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Podcast - 1996 Cannes Competition Revisit

"Never forget Madonna (!!) beating Frances McDormand for the Golden Globe that year" - David

 "Watson/McDormand/Blethyn? I couldn't even choose. All so perfect - my favorite kind of Oscar category." -Mike

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Monday
Nov102014

Monologue: Cheng Pei-pei in "Lilting"

Andrew here.

Last week’s BIFA nominations saw a mix of expected names and surprises, but the inclusion I was most excited for was the citation of the quiet, lovely performance of Cheng Pei Pei in Lilting. Lilting premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to good reviews but it’s the type of smaller film, one in a dozen each year, that seems destined to be forgotten by the time the year draws to a close. It’s a shame, because even when its story falters slightly Lilting remains a thoughtful, and affecting, piece.

Like a profound monologue Pei-Pei has towards the end of the film. Up to this point in Lilting, Hong Khaou (writer and director) has elongated the crisis of when Junn will find out that her dead son’s friend, Richard, who keeps visiting her at her convalescent home is actually his ex-lover. Though it threatens to lag in the middle, Lilting begins and ends with aplomb. The audience has been wondering just why Richard doesn’t just tell Junn the truth. And, in his final big scene as he explains to Junn, Whishaw is fantastic. And like mother oftentimes do, Junn reveals she already knew Kai was gay and launches into a monologue of her own.

“It’s pathetic for a mother to fight for her own son’s attention. I felt so jealous of you…”

It's not so much a justification for Junn's passive aggression towards Junn, so far but instead an essential glimpse into Junn – a lovely clarification of this heretofore inscrutable woman.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov102014

Beauty vs Beast: Two Total Bettys

JA from MNPP here, surfing the crimson wave to today's round of "Beauty vs Beast" - today would've been the 37th birthday of Brittany Murphy, you guys. And since we can hardly let that terrible Lifetime movie be the absolute and final word on her legacy (I watched about fifteen minute of that thing and I was all, "As if!") let's step our memories back to happier times, when the skirts were short and the socks were knee-high...

 

It's maybe a stretch to call Tai the villain of Clueless, but she is the antagonist that shakes up Cher's insulated world, so just go with me. And it's not like anybody would vote for Cher's actual nemesis, Designer Imposter Perfume Amber.

You have seven days to negotiate your final grades in the comments!

PREVIOUSLY In celebration of Interstellar's release (here in retrospect I kind of wish I'd waited until I saw the interminable movie first - ugh) we gave last week's competition over to Christopher Nolan's most memorable battle of the comic-book titans, and y'all voted chaos to reign - Heath Ledger's Joker strutted away in a blow-out with over 80% of the vote. Said Daniel Armour:

"If were just talking about The Dark Knight then the Joker. I loved Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman overall but TDK didn't give him as much to do as the other films. Also, Ledger was excellent as The Joker and truly deserved the acclaim - and awards - he got for the film."

Monday
Nov102014

LGBT News Roundup

Hello all, Manuel here with a number of LGBT-related news to kick off your Monday.

- Let’s start with the pretty. Love these images of the Looking boys for their OUT100 spread. The magazine named the HBO series TV show of the year. HBO's been busy hosting their Artists Series where they invited some select lucky few to visit the set, keeping social media abreast of what the boys are up to. Check it out:  #LookingForPatrick #LookingForAgustin #LookingForDom

Oh and look, a teaser trailer for season 2!

Speaking of HBO (1), they’re going ahead on the provocatively titled series Bros Before Hos which centers on a queer black man and well, his brothers. The show is from the team behind Red Tails and, more recently, Dear White People. The show, they state, aims to "reflect the growing diversity of the American experience." You can check out a rough cut of the pitch of the show at the link.

Speaking of HBO (2), did anyone catch Olive Kitteridge last week with the wonderful Frances McDormand? I’ll have to wait a bit since I don’t have that premium channel, but you can catch up with out director Lisa Cholodenko over at Interview in their newest podcast.

- Kiss Me, Kill Me - an Alfred Hitchcock/Agatha Christie-style "Who-done-it" set in a little town called West Hollywood - successfully fulfilled its Kickstarter campaign this past week. This should be great news for those of us who want more Gale Harold, Tom Lenk & RuPaul’s Drag Race's Willam in our lives.

- In more horrific news, screenings of Switzerland’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film, The Circle in Kiev’s Cinema Zhovten theater ended in flames after the theater was set on fire. Proof that while we've come a long way, there's plenty more work to be done.

