Ryan Gosling

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Actor-turned-director Ryan Gosling and director Guillermo del Toro sat down at Vimeo Theater to discuss Gosling’s directorial debut “Lost River,” it was much more of a conversation than a presentation.

“Can I just face you when I talk?” Gosling asked Guillermo before telling the audience “You guys talk amongst yourselves.”

Goslings’ film, a self-described punk-fairytale, focuses on the relationship between a single mother and her teenage son as they navigate what appears to be a post-apocalyptic society.

Gosling said Detroit loomed large for him as a child. Growing up in Canada, he said his fantasies about America meant bright lights and big cities. What he found in post-2008 Detroit closely resembled a society in ruins — a perfect location to film “Lost Rivers.”

“I remember seeing this one family and it was like the only family for blocks,” Gosling said. “The family must have thought they were the only ones left.”

Guillermo asked about Gosling’s choice to cast a number of his friends — and his girlfriend Eva Mendes. Gosling does not appear in the film.

“I wanted to work with my friends,” Gosling said. “I wanted to show their qualities that hadn’t been shown. Everyone I work with on this film I love. You want to do right by them because they are giving up their time.”

When Gosling approached del Toro with a completed script and a stack of film stills a couple of years ago, del Toro told Gosling “if you don’t make the film, I will.”

During the event, Gosling emphasized how crucial that conversation was for the film.

“I felt like the wizard gave me my sword and shield and sent out into the world,” Gosling said.

— Kat Sampson & Danielle Lopez

With the assistance of former Texas quarterback and current development officer for program alumni relations Vince Young and Texas mascot HookEm, President William Powers Jr. accepts the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at Gone to Texas on Tuesday night. Gone to Texas is a yearly ceremony welcoming new students to the university’s campus.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

College is like that one Marina and the Diamonds song: “TV taught me how to feel/now real life has no appeal.” On TV we are shown hard-partying habits of Greek life, studious habits of nerds, quirky and fun college romances and roommates who are sociopathic serial killers. After all of that, the real thing seems like a total waste of potential. Why even go to college?

“High School Musical” did for high school what these shows did for college. It gave us an idealized version of something ordinary. It’d be a lie to say “HSM” was a life-altering experience, but it’d also be a lie to say that it was a completely fake, totally useless movie. Did everybody spontaneously start singing in cafeterias? No. Did we want to? Yes.

As an incoming freshman, the past few months have been about nothing but college — roommate assignments, testing requirements, gaining credit, financial aid, campus visits, registration, orientation, scholarship applications — it all makes me a little sick of hearing about it. As in, constant exposure has numbed my sense of excitement to all things quintessentially college. Half of the conversations I have with my parents are about UT. No amount of movies where the protagonist tries to “find herself” on campus — a quest that for some reason did not occur in high school — will make the numbness stop. It’s just too prevalent in my life right now.

And then, later — in an oasis of calm, during brief periods where I don’t have to focus so much on “the future” — I click on UT’s website and flip through its homepage. I check out the current scientific research, what events are currently happening on campus, look into specific colleges and major requirements and get excited all over again.

I visited campus last year and my tour guide, a junior named Jeff, thought it’d be a good idea to take us through Gregory Gymnasium, which completely blew my mind.

“So Matthew McConaughey really trained here?”

“Yep.”

“And so did Ryan Gosling?”

“Yep.”

“Is there any chance either of them are ever coming back?”

“I don’t know, maybe? Let’s hope so.”

“They should have this UT Alert thing or something, where the entire campus is notified of a celebrity’s location on campus. So we can find them.”

I think that may have set off alarm bells. He squinted at me, probably to figure out if I was a deranged stalker. “No.”

But in all seriousness, it’s good that college is so idealized. I mean, it’s something we’ve been working toward for the past 18 years of our lives. Something has to keep us going through all the mind-numbing paperwork. Those movies gave us motivation to work for it. They showed us the best parts about college — exaggerated, yes, but still the best. What would we do if we hadn’t gotten a couple of fictional, idealized versions? Probably slack off. Our work ethic would die. The fantasy of meeting Ryan Gosling at Gregory Gym would not have been enough to sustain me through college apps. Man cannot live on Ryan Gosling alone.

