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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Sunday
Dec082013

Box Office or: How I Learned to Stop Going to Theatres and Play Catch-Up

Amir here, bringing you this weekend’s box office report, which looks curiously like last weekend’s box office report. Of course no one is surprised that Out of the Furnace didn’t have the power to blast off Catching Fire and Frozen. The reviews aren’t over the moon; its stars aren’t quite stars, but famous actors; and this time of year, if you’re not a franchise entry or an animated film, you better be an Oscar player with huge buzz to sell tickets. Furnace is none of those things, and this weekend isn’t particularly notable for big numbers anyway. The last time any film opened in the first week of December to what can be considered reasonably successful sales is The Golden Compass all the way back in 2007. The only other noteworthy release is Inside Llewyn Davis, which opened on 4 screens to a strong per screen average. I find it strange that the studio didn’t go straight for a wide release, given they’ve been building buzz since May, but there’s gotta be a reason I’m not a studio strategist. I’m sure they know best.

TOP OF THE BOX OFFICE
01 Frozen $31.6 (cum. $134.2) Review | Let it GoJonathan Groff
02 Hunger Games Pt 2 $27 (cum. $336.6) Review
03 Out of the Furnace $5.3 *new* 
04 Thor Pt 2 $4.7 (cum. $193.6) Review  
05 Delivery Man  $3.7 (cum. $24.7) 

I didn’t hit the theatres this weekend but for a preview screening of Spike Jonze’s Her, and looking ahead to the coming weeks, only American Hustle and Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street are films I’m eager to see. Otherwise I’ve been playing catch-up. It’s that time of the year again when we prep for our top ten lists and blind spots need to be covered. If I want to write my Team Experience Awards - yay! they’re coming in January - ballot with any sort of confidence, I need to watch everything from Fruitvale Station to Aleksander Sokurov’s Faust, from Short Term 12 to Joao Pedro Rodrigues’s The Last Time I Saw Macao. I’ve seen around 90 films so far this year, but a top ten list just can’t be compiled without Laurence Anyways and The Great Beauty, can it? We all have to be completists!

It’s in that spirit that we started our FYC series here, and in that same spirit that I want to share a few words on some films I think you should all watch if nothing at the multiplex entices you. Saudi Arabia’s Oscar submission, Wadjda, is an absolutely outstanding film. It’s a great feat of storytelling, an illuminating piece on women’s rights in the country that unravels with beautiful surprises and gentle humor, and it features what is undoubtedly one of the best female performances of the year by its young lead. Tim recently covered Ernest and Celestine in his column and it's the best animated film of the year by a country mile.

 

What film would you say we all have to watch before 2014 comes around?

If you follow me on twitter, surely you’ve seen me champion Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours before. It has remained my top film of the year since I saw it in the summer. Its evocative, incantatory images are still swirling around in my head. Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley may have missed AMPAS’s cut, but we all knew that was coming. When you get the chance to see it, grab it with both hands. There are few better ways to spend four hours than watch this expansive doc. Chad Hartigan’s This Is Martin Bonner comes across as a different, unique type of film, the likes of which we rarely see on the American indie scene these days. No best actor ballot should be made this year without giving a shot to the two brilliant leads in this film. Finally, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and Belgium’s Oscar submission, The Broken Circle Breakdown, both have their vocal supporters, but if you haven’t been convinced to see them yet, let me try to persuade you otherwise. The former is only trumped by The Heat as the year’s most entertaining film; the latter is an emotional roller coaster ride like nothing else I’ve come across recently.

What did you watch this weekend? And more importantly, what film would you say we all have to watch before 2014 comes around?

Sunday
Dec082013

Los Angeles chooses Gravity and Her in a tie

Such a big day for critics' awards - not only are Boston's picks so fresh that the steam is still coming off of them, the Los Angeles critics have announced. In most years, they can be relied upon for the least mainstream picks of any major group - famously, they bullied Universal into acknowledging the existence of Terry Gilliam's functionally unreleased Brazil by heaping awards on it in 1985 - though this year they broke hard for Gravity and Her, which between them took nine wins or runner-up slots out of 11 categories in which they were eligible. Ties in three major categories, which is admirable, I guess, in the sense that it's not nice to pick favorites, but it's a little disappointing as an awards-watcher.

Full list below the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec082013

Boston Chooses 12 Years A Slave, Enough Said?

