Monday 28 November 2011

For the Love of Ryan Gosling - 'The Ides of March' (2011), 'Blue Valentine' (2010), 'Drive' (2011), 'Half Nelson' (2006)

For the Love of Ryan Gosling

There are very few moments that I gush about a mainstream actor or actress with a few movies under their belt. For the most part I think it is best to look to people like Judi Dench, Ed Harris, Sean Penn, Al Pacino and the other veterans for true talent. But there is a star emerging that I want to draw your attention to if you don’t know his name yet. I remember when I first saw Brad Pitt in ‘Thelma and Louise’. He was a pretty boy in a pair of jeans and a six pack. No one would have expected his role as psychopath in ‘Kalifornia’ or his future-seeing lunatic in ‘Twelve Monkeys’. We couldn’t expect his charismatic handling of ‘Fight Club’ as the anarchist Tyler Durden and we also wouldn’t have thought him capable of the understated cool we saw in the first ‘Oceans Eleven’. By the time I saw him ‘Babel’, it was obvious this actor had shades of Robert Redford and in my opinion even better breadth. The actor who has emerged, the next Brad Pitt, who I have all my chips on (more impressive if I was a gambler perhaps) is of course: Ryan Gosling.

Now I must admit that I think this man is certainly eye candy. I think he is stunningly good-looking on screen and able to captivate all audiences with his cool. But this is simply a veil of handsomeness on a core great actor. The first film I saw him in was ‘Half Nelson’ (2006) where Gosling plays a drug addict teacher who is falling out of control of his addiction. Gosling plays this challenging role with an ease that is extraordinary, nothing short of what Leonardo DiCaprio brought to his early drug addiction film ‘Basketball Diaries’. It is utterly believable and the on-screen chemistry he creates with his schoolkids (also good actors) is also so real that we can’t help but be drawn in. Most memorable is the bathroom scene when Gosling’s character feeds his crack habit and is rumbled by one of his students. The scene is so very moving, Gosling opening up the human predicament in a truly remarkable piece of acting. If you don’t mind seeing a clip, take a look for yourself ( ). It is easy to think it is the impressive camera work that delivers in this scene and that Gosling adds to it. I think I thought that too. But then I saw ‘Blue Valentine’ (2010)….

‘Blue Valentine’ ( is an impeccable piece of film-making if ever there was one. I saw it soon after my marriage finally broke down (not the best timing for the film) and this film really tore me apart with its heart-wrenching honesty and beautiful simplicity of design. The film tells in short the start and end of a relationship at the same time, the couple pictured happy and in love as they start to date and fall in love and, parallel with this shown, many years hateful of and pained by each other as they break apart. The film was astonishingly profound to watch, drawing comparisons one would rarely see made between the way we can openly and meaningfully love things about a person and then come to openly and meaningfully hate those same things. Ryan Gosling was matched like for like with another rising star, Michelle Williams, whom I also note highly due to her performance in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and the highly anticipated new film ‘My Week with Marilyn’. I have indeed been watching her for many years as an avid ‘Dawson’s Creek’ fan whilst at university… The two stars were weighted perfectly on screen and seemed for all sense and purposes a thoroughly believable couple. This perhaps has a lot to do with their living together in a small flat to get in to character for their role. You could feel their relationship in every corner of their performance and this was made clear by the fact we didn’t need the story between their meeting and their breaking to understand their life together. Gosling however stood out once again. If you were under the illusion it is the film that is making it work for him, you can see in ‘Blue Valentine’ that this is quintessentially not the case. I surely have never seen such a convincing depiction of a real, un-idealised man falling in love and then being ended with against his power and wants. He shows beautifully man’s inability to articulate feelings, to change, to understand, to admit inadequacies and insecurities. He also shows however how seductive a man can be by being himself. We believe Williams’ character falls for him because he is so genuine and most importantly a symbol of strength for her. I was blown away. I was a believer and couldn’t wait for another of his films to catch my eye.

It was the recent film ‘Drive’ (2011) that I went out of my way to watch ( I knew I was going to love it and sure as hell I did. An entirely different film to the others, this film highlighted further breadth for this wonderful young actor. With hardly any lines, and a splattering of disarmingly sudden ultra-violence, Gosling embodies a getaway driver who gets in over his head with a local crime boss. Gosling is the epitome of ‘cool’ in this film. Strong, controlled, silent, deadly. Think of the dark side of Steve McQueen and you have his character in a nutshell. Again Gosling has a superb director at the helm and an inspiring cast who do very well too, but nothing can take away from this star as he is truly magnetic on screen. Forget men wanting to be ‘Alfie’. They want to be Gosling’s anonymous ‘Driver’. I heard that the director came up with the idea for the film watching the actor as he drove him in his car. Yes, the director had had a lot of medication as he was ill but I can still entirely believe that this could occur. Gosling oozes charm. It comes out in his interviews and it comes out in his film choices.

