THE POPCORN REEL EDITOR'S DESK - a not-so weekly word about the movies                      

Monday, April 9, 2007


he first three months of 2007 are already in the books (don't panic -- it will be September before you know it!) and there have been some noteworthy acting achievements. 

Let's begin with Mary Beth Hurt's strong performance in "The Dead Girl", a film released in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration late last year but which the rest of the world has been getting to see this year as a 2007 release.  Hurt is vulnerable, courageous and liberating in her role as a wife fed-up of her husband's philandering in Karen Moncrieff's film.  She knows her husband better than he knows himself.

Sienna Miller was brilliant in "Factory Girl", directed by George Hickenlooper.  Miss Miller is an actor to watch.  She has a charm, intelligence and sex appeal both on-screen as Edie Sedgwick in Mr. Hickenlooper's film, and off-screen.  Playing the real-life Sedgwick, Miss Miller demonstrates a range of highs to lows in her character overnight.  Her acting is authentic, not caricatured -- and the stunning results show.

Ulrich Muhe turns in the year's best lead performance so far with his role as the Stasi surveillance chief who spies on a writer-actor couple in the days of the German Democratic Republic in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's astounding "Das Leben Der Anderen" ("The Lives Of Others"). 

Adam Sandler earns plaudits for his volatile Charlie character from "Reign On Me", the best American film of the first three months of 2007.  Charlie is wounded, disconnected and emotionally battered by life.  He manages to maintain an odd sense of humor but pain is never far away.  Also noteworthy in Mike Binder's film are Saffron Burrows and Paula Newsome. 

Cillian Murphy was noteworthy in "The Wind That Shakes The Barley", Ken Loach's Cannes-winning film.  Mr. Murphy plays one of two brothers caught on opposing sides of the Irish uprising against the colonial British in the 1920's.  Cillian (pronounced "Kill-e-un") continues to better himself with each performance and cements his place as an actor to watch.  He is as diverse in his roles as any actor around, a chameleon in the same way Gary Oldman is.

Laura Dern excelled in "Inland Empire", and if an actor does his or her best work with a particular director, it seems as if David Lynch helps bring out the best in her, in the way that Martin Scorsese has helped Leonardo DiCaprio's stature as an actor.  Dern plays at least three different roles in Mr. Lynch's beguiling and dazzling three-hour mystery thriller and each role is demanding in a most physical way.

Irrfan Khan was a revelation in Mira Nair's "The Namesake", playing Ashoke, a tranquil man who wants his son (Kal Penn) to discover the Indian culture and heritage which he as an American-born son has largely shunned.  Mr. Khan's acting is effortless, but the acting is so good because of the appearance of effortlessness.  No other actor so far this year has been so completely at home with a character, even though Mr. Khan revealed to Ms. Nair that she turned him into something that he is the complete opposite of.

Finally, Robert Downey, Jr. showed why he is one of America's finest acting talents once again with his performance as San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery in David Fincher's meticulous masterwork "Zodiac".  If ever a film didn't skirt the facts of its true story for the sake of entertainment this is the one, except with one small caveat: it manages to entertain while it edifies.

Now that April is here, the second quarter of the film year has also commenced.  So far there isn't anything acting-wise that immediately jumps off the screen, but star-making (or star-breaking) performances are just waiting to be unearthed.  If this quarter turns out to be as lively as the first, then it will at least be a good half-year in film.

Remember to keep watching and keep logging on to The Popcorn Reel for all the latest film news, events, coverage, reviews, interviews, feature stories and lots more.  Keep your mouse clicking here, and enjoy the movies, wherever you may be.


Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel

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