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Friday
Aug142015

25th Anniversary: Looking Back at 'Metropolitan' with Chris Eigeman


Jose
here. Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan turns 25 in 2015, and you wouldn’t be able to guess it based on how fresh and original its dialogues and performances feel. Stillman, who once was touted as the heir to Woody Allen - but has proved to be a less nihilistic, brutally sardonic, slightly WASP-ier cousin - delivered a screen debut as powerful as it was unconventional. Perhaps the one thing that gives the film’s age away (other than the very late 80s hairstyles and costumes) is how interested the characters are in connecting to each other, in making a difference and affecting other people’s perceptions. Whether their agendas are strictly narcissistic or actually noble depends on the eye of the beholder.

The film marked Stillman’s debut, and it also introduced audiences to several actors including Chris Eigeman, who as the Mr. Darcy-esque Nick Smith proved to be the ultimate snob. The actor followed his work in the film with appearances in two more Stillman projects, not to mention films with Noah Baumbach and a recurring role in the beloved series Gilmore Girls. I had the chance to talk to Mr. Eigeman about the making of Metropolitan and also discussed his own directorial work, and the raison d'être behind his hilarious tweets.

JOSE: Can you believe it’s been twenty five years since Metropolitan premiered?


CHRIS EIGEMAN: Oddly I’m not surprised, because the film was shown at Sundance for its twentieth anniversary, so I had this anniversary in sight.

Read more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug142015

Vintage 1954: Brando, Monroe, Godzilla, and Much More...

"Can Marlon Brando Be Tamed?" - the answer, as the next 50 years taught the world was an unequivocal "No."1954 is our "Year of the Month" and this post was fun to research. People who only care about 'the now' are really missing out. Movie tickets were only 70 cents. Can you imagine?

We'll announce the panelists for the Supporting Actress Smackdown (August 30th) on Tuesday. But until then let's marinate a little in the year that was.  

BEST MOVIES ACCORDING TO...

Oscar:
On the Waterfront (12 noms / 8 wins)
The Country Girl (7 noms | 2 wins)
The Caine Mutiny (7 nominations)
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (5 noms | 1 win)
Three Coins in the Fountain (3 noms | 2 wins).

Just outside the Best Picture shortlist looking in was surely Billy Wilder's wonderful and funny Sabrina and maybe the airplane drama The High and the Mighty (both with 6 noms | 1 win). Probably not just-misses as they were not totally loved but definitely prestigious / respected were two musicals, the awesome A Star is Born (6 nominations) which should have definitely been there and which in fact won both the acting Globes for comedy/musical and the historic Carmen Jones (2 nominations). It's always worth noting that only beginning in the 80s were musicals like rare unicorns. There were 22 musicals released in 1954! It was just another type of movie with hits and misses like any other film genre for the first 50 years of sound cinema.

Golden Globe
: (drama) On the Waterfront (comedy/musical) Carmen Jones

CannesGate of Hell  (Japan) took the Palme D'Or and after opening in the US in December and Oscar nomination for Costume Design and an Honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (before that category was created)

List-Mania continues with music hits, debuts, and adorable "born in '54" people after the jump...  

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug132015

Working Late

Thursday
Aug132015

YNMS: The Hateful Eight

David here digging into the trailer of the moment...

Or as the logo has it, The H8ful Eight. Which seems incongruous given both the Western setting and the classicism of the 70mm promotion at the end of the trailer, but that's Tarantino for you. He lives by his own rules.

Anyway, let's dig in to one of the year's most anticipated trailers, which gives us our first glimpse at the eighth/ninth film from one of cinema's most controversial auteurs.

The trailer, Jennifer Jason Leigh and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug132015

Germany's Submissions for Oscar Consideration


Having had no luck scoring a nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar since Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon six years ago, Germany has just announced the shortlist for consideration as the country's entry for the 88th Academy Awards. The eight films listed are:

  • 13 Minutes (Elser) by Oliver Hirschbiegel
  • Head Full of Honey (Honig im Kopf) by Til Schweiger
  • Jack by Edward Berger
  • Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens) by Giulio Ricciarelli
  • Sanctuary (Freistatt) by Marc Brummund
  • Schmidts Katze by Marc Schlegel
  • Victoria by Sebastian Schipper
  • We Are Young. We Are Strong. (Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark.) by Burhan Qurbani

Let's take a closer look...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug132015

Eddie Redmayne starts his Oscar Campaign

Here's Murtada on the first major magazine cover of the 2015 Awards Season.

Our current best actor winner is ready for his second straight nomination. Eddie Redmayne is starting his Oscar campaign for Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl more than 3 months before the movie’s release. This week he covers OUT magazine’s fall preview issue with a lengthy interview that touches on everything from where he keeps his Oscar, to his privileged upbringing, to playing transgender artist Lili Elbe.

Perhaps what people are most curious about is how he handles the potential minefield of his casting as a transgender woman. Elbe, who had sexual reassignment surgery in 1930s, was one of the first known transgender people to transition and a movie about her life has been in the making for more than a decade.

Redmayne and his handlers are obviously trying to get ahead of any potential controversy. Hence the careful choice of the publication to which he gives his first interview about the film, and the inclusion in the article of advocates from the trans community like Paris Lees and Lana Wachowski. Lees is quoted and says about Redmayne's casting “Politically, it makes me groan. But if anybody’s going to do this justice, then I’m happy it’s Eddie. We had a good chat about everything”.

