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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd


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Super Dude

JA from MNPP here, popping in for a quick sec to take the opportunity to hurrah the news that Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been officially announced to play the character of Quicksilver in the second Avengers movie from Mr. Whedon & Co. (Also I've posted all the good exploitative pictures of him at my own site before, and so posting this news over here at TFE gives me the chance to look for the fiftieth time at a current favorite picture. Va va va voom.)

Aaron's the second actor who'll be playing the role in the next year - because of rights complications Quicksilver can also show up in the X-Men movies, and so American Horror Story's Evan Peters is playing him in Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past. That shouldn't prove too confusing for the world! Maybe eventually instead of one new Spider-Man every five years we'll have four different Spider-Men all at once? (Curse me for giving the suits in Hollywood any new horrible ideas.)

This news regarding Aaron comes a day after Samuel L. Jackson let it slip that Elizabeth Olsen's playing  Scarlet Witch, aka Quicksilver's sister, in Avengers: Age of Ultron - that hasn't been offically confirmed, but I think they make for a killer pair and I hope that's how it susses out, anyway.


NYFF: An Evening with Cate Blanchett

And now Glenn's report from the New York Film Festival's tribute to Cate Blanchett.

When the powers that be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (my limited knowledge suggests they’re the organisation that runs the New York Film Festival) announced one of the recipients of this year’s special tributes would be Cate Blanchett it was probably hard to find anybody who’d argue against it. Granted, she had no films screening at the fest, but you just try and find anybody who doesn’t think her work in this summer’s Blue Jasmine was a career-topping and undeniably Oscar-bound achievement. A genuine “moment” for the acting craft that Blanchett herself would later acknowledge was like a magical culmination of her years in the profession and her favorite role yet.

After a pair of introductions the assembled audience watched a collection of long film clips to whet the appetite. All five of her Oscar-nominated performances were featured – that’d be Elizabeth, Notes on a Scandal, I’m Not There, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and The Aviator for which she won the golden Oscar – as were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Talented Mr Ripley and her dynamic duel role in Coffee & Cigarettes. Another truncated clip package follows featuring a wider variety of films from Blanchett’s career which has spanned multiple continents, mediums and propelled her to roles as diverse as Katharine Hepburn and an Elf goddess.

Then out struts Cate Blanchett, her cheek bones so prominent they could distribute radio signals. My friends and I had guessed what colour dress she would be wearing and the winner was a very pale shade of pink. It doesn’t take long to figure out she’s in much better mood than when she recently and famously took to the stage of David Letterman’s chat show and couldn’t hide her disdain for his vacuous, uninformed line of questioning. Within moments she was self-depreciatingly joking about the empty seats, apologising for the “excruciating” clips (we’re looking at you Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and regaling tales of her first acting gig as an American cheerleader in an Egyptian boxing drama where she was promised five pounds and free falafel that never came.

Speaking for an hour alongside NYFF director of programming, Kent Jones, she spoke about many of her most famous roles. I most enjoyed her lengthy discussion on Todd Haynes that spawned out of I’m Not There upon which she noted, “Crossing the gender line in an industry that is usually very literal [was] very liberating.” She spoke at length about how much she loves Superstar (as do I) and musing, “If he can do that with barbie dolls then imagine what he can do with people.” She didn’t talk about Carol, but who isn’t anticipating that? She was also greeted with a personal video message from the one and only Woody Allen. A surprise even to her, he thanked her for her performance in Blue Jasmine and that’s about as big and as public of an endorsement from Woody Allen as you’ll ever get this side of a marriage proposal.

She then went into the advice given to her by Martin Scorsese on making her Aviator performance her own alongside her own acceptance that she was likely going to “upset Katharine Hepburn fans”. Then there was her son’s discomfort at the Lord of the Rings action figures not wearing underwear (coming soon, she joked, “The Blue Jasmine doll. She has a lot of accessories!”), the filmmaking process of Steven Soderbergh and Terrence Malick (on Knight of Cups: “I don’t know what my ultimate role will be”), her listing of her many stage works (“Hedda Gabler, Richard III, Blanche DuBois, The Maids with Isabelle Huppert"), and in another moment of surprise and applause the director of that aforementioned Egyptian film from 1992 stood up in the audience and tried to apologise for his poor treatment. No word on if he brought along any falafel. I wish there'd been some discussion of her Australian work, which was all but ignored, like Oscar and Lucinda, Little Fish and The Turning (what? no mention of Police Rescue: The Movie?)