And in all reality? Even if you get sick of hearing about it, college is going to be the best. My parents met and fell in love in college. My sister had a complete career meltdown and rebuilt it from the ground up in college. My friends have discovered who they are and what they really wanted to get from their schools and switched their majors accordingly. There are just so many good experiences people have in college. It’d be an outrage to call out those movies and TV shows for showing us a “fake college experience.” College is an experience.

In short, do I have unrealistic expectations of college? Yes. I’m still planning on going to Gregory Gym for a glimpse of Gosling (say that 10 times fast). I know the actual experience will be different from how the media portrays it, but I couldn’t be happier about the education I got from those movies and shows. Now I’m looking forward to the real thing. 

Huang is a journalism freshman from Lake Orion, Michigan.

Ryan Gosling plays Julian in "Only God Forgives."

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In his last few films – 2009’s merciless “Valhalla Rising” and 2011’s excellent “Drive” — Nicolas Winding Refn has demonstrated a strong interest in the juxtaposition between absolutely controlled stillness and bursts of blood-soaked brutality. “Only God Forgives,” Refn’s newest film, seems more interested in capturing a feeling of stoicism in the face of impending doom than telling a particularly compelling or coherent story, pushing the director’s trademark glacial pacing to its limits. While the film proves to be a stylistically arresting experience, fans hoping for “Drive 2” are bound to be disappointed.

“Drive” comparisons are only elevated by the presence of Ryan Gosling, who returns to Refn’s screen as Julian, the eternally clenched owner of a Thai boxing club. When his brother (Tom Burke) rapes and kills a teen prostitute, the girl’s father exacts revenge with the blessing of Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), a menacing police officer with a penchant for removing limbs. Upon learning the circumstances of the killing, Julian elects not to seek revenge. His caustic viper of a mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) has other plans, spilling all the blood she can get her hands on and drawing Julian into her chasm of revenge.

Few directors have as distinct a signature as Refn, who tells the bare bones story of “Only God Forgives” in stops and starts, its minimalistic momentum maintained only by his unflappable confidence. While there are bravura sequences of thrilling action and horrifying bloodshed, Refn lingers in the stillness between these big moments with a dedication that’s nothing short of arduous. At times, “Only God Forgives” feels like Quentin Tarantino blended with Terrence Malick, contrasting unprecedented levels of artistic indulgence with buckets of blood, the slowest moments propped up only by an incredible stylistic palette.

While Cliff Martinez’s score was one of the highlights of “Drive,” his work here is even better, capturing the same moody sense of time and place with a totally different, fresh sound. His rhythmic, engaging score is the most powerful element of the film, keeping some scenes from descending into silliness while pushing others in the realm of mythic awe. Matthew Newman’s editing is similarly effective, communicating the sparse story Refn chooses to include with efficiently cut series of shots, and both the editing and score consistently inject life and spontaneity into Refn’s occasionally trying aesthetic exercise.

The most tragic victim of Refn’s restrained style is Ryan Gosling, whose character isn’t far from a wax statue with the power to squeak out the occasional line of dialogue. Without Gosling’s ability to communicate so much depth with something as simple as a shift in his demeanor or a flash of fear in his eyes, the performance would be a disaster. Julian’s fetish for delayed gratification manages to turn his penchant for inaction into his only real character trait, but on paper, he’s a vacuum, and Gosling struggles to fill the void with the limited charisma Refn allows him to display. Vithaya Pansringarm is terrifying as the film’s villain, striking a counterbalance between menacing, absolute judgment and surprising karaoke skills, but he’s also stranded in Refn’s red-drenched film, giving a great performance in search of juicier material.

The hilariously demented Kristin Scott Thomas is a striking counterpoint, playing Crystal, Julian’s mother, with a relentless, acidic bluster, and she tears into the Oedipal-tinted role with aplomb. Despite the actors doing their best to sell their thinly written arcs, Refn’s script doesn’t do a great job fleshing out their twisted relationship, and the film’s final moments push their issues from metaphorical into the realm of the ridiculously, grotesquely literal.

