One more hot month before Prestige awards-hunting Season. Are you getting excited yet? If you have been away at the beach here are 12 highlights of the month for your reading pleasure.
Halfway Mark - Best of January through June
Rhythm Hunger Nation - Katniss Everdeen does her best Janet Jackson
Blurb Whore - Nathaniel's on a movie poster!
Oldest Living Screen Stars - all 200 of them from de Havilland to Eastwood
Titus Andromedon and the "GBF" investigating the 'type' post Emmy noms
[Safe] & Sunset Boulevard - made for awesome "Best Shot" episodes
Oscars vs. Blockbusters? - Not that simple
Jake vs Jake - which kind of Gyllenhaal?
Nicole Kidman's Breakout Year - part of our '95 retrospective
Omar Sharif (RIP) - we said goodbye twice: once for Hollywood, once for Egypt
The Revenant Buzz - are Oscar campaigns starting early or are they fending off "troubled" buzz?
COMING THIS WEEKEND
The 1995 Smackdown this Sunday
COMING UP IN AUGUST
Ricki and The Flash, Grandma, Mistress America, Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run, Angels in America, a small screen series, and more. Plus: Jennifer Lawrence turns 25. Viola Davis turns 50. And all month long we'll celebrate THE INGRID BERGMAN CENTENNIAL. P.S. Our year of the month will be 1954 so which movies would you love to read about?
Tim here. This week brought us the roll-out of the Venice Film Festival lineup, including one animated film, and it's a biggie. Charlie Kaufman's sophomore directorial work and first project of any kind since 2008, Anomalisa, is also his first foray into animation: it's a stop-motion feature for adults, on the same topics of loneliness and frustration that Kaufman has mined for his whole career. In celebration of the Venice announcement, the studio released the first still image from the movie, from which it is possible to draw no conclusions whatsoever.
Kaufman is the latest in a recent trend of established filmmakers dipping their toes into the world of animation. So in his honor, I'd like to share this capsule history of some of his predecessors, who made the jump into a new medium to see what they could do outside of the confines of live-action.
Richard Linklater: Waking Life (2001) & A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Using a brand new form of computer-aided rotoscoping to paint over videotaped footage with bright, unreal colors and subdued realism alike, Waking Life took Linklater's established gift for capturing moments in the lives of a huge ensemble, and amped it up. Instead of the laid-back Austin of Slacker, the setting here is the human subconscious, where the director's characteristic musings on all the little moments that happen in the gaps between plot are transformed into surreal explosions of psychologically loaded imagery. It's a great marriage of form and content, which is less true of A Scanner Darkly, a Philip K. Dick adaptation that's much more consistent and sober in its style, save for a few reality-bending moments. Still, kudos to Linklater for recognizing that a thin veneer of digitally heightened reality would create a more receptive mood for the story's druggy weirdness.
Robert Zemeckis: The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) & A Christmas Carol (2009)
Now that Zemeckis's dream of a perpetual machine of motion-capture films has fizzled out and died- nope, I still can't bring myself to say anything nice about his trilogy of dead-eyed humanoids pantomiming great works of literature, or paying obeisance to their terrifying zombie Santa-god. But we must concede that the films fall squarely in line with Zemeckis's career-wide interest in using the newest tools available (in addition to mo-cap, The Polar Express was the first film in the present 3D era) to find fresh ways into classical storytelling. That technology wasn't up to his ambitions is lamentable, but we can at least defend the films' rich fantasy design and-
Oh God, no, that's still just completely hideous.
Wes Anderson: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The clearest precursor to Kaufman's new film, Anderson's translation of his shadow-box aesthetic into shaggy, '70s-style stop motion animation netted him a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination and rejuvenated his career: his subsequent return to live action in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel won him better reviews and box-office than he'd had for years. Still, there's nothing quite like seeing his world-building turned towards literal dioramas in which every square centimeter can be designed precisely to order. It's fussy as it gets, but perfectly matched to the intricacy of the caper narrative, and the arch tone with which Roald Dahl's children's classic is brought to life.
Zack Snyder: The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
Copious, unnecessary slow-motion, a preposterous fetish for military grandeur, overblown and idiotic internal mythology, dialogue that strives for weightiness and lands in shallow pomposity. Look, just because somebody's an auteur, that doesn't mean they have to be good at it. But hey, the owls look nice.
