George Clooney

“The Monuments Men”

Feb. 7

Directed by George Clooney

Written and directed by George Clooney, “The Monuments Men” is a World War II period piece that focuses on the efforts of a group of soldiers dedicated to rescuing and preserving works of art captured by Nazi troops. Together, the characters race to stop Hitler from destroying all the precious works. Starring Clooney, Cate Blancett and Matt Damon, “The Monuments Men” looks to be a political thriller, full of action and adventure, centered in a well-examined point of history. With a cast of war film veterans, such as Clooney and Damon, the film could be a potential Oscar nominee.

“The Wind Rises”

Feb. 21

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

The last film directed by Hayao Miyazaki — director of animated films such as “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke” — before his retirement, “The Wind Rises” explores the story of Jiro Horikoshi, who is known for creating the airplanes that the Japanese used during World War II. Keeping with Miyazaki’s trend of examining complex themes in his films, “The Wind Rises” explores the battle between pro- and anti-war sentiments in the Japanese Empire. The film features the vocal talents of Emily Blunt, Elijah Wood, Stanley Tucci and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Having won many critical awards already, the film’s U.S. release is eagerly awaited by Miyazaki loyalists and anime-lovers alike.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

March 7

Directed by Wes Anderson

Directed by UT alumnus Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is another quirky, colorful movie in the director’s filmography. The film’s plot examines the daily life of the patrons of an exquisite European hotel in the 1920s. Told from the perspective of a lobby boy, a murder mystery involving the employee’s boss unfolds along with the disappearance of a rare painting. The film features a wide cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray and Harvey Keitel. The movie follows in the footsteps of Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” with a fantastical setting and zany imagery, and may be gunning to make an appearance at the Oscars.

“Divergent”

March 21

Directed by Neil Burger 

Taking advantage of a year without a “Hunger Games” sequel, director Neil Burger’s “Divergent” aims to become the year’s biggest young adult novel adaptation. The story is set in a futuristic society where a girl fails to fall into any of the predisposed factions to which citizens are restricted, designating her as “divergent.” The movie promises both the action-adventure and the romantic aspects that have been used for similar book adaptations. Starring Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet, “Divergent” could be a potential spring blockbuster for teenage audiences and fans of the book series.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

April 4

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, continues the adventures of Captain America after the character’s last appearance in 2012’s “The Avengers.” Here, Captain America, who is still recovering from the events of his last adventure, must face a new threat in the form of the KGB super-agent, known as the Winter Soldier. Chris Evans returns as the hero, along with Scarlett Johansson in her role as Black Widow. “Winter Soldier” is scheduled to be the last Marvel Studios film released before “Avengers 2” in 2015, giving superhero fanatics something to tide them over before the Marvel universe heroes assemble once again.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

May 2

Directed by Marc Webb

While the leading member of the Avengers is fighting his own battles, Marvel’s other superstar returns in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Directed by Marc Webb, the sequel to this reboot sees Spider Man facing Electro and Rhino in what’s described as his greatest battle, all while delving deeper into his family’s past. Andrew Garfield returns as the title hero, along with Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti. The sequel is sure to introduce more villains and expand the mythology of the famed superhero. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is prepared to be the spring box office juggernaut and will likely become another successful entry into the rebooted franchise.

These celebrities could have been stars on the field

It seems like everyone’s heard the same old narrative. It comes around every time Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is promoting a new movie. Yes, we get it — The Rock used to be a college football star.

Johnson was a defensive lineman for the University of Miami during its glory days in the early ’90s. But really, talking about The Rock’s athletic career is just beating a dead horse at this point. 

There are some celebrities out there whose former athletic feats may surprise you. Many stars, who may not seem to have any athletic ability at all, actually used to be athletic superstars in high school and some even in college. Here’s some celebrities that may surprise you.

 

George Clooney

Before he was a movie star, Clooney had different aspirations for fame. He hoped to be a professional baseball player, and at only 16 he was invited to try out for the Cincinnati Reds.

He didn’t make the team, but the fact that he got the invite shows that Clooney had some real talent. It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened had the Reds let Clooney on the team. What would the world have done without “Oceans 11”?

 

Emma Watson

While attending Brown University, Watson played not quidditch but field hockey. But she excelled far more in classes at Hogwarts than she did on the field, as she dropped out of Brown in 2011. If only she could have conjured up a magic spell to help herself out. 

