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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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Sunday
Dec042011

Parties: "The Help" Are Singing a Happy Tune

This year I've had the pleasure of attending a few celebratory events for movies. At these luncheons or cocktail parties the filmmakers mingle with media types and Academy members. The most recent was a lunch for The Help held at Desmond's which is quite rectangular like a railroad apartment albeit one with very high ceilings. This gave the event a distinct bottleneck frenzy feel once Oscar buzzing actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were making the rounds... or in this case walking the aisle. