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Saturday
Oct252014

Meet the Contenders: Sam Rockwell "Laggies"

Here's abstew with this weekend's profile of an outside Oscar contender. While this weekend's release is not quite as buzzy as other contenders, Rockwell is always worth celebrating.

Sam Rockwell as Craig in Laggies

Best Supporting Actor

Born: November 5, 1968 in San Mateo, California

The Role: Lynn Shelton's latest film (the director's previous work include mumblecore films Humpday and Your Sister's Sister), that premiered at Sundance this year, takes on a story of a woman with arrested development. Megan (Keira Knightley) is in her late 20's and all her friend's are doing adult things like getting married. But when Megan's own boyfriend proposes, she freaks out, goes into a quarter life crisis, and ends up hanging out with a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), while finding herself drawn to the girl's divorced father (Rockwell).

Rockwell took over in the role of Craig, which was originally supposed to be played by Paul Rudd. (Knightley also took over for Anne Hathaway who had to drop out due to filming of Interstellar.) And due to an illness that left him in the hospital, came in at the end of the shoot to film his part. He said that his recent hospital stay brought a more subdued nature that worked for his character. 

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Saturday
Oct252014

Review: Fury

Michael C here wondering if we are ever going to get more films about 20th Century conflicts other than World War 2? How long has it been since we've had a solid Vietnam film? Did Three Kings and Jarhead say all there was to say about the first Iraq war?

At this point, it feels like there are enough World War II movies to reconstruct something close to the entirety of the conflict, across all theaters of operation. Audiences can be forgiven if the appearance of yet another crew of hard-bitten soldiers marauding through the German countryside in David Ayer’s Fury strike us as more than a bit superfluous. The diffrence this time is that Fury wants to strip away the gauzy Greatest Generation glow that has diminished other depictions of this subject matter. No American flags flapping in the wind, no swells of violins, no famous battles. Just the anonymous, grisly work of tank combat in the waning days of the war, where the only task left is to feed enough of the remaining enemy into the meat grinder to hasten the inevitable German surrender.

It's a compelling argument for Fury's existence, at least for the first half of the film. As the tank rolls along, however, Fury surrenders its attempts to navigate the harsh no man’s land where ethics and war collide. What began as a corrective against the false comfort of your granddaddy’s war films morphs into a compilation of war movie clichés, complete with characters dying in order of billing, and glorious hero shots of doomed last stands against impossible odds. By the end it’s Frank Miller’s 300 with tanks. 

“Ideals are peaceful, history is violent,” says Brad Pitt's weathered tank commander Wardaddy. 

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Friday
Oct242014

Posterized: Best Documentary Winners of the Past 30 Years

THE TIME OF HARVEY MILK (1984), a true classic. Have you seen it?
If there's anything that makes me feel unsophisticated when it comes to the cinema it's my general relationship to documentaries. Like your average movie consumer (non cinephile division) I only see them if the subject matter interests me. If there were a narrative equation wouldn't that be "i'll only see this or that genre"? And ewww, that's not the way to be. Variety is always best when consuming art. Man cannot live by multi-quandrant blockbusters OR art films alone. 

Over the years as The Film Experience has expanded we've given more space to documentaries largely because Glenn & Amir are obsessed with them. So for today's Posterized, a special edition surveying the last 30 years of the Best Documentary Feature category. I went back that far because The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) is basically one of my favorite things that I've ever seen in my life and I wanted to know if YOU have seen it. I enjoyed Milk (2008) a lot when it came out but it was very deja vu since so much of it was in this great film.

Anyway, I'm taking an informal survey to gauge your interest in this type of movie (and it's adjacent Oscar category) in the comments so do tell. How many of these Oscar winners have you seen?  There's actually 31 of them in the past 30 years since there was one tie. I have only seen 10 which I am embarrassed to admit as an Oscar pundit but there it is. I am not a total completist each year. Most of these films are available on DVD still though sadly not many are streaming.

HOW MANY HAVE YOU SEEN?

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Friday
Oct242014

The Wide Open Spaces of Best Supporting Actor

With only six presumed major contenders yet to be screened by these eyes (Unbroken, Big Eyes, Into the Woods, A Most Violent Year, Selma, American Sniper) it's awfully late in the year for there to be so little in the way of clues as to what the full Supporting Actor lineup might look like. In a more competitive year Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Edward Norton (Birdman) probably wouldn't seem like cast iron locks in October. But they do. 

Kingsley (Exodus), Waltz (Big Eyes), Caine (Interstellar), Duvall (The Judge). 19% of the nominees in this category in the past 20 years have been previous winners.

In the fantasy world inside my head, the Academy board of governors throws up their hands and admits defeat, making a special ruling that from this day forward there will be 7 Supporting Actress nominees each year and only 3 Supporting Actors because everyone knows that's the way it should be given the disparity gap in quality between the two categories. But the world doesn't operate by my actressexual logic, as tragic as that may be. 

Given the Academy's lack of imagination for this particular category -- it's by a significant ratio the least quality-oriented among Oscar's long history with acting honors -- we'll most likely see some scenario where very traditional Oscar Bait or Category Frauders or Respected Men who they like regardless of the role / picture show up. Maybe a twofer from this previously nominated bunch: Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes), Robert Duvall (The Judge) Michael Caine (Interstellar), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice -- I love this performance by the way. Not trying to paint it with an underserving brush), or maybe even a double whammy like Tim Roth/Tom Wilkinson (Selma) though the Supporting Actor category hasn't had a double since Bugsy way back in 1991 with Ben Kingsley and Harvey Keitel. (Back then I pretended Keitel was nominated for Thelma & Louise instead  - it made infinitely more sense)

My point is this: two spots are wide open for which truly no one can legitimately claim to have any solid traction for (yet). Frankly any actor with a good size role this year who is either a) respected or b) in an Oscar friendly movie, would be insane not to be shaking hands and kissing babies and doing a bajillion interviews. And as I've long maintained, campaigning as a long shot is NOT bad for your career. It helps you with momentum, even if you don't make it, the next time you're great in a picture. Pardon the pun, but it's a golden opportunity.

Here, for your hopeful amusement and ponderings, some contenders that aren't being discussed...

LONGSHOT CONTENDERS OFF BEATEN PATH
... FOR YOUR 'WHAT IF' PONDERINGS...

TYLER PERRY, Gone Girl
Elvis has arrived... at the Dolby Theater? I was the first pundit to suggest this and honestly I don't see why it's so far-fetched. He's a known commodity seen in a new context (often an attention-grabbing combo) in a crowd-pleading part in a blockbuster hit. Plus Supporting Actor, of all the acting categories, is arguably the one that's least concerned with actual performances and roles and more with the men in question. This is the category where they regularly shove people they just want to congratulate, people they just generally like regardless of the part, and careers that are there to be honored. (Plus its where they shove leading men who aren't strong enough to make it in the Lead Actor category but let's not get into Category Fraud today!) The real question here is whether AMPAS members love Gone Girl and I'm getting conflicting info on that.

Billy Magnusson at the Tony AwardsCHRIS PINE and BILLY MAGNUSSEN, Into the Woods
Look, I know how Oscar works. They're more likely to nominate Johnny Depp as The Wolf no matter what he looks like therein since they like the familiar faces. Still, in nearly every production of Into the Woods the Princes are awesome and funny. No one thinks "comedy!" when they hear the name Chris Pine unless they're obsessed with Just My Luck and if so they deserve our collective empathy but I assure all of you that the other prince, stage actor Billy Magnussen, is the real deal as comically gifted actors go. He's probably too young / too unknown by AMPAS types to win one of those "silly" nomination even if they end up loving Into the Woods but maybe that "Agony" duet will be a real showstopper?

ALEC BALDWIN, Still Alice
For symmetry's sake with Iris (2001), they could nominate the long-suffering husband of the Best Actress with Alzheimers.  If they do, everyone will be absolutely stunned to realize that Alec Baldwin is older now than Jim Broadbent was back then. True fact.

ANDY SERKIS, TOBY KEBELL, and JASON CLARKE, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
People seem to have forgotten about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is a bit weird when you consider how obsessed people were for at least two weeks earlier this year. Serkis and Kebell are both doing motion capture performances that everyone was wild for as the film's star ape and his antagonist. Oscar might not be quite ready to go there yet, but Oscar pundits and think piece essayists most definitely are each time. Eventually something like that will happen but I'm guessing we're about 10 years away from that scenario. Still, you never know and if the movie has a late revival and they're too scared to nominate an Ape there's always rising star Jason Clark in the lead role to consider for supporting. Can this movie's campaign team remind everyone how respected this cast was over the summer for some Best Ensemble traction at least? We'll see.

