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Friday
Oct102014

135 Days 'til Oscar: Remember the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion?

Occasionally while typing about the Oscars I accidentally type in the Shrine or the Kodak and especially "The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion" when I mean The Dolby Theater. It's an honest mistake since the Oscars are a bonafide institution and one tends to associate locations with events. The Dolby Theater, the "permanent" home now for Oscar (whatever permanent means considering things such as contracts, name changes, and rights battles for broadcast and whatnot) was once the Kodak Theater and for the last dozen years that's where the Oscars have been held. But until the new millenium, I associated the event with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. That music hall hosted the Oscars the longest from Oliver! (1968) through Shakespeare in Love (1998) though it should be noted that the Shrine auditorium stepped in as substitute for six years during that three decade stretch. 

I've never actually been to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion but for a young movie mad boy in the suburbs of Detroit in the Eighties, 135 North Grand Avenue was the most important address in the world, way cooler than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I still think of it as way more glamorous than the Dolby... but maybe that's because I've been to the Dolby and though it looks great on TV it's inside a shopping mall. Perhaps that's appropriate for a golden idol that's really only gold-plated

Previously on our countdown that's really just begun...
138 Days - Average Best Picture Length
170 Days - Best Actor Trivia 
182 Days - What did Pickford & Fairbanks start?! 

 

Thursday
Oct092014

Everything You Wanted To Know About the Foreign Film Race*... (*but were afraid to ask Pt.1)

Tonight The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released the official list of Best Foreign Language Film Submissions that have qualified for the big show. There are 83 competitors this year, breaking the record by 7 films and in January 11% of those (aka 9 films... I think it really should be 12 each year) will move on to the "finals" from which 5 nominees will be chosen. In a long overdue adjustment to the category the names of the winning film's director will be placed on the statue alongside the country. Previously it was just the country which is silly because nobody would claim that Pedro Almodovar, Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini didn't win this category, you know?

The Film Experience's Official Submission Charts, the most comprehensive collection of the nominees on the web, are fully updated with posters, official charts, running times and more.

Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 25 submissions
Pt. 2 Finland through Nepal -30 submissions
Pt. 3 Peru through Venezuela -28 submissions

READY TO DIG A LITTLE FURTHER? Let's break those 83 films down further and see what we're really looking at this year. Which countries are submitting for the first time? Which popular countries are STILL waiting for their first win? Are there familiar stars in the mix? Read on to find out... 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct092014

Westeros Comes to Hollywood: Casting News for Game of Thrones Actors

Margaret here to talk about Hollywood casting directors' collective infatuation with the actors on Game of Thrones. HBO's fantasy epic is a ratings juggernaut and has been Emmy-nominated a hundred times over. Its enormous cast (more series regulars than any other show on television) is getting a lot of attention, and many of them are landing high-profile movie roles. The prestige cable effect, so often noted for its ability to bring movie stars to TV, seems to be working in the other direction for Game of Thrones

Let's check in on the upcoming projects from our Westerosi friends: 

Carice van Houten

GoT Role: Melisandre, spooky red-headed priestess
Recently Booked: the Jesse Owens biopic Race. The Dutch actress will play legendary German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.

 

Aidan Gillen
GoT Role: Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, slippery schemer.
Recently Booked: Recently greenlit sequel The Maze Runner Chapter II: The Scorch Trials. It's reported that he'll be playing the villain, Janson. 

Gwendoline Christie
GoT Role: Brienne of Tarth, lady warrior
Recently Booked: Star Wars: Episode VII. Her role is top-secret, but the movie is about as high-profile as they come. Her combat experience and 6'3" frame are likely to feature. She's also booked a small part in the final Hunger Games film, as a military commander.

More Westerosi movie news after the jump..

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct092014

NYFF: Maria Dances on the Mountain-tops

Straight from the final week of The New York Film Festival here's Jason on Olivier Assayas' new film Clouds of Sils Maria, starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.

If I was going to make a sort of Cinematic Mad Libs where I filled-in-the-blanks with all my favorite people, places, and things, which then somebody would take that list and turn that into a movie, there's a good chance that Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria would be the result. Noun-wise we have my favorite actress Juliette Binoche. Place-wise we have the Swiss Alps, my favorite place in all the world. And Thing-wise we have Rainer Werner Fassbinder's play (and movie) The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Sils Maria tosses all these ingredients into a pot and cooks up a stew that listen, I was just never not gonna like. It was made for me! And it is delicious.

Maria Enders (Binoche) is a big deal actress and international movie star - she is basically Juliette Binoche. She has flirted with the Hollywood game after rising up in serious roles, and is now trying to swing back to the interesting stuff again. At her side, insistently, is her personal assistant Val (Kristen Stewart), always juggling a couple of cellphones and a thousand appointments at once. Into their life comes a script about the love affair between a woman and her female personal assistant - Maria had played the ingenue role in her youth, but now she's going to tackle that of the older woman. The two women take to the mountains (a gorgeous expanse of Northern Switzerland, misty with metaphor and, uh, mist) to rehearse the two-parter, slipping between their roles and reality, and debating the give-or-take between what makes a movie star and what makes an actress and if they can reconcile the spaces.

