Saturday, January 17, 2015

Top 5 Movie Guide: Keira Knightley

This is not a mirage. You are not dreaming. The Slackers are back! (at least for a limited stint.) It's been nearly two years since a post last hit the walls of this site, and we decided it was time to correct that. It all started with the simple idea of again posting our Top 15 Films of 2014 - which we will still do sometime next month. But as we've been working on those posts and talking about films together again, we realized just how much we missed 1) talking about movies collectively, 2) making lists, and 3) pretending like anyone else cares about what we think. So we're back at it the best way we know how - the Top 5 Movie Guide!


This time around, we're only going to focus on one list a week - and outside of our end-of-the-year lists, don't expect to see much else posted. Also, the way we're setting this up, we're giving ourselves an out if it goes terribly over the next month or so. Traditionally, we picked our subjects (either filmmaker or genre) based on a film that was releasing that particular week. For now, we're going to base this and the next five entries around the top Oscars categories this year. For the first four weeks, we'll highlight the films of one of the nominees from each of the acting categories (Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor). After that, one of the directors from the Best Director field, culminated by a list revolving around past Best Picture winners (this list will debut Saturday, February 21, one day before the Oscars ceremony).

So, if we realize we just don't have the time or our heart isn't into it, we cap all of the postings with that, and enjoy the Oscars-themed Top 5 Movie Guide limited series that was. If we're loving it, however, we'll continue with our Saturday posts and go back to selecting our subjects in the traditional way.

For now - and apologies to Keira Knightley for my description ruining her screen time (I'll give her a little plug after the break) - we'll get started with this week's subject, Keira Knightley, who's nominated this year for her work in "The Imitation Game".

I promised Ms. Knightley a few words (and I know she'll be checking in to make sure I followed through), so here we go. She was born in London in 1985. She has little formal training, deciding to act simply because she enjoyed it, but began appearing in British television shows and plays at a very young age. Most are now familiar with her appearance in the newest Star Wars films as Padme's decoy (while in makeup, Knightley and Natalie Portman's mothers couldn't even tell them apart), but it wasn't until 2002 that her British-made soccer film, "Bend it Like Beckham", propelled her to the top of the U.S. box office. In 2006, she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in "Pride and Prejudice", making her the fifth-youngest person ever nominated for the award.

Alex Schopp -
I'm not sure what my colleagues will be doing, but I decided to include films from 2014 on this list. Including two of them makes this list feel shallow, but it is what it is. I'm not sure if it's because it really was stand-out work this last year, or if her films just don't really stick with me, but as of today, this is the best I could come up with. P.S. Regards to "Love Actually", my favorite overall film that Knightley is in - unfortunately she's just in it so little that I couldn't justify it on this list.

     1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
I kind of hate having this film atop my list; already I feel like the credibility is gone - but stick with me, in a lot of ways, I'm much happier with the next four films on this list. I know the subsequent films from this series are terrible, but if you think back to when this first film was released, not only was it a enjoyable movie-theater film, I think this is what really introduced me to (and made me fall in love with) Keira Knightley. Quality starring role + epic family fun + strong production values = good enough for the #1 spot.
     2. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
There were plenty of parts of this movie I wanted to like more than I did, but I love (post) apocalyptic films, if for nothing more than the character studies that reveal themselves in said scenarios. Knightley and co-star Steve Carell, maybe surprisingly, both play off each other perfectly in this comedy-drama, which really hits both ends of that genre label quite well.
     3. The Imitation Game (2014)
I know this film is just from last year (and the entire reason we’re even doing a list for Knightley to begin with), but I do really like it. Knightley has a prominent role in the film, and depicts a character I was fully able to get behind. And the story is fascinating - I love a good biopic about any kind of genius. Also, there’s a conversation that I really liked where her character and Cumberbatch’s discuss how a marriage between them could work out. It was basically presented as a business partnership. Sign me up.
     4. Begin Again (2014)
While I don’t care much about the music industry, the style of this film, this type of “indie” picture, is one of my favorites. Knightley is very lovable in the role, and I know I've mentioned on previous lists how much I like Mark Ruffalo – seriously, put him in anything and I’ll watch it. This film had a genuine-feeling charm about it that just made it easy to watch. I hate having two 2014 films on this list, but as I stated above, it is what it is.
     5. Never Let Me Go (2010)
I didn't really know much about this film going into it, but it pleasantly surprised me. First off, I always love a good dystopian theme. Mix in some nice performances from some young actors, some eerie yet beautiful cinematography, and you have the recipe for an appeasing film. I can generally do without the sappy love story portion of the film, but I can’t get enough of exploring and contemplating alternate futures.

Ben Foutch -
Unfortunately, I haven't seen "The Imitation Game", which is probably one of her better films. I don't know if that's an indication of what I perceive to be the potential quality of the film or my indifference towards the majority of Knightley's filmography.