Chin up, Cate. You're probably gonna win another Oscar!

The conversation was followed by a screening of Blue Jasmine which was apt since a running gag throughout the night was Blanchett’s obvious awareness that the evening was more or less an Academy Award publicity stunt, constantly blurting out “Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.” Watching it again alleviated my fear that I’d over-sold it upon release. Turns out it’s a remarkably rewatchable film and, yes, Cate Blanchett’s performance is one for the ages. If she keeps doing publicity like this then the Oscar should be as good as hers.


NYFF: Outside Llewyn Davis

TFE's coverage of the 2013 New York Film Festival (Sept. 27-Oct 14) continues. Here's JA taking on the Coen's latest, Inside Llweyn Davis.

I've for some reason still not seen Intolerable Cruelty so this statement's only ninety-seven-point-five percent factual, but Inside Llweyn Davis is the first Coens movie that I haven't loved in forever and a day, sad to say. What is it that left me cold? Is it because I am a dog person? Is it Justin Timberlake's smug facial hair that out-acts him? Or is it just that I think I might be incapable of ever really coming to appreciate Oscar Isaac on-screen? I'll openly admit he's an actor whose appeal, even after this showcase, remains elusive to me. Or maybe it's the fact that Carey Mulligan, an actress I actually really love, is given a fairly one-note joke of a role, shrewing it up under a sad damp hair-do. I don't know. I might just check off all of the above and call it a day.

It's not a movie that is trying to help me overcome any of these things, that's for sure - it's cold, from up on high with the beautiful icy blue-whites of the cinematography on all the way down. I usually happily admire actively off-putting protagonists - a world filled with characters that really couldn't give a damn if I like them or no. But the pleasures of being cinematically antagonized usually have that friction between loving to hate and just hating, and here I kept tipping towards the latter.

Oh hate is too strong an implication - I just never sparked to the story, I stayed aloof and indifferent at most every turn. There were passages I enjoyed - Isaac has a lovely voice and the songs were lovely, and that first dinner scene at the Gorfeins is classic Coens, jazzy and bizarre. Adam Driver turns out to be golden in the brother's hands - as always Joel and Ethan create a rich world that you feel like you could wander off in a million directions inside of... I just kept wanting to shoot off in the direction the movie wasn't taking me. Hey let's ride to the police station with Garrett Hedlund instead, eh? Eh? No? Okay then.

And so the film sputters along for chapters that I never quite found an in to. One look at what Michael Stuhlberg did in A Serious Man (a film and a performance I adore) with a similarly unsympathetic lead shuffling about in an icy Coen kingdom and the difference for me is immeasurable - that film had a pulse, a nervous stutter, a life to it. Llewyn just left me wanting to make like that darn cat and shoot out the closest window to freedom.


7 Notes on Revised Oscar Charts

Hey y'all... I've been hard at work this week updating all the charts. Yep, every. single. one. So herewith ten notes for suggested comment fodder. 

Mystery Meat
American Hustle and Saving Mr Banks are the Oscar Bait Unknowns... unless you assume that Wolf of Wall Street will be finished in time. All have, to my knowledge, not been screened for even long lead critics. Most pundits, armchair or otherwise, believe in Hustle wholeheartedly (one assumes due to David O. Russell's recent track record) and are suspicious of Banks (one assumes because of the dangers of Disney-on-Disney hagiography but maybe also because movies-about-movies aren't always Hugos; sometimes they're Hitchcocks). So far I'm not expecting a lot of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty but maybe that's a stealth masterpiece about to blow us all away. Which of the unseens are you hoping deserves space in the Best Picture race?

 All Over The World
The foreign film charts are so much work and every site now covers this category that I once had a stranglehold on. I wonder if they're worth the time anymore (?) but I do love my subtitled pictures. We currently have 69 official submissions and only two have what you might call a truly high profile (Hong Kong's The Grandmaster, and Iran's The Past) though I'm not at all sure that they're the strongest candidates this year. Take a look at the charts from Afghanistan to Italy and Japan to Venezuela! Which films are you most curious about and do you like the influx of variety here? The world is giving us animated films, documentaries, horror films, romances, you name it, in addition to the usual heaping helpings of war dramas, biopics, and childhood journeys. If you follow this race closely you should know that Team Experience is on it: Tim saw Egypt's entry, Jose took in the Czech Republic submission, and I reviewed the Romanian and Iranian entries and Glenn and I both loved the Cambodian entry though we haven't written about it yet. More to come.

