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Thursday
Dec182014

The Animated Feature contenders: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Tim here. This week's look at one of the 2014 Best Animated Feature Oscar contenders takes us someplace entirely new: to a film that might actually be able to swing a nomination. The film is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the penultimate film made by the late Studio Ghibli, and probably the final work directed by the great Takahata Isao, who hasn't officially announced his retirement, like friend and colleague Hayao Miyazaki; but when a director is 79 years old and has reached the "enormous gaps between features" stage of his career (his previous film, My Neighbors the Yamadas, came out in 1999), it's time to make some assumptions.

If it's a valedictory work that Princess Kaguya is to be, it's a brilliant one, right down to an ending about the pain of saying farewell when we're not ready to. The film adapts "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", a folktale that is thought to be the oldest extant work of Japanese literature, telling of a little girl found in a glowing stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter one day. Convinced by this and other signs that he has been tasked by giving her the life a noble princess, the bamboo cutter focuses on pushing her into the upper crusts of society despite how clearly the girl, Kaguya, resents this life, and would prefer to be left in the peaceable wilds of her adoptive home.

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Thursday
Dec182014

Boyhood Trophies. Nightcrawler Sweeps. Plus: A Bunch of Oscar Chart Updates

Pro Boyhood. Meh on Gone GirlAs you have undoubtedly heard by now even President Barack Obama has boarded the Boyhood train, declaring it the best of the year... that he has seen (it might surprise you to hear that presidents don't have a lot of time for moviegoing). FLOTUS, who helped hand out the Oscar for Best Picture to Argo if you'll recall, offers up no "Best" opinion to People Magazine but randomly shares that she didn't think Gone Girl was all that and preferred the book.

Where were we? Oh yes. Regional critics groups are feeling a tiny bit friskier than usual. No, they really are. Oh sure there is a lot of hive mind action happening (Boyhood, Arquette, J.K., Citizen Four etcetera) but it's not quite as lockstep as it has been in recent years.

Since we last spoke a few more cities have weighed in and it's semi-interesting at least to see a range of Best Actress choices (Reese & Rosamund) and how about San Diego's total unblinking obsession with Nightcrawler?

Lou Bloom must have given them the hard sell. Lou Bloom got that job. [More...]

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Thursday
Dec182014

Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo to Star in Romantic Drama 'Americanah'

Earlier this year Lupita Nyong'o acquired the rights to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's award-winning 2012 novel Americanah, signing on to star as Nigerian émigré Ifemelu, as well as produce along with Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment. David Oyelowo has also signed on to star as romantic lead Obinze. The book is divine: beautifully written, emotionally complex, swooningly romantic and often bitingly funny. It's also full of razor-sharp insight on immigration and cultural identity, the shifting concept of home, and blackness in America, Nigeria, and Britain.

The project is guaranteed to be a meaty opportunity for Nyong'o and Oyelowo, but is still several steps away from production. Some questions:

1. Should we worry that the project doesn't yet have a script? I'd say no, in part because of my love for the source material, but largely due to the strength of Plan B producing. They've got a respectable filmography, and the last couple years have been a serious hot streak (Moneyball, 12 Years a Slave, Selma). They shouldn't have trouble attracting top-drawer talent. With the right team in place, this could be someone's shot at a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

2. Who should direct? It's only natural that Ava DuVernay's name should come to mind, given her skill with romantic drama and epic political context. It would make hers a 3-for-3 David Oyelowo filmography, and she certainly already has the in with Plan B Entertainment. But since the story is so indivisible from the non-American experience, and so specifically Nigerian in perspective, perhaps a Nollywood director might be a better choice. Perhaps Biyi Bandele, whose adaptation of Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun came out earlier this year to mixed reviews, would be interested in another shot at the author's work?

3. Will Beyoncé help with the movie's PR? When Beyoncé dropped her secret album last year, she gave Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a major profile boost by sampling her TED talk "Everyone Should Be a Feminist on the song "***Flawless", which sent Americanah rocketing up the Amazon sales charts. (To be honest, that's also how I first heard of the book.) Maybe the movie release can be preceded by a tie-in Beyoncé single that samples dialogue from the movie? Harness the power of Bey and you have the makings of a serious box office hit on your hands.

It's impossible not to admire Lupita Nyong'o's initiative and savvy in carving out her career, snapping up the rights to an interesting project herself and then backing that up by attracting major talent and industry clout. No production date is set; join me in hoping that this moves forward smoothly.

Have you read Americanah? Who else do you think should be brought on to the production?