 

Tom Selleck

Selleck and his infamous mustache earned a basketball scholarship at the University of Southern California his senior year after walking on to the team as a junior. While he wasn’t exactly the star player of the team, he did prove to be useful.

During practice, Selleck, along with his practice squad, would learn the offense of their next opponent to scrimmage against USC’s starters. At many times, he would act the role of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar running the UCLA offense, probably the closest he got to being an NBA star. 

 

Burt Reynolds

Reynolds is the one celebrity who may have had the most raw talent. As a high school sophomore, Reynolds, a fullback, was named to the All-Southern First Team and received several scholarship offers, eventually deciding to attend Florida State University.

At FSU, Reynolds shared a room with Lee Corso, longtime college football coach and now famous broadcaster for ESPN. He had aspirations for All-American status and a future in the pros, but an injury in his first game and a subsequent car accident soon after ended his career in the sport.

Nevertheless, Reynolds obviously enjoyed an extremely successful acting career, and his football skills paid off for him in his 1974 film “The Longest Yard,” where he played embattled quarterback Paul Crewe in what is still arguably one of the most convincing athletic performances by an actor in movie history.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Seven years after Alfonso Cuaron released “Children of Men” — arguably the best film of the last decade — comes his long-awaited follow-up, “Gravity.” The film doesn’t quite pack the same emotional punch as “Children of Men,” but it makes up for it with stunning visual and technological innovations, many of which Cuaron developed specifically for this film. The result is movie magic in the truest sense of the phrase, taking Hollywood actors to space without ever leaving Earth in one of the year’s best films.

The plot is simple: Astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are in space doing maintenance on the International Space Station when a debris field wipes out their shuttle and strands them miles above Earth. As Stone and Kowalski struggle to get home, increasingly intense challenges makes it difficult for them. 

The script, co-written by Cuaron, won’t be winning any prizes for originality, but it brings pathos to a fairly standard survival story with a great sci-fi twist. The dialogue veers toward the obvious at times, with Bullock stumbling over awkward lines more frequently than the eternally charming Clooney. Nevertheless, “Gravity” differentiates from other survival films by keeping its characters refreshingly intelligent. Although they’re in a terrible situation, the escalating danger to the characters comes from a mix of bad luck and external influences, rather than their competent, measured handling of the situation, which makes “Gravity’s” persistent sense of panic
more effective.

That panic is perfectly captured by Bullock’s desperate, sympathetic performance as a rookie astronaut in a horrible situation. It’s a demanding performance, and she makes the despair of her plight feel immediate and vital, while keeping her character’s actions emotionally viable. Clooney should just play astronauts all the time as he is so perfectly calibrated in his unflappable, wry persona to the intimidating depths of outer space. He brings a dry wit and complete control to his limited role and would steal the film out from under Bullock if her performance had not been so central and effective. But the true star of the film is Cuaron.

“Gravity” opens with a shot that reportedly lasts 17 minutes, deftly setting up the characters and the vacuum they’ve chosen to venture into, and it’s the first in a set of stunning cinematic achievements from Cuaron. It’s rare that a film can display something never before seen, but Cuaron does that here. The visuals are epic, and Cuaron is equally skilled at inducing terror and wonder at the vastness of space.

The visuals are complemented by Stephen Price’s essential score, a mournful and sinister piece of music that dictates the mood of the film just as precisely as Cuaron’s visuals. Without giving too much away, the film’s final shot is a perfect summation of just how well its score, visuals and performances work together, a victory by Cuaron that allows the audience to leave satisfied.

“Gravity” is a film that exists almost entirely to serve its visuals, but it still manages to leave a lasting impression. Cuaron extracts such strong performances from Bullock and Clooney their perils feel like genuine threats that inspire chilling despair. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Cuaron has crafted something revolutionary, something that redefines what a film can and cannot do, and that alone renders “Gravity” as a testament to the capabilities of the human spirit.

Director/producer Ben Affleck accepts the award for best picture for "Argo" during theOscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

This live blog was written during the 2013 Academy Awards.  It is a live, slightly snarky feed of everything that happened and did not happen at this year's Academy Awards. 

11:01 In the most annoying way possible, the 2013 Academy Awards end with the ever grating Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane. They sing some horrible song which reminds us only of how horrible things were before they started awarding the good statues. 

