten years later, this film remains one of my favorite horror films, because it perfectly captures that ghostly, creepy atmosphere I love so much. Nicole Kidman does her best Grace Kelly homage as a mother sequestered on a remote British island (awaiting her husband’s return from WWII) along with her children, who have a unique skin condition that means they cannot be exposed to sunlight. Swapping the safety factor of lightness and darkness is a brilliant move, and the ultimate twist is pretty good, too. But this film lives and dies by its atmosphere – menacing housekeepers, dust-covered furniture, creepy photographs, it’s all here.
2001 USA. Director: Alejandro Amenabar. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Saturday, March 31 at 8:00pm on TCM
I credit this film with my real interest in silent film. Silent comedy was a big entry point, but Sunrise, with its simple but lovely story of marital infidelity, potential murder, and reconciliation, convinced me that silent films wasn’t just about being funny, but that they could really and truly be art in and of themselves. Murnau does so much with so little here, filling every frame with such visual beauty and storytelling that he barely needs any title cards, that I was immediately sold and I’ve never turned back.
1927 USA. Director: F.W. Murnau. Starring: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston.
Must See

Born to Kill

Saturday, March 31 at 12:00M on TCM
A film noir that had slipped past me until last year, but I certainly am glad I caught up with it. The always reliable Claire Trevor leads the film as a woman who leaves town instead of dealing with the aftermath of finding her friend murdered; unfortunately, the murderer has unwittingly left on the same train and the two end up inextricably entwined in a love-hate relationship. It’s got some obvious film noir tropes, but also plays along the edges of others (Laurence Tierney is basically an homme fatale, instead of Trevor being a femme fatale). Definitely a film worth your time if you’re into noir or classic crime dramas.
1947 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Isabel Jewell.

Great One-Sheet for Rabbit Hole

Kurt over at RowThree highlighted this new poster for John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, and it’s quite the stunner. The film is about a couple (played by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) dealing with the death of their son, and the strain that their very different ways of approaching grief puts on their marriage. This one-sheet brilliantly condenses several stages of their relationship and emotional state into a series of slatted images. It’s not easy to include the element of time in a flat, still image, but that’s precisely what this does. I already wanted to see the film based on the clips I’ve seen and how good I know Kidman can be in the right role (and from what I’ve seen, this is the right role), but somehow this poster just made me even more interested. The film is out in limited release on December 17th.

New Release Review: Australia

directed by Baz Lurhmann
starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Australia/USA 2008; screened 29 November 2008 at AMC Theatres

I admit that I haven’t read many reviews of Australia in toto, but the snippets I have read and the general critical feeling indicates that most critics didn’t think it was very good. At all. And in fact, in many ways, they’re right. Australia is a mess. But it’s a gorgeous, sloppy, enjoyable mess.

Australia is not the great epic of the Australian people, or indeed, a great epic at all. It is not a particularly innovative piece of filmmaking. It is not indicative of a specifically Australian filmmaking sensibility, nor a very strong example of Baz Lurhmann’s own flamboyant filmmaking style. There’s a bit of a sense of failed ambition hanging about the film, because you can tell Lurhmann wanted at least some of those things to be true, especially the first one.

An English noblewoman travels to Australia to get her husband to sell his plantation there and return to England. Instead, her husband is killed and she stays on to run the plantation with the help of an Australian cowboy known only as Drover (because that’s what he is, a cattle drover). Meanwhile, she takes a young aboriginal boy under her protection. Lurhmann’s attempt to bring together a uniquely Australian family pulled from each of Australia’s roots (English, aboriginal, and outback drifters) is obvious to an extreme, which is part of why it fails as a national epic – it’s too calculated.


In addition to the overdetermined theme, the film suffers from tonal inconsistency. It can’t decide whether it’s a farce (the first half-hour is full of Luhrmann-esque quick close-ups and exaggerated facial expressions, as if he wanted to remind us that he’s the one who directed Moulin Rouge before settling into a much more staid style for the rest of the film), western, romance, war, family drama, elegy, social rights message picture, travel brochure or national epic. The western and war sections, especially, are so divisively separated that Lurhmann might have been better off making two films instead of one.

But even after that laundry list of defects, and I could think of more if I wanted to, I can’t get past how much I plain enjoyed watching the film, and I would go see it again in a heartbeat. It’s old-fashioned classic filmmaking in the Hollywood tradition. I hate to keep bringing up David Bordwell’s The Way Hollywood Tells It all the time as if it’s the only film theory book I’ve ever read, but it’s applicable here again – elements in the narrative are carefully placed so as to lead the audience to expect certain things to happen, and they do. So yes, it’s predictable, but satisfyingly so. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman play their characters as larger-than-life mythic figures rather than real people, because that’s what they are. Kidman especially works in her role not because she turns in an outstanding acting performance (she’s done that far better in other films), but because she channels old Hollywood star quality so well when she lets herself.


I’ll grant you I’m a sucker for westerns, and I definitely loved that part the best – there’s nothing revisionist about it, and the first half of the film could easily have been made during the golden age of westerns, full of gorgeous vistas, sweeping music and laconic hero figures. Then, suddenly, World War II starts, and it’s almost a whole different movie, which I didn’t like quite as much as the western, though it’s not particularly bad.

So Australia is a mess, yes, trying to pack too many varied things into one film that never quite meshed into a cohesive whole. But it was a very comfortable-feeling mess, and I unabashedly loved watching it. As a compromise between knowing it’s nowhere near objectively good and my subjective love for it, I give it an Above Average.


[Weird side note – according to IMDb, the aspect ratio is 2.35:1, but I would’ve sworn I saw it in 1.85:1. Anyone else see it in the narrower ratio, or was I just on crack? I even made a note about it in my notebook at the time, that it seemed odd to shoot an epic in 1.85:1.]

20 Favorite Actresses

The film blogosphere has another meme going around, this time started by Nathaniel R. of Film Experience, who has called for bloggers to celebrate twenty of their favorite actresses. No one’s tagged me, but that never stopped me before! So many actresses are worthy to be on a list like this, but in the end, I went with the actresses that can sell me on a film – the ones I’ll see in anything, just because they’re in it. Oh, and the level of my girl-crush on them is factored in as well. ;)

I originally wrote a paragraph about each actress (like Arbogast did in his very informative take on the meme), but opted instead for a more minimalist approach. If you want more info on the actresses or why I love them, let me know.

Maria Bello (especially: The Cooler, Thank You For Smoking, A History of Violence)

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Margot at the Wedding trailer

I’ve stopped doing the trailers for opening movies every week. It just entailed far too much time thinking about films I don’t want to see and finding trailers for obscure films that may or may not ever come anywhere near me or anyone I know. So I’m going to do trailers on a much more haphazard, as-I-see-them basis. Here’s one I ran across via Anne Thompson and Karina Longworth. It’s Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack Black in Margot at the Wedding, from Noah Baumbach, who directed the well-received-but-as-yet-unseen-by-me The Squid and the Whale. It looks good. And it looks like it’s the good side of Nicole Kidman, who I swear has schizophrenic acting tendencies (i.e., the dumb, annoying one from Bewitched and The Stepford Wives and the actual good one from The Hours and Dogville), which makes me happy because I always want to love her, and then she does stupid roles and disappoints me.

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(It hurts my soul a little to use anything associated with AOL, but the player is actually pretty nice…and at least they have embeddable media–I’m looking at you, Yahoo!Movies.)