24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Keanu Reeves

Hong Kong Film Festival: Everyone is a critic

March 26, 2012 |  2:29 pm

Traditional Chinese Noodle eatery in Hong Kong
On Hart Avenue in the heart of the hot Hong Kong shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, there’s a tiny noodle dive called Traditional Chinese Noodle that I ducked into one day for a quick lunch and to escape for a bit from the madness of the city's international film festival. I found quite possibly some of the best Chinese noodles to be had, complete with veggies, crab and a spicy broth, all for 28 Hong Kong dollars, about $3.50 US.

What I also found was Victor, my effusive 28-year-old waiter and a lover of all things American, particularly Hollywood films and flashy cars from Detroit. He knows the names of all 50 states, and I can attest that this was not just an idle boast. The car he covets is a gold Olds Cutlass.... Do they even come in gold? Regardless, that’s Victor’s dream.

As to movies, that is what he loves about America best and he assures me he loves all of them, or at least some parts of all that he has seen. But there are three he had to have for his personal collection.

First and most treasured is 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” which Victor says made him a fan of Matt Damon, whose films he now tries to see as soon as they come to Hong Kong. Street-level, and totally unscientific, proof that there is box-office power in a name.

Second up is 2006's “The Lake House,” with one of his favorite stars, Keanu Reeves. Reeves was actually in Hong Kong a little more than a week ago conducting a master class on his documentary “Side by Side,” which has Reeves talking to filmmakers about the craft and digital versus traditional film. It was part of the wind-up for the Hong Kong festival, now in its 36th year. Confronted with the news that his idol had been in town and that he had missed him, Victor responded with a sigh and a shrug. He's a pragmatist. But I also suspect he's a romantic too, since "Lake House," which co-starred Sandra Bullock, is a mystery of star-crossed lovers and a very mystical mail delivery system at the house in question. It is mushy stuff.

And then there is No. 3, “Sugar & Spice,” a film I had to admit to Victor that I’m not familiar with — though the name certainly conjures up a few possibilities… No, no, no, he assured me, it’s about high school and cheerleaders and is “awesome.” A check of IMDB when I got back at my hotel proves that he’s at least right about the high school and cheerleaders.

"Sugar & Spice" landed in 2001, starred Marla Sokoloff, whom I remember from the David E. Kelley legal series “The Practice”; Marley Shelton, whom you may remember as Tobey Maguire’s teen heartthrob in “Pleasantville”; and Melissa George, one of Gabriel Byrne’s most seductive patients in the HBO series “In Treatment.” Now whether or not “Sugar & Spice” was “awesome,” I’m reserving judgment.


Hong Kong film festival changing with the times

Hong Kong film festival: Powerful visions of poverty 

Hong Kong Film Festival: Transvestites, Muslims and a 'Lovely Man'

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic, reporting from Hong Kong

Photo: Outside the Traditional Chinese Noodle shop. Victor is on delivery duty, though they assure me if I can make it back, he'll be happy to pose. Credit: Betsy Sharkey.

Berlin Film Festival: Keanu Reeves tackles film vs. digital

February 17, 2012 |  5:30 pm

Capturing a fleeting moment in time before it disappears forever is one of the essential functions of a film camera. A new documentary, “Side by Side,” aims to grasp the transition from photochemical film to digital in an objective way, by talking to some of the most opinionated people in the business, from George Lucas to Lars von Trier to David Fincher.  The movie premiered Thursday at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Berlinale Special section.

“Side by Side” is directed by Chris Kenneally  (“Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating”), with Keanu Reeves playing a dual role as co-producer (with Justin Szlasa) and interviewer.   The two have woven a user-friendly but detailed look at the tools and techniques that are challenging tradition, working their way through filming, editing, color correction, digital effects, distribution, projection, and archiving.  

Kenneally and Reeves came up with the project while working together on “Henry's Crime.” Reeves starred in and produced the 2010 film; Kenneally supervised its post-production.  “We were having all the same conversations you see in the movie,” remembers  Kenneally.  “One day Keanu's just like, 'You know what? We should make a documentary about this.' ”

The two went on to interview a lengthy dream list of directors, cinematographers, editors, technicians, and even a couple of NYU film students, all of whom have heartfelt and often hilarious commentary to offer Reeves, who elicits a relaxed conversational tone from his subjects. 

Continue reading »

Jeremy Lin: Is he Neo from ‘The Matrix’?

February 16, 2012 |  6:29 pm

Numerous film characters come to mind when one thinks about Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard who has overcome doubters and skeptics to lead his team on a seven-game winning streak. Lin and his "Linsanity" conjures “Invincible” protagonist Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), coaching at a Philadelphia high school before living his dream as an Eagles wide receiver. “Hoosiers,” the story of a small-town Indiana high school that goes on an improbable run to the state championship, floats to the top of the list too.

And of course there’s “Rudy,” the movie about an undersized college student who one day gets to take the field for his beloved Fighting Irish.

But watching Lin over the past couple of weeks, it’s become clear there’s only one cinematic figure to whom he should be compared: Neo from “The Matrix.”

PHOTOS: Absolute Lin-sanity!

