Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - The Year in Review

Recession-Era Cinema
By R. Kurt Osenlund

"Economy” was the word on everyone's lips this year, and it's the word I kept coming back to when thinking about the year's best films. Whether implicitly or explicitly, in form or in function, in story or in style, my favorite movies reflected 2009's recessionary landscape.



More about power than money but firmly tethered to both, Armando Ianucci's biting British political comedy “In the Loop” offers a screamingly funny and considerably scary glimpse into the chaotic swirl of media, intergovernmental relations and twisted communication that can set the ever-profitable machine of war into motion. Only “Brüno” delivered more tear-inducing laughs this year, and no comedy in years has been more brilliantly written. The film unflinchingly suggests that war can be the most cutthroat business of all, with a screwy slew of bigwigs and underlings from both sides of the pond climbing the ladder (and the “the mountain of conflict”).


"Avatar” is unquestionably the year's best bang for your movie buck, enhancing its breathtaking visuals with gimmick-free 3-D to provide an immersive, amazing cinematic experience. As Roger Ebert recently pointed out, it also proves that James Cameron is one of very few filmmakers working today who know how to make excellent use of hundreds of millions of dollars. A towering behemoth of pure astonishment, this long-awaited saga about an epic battle on a distant moon holds you spellbound for all of its 162 minutes, and vividly exemplifies the eye-popping possibilities of modern movie-making.


A transcendent, ingenious sci-fi adventure for the ages, bold new talent Neill Blomkamp's “District 9” flips the conventions of the alien invasion picture, presenting its otherworldly visitors as a group of vulnerable, persecuted refugees and creating a potent allegory on race and socioeconomic class. Executive produced by fantasy maestro Peter Jackson, the movie also succeeds as a fascinating faux-documentary, an edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller, a rip-roaring action flick and a great-looking creature feature – its computer-generated imagery seamlessly blended with the slums of its South African setting.


A gritty, galvanizing and richly textured drama set in 1980s Harlem, West Philly native Lee Daniels's “Precious” focuses on a girl who's not just poverty-stricken, but obese, illiterate, beaten at home, pregnant again by her father and HIV-positive. As the tight-lipped title character, breakout star Gabourey Sidibe gives a terrific, transformative debut performance, and as her venomous mother, comedienne Mo'Nique delivers the best performance of the year. Think you've got it bad? Then you haven't met Claireece “Precious” Jones, and when you do, odds are you'll never judge her again.

For her uncompromising Iraq War drama, “The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow takes a refreshingly thrifty approach to action filmmaking. She nixes the frenetic editing and showy effects, and instead uses frightening images and tightly-wound patience to produce relentless, white-knuckled tension. Led by the war-addicted Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner, Oscar-worthy), the bomb-defusing soldiers in this movie never feel safe, and neither does the audience. Emotional, yet unsentimental, it's the best contemporary war film since “Black Hawk Down.”


There's not a wasted moment, shot or line of dialogue in “Hunger,” a harrowing interpretation of the events that occurred within the walls of Northern Ireland's Maze Prison during the 1981 Irish hunger strike. Masterfully directed and co-written by British artist Steve McQueen, “Hunger” conveys its story not with words, but with visuals, its exposition reserved for one 17-minute conversation that serves as its entire second act and is caught in one continuous take. Nearly every frame is frame-worthy, as the grisly proceedings are captured with staggering aesthetic grace. As strike-initiating martyr Bobby Sands, rising star Michael Fassbender gives a fearless, indelible performance.

Plenty have argued that Danish provocateur Lars von Trier is unforgivably overindulgent with his use of shock value in the controversial jaw-dropper “Antichrist,” an unshakable beast of a movie best described as the director's dark vision of an alternate, godless world. But von Trier is highly economical in terms of plot, reducing his framework to the increasingly volatile interplay of a grieving couple attempting to mend their marriage and emotional wounds at a remote cabin in the woods. He indeed fills in the gaps with some gruesome, extremely shocking images, but more important than the images are their implications, which lead the mind down terrifying, devastating paths. The most profoundly disturbing film I've seen in years, and also one of the most undeniably powerful.