The Boston Society of Film Critics' (BSFC) very first Best Picture prize went to Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) and over the next 32 years they've mixed smart off the path choices with future Oscar darlings. In the past decade they seem to have mellowed and mainstreamed and unless you count a tie in 2008 (Wall•E shared the prize with Slumdog), it's been well over a decade since that grabby run when they thought outside the box consistently (1998-2001) when they were giving Best Film prizes to great movies like Out of Sight (2 below the line Oscar nods) Three Kings (0 Oscar attention) and Mullholland Dr (1 Oscar nod) which were obviously not going to play big with the Academy. (During that period they were also making interesting calls in non Oscar-baiting performances so something about the membership must have changed thereafter.

This year they've wrapped their Bostonian arms around native New Yorker Solomon Northrup in a big way giving 12 Years a Slave three top prizes. They were also kind to Nebraska and Enough Said which each won 2 prizes. Full list of winners with commentary after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec082013

LinkLove

Randomness
Salon Rashida Jones clarifies her earlier statements about pop stars #actinglikewhores 
Washington Post Shirley Maclaine gets the Kennedy Center Honors. What a career
Variety The Square takes the top prize at the International Documentary Awards. The doc Oscar race is really really competitive this year!
In Contention European Film Awards. We shared the winners earlier but Guy has extensive coverage
Daily News Madonna's daughter Lola plays Rizzo in Grease at NY's performing arts high school (aka the Fame school) 
Salon has a really interesting piece on the Coen Bros obsession with failure via Inside Llewyn Davis though I would suggest not reading it before you've seen the movie since it reveals virtually every pivotal plot point and punchline. Save it for later

CoSign!
Jonathan Rosenbaum on "the season of critical inflation" Yes, to this. Just yes.
John Forde on the loud reactions to diver Tom Daley's coming out
i09 Wicked imagined as an animated musical (no, not Frozen

Tis the Season of List-Making
Slant Kurt looks at 20 great shots from the film year from Spring Breakers through undersung indies like Mother of George and new treats like Her
Guardian looks at the best screen "robbers" because I guess The Great Train Robbery is coming to TV or something? (I'm not clear) from Mr Pink (interesting choice) through Bodhi (duh)
NY Post Lou Lumenick and Kyle Smith battle it out over their top ten lists - they share only Mud and Gravity
Time Magazine Richard Corliss loves The Hobbit (again? ugh) but my favorite bit is this line on Spike Jonze Her...

In a future Los Angeles so near-Utopian that no scene takes place in a car...

hee!

Sunday
Dec082013

FYC: The Conjuring for Best Sound Editing

We're looking at our favorite fringe awards contenders just to widen the conversation. Here's Tim Brayton on the year's biggest horror hit.


Since as far back as the thudding echo of footsteps that stalked Jane Randolph in 1942's Cat People, savvy horror directors have understood that one of the surest ways to wring the audience into a terrified frenzy isn't to wage a frontal assault on our sense of taste with gallons of stage blood and pig organs, but to instead mount a side attack on our ears. Some of the scariest movies of all time have gotten that way above all because of their skillful use of sound effects, and the sound editing in director James Wan's terrific The Conjuring - led by supervisor Joe Dzuban - is so hugely important that it was even foregrounded in the film's outstanding teaser trailer. Anybody can show a ghost jump out of the darkness to give you a quick, cheap freak out. It takes genius to get the same jolt from of the well-applied use of harsh, distant clapping.

And if that's the only thing that The Conjuring had to recommend its audio landscape, we could stop right there - a terrific setpiece is fine, but not the stuff that year-end recognition is made of. But while the Clapping from Hell is easily the *showiest* aspect of the film's soundtrack, it's not at all the most important. For that, we might sooner listen to the frequent near-silence that penetrates the story's central haunted hause: to create the idea of a place that hums with danger and malevolence, the sound team literally built in humming, a deep vibration in the bass that frequently crops up just to mess with our perception. And then, there's the hard flatness of the "normal" sounds, which land on the ears with a sort of shrill hollowness. The sound contributes significantly to the feeling that this house where so much of the film's terror occurs is a dead, suffocating place.