While “Drive” was a definite breakthrough for Nicolas Winding Refn, “Only God Forgives” is a marked regression into a more contained version of his artistic sensibilities, with his preoccupation with meditative silence threatening to overwhelm his narrative. Without the unfiltered stylistic intoxication Refn infuses into every frame, “Only God Forgives” would be a total misfire, but it manages to skirt by on the power of its aesthetic and the moments when Refn finally unleashes his characters to act out their darkest impulses.
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Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 90 minutes

Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Romina (Eva Mendes) reunite under unusual circumstances in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

Three years after the devastating “Blue Valentine” garnered an Oscar nomination for Michelle Williams’ performance, director Derek Cianfrance returns with the overly ambitious “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Reaching brilliant highs and baffling lows, Cianfrance’s follow-up is a thematically muddled trilogy of increasingly uninteresting tragedies.

Every piece of marketing for “The Place Beyond the Pines” has Ryan Gosling front and center, and for the opening stretch of the film, Gosling gives a commanding performance as Luke, a carnie who reunites with an old fling (Eva Mendes) only to learn he has a son. Luke immediately quits his job to take care of his newfound family, a pursuit that leads him to become a bank robber. Eventually and inevitably, his path tragically crosses with noble cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), kicking off a series of events spanning decades.

Gosling has quietly been carving out a niche in modern crime drama as the ultra-competent, ultra-badass man of few words, and “The Place Beyond the Pines” certainly doesn’t push him out of his comfort zone. This actually feels like a fairly natural extension of “Drive,” another film where Gosling played a man trying to provide for a woman and her son by stepping outside the boundaries of the law. But ‘The Place Beyond the Pines” doesn’t have the narrative or aesthetic control “Drive” did and ends up suffering by comparison. Nonetheless, Gosling has developed a knack for evoking the anti-hero and painting him in a distinctly human light, and his performance is the best in the film.

As things progress, “The Place Beyond the Pines” focuses on Bradley Cooper’s character, drawing thematic connections that it never fully fleshes out, preferring to illustrate its heady ideas through tossed-off lines of dialogue so it can explore a completely extraneous story of police corruption. Cooper is a solid performer, but his character is totally vanilla, and Cooper struggles to bring shading to a script uninterested in ambiguity. 

Once the film skips ahead a few years to focus on Luke and Avery’s sons, who become fast friends and faster enemies, Cianfrance is working completely and totally out of his depth, building toward a cluttered climax that’s driven by spotty motivation. Dane DeHaan plays the son of Gosling’s character, and the script hands him a series of bizarre decisions that make him a series of plot points searching for a character, creating a void of personality that DeHaan can’t quite fill. 

“The Place Beyond the Pines” strives to be an epic tale of fathers and sons, but its thematic webbing is tenuously strung, and the film too often seems to be grappling with themes that are simply out of its depth. It’s hard to fault a film for overreaching, but “The Place Beyond the Pines” makes the mistake of warping its plot in an attempt to make its message more clear, something that strains the storytelling to the point of sloppiness.

Despite the multiple shortcomings of his script, Cianfrance continues to display remarkable directorial skill, striking an incredible level of intimacy between his actors and his camera. He pushes in as far as he can, bringing us uncomfortably close to the people he’s asking us to sympathize with. Even moments like an intense car chase become personal, visceral experiences thanks to the power that Cianfrance brings to every frame. The film is sharply edited by Jim Helton and Ron Patane, and Cianfrance has several stunningly executed sequences under his belt, especially a lengthy opening shot that instills an innocuous carnival setting with a sense of dread that he sustains throughout the entire film.

Even though “The Place Beyond the Pines” can’t quite fulfill its thematic ambitions, Cianfrance remains a director worth watching. Hopefully he writes a few more drafts of his next screenplay before deeming it filmable, but his directorial work exhibits a keen eye and an admirable bravado that is hard to fault.

This Year in Culture: 2011

Photo Credit: Lin Zagorski | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's Note: The Life & Arts senior staff combed through this year's pop culture and selected the artists, albums, books and movements that they think, in one way or another, helped define 2011. This is the first in a two-day series.

Ryan Gosling. With that slicked-back hair, glossy grey-eyed death stare and defined abs — Emma Stone called them “Photoshopped” in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” — there’s no denial that the hunky actor has been a serious heartthrob since his career breakout as the hopeless romantic Noah from the all-time chick flick “The Notebook.”

