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Podcast - 1996 Cannes Competition Revisit

"Never forget Madonna (!!) beating Frances McDormand for the Golden Globe that year" - David

 "Watson/McDormand/Blethyn? I couldn't even choose. All so perfect - my favorite kind of Oscar category." -Mike

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Monday
Aug252014

Box Office: An Expensive Lesson in Sequel Production

Amir here, with the weekend’s box office report. Much like last week, the biggest story at the multiplex is the massive failure of a has-been brand. Then, it was the shrinking shoulders of 80s action heroes that could not bear the weight of a changing, modern world. Now, it is Frank Miller’s overly familiar aesthetic and the fading stars of Jessica Alba and crew. This catastrophe is of epic proportions. Budgeted around $70m, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For failed to make even 1/10th of its production costs back and fell behind the aforementioned Expendables 3. Reviews haven’t been kind and any affection for the original film has vanished in the intervening decade. You either have to suffocate the audiences with non-stop sequels and reboots before they know who’s hitting them, or they’ll forget you. That’s the lesson for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller and one they have had to pay at least $50m dollars to learn.

The best selling wide release was also the weekend’s Film Amir Is Too Old To Watch, a romance starring Chloe Grace Moretz called If I Stay that didn’t have the muscle to take the throne from Guardians or Turtles, making this one of the year’s quieter weekends. 

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY $17.6 (cum. $251.8)  Review
02 ...NINJA TURTLES $16.8 (cum. $145.6) remember the animated one?
03 IF I STAY $16.2 *new*
04 LET'S BE COPS $11 (cum. $45.2)
05 WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL $9 *new*
06 THE GIVER $6.7 (cum. $24.1) Review
07 THE EXPENDABLES 3 $6.6 (cum. $27.5)  recommended read
08 SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR $6.4 *new*
09 THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY $5.5 (cum. $32.7) 
10 INTO THE STORM $3.8 (cum. $38.3)  
11 LUCY $3.5 (cum. $113.7) Podcast
12 BOYHOOD  $1.8 (cum. $16.5)  Review & Podcast
13 MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT $1.3 (cum. $6.8)  
14 DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES $1.1 (cum. $203.9) Podcast & Reviewish
15 GET ON UP  $.9 (cum. $28.7) Review & Viola Davis

On the limited side, brighter news: Ira Sach's Love Is Strange a film The Film Experience adores, did strong business on only 5 screens. Here’s hoping it expands across North America as quickly as possible. The only new release I watched in the past couple of days is Ari Folman’s The Congress, which isn’t actually out until next weekend. Stay tuned for my review! What have you watched this weekend?

Monday
Aug252014

Balls

I went to a ball.

I got a trophy.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug242014

182 days 'til Oscar

Which power couple will be obsessing over in just six months time? The 87th Oscars approach and as long as the movies have been around there have been fabulously wealthy and glamorous movie star couples. Take Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks for instance, the original celebrity power couple. If you must know (I know you are too shy to ask) my favorite films of theirs are His: The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and Hers: Stella Maris (1918) though admittedly I have many more left to see.

Fairbanks & Pickford were married in 1920 when both were superstars, he the original Zorro and she Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and other big hits. He famously gave Pickford "The Star of Bombay," a 182-carat sapphire which was not actually from Bombay but from Sri Lanka. She later bequeathed it to the Smithsonian where it remains. There's your priceless (okay, $½ million in today's dollars) piece of trivia for the day. You're welcome.

Pickford (the original "America's Sweetheart") and Fairbanks (the original "King of Hollywood") were among the 36 co-founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Fairbanks served as its first President and both would eventually receive Honorary Oscars with Mary also winning a regular statuette for Coquette). Could they have ever imagined how obsessive we'd all be about their little annual banquets 87 years later? 

At the 86th Oscars, contemporary Hollywood's most glamorous megastar couple Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt famously ate a pizza (well, he did) but they were also honored. She took home an Honorary (albeit non televised. argh) and he won his first competitive Oscar for producing 12 Years a Slave. They could theoretically both take home Oscars again if Fury and Unbroken are massive hits with AMPAS and reasonably well liked by audiences. 

