Category Archives: Javier Bardem

Being the Ricardos-2021

Being the Ricardos-2021

Director Aaron Sorkin

Starring Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem

Scott’s Review #1,426

Reviewed May 7, 2024

Grade: B+

Aaron Sorkin who has written or directed such efforts as A Few Good Men (1992), Moneyball (2011), and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) is typically associated with mainstream films.

While quality projects, he will never be accused of being a dangerous or auteur director. Since he is in the director’s chair for Being the Ricardos (2021) I knew going in that the film would be more or less a safe venture.

Ironically, the film that tells the story of famous comedian Lucille Ball played by Nicole Kidman, and her husband Desi played by Javier Bardem is not a comedy. It’s a drama mixed with a biography for those audiences unfamiliar with the duo explaining who they are.

For those of us at least mildly familiar with the iconic black and white show ‘I Love Lucy’ that pivoted television shows into the spotlight in the 1950s, Being the Ricardos serves as a slice of nostalgia.

The film depicts many aspects of the relationship of the pair and the challenges that went into producing the hit television show every week. But it also delves heavily into their rocky marriage, political smears, and cultural taboos that the show helped break.

Whoever thought that a pregnant character or a Cuban leading man would have stirred so much controversy?

But in the 1950s things were different and anyone even open to the idea of Communism faced career ruination.

Sorkin successfully treats the viewers to lengthy debates in the writers’ room, contentious star feuds, and the creative process in general.

More subtly, we see how a powerful woman in show business was the exception, not the rule, and how norms were very different for women.

The events of the film mostly surround one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom “I Love Lucy.”

J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda play loveable Fred and Ethel, Lucy and Desi’s comical next-door neighbors in the sitcom. In real life, the actors despised each other frequently hurling insults at each other.

Comedy legend Linda Lavin makes a surprising appearance as Madelyn Pugh. The then-older television writer provides interviews along with other writers and producers to explain the earlier events.

Kidman is center stage as the icon. A brilliant actor in any role she is cast she does effectively depict the breathy voice and the mannerisms of Lucille Ball but she doesn’t look like her. Originally, Cate Blanchett was attached to the role and I’m very curious how she would have played her.

The obvious choice might have been television’s Debra Messing, brilliant on Will & Grace even portraying Lucy in one fantasy episode. My hunch is that Messing was too great a risk of lowering the film to sitcom standards and she isn’t a ‘movie star’ either.

And again, Being the Ricardos isn’t a comedy.

So, Kidman delivers the goods with some reservations mostly revealing what a strong woman Ball was and how she created many of the hilarious skits she is known for while not making the character seem like an idiot.

Bardem is also good in the role of Desi. He mixes conservative machismo with a thirst to be daring and challenge the mold. His womanizing would ruin their marriage but he was a savvy businessman and the film shows this.

An entertaining biopic that probably will be forgotten over time Being the Ricardos (2021) nonetheless shines a spotlight on the early days of television as a new medium and the hurdles its stars had to face in the woeful days of early apple pie and white picket fences that defined America.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Javier Bardem, Best Actress-Nicole Kidman, Best Supporting Actor-J.K. Simmons

No Country for Old Men-2007

No Country for Old Men-2007

Director Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin

Scott’s Review #745

Reviewed April 19, 2018

Grade: A

No Country for Old Men, made in 2007,  is arguably Joel and Ethan Coen’s greatest work save for the amazing Fargo (1996).

Achieving the Best Picture Academy Award and appearing on numerous Top Ten lists for its year of release, the film is one of their most celebrated.

Containing dark humor, offbeat characters, and fantastic storytelling, adding in some of the most gorgeous cinematography in film history, No Country for Old Men is one of the decade’s great films.

The time is 1980 and set in western Texas as we follow dangerous hitman, Anton Chigurh, played wonderfully by Javier Bardem.

He escapes jail by strangling a deputy and is subsequently hired to find Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who has accidentally stumbled onto two million dollars in a suitcase that Mexican smugglers are desperate to find.

In the mix is Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who is pursuing both men. Moss’s wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) in turn becomes an important character as she is instrumental in the web of deceit the chain of events creates.

The film subsequently turns into an exciting cat-and-mouse chase with a dramatic climax.

The crux of the story and its plethora of possibilities is what makes the events so exciting to watch. As characters are in constant pursuit of each other the viewer wonders who will catch up to whom and when.

One quality that makes the film unique with an identity all its own is that the three principal characters (Moss, Bell, and Chigurh) seldom appear in the same scene adding a layer of mystery and intrigue.