It helps, of course, to have that extra level of frisson introduced that here we have a Serious Actress and International Movie Star having this on-screen debate with an International Movie Star who very much would like to be a Serious Actress (and who, by the way, is a Serious Actress - Kristen Stewart's fantastic in this) - in the Q&A following the film Assayas underlined how important it is that we always see it's Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart on screen, that the performative aspect never dissipates; I found the endless reflections of actress and person and character fascinating. And the fact that this is a talky acting piece about making a talky acting piece in between big-budget other-stuff. And the way the big-budget other-stuff swoops in and effects all that talky acting. As the third woman (a well-cast Chloe Grace Moretz) comes in, a mask of whatever-the-moment-calls-for, nothing but a mirror, we watch where the conversations land - the way the theater stage itself is over-produced and overwhelmed, a maze of clear boxes like a re-staging of Chinese Roulette by way of Playtime.

It's very much of a piece with Fassbinder's work though - while Petra von Kant is fogged up and made into this movie's own separate thing it's clear that's what everybody's riffing upon, and as with that film (and most of Fassbinder's work) it is the performance itself that is placed at the forefront. Everyone is playing their roles, hitting their marks, spinning towards their inevitables - the snake will roll in just on time, even if you're not there to see it. "Is it set on Earth?" Binoche asks a director pitching her a science-fiction movie towards the end - after all she's already been up in the clouds, dotting the snow-caps with sacrifices; it's probably time to come down now.

--

Clouds of Sils Maria played last night at NYFF and plays again tonight at 9pm.

Thursday
Oct092014

Stage Door: "You Can't Take It With You" & "From Here To Eternity"

The Best Picture winners of 1938 and 1953, which were based on hit plays and best selling novels respectively, have moved to the stage. Let's take a look...

Annaleigh Ashford dances up a comic storm in "You Can't Take It With You"

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU
For this Broadway revival of the classic 30s comedy, famously moviefied by Frank Capra back in the day, they've gone all star: James Earl Jones plays the tax-avoiding follow-your-dreams grandfather, Broadway vet and A+ comic actress Christine Nielsen (recently Tony nominated for Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike) is the easily distracted mother of a large brood, Rose Byrne her gorgeous daughter (essentially the 'Marilyn Munster' of this band of eccentrics), Fran Krantz from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods her rich would-be fiancee and Annaleigh Ashford, who has been on such a brilliant role these past couple of years with her ex-hooker lesbian receptionist on Masters of Sex and as a factory girl in Broadway's Kinky Boots, is the dance-crazed busybody.

If you've boned up on your 1930s Best Picture winners you'll know that those are the roles once inhabited by Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington (Oscar-nominated), Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart and Ann Miller; tough acts to follow all.

As it turns out the theatrical and farcical antics of this family play better on stage...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct082014

AHS: Freakshow "Monsters Among Us"

The shadows that had sheltered me were banished by the blinding light of scrutiny. I knew I was about to enter the gates of hell but like the inescapable pull of gravity there was nothing I could do about it.

Sarah Paulson's opening monologue to the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freakshow is rather how I feel about AHS itself. It's hellish, purposefully, and I feel a gravitational pull to watch even though I never love it. Grande Dame Guignol (also known as Hag Horror), a wonderfully stylized actressy subgenre of horror, was dead until Ryan Murphy revived it but his take on it is way too fused with the Slasher, the grossest and most obvious subgenre of horror that refuses to die. 

This first episode of Season 4 begins promisingly enough with a patient average shot length and plentiful mood, though did we have to lift the Under the Skin score wholesale for what appears to be Elsa's (Jessica Lange) actual theme music this season? (I know the world is in love with Jessica Lange right now but Scarlett's ___ might well devour her whole.) Elsa recruits Siamese Sisters (Sarah Paulson as Dot & Bette) who murdered their mother. Meanwhile a scary clown with Leatherface like add-ons to his face (g-ross) in what appears to be a costume that hasn't been washed in years starts stabbing people gruesomely. He doesn't seem to belong to the actual Freakshow. We meet a wide cast of characters but Angela Bassett and her three breasts, Michael Chiklis as the Strong Man and Denis O'Hare as someone are as yet unseen. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct082014

A Year with Kate: Love Among The Ruins (1975)

Episode 41 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn does a TV movie with Laurence Olivier and George Cukor, which might have been disappointing if it wasn't so good.

Whew! What a nice change of pace this breezy little comedy is after so many dramas. Don't get me wrong, I love Great Actresses performing Great Roles in Great Films, but sometimes you just want to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and laugh with your friend Katie, y'know? It's been 2 months since our last comedy (or less, depending on whether you laugh as hard as I do during The Lion in Winter), and I for one was cautiously excited to see Kate return to comedic form in Love Among The Ruins.

I say "cautiously excited" because even though so many of you pointed out how good this movie is, its existence a TV movie (albeit an Emmy Award-winning one) depressed me. The fact that three giants of the Studio Era - George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, and Sir Laurence Olivier - were forced to make their triumphant reunion on the small screen, when only a decade before they had commanded CinemaScope and roadshow releases, proved to me once and for all that by 1975, Old Hollywood was dead. And while I by no means begrudge the birth of New Hollywood and the waves of startling creativity that came from the auteurs of 70s counter culture, I nonetheless mourn the way we did (do?) treat our aging giants. So it was with bittersweet feelings that I turned on the television.

Kate delivering some quality sass to dumbstruck Olivier

It turns out that there is such thing as worrying too much.

Click to read more ...