In translating the work and tragically short life of 19th century English poet John Keats to the screen, writer/director Jane Campion creates her own kind of poetry, presenting the romance between Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his muse, Fanny Brawne (an exquisite Abbie Cornish), as a ravishing gift to the senses. Like Bigelow, Campion exhibits a great deal of restraint and frugality, letting the movie's consummate loveliness wash over you but never forcing it upon you. Campion is in full command of the tools at her disposal (Grieg Fraser's photography, Mark Bradshaw's music, the delicate countryside of Bedfordshire, England), and uses them to craft a love story that's romantic in every way. The year's most beautiful film by a mile.

2. UP

The blissful, high-flying adventure “Up” reinstates why the films of Pixar are priceless and nearly peerless in an industry that too often forgets it's based on visual storytelling. Like “Hunger,” and like last year's “Wall-E,” this hilarious, exciting and very colorful tale of an old man who sails away on an incredible adventure after tying thousands of helium balloons to his house frequently eschews dialogue and communicates its narrative through meaningful, impactful, carefully rendered images. Though perfectly appropriate for kids, this is Pixar's most mature film to date, addressing themes of mortality and loss and stressing the importance of letting go of material things and embracing life – a soothing reminder for these difficult times.


To this list and to the cultural zeitgeist, there's nothing unclear about the relevance of “Up in the Air,” director and co-writer Jason Reitman's endlessly witty, enormously satisfying tragicomedy about an antihero who lives his life in hotels and airplanes and fires people for a living. It's not easy for a movie to be both ageless and acutely of-the-moment, but “Up in the Air” pulls it off. The components of job loss and the decline of human interaction via electronic communication are incomparably timely, yet the timeliness seems an almost incidental benefit of the eternal and universal core story. Reitman, who draws perfect performances from stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick, and does an extraordinary job of maintaining a funny, yet poignant tone, introduces us to a man slowly discovering his humanity. In the process, the supremely gifted young filmmker taps into the humanity in all of us.

“(500) Days of Summer,” “Gomorrah,” “Julia,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Brüno,” “Star Trek,” “Summer Hours” and “Goodbye Solo.”

Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Of Time and the City,” “The September Issue,” “Nine,” “Watchmen,” “An Englishman in New York,” “Michael Jackson's This Is It” and “I Love You, Man.”



Another nail in the coffin of Eddie Murphy's career, “Imagine That” is an absurd, unbearable family fantasy that tries and fails to mix the world of stocks with nonsense like magical blankies and invisible dragons. The finance stuff is over kids' heads and the kid stuff is in no way appealing to adults. Family schmamily – this is a movie for no one.


An outrageously insensitive carnage-fest that follows the disaster movie formula to the letter. Director Roland Emmerich may now hold the distinction of having the highest body count and annihilating the planet more completely than any other filmmaker on record, but what kind of career goal is that?


The most shamelessly unoriginal, cliché-filled rom-com to come along in quite some time. Completely implausible as a Starbucks-drinking, stiletto-wearing corporate hotshot bewitched by small-town charm, Renée Zellweger hits a new low.


British photographer Peter Rodger sets out across the globe to inquire about the meaning of God, and comes back with this pretentious, obtuse, hyperactive mess of a documentary that's basically unwatchable. OMG, did I hate it.


Even the climactic cat fight is clawless in this insipid “Fatal Attraction” rip-off, which features some of the year's most wooden acting and, certainly, the year's worst dialogue. “Did you not get my message?” Beyoncé's big-haired, bigger-tempered housewife asks at one point. If the message was, “This movie totally sucks,” then yeah, I got it. Loud and clear.


An insufferably long, incomprehensible nightmare of grinding metal, raucous special effects and monotonous fight sequences, Michael Bay's needless “Transformers” sequel is an assault on the cerebral cortex, creating the sensation of being fired through a pinball machine. Forget worst of the year – this awesomely awful movie gets my vote for worst of the decade.


To read last year's lists, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Nine' Review

"Nine" doesn't sit so well in the memory but, in the moment, it's a dazzling sit indeed.

