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Tuesday
Dec032013

Oscar's Docs Down to 15

We will be taking a closer look at each of the 15 contenders for Best Documentary soon, but for now let's look at the films that Oscar's doc branch decided to shortlist from that gargantuan list of 151 contenders. All of the titles are rather high profile with a few left field contenders for fun. I was surprised to not see the likes of A River Changes Course, Let the Fire Burn (the only IDA nominee which didn't make it), At Berkeley, Call me Kuchu, and my personal favourite, The Missing Picture, but this looks like a fairly well representative list of films from what has arguably been one of the strongest years ever for documentaries.

The 15 contenders are:

  • The Act of Killing
  • The Armstrong Lie
  • Blackfish
  • The Crash Reel
  • Cutie and the Boxer
  • Dirty Wars
  • First Cousin: Once Removed
  • God Loves Uganda (Reviewed)
  • Life According to Sam
  • Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Reviewed)
  • Stories We Tell, The Square (Reviewed)
  • Tim's Vermeer
  • Twenty Feet to Stardom
  • Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.

At this stage I'd be expecting The Act of Killing, Blackfish, Dirty Wars, The Square and Twenty Feet to Stardom, although I keep thinking that high-grossing doc will be left off (the Academy already gave an award to a documentary about back-up singers) in favour of something else, but it seems slightly foolish to bet against it. 

For now what are you guys thinking? How many have you seen?

Tuesday
Dec032013

Do the NYFCC Hustle

The New York Film Critics Circle, the oldest such organization in the country, provided us with a surprise bang this morning. Like Jennifer Lawrence playing with her "science oven" in American Hustle their announcement leaves visible scorch marks, as if awards season has just blasted off like a rocket. 

Whether or not these prizes have a lasting impact is yet to be determined. Some will say that the one-two punch of the Gotham Awards and  NYFCC not awarding 12 Years a Slave with their best feature is a sign. But it may well just be a coincidence and could even be good for the film; it's better to be a wildly special underdog than a frontrunner with heavy baggage when you have three whole months left to carry oneself across the finish line. 

Picture American Hustle
Director Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Actress Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Actor Robert Redford, All is Lost
Supporting Actress Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Supporting Actor Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Critics prizes, even the once holy trinity (NYFCC, LAFCA, and NSFC) don't mean as much as the internet likes to pretend. With roughly 30 other critics organizations handing out prizes each year now, and those same critics groups often behaving like Oscar pundits instead of critics, I'd argue that the value of critics prizes has greatly depreciated from market saturation and loss of identity. The thing that constitutes bragging rights these days seems to be domination (who can win the most?) rather than key victories. 

Screenplay American Hustle
Foreign Film Blue is the Warmest Color
Animated Film Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises
Non Fiction Film Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell
First Film Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station
Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis
Special Award Frederick Wiseman, documentarian

Do you think they did the "special award" for Frederick Wiseman solely because they didn't give him best documentary for At Berkeley? And, referencing the most recent podcast, am I the only person who isn't wild for the cinematography in Inside Llewyn Davis?

For what it's worth, American Hustle (which is under critical embargo until tomorrow), is very entertaining and also very fresh in the minds of voters having been screened just this past weekend. And Jennifer Lawrence is also very fresh (and entertaining) in it. 

[More on their voting and runners up here]

Tuesday
Dec032013

Curio: Holiday Snail Mail

Alexa here. I did my part today to keep the USPS in business by sending out an armload of holiday cards. So for those who also take the time to send a greeting through the mail, and who aren't making personal greeting card appearances à la Andrew Lincoln, here are some of the more clever film-themed greetings available that don't involve Clark Griswold or Ralphie.

Die Hard, The Shining, Holly Golightly and more after the jump...