Admiration for the actor, however, rocketed into mania this year. From Tumblrs teasingly mocking the actor’s debonair comportment, to the paparazzi’s obsession with Gosling walking his furry sidekick George, to the viral video of Gosling lifting anchorman Al Roker in a reenactment of “Dirty Dancing” on the “Today” show, the actor struck some kind of chord this year that changed what it means to be the new It Man.

The Gosling bandwagon even made its way to Austin. The buzz of Gosling on the grounds of this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest quickly went viral, rendering Austin, which normally ignores celebrities, a blushing, obsessive fan. Within hours a Tumblr (ryangoslingatfunfunfunfest) launched for festivalgoers to send in pictures of their sighting — or stalking — of the blond hunk. The Daily Texan’s own photographer Trent Lesikar snapped a shot of Gosling enjoying a fudge pop at the fest.

New York Magazine called it: In their Year In Culture last year, Gosling was noted as pack leader of a “band of similarly arty, polymathic weirdos [who] are leading a revolt against the plastic leading man,” — which included an all dark-and-handsome crew of James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. While the magazine’s scoop was on point with Gosling’s defiance of Hollywood typecasting — reigning the indie film world with quality performances and commercializing it with his bankable affability.

Gosling’s highlight reel of dramatic range includes his role as a drug-addicted teacher in “Half Nelson,” a man who falls in love with a blow-up doll in “Lars and The Real Girl” and as a love-broken half of a couple in “Blue Valentine.” Gosling’s magnetic energy and poignant performance in “Blue Valentine” in counterbalance to Michelle William’s beautifully vulnerable character won over critics and fused the audience’s interest for this year’s Gosling movies.

Veering away from his indie film streak, Gosling’s three releases this year were more mainstream and centered more on his looks. There was “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” where he played the womanizer opposite the Steve Carell’s cuckold and “Ides of March,” George Clooney’s presidential campaign drama starring Clooney himself and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What ultimately defines Gosling this year though, and perhaps what will be his biggest pop cultural impact, is his subtle, yet screen-commanding role as the mysterious stuntman driver in the neo-noir drama, “Drive.” With a nod to B-movies, an ’80s inspired electronic soundtrack and an exhibition of comedic gore, the film is the pulse of today’s culture. It inhibits today’s obsession with nostalgia and Gosling’s sellable looks and acting only made it easier for the audience to feed into it.

Aloof, reticent, but cutting, when he gives his love interest in “Drive,” played by Carey Mulligan, one final kiss goodbye in an elevator, you feel the crushing weight of a love forever lost in his broken, stoic stare into the stainless steel door. That moment was when Ryan Gosling became more than a pretty actor — he became a great one.

George Clooney directs and stars in political drama “The Ides of March,” featuring a full cast of well-known actors such as Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. (Photo Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

George Clooney’s first directorial effort since 2008’s “Leatherheads” abandons the screwball comedy that derailed that film and returns to the socially conscious sparring of 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “The Ides of March” is not only a clear evolution of Clooney’s directorial style, but an impressive piece of intelligent, adult cinema; political intrigue of the highest degree.

Clooney makes a splash in front of the camera as well, co-starring as presidential candidate Mike Morris, whose campaign is headed up by Stephen (Ryan Gosling) and Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman). His opponent for the Democratic nomination for president barely registers in the film, represented instead by campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). When Tom calls a meeting with Stephen under mysterious circumstances, Stephen’s professional and personal career begin to implode, and most of the film deals with Stephen scrambling to stay afloat in a vicious game where everyone knows more than him.

The cast Clooney has assembled couldn’t have more pedigree if it tried, from acting giants Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman to fellow Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei, not to mention former indie queen Evan Rachel Wood. Predictably, everyone’s operating at the top of their forms here. Gosling has been having a hell of a year between this, “Crazy, Stupid Love” and “Drive,” and he manages to turn in a performance filled with long interludes of nothing but Stephen thinking, trying to work out all the pieces in his head, and manages to make it equally compelling but radically different from his performance in “Drive.” When Stephen finally figures it all out, things get even more intense and Gosling easily holds his own against some of modern cinema’s heavyweights.

