Tag Archives: 21 Jump Street

In Appreciation of Brie Larson

Last week, Brie Larson won her first Oscar for her performance in Room.

After I saw the movie, I was in such a funk that people actually asked me if I was all right. Like the book upon which it’s based, it compels you to watch, even if it’s uncomfortable at times. Despite the depressing nature of the narrative, I found the film to be more uplifting and, dare I say, more optimistic at its conclusion than the novel. For a great review of Emma Donoghue‘s book, check out Melissa F.’s post.

It would be hard at this point to find new arrangements of words to praise those involved with Room. The score is nuanced and wouldn’t be out of place on a Sigur Rós or an Explosions in the Sky album. I could fill pages about how great Jacob Tremblay is and can only hope he doesn’t go the way of a young Drew Barrymore. I’m super-excited to see him in next month’s Before I Wake. But it’s Larson’s award-winning performance that moors the whole film. As Jack’s Ma, she is both friend and disciplinarian, provider and confider, broken yet brave. She’s tender and tough, often in the span of a few frames. Like if a mountain was a teenage girl who was still a little unsure of herself.

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“I don’t care what you say, mom! Becky said this shade of lipstick draws attention away from my massive butte!”
Source

It’s always nice when the Academy, despite its myriad problems, deigns to give praise to an actress who isn’t Jennifer Lawrence. Hop on the Brie Larson Appreciation Train that I’ve been riding since late 2010 and check out her range in two of her older films.

Scspvtwott Pilgrim vs. the World
It was here that I first came across Larson. She plays one of Scott’s ex-girlfriends, Envy Adams, lead singer of The Clash at Demonhead. I loved her sexed-up, over-the-top performance, which wouldn’t be out of place in a movie like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. When she takes the stage and vamps through a pretty fantastic cover of Metric‘s “Black Sheep,” I realized that she might be more than a pretty, funny face. She could have played Envy as a shrill, one-note witch of a woman, but there’s a vulnerability beneath Envy’s rockstar facade that comes through in a surprisingly tender moment. Whatever the film’s problems are, her self-aware performance is never one of them.

Sst12hort Term 12
This hidden gem was one of the best films of 2013, elevated by Larson’s performance. Prior to Room, I’d have said that this was her best work. Doing a chameleonic 180-turn from her role in Scott Pilgrim, she gives a poignantly raw performance as Grace, a supervisor at a residential treatment facility for at-risk youths. Grace is the kind of character who deeply feels each of the kids’ problems, not to mention her own stack of issues as well. While she at least has the chance to resolve the tumult of her personal life, there will always be at-risk youths. Grace acknowledges this at the end of the film, flashing an almost Sisyphean grin, her resolve to do the work stronger than ever despite its inherent troubles.

In everything she’s been in, she’s made me care about her characters. She was one of many enjoyable surprises in 21 Jump Street. She was the best part of The Spectacular Now and Digging for Fire. She was delightful every time she cameoed on Community and stole every scene she was in in Don Jon despite hardly speaking. I’ve heard she’s good in United States of Tara and Trainwreck as well.

She’s a great actress that also seems like a genuinely pleasant person. Now, if you’ll excuse me, thinking about Room has made me sad, so I’m gonna go watch that Jenny Lewis music video where Larson sports a red tracksuit and a moustache. That’s my sweet spot.

Have you seen Room? How about any of her earlier films? Is there one I should check out? Sound off in the comments below.

–Ross

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Dear Johnny Depp,

Back when I was ranking the movies you’d done with Tim Burton, I spent a lot of time staring at your filmography.  In addition to your early pairings with Burton, there are some really fantastic films there:  Benny & Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Donnie BrascoFear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Blow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Neverland.

Then something happened.

For the last five years, it seems you’ve been floundering, content to coast on the goodwill garnered by your penchant of playing “weirdos”. In your defense, Rango was fantastic and your cameo in 21 Jump Street was great, but the rest of your recent films? Eh … You weren’t the best part of Into the Woods, but I’d be hard-pressed to pick a best part of that overindulgent musical. Transcendence had a good idea behind it, but was poorly executed (I’ll lay part of that blame on first-time director Wally Pfister). Public Enemies couldn’t decide on which plot to give attention to. Alice in Wonderland was a bland mess. The Tourist was equally bland, but I don’t think it deserves the hate it gets. Same with The Lone Ranger; that film was just a generic action western. In fact, if any of these films had starred anyone else, they’d probably not even be worth mentioning, but when I see your name emblazoned above a title, I expect something good.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnny (can I call you Johnny?), I’m a huge fan. My go-to Halloween costume is Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing. In college, a friend had to record dialogue and sound effects over a muted movie clip for an audio class. He picked a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and asked me to provide an approximation of your voice to which I happily agreed. According to him, when he presented it, everyone in class—including the professor—was blown away by my impression. I’ve even dressed up as Captain Jack for Halloween.

Ladies loved this costume. I did very well that year.

Ladies loved this costume. I did very well that year.

So I’m not bashing you. You’ve got more talent than probably anyone reading this. Certainly more talent than me–a bowl of Alpha-Bits can create better sentences than me. It’s just that for too long you’ve been relegated to playing guys covered in weird makeup doing odd voices. You reached the apex of Deppy ridiculosity in Mordecai, hamming it up more than all the delis in New York. Jeff Goldblum couldn’t even save that movie, although now Paul Bettany is one film closer to dethroning Helena Bonham Carter as your most frequent costar. When I saw Mordecai, I couldn’t believe that you’d chosen to do it instead of allegedly doing Grand Budapest Hotel.

Then I saw the trailer for Scott Cooper’s Black Mass, opening September 18.

Faithful readers already know how much I enjoyed Cooper’s last project, Out of the Furnace, and while biopics aren’t really my thing, you look straight-up terrifying here. I realize that I just complained about your appearance in your last few films and in Black Mass you look like Powder’s creepy eczema-addled uncle doing a disturbed Christopher Walken impression, but there’s an intensity behind those blue contact lensed-eyes that I’ve not seen in over a decade.

It looks like you’re trying again.

I want to say that I think you’ve learned from your past misfires and that this film will be your comeback (a re-Depp-ployment? ReJohnnyVation? Deppvival?), but then I look at what you’ve got coming out and see a sequel to Alice in Wonderland and a fifth entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I’m hopeful for the latter because the directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, also did the gorgeous Kon-Tiki and because I love the character of Captain Jack (see above). That love for a character turns into respect for you when stuff like this happens:

Seriously, that four-minute video is the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen you in since Finding Neverland. So bring on more Captain Jack!

Look, Johnny, if I’m not there on opening day for Black Mass, it’s probably just because I haven’t gotten my Whitey Bulger costume yet. Don’t take my disinterest in the material as a disinterest in you. I was with you in the theater filled with swooning pre-teens when you did Secret Window. I stayed up late one night in 2004 to catch Private Resort on Comedy Central. I repeatedly watched a lo-res trailer for The Libertine on a dial-up modem and hunted high and low for a copy of the DVD. I’ll definitely see Black Mass, but don’t hate me if it’s at a matinée.

Anyway, don’t worry about me or any of your critics—you get to go home to Amber Heard, you lucky scamp. As for me, all this talk of your past works has put me in the mood to have a marathon of your films.

Always your fan,

–Ross

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