10:54 The Oscar for BEST MOTION PICTURE is awarded to ARGO presented by Michelle Obama. These producers are all strange men who don't know where to stand. Oh, except best beard George Clooney who's looking great.  Ben also has a beard. He could be nominated. He makes Jennifer Garner cry, and all of us cry, and even himself cry a little. 

10:52 Jack Nicholson announces Michelle Obama on screen from the White House. Rocking her bangs and a beautiful silver dress, Michelle deserves this honor. She should probably win. She plugs how important arts are to our country, and she is right.

10:45 Meryl Streep arrives in a very sparkly dress to present the award for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE. The Oscar goes to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln over Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight.  He is the first actor to win three Oscars in the BEST ACTOR category. There is a standing ovation, and he looks so happy he almost looks miserable. Unlike our girl Lawrence, Day Lewis has his speech together. He thanks Abraham Lincoln.

10:40 The Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE goes to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Emmanuelle Rivera for Amour, Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Naomi Watts for the Impossible. She almost falls in her hurry up the stairs and receives a standing ovation. "This is nuts," she says, and nuts it is. Every Oscar pool is ruined by this point. Jennifer Larence looks incredible, Bradley Cooper looks so proud. Lawrence is totally scattered and has no speech. She was obviously not expecting that. 

10:32 Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas arrive to present the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR to Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI for their FOURTH Oscar of the night. Lee thanks the movie god and thanks the 3,000 people who worked with him on Life of Pi. 

10:26 BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY is awarded to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Tarantino is a total bozo. He's rambling about character choosing, and calling himself awesome for his casting choices. He "peace out"s the audience.

10:22 Seth. Please stop. Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron arrive with a massive height disparity to present the award for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY goes to Argo by Chris Terrio.  He apparently sprinted to the stage. What is this bad situation? Can you tell us that story? 

10:08 The cast of Chicago appears on stage to present the Oscar for BEST MOVIE SCORE to Life of Pi. Richard Gere makes a joke. It's funnier than anything MacFarland has said. Which is to say, marginally funny. Life of Pi is sweeping up Oscars. Norah Jones arrives on stage she looks nothing like herself. Is she even famous anymore? The Oscar for BEST ORIGINAL SONG goes to Skyfall by Adele who apparently has a last name. It is her first Academy Award. She cries immediately. Some other bro is there. He did something. He does not cry. 

10:01 Another not Beyonce arrives, this time in the form of Barbara Streisand. She receives a standing ovation. Take that Adele.

9:57 Beard number 1 aka George Clooney arrives for "In Memoriam." He says we could dedicate an entire show to it, you know, a show that NO ONE would watch. 

9:50 Selma Hayek looks like she tried to dress up as Cleopatra for a sorority Halloween party. They recap some Governor's Awards, which goes to people who love movies and have done great things for film. No one explains why they are called "Governor's."

9:48 Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart arrive on stage. Fittingly, the Harry Potter music plays. Stewart looks like she walked through some brush backstage and got her hair sucked into a whirlpool. They present the Oscar for PRODUCTION DESIGN to Lincoln. Christoph returns to the screen from earlier, and we still love him. 

9:43 Nicole Kidman shows us the next three Best Picture nominees with Silver Lining Playbook, Django Unchained, and Amour. Despite Argo's editing win and thus my prediction for best picture, Silver Lining Playbook was by far my favorite of the nominations. 

9:35 Jennifer Lawrence introduces Adele to sing "Skyfall." Adele looks like the sky fell onto her dress. There is no standing ovation for Adele. She is the first singing number to not receive one. The COLD SHOULDER award goes to Adele.

9:32 Sandra Bullock presents the award for FILM EDITING goes to William Goldenberg for Argo

9:29 The Academy Preseident takes the stage and explains a future Oscar museum. It will be the "first of it's kind." It sounds like a museum. REPRESENT. Jennifer Brofer of UT AUSTIN is on the stage!

9:23 Anne Hathaway thanks everyone and bows to her competitors. She is--as she has been since her transformation into Princess Mia--eloquent, elegent, and beautiful. She thanks her husband, who is teary. Who knew Anne Hathaway had a husband!? 

