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Thursday
Sep252014

Review: 'Pride,' the Year's Most Adorable Movie

This article originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with their permission...

Truth is stranger-than-fiction and also often gayer. The new feature PRIDE dramatizes a largely unknown historical anecdote from the bitter year-long miner’s strike in Thatcher-era Britain when a group of gay activists fundraised for the miners. This alliance is at first an awkward tense match but it eventually finds heartwarming pockets of oxygen when these two unlikely groups are breathing the same air.

It begins with a handful of gay activists (“and lesbian!” their only female member interjects with a small wave in a recurring joke), notice a sudden decline in police bullying in their neighborhood. They make the connection: the conservative government has a new minority to scapegoat. They form a group called LGSM “Lesbians and Gays for the Striking Miners” to help the people suffering without paychecks for months on end — a byproduct of Margaret Thatcher’s war against the unions.

At first, though, these gay heroes can’t even find a miner’s group that will take their money in this cross culture dramedy. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep252014

The Oscar Race: Then, Now, Next Three Months

THEN...
One final honor for last year's best picture winner 12 Years a Slave (2013). We've heard talk of this before but it's official now: The National School Boards Association has partnered with the filmmakers and Peguin Books to make 12 Years a Slave and its study guide available to high schools across America. When I attended a Steve McQueen event last year in LA this dream was literally all that he wanted to talk about with the moderator despite the panel being called "On Directing" and his movie being an Oscar favorite.

The news was official a few days back

“I am thrilled that my dream of having 12 YEARS A SLAVE available to high school students is finally a reality. Solomon Northup’s powerful story needs to be shared and remembered for generations to come. This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn about the past. I truly appreciate the efforts of Montel Williams, the National School Boards Association, New Regency, Penguin Books, and Fox Searchlight for making this happen,” said Steve McQueen, director of 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

Congratulations to all and to America, come to think of it, because if the utterly irrational reaction to the Obama era in some quarters has taught us anything it's that racism is a poison that isn't easily cured and destroys the brain first.

We're at war here."
- Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) in "A Most Violent Year" 

NOW...
None of 2014's Oscar hopefuls thus far have had the kind of seismic impact that Gravity and 12 Years a Slave were beginning to exhibit this time last year, which means that the race is wide open and the battle will be bloody and heated for attention. This is both exciting and dull simultaneously since anything might possibly happen but people need things to obsessively root for to stay interested and the films this year don't seem to be grabbing moviegoers en masse apart from, you know, the superhero blockbusters. The Oscar Charts are updated in every single category for your punditry pleasures! 

Best Actress, which we should know better than to call "weak" in any given year, is suddenly heating up with Julianne & Reese looking more and more like battling locks for the statue and Jessica Chastain switching over there, too -- news from A24 -- from the previously assumed supporting position for A Most Violent Year.

INDEX | PICTURE | DIRECTOR | SCREENPLAYS
ACTRESS | ACTOR | SUPP. ACTRESS | SUPP. ACTOR
FOREIGN FILMS with SUBMISSION CHARTS
VISUALS | SOUND | ANIMATED FEATURES

Sound off in the comments. You know what to do.

THE NEXT THREE MONTHS... 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep252014

Birdman Starts Campaigning Early

Anne Marie reporting from Los Angeles...

Will Keaton need the tux regularly this season? We think soThe starter's gun for awards season campaigning has unofficially gone off, signalling the beginning of the most exciting/frustrating few months in an Oscar-lover's heart. Sandwiched between the mad dash of TIFF and NYFF on the East Coast was a screening and reception on Tuesday for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu's Birdman. As a courtyard full of film critics tried to absorb everything the ambitious black comedy presented them, producer John Lesher and star Michael Keaton were there to answer questions and talk over Iñarritu's dizzying vision.

