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Friday
Oct032014

Linkside Out

All the news stories we didn't get to and/or articles we like with a wee slant toward the stage this morning... itching to see a show again.

Guardian on the homophobic charges against the MPAA. That über obnoxious organization has struck again. Pride is the second gay movie this year without sex scenes or nudity to be slapped with an R rating.
/Film The Twilight Saga may well be back after some short films. When I first heard this news I groaned and rolled my eyes but then I read the plan and it's sort of a support young female filmmakers thing so it sounds kind of cool, actually. Pit that Twilight is so obnoxious 
The Playlist ranks all 35 of David Fincher's music videos. I used to be so obsessed with him because of Madonna. It's possible that I already linked this? I don't know. But their rankings are fairly good.


Vulture says it's been an amazing year for animation. We just haven't realized it yet. It's all those hard to find foreign toons, it is
Rope of Silicon is doing a Best Movies series and looks back at David Fincher's Se7en. That would probably be on my 100 movies list, too
Cinephilia and Beyond looks at Bob Fosse's masterpiece (one of 'em) All That Jazz
My New Plaid Pants bookmarked! Jason tells us about a Montgomery Clift documentary that I didn't even know about
Variety Jane Fonda and Viola Davis are charitable people. They look great together at an annual Rape Foundation brunch

Netflix, the Disrupter
New York Times on the Crouching Tiger sequel Netflix / IMAX deal
CHUD Netflix going into the business of Adam Sandler movies 
Variety wonders what Netflix's motives our with their recent feature film announcements 

Imelda Staunton rehearsing. Photo by Johan PerrsonOn Stage and Film Interest
Broadway World Imelda Staunton is in theaters now in Pride (and she's delightful in it) but she's also returning to the stage. She's in rehearsals for that mammoth role of Mama Rose in a London production of Gypsy. See photo left. 
The Hairpin wonderful personal essay on seeing Lindsay Lohan's stage debut in Speed the Plow
NYC Theater Interesting. The Laura Pels Theater on 46th street will be doing a stripped down production of Into the Woods while the movie plays in theaters. December 18th through March 2015
Theater Mania Audra McDonald might do a film musical!!! She's rumored to be involved in the stage to screen transfer of Michael John Lachiusa's Hello Again. If only someone would push his Wild Party musical to the screen
Playbill Ewan MacGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal just made their Broadway debuts in The Real Thing 
Variety Normally movies that become stage musicals are semi-recent hits. But next Spring Broadway will get Doctor Zhivago, once a super-sized smash movie hit from 1965. The song score combines talent from two fine musicals (The Secret Garden and Grey Gardens) so I'm excited.
Theater Mania David Burtka (NPH's other half) will be doing a cabaret show at my favorite cabaret spot directed by Neil Patrick Harris. I imagine this is the type of thing that people will judge harshly just hearing about it like "connections!" but I've seen Burtka in two stage productions and he's very talented

Three hot & short exit videos to wrap

1. We'll start with the best one. Making a Marie Antoinette style dress out of Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette script. Love this.

2. Here's the first teaser for Inside Out, Pixar's 2015 release. And Pixar would like to remind you that they made it and that they made all those other movies you love to. BTW they were made by Pixar and did I mention that Pixar made this?

 

3. Inherent Vice's trailer which you've probably seen. We would have done a Yes No Maybe So on this one except that the New York Film Festival is in full swing which will render it immediately disposable since there'll be a review this weekend. The voiceover in this trailer reminds me of Annaleigh Ashford (from Masters of Sex) but she's not in the movie. I wonder who the voice belongs to?

Thursday
Oct022014

Tim's Toons: Latvia's animated submission to the Best Foreign Language race

Tim here. The cut-off date for countries to choose their official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was October 1, and while the list hasn’t been officially confirmed by the Academy yet (and there’s a good chance of one or two titles falling out), it gives us something to work with.

And, wonder of wonders, there even happens to be an animated feature among this year’s official submissions, something that has only happened around a dozen times in the past (only once of that dozen times did the animated picture make the final nominee list: in 2008, Israel’s submission of Waltz with Bashir made the cut, losing to Japan’s Departures). The film is the semi-fictional Rocks in My Pockets, directed by New York-based Signe Baumane, and I will suggest right off that it has a an unhappily good chance of being disqualified: spoken entirely in English by the filmmaker, and made on a mixture of American and Latvian money, it has all the feel of those movies that the Academy rejects for being insufficiently native to the country making the submission.

All the more reason for me to sing its praises right now, while it’s still making its nigh-invisible crawl across the U.S. For it’s a pretty special little film, all in all: a personal recollection of Baumane’s history battling depression, nestled into a family history by which she traces how suicidal thoughts and other mentally imbalances have plagued women in her family since Latvia in the days before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Cheery stuff for a cartoon. But one of the best things about Rocks in My Pockets is the way that Baumane brings in a sense of frank humor to discussing terrible subjects, such as the amount of energy she’s put into the way she’d kill herself to avoid making too much mess if her bowels vacated. That’s the series of observations that opens the movie, in fact, setting up some immediate rules for the film to follow: one is that we can expect her to hold absolutely nothing back and refuse completely to hide behind clinical language or euphemisms; two is that she’s not angling for any kind of sympathy or asking to be treated delicately. It’s a film that invites us to dive right in and confront the reality of depression and suicide candidly, but without nervous solemnity.