Though thin on substance, this movie is basically tailor-made for me: glamorous, cinema-centric, European, musical, and teeming with big-name actresses. You may feel differently, as many others have, but I ate up nearly every number. Read more about it in my "Nine" review, now online at SouthPhillyReview.com. CLICK HERE.

"Welcome to our home...

...what's left of it."

Happy Holidays from Your Movie Buddy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Brothers' Review

Watching "Brothers," I was reminded of how much I love "In America" (2003), another Jim Sheridan film that showcases the director's superb way with children. Here, he draws dynamite performances from all his actors, but none are more impressive than those of young Taylor Geare and especially Bailee Madison, who portray the daughters of the characters played by Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.

Read more about "Brothers" in my review, now online at SouthPhillyReview.com. CLICK HERE.

R.I.P. Abbie Cornish...

...or, at least, R.I.P. Abbie Cornish's Oscar hopes for her extraordinary performance as Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion's ravishing "Bright Star." I'm getting painfully accustomed to latching on to a great bit of acting that ultimately gets ignored during awards season (last year I was crushed to see Rosemarie DeWitt get repeatedly snubbed for her brilliant work in "Rachel Getting Married").

This year, as much as I adored Carey Mulligan in "An Education," and marveled at Gabby Sidibe's transformative portrayal of the title character in "Precious" (you simply must see an interview with this girl to grasp how much of a departure Claireece Jones is from her actual persona), if I had to choose one lady to go up against Meryl Streep, it'd be Cornish. Such a feisty, yet vulnerable characer she brought so beautifully to life.

However, with all the precursors essentially in the bag, it appears Cornish's fate has been sealed as far as the Academy Awards are concerned. Rarely does a performer with hardly any precursor recognition move on to compete for the big prize.

Which brings me to the Southern-accented elephant in the room: Sandra Bullock is totally lovable, and I don't want to begrudge her her first Oscar nomination but, really, who watched both "Bright Star" and "The Blind Side" and thought Bullock was better than Cornish? (And, for that matter, who thought Bullock was better than Tilda Swinton in "Julia?") I realize "The Blind Side" is far more popular but, still, it baffles and saddens me. Such is the plight of an actress lover, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seeing Double

Boy, Hollywood Foreign Press, I love Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock, too, but might you have spread the wealth just a little? It never ceases to amaze me, the extent of both your favoritism and narrow-mindedness. (And "It's Complicated" for Best Screenplay? Best Screenplay of the year? Fo' real?)

To read all the nominees for the 67th Golden Globe Awards, CLICK HERE.

Monday, December 14, 2009

BFCA Nominees

Announced this morning were the nominees for this year's Critics' Choice Awards, bestowed by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Just a heads up, kids: I tried last year to keep up with the precursor awards, and it's an exhausting, timestaking, often thankless process. Therefore, this year I'm just posting some of the nominees and winners from major awards bodies when I get around to it. I've become a busier bee and a lazier Oscar watcher. Anyway, from the BFCA:


•An Education
•The Hurt Locker
•Inglourious Basterds
•A Serious Man
•Up In The Air


•Jeff Bridges – “Crazy Heart”
•George Clooney – “Up In The Air”
•Colin Firth – “A Single Man”
•Morgan Freeman – “Invictus”
•Viggo Mortensen – “The Road”
•Jeremy Renner – “The Hurt Locker”


•Emily Blunt – “The Young Victoria”
•Sandra Bullock – “The Blind Side”
•Carey Mulligan – “An Education”
•Saoirse Ronan – “The Lovely Bones”
•Gabourey Sidibe – “Precious”
•Meryl Streep – “Julie & Julia”


•Matt Damon – “Invictus”
•Woody Harrelson – “The Messenger”
•Christian McKay – “Me And Orson Welles”
•Alfred Molina – “An Education”
•Stanley Tucci – “The Lovely Bones”
•Christoph Waltz – “Inglourious Basterds”


•Marion Cotillard – “Nine”
•Vera Farmiga – “Up In The Air”
•Anna Kendrick – “Up In The Air”
•Mo’Nique – “Precious”
•Julianne Moore – “A Single Man”
•Samantha Morton – “The Messenger”