Who is with me in missing Jason's Beauty vs. Beast column? He's been offline a lot this month. So here's a Beauty vs Beast in his honor, training our eyes on the one and only Jake Gyllenhaal. Or, rather, the Jake Gyllenhaals as he's versatile.
Therein lies the twist. It's All-Beautiful Jake (Brokeback Mountain & Love & Other Drugs) versus Beautiful & Beastly Jake (Donnie Darko & Jarhead) versus All-Beastly Jake (Southpaw & Nightcrawler). Who gets your vote? Ready? You're always ready for Jake. So go... Vote and Comment. Pound your keyboard so hard that you wake Jason up and he returns to us next week to resume his series.
Previously on Beauty vs Beast...
Janet Leigh's Marion Crane beat Anthony Perkin's Norman Bates by a slim but still surprising 55% of your votes. Your love blindsided us. Jason and I both thought it would turn out differently given that Norma Bates is an immortal villain and Marion Crane is well, dead and buried (or, rather, submerged) but y'all are so predictable when there's an actress involved. Hence this week's all male challenge. There's no actress to win your automatic vote. However will it turn out?
The Supporting Actress Smackdown 1995 Edition arrives on Sunday so let's talk context since we haven't revisited as much of 1995 as we'd hoped to! We've only hit the Jane Austen trend, Nicole Kidman's breakout year, a Bonus Podcast on Actresses and Films to Revisit, and Dolores Claiborne. Damn, we had planned much more. But many of you will already have your own personal context for the year, which isn't true of many years of "Smackdown" events so it's fine.
In many ways, though, 1995 was a completely different world. The internet was still in its list-serve infancy. The idea of computer generated movies was a joyful novelty. And aside from Batman, superheroes were still mostly relegated to "light" TV shows. Remember Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark ?
Great Big Box Office Hits: 1) Toy Story... the first wholly computer generated feature film 2) Batman Forever 3) Apollo 13 4) Pocahontas 4) Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls 6) GoldenEye 7) Jumanji 8) Casper 9) Se7en 10) Die Hard: With a Vengeance
Oscar's Best Pictures: Braveheart (10 noms / 5 wins), Apollo 13 (9 noms / 2 wins), Babe (7 noms / 1 win), Sense & Sensibility (7 noms / 1 win), and Il Postino (5 noms / 1 win).
My theories as to what was just outside the shortlist plus more '95 goodies follow...
...Murtada here with a very important question: Is this the sexiest family vacation photo of all time?
It must be. Matthias Schoenaerts in all his manly glory, Ralph Fiennes giving us foxy intellectual older gentleman, Dakota Johnson lovely as a blond. And of course no words needed for Tilda Swinton (as they never do her justice). In their new film Tilda and Matthias are a famous married couple on vacation in Italy when Ralph and his screen daughter Dakota arrive to visit them unexpectedly. Trouble follows.
A Bigger Splash is one of our most anticipated 2015 movies, and this newly released photo is a “GIMME NOW”. No wonder it looks so much more enthralling than the usual publicity still - it was shot by Italian fashion photographer Paolo Roversi. The four pairs of blue eyes staring at us, invoke David Hockney’s same titled 1967 painting, that we assume has inspired the filmmakers.
For a change of pace let's talk about the guys and not the actresses. If you’ve seen Rust and Bone (2012) or Bullhead (2011) you know that Schoenaerts is sexy trouble on screen. However in his English language movies, he hasn’t fired up the screen quite as boldly despite an alluring duet with Carey Mulligan earlier this year in Far From the Madding Crowd. Schoenaerts also gives good quote.
So the idea of him playing a rock star in a thriller about sexual intrigue has us captivated beyond words.
For a while Fiennes lost his sexy mojo. That glistening beauty in turmoil that made us fall in love when The English Patient (1996) came out had vanished. However with his delectable, funny and oh so sexy M. Gustave last year he got it back. And from the looks of this, he kept it.
This quartet might win awards at Venice, where A Bigger Splash is in competition, but they’ve already won our anticipation and impatience. That red carpet will be on fire.
Can you think of other cinematic quartets this sexy?
Remember the endless jokes last year about that often repeated line in The Imitation Game (We won’t repeat it here - you've heard it enough). Well in Dolores Claiborne a better line is repeated by different characters at different times and yet no one cringes. It's so good you relish it instead. In fact I’d go as far as to say the line is what the movie is all about. Say it with us after the jump...