     1. Begin Again (2014)
For some reason this really struck a chord with me... The tone is mostly bright, but brings enough tension to keep the characters grounded and relatable. While the story doesn't necessarily take us anywhere we haven't been before, the journey itself doesn't seem obnoxiously contrived.
     2. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
A post-apocalyptic tale that explores the essence of loneliness and the power of human connections. Aside from the core story conventions, it's fairly unconventional, right down to the casting of its two leads. In time, I can see this becoming an overlooked gem in the filmographies of both Carell and Knightley.
     3. Love Actually (2003)
This film (outside of this list) doesn't rank as high with me compared to some of the other Slackers, but you'll be hard pressed to find a better holiday themed romantic dramedy. Normally, romantic ensemble pieces with loosely connected stories tend to be overly fluffy and tediously dull, and should only be viewed if your taste for suffering is leading to new levels of masochism, but "Love Actually" breaks from the norm and offers some genuine charm.
     4. Atonement (2007)
The main issue with "Atonement" is that it scores low in watchability. It is also a prime example of a film struggling to balance the needs of an emotionally complex epic with an equally intricate visual palate. But that is a problem many ambitious novel-to-film adaptations face, and it more than makes up for any shortcomings with razor sharp performances and haunting aesthetics.
     5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
I'm not a fan of this franchise as a whole, but Black Pearl is one of the best family friendly adventure films of all time. I just wish I cared more about pirates.

Derek Clem -
This list, unless stated otherwise below, is based less on the quality of her performance and more on how much I like the actual movie. I’m finding her movies are pretty forgettable or lackluster; I know I enjoyed them at the time, they just don’t necessarily stay with me.

     1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
I know she’s barely in this but, I’m a Star Wars fan… what can I say?
     2. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
If this was based on my interest in the movie it would probably rank #5, possibly not even make the list. I’m just sort of over it. This is placed at #2 because it started the brief crush I had on Knightly. So this is my tip of the hat to that.
     3. Love Actually (2003)
I think it’s one of the greatest ensemble love stories ever put to screen. Schmaltzy? Probably, but I enjoy it. Knightly isn't necessarily amazing or terrible in this, just sort of there to facilitate her portion of the story.
     4. Anna Karenina (2012)
The movie had a nice look. I dug its visual style.
     5. Atonement (2007)
I remember really enjoying the score. Pretty inventive on that front.

Nathan Hinds -
*This is why we're Slackers, people. We just can't ever seem to all get our crap together. Nearly two years since our last post, and we still can't get on the same page. You can't help but laugh at how well our name increasingly fits. If just one single time things would align properly, we might be able to shed that Slackers moniker. But alas, it appears to be our fate and our curse...

Andy Schopp -

     1. Love Actually (2003)
This, for me, was an obvious #1 due to the sheer amount of times I've seen it. It has all those good emotions in it and a great cast to boot!
     2. The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
I never realized how long that title was until I had to write it out... In my honest opinion, this is the only good movie of the series. It's fun while feeling dangerous, just like the ride it was based on.
     3. Never Let Me Go (2010)
I enjoy a sad story from time to time, and this one also aligns with my favorite genre, Sci-fi Drama. It's just messed up enough to want to figure out what's happening and just human enough to make you feel it.
     4. A Dangerous Method (2011)
This is a pretty well done movie with some really great acting performances from a few key players. It's a bit too love-story and just barely not enough science for me to really appreciate this film's tone, but nonetheless, it's a pretty good watch.
     5. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Well, it's basically a depression-fest, but at least it attempts to give it to you with a chocolate coating to help it go down. The last ten minutes of this movie are so human that it hurts me. There is real emotion happening there that I love. It's hope, I think, or love. Or both. That spark is not one translated easily via any medium. If only the rest of the movie could have solidified a tone. Also, Star Wars...

So there we have it. It feels good to be tallying films again. Knightley has a fairly wide variety of popular titles in her filmography - whatever your feelings towards them - so its of little surprise that we had such an assortment above. Overall there were ten different films showcased, and six that appeared on multiple lists. Short a list this week, only one film showed up on all four lists, "The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl". This is probably Knightley's most popular title to date, and a safe pick for all lists. Otherwise, we had two films show up on three lists, "Love Actually" and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World", and three show up on two, "Begin Again", "Never Let Me Go", and "Atonement". If nothing else, that's at least a wide array of titles and genres to help better acquaint you with Knightley's filmography if you're yet to do so.

Thanks for joining us in this comeback of sorts. Be sure to check in next Saturday where we'll be highlighting some of our favorite films/roles of J.K, Simmons. nominee and probable winner of this year's Actor in a Supporting Role category.

Happy watching!