Thursday, May 12, 2011

George Clooney in 2011: The Ides of March vs. The Descendants

As has become somewhat customary in the past five or six years, George Clooney is likely to find himself in the Awards mix once again in 2011. The newly-celebrated quinquagenarian has two healthy-looking projects set for release in the later months: Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," and his own fourth directorial venture, "The Ides of March."

"The Descendants" is the story of an estranged father, who attempts to re-connect with his two daughters when their mother is fatally injured in an accident - which is likely to resurrect themes Payne explored in 2002's "About Schmidt" (namely, grief and personal crisis). Nevertheless, this film's cast is considerably younger, which might suggest that "The Descendants" represents a fresher take on familial struggle that doesn't focus too much on mortality. I wasn't much of a fan of "Schmidt," or indeed Jack Nicholson as its leading man, but many were enthused with what Payne did with the film, and it gained some major awards attention.

First clip from "The Descendants":

Clooney's own filmmaking efforts see him return to a political arena, which is hardly surprising after the critical and box office failure of "Leatherheads." I wasn't as keen on his first two directorial feats as most, but they both rank favourably compared to that 2008 screwball comedy. Latest film, "The Ides of March," will pit Ryan Gosling as an impassioned but fledgling politics enthusiast, who has his eyes opened to the dirty dealings of the political world while part of a Presidential campaign trail. Clooney also stars in the movie, which is based on a novel adapted by Grant Heslov, who he worked closely with on "Goodnight, and Good Luck."

Ryan Gosling and George Clooney on the set of "The Ides of March"

"Ides" is slated for October, while "The Descendants" is scheduled for a release in December, meaning that either/or is likely to make it to Venice or Toronto to build awards buzz. It could be that Clooney finds himself nominated for Director, Actor, and Supporting Actor (which would be one-up from 2005's achievements), but as with all Oscar prognostication at this early stage, it's far too easy to say. "Ides" feels more likely to succeed given that it's political and probably more mainstream than Alexander Payne's soul-bearing projects tend to be. One thing that is for sure: both are definitely encouraging for their respective leading actors.

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