- And lastly, in case you missed it, here's the first official photo of Zachary Quinto and James Franco as a gay couple in Michael. I say "official" because if you've been following those two on Instagram, they've been giving us plenty of behind-the-scenes looks at the film adaptation of the New York Times Magazine article, “My Ex-Gay Best Friend.” Here's how the couple they portray are described in the piece:

“Many young gay men looked up to [Michael]. He and his boyfriend at the time, Ben, who also worked at the magazine [XY], made a handsome pair — but their appeal went deeper. On weekends we would go to raves together, and I would watch as gay boys gravitated toward the couple. Michael and Ben seemed unburdened (by shame, by self-doubt) and unapologetically pursued what the writer Paul Monette called the uniquely gay experience of “flagrant joy.” But unlike some of our friends who rode the flagrant joy train all the way to rehab, Michael and Ben rarely seemed out of control. There was a balance — a wisdom — to their quest for intense, authentic experience. Together they seemed to have figured out how to be young, gay and happy.”

Do Franco & Quinto fit the bill? Are you counting the days until we see Patrick and Dom again? Are you as excited that even as 2014 is shaping up to be a strong and diverse year for LGBT cinema (what with Pride, The Skeleton Twins, 52 Tuesdays, The Normal Heart, Love is Strange, The Circle, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Lilting among others) we already have three fascinating LGBT projects (Michael, Carol, and Freeheld) to look forward to in 2015?

Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov092014

Box Office: Sci-fi Rules the Day

Amir here, reporting to box office duty. Finally, the day cinephiles have been waiting for all year has arrived. America gets the chance to see one of our greatest working directors bring his epic vision to the screen. I speak, of course, of Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery, which opened on one screen to respectable returns. Others were too busy checking out Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. Disney's animated film actually topped the charts – I did not expect it to overcome Nolan's juggernaut, if I'm being honest – but both film finished with more than $50 in the bank. This is an incredibly rare feat: even though it's happened for the third year in a row now, it's only the fourth time that two films open with 50+ numbers. On all three previous occasions, an animated film beat a live action one: Wall-E and Wanted, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Prometheus, and Monsters University and World War Z. All eight films are also more or less science-fiction, which calls for a poll:

 

 

TOP DOZEN
01 BIG HERO 6 $56.2 NEW Tim's Review / Nathaniel's Take
02 INTERSTELLAR $52.1 NEW Michael's Review
03 GONE GIRL $6.1 (cum. $145.4) The Podcast /  Jason's Review
04 OUIJA $6 (cum. $43.4) 
05 ST. VINCENT $5.7 (cum. $27.3) Michael's Review
06 NIGHTCRAWLER $5.5 (cum. $19.7) The PodcastNathaniel's Review 
07 FURY $5.5 (cum. $69.2) Michael's Review
08 JOHN WICK $8 (cum. $27.5) Michael's Review
09 ALEXANDER... VERY BAD DAY $3.4 (cum. $59.2) 
10 
THE BOOK OF LIFE $2.8 (cum. $45.2) Interview
11 BIRDMAN $2.3 (cum. $8) The Podcast Nathaniel's Review
12 THE JUDGE $1.7 (cum. $42.5) 

PLATFORM
01 WHIPLASH $.3 88 locations (cum. $1.5) The Podcast / Michael's Review
02 CITIZEN FOUR $.2 59 locations (cum. $.6) 
03 THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING $.2 NEW 5 locations Nathaniel's Review

Aside from Wiseman's film, the other big limited release of the weekend was The Theory of Everything, which returned really solid numbers on five screens and will roll out next week in search of some Oscar gold. I haven't yet seen any of this weekend's films, but I did catch up with Birdman: Or the Unex... oh, stop this nonsense, which I mostly liked, even though I found it uneven and undermined by a) Lubezki's distracting and confusing cinematography and b) Keaton's incredibly boring performance. For a performance that is similarly meta without forgetting that there is an emotional connection to be made with the material, see: Rourke, Mickey.

What did you see this weekend?

Sunday
Nov092014

Red Carpet: Governors Award Fashions... Let the Campaigns Begin

Jose here. As Nathaniel noted, the Governors Awards were held last night in Hollywood (yay Maureen O’Hara!). As usual they were pretty much a rehearsal dinner for the Oscars next year. While their red carpet is more subdued than Oscar’s - they’re there to pay tribute to legendary honorees, not to steal their thunder - there were a few exceptions to the rule. After all, if you want people to vote for you, you gotta make sure they remember you.

