Hello, loves. Beau here, considering something I've been knocking around in my head for the past week. There has yet to be a film that's been released this year that has garnered widespread acclaim from all viewers (critics, audiences, and bloggers alike). At this point last year, we had a few already that we could point to: Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids, Harry Potter had all done beaucoups bucks at the box office, and garnered more than respectable responses from the general public and critics alike. But this year... what?
The Hunger Games, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have made the most, but each inspired a heated dialogue about some element of the filmmaking. Examples: The Hunger Games 'should not have been PG-13'; 'bland, dull, watered-down'; The Avengers 'fan-fiction cum brand/merchandising cash cow' and 'Didn't move the genre forward'; The Dark Knight Rises 'nowhere near as good as The Dark Knight'; and 'WTF with the Bane sound design? the politics?')
Prometheus was enormously divisive, and Brave was widely regarded with a shrug. The critical darling Beasts of the Southern Wild didn't quite crossover. It's made $10 million so far but it's a fairly straightforward narrative, however poetically delivered, that elicits warm feelings and it made less than something as abstract, obscure and strange as Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. (The latter had the advantage of starring Brad Pitt, but even so, people don't always follow the movie stars - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford made a paltry $4 million back in 2007 as well.) More...
Movies.com has all the distribution deals from TIFF so you can see which films are coming your way in 2013
Deadline Kate Winslet's Titanic screen test!
Culture Monster Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert to team for Jean Genet's The Maids. Alas, not for the screen.
Today's Must Read
"Extraordinary Machines" by Steven Hyden which looks back at the celebrity coupledom of Paul Thomas Anderson and Fiona Apple, the way they were, and the way they are now divergent.
It had been his intention to write a conventional 90-minute comedy for Adam Sandler, whom he met while tagging along with Apple when she performed on Saturday Night Live in 2000. What he actually made was more like a Fiona Apple song — a disorienting mishmash of bright melody and percussive dissonance, with a main character who was odd and oddly compelling and prone to oddly explosive, out-of-nowhere outbursts. Unfortunately for Punch-Drunk Love, Fiona Apple songs were still a few years away from returning to fashion, and the film died at the box office.
It's a really insightful piece about two of showbusiness's most fascinating artists. So go read it.
Craig here with the last ‘Take Three’. For this final, and slightly differently themed, entry I chose Brad Dourif, perhaps one of the finest character/supporting actors. Next week there will be a special wrap-up post for this third season of Take Three.
Take One: Dourif & Auteurs
The sign of a great character actor can often be seen in the directors they work with. Of course not all will be universally lauded names (character actors don’t get to pick and choose like A-list stars), but when they repeatedly work with filmmakers of high regard you know there’s something special about them. Dourif has worked with some of the most visionary and celebrated directors working. The likes of Werner Herzog and David Lynch, whose off-kilter approach perfectly chimes with Dourif’s, have cast him time and again. Herzog first cast him in the mountaineering-themed Scream of Stone (1991) which led to The Wild Blue Yonder (2005) and the 2009 double The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (in the former he had a one-off scene as Nic Cage’s bookie and in the latter he played Michael Shannon’s ostrich-farm-running uncle). But his most mesmerising performance for Herzog was as The Alien in Yonder, where he talked us through documentary footage, ice ages and space missions with oddball charm and an innate ability to unnerve.
He was Lynch’s go-to character actor in a pair of his ‘80s films, Dune and Blue Velvet. [more...]
It's hard to think that a film about a man living in an iron lung could be labelled “the feel good movie of the festival.” But The Sessions beats the odds. For director Ben Lewin, who himself struggled with polio as a child, and his stellar cast, sex, disability, Catholicism and humour blend together to shape the unlikeliest of crowd pleasers.
The Sessions centres of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a poet who fell victim to polio in his childhood and lost all his muscle strength from the neck down. His body retains its sensitivity, hence the narratively critical ability to achieve erections, but is unable to move and requires an iron lung to breathe. At the age of 38 and faced with the prospect that his days might be numbered before he ever gets to “meet” a woman, O’Brien decides to lose his virginity; and to do that, he’ll have to overcome two obstacles: an overwhelming sense of anxiety caused by his physical disability, and a fear of being sinful resulted from his devout belief in the Catholic church.
The second obstacle is easier for him to clear as he consults Father Brendan (a hilarious and poignant William H. Macy), an unconventionally forgiving priest who tells O’Brien that in his heart he knows Jesus will give him a pass. With that green light, O’Brien goes on to find Cheryl Cohen Greene (a top-form Helen Hunt), a sex therapist who is willing to take him through the mechanics of sex in six sessions.
The Sessions isn’t exactly a biopic...