Double Feature

April 2015 - Fifth time's the charm for Julianne Moore. After four previous Oscar nominations, she finally won an Academy Award as Best Actress for her role in Still Alice. I have't seen the film yet. I also haven't seen any of the other films for which she earned nominations. So, here's some of her work that I have seen.

Moore took her craft to new heights with a supporting role in 1998's The Big Lebowski. Jeff Bridges abides in this R-rated comedy by the Coen brothers. The stellar cast also includes John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sam Elliott narrates and shows up just long enough to sip some sarsaparilla.

Bridges plays a laid-back Seventies burnout named Jeff Lebowski, better known as "the Dude." The Dude hangs out at the bowling alley and minds his own business until he's mistaken for another Lebowski whose wife supposedly owes money all over town. The Dude gets beaten up and his rug gets pissed on, and that's just the start of what turns into a wild few days for the Dude and his buddies.

Overall review: Liked it. This very funny film features some unforgettable visuals, including a naked Julianne Moore strapped into a harness and flying over a sexual painting. It reminds me a lot of one of the Coen brothers' later films, 2008's Burn After Reading. Both films come at some semblance of a plot from lots of different directions but somehow form a coherent whole.

Several years later, Moore made time in her schedule to make The English Teacher, an R-rated independent film released in 2013. The cast includes Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane. It was written by Wilkes-Barre native Dan Chariton and his wife, Stacy (Weiss). The film is set in Kingston, Pennsylvania (across the Susquehanna from W-B), but all the filming was done in suburban New York City.

Moore plays Linda Sinclair, a single, 40-something English teacher at Kingston High School. One evening, she's standing at an outdoor ATM. When a man approaches, she sprays him in the face with pepper spray. Only then does she realize that he's Jason Sherwood, a former student trying to make it as a playwright in New York. Turns out he's back home and making plans to go to law school because he can't get his play produced on Broadway.

Linda reads the play, and with the help of the high school drama teacher (Lane), convinces the principal to let the students stage Jason's play. Drama ensues when Linda and Jason have an after-hours quickie in a classroom and the whole school finds out about it. There's also the matter of the play's ending, which no one wants the principal to find out about.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. This is a watchable film that I liked more than I thought I would. It's helped out greatly by a good cast that makes the most of the generally funny material. There are a few Wilkes-Barre area references that are funny if you get them but which may seem unnecessary if you don't.