Let's take a look at what 16 of the Oscar hopefuls wore. What might it mean in the larger scheme of things?

 

Emily Blunt has worn this exact same thing to at least 10 other award ceremonies, color variations aside. Don't get me wrong, she's stunning etc. etc. etc. but will it help The Baker's Wife's Oscar cause, to look so every-year Blunt? The under-nominated actress should start experimenting and leave her go-to silhouette behind - wear a massive ball gown that tells people...

you've changed! you're daring! You're different in the woods!  ♪ ♫

Reese Witherspoon, too, looks the same, except it works to her favor. She's paying homage to Elle Woods, reminding voters how funny and cute she was in Legally Blonde, and how complex and dark she is in Wild by contrast. I rest my case.


Now two Best Actress dark horses, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been in our minds all year long with her breakthrough performance in the sleeper box office hit Belle, and as she prepares to do the publicity rounds for Beyond the Lights it was delightful to see her attend. Perennial nominations-bridesmaid Marion Cotillard showed up with the Dardennes to remind people how terrific she is in Two Days, One Night, while I'm not particularly in love with her Dior dress (pretty much an altered version of what J.Law wore at the Oscars this year) I hope she talked to everyone at that party (it was 600 people) to convince them to vote for her.

 In a just world, Jenny Slate would be a slam dunk contender for Best Actress because she's incredible in Obvious Child, but an indie about abortion without a heartwarming message or a twee soundtrack is perhaps way too cool for Oscar. She definitely seems to be playing the "newbie" card, which is why she showed up dressed like Lupita Nyong'o at this year's ceremony. I hope that helps her cause! Jessica Chastain was there too, as she always is nowadays and rightfully so, and of course she was campaigning for her three or four scenes in Interstellar because it's November and she has made absolutely no other movies this year. I don't know what you mean about a three-hour-long melodrama with James McAvoy in which she's giving us Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer brilliance and a 1980s gangster flick...I seriously don't.

In a just world, Jenny Slate would be a slam dunk contender for Best Actress because she's incredible in Obvious Child, but an indie about abortion without a heartwarming message or a twee soundtrack is perhaps way too cool for Oscar. She definitely seems to be playing the "newbie" card, which is why she showed up dressed like Lupita Nyong'o at the Oscars. Will it help her campaign subliminally? Jessica Chastain was there too - where isn't she nowadays? -- and of course she was campaigning for her three or four scenes in Interstellar because it's November and she [ahem] has made absolutely no other movies this year. I don't know what you mean about a three-hour-long melodrama with James McAvoy in which she's giving us Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer brilliance and a 1980s gangster flick with Oscar Isaac in which she's giving us Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface ...I seriously don't.

 Literally, every single person involved in Boyhood was there. All. Of. Them. Look!

Moving on...

If there was such a thing as prom king and queen of awards season red carpet, this year would continue to be a popularity contest by way of The Imitation Game vs. The Theory of Everything. (Cumberbatch may have won round 1 in Toronto but round 2 on the early campaign trail has gone to Redmayne.) Just look at how cute they all are! Will people who vote for Eddie Redmayne feel like they must vote for Felicity Jones too? Can Benedict Cumberbatch win without Keira Knightley? For now, all I can say is that not since Kate & Leo have I wanted two screen couples to get married like I want these Brits to do.

 All of these handsome men below are potential Best Actor spoilers, and all of them seem to have shown up primarily to remind voters "hey, we clean up nice too!" since none of them play particularly glamorous characters. I'm especially bowled over by Oscar Isaac's bold brown tux with Clark Gable mischievous mustache accessory. Which one is making you swoon?

About that not-stealing-honorary-thunder business...

When does Tilda Swinton not steal everyone else's thunder? At first it seems strange she was even there until you remember "Remember that weird lady in Snowpiercer !" She undoubtedly has to remind people many times that that was her, which makes her instantly praise worthy. From frumpy to avant garde, now that's how you get votes. Similarly David Oyelowo showed up in one of the only tuxes worth talking about. 

Which of these dazzling stars will we be seeing in every red carpet from now until Oscar? What were some of your favorite looks?

Sunday
Nov092014

Say What? Tilda to Miyazaki-san

What did Tilda Swinton say to Hayao Miyazaki? 
Amuse us with your best guess in the comments.

Swinton, Lasseter, and MIyazaki at the Governors Awards

 

Bonus Round Competition: Correctly guess / make a case for what her favorite Miyazaki movie is.

I'll name two winners on Wednesday.