The interview is a good read and he handles some of the thornier issues with deft and careful thought. He comes through as humble while acknowledging his luck and privilege. He recognizes how divisive his portrayal of Elbe might become.

People were so kind and generous with their experience, but also so open. Virtually all of the trans men and women I met would say ‘Ask me anything.’ They know that need for cisgender people to be educated. I felt like, I’m being given this extraordinary experience of being able to play this woman, but with that comes this responsibility of not only educating myself but hopefully using that to educate [an audience]. Gosh, it’s delicate. And complicated.”

As for the movie itself, the verdict will be out soon. It plays at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals in early September. Venice comes first and that will be our first indication whether or not that nomination is happening as we’ve seen many an Oscar campaign start at the Biennale.

In the last 10 years, 8 men and 3 women have won the Volpi Cup for English language performances, a big percentage. Of those performances David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix (who won jointly for The Master) went on to land Oscar nominations. Michael Fassbender (Shame) came close but ultimately missed. However the only winner this decade at Venice who went on to win an Oscar is Helen Mirren (The Queen).

Are you looking forward to The Danish Girl? Do you think Redmayne is a good choice to play Elbe?

Wednesday
Aug122015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Chicken Run" 

With Shaun the Sheep currenty struggling at the box office, it's an ideal time to give a round of thanks to Aardman animation for all their wonderfully specific aesthetic and the painstaking stop motion or stop-motion-like CGI shorts and features they've made over the years. This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot travels back to 2000, the year before Oscar added a Best Animated Feature category, to the film that surely would have won it had they started just a year earlier: Chicken Run.

This delightfully British comedy is about a tenacious 'hard boiled' leader Ginger who wants to rescue her fellow hens from their egg-making enslavery at the farm before they become roasts. Mrs Tweedy (perfectly voiced by Miranda Richardson), tired of the farm's low profits, decides to make them pies instead. Cue slapstick action, a sly morbidity, repetitive but highly effective sight gags and lots of jokes about prisoner of war films, organized labor, groupthink, and, you know, chickens.

Here are the Best Shots chosen by our informal club. Click on any of the images to read the accompanying article. My choice is at the end of the post.

CHICKEN RUN (2000)
8 shots chosen by 10 participating blogs 

I’m impressed with their smart set and costume designs that imitate the war time, including concentration camp (the chicken farm), clothing and even the gas chamber (the pie machine)...
-Chirapat

My favorite moments are the slightly darker and somber ones that really give this film its depth...
-Sorta That Guy

I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it. 
-54 Disney Reviews 

 There's a great mastery of visual grammar at work here, and directors Park and Peter Lord show a strong hand in their feature debuts.
-The Entertainment Junkie

The mixture of round, soft and mostly appealing character designs with its detailed and bleak world is jarring at first, but the mixture of the two give the film quite a striking look...." 
-Magnificent Obsession, um blog de cinema 

A very traditional movie in terms of plot mechanics, but it becomes something much more sentimental and endearing by telling this story from the perspective of a group of claymation chickens..." 
-Coco Hits NY 

The shot above is one of the many great sight gags in the film..."
-Film Actually 


More like people than the absolute dread of the Tweedies in their midst, the chickens quite quickly caught me off-guard with their stock yet recognizable personalities...
-Movie Motorbreath

The content and framing of this shot being rather conventional, save for the chickenification of it. Which is no sin, of course..."
Antagony & Ecstasy

As for my shot...

This is not it, but I have to share it because it was my heartiest laugh in 2015 (and I didn't remember it at all from 2000). A throwaway reaction shot during Ginger's planning meeting...

Now, i know our last escape attempt was a bit of a fiasco… 

The "acting" in this super brief cutaway is nothing less than perfection.

I normally select my shot before I've seen any from the contributors but I was late this week and of all the images I saved, two of the three I was struggling to choose between were Babs with her knitted noose, a great morbid sight gag, and that beautifully eery overhead shot in the oven, which is so bold design wise and unlike much else in the movie. Amusingly they happen to be the two shots that were both chosen more than once! Or perhaps it's telling considering that the film relies heavily on highly conventional, even cliché, shot types -- see Tim's article for a good description of why this is

The best shot in Chicken Run is not a single shot but the repeated motif of entire groups of chickens staring directly at the camera, blinking round eyes, dimbulb groupthink, and unified emotions, whether its awe, hope, or hysteria. But it's so much funnier in motion, so here is my choice.

Also funnier in motion, as the farmer does a double take with his flashlight, and the real chicken, hiding under the bed making awkward chicken noises. It's a great meta joke about this entire movie; a movie painstakingly crafted by humans with anthropomorphic clay chickens as their stand-ins, with the chickens themselves play-acting animal behavior for "humans" inside of it, with their own crafted objects. It's smart but, even better, it's sublimely silly.

NEXT WEEK: ANGELS IN AMERICA (2003) - Here are the details

Wednesday
Aug122015

HBO’s LGBT History: Elephant (2003)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we praised Tom Wilkinson and Jessica “Patron Saint of Hand Acting” Lange in the 2003 trans film, Normal, which feels oddly timely what with I Am Cait, and Transparent covering similar territory a dozen years later. This week we look at the Diane Keaton (!) produced film, Elephant, Gus Van Sant’s fictional take on the Columbine High School massacre.

Using mostly non-professional actors and featuring dizzying long-takes to make you feel the passing of time leading up to the horrific events at a high school in Portland, the film is not immediately or easily catalogued as an “LGBT” film, but it makes for a fascinating entry into our long-running project, given both its director and its oblique treatment of homosexuality. [More...]

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