Do you think they will be?

CURRENT OSCAR PREDICTIONS (which category needs a major rethink?)

Saturday
Aug232014

2 Days 'til Emmy Awards: Fantasy Mash-Ups

Before we hit the Emmy Awards one last group poll. I asked friends which Emmy nominated TV characters mix and matched from different series would they love to see paired up? 

True Sherlock: His Last Vow

Michael: I would mash up Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock with McConaughey's Rust. Sherlock would've knocked out that Yellow King business out in 20 minutes leaving the rest of the season for them to get drunk and philosophize.

DennySheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory) and Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba on Orange is the New Black) are served a pie. Hilarity ensues. Or: Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) gets sent to Litchfield prison and insults Red's (Kate Mulgrew) cooking on her first day. Delicious scheming and sassy put-downs ensue. And I really want to see Allison Janney and Julie Bowen's characters from Mom and Modern Family get drinks together, just because.

Andrew:  I'd like to see Claire Danes throwdown with any of the women on Orange is the New Black. Even though Homeland is supposed to be passe now, Claire continues to dig deeper with Carrie so why not up the ante by having her imprisioned? 

Tyrion & Claire in "House of Thrones"

Joe ReidOkay, well for starters, Claire Underwood would be the best thing that ever happened to Tyrion Lannister, and it would lead to possibly the greatest showdown on TV ever the next time Cersei tried to cross the happy couple.

Meanwhile, I keep trying in vain to find someone good enough for Veep's Amy Brookheimer, who would simultaneously not get chewed up and spit out by her ambitions/schedule. I finally settled on The Good Wife's Will Gardner, except ... well ... sigh.

Matthew Rettenmund:: Definitely Selina Meyer from Veep and Nicky Nichols from Orange is the New Black. I think Selina is a power lesbian waiting to happen—that haircut was more of a declaration than Ellen's "Yep, I'm gay!" NEWSWEEK cover—and Nicky knows how to pick the lock on a closet.

Jose SolisCarrie Mathison and Dr. William Masters. If poor Virginia drives him crazy, wait until he has to deal with Temple Grandin...

Mark BlankenshipCapt. Holt (Andre Braugher) from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) from Game of Thrones would be perfect as a mismatched pair of private investigators in small New England town.

Anne Marie:  I want to see Lady Olenna and the Dowager Countess sit down to a meal with Red. They can serve prison chicken, tea, and barbed one-liners to each other.

Abstew: Allison Janney in Mom and Allison Janney from  Masters of Sex. Who wouldn't want an Allison Janney acting showdown? And since these characters are polar opposites, they could teach each other what the other is missing. Bonnie can tell Margaret about orgasms and Margaret can give Bonnie some class. 

You know you want to play in the comments and tell us which one of these impossible pairings is the one for you. Or create your own if none of these would win your greenlight.

Saturday
Aug232014

"House Servant" = Slave

Looking back over some of the entries for last week's Best Shot episode (Gone With the Wind's first half) and chasing links here and there I found myself at The Anzrin Exchange a personal blog of Alison somebody. It's not a "best shot" piece but an essay written earlier this year about how Gone With the Wind is viewed now (especially in the wake of 12 Years a Slave) and how it has aged in terms of its racial politics and themes - which are entirely separate things though naturally they're in conversation, especially retroactively.

Back then, the world was a different place. There were Civil War veterans still living, the Holocaust was unknown, interracial marriage was illegal, and the Walt Disney Company was close to bankruptcy. A radically different time.

This is the argument that’s made to defend every racist Grandma at Thanksgiving, and it is the argument that "Gone With the Wind" apologists use to silence its detractors. There’s no denying that this is a film made by racists, for racists, about racists. But, while "12 Years a Slave" is explicitly about slavery, the "meaning" of "Gone With the Wind" has always been a little more fluid. Ultimately it's a movie about people who can’t let go, who ruin their lives by clinging to a past that does not want them anymore. This is true, whether we view that past as a hateful hell or rosy paradise.