It helps that the stories Baumane recounts about her family (the film ends with the standard “some characters and incidents were invented” disclaimer, so it’s not absolutely clear how much of this is truth and how much is an interpretive version of truth) are so damn compelling. Most of the film isn’t about Baumane, but her paternal grandmother Anna, whose life as a mother of eight children in Soviet Latvia provides the usual range of anecdotes about the grinding poverty of life in the USSR, so horrifying that it’s almost impossible not to start laughing at the sheer absurd awfulness of it.

And while Baumane’s thick accent ends up forcing her into some weird emphases of words and whole sentences, she’s an enthusiastic, engaging storyteller, relaying even the ugliest stories with briskness and humor, and employing a range of voices to give personality to the various relatives whose lives she relives.

The film’s mixed-media style – papier-mâché sets over which are layered character drawings that have the look of colored pencils, for the most part – pairs neatly with Baumane’s ebullient way of reciting. Weirdly, given the content, Rocks in My Pockets ends up being awfully like a bedtime story: soft figures, lots of bunnies, comic voices, a tendency for the narrator to start laughing at her own punchlines as our cue that it’s okay to laugh, too.

 

And yet for all that, it’s still a really smart, potent discussion about depression. The light style and conversational approach, all making sure that it doesn’t get too grim and confessional, has given Baumane the freedom to share bleak truths without having to dwell on them in anguish. The sketchbook-style artwork allows her to visualize the sensations of depression using visual symbolism and distortions that hammer home the sense of broken perception that comes along with depression. No matter how funny and energetic the film gets, it goes to some really shattering, serious places. Baumane is a terrific memoirist, both honest in her observations and witty in her expression, and while I’d put Rocks in My Pockets as having something like no chance of making it all the way to the Academy’s finalist list, I think that even the little bit of exposure it now has is a wonderful thing it if puts more people in line to watch this insightful and discomfiting psychological portrait.

16 Foreign Oscar Submissions Reviewed To DateArgentinaAustraliaBelgiumBrazilCanadaCuba,FranceGermanyIcelandLatviaMauritaniaNorwayPolandPortugalSweden and Venezuela

Thursday
Oct022014

Another Lead Role for Quvenzhané Wallis

Margaret here to talk about what's new with everyone's favorite collector of puppy purses: Quvenzhané Wallis is on a roll. Her breakout performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild could have easily put her in the pantheon of one-hit wonder child actors, but the way she's been lining up projects makes that look unlikely. Now 11 years old, Little Q is two months out from the release of her first big studio film in the musical Annie which, with the Columbia promotional muscle behind it, might make her a real star. She has also just signed on to star in an adaptation of best-selling middle grade novel "Counting by 7s."

In the Holly Goldberg Sloan story, Quvenzhané will play a 12-year-old genius named Willow Chase who loses her adoptive parents in a car crash and has to push past her grief to find a new community of support. Said Quvenzhané to Deadline:

I am honored to play the role of Willow in 'Counting by 7s'. I love the message behind the story. I am excited to be a part of it and to see it come to life." 

Other upcoming projects for the busy young Oscar-nominee include voice work in an adaptation of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, and Fathers and Daughters, where she will star alongside Jane Fonda, Octavia Spencer, and Russell Crowe.

Even if none of these particular jobs ends up being earth-shattering, this steady work is heartening for those of us rooting for her to grow into a full-fledged acting career. At the very least we're in for some incredibly charming press tours. Is it foolish to hope that there's another Hushpuppy-level performance in her future?

Who'da man?

Thursday
Oct022014

NYFF: Out of Sight, Time Out of Mind

NYFF continues. Here's Glenn looking at Richard Gere in 'Time Out of Mind'.

“The Richard Gere homeless movie” is a bit of a glib way to describe Time out of Mind, but that is the moniker that Oren Moverman’s third feature has found itself labelled with. I mean, it’s not like it’s without merit; Richard Gere does indeed play a homeless man, something far removed from the type of roles we’re more typically used to seeing the 65-year-old actor portray – and something one critic at the post-film Q&A attempted to allude to by asking the actor to compare this role to that in Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo, much to the actor’s and the crowd’s confusion.

I wish I could say there was more going on in Oren Moverman’s film, but I’m not sure I can. At least outside of the formal aspirations, which are admittedly very impressive and the sort of thing that made me wish for a meatier film to support them.

Moverman’s third film after the Oscar-nominated The Messenger and the contemptuous Rampart is a simple one, preferring to simply observe rather than truly examine the plague of homelessness. Large chunks of the film play out at a distance both emotionally and physically as Moverman’s camera stares at him from across the street, through windows, behind doors and in crowds, a visual concept that works technical wonders. In comparison to another homeless-on-the-streets-of-New-York film at NYFF, the Safdie brothers’ Heaven Knows What, which favored intense close-ups and bleak 16mm imagery, cinematographer Bobby Bukowski views from afar and when coupled with the enveloping diegetic sound design helps create a spellbinding technical achievement that is far beyond the film’s otherwise meagre we-are-the-world aspirations.