9:20 MacFarlane tries to convince us the Von Trapps are coming. His jokes are all bad. I am not laughing. Christopher Plummer joins us on stage. People laugh at his jokes. He says he has 30 films coming and we are ready for all of them. He presents the Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. It goes to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables over Amy Adams for the Master, Sally Field for Lincoln, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook. 

9:17 The JAWS wrap it up music is old. 

9:09 Facial hair is really back. Everyone is bearded. Beards, beards, beards, beards, beards. There is some learning going on now which is kind of a bummer, but not as much of a bummer as MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg comes to the stage with some bear that was in a movie that no one saw. The Oscar for BEST SOUND MIXING goes to Les Miserables. The Oscar for SOUND EDITING  is a tie. WHAT? Is this soccer!? This is art. Can't we just be judgement about these subjective things.  The first goes to Zero Dark Thirty and the second goes to Skyfall.

9:01 The musical tribute moves to Les Mis. Hugh Jackman's voice is still not good enough for this role. Also, facial hair, facial hair everywhere. Anne Hathaway is beautiful. Her lip quivers with "One Day More." Samantha Barkman looks like she could be the American Kate Middleton. The entire cast of Les Mis is on stage, and they look just as upset as they did in the movie. French flags drop from the ceiling. They receive the second standing ovation of the night. 

9:00 Still "not Beyonce" continues to sing. Girl's got pipes, but no Blue Ivy. 

8:53 John Travolta lists 1,000 names for a tribute to great musicals. He mispronounces Catherine Zeta Jones's name, but it doesn't matter because she's on stage, and she looks awesome.  No one knows why someone who is NOT BEYONCE is singing the Dreamgirls tribute. Where is Beyonce? Where is she? 

8:49 Seth MacFarlane compares the Oscars to church, which is maybe possible since he's offending everyone. Jennifer Garner is wearing all the diamonds. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM goes to AMOUR which is unsurprising because, I don't know, they're nominated for best picture. He thanks his wife and its adorable. 

8:42 Ben Affleck is bringing facial hair back. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE goes to Searching for Sugarman by two men whose names were not on the screen for long enough for me to figure out how to spell them. The JAWS theme song returns, and they leave. 

8:37 Liam Neeson gives us three more previews for best picture with Argo,  Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty. Liam Neeson could have probably also played Lincoln. 

8:32 Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx arrive to present BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM to Curfew by Sean Christensen. He notes his short time window, salutes someone, thanks his "devishly handsom father," and leaves. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT goes to Inocente by Shaun Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. They talk about supporting the arts and the music plays even though Amy Adams eyes are welling and we all love her so much. 

8:21 Hallie Berry appears to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond in motion pictures. There is, of course, a play by play of Bond girls in bikinis, some explosions, some car chases, and more Bond girls. Some lady appears dressed like an Oscar statue to sing about Bond. My guess is that this is about the time for Meryl Streep to arrive late with Starbucks in hand during the standing ovation.

8:16  Seth MacFarlane looks like a longer-haired Ken doll, and has about the same sense of humor. Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston arrive on stage, thank god. No one looks good in this lighting. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN goes to Jaqueline Duran for Anna Karenina.  Who is all of our hero since she also did Atonement and Pride and Predjudice. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING goes to Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell for their face dirt application in  Les Miserables. One of them appears to be wearing pink jeans. Who doesn't know Oscar dress code!? 

8:09 The award for ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, which is maybe the same award as cinematography with totally different nominees(?), goes to Life of Pi again, because it was beautiful. The first of these award winers tries to make a joke about meta-reality, literally no one laughs.  He keeps talking over increadibly loud "wrap it up music" because despite the Oscar's faking love for visual effects, they really don't care. 

8:06 Samuel L. Jackson is in a red velvet blazer. The Avengers present the award for ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY, aka pretty movie award, to Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. He is rambling about how much he loves his movie and getting teary. "Oh my god, I can't even speak," he says, which is kind of true.  

8:00 Reese Witherspoon joins us with perfect hair waves. She talks about the Best Picture Nominees. We see previews for Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild. MacFarlane calls Jennifer Lawrence old, and makes jokes on the expense of the nine year old.  He is the worst, but he welcomes six of the Avengers, which we like--mostly because he's leaving. 

7:55 Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy join us with the gold envelope for some jokes. The award for BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM goes to "Paperman" by John Kahrs. It is his first Academy Award and nomination. His speech is short and sweet, he's no Christopher Waltz. The BEST ANIMATED FILM award goes to Brave  Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Andrews has on a kilt, which no one "just happens to be wearing." 