•Jae Head – “The Blind Side”
•Bailee Madison – “Brothers”
•Max Records – “Where The Wild Things Are”
•Saoirse Ronan – “The Lovely Bones”
•Kodi Smit-McPhee – “The Road”


•Inglourious Basterds
•Star Trek
•Up In The Air


•Kathryn Bigelow – “The Hurt Locker”
•James Cameron – “Avatar”
•Lee Daniels – “Precious”
•Clint Eastwood – “Invictus”
•Jason Reitman – “Up In The Air”
•Quentin Tarantino – “Inglourious Basterds”


•Mark Boal – “The Hurt Locker”
•Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – “A Serious Man”
•Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – “(500) Days Of Summer”
•Bob Peterson, Peter Docter – “Up”
•Quentin Tarantino – “Inglourious Basterds”


•Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach – “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
•Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell – “District 9”
•Geoffrey Fletcher – “Precious”
•Tom Ford, David Scearce – “A Single Man”
•Nick Hornby – “An Education”
•Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner – “Up In The Air”

*Read the rest at AwardsDaily.com. My thoughts? I'm mighty pissed about the snubbing of Abbie Cornish in "Bright Star," something I fear is going to be a trend this season. In better news, I'm happy to see Bailee Madison recognized in the Best Young Actor category (if it were up to me, she'd be among the Supporting Actress Oscar nominees). Guided by Jim Sheridan, her work in "Brothers" is one of the best child performances I've seen in quite some time, and I'm not often one to applaud child actors.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Invictus' Review

Great story. Great concept. Great message. Mediocre movie. Clint Eastwood's much-anticipated "Invictus" is, more than anything, a disappointment, which will probably nab a wealth of undeserved Oscar nominations.

I love the two actors above just as much as the next American moviegoer, but this film hardly showcases their talents, or Eastwood's, for that matter. Read my full review, now online at SouthPhillyReview.com. CLICK HERE.


Have you seen British photographer Peter Rodger's documentary, "Oh My God?," now wrapping up its limited U.S. run? My advice: Don't.

Hugh Jackman, as clueless as we are as to why he's in this movie.

Instead, read my better-late-than-never review of the film over at "The Good Life Blog" at BucksLocalNews.com. CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extaordinarily Uninspired

Worst poster ever?

Fantastic Mrs. Fox

"If what I think is happening is happening...it better not be."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

'Everybody's Fine' Review

Unsurprisingly, the Rotten Tomatoes score for "Everybody's Fine" is sinking as we speak. Believe you me, I was not expecting to like this film -- it reaks of typical, holiday season fluff. And yet, I was taken aback by the craft of it, and the gentle ease with which (most of) it unfolds.

And I may as well fess up: some later scenes, however obvious, really got my tears flowing. There, I said it. Catch my review of "Everybody's Fine," now online at SouthPhillyReview.com. CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Indie Spirit Nominations

I love reading the nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards almost as much as I love watching the uncensored ceremony on IFC. Though I don't always agree with their choices, here's one institution that's more about the craft of filmmaking than about politics and campaigns.

This year they liked (my fave picks in RED, not counting the films I haven't seen yet):

•(500) Days of Summer
•Sin Nombre
•The Last Station

•Joel & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
•Lee Daniels, Precious
•Cary Fukanaga, Sin Nombre
•James Grey, Two Lovers
•Michael Hoffman, The Last Station

•A Single Man
•Crazy Heart
•Easier With Practice
•The Messenger
•Paranormal Activity

•Maria Bello, Downloading Nancy
•Helen Mirren, The Last Station
•Gwyneth Paltrow, Two Lovers
•Gabby Sidibe, Precious
•Nisreen Faour, Amreeka

•Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
•Colin Firth, A Single Man
•Joseph Gordon Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
•Souleymane Sy Savane, Goodbye Solo
•Adam Scott, The Vicious Kind

•Mo’Nique, Precious
•Samantha Morton, The Messenger
•Natahlie Press, Fifty Dead Men Walking
•Mia Wasikowska, That Evening Sun
•Dina Korzun, Cold Souls