In 2014, few people mourn the loss of the Old South, but we’re just as receptive to the idea that dwelling on the past can kill you. And that’s the theme of "Gone With the Wind," when you cut right down to its heart: The people who thrive are the ones who can let go of the past and take charge of their future, who can change.

The bold is mine for emphasis; that's a bluntly stated truth, but one that's easy to miss if we conflate all presentation with endorsement and shut out other ways of looking at the movie.  It's a really thoughtful engaging piece, particularly interesting when it comes to the performances of Hattie McDaniel's "Mammy" and Butterfly McQueen's "Prissy," so you should read it. (Hattie & Butterfly's billing as "House Servants," really struck me in the credits this time; that sure is a fancy guilt-easing euphemism for "Slaves," right?) 

And if you missed out on this week's Best Shot, there's still time to join us. Any late comers doing GWTW Part 2 (everything after the Intermission) can also do Part 1 and I'll add you in retroactively. We're reconvening on Tuesday night August 26th for the finale. 

Friday
Aug222014

Review: Frank

Michael C. here.  The audience can be forgiven if it assumes that Lenny Abarahamson’s Frank will be another cookie cutter indie quirkfest. The title character certainly seems at first glance like a contrived package of screenwriting conceits. Played by an actor we have to take on faith is Michael Fassbender, Frank is an artist who, despite a recent stay in a mental institution, still wears at all times a beach ball-sized fiberglass head with a smiling Howdy Doody face. Frank is the lead singer of an avant-garde band with an unpronounceable name (the Soronprfbs) and an unlistenable sound. When they perform it looks like five people having a synchronized nervous breakdown. With this shooting gallery of easy targets we sit back and wait for the movie to rain down mockery on its characters, sort of like a Napoleon Dynamite for hipster musicians.

The great surprise of Frank is that it avoids the easy jokes, aiming for something altogether more interesting. Abrahamson accepts these bizarre characters at face value and follows them with thoughtfulness and an open mind, often to funny places, sometimes to bracingly dark ones. It’s a tricky tonal balancing act, but the film rarely steps wrong. In passing up the cheap shots, Frank finds unexpected depth beneath the weirdness. 

We first meet Frank and company through Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) a would-be songwriter who spends his days wandering the streets hoping to find the inspiration to jumpstart his dormant creative engine. [More...]

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Friday
Aug222014

Viola Davis. 'Holy s***, that woman can act!'

Here's Matthew Eng on where we are in the career of one of the great screen actresses... 

“Holy shit, I love watching this woman act!” is what I immediately thought during Viola Davis’s doozy of a “big scene” in Get on Up, which nearly every review of Tate Taylor’s surprisingly strong James Brown biopic has been well-inclined to praise. As Brown’s aged, long-estranged mama, Davis—with the aid of terrific star Chadwick Boseman and some pretty expert makeup artists whose numbers Clint Eastwood should find immediately—manages to reinvigorate a set-up familiar from any number of tortured artist-biopics (i.e. absentee parent comes groveling years later to abandoned child-turned-superstar at the peak of his fame) with the same smart, electrifying clarity of character and tender yet tough-minded emotionalism that should be long-recognizable by now to anyone who has seen Doubt or Antwone Fisher or Solaris or Won’t Back Down, or else FencesKing Hedley II, or Seven Guitars on Broadway, or, more likely, witnessed Davis’ extraordinary, one-woman rescue job on Taylor’s The Help.

Holy shit, I love watching this woman act. It’s not the first time the thought’s run through my head.

Davis is, as usual, great in Get on Up, a superior musical drama that’s prone at times, like all entries in this genre, to some patchy plotting and tacky set-pieces, but which sports the affecting ensemble, sobering insights, and stellar, sweat-stained concert sequences that Eastwood and his animatronic Jersey Boys could only dream about. Davis’ role is also, as usual, brief but crucial to the movie at-hand. [More...]

 

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