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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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Wednesday
Dec072011

The Tree of Link

Nicks Flick Picks looks at the cinematography of Todd Haynes masterwork Safe (1995).
Scene Stealers chooses the ten best cinematography jobs of the past decade, with The Tree of Life the only current film to place.
In Contention on Fox News freakout over The Muppets liberal agenda. 
Paper Mag has an enjoyable profile of Kristen Wiig and her superstar-making year 
Karine Vanasse ...will we see her again after Pan Am flies away? I find TV news difficult to follow so I'll admit total confusion when shows randomly show up on my DVR or move networks or whatnot but apparently this charming French Canadian actress says Pan Am has been cancelled and the network says it's just on hiatus? My point is that I watch the show and am totally in l'amour with her.

The Hollywood Reporter worries that the AMPAS demographic (which skews very male) may hurt The Help. Of course this argument supposes that only women would like The Help.
The Wrap though it's a rather unusual decision, given its history, this year's Vanguard Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival is not going to a well known acting legend but to the two stars of The Artist Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. That's a major get for the Weinstein Co moving into the Oscars.
Forbes did one of those "return on investment" things to rank actors. Kristen Stewart is named the best deal with $55.83 earned for every $1 spent on her. Anne Hathaway comes in at #2 with $45.67 for every $1. Most of the list is composed of people in franchises so the numbers are quite skewed; Harry Potter is the star of Harry Potter and Twilight is the star of Twilight if you get me. Meryl Streep, who isn't exactly known for franchise appears, does make the list though with $13.54 earned for every $1 she's paid.

on embargos, social media and film critics in general
Carpet Bagger David Fincher on embargo breaking. He doesn't want any advance screenings and thinks the best film critics are moviegoers who text their friends (oy! the self-serving pomposity of some people. And I love Fincher)
AV Club Sign of the Apocalypse. Twitter-friendly seats in theaters as trend? Thousands of little glowing screens to distract you from the big one. Ugh.
Telegraph Kevin Spacey isn't having any of it. This is our favorite Kevin Spacey anything in like 12 years.

Top Ten o' the Day -David Denby
Speaking of embargos and film critics... Fast on the heels of the Dragon Tattoo ruckus, we have Denby's top ten list on which it does not appear. It's a mixture of lazy fandom (J Edgar? Ugh... seriously. I'm going to have to assume that critics who label this a top ten'er only saw 30 or 40 movies this year and even then, you'll have to make concessions.) and the highbrow like Certified Copy and the Tree of Life about which he begins, affectionately, this way...

Yes, I know, Terrence Malick’s movie is unbearably high-minded and humorless. But still! 

All in all an interesting list and suggests that for Denby, two types of entertainments are generally favored: intellectual puzzlers and popcorn entertainment for the masses (Source Code, Contagion and Rise of the Planet of the Apes all appear). 

 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Oscar Chart Updates. Our Guesswork As Of Now.

How many best pictures will we have this year? Care to take a guess in the comments?

I've updated the Oscar charts though War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are still question marks. Yes, I've seen the former but it's difficult to guess at how well it's old fashioned pastiche and one might say nearly parodic schmaltziness will play with adults and how well its length (it's long) will play with children. I talked to about 6 people at length about it after the premiere (including 2 Academy members)  and I got 6 completely different opinions. So in short: consensus was nowhere to be found. It could be a massive nomination player or something that wins a couple perfunctory "you're pretty" nods.

PICTURE Hugo rockets into the top five and if it keeps up this week's pace, it could be a threat to win. We wouldn't have imagined that directly after that NYFF screening which went very well but Oscar Winner for Best Picture well?  Beginners and The Tree of Life make modest gains, too.
DIRECTOR - The three living directors with the most nominations (Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen each have six nominations in this category) all could place again this year which would certainly make this statistically one of the 'most previously nominated' directorial fields ever. But this week at least, I'm guessing that Spielberg is the one who comes up short on nomination morning.
ACTOR -With Leo falling -- and he is, isn't he? -- who will benefit? Whoever keeps the heat on, that's who! Shannon, Harrelson andOldman need to keep working for it.
ACTRESS -Glenn Close is looking vulnerable for Albert Nobbs but we still think she'll pull through by way of persistence for dream project congratulatory votes. (See also: Bette Midler in For the Boys, Salma Hayek in Frida and so on... this Oscar angle has rich ancestry)

SUPP ACTOR -Plummer & Brooks continue to solidify their showbiz legend leads. Otherwise, who knows? It seems like spots 3 through 5 could get crazy if someone's campaign further down the chart finds the right hook or pockets of voter mood.
SUPP ACTRESS - Is this really Vanessa Redgrave vs. Octavia Spencer for the win? Given that Jessica Chastain has already been awarded for three different films, she probably needs to pick one right quick to get behind if she wants to find herself in the shortlist.

Another tribute for Plummer -- it's an epidemic -- was held at the New York Stage and Film 2011 Gala at The Plaza Hotel this weekend. Here's a bit from the red carpet. 


