Vera Farmiga

Culture Warrior

This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code and Moon. If you haven’t seen the movies yet, go check it out first before diving in. When I watched Duncan Jones’s sophomore effort Source Code, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembles, nearly beat for beat in its structure, his first film Moon. This is not necessarily a criticism of Source Code or Jones, as repeated thematic occupations and narrative revisitation can be the sign of the auteur, and I’ve enjoyed both his films. But the films are, admittedly, structurally identical in several ways. Both involve a lone protagonist who discovers something unexpected about their identity that changes their relationship to their given tasks (Sam Bell realizing he is a clone in Moon, Captain Colter Stevens’s “near-death” state in Source Code), and combat some form of repression against a bureaucratic organizational body (a private corporation in Moon, military scientists in Source Code) while being assisted by an empathetic, benevolent subordinate of that organization (GERTY the robot in Moon, Vera Famiga’s Captain Goodwin in Source Code). But it is rather appropriate that both of Jones’s films be so structurally similar, for the major themes connecting them, and the narratives by which those themes are exercised, are enveloped in the topic of the repetitive structures of everyday life.

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If most thoughtful action films snagged a GED after dropping out of high school to train full time, Source Code is the kind of action film that went to college. Maybe it didn’t make it much farther than sophomore year philosophy, but that’s a good thing, because the movie knows how to drop some knowledge and still play a wicked, fun game of beer pong. Source Code is the best movie it could possibly be. Stream-lined and smart, refusing to condescend to its audience, filled with tense moments and active frustration – it may not have the hardest impact, but it’s a movie that sticks in your brain even after you’ve tossed the popcorn bag into the trash. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens – an army helicopter pilot who wakes up on a train that’s about to explode. He’s confused, frightened in a way that won’t allow him to show it, and when the train explodes, things get even weirder. He wakes up in a military training pod and told he has to go back in to find a bomb in order to stop another attack from happening.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr recovers from a full day of watching Armageddon back-to-back to crawl back to the multiplex. He re-lived the last eight minutes of Source Code over and over, thoroughly confusing himself. Then he stumbled into the theater next door to learn about the true meaning of Easter from Russell Brand and James Marsden. Things take a decidedly creepy turn when he watches Insidious and wets himself more than once. This led to a very unfortunate scene while he watched the sexual-predator cautionary tale Trust. No one would believe him it was just wee wee.

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Source Code really solidifies a suspicion we all have had about director Duncan Jones: he’s a real people person. Yes, unlike most sci-fi filmmakers, there is very little cynicism or dread to his films. While both Moon and his successful sophomore effort, Source Code, do explore the idea of man abusing science, ultimately, there’s a huge amount of hope in his work. Not only that, but he follows generally fun and – if a tad flawed – good people. That’s right, there’s no mopey, emo action lead in Source Code. Colter Stevens, the hero of the film, is the Han Solo archetype. He’s charming, brash, and sometimes, thinks more with his fists than his head. Stevens is quite similar to Duncan Jones’s previous antagonist, Sam Bell. There’s an everyman quality to both leads. They’re not macho. They’re not invincible. And they’re both flawed individuals. Like Bell, Stevens doesn’t shy away from acting like a jerk here and there. The predicament he’s in – once again, just like Sam Bell – raises ethical questions. Although Source Code isn’t entirely hardcore science-fiction, Jones does what all classical films of genre should do: ask a few questions. If you’ve ever seen Jones an interview before, then you already know he’s a personable and fun-seeming filmmaker. He manages to take that upbeat spirit of his and interject that good nature in his films, and as was the case with Moon, it works. WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers.

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Colleen Goodwin is a risky character in Source Code. Goodwin is the most exposition-reliant character, and if she was handled wrongly, this GPS machine could have been the most ham-fisted character of the year. Nearly every line Goodwin has is exposition. As an actor, as Vera Farmiga discusses, walking a fine line of being a character instead of a device is no easy task. For exposition to generally work, it requires a sense of urgency. Considering most of Farmiga’s screen time involves her talking on a computer screen, that must have made matters even more difficult. This type of exposition either flies or falls completely flat, so it was a smart move on Jones’s part to hire a pro like Farmiga. Although Goodwin is the main key to explaining things for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter (and for the audience), she’s also important for raising the main ethical questions of the film. By the end, Goodwin makes for a bit more than a lifeless and pandering talking head. Here’s what the well-spoken Vera Farmiga had to say about the art of bullshit, the difficulty of discussing Source Code, bringing realism to exposition, and more:

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If you don’t know who Duncan Jones is, it’s high time you learn. Jones burst onto the movie scene with his debut feature Moon, a low-budget sci-fi flick that wowed audiences at Sundance back in 2009. Picked up by Sony for US distribution, Moon is a subtle, quiet film featuring an incredible performance from Sam Rockwell, but the best part about it is that it’s a smart film. With the bright shiny colors and backseat plot propelling Avatar to eleventy billion dollars worldwide, it’s surprising that anyone rolled the dice on a small, smart sci-fi film. It’s refreshing that someone had the balls to say “yes” and doubly refreshing that audiences mostly embraced it. Now Jones is back at the helm with about 35 million of Summit’s hard-earned Twilight dollars to play with for his second feature, Source Code. Note: I saw Source Code blind and I think that’s a good way to see this type of film. I’m told the trailer gives away basically the same information that I’ll reveal below but it could be considered spoiler-y. If you’d rather go into not knowing anything, and I highly recommend that method of film-viewing, then please skip the next three paragraphs.

