No surprises here: Christopher Plummer has won the Oscar for best supporting actor for Beginners. He beat out Kenneth Branagh, Jonah Hill, Nick Nolte, and Max von Sydow. Do you agree with Plummer's win?
Tom Hanks stars as the titular character in this film about a man who tries to reinvent himself after losing his job due to the fact that he doesn't have a college degree. In an attempt to start anew, Larry heads to community college, where he falls in love with his speech class professor Mercedes (Julia Roberts). While the pairing up of two big name celebrities may seem fail-proof, the pair lack chemistry and much of the film's humor falls flat. DVD extras include deleted scenes and a featurette about the making of the film.
Shortly after his mother dies, Oliver's (Ewan McGregor) father Hal (Christopher Plummer) drops two bombshells on his son when he reveals he's gay and has terminal cancer. Hal manages to get to know his father in a whole new light before losing him, but is left to reconcile his grief just as he meets new love interest Anna (Melanie Laurent). Though the film presents tragic material, McGregor portrays his character's sorrow in such a beautiful and nuanced way, that the film is actually charming. DVD extras include director commentary and a short film about the making of Beginners.
See one more DVD release when you keep reading
In the movie Beginners, out last Friday in limited release, we meet Oliver, played by Ewan McGregor, after the death of his mother and then again after the death of his father. His mother's passing prompts his 70-something father Hal (Christopher Plummer) to come out as a homosexual man determined to dive into LA's gay culture and experience everything he missed while in the closet. Soon Hal finds out he has terminal cancer, but he's set on continuing his new life like he never got the diagnosis. The movie follows in parallel Hal's final years, as well as his son Oliver's life after Hal dies. Once the father he was just getting to know is gone, Oliver is shrouded in a cloud of grief. He meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress, and we see him struggle to let himself fall in love.
I recently had the chance to interview Ewan McGregor and Mike Mills, the movie's writer and director. Beginners is based on Mike's experience with his own father, who came out of the closet after his mother passed away. Here's what they told me they learned while making a film about love, loss, and the promise of new beginnings.
Humor can help you break free from difficult circumstances. Mike describes what he learned through his parents' subversive sense of humor: "I think in my family humor has been used as a way to get out of different boxes. The box of being in a hospital, the box of being in a sad situation. It’s a way to dismantle the rules that are holding you down."
It's liberating to speak a different language. "For Melanie [Laurent] acting in English for the first time," Ewan recalls, "she said she felt this incredible sense of freedom because she wasn’t acting in French. She was like a live wire, all over the room. You never knew what she was going to do next."
You can still learn from and connect to your late family members. Mike said that his mother knew his dad was gay and was "a super complicated Humphrey Bogart of a woman." He says making the movie helped him unpack the complexities of both of his parents: "I really enjoyed writing from their perspectives. Sometimes when I watch the movie, I kind of feel my dad. I don’t think Christopher is my dad, but I kind of feel my dad or like I’m talking to my dad about what Christopher’s doing. And I cherish that."
Sexuality is only one part of what makes each person who they are. Ewan, who has appeared in various movies dealing with gay themes, explained, "I think there’s a mistake that’s made when you’re playing a homosexual character that you’re playing a gay character. No, you’re playing a character. That’s it. You're playing a character who likes to sleep with men. They’re whole human beings. So sexuality would be a part of that."
Anyone can surprise you. Ewan says Christopher Plumber "became a skinny jean connoisseur. He looked all right in them."
It's impressive when a film can find magic and beauty in the everyday, and it's even more remarkable when a film can find such things in life's tragedies. The drama Beginners does just that, forging a lovely, touching gem from its main character's personal sorrow. Ewan McGregor stars as Oliver, a thirty-something man dealing with the death of his parents. When the film begins, Oliver has just lost his mother, but her passing prompts his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) to come out to his son. His other admission is that he has terminal cancer, so Hal only has a few more years to live, and he declares his intention to live the rest of his life as an openly gay man and experience all he had missed out on.
From there, the film follows two courses; one in which we witness Hal's final years as he lives it up and becomes closer to Oliver, and another that takes place after Hal has died. Grieving the loss of his father, Oliver tries to move on, and attempts to connect with a new love interest, Anna (Melanie Laurent). When Oliver meets Anna, a French actress who's frequently traveling for work, he's a melancholy shell of himself. His grief is heightened because his father's rediscovery of himself and subsequent happiness makes Oliver miss a man he was just getting acquainted with. As Oliver struggles to recover from loss, he finds solace in his memories, but it's uncertain whether he'll be able to let go enough to find the total happiness he obviously wants. While it's a setup that could be depressing or frustrating, the gentle hand of writer/director Mike Mills makes Beginners a gem of a movie that meditates on love, death, loss, and hope. To see why I loved the film, just read more
Between the trailer for Perfect Sense and now this preview, the universe is really feeding my love for Ewan McGregor this month. The perennially charismatic actor stars in Beginners, a movie that appears to be as charming as its lead. Things start off shaky, with McGregor's character Oliver talking to a dog like he's a human, and the dog sort of responds with subtitles. Keep watching: we're let in to other aspects of Oliver's life, like the father who's recently come out to him (Christopher Plummer), and Anna, the new woman in his life that he's falling for (the radiant Melanie Laurent, the badass heroine of Inglourious Basterds).
Though Oliver's life at first seems lonely, it appears that he's given the chance to grow through the revelations of his father's sexuality, and later, his dad's diagnosis of terminal cancer. Even his new relationship with Anna has its flaws, which Oliver seems to embrace. The tone feels very sweet and touching, and as long as that dog doesn't actually start talking, I'll be excited to see it when it comes to theaters June 3. Watch the trailer when you read more
You've made up your mind - this winter you're going to learn to snowboard. Just so you know, your bum and the snow are going to become BFF. Don't stress - in the beginning, snowboarding is all about falling and laughing.
Here are some tips for new riders...
- Dress in comfortable, loose-fitting snow clothing. Don't forget gloves, goggles and a hat. Wrists are very vulnerable, especially for beginners - consider wearing a pair of wrist guards and a helmet.
- Get into your bindings on level ground - you don't want your board to go sliding down the hill without you. Start with just your right foot.
- Take some baby steps up the incline about 10 feet (this is exhausting). Now plant your butt down in the snow and put your left foot into the binding.
- Make sure your board is perpendicular to the slope before you stand up - that way you won't start sliding down. Keep your weight back on your heels.
- To start sliding down the hill, lean into your toes. To stop, lean back on your heels. Repeat this until you get the hang of starting and stopping (very important skill).
Fit's Tip: At this point you'll want a snowboarding friend or instructor to give you a lesson on getting on and off the chairlift. Get ready for more laughing.