7:47 We finally get Octavia Spencer with a gold envelope for ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained. He bows to his competitors and tears up in his speech behind his thick rimmed black glasses. He looks genuinely surprised, and gives an inspiring speech.   Everyone falls in love with Christoph Waltz.

7:45 This intro is still going. It shouldn't be.

7:38 There is an inappropriate "fake" musical number titled "We saw your boobs." This intro is rough. MacFarlane asks how to fix this and the answer is hidden from everyone. He introduces Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron to dance to "The Way You Look Tonight."  Channing Tatum can dance, but MacFarlane still can't sing.  He welcomes Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to dance and sing with him. I'm ignoring everyone but Gordon-Levitt.

7:30 We are welcomed to the Oscars by our host Seth MacFarlane. For the first time, the Oscars has a theme "music in films." Probably because Adele is here. MacFarlane makes a couple of jokes that do actually seem funny, but he introduces the Oscars with some sort of roll call that allows him to make these jokes. He makes a slavery joke. Is this okay? He moves on to Django Unchained and also makes a Chris Brown Rihanna reference. A screen descends behind him with Star Trek's Captain Kirk to stop him from "destroying the Academy Awards." Kirk asks "why can't Tina and Amy host everything?" which is really all any of us want. 

7:22 Every red carpet host is incredibly awkward. At the five minute mark we are inside some producing truck where everyone looks awkward. Queen Latifah manages to interact with them like they are normal, and it is an incredibly feat of acting on her part. They are now sitting down, and the real show will start soon. Chenoweth brings up Texas football, and it's horrible. 

7:15 Jamie Foxx really embarrasses his 19 year old college daughter who looks very uncomfortable and unhappy. She looks like someone stole her smile while her father hits on the interviewer. The camera cuts away from some of the most brilliant television drama the Oscars has seen thus far to visit Daniel Day Lewis who is a snooze in comparison.

7:12 Anne Hathaway gives us a preview that the cast will be performing. Kristin Chenoweth's voice still feels like a cheese grater. Especially as she tells Hathaway akwardly that "her hair is growing back nicely." There is a "magic" box they are trying to get us behind. Anne Hathaway guesses that Dorothy's slippers are in there, and people say bad things about the Smithsonian and I cry. 

7:05 George Clooney is unamused with everyone's antics because he's been in Berlin. He promises to drink and makes snarky faces at the hosts, but looks very very nice in his tux.  When Sandra Bullock is interviewed, there are a lot of weird things going on with the sound including Kristin Chenoweth's weird mousy voice. 

7:01 Jennifer Anniston calls the Oscars, "ya know, a magical piece of time," but does say that she will only be attending only one party in her red Valentino dress. The only important people thus far are named Jennifer. The Garner Jennifer claims that she's "just a puddle," which is kind of what the back of her purple dress looks like.   

6:55 Best Dressed has gone to Jennifer Lawrence. No one is quite sure who decided this. Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway were given honorable mentions. 

This Year in Culture: 2011

Photo Credit: Lin Zagorski | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's Note: The Life & Arts senior staff combed through this year's pop culture and selected the artists, albums, books and movements that they think, in one way or another, helped define 2011. This is the first in a two-day series.

Ryan Gosling. With that slicked-back hair, glossy grey-eyed death stare and defined abs — Emma Stone called them “Photoshopped” in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” — there’s no denial that the hunky actor has been a serious heartthrob since his career breakout as the hopeless romantic Noah from the all-time chick flick “The Notebook.”

Admiration for the actor, however, rocketed into mania this year. From Tumblrs teasingly mocking the actor’s debonair comportment, to the paparazzi’s obsession with Gosling walking his furry sidekick George, to the viral video of Gosling lifting anchorman Al Roker in a reenactment of “Dirty Dancing” on the “Today” show, the actor struck some kind of chord this year that changed what it means to be the new It Man.

The Gosling bandwagon even made its way to Austin. The buzz of Gosling on the grounds of this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest quickly went viral, rendering Austin, which normally ignores celebrities, a blushing, obsessive fan. Within hours a Tumblr (ryangoslingatfunfunfunfest) launched for festivalgoers to send in pictures of their sighting — or stalking — of the blond hunk. The Daily Texan’s own photographer Trent Lesikar snapped a shot of Gosling enjoying a fudge pop at the fest.