The hero and most well-liked of all the characters is, of course, Sheriff Bell- a proponent of honesty and truth while the other two characters are less than savory types, especially the despicable Chigurh.

My favorite character in the story is Chigurh as he is the most interesting and Bardem plays him to the hilt with a calm malevolence- anger just bubbling under the surface.

One wonders when he will strike next or if he will spare a life- as he intimidates his prey by offering to play a game of chance- the toss of a coin to determine life or death- he is one of cinema’s most vicious villains. With his bob-cut hairstyle and his sunken brown eyes, he is a force to be reckoned with by looks alone.

True to many other Ethan and Joel Coen films the supporting or even the glorified extras are perfectly cast and filled with interesting quirkiness.

Examples of this are the kindly gas station owner who successfully guesses a coin toss correctly and is spared his life. My favorite is the matter-of-fact woman at the hotel front desk, with her permed hair, she gives as good as she gets, and her monotone voice is great.

It is these smaller intricacies that truly make No Country for Old Men shine and are a staple of Coen Brother films in general.

Many similarities abound between Fargo and No Country for Old Men, not the least of which is the main protagonist being an older and wiser police chief (Marge Gunderson and Tom Bell, respectively).

Add to this a series of brutal murders and the protagonist being from elsewhere and stumbling upon a small, bleak town. Of course, the extreme violence depicted in both must be mentioned as comparable.

Having shamefully only seen this epic thriller two times, No Country for Old Men (2007) is a dynamic film, reminiscent of the best of Sam Peckinpah classics such as The Getaway (1972) or The Wild Bunch (1967).

The Coen brothers cross film genres to include thriller, western, and suspense that would rival the greatest in Hitchcock films.

I cannot wait to see it again.

Oscar Nominations: 4 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Joel and Ethan Coen (won), Best Supporting Actor-Javier Bardem (won), Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

Skyfall-2012

Skyfall-2012

Director Sam Mendes

Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench

Scott’s Review #136

70243459

Reviewed July 26, 2014

Grade: B+

Skyfall is the latest (and twenty-third) installment in the decades-long running James Bond franchise (1962’s Dr. No was the first one) and this one receives major kudos from me.

When one looks back upon all of the Bond films, they have had to adjust to keep up with the times and Skyfall does this very successfully.

In addition, Skyfall brings a good, old-fashioned, compelling story to the table.

An attack on MI6 is initiated by a former agent, Raoul Silva, beautifully portrayed by Javier Bardem, who has a personal vendetta against M, played by Judi Dench.

Bardem gives a complex, powerful representation of the villain and is not overly cartoonish.

He appears crazy!

James Bond, of course, must come to the rescue and save the day.

The story finally gives M. a chance to shine as the main plot revolves around her. The relationship between M. and Raoul is interesting and layered with history, which makes for a compelling story.

Standard with Bond films, exotic locales are used. This time we get Shanghai, London, Scotland, and Macau.

James Bond’s past is also explored- He grew up in Scotland. The Bond family estate is a major backdrop for the action.

The reintroduction of two famous Bond characters- Moneypenny and Q is like a breath of fresh air added to the franchise, although I was not crazy about the casting choice of Q.

Also, one minor flaw with this film is there is no clear “Bond girl” to root for.

Skyfall (2012) provides a successful return to its Bond roots and will hopefully allow the Bond franchise to continue for many films to come.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Original Score, Best Original Song-“Skyfall” (won), Best Sound Editing (won), Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography

The Counselor-2013

The Counselor-2013

Director Ridley Scott

Starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt

Scott’s Review #18

70276713

Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A-

The Counselor (2013) is a star-studded, unique, drug trafficking thriller set in Mexico and Texas.

The film has met with some debate as viewers either loved or hated it. There appears to be a case made that those who hated it did not understand the movie.

It is not a “by the numbers” or “predictable” popcorn film. It’s much better than that. It’s a thinking man’s movie.

I saw shades of Quentin Tarantino’s influence and parts were reminiscent of the wonderful TV series Breaking Bad (2008-2013).

There are intersecting stories and heavy acting talent (Fassbender and Diaz are the standouts). This is Cameron Diaz’s best role and wish she would go edgy more often.

There are three brilliantly well-done scenes (motorcycle, Brad Pitt on the street, and landfill scene) that are as disturbing as they are artistic.

There are some plot holes, that can be overlooked.

It’s not simply an action film, but a character-driven one.

The viewing of The Counselor (2013) is a unique experience.