Tis the season for John McClane. Avilable here.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec032013

Inside Llewyn's Gotham Awards

It was a mix of oft rewarded icons (The Coens) and breakthrough leading movie roles from former awesome TV ensemble players (Jordan & Larson) for the Gotham Awards last night in NYC. 12 Years a Slave, which led nominations (not that that means much at the Gothams with so few categories), went home emptyhanded. No, not even for Lupita Nyong'o in Breakthrough! Bad luck or a sign that people respect but don't love the slavery drama? I don't personally understand this since it's a great film and great films are easy to love but though I'm a Gothamite, I'm not a Gotham voter. And full disclosure: I'm also cool on the Coen's chilly musical, apart from the music and the cat both of which are prize-worthy. 

guitar > fiddle at the Gothams

Feature: Inside Llewyn Davis
The 60s folk scene/character study from Joel and Ethan Coen conquered the uneven field of nominees which included  12 Years..., Upstream Color, Before Midnight (read our just published interview with Julie Delpy), and Aint Them Bodies Saints
Documentary: The Act of Killing
Breakthrough Director: Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
Breakthrough Actor: Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Will he take all the season's "Breakthrough" prizes or can Lupita rally to conquer?
Film Audience Award: Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, Tadashi Nakamura
Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ Grant: Gita Pullapilly, director, Beneath the Harvest Sky

Brie Larson = Best Actress (Photo via Indiewire)

ActorMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
He won the Spirit Award last year for Magic Mike so this is another key indie acting prize for him. Can he convert all this into an Oscar acknowledgement that he's reinvented himself as an actor. That's what everyone was expecting but then the Best Actor race just got tighter and tighter.
Actress: Brie Larson, Short Term 12 (Interviewed)
This is quite a get since the Gothams didn't support Short Term 12 with nominations elsewhere. Larson beat Blanchett, Woodley, Scarjo, and busy indie darling Amy Seimetz

How do these prizes strike you this morning? Good, bad, indifferent?

Tuesday
Dec032013

Team FYC: 'Nebraska' For Best Original Score

In this series TFE contributors sound off on their favorite fringe contenders. Here's Anne Marie on Mark Orton and the Tin Horns.

Alexander Payne's latest film Nebraska is getting much-deserved acting kudos. Bruce Dern has undoubtedly given a career-topping performance as the muddled and melancholy Woody. However, an unacknowledged but equally fine character is the folk score by Mark Orton. Orton reunited with his band the Tin Horns to play the music for his first feature film score. They mix traditional bluegrass elements like guitar and fiddle with surprises including a dobro and a xylophone. The effect is full Americana with a lot of quirkiness and a little sadness--giving voice to the unvoiced themes in the film.

Like Deborah, I ask that the Academy think small this year. We have the usualy heavy-hitters filling film scores with sound and fury, and soon the Coen Brothers will be releasing that other folk film that's sure to turn attention away from Nebraska. However, Mark Orton's score stands alone.  Like other characters in the film, the score hints at deeper meanings but never falls into the easy cliches and chords of melodrama. With deceptively simple orchestrations and a powerful musical thread throughout, Mark Orton has crafted a beautiful score that feels both familiar and unique.

Monday
Dec022013

Interview: Julie Delpy on the ideal way to watch the "Before" trilogy

Julie Delpy speaking in West Hollywood in NovemberStargazing sometimes leads us to believe that we really know the faces who act out our human dramas onscreen. Or that we know the characters they portray as if they were neighbors. It’s a false intimacy and a fantasy, fiction being fiction and strangers being strangers, but sometimes the illusion is too perfect to deny. Such is the case with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as Celine and Jessie in the “Before…”  trilogy. The actors cowrote and costarred in the decades spanning trilogy under the guidance of Director Richard Linklater and the films, perfectly spaced out every nine years, have allowed audiences to age along with them, which has only added to their ephemeral mystique. The films are grounded in reality through their short single day stories and long takes - real life happens one day at a time and without a lot of fussy crosscutting – and the only fantastical element is that every day conversations are rarely this thrilling and this wide ranging and this funny simultaneously for 90 minutes straight without some dud moment or mundane distraction breaking the spell. For that kind of perfection you need miraculous writing and great acting.

Julie Delpy is not, of course, Celine. And though I know this as I settle into our conversation over the telephone I’m temporarily stunned when she, unasked, repeats her trilogy’s most famous line when I bring up the ending to Before Sunset (2004, for which she won a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination though not, tragically, the Best Actress nod she deserved as its companion). She sounds just like Celine… only somehow not...

Click to read more ...