MARTIN SHORT, Inherent Vice
Hear me out and try not to hate me. I am not a fan of Martin Short. I know this makes me an outlier but his screen persona / performance style is too broad to take seriously in non-slapstick situations. Yes, even in the rare circumstances when he's doing drama. Nevertheless I am not blind to the crazy love other people feel for him and at least at the screening I attended for Inherent Vice his extended over the top cameo as a lecherous drug-addled dentist with a much younger girlfriend was a huge hit with the crowd. The Academy isn't opposed to oddball nominations in the supporting category if it means they can honor a veteran. Maybe this isn't so far-fetched at all... IF and only if the critics rally for Inherent Vice which they might despite it being Paul Thomas Anderson's worst movie. 

ALBERT BROOKS, A Most Violent Year and... uh... Drive
Fantasy Scenario Inside My Demented Oscar Brain: Feeling frisky the Actors Branch refuses to comply by AMPAS rules and forces a double nomination for Albert Brooks. First for his supporting role in the late breaking A Most Violent Year and a special write-in for Drive (2011) the very first retroactive nomination for a past snub along with a full page apology in Variety. Sorry about it, man. You were such a good sport that year. Here's two nominations! 

FRESHLY UPDATED OSCAR CHARTS...
(more to come)
ACTRESS |  SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESSANIMATED FEATURES

Friday
Oct242014

Precious

Friday
Oct242014

Scandinavians in London: New Films From Those 'Royal Affair' Lovers

A couple more reports from London and Chicago festivals heading your way. Here's David on three new films starring either Alicia Vikander or Mads Mikkelsen, who formerly sizzled together in Denmark's recent Oscar nominee "A Royal Affair" - Editor

Alicia Vikander

That Testament of Youth was made the Centrepiece Gala at the festival seems, sight unseen, predictable: supported by the Mayor of London, the Gala slot is one of the few that really demonstrates the festival's support of homegrown cinema, and the story told here is as British as you can get. 2014 marks the centenary of World War I, and with it comes this adaptation of Vera Brittain's iconic memoir. James Kent's film keeps his focus to the period of the war itself, beginning at its end; Vera (Alicia Vikander) looks oddly distraught amidst the celebrating crowds packing London's streets. Testament of Youth is a compassionate reminder of the emotional and physical toll of war on a whole nation - which is what Brittain's memoir proved too, in 1933, not long before the second, more devastating war hit.

Kit Harington and VikanderWhile the film is impeccably upholstered, with Consolata Boyle's costumes and Robert Hardy's photography particularly impeccable, it's the character work that makes Testament of Youth such an involving experience, especially through the veil of a 'period' film. Vikander is quite simply luminous, but the camera is drawn as much to the stubborn, robust manner she gives Brittain as much as it is the softer romanticism of the character's winsome independence. The film is decorated with familiar faces giving sturdy turns along the way: Miranda Richardson, Dominic West, Emily Watson and Hayley Atwell all have their striking moments.

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Thursday
Oct232014

AHS: Freakshow "Edward Mordrake Pt. 1"

AHS rips its own plotlines off for this new episode (guest starring Wes Bentley)How do you make an episode in which almost nothing happens almost half-again as long as episodes where lots of things happen? I know not but Hollywood is getting very good at it lately what with all their supersized TV episodes and two part movie finales for quadrilogies where a trilogy (or less) would do.

In "honor" of the bloating, we're going svelte with a briefer rundown . 

Plot: A con artist and his protege arrive at the freakshow with nefarious plans. Bette and Dot still hate each other. Bearded Lady gets bad news. And, finally, ripping itself off completely Freakshow reboots Coven's Danny Huston plotline about a ghostly mass murderer from the past being unintentionally summoned to visit our makeshift family of weirdos.

Episode MVP: Kathy Bates. Ethel visits a doctor and learns she only has a year to live. Immediately gets hammered and then recalls her tragic story of exploitation. Special shout out to Kathy Dietch, the actress playing Ethel's younger self in flashbacks who's done a great if thankless job this season.


Musical Break: Jessica Lange sings after being conned by the newly arrived "spiritualist" Esmeralda (Emma Roberts) into believing there's still a chance for stardom. Lange has now sung twice in a season in which they've hired Patti Labelle and given her zip to do. Now, that's freaky.

Body Count
: Unknown. Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), a man with two faces, massacres an entire circus freakshow in old timey flashback before hanging himself. And a group of birds are decapitated to piss me off on my couch. Enough with the decapitated birds Miss Julie Ryan Murphy!

Movie Reference
: A visual homage to a classic moment from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) via Twisty the Clown.

Episode Grade
: D+

That's it for this week but for a NSFW bit after the jump...

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