New York Magazine called it: In their Year In Culture last year, Gosling was noted as pack leader of a “band of similarly arty, polymathic weirdos [who] are leading a revolt against the plastic leading man,” — which included an all dark-and-handsome crew of James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. While the magazine’s scoop was on point with Gosling’s defiance of Hollywood typecasting — reigning the indie film world with quality performances and commercializing it with his bankable affability.

Gosling’s highlight reel of dramatic range includes his role as a drug-addicted teacher in “Half Nelson,” a man who falls in love with a blow-up doll in “Lars and The Real Girl” and as a love-broken half of a couple in “Blue Valentine.” Gosling’s magnetic energy and poignant performance in “Blue Valentine” in counterbalance to Michelle William’s beautifully vulnerable character won over critics and fused the audience’s interest for this year’s Gosling movies.

Veering away from his indie film streak, Gosling’s three releases this year were more mainstream and centered more on his looks. There was “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” where he played the womanizer opposite the Steve Carell’s cuckold and “Ides of March,” George Clooney’s presidential campaign drama starring Clooney himself and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What ultimately defines Gosling this year though, and perhaps what will be his biggest pop cultural impact, is his subtle, yet screen-commanding role as the mysterious stuntman driver in the neo-noir drama, “Drive.” With a nod to B-movies, an ’80s inspired electronic soundtrack and an exhibition of comedic gore, the film is the pulse of today’s culture. It inhibits today’s obsession with nostalgia and Gosling’s sellable looks and acting only made it easier for the audience to feed into it.

Aloof, reticent, but cutting, when he gives his love interest in “Drive,” played by Carey Mulligan, one final kiss goodbye in an elevator, you feel the crushing weight of a love forever lost in his broken, stoic stare into the stainless steel door. That moment was when Ryan Gosling became more than a pretty actor — he became a great one.

(Photo courtesy of Ad Hominem Production Company)

It’s been seven years since Alexander Payne’s last film (the sublime “Sideways), and although “The Descendants” may not reach the staggering highs of that film, it’s a charming picture of those who stay in Hawaii once vacation season is over.

Matt King (George Clooney) is an extraordinarily busy man long before his wife (Patricia Hastie) is seriously injured in a boating accident. Finding himself responsible for daughters Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), Matt struggles with having to be a parent for the first time while also dealing with a family constantly nipping at his heels to come to a decision regarding a massive tract of land they’ve inherited from Hawaiian royalty.

George Clooney is one of the few true movie stars we have, and he continues to challenge his image with each new role. Matt could have been an unsympathetic character, and his simmering anger at learning his wife has been unfaithful is wonderfully expressed by spiteful, sarcastic voice-over saying all the things he can’t. However, Clooney keeps Matt human throughout, even as his character displays a cruel streak in more than one scene and gives a performance that’s nothing less than fantastic.

Also great is the relationship Matt forms with his daughters, who do a lot to sand down his harder edges as the film goes on. As younger daughter Scottie, Amara Miller is offbeat and often hilarious, but Shailene Woodley steals the show as older daughter Alex. Alex is something of a firecracker, and her complicated relationship with her mother gives Woodley lots of great notes to play as she finds herself torn between furious anger at being shipped off to boarding school and crippling fear at losing her mother forever.

Even if it may not have the disemboweling wit of “Election” or the pervasive sadness of “About Schmidt,” “The Descendants” mixes the two to make for an undeniably affecting experience. Much of the film is uproariously funny, but Payne takes joy in pulling the rug out from under the audience and quickly swapping in laughs for heartache in the blink of an eye.
“The Descendants” is unquestionably a strong work from Payne and promises great things on the horizon. 

Printed on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 as: Clooney shines in father-daughter flick

A year ago, Shailene Woodley was probably best known for her prominent role on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” However, her wonderful performance as George Clooney’s spunky, brutally honest daughter in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” promises to redirect the 20-year-old actress’ career path.

The Daily Texan sat down with Woodley earlier this month.

DT: Tell me about Payne’s directorial style.
Woodley: On a personal level, Alexander is one of my top five favorite human beings. He’s just such a ... I will come to tears talking too much about him because I just think the world of him. As far as a director goes, he’s very low key and he has a very strong point of view when it comes to his films, which is rare for a director to have. His style is very ... He doesn’t want us to act when he casts us, he just goes, “Be you. That’s all I want. Just you, within the rules and restrictions of this character.”