FOREIGN FILM -A Separation has emerged as the real leader. But this category usually tosses aside the genius films for something easier to digest.
SCREENPLAY -Gains this week for Margin Call and Beginners.
VISUAL CATEGORIES - Hugo continues to rise. I'm now guessing it'll be the nomination leader, give or take The Artist.
AURAL CATEGORIES -Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee I'm drowning in charts must end this post now.

Tuesday
Dec062011

Snowy Subway Surprise

Should you be ever be travelling home from the dentist after a particularly excruciating visit (hypothetically speaking) I highly recommend being surprised by Ludivine Sagnier (recently interviewed) staring back at you from subway ads. Beauty is a great healer.

Carry on while my novocaine wears off...

Tuesday
Dec062011

Meryl Soaring! Michelle Slumming?

By now I am quite used to the twin 80s blondes trajectories of "Meryl: still preeminent; Everyone Else: struggling." Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer are a decade apart in age so they're only conjoined in my own mind as the formative blondes of my cinephilia though they aren't directly correlative. Meryl's true contemporaries are the Close / Lange / Weaver / Weist / Sarandon / Field / Keaton super-pack (all born between '46 and '49... a vintage crop.)

But let's check in with both of my blondes very briefly today. 

Dan Zak, who is a very fine writer that I am acquainted with, wrote kind of a frosty profile of Pfeiffer when Chéri came out (which made note of her still robust online Pfandom -- guilty! -- though we ringleaders went unnamed) but he's made amends with this profile of Streep to coincide with her Kennedy Center Honors. It's a beauty.

There is nothing to say about her handshake, her mood, her carriage. She has no smell. Her eyes, obscured by modish rectangular glasses, seem dark and colorless — until she begins to recite a verse by 8th-century poet Wang Wei to prove a point about an artist’s individual voice.

“I seem to be alone on the empty mountain,” Streep says in her silvery contralto, shifting her posture as if bracing for a blast of high-altitude air.

She pauses...

Really good big piece with nice payoffs throughout, so read it.

On to Michelle. We hope that she's great in 2012's supernatural Dark Shadows (though given that it's a contemporary Burton film our expectations be low) and familial drama Welcome to People (but given that it's a directorial debut from Alex Kurtzman who has mostly written TV procedurals and action films, our expectations are none because the worth of debut efforts are impossible to guess at) but we've never expected that New Year's Eve was going to be anything other than a cash grab.

Michelle Pfeiffer venturing out for New Year's Eve premiere without her Armani black (gasp). It's Dolce & Gabbana this time.

Ultra Culture has a hilariously damning quote piece on "How the cast of New Year's Eve pick their projects" in which none of the stars tell the truth. Would it kill one of them to say "for the money"? I bet they'd even get some fun extra media attention for saying so. I keep forgetting that New Year's Eve is arriving. But the photo above reminded me of this series of tweets 'tween two British based critics and myself. (Ultra Culture doesn't know who I am but MaryAnn is an old friend.)

@UltraCulture New Year's Eve, incredibly, as bad as you'd expect.
@MaryAnnJohanson No, it's even worse.
@NathanielR at least tell me La Pfeiffer emerges unscathed. Wait... don't. NERVOUS
@MaryAnnJohanson Ummm...

Ah well, at least La Pfeiffer is looking predictably great on the red carpet.

Tuesday
Dec062011

Curio: David Cronenberg in 1988

Alexa here.  While I anxiously await getting out to see A Dangerous Method, I've been busying myself reading all the reviews, interviews (including Nathaniel's) and accompanying discussion of how un-Cronenbergian the film is.  Well, he's been accused of that before, hasn't he?  The first time I recall it happening was with one of my personal Cronenberg favorites, Dead Ringers, which, at the time, seemed to break from his previous, more pure genre films. Then, after reading in a recent interview that he attempted adapting Dead Ringers for television (yes, please!), I decided to dig up this old issue of American Film I've held onto, mostly for the Cronenberg interview it contains.  Here are some excerpts from the piece, written by Owen Gleiberman, which is an interesting read today, given the trajectory Cronenberg's career has taken since.

[As for the upcoming Dead Ringers], "I think it's a departure in the way it's perceived and the way I'm perceived. It's like doing a more intricate dance on the high wire but it doesn't feel like so much of a departure to me creatively, because I feel I'm dealing with the same themes I've always dealt with," Cronenberg says.

In a sense, what Cronenberg has done is bring the genre of bodily horror into the post-Freudian age. His most prominent innovation (it's linked to the gooey verisimilitude of his special effects) is making the sexual and fear-of-disease subtexts of studio horror films explicit, self-conscious, stripped of the reassuring distance of fantasy...If just about every Cronenberg film has hinged on the proverbial split between mind and body, with the body taking on a hideous life of its own, in Dead Ringers a human personality is itself divided into warring parts. "This is not a horror film. This is a relatively straight drama. I don't have a lot of trickery to hide behind."