In the coming weeks, we'll undoubtedly hear many comparisons between Michael Keaton and Riggan, the washed up superhero has-been Keaton portrays. Michael Keaton is not nearly as attention-grabbing (or off ghis rocker) as his onscreen doppelganger. Instead, he walked through the crowd quietly, speaking to members of the press one on one or in small groups (graciously fielding questions on baseball and Batman), rather than holding court.

Unfortunately, this meant we didn't all get to speak to him, but he did deliver one appropriately weird closing moment. On his way to the parking lot, Keaton gave a loud Birdman squawk. Then he vanished into the night.

The Birdman cast having fun in Venice earlier this month

Wednesday
Sep242014

NYFF: The Look of Silence

The New York Film Festival begins this Friday, and here our pre-coverage continues with Jason taking on Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary The Look of Silence.

It was Winston Churchill who said that, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." And so it's gone for as long as there has been war, or even just one caveman bonking another caveman on the head with a bone fragment a la the opening scenes of 2001 - to the winner goes the watering hole, the bragging rights, the spoils. Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer smells those spoils, and they stink.

The Look of Silence follows up on the promise of Oppenheimer's brilliant 2012 documentary The Act of Killing with devastating precision - where that first film took a long strange trip past some surreal dance routines slash murder reenactments performed by those on the "winning" side of history after the 1965 Indonesian genocide, Silence trains its eye on those left devastated in the wake of that original horror, those who continue to live under the thumb - much is made of how these people are neighbors, seeing each other every day - of those in power who now gleefully recount the atrocities, ones which viewed backwards through the lens of rose-colored self-righteousness and propaganda seem, to them, to be patriotism, heroism.

Oppenheimer picks at the scab of scarcely buried history - a "wound" is continually referred to, and he makes you feel as if the muddy floor of the jungle might flood open with gore at any moment. These villages seem wet with it - brown rivers run buoyed with invisible bodies, ghosts heavy and thick in the air like electrical storms. The victors can sense it too; they swat at the camera's insinuations like there's a cloud of gnats too small for us to see, their lips tremble, and as the rumbling in their bellies uneases them they try to squirm their way free - they're proud of their accomplishments until the script flips and they suddenly feel looked upon, and after that it's a torrent of equivocations: "I wasn't the one in charge," "I was just doing my duty," and on.

As with The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence feels extraordinary to even exist, especially in a day and age such as this where we can't really wrap our minds around people (especially politicians) not ten sentences and head-nods ahead of how they're coming off - but then, why should these men care? They won, at whatever cost - like mankind in God's image, like a rib torn from Adam to craft Eve, the past was molded and built by the beat of their bloodied knuckles. It is written.

At one point the daughter of one of the murderers illustrates this generational gap - the way the reality of the past has been sanded down with willful and precise misrepresentation - and as we watch her resolve shake upon hearing the truth what he father's heroism really consisted of it's as potent as a tidal wave. These people are neighbors alright, but only some of them seem to know their houses are build upon fields of blood and bones and unaccounted-for barbarism. And those who know, they watch and they wait, hoping someone - an Old Testament God seems as if not more likely than an American documentary filmmaker - will give voice, and vision, to their pain.

--

The Look of Silence screens at NYFF on Tuesday September 30th at 6:30pm and on Wednesday October 1st at 9pm.

Wednesday
Sep242014

We Hereby Officially Name Today "Best Original Screenplay Birthday Day"

Pedro holding up a copy of his "Bad Education" screenplayToday's Useless Trivia! Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Oscar nominated writers of contemporary cinema share this birthday: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Pedro Almodóvar (Talk To Her), Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles), and John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator). Only Pedro has won for writing (though Bird is also a multiple Oscar-winner) but it's a neat and weird coincidence, yes?

TWO QUESTIONS
What's your favorite Almodóvar screenplay (besides Talk To Her that is which rightfully scooped up the Oscar)?

Do you think Brad Bird deserved to win Original Screenplay in his years at bat (2004 and 2007) 

P.S. You guessed it: This year's Oscar Chart Updates for Best Screenplay, Original and Adapted are now available.