In all great horror, the effect on the viewer isn't just created by the big gestures, but by a backdrop which permits those gestures to hit with the most impact. That describes the distorted sound of The Conjuring to a T: unrealistic and vivid and deeply unsettling. This horror hit is not dignified enough to attract trophies, but the craft, and the glorious way it knocks the viewer around, is as impressive and effective as anything with more overt artistic aspirations.

previous FYCs
Actor Tye Sheridan | Editing Stories We Tell | Screenplay In a World... | Supporting Actor Keith Stanfield | Song The Great GatsbyScore Nebraska | Costume Design Lawrence Anyways | Foreign Film Neighboring Sounds | Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz | Picture The Spectacular Now | Make-Up Warm Bodies | Sound Mixing World War Z | Director Edgar Wright | Production Design The Conjuring | Supporting Actor Ulysses the Cat

Saturday
Dec072013

American Horror Story: Sound of Music

This thing on my DVR was the 4th season pilot, right?  

I kid I kid. But horrified I was. If you miss live "events" it's difficult (one might say pointless) to write about them later so I promise to be quick about this. What I enjoyed far more than the show, which I caught a day later, was catching up on the articles and tweets about the show wherein people either hilariously skewered it or contorted themselves memorably to find nice things to say or excuse its Carrie Underwoodedness. Her acting was far far worse than I'd been told, recalling Julianne Moore's dead on approximation of porn star acting in Boogie Nights only dumber and with less of a nose drip to help with the dead eyes. I initially was surprised that Carrie wasn't oversinging it but the surprise soon faded because after the hills came alive with the sound of music she decided to shout-sing the rest. Not a wise choice when the poor girl couldnt even make it up and down the Von Trapp family staircase without breathing heavily. It was absolutely mean to pair her with musical performers as gifted as Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald, two of Broadway's richest voices... neither of whom ever need this silly oxygen thing to get through a long-ass musical phrase. Vampire Bill was a better match for Carrie (albeit not chemistry-wise) with his shaky voice bringing him down to her shaky-acting level (somewhat). 

I should say that I was less surprised than most people seemed to be that the stage musical is so different from the film. I've seen it performed live before and though critics are generally unkind to the film version it's one of those rare adaptations that improves on virtually everything from its source material structurally in terms of song order and character arcs and even in pacing though it's longer. Plus it's got Julie Andrews who you know, owns all when it comes to twirling around on mountaintops or believably portraying both sexual longing and religious piety in equally wholesome and relatable ways as Maria. I know it's uncool among cinephile's to consider it great cinema or whatever. But I do. Full stop. The Sound of Music became its best self in the translation to the big screen. 

we must've done something good to deserve the 1965 classic

The gargantuan ratings suggest that more "live" musical events are on the way. It has to be family friendly so why not Oliver! which could use the legacy resuscitation? Since giving the stuff away never seems to hurt actual sales of entertainment (weird, that) they could even do something that's about to be a movie like Annie or Into the Woods. Or why not something more contemporary that not everyone can afford to see on Broadway. Why not The Lion King or Wicked even since that movie is clearly never going to happen. I'm thinking about Wicked constantly these days because of its doppelganger Frozen and "Defying Gravity"'s doppelganger "Let it Go" , and because of these drawings by Oscar nominated animator Minkyu Lee, and the rumored Idina & Taye breakup (sniffle. is that true? they were so adorbs together) and the possibility that Idina might perform on Oscar night. I'd rather think about Wicked right now, okay?!  My beloved Sound of Music is in a hospital in Austria somewhere recuperating. It's a survivor. I have confidence it will live to spin on mountain tops once more.

Saturday
Dec072013

European Film Award Wi -- what? Scorsesaywhat? 

I watched a bit of the European Film Awards live streaming earlier today and the first sight that greeted me was Anke Engelke looking like she'd stepped out of the Capitol to announce the next Hunger Games. The only thing she got wrong was that her hair and makeup were too demure. Tim said she looked a "teensy bit too lindt bunny" which made me giggle.

While attempting to watch the show I was pulled into an endless twitter debate about misogyny and glorification/condemnation thereof in The Wolf of Wall Street - a conversation which I expect will rage throughout awards season unless the veritable army of Scorsese stans succeeds in stamping out open discussion about the movie's merits; they're weirdly adamant that one should only do adrenaline fueled wolf howls at it which is, I don't mind saying, one of the worst things that can happen to a movie that merits any kind of considered conversation.

SOOOOOO, while I didn't make it all the way through the EFAs and am ashamed to note that I missed Catherine Deneuve's tribute altogether (argh) here are 5 thoughts from the ceremony...

Click to read more ...