Lin has felt it his entire life, this sense that there’s something wrong with the world. He didn’t know what it is, but it was there, like a splinter in his mind.  He just couldn’t do anything about it, relegated, as he was, to the drudgery of a banal and unrewarding existence (a place with the Golden State Warriors).

Then a man, a Morpheus, came along. Mike D’Antoni didn’t care what those robots around the league wanted him to believe.  He only saw Lin’s talent, his goodness. So he anointed him a savior. The oracle, Clyde Frazier, did too.

Lin swallowed what D’Antoni fed him. He began to believe, and he began to evolve. He fought off opponents, opponents who were bigger, stronger, swifter.  Lin battled to overcome an unfeeling system that seemed to exist only to keep him and his kind down, fighting the skeptical coaches who kept popping back up again every time he thought he’d vanquished them. Most of the people in this matrix weren't ready to be unplugged; inured and dependent on the system, they only fought to protect it. So Lin fought harder.

Lin found allies. Landry Fields was a crucial Link, lending his unconditional support (or at least a couch). David Lee was rock solid, a Tank. And Amar’e Stoudemire, at first cautious, soon came to complete the Trinity. These men were Lin's saviors, his own personal Jesus Christs.

A Sports Illustrated writer once said that Lin has shown “seeds of self-doubt.” Don’t worry, Jeremy, Neo had them too; he was reluctant to believe that he was the One.  You have to let it all go, Jeremy. Fear, doubt and disbelief. Free your mind.  Because fate is a powerful animal. It picks the special ones no matter their confidence level. And once it does, you can’t kill them with bullets, just like you can’t double-team destiny.


Jeremy Lin scores for TV, Twitter and the Knicks

Jeremy Lin's legend continues to grow

Linsanity: Jeremy Lin by the numbers

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: (left) Jeremy Lin of the Knicks. Credit: Chris Chambers/Getty Images. (right) Keanu Reeves as Neo in "The Matrix." Credit: Warner Bros.

Is Keanu Reeves a good actor? Or even more awful than we thought?

August 16, 2011 |  9:33 am


Nestled in a New York Times to-and-fro about the current state of Hollywood acting is this nugget from A.O. Scott about Keanu Reeves. Asked by a reader, somewhat inscrutably, whether Reeves is a "good bad actor" or a "bad good actor," Scott returns with a decisive answer.

"A good actor, period. One who has appeared in some pretty bad movies, for sure. Mr. Reeves has deliberately exploited both his exquisite facial bone structure and his gift for gnomic blankness with great success in the movies mentioned above, but in those solemn savior roles he demonstrates not stiffness so much as professionalism."

It's not clear whether Scott is being entirely straight-faced -- he does call "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" hugely influential -- but he does seem to be making at least a semi-serious contrarian argument, citing a moment in "Parenthood" as an "emblem of precise and subtle screen technique." Scott finishes in saying, "And the more you look at his performances, the more instances of that kind of skill you notice."

So how much is Reeves a good actor dragged down by some bad roles? And how much is he a bad actor dragged down by a lack of talent?

Here are three movies that help Scott's case, and three (at least) that suggest that Marlon Brando's legacy is not in any imminent danger. Have a look at the evidence, then tell us what you think.

Three movies that make Keanu's case:

"The Matrix." The endless wooden moments and all the discussions about whether Reeves' Neo is, in fact, "The One," don't exactly crackle with subtle energy. But let's be honest. It's not as if the actor were  working off an Aaron Sorkin script. And the kind of gnomic blankness Scott describes is exactly what's needed in a movie that indulges fanboy whimsy.

"The Gift." A piece of Southern pulp would seem like a strange place for an actor of Reeves' limitation to try to show some range. But as an abusive, alcoholic husband, Reeves brings some human intimidation to a film otherwise filled with baroque supernatural scares.

"Thumbsucker." One of Reeves' occasional forays to the indie world, this time in a coming-of-age movie (and a comic-relief part to boot). In some movies Reeves can look, painfully, like he's not in on the joke. But as the deluded dentist in Mike Mills' literate feature, Reeves is sending up his own image, and doing it with deadpan humor.

And three movies (or more)  that confirm the haters' suspicions:

"Speed." Yes, save-the-world roles are tricky for anyone not named Will Smith. But even in a one-dimensional action flick, it's hard to believe that Messiah would take the form of a surfer boy. And it says something about your performance when you're being out-acted by a bus.

"The Lake House." Romantic dramas are hard even for Ryan Gosling, and even when they're set in one time period. When you have to show all your love to another person via letters sent through a mailbox portal (yes, really), you better be up to the task. Reeves? Not so much.  Attempts at a layered relationship with his father and some kind of depth-through-architecture thing only makes us cringe more. Honorary mention, incidentally, to "Sweet November," in which Reeves doesn't try to move through time but, rather, to stop it. He fails, but does make us wish we could H.G. Wells our way to a time before we saw the movie.

"The Day the Earth Stood Still." This should have been Reeves' bread-and-butter. As Klaatu the alien, the role actually allows Reeves to seem weird and removed. But the actor doesn't end up convincing us that he's traveled billions of miles to save us so much as he convinces us that he'd rather be on another planet. So would we.



Keanu Reeves and 47 Ronin search for love

Keanu Reeves talks Bill & Ted threequel

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Keanu Reeves in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." Credit: Orion Pictures Corp.


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