Alexander Payne

Film Review: Downsizing

by Chris Piper on December 22, 2017

Having your tiny cake and eating it, too

Matt Damon (l.) plays Paul Safranek and Jason Sudeikis plays Dave Johnson in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.

“Going small” is not a goal often associated with the dreams of mainstream America, but what if going small meant maintaining a lavish, upper middle-class, suburban lifestyle with all the trimmings? This deceptively simple idea underlies Downsizing, Alexander Payne’s newest film, starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau, and Christoph Waltz. The film presents enough imagination and asks enough questions to launch a series, but it never figures out what it’s trying to say.

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Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann present their Top 10 Films of 2013.  Here’s Carrie’s list, presented in alphabetical order.

1.) All is Lost
Robert Refdord struggles against the elements in All is Lost.

Robert Redford struggles against the elements in All is Lost.

That a film with just a single actor and virtually no dialog can be absolutely riveting is a testament both to Robert Redford’s brilliant acting and to writer/director J.C. Chandor’s exceptional skill at his craft. Redford says more with his rugged face and worried eyes than most actors do with a wordy, five-star script. Not since Jaws and The Perfect Storm has a film so totally absorbed us in a man-against-sea survival story. And Chandor’s ambiguous ending lends itself to hours of debate and discussion; everyone who has seen this film has a strong opinion, and that a near-silent film can generate such passion makes it special and noteworthy. [read the whole post]

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Film Review: Nebraska

by Carrie Kahn on November 22, 2013

Just in time for the holidays: The joy and Payne of family

David (Will Forte, right) discusses his stubborn father (Bruce Dern, left) with his exasperated mother (June Squibb).

David (Will Forte, right) discusses his stubborn father (Bruce Dern, left) with his exasperated mother (June Squibb).

We are heading into the time of the year when studios typically release what they hope are their best films, the ones they want to be fresh in the minds of Academy members for Oscar Best Picture voting. Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) gets into this game with Nebraska, sure to be a contender in many categories come Oscar time. Beautifully shot in black and white and filled with nuanced and sensitive performances, the picture brilliantly melds Payne’s signature quirkiness with charm, emotional honesty, and wry humor. [read the whole post]

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Judy Greer with Matthew Lillard in THE DESCENDANTS

The Descendants is a very strong contender for the best film of 2011. Directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) from a script he co-wrote with Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community) and Nat Faxon, it tells the story of Matt King (George Clooney), a Hawaii lawyer whose life is turned upside down after his wife is left comatose following a jet-skiing accident. He attempts to rally their daughters, troubled teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley in a revelatory performance) and tween Scottie (Amara King), but is devastated when Alexandra spitefully informs him their mother was having an affair. As his wife’s condition continues to deteriorate, Matt and his daughters embark on a journey of emotional discovery that eventually leads to Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard, in a surprisingly potent dramatic performance), the other man. It also leads to his wife, Julie, who is played by Judy Greer.

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