Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Praise be!

I expected to be shocked by “The Book of Mormon,” the new Broadway musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

And I was… in an unexpected way.

The language is pure South Park. The F-word is well-represented, and the C-word — two different iterations, mind you — makes its first appearance on the Great White Way.

There are a couple of potentially offensive moments — one in song, one in shall we say ‘visual representation’ — but last night’s audience was game for both.

The show definitely takes its shots at Mormon history and traditions, getting a lot of laughs from the story of Joseph Smith and his golden plates.  But the humor, while mocking, is never cruel.

What was unexpected was how much affection Parker and Stone display for the Mormon missionaries at the center of their story.  Elders Price and Cunningham are sent to Uganda for their mission and are immediately confronted by poverty, AIDS, warlords, scrotal plagues and more.

Yes…scrotal plagues.

Naive and ill-prepared, uber-Mormon Price has a crisis of faith and schlub Cunningham rises to the occasion in unconventional yet successful ways.

The tone reminded me a bit of the movie Stuck on You, the Farrelly brothers winner about two conjoined twin brothers starring Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon.  I worried the film would make fun of the two; instead, it celebrated how their differences made them more uniquely able to succeed in the world.

“The Book of Mormon” has the same charm, the same heart…just more four-letter words.

Above all, it is outrageously funny, with sight gags galore, none of which I will reveal because that would totally blow it.  The musical numbers are so clever, and the dance sequences manage to be huge and hilarious at the same time.

“The Book of Mormon” just may be the best musical on Broadway.

Now that I didn’t expect.

Scenery

In a recent interview promoting her soon-to-be released film The Adjustment Bureau, Emily Blunt described what it was like working with co-star Matt Damon.

“Most of the time there was a guy on the loudspeaker yelling, ‘Do not look at Matt Damon!’ because all the extras were just staring at him,” she laughed. “I feel like I see people’s brains melting when they see him!”

I’ve experienced similar reactions on film and TV sets here in New York when I’ve been an extra.  The production staff is always very clear about any interaction with the lead actors on set:

NONE

I saw one extra break the rule during an overnight shoot for the short-lived TV series Cashmere Mafia, starring Lucy Liu and Frances O’Connor.

We were filming a cocktail party scene at a restaurant on the Upper East Side.  After hours of setting cameras and getting us in place, the director finally brought the lead actors out on set.

Just before he called ‘action,’ an extra standing close to the leads noticed that actor Peter Hermann (husband to Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU) had a large blotch of makeup on his suit.  Without thinking, she stepped forward and brushed the spot with her hand.

She touched a lead actor.

Hermann flinched like he had been burned.  He left the set surrounded by makeup and wardrobe people.  All the principals left their marks, and we didn’t resume the scene for a good 20 minutes.

Production assistants appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the extra and whisked her from the set.  She never reappeared.

It was a gross overreaction on many levels, but a good reminder to all the background actors: ‘furniture’ like us shouldn’t jump up suddenly and startle the actors.

Cashmere Mafia was canceled after just a few episodes.

Karma?

Directions

I see a lot of movies…at least one a week.

And never has a director’s ‘stamp’ been so obvious to me as during the double feature I saw yesterday:  “Conviction,” starring Hillary Swank, and “Hereafter,” with Matt Damon.

I hadn’t intended to see two such heavy films back-to-back, but the times worked out and the screens were right next door to each other…so off I went.

“Conviction” is the true story of a working class mother who puts herself through college and law school in an attempt to free her brother who is serving a life sentence after being wrongly convicted of murder.  Director Tony Goldwyn, who has worked behind the camera in television more than film, really brings the audience into the story.  The scenes between Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell, who plays her brother, are particularly heartbreaking.

I don’t know how anyone could leave the theater untouched by that movie.

I can’t same the same about “Hereafter.” Directed by Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood, this movie tells the story of three people — an American man, a French woman and a British boy — who are all touched by death and whose lives intersect in their quest to connect with life beyond.

Eastwood’s movie  has a bold opening that took my breath away, but when the emotion should have matched the CGI, the film instead pulled away.  I felt like a spectator from a very great distance.  I still cared about the people; I just didn’t share in their experiences.

So…why was the material handled so differently?

Did Goldwyn, who has lived in in Massachusetts (where the “Conviction” story took place) have a more personal connection to the material…and that subsequently came through in the final product?

Could Eastwood’s own feelings about life-after death have caused him to ‘observe’ the story himself and unintentionally give the audience the same experience?

Or did I bring my own biases to the party that colored my view of both films?

If you’ve seen “Conviction,” “Hereafter,” or both, leave a comment with your thoughts.

And we’ll see.  We’ll see.

Let’s roll

Matt Damon films are usually a good bet.

Just look at his filmography on imdb.com.

His breakout role in “Good Will Hunting” (Oscar, Best Original Screenplay)
“The Talented Mr. Ripley”
The “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise
“The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum”
“Stuck on You” — a personal favorite
“Syriana”
“The Good Shepherd”
“The Departed” (Oscar, Best Picture, Best Director)
“The Informant!”

Yeah, Matt brings it.

But based on the trailer for his latest movie “The Green Zone,” I’m afraid the screenwriter didn’t.

The movie is very Bourne-like, which plays to Matt’s strengths. It’s got Greg Kinnear in it, too, which makes me happy. But the trailer is a literal cliche fest.

How are we supposed to get excited about a film that promotes itself with lines like…

“Let’s roll!”

“I came here to save lives!”

“Put your game face on!”

“You’re my prisoner. I’m taking you in!”

“People are dying out here. I want to know why!”

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with!”

Brian Helgeland wrote “The Green Zone.” He won an Oscar for the “LA Confidential” screenplay and also wrote “A Knight’s Tale” (one of my personal favorites).

Maybe this just wasn’t one of Helgeland’s best efforts.

Or the trailer editor wasn’t in the zone…

Seeing double

The Golden Globes have always been a bit of a bad boy in the awards community.

The Hollywood Foreign Press is in charge, so newcomers and outsiders are recognized (to the insiders’ dismay).  Everyone is clearly drinking during the ceremony, which can lead to some rather colorful acceptance speeches. (Remember Kate Winslet’s semi-hysterical ramblings after she finally won not once but twice last year?)

And then, there is the name of the awards themselves.  Golden Globes?  I’ll bet pretty much every man out there visualizes a certain part of the female anatomy when he hears that term.

Based on this year’s Golden Globe nominations announced just this morning — my, aren’t I topical — we will all be seeing double come January.

Sandra Bullock is nominated twice — for Best Actress, Drama, “The Blind Side” and Best Actress, Comedy, “The Proposal.”

Meryl Streep is nominated twice as well…this time in the same category (Best Actress, Comedy), for “It’s Complicated” and “Julie and Julia.”

Matt Damon is nominated twice, too — for Best Actor, Comedy, “The Informant!” and Best Supporting Actor, Drama, “Invictus.”

Pretty exciting, huh?  With all those nominations, you’re bound to snag at these one, right?

Not necessarily.  Just ask Julianne Moore.  She’s been nominated twice before and walked away empty-handed.  Kate Winslet’s vapor-inducing win last year was the exception, not the norm. I think multiple nominations often muddy up the field and, if anything, just point more clearly to the other actors in that category.

And let’s not forget — the Golden Globes recognize television as well.  Anna Paquin, nominated Best Actress,  “True Blood”, was also nominated Best Actress, made-for-TV movie “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.”

Who’s going to win it all?  It’s still “Up in the Air.”

He he he