•Jemaine Clement, Gentlemen Broncos
•Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
•Cristian McKay, Me and Orson Welles
•Ramon McKinnon, That Evening Sun
•Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

•A Prophet
•An Education
•Everlasting Moments
•The Maid


•A Serious Man

•Cold Souls
•Crazy Heart
•A Single Man

•Cold Souls
•Crazy Heart
•A Single Man

•A Serious Man
•Sin Nombre
•Treeless Mountain
•Cold Souls
•Bad Lieutenant

•Food, Inc.
•More Than a Game
•October Country
•Which Way Home

•Karen Chien
•Larry Fessenden
•Dia Sokol

•Natalia Almada
•Bill Ross and Turner Ross
•Jessica Oreck

A 'Precious' Project

Daring filmmaker Lee Daniels gets personal and passionate in an interview regarding his gripping Oscar contender, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

By R. Kurt Osenlund

Lee Daniels is one of those fascinating creative types who are so passionate about their work, they stumble over their sentences when trying to describe it, as if the proper adjectives simply don't exist. On a late October morning, during a roundtable discussion at Philadelphia's Palomar Hotel, the renegade filmmaker pauses frequently and flutters off on earnest tangents while discussing Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, his gritty but graceful urban drama, which closed out the 18 ½ Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF) the night before and is now playing nationwide.

The breaks in Daniels's speech may well be a result of mild interview fatigue, as he's basically been doing press for Precious ever since it exploded onto the scene at January's Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for drama, and kick-started a wave of rapturous buzz that's arguably unmatched by any other film this year. Or, perhaps he's still awash in the afterglow of PFF's closing night party, where he admits he did quite a lot of celebrating. Whatever the reason, Daniels doesn't need to say much to express his enthusiasm for his beloved new movie, and when he does find the words, he ardently articulates what every film enthusiast who's been paying attention over the last 11 months already knows: Precious is a project that has truly changed its director's life.

Lee Daniels. (Photo by Renaud Corlouer.)

Adapted by first-time screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher from New York-based author Sapphire's award-winning 1996 novel, Precious is no easy tale. Set in 1987 Harlem and focusing on Claireece “Precious” Jones, an obese, illiterate, 16-year-old African-American girl who makes Job look blessed by comparison, it deals with rape, incest, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and unfathomable domestic abuse. In other words, it's not the kind of movie Hollywood execs are dying to greenlight.

But Daniels has never been one to color inside the lines or adhere to conventions. As an independent producer, he's championed films like Monster's Ball (2001), a turbulent death row drama that won an Oscar for lead actress Halle Berry and made Daniels the first sole African-American producer of an Academy Award-winning movie, and The Woodsman (2004), an equally hard-hitting picture set and shot in Philadelphia and starring Kevin Bacon as a convicted child molester. As director, Daniels's one prior credit is Shadowboxer (2005), an underrated thriller that also takes place in Philadelphia and stars Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. as lovers and contract killers.

“When I make a movie, I make it for me,” says Daniels, 49. “I can't worry about what other people think. I have to think about what I want to see...which is not often what America wants to see and not oftentimes politically correct. It's not that I don't care for the audience – I do care for the audience – but I have to...I have to...tell what's in my soul, and the truth as I know it to be.”

Daniels says he first came across Sapphire's Push many years ago, when it was given to him by an agent in New York.

“I stayed with the book and the book stayed with me,” he says. “It stuck to me like hot grits. It was really one of those things that just...left me gasping. I was gasping...with my mouth open. Every other page was like, 'What the f—k did I just read!?' And I wanted to see it on the screen. I knew that it would translate well to the screen.”

Daniels made it a personal mission to carry out that translation, aggressively seeking the rights to Push even before he made Monster's Ball. According to the production notes for Precious, Sapphire had long been extremely protective of her debut novel, and turned down countless offers to adapt it – including, initially, an offer from Daniels. But after eventually seeing his work, Sapphire was impressed by Daniels's penchant for risk-taking, and finally agreed to trust him with her baby. Daniels developed the project through his own company, Lee Daniels Entertainment, an outgrowth of his earlier days in talent management. (He later gained additional financial support from Smokewood Entertainment, a fellow independent company that would also collaborate with him on the production of Tennessee, a road movie released earlier this year.)