George Clooney’s fourth and most accomplished directorial piece ‘The Ides of March’ (2011) is the very latest film to feature Gosling’s consummate talent ( Clooney has always had an eye for actorial skill. He launched Sam Rockwell for the most part who is another star worthy of mention. It is no wonder that he took on Gosling in the main role in his complex anti-political drama. Gosling plays a Stevie Meyers, right hand media PR man to Clooney’s Governor Morris as he moves forward toward presidential election. Clooney pulls back from the spotlight to let Gosling come forward and shine as a young man full of idealistic principles and true belief in the worthiness of Morris as the future president who then sees the errors of his idealism and belief in the political system. We follow, as in a Greek tagedy, the fall of his character from such clean, moral heights to someone who must utilise dirty politics in order not to be smeared and lose his career in the process. It is a masterful piece, another excellent anti-establishment choice by Nespresso-toting Clooney. I must give Clooney the credit he deserves. Clooney knows what films are going to rattle people with its questioning of power, its deconstruction of corporate or national politics. Just look at ‘Syriana’ (2005), ‘Michael Clayton’ (2007), ‘Three Kings’ (1999) and ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ (2009). This is an actor who knows what he is doing. I really hope that he is going to take Gosling under his wing and encourage the young actor to keep going as he has done so far. With good film choices, good directors, good supporting casts etc. Less films like ‘The Notebook’ (2004), less sell-out romantic comedies, and more good solid dramas. Gosling is someone who needs to go the distance.

In short, if you have not seen these four films, please please go and see them and remark at the handsome genius of Ryan Gosling. He really is one to look out for. And yes, I am slightly in love with him.

Jana Manuelpillai

Tuesday 22 November 2011



Does anyone remember the 80s cartoon ‘Penny Crayon’?( About the girl who draws on walls with her magic crayon and those things she draws coming alive. Okay so it really didn’t go down in history as groundbreaking animation but it was the first thing that came to mind when I met charismatic and cheerful artist, Anna Bruder, at her ‘Aline 117’ installation at the Dalston Superstore on Kingsland High Street. Like Penny Crayon, Bruder always moves around with a thick black, flat-tipped marker in her bag, ready to graffiti, adorn, embellish and create wherever she sees a surface of interest. However, where Penny Crayon (don’t worry I’m gonna leave Penny soon) draws in order to bring to life things that are not there, for Bruder this is not always her interest. In the majority of her work, Bruder two-dimensionalises the world reducing it to black outlines with no implication of tone or shade that would add three-dimensionality. Before approaching a space she paints the entire area white, neutralising it of colour and as much shape as possible. She then applies her black marker line, often outlining what is already there. At her recent installation, ketchup bottles are made to be brandless, generic items very unlike how see them today. Flowers lose their sentimentality, romance and sculptural quality. They become under Bruder’s inspection and recreation flat pieces of card with standard flower shapes outlined on them sticking out of a basic container vase.

The real world is recreated as a series of synonymous emblems of the real world, an alternate place that simply points to what was there or could be there. In this way Bruder’s work activates the viewer in two ways. We have to fill in the blanks as it were, to work backwards from her rudimentary drawing to the real world. Secondly we are activated in that we feel a new romance brought out for this new vision of the world we live in. One that leaves behind the hub-bub and literally goes back to basics. Bruder describes her technique as making a ‘Wendy House’ of the world. This aligns her work with a childish view of the world where the wendy house epitomises a simplified existence. It is a creation of a perfect new space for us all to live in, full size rather than miniaturised, filled with humour and personality. Simplified it may be, but paradoxically we start noticing things rather than overlooking them. In other words, we realise we don’t need the detail. 

Viewing ‘Aline 117’ at Dalston Superstore one is filled with the artist’s love for the world rather than distaste for it. It is undeniably optimistic, particularly due to its location in gritty Dalston. Black outlines on the wall describe shelves of wine glasses, cups and champagne flutes hanging mirrors, fireplaces, lampshades, a bowl of goldfish, a solitary and tame pet kitten etc. Above us fly cut-out giant birds and airplanes. Dalston is given perhaps an ironically middleclass view of the world, idealised and deliberately short-sighted while all the while the poverty of the area is viewable from the window. I remember leaving the space for a smoke outside and standing by the roadworks and polluting cars in deadlock on the busy street and thinking that this is what her installation stands in contrast to. Dalston for a short time is given relief from itself. This is not to say that this idyll is what everyone in or outside Dalston aspires. This Wendy House is simply a manifestation of aspiration in a general sense. It is a parody perhaps of our middle class ambitions or our need to live in a perfect world away from the reality of life today.   

In the last ten years, Anna has had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and venues, some more unconventional and prestigious than others. From major art galleries and theatres (Somerset House and The Barbican), to TV commercials and full-scale performances at Wembley Arena, her work successfully translates into many varied artistic contexts. She is planning a series of Pop-up Shops to display and sell her work to interested collectors but before this, on Sunday 27th November, she will be hosting a colouring-in party at the Dalston Superstore to mark the end of her installation. Audiences are invited to come and colour in her black outlines, in a sense activate and personalize them before Bruder’s Wendy House disappears. She invites all to come down and enjoy this experience. It is from 7pm onwards at the Dalston Superstore, Kingsland High Street, E82PB. I would get there early to see the space in all its detail-less glory.

Jana Manuelpillai