Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Gyllenhaals in Two Weeks! Thanks, SAG Awards!

Jake Gyllenhaal
What could be better than seeing a whole season's worth of first-run films in the movie theater? Seeing them for free! This year, I was randomly chosen to be on the Screen Actors Guild Nominating Committee... Woohoo! This is not an honor I take lightly. When a SAG member takes on the sacred duty, he/she has to agree to see as many screenings as possible, and stay for the Q&A whenever they can. I signed on that dotted line quicker than you could say...well, you get the picture. Of course, only SAG members living in LA or New York get to be on the committee, because those are the only places they have the special screenings. Makes you really feel like a big shot. 
Michael Peña
So, let me give you a run down of those films we've already seen, though I promise to update if I see others worthy of comment. The first one we saw, about a month ago, was Beasts of the Southern Wild. This is a super indie film that was picked up by the Weinstein brothers. I won't say anything about the plot because I want you to be as surprised as I was. Do yourself a favor, and, if you have the chance, run, don't walk, to the nearest theater it's playing in. It just won't have the same impact on the small screen. Also, don't read anything about it ahead of time - just take my word for it. It's a little disturbing, but not terribly so, and though the main character is a child, she isn't harmed. However, what you will see will have your jaw hanging open. I was gripping the arms of my seat, screaming inside my head, "What the f---!" pretty much the whole time. Yet, equally, the movie manages to come off as spiritual, uplifting and just, plain remarkable. It's a complete and perfect work of art.
Beasts of the Southern Wild

On the Road
The Master
The next two films my husband, Jon, and I were invited to (because I get to bring a guest) were On the Road and The Master. I was excited about On the Road mainly because the live Q&A was going to  be with Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and director Walter Salles, of The Motorcycle Diaries, one of my favorite films. Well, this one was a letdown. I mean, it was gorgeously filmed and the acting was great...even Kristen Stewart who couldn't breathe life into the inane Twilight series was magical in On the Road. The problem was how, and why, would you make a film out of that iconic Jack Kerouac book? You can't, and Salles shouldn't have. So thumbs down on that one, and no amount of seeing the stars talk about it in person could convince me otherwise.

The following night we went to a gala-like event at the enormous, 1920's theater, The Zeigfeld, where stars like Rosie Perez and Gabourey Sidibe sauntered right by our seats, and we were greeted with opening remarks by Harvey Weinstein and Amy Adams! Well, the night could have ended right there for me. And it would have been better if it had because the movie, The Master, was dreary. It was like being in acting class: scene after scene of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix emoting in uber-dramatic situations, with a boring plot that just dragged on and on. Another thumbs down - I don't care what the critics say.

Then a week ago Friday, September 14th, we were treated to a screening of End of Watch. This is another absolute must-see; reminiscent of Crash, but less slick. It's about police officers in East LA going about their dangerous work and filming it with a hand-held camera when possible, or tiny lenses pinned to their uniforms, or set on the dashboard of their car. It is a nail-biting, wrenching ride through a world most of us would rather never know about and it gave me a whole new appreciation of what cops go through - not all cops of course, but those with the toughest beats. AND...the Q&A was with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña! Heehee! Eat your hearts out gals. Yes, Jake is every bit as handsome and charming in person as you'd expect, but I kind of had more of a thing for Peña. Good for me too, because walking out of the theater, we ran into him, and had a private chat walking down 6th Avenue. He didn't even seem to think we were stalking him! (We weren't.)

Finally, last night, the 24th, we took in Won't Back Down, with a Q&A by Maggie Gyllenhaal (the G-haals are big this year), Rosie Perez (she's just everywhere isn't she?), and Viola Davis (winner of the 2011 SAG Best Actress award for The Help). Jon was especially excited about this one because he's been in love with Maggie G. ever since seeing her in Stranger than Fiction. The film was really excellent, and all the above mentioned actresses were at the top of their games. It was particularly exciting, after seeing their performances, to find that they were as passionate off screen as on about the subject of the film - all of them so inspired and inspiring. Then, as an extra bonus, we found ourselves behind Ms. Gyllenhaal as we were on our way out of the theater (again!). I told her how much we enjoyed her performance and thanked her for her time with us as if I really were a big shot! (I was wearing a particularly great dress too, so I think I made a nice impression.) Maggie shook our hands and was very gracious. And beautiful...even more so than on screen. Jon was so floored he couldn't speak.
Rosie Perez

If you're really nice to me, maybe I'll invite you to be my guest at the next screening, though you'll have to fight my husband, son, and best friend, in that order, for the privilege. It's so nice to be important!

Maggie Gyllenhaal