DT: How would you compare working in television and film?
Woodley: There’s a giant difference. Television, we do like eight scenes a day, so it’s boom, boom, boom. You have very little creativity involved, time is of the essence, money is of the essence and you just have to get the job done, Film is very different in that you only have one scene to do a day, if that. Sometimes half a scene. So you get so much time to really go deep and figure out the different layers of character and story and explore. It’s like being on a playground — you can try the slide for a minute and then the swings for a second.

DT: Tell me about working with George Clooney.
Woodley: George is such a humble, down-to-earth professional, a phenomenal man on this planet, that there was no intimidation factor. George, Nick Krause and I went to Hawaii three weeks prior to filming to kind of get to know the vibe of Hawaii and get to know each other and Alexander. It was awesome! We went on mini-field trips around the island to kind of get to know the places that our characters grew up and the vibe of the culture. George, I mean, the second you meet him, you kind of forget that he’s George Clooney, “superstar,” he just becomes George Clooney from Kentucky with a heart of gold. He’s such an amazing, comfortable guy to be around that there’s no intimidation factor, and it was kind of an organic bonding process. It was three people getting to know each other.

Printed on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 as: Woodley shares her silver screen experience
 

George Clooney directs and stars in political drama “The Ides of March,” featuring a full cast of well-known actors such as Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. (Photo Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

George Clooney’s first directorial effort since 2008’s “Leatherheads” abandons the screwball comedy that derailed that film and returns to the socially conscious sparring of 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “The Ides of March” is not only a clear evolution of Clooney’s directorial style, but an impressive piece of intelligent, adult cinema; political intrigue of the highest degree.

Clooney makes a splash in front of the camera as well, co-starring as presidential candidate Mike Morris, whose campaign is headed up by Stephen (Ryan Gosling) and Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman). His opponent for the Democratic nomination for president barely registers in the film, represented instead by campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). When Tom calls a meeting with Stephen under mysterious circumstances, Stephen’s professional and personal career begin to implode, and most of the film deals with Stephen scrambling to stay afloat in a vicious game where everyone knows more than him.

The cast Clooney has assembled couldn’t have more pedigree if it tried, from acting giants Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman to fellow Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei, not to mention former indie queen Evan Rachel Wood. Predictably, everyone’s operating at the top of their forms here. Gosling has been having a hell of a year between this, “Crazy, Stupid Love” and “Drive,” and he manages to turn in a performance filled with long interludes of nothing but Stephen thinking, trying to work out all the pieces in his head, and manages to make it equally compelling but radically different from his performance in “Drive.” When Stephen finally figures it all out, things get even more intense and Gosling easily holds his own against some of modern cinema’s heavyweights.

Evan Rachel Wood’s performance as a seductive intern is sultry yet human, and Paul Giamatti is underused but predictably great as the opposing campaign manager. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a stunning performance, perhaps his best since 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” and delivers an incredible monologue about loyalty midway through the film that’s a true showstopper. Even cinematic chameleon Jeffrey Wright pops in for a few scenes, and manages to round out a slightly underwritten antagonist easily. Clooney’s character doesn’t get much to do, but he knows how to win an audience and deliver a speech, and, apart from one great, dramatic moment late in the film, that’s all he’s asked to do.

However, Clooney gets plenty of chances to show off behind the camera. Along with directing and starring, Clooney co-writes with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon. Clooney adapted Willimon’s play “Farragut North” and while his script and dialogue is a prime example of how to translate a play to screen, the film’s theatrical roots never overpower the material’s cinematic appeal. Clooney’s direction never calls attention to itself, even when finding some memorable, creative images. Clooney also bathes the film in shadows as the characters delve into increasingly shady territory, and a climactic moment in a kitchen between Gosling’s character and his own is a marvel, drawing the audience in visually before the characters rip into each other verbally.

“The Ides of March” is the best kind of film that we see during Oscar season — a genuinely involving, mature drama that gives its audience plenty to chew on, and allows us to see Hollywood’s best actors doing what they do best. The film is packed with powerhouse performances and is easily Clooney’s best work behind the camera to date. Expect to be hearing a lot about this smart, memorable film going forward.