Politically, Time out of Mind has the same sort of goals as Bob Dylan from whom the film gets it title. Shining a light on a shameful part of American (and indeed global) society, but doesn’t really go far enough. On a dramatic level the film works better when Gere is allowed to share the screen with and interact with others. Jena Malone as the daughter he follows while she’s on a date and at work at a dive bar. Bob Vereen as a fellow shelter-seeker. And most impressively Kyra Sedgwick who is virtually unrecognizable as a woman of the streets who pushes around a cart of cans, sharing a moment of emotional and physical intimacy with the lead character that speaks to the universal nature of wanting to connect.

The film’s style will undoubtedly frustrate many who would likely favor something more immediate that would allow Gere the chance to scream and yell about the plight of being homeless. While I certainly don’t quite want that, more an emotional anchor would have been appreciated. As it is, Time Out of Mind is too long for something with such a slim emotional trajectory. As is common with films of this type, the moment it ends is perhaps the moment it gets the most interesting dramatically. As a technical demonstration, however, Moverman and his crew have achieved something special. It’s an awkward balancing act that doesn’t always work, but there’s a lot here to admire. B-

Time Out of Mind screens on Sunday Oct 5 (6pm) and Thursday Oct 9 (8.45pm)

Thursday
Oct022014

NYFF: Pasolini, or One Day of Sodom

Our coverage of the New York Film Festival continues - here is Jason tackling Abel Ferrara's biopic Pasolini with Willem Dafoe.

This is a review of Abel Ferrara's Pasolini, but let me just start by saying that I loved Bertrand Bonello's Saint LaurentNathaniel reviewed Saint Laurent and he was more measured in his appreciation of it than I would be - I was bowled over by its style and its sex appeal. I loved it. I went into it with next to no expectations - I'm usually indifferent to fashion bio-pics, I haven't seen Bonello's other films, and Gaspard Ulliel's left me cold up to now - but near to three hours later I was a disciple. Saint Laurent tells the story of a gay man, a creative force to be reckoned with, whose flirtations with reckless sex in the 1970s led him to a muddy field, beaten bloody...

the real Pier Paolo Pasolini... which brings us to Pasolini, the story of a gay man, a creative force to be reckoned with, whose flirtations with reckless sex in the 1970s led him to a muddy field, beaten bloody. I took the long way around but I got there, bridging the two, and I bring up the way the two films shadow each other for more than superficial purposes - it's in the part about "a creative force to be reckoned with" where I see Bonello's film sparking to life while Ferrara's remains curiously distant.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct022014

Breaking: Streep & Blunt Trading Places

Top billed but so what?!

Meryl Streep has the first poster for Christmas release Into the Woods all to herself and the Witch is always the marquee role in Stephen Sondheim's musical on stage. But Meryl will be campaigned supporting. The news isn't technically "official" but it soon will be so we're playing a little game of switcheroo on the Lead Actress and Supporting Actress Oscar Prediction Charts.

Technically this reversal (at least from our expectations) is  probably fine as categorizations go: The Witch is a showy role but it's not a huge one and The Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt) is just as much of a major focal point of the show (winning the lead actress Tony for Joanna Gleason in the first production) and the wife has the clearest arc. So Blunt is our leading contender.

The takeaway, with far less competition (as of yet) in Supporting Actress, Meryl is probably looking at her 19th Oscar nomination. If Emily Blunt doesn't thoroughly own Into the Woods she'll be left out of the very competitive leading lineup which will make it the second time co-starring with Streep where she had a plum role but voters attentions were elsewhere.

And by 'elsewhere' I mean 'where the attention always is': on MERYL STREEP. 

Silly Trivia Alert: If nominated this will not only be Meryl's Fourth nomination in the supporting category after The Deer Hunter (1978), Kramer Vs Kramer (1979), and Adaptation (2002) but her Fourth for a role with a singing solo. She sang "Amazing Grace" in Silkwood (1983), "He's Me Pal" in Ironweed (1987), and "You Don't Know Me" and "I'm Checking Out" from  Postcards from the Edge (1990). Her voice is so expressive. Can't wait to see how she interprets "Stay With Me" in particular.

Thursday
Oct022014

Bette Davis, Always the Animated Star

Each time Bette Davis's name comes up here or there (surprisingly often) I feel waves of guilt that I never completed that Seasons of Bette series. And here I was planning my own series, as its follow up, inspired by "A Year With Kate" in which I would do 52 episodes on someone. (FTR Anne Marie and I are both brainstorming how to follow up that amazing beast of a project).

But I couldn't let this new episode of Blank on Blank pass by without our attention. If you haven't seen the series it's a terrific time waster from PBS in which celebrity voices play on the audio and an animator interprets them for a unique short film. Bette talks about her intelligence and the gender politics of 1963 in this fun short... 

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