Wednesday
Sep242014

A Year With Kate: A Delicate Balance (1973)

Episode 39 of 52In which Katharine Hepburn stars in an Edward Albee play that's not Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and does her first television interview.

When you hear “Pulitzer Prize winning drama by Edward Albee,” you probably don’t imagine a play as self-conscious as A Delicate Balance. In Tony Richardson’s chilly movie adaptation, Agnes (our own Kate) and Tobias (Paul Scofield) try desperately to keep pretenses of civility intact. Early on, Agnes debates the possibility of losing her mind - a fall into chaos she worries that she’s tipping precariously towards. Her issue is not how it will feel, but how it will look. What will her husband do? Order, or the semblance of it, must be kept. Civilization is built on such shaky foundations.

A Delicate Balance appears, for its first hour at least, impenetrable, impersonal, and pretty dull.  The supposedly welcoming home is bathed in cold overhead light, which gives everyone a corpse-like pallor and unreadable eyes. The house’s occupants are equally dispassionate. Agnes and Tobias maintain a polite-if-precarious balancing act with each other while living with Claire (Kate Reid), Agnes’s alcoholic sister. Their daughter Julia (Lee Remick) is an empty nester’s nightmare, a grown woman-child on the eve of her fourth divorce.

Slowly then suddenly, the truly bizarre occurs and the film picks up. Two family friends, Harry and Edna (Joseph Cotton and Betsy Blair), have been scared out of their house by a nameless terror, and they refuse to leave Julia’s room, a fact over which Julia quickly flies into hysterics. What starts as a breach of etiquette becomes an existential quandary. Can fear infect like a disease? What rights can friends and family claim from you? What does it say about you if you throw your friends out?

Katharine Hepburn's last Albee play and first television interview after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep242014

Triple the Patrick

Manuel here to check in with “The Prom King” himself whose latest passion project films have been making news lately:

First up and still looking for distribution is Stretch, the Joe Carnahan film he shot in just under twenty-three days with Chris Pine, which is drumming up interest by releasing new images and new clips. Carnahan, who shot the film for Universal, has found himself needing to find alternate distribution for it, and from the plot description (and the weirdly fascinating pics released) one can see why: “The under-$5 million pic follows a chauffeur who’s deep in debt to a bookie. In the hope of scoring a big tip, he picks up a risky job ferrying around a mysterious billionaire (Pine) who wants to sell his book of criminal contacts. The driver tries his best to fulfill all of his client’s requests, but the night takes ever stranger turns, he starts to wonder if his life is in danger.” Sounds like a bonkers Collateral, no? 

On a brighter note, his movie Space Station 76 (featuring him and Matt Bomer in delightfully 70s garb) which premiered at South-by-Southwest earlier this year is now out on VOD and digital platforms. I particularly love the quick and dry synopsis offered by IMDB: “A 1970s version of the future, where personalities and asteroids collide,” as well as the Star Wars inspired poster art. Any of you out there seen this yet? 

Wilson in Carnahan's Stretch

Wilson talking to an R2 (?) in Space Station 76

If those two films don’t satisfy your Patrick Wilson-in-an-offbeat-film needs, you may want to wait until December this year when Tribeca Film and Well Go USA Entertainment will release Let's Kill Ward’s Wife. The just-acquired dark comedy was helmed by none other than Scott “Felicity” Foley and features, among others, Amy Acker (!), Donald Faison and Nicolette Sheridan, and centers on… well precisely what the title suggests. 

The cast of Foley's Let's Kill Ward's Wife

You gotta hand it to Wilson, while Hollywood was unsure what to make of him, he's been slowly building an eclectic resume, surely helped by the success he's found with Insidious and The Conjuring. Those two franchises have allowed him to indulge these smaller, odder projects. Any Wilson fans here anticipating any or all these titles? What genre should the beautifully sculpted Wilson tackle next? (Hint: I'm still waiting for him to return to his musical roots in something other than The Phantom of the Opera)