Evan Rachel Wood’s performance as a seductive intern is sultry yet human, and Paul Giamatti is underused but predictably great as the opposing campaign manager. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a stunning performance, perhaps his best since 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” and delivers an incredible monologue about loyalty midway through the film that’s a true showstopper. Even cinematic chameleon Jeffrey Wright pops in for a few scenes, and manages to round out a slightly underwritten antagonist easily. Clooney’s character doesn’t get much to do, but he knows how to win an audience and deliver a speech, and, apart from one great, dramatic moment late in the film, that’s all he’s asked to do.

However, Clooney gets plenty of chances to show off behind the camera. Along with directing and starring, Clooney co-writes with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon. Clooney adapted Willimon’s play “Farragut North” and while his script and dialogue is a prime example of how to translate a play to screen, the film’s theatrical roots never overpower the material’s cinematic appeal. Clooney’s direction never calls attention to itself, even when finding some memorable, creative images. Clooney also bathes the film in shadows as the characters delve into increasingly shady territory, and a climactic moment in a kitchen between Gosling’s character and his own is a marvel, drawing the audience in visually before the characters rip into each other verbally.

“The Ides of March” is the best kind of film that we see during Oscar season — a genuinely involving, mature drama that gives its audience plenty to chew on, and allows us to see Hollywood’s best actors doing what they do best. The film is packed with powerhouse performances and is easily Clooney’s best work behind the camera to date. Expect to be hearing a lot about this smart, memorable film going forward.

Driver (Ryan Gosling) is the stoic, deadly hero of Nicholas Winding Refn's "Drive."

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Director Nicolas Winding Refn has spent most of his career crafting delicately paced studies of masculinity that are light on story and heavy on bloody action. His “Bronson” was something of a coming out party for star Tom Hardy, and last year’s “Valhalla Rising” was straight out of an ’80s heavy metal video, dealing with a Norse warrior-slave slaughtering his way through a pre-medieval landscape. However, “Drive” is a step up on every level. It’s a film that is absolutely immersed in style — a masterful exercise in perching an audience firmly on the edge of their seats.

The film’s story practically redefines minimalism, starting with its nameless lead character (Ryan Gosling), referred to only as Driver. Gosling’s character works in a garage run by Shannon (Bryan Cranston), a sleazy opportunist with a bum leg and some very shady friends, including Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie (Albert Brooks). When Driver falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), a woman down the hall, her deadbeat husband’s (Oscar Isaac) return from prison brings his two worlds crashing together in a big way.

From its very first scene, “Drive” delights in building near-unbearable tension. As Gosling navigates the streets of Los Angeles, avoiding police cars and helicopters, the film’s score takes over in making the audience squirm, each patrol car bringing a whole new wave of suspense into the scene. Even better are the scenes when “Drive” lets this simmering intensity come to a head, often with incredibly bloody results.

Gosling continues to challenge and redefine the big screen persona he’s been carefully building over the last few years, and with his performance in “Drive,” he casts away any and all lingering doubts that he’s nothing more than the pretty boy from “The Notebook.” His character is pure, unshakable control, speaking maybe a page’s worth of dialogue in the entire film, and Gosling turns an inexpressive, stoic hero into one of the year’s most compelling characters.

Refn has stocked the film’s cast with absolute heavyweights, pulling from some of TV’s most acclaimed dramas. Cranston’s Shannon is a light, more relatable twist on the morally ambiguous scumbag he’s been crafting on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” and Perlman’s character from “Sons of Anarchy” is equal parts vulgar laughs and dangerous machismo.

Meanwhile, Mulligan isn’t given too much to do, but her piercingly sad eyes do most of her work for her. Brooks abandons his comedic persona to give a memorable, unnerving performance as a ruthless criminal.

“Drive” may be a bit too slight to be considered a true masterpiece, but Refn combines arthouse flourishes and Hollywood-style bloodletting with polished ease and makes even the film’s smallest scenes practically drip with sleek, retro style. Not to mention Cliff Martinez’s pulsing, ’80s score, which is practically a character in itself. Every choice “Drive” makes from beginning to end is impeccably calculated for maximum effect, be it the film’s few blood-soaked money shots or the few lines of dialogue Gosling is allowed to speak, and as an exercise in restraint, the film is practically flawless. It’s not to be missed, under any circumstances.