Despite their fixation on disease, Cronenberg's films have dealt explicitly with sexuality as far back as They Came From Within. "It was very important that my twins are gynecologists. Somehow, it was the idea of two men forming a perfect unit that excluded everybody else. The twins share not only one woman in particular sexually, but they share their understanding of women and their study of women...I identify with all my scientists and my doctors, because I think what they are and what they do is very similar to what I do. And then I've always been very fascinated with how abstract elements, whether it's spirituality or sexuality, relate to physical elements of our life, which is to say, genitalia and brains and things like that."

"I think [Dead Ringers] really relates to all intense relationships in which things happen that have the potential to become liberating on one level but suffocating on the other level. And I think at that point you're talking about marriage, you're talking about parents and children. The twins become a metaphor for all those things."

[Editors' Note: In a moment of totally unexpected synchronicity, Nick's Flick Picks has also just written a piece on Dead Ringers (1988). Even if you haven't seen that Cronenberg masterpiece, you'll want to read it if you have any interest in the process of critics awards voting and the out-of-the-box choices various organizations make, only very occassionally, when it comes time to name the "Best". -Nathaniel]

Monday
Dec052011

Links: Wings, 50/50, Serkis, Streep, Top Tens

Drawn Need Christmas Gift ideas! Here's favorite art books of 2011. Love to see "Hark! a Vagrant" and "Amazing Everything" listed, both of which we've linked up before. Several movie books also make the list including The Art of Pixar and Saul Bass.
Movie|Line is still on Team Uggie (The Artist) even if the dog may soon retire. 
In Contention Andy Serkis on MoCap performances and Oscar.
toh! Zoinks. I want to go to this restored Wings (1927) screening so bad. Someone buy me a roundtrip to Los Angeles. The silent classic was the first to win Best Picture and let's just say that ol' Oscar started on a high note. Especially since he essentially gave two Best Pic prizes that year and they other one Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is also wondrous.


Gold Derby on the opening weekend performance of a "need to see this" movie like Shame
Stale Popcorn the ladies who lunch with The Ides of March. Hear hear on the Giamatti/Hoffman business. 
Telegraph Daniel Radcliffe joins the bizarrely long list of actors to play Beat poet Allen Ginsberg .
The Guardin Pixar House inspired by Up goes for $400,000
Pajiba 'movies that should've made an assload more at the box office than they did in 2011'. Interesting list though I'd argue that the gross that 50/50 did receive was much higher than one could reasonably expect given that it was a) a tearjerker for guys and guys aren't supposed to like tearjerkers and b) a comedy ABOUT CANCER. The movie should be proud of its gross.

The Wrap super-duper insanely great news for Meryl Streep fans. The living legend will reprise her guffaw-worthy Camilla Bowner character on the second season of Web Therapy. If you never saw the original Web Therapy shorts that played on the internet (before it was a Showtime series) she played a reparative therapist who was attempting to 'cure' Lisa Kudrow's character's husband of his homosexuality. 

Top Ten o' the Day - David Edelstein
I lurve top ten lists. It matters not whether I find them (individually) nonsensical, just right or aggravating. There's something in me that adores the cataloguing of each year's work. So in each day's link-roundup, I'll be bringing you my favorite bit from whichever top ten list I've just been reading. Here's Edelstein on Beginners:

Melancholy and madcap, Mike Mills’s inventive weave of past and present ushers you into the mind of its hero (a superb Ewan ­McGregor) as he agonizes over his emotional inheritance. As the dad who comes out of the closet at 75, Christopher Plummer is light and lithe, buoyed by his new life among the boys.

I also really dig his question-mark description of Alexander Payne even though The Descendants isn't coming anywhere near my list. 

Monday
Dec052011

The Girl With the Embargoed Reviews

Mikael Blomkvist: What are you doing?
Lisbeth Salander: Reading the reviews.
Mikael: But they're embargoed!
Lisbeth: ... 

 

Perhaps you've heard about the kerfuffle with the breaking of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo embargo? Usually these behind-the-scenes details are kept private but what happened was simply that David Denby ran his review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo early since he works for a weekly magazine rather than a daily blog and according to this thorough roundup at The Hollywood Reporter he felt he had to cover some of the important Christmas movies early (space and time limitations) else wait til January for some of them. Sony got very very angry even though the review was positive and basically a love letter to Rooney Mara who I can confirm --- no wait, I can't... I'm under embargo! In the end this amounts to nothing so much as free publicity for Dragon Tattoo and free publicity for David Denby and The New Yorker so everyone wins... though you'll surely read differently elsewhere since people like to get on soapboxes about such things.

Scott Rudin claims that Denby will be banned from his future movies but embargos are broken every year and nothing happens to anyone who breaks them. The studios are so inconsistent about how they handle them from movie to movie -- and even often from journalist to journalist on the same movie -- that it's not always easy to take them seriously. I always obey them but this is only because I'm polite and from the Midwest. But I wish I didn't ;) Playing by the rules generally doesn't help you and you may have heard that 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'? You've heard it because it's true.