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Jake Gyllenhaal last foray into the action lead world wasn’t exactly a successful one. If you don’t know which film I’m referring to, it was the one where he had that interesting accent and played a prince of Persia. Still don’t recall that film? Understandable. But a year after seeing it, you may actually still remember director Duncan Jones’s Source Code and the lead hero of the film, Colter Stevens. Gyllenhaal is a charming guy. He’s the type of person you could throw a stupid question at who would give you back an interesting or, at the very least, a funny answer. Gyllenhaal rarely gets to show these charms on the big screen, which is a shame, but Duncan Jones smartly allows him to. Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is the type of leading man all us nerds like: he’s brash, witty, vulnerable, and even acts like a jerk at times. During a recent roundtable interview at SXSW we discussed what type of hero Colter is, Duncan Jones’s style, the script, the ending, and what’s going on with Nailed. There are a few spoilers, but they’re all clearly labeled and skippable:

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Editor’s Note: In a fevered rush to get straight to the movies he loved, intrepid reviewer Robert Levin didn’t write an intro. In fact, he might not even believe in them. Maybe he believes you’d rather dig into the movies than read one. So without any ado, here’s Robert’s list of the best movies he saw at Sundance. Look out for a few of them coming to a theater near New York and LA and On Demand throughout the year.

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And on the 3rd day, the Movie Gods of Sundance said there are still more movies to see… So here we go, I watch 3 hour documentary on Chicago gang violence, a cinema hold up by some cool Latino kids, and stayed up way late to watch the bumpin’ documentary about those midnight marauder’s A Tribe Called Quest. Also, Robert Levin checks in with his first review, taking on Vera Farmiga’s first work as a director.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this shit late at night, what do you expect?

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John Hughes had a powerful effect on us all. His films defined a generation that is held together by spirit and not arbitrary birth dates. He found a way to speak to the eternal teenager in all of us. His movies will also speak to Maya Donovan, a character in the forthcoming Pure Life, who is charmed by the Brat Pack and heads out to find a Smoke Up Johnny to give her purity to. The 13-year-old character will be played by Elle Fanning, and according to The Playlist, Vera Farmiga is also slated to play her mother – a woman burdened by work but not by money. The sexual component and the extreme young age brings to mind Dakota Fanning’s role in Hound Dog, but the subject matter here sounds completely different if not still engaging. At the very least, two strong performers will be at the center of it all with indie director Van Fischer at the helm.

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Last year, David Bowie’s son directed a film about Sam Rockwell being stranded all alone on the other side of the moon while his equipment and his mind fell apart. It was brilliant. That’s why it’s so exciting to see that his new film Source Code will be premiering as the opening night gala feature for the SXSW Film Festival in March 2011. The film focuses on a government program that allows agents to enter into the bodies of other people in the last moments of their lives. The program is used to make Jake Gyllenhaal relive a horrific train bombing over and over again until he can stop it from happening. The official synopsis from the SXSW press release is as follows:

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With Eddie Murphy sadly out of the running, the world now turns to Charlize Theron and Vera Farmiga to fill the void. The two actresses are rumored to be in talks to join The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that the entire planet will get tired of talking about minutes before its release. According to Comic Book Movie, Theron would be a detective/love interest for Jim Gordon, and Farmiga is auditioning to be a socialite and love interest for Bruce Wayne. Either way, even though this is just a rumor, the two women would make strong additions to the film. Or any film for that matter.

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Vera Farmiga

Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga is getting ready for double duty. The Up in the Air actress is said to be directing and starring in a new indie flick about the compelling world of Christian fundamentalism.

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Oscar Predictions

This year’s nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category run the gamut from a feisty lingerie-wearing mistress to a monstrous, abusive excuse for a mother, and while this category is usually pretty hard to predict, I’m thinking this year not so much. Here are the nominees for best actress in a supporting role.

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The last time we saw Madonna anywhere near a movie, at least in any significant way that didn’t include her getting a soundtrack credit, she was mercilessly stabbing away at the career of then husband Guy Ritchie in the torturous Swept Away. And while Ritchie has since recovered, Madonna has not.

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To this point, the only person tapped to star in Source Code, the next scheduled project for Moon director Duncan Jones (Moon, on DVD and Blu-ray now) is Jake Gyllenhaal. That is, until today…

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‘Up in the Air’ is Jason Reitman’s first flat-out masterpiece.

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Jason Reitman’s next film Up in the Air, doesn’t hit theaters nationwide until December 25th, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been talking about it for what feels like two years.

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On Sunday night during the season finale of Mad Men on AMC, Paramount Pictures ran a new TV spot for the upcoming Jason Reitman film Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. It has now hit the web.

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