Thursday
Dec182014

ICYMI: Missi's Memoirs, Bellucci's Bond, Freakshow's Find 

Christian Bale moonlighting as Natalie Portman's hairdresser

7 Highlights You May Have Missed
Grand Budapest sounds as good as it looks
Bellucci + Bond. Where does the Italian goddess stand in the Bond Babes Age Stats?
A Year With Kate: Love Affair *sobbing* The series is almost over.
From Freakshow to Magic Mike XXL - meet actress Kathy Deitch
Reader Questions Podcast Globes & SAG discussed
Rhett vs. Ashley! Do you give a damn on Scarlett's 75th anniversary?
Knight of Cups trailer. Like flipping through Chivo's Instagram

But Most Importantly...
One more round of applause for this week's Celebrity Guest Blogger, Missi Pyle. Her long-legged box office hit Gone Girl, with features Missi memorably nailing Nancy Grace journalism, comes to DVD on January 13th! (Will it get any Oscar nominations that week?).

2015 should be a good year for Missi fans since she promises she has a new album and a handful of indies wrapped. Missi was also kind enough to share thoughts and advice on being a working actor, reveal her all time favorite movie (and a few favored actors), offer up a bunch of silly photos, and share her HILARIOUS memoir from the 84th Academy Awards.

Basically Missi is everything, okay?! Okay. 

As you can imagine, dear readers, I'd love to do make the One Day Celebrity Blog Takeover thing a quarterly event but it's tough to find goddesses as awesome and generous as Missi & Melanie & Dana & Leslye who are not just talented but also into talking movies/tv as showbiz fans. Who will be our next victim? We'll find out together in 2015. Stay tuned!

Thursday
Dec182014

News of the Century: "Bombshell" From Smash Is Happening. June 15th, 2015

FAKE AD FROM THE TV SHOW. BUT THERE WILL BE A REAL ONE IN 2015.

That's right show queens, "Bombshell" is finally getting a stage production. [src] It's a one night only benefit event in NYC so who knows if it will be way above our pay grade but you have to start somewhere.

The Film Experience's troubled marriage to "Smash" the ill fated NBC series about the making of a Marilyn Monroe musical named "Bombshell" lives on! It's impossible to get a full divorce actually from that show and especially the show within the show because social media has guaranteed that all TV series with a devout following remain somehow in the pop culture conversation like they're still on the air.  I can't tell you how many times someone mentions Smash in my twitterfeed (#notcomplaining) and my eyes always flash a bit, like an ocular exclamation point. 

There's no word yet on casting but if Megan Hilty isn't playing Marilyn at this one night only event there's really no point in that day in the world's timeline even existing. This is our only mandatory requirement*. Otherwise proceed, producers. Our hearty gratitude and possible our dollars, depending on ticket prices, await you.

*Requirements are different than wants but we got a string of those too if you need 'em.

Thursday
Dec182014

National Film Registry Adds 25. How Many Have You Seen?

Ah the National Film Registry inductees! One of the most important December cinematic traditions that I always forget about. I wish it were in March each year -- since it's not any kind of "year in..." since film works aren't eligible for induction until they're ten years old. Placed it March it would also serve as a nice salve to the sometimes wounding notion that the Oscars are the only barometer for American movies that are deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" I wish too that this annual honor were more practical (restoration, anyone?) and less symbolic in nature. 

THE TWENTY-FIVE 2014 INDUCTEES
Which have you seen and which will you be seeking out?(presented in chronological order)

Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day(1913)
The oldest surviving film featuring African-American actors. But no title cards, credits, or script has survived. 

Shoes (1916)
Directed by Lois Weber, a female film pioneer. This one is about a desperate girl trying to support her parents and brothers who sells her body for a pair of shoes!

Unmasked (1917)
Another female silent director Grace Cunard who also acted in the short with co-director Francis Ford

The Dragon Painter (1919)
A US/France coproduction 

More films after the jump filled with Satan-worshipping neighbors, chocolate rivers, and rugs that tie the whole room together...

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Thursday
Dec182014

The Interview Cancelled. And Other Outrages.

If you slept through the day yesterday what you missed is that Sony pulled the Christmas day release of the comedy The Interview (starring Seth Rogen & James Franco) after major theatrical chains refused to show it after mass murder threats on movie theaters showing it. Naturally the outrage machine revved up with infinite "the terrorists have won" responses (from both liberals and hard righters), snarky tweets, and lots of 'what would happen if' warnings and truly unfortunate comparisons.

Response to the removal of the movie registers strongly for future unearned martyrdom / canonization probability which is more annoying than it is terrifying. [More...]

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