The Coronation March
I understand that with Best Actress there's a lot of "It's Sandy vs. Cate" hoopla in online forums at the moments. Bullock is in very good shape for a nomination, true (I'm just being slightly contrarian to leave her out at the moment though I don't think she's anywhere close to 'lock' status yet) but I'd be very shocked if she ever gained enough momentum for a second win. A) it's not that kind of role since there's no "bait" beyond sad tears B) she's not that kind of actor to win a second unless competition is weak or the role is super bait C) Oscar has never in 85 years indicated a deep well of goodwill for actors working auteur pieces or actors in science fiction films. So unless Amy Adams is our stealth champion, I think Cate will be sweeping for months ala The Queen... and lord knows she is one.

Sell Yourself
Oscar campaigns can make a huge difference for movies and performers that aren't slam dunks. Armies of publicists and awards strategists are already working on their maneuvers though we won't see it till it happens. The films I personally think need smart campaigns the most are those in wide open categories (like animation) or those that will get zilch if they don't have one, either because they're perceived as "small" or because they're in the middle ground of praised but not rapturously so or they're well liked but there's no automatic "in". I'm thinking of films like Prisoners, Short Term 12, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha, Labor Day, Blue is the Warmest Color, maybe even The Great Gatsby and Rush (the latter two I'm currently predicting to win the double edged sword prize aka the "most nominations without a corresponding Best Picture nod"). I realize it's a diverse lot but my point is they could all score anywhere from nuthin' to three or four nods, depending how well they play the game and whether they can condition AMPAS to think of them quite naturally when it comes time to ballot.  

• Sound and Fury
We've seen in the past that there's only so much room for blockbusters in the visual and sound categories if big showy prestige dramas have the wow elements and necessary "size" (think Gravity and Captain Phillips and maybe even Gatsby to a limited degree). When Tony Stark suits up the visual effects voters ALWAYS respond but the sound guys have only thrilled to his particular blast offs once. With Superman and various Kryptonians wreaking such loud havoc this year could the Man of Steel steal tech nods from the Man of Iron... or maybe they're both shut out and World War Z rises? Oscar doesn't really go for zombie films but there's a first time for everything right and maybe a couple of tech elements could be honored?

• Dress You Up
I can't believe we've come this far into the film year and I haven't waxed rhapsodic about Best Costume Design. I will rectify that soon including an interview with one of the true legends of the category. One of the things I've always liked about the costume designers is that they don't always stay in lock-step with Best Picture so it's anyone's guess. There are a lot of candidates worth considering including Lee Daniels' The Butler (crocheted disco suits!), Dallas Buyer's Club (80s trans glamour and redneck Texas), period finery versus humble wool in 12 Years a Slave, the sexpot disco glam of American Hustle... I could go on. One thing I'm curious about is Trish Summerville for Hunger Games: Catching Fire. People loved her work on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and though the original Capitol costumes (by a different designer) didn't win a nomination they did get a lot of media attention. How will these fare in comparison? 

• Sing-Along?
Will no one speak out or care about the Original Song category? It still seems entirely bereft of nominatable tunes... hey, if that's what it takes to get Short Term 12 nominated for something than that's what it takes. If we were nominating Best Song Performance we'd be singing a different tune entirely because, hello, Black Nativity divas and Oscar Isaac and Oscar Isaac and Oscar Isaac because good god his voice in Inside Llewyn Davis! I didn't love the movie beyond the cat but his voice is just golden. 

Suggestions on how to improve the charts are welcome



NYFF: An Education with 'At Berkeley' and 'American Promise'

51st New York Film Festival (Sep 27-Oct 14). Here's Glenn discussing At Berkeley and American Promise.

As an Australian living in America I have had to watch quite a few movies set in US schools. Frivolous comedies or hard-hitting dramas and everything in between and I still find a lot of it entirely baffling. At this year’s NYFF I have been able to get a couple of very comprehensive looks at the system thanks to doco legend Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley and American Promise from husband and wife filmmaking team Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson. Together they provide an illuminating look at the American education system from kindergarten right on through to college. As they should since together they total a gargantuan six hours!

The 83-year-old Wiseman isn’t exactly shy of long runtimes, but even compared to the recent 134-minute Crazy Horse and 159-minute La Danse his latest is quite an effort.

At a smidgen over four hours, At Berkeley is certainly comprehensive...

Click to read more ...