Gabourey Sidibe and Paula Patton in a scene from Precious.

was completed and acquired by U.S. distributor Lionsgate before it caught the eyes and hearts of media giants Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, who got wind of the film around the time of its Sundance triumph. Both have since signed on as executive producers, and have helped to thrust Precious into the public consciousness.

“Normally, my movies have a specific cult following,” Daniels says. “With Oprah and Tyler, they said, 'Uh-uh, not on this one. We're going to try to ring the bell.' And they have...they've been very supportive.”

The whirlwind of hype and publicity surrounding Precious is filled with talk of the film's harrowing emotional content, but one thing it doesn't prepare you for is the amount of unique and imaginative visual texture embedded in the movie. Daniels gives Precious a stamp of stylistic distinction, particularly with scenes that illustrate his heroine's fantasies, which she uses for solace when things get extra rough. I ask Daniels about his own escapism, and if he needed similar fantasies while growing up in West Philadelphia. He offers an answer that is at once cryptic and revealing.

“I did,” Daniels says. “I didn't have a rosy childhood. Some...not so nice things happened. I think my fantasies made me a better person because if I had stayed in my world...in the moment...and if I didn't escape...I don't know how I would've ended up. And the movie delves into that. When (Precious is) able to heal, she no longer needs her fantasies because she's embraced herself. That's when we know we don't need fantasies any more...when we're okay with who we are.”

In a similar vein, I ask about another visual flourish: the orange scarf that Precious is almost never seen without, and that she eventually passes on to another young girl who's also suffering from abuse.

“It's a symbol of hope,” Daniels says of the accessory, which didn't appear in the novel. As the director continues and reiterates the importance of self-acceptance, he gets emotional. “(Precious) eventually doesn't need (the scarf), just like her fantasies. Once she looks in the mirror, and she doesn't see someone else but sees herself, in her full...whatever it is that she is, it's just...[he chokes up]...it's a really good thing.”

Lee Daniels (left) directs Gabourey Sidibe (center) and Xosha Roquemore on the set of Precious. (Photo by Anne Marie Fox.)

In regard to what he hopes viewers will take away from Precious, Daniels says the willingness to love and appreciate oneself and others is certainly high on the list. But he also says he hopes people will leave his film being able to better embrace homosexuality, a statement that is at first a bit jarring, seeing as homosexuality, while addressed, is hardly a chief component of the Precious narrative. But as he elaborates on the movie's implicit theme of tolerance, Daniels, openly gay himself, affirms that, for him, Precious is deeply personal indeed.

“I'm a black, gay filmmaker,” Daniels says. “Because I'm African-American, (Precious) has a black sensibility, and I told the story, originally, for a black audience. And it has a gay sensibility under it all...as its through-line. But I think...I think it's a universal story. It goes beyond sex, race and culture. It's a story for everyone.”

The universal accessibility of Precious, along with its multiple film fest prizes, glowing reviews and impressive initial box-office take (it banked $1.9 million on its opening weekend while still only playing on 18 screens), has contributed to its current stance as an indisputable Oscar front-runner. A nomination for Best Picture seems like a sure thing, as do nods for lead actress Gabourey Sidibe (who shows great instincts in a remarkable, transformative debut performance), supporting actress Mo'Nique (who's astounding as Precious's monster of a mother), and, yes, for Daniels. The superstitious director, however, doesn't want to hear anything about the awards buzz. When the topic comes up, he plugs his ears with his fingers and hums a tune to drown out the sound.

Besides, Daniels does seem to genuinely be a filmmaker for whom the creative process is more rewarding than any subsequent accolades. He confirms as much in his next statement, and this he says without a hint of hesitation: “I don't look at my films the way the audience looks at my films. They look at the final product, at what's up on the screen. I look at each film as a personal growth as a man, and focus on what I can learn from it and how it can make me a better human being. It's all part of my journey.”

*This article was published in the December 2009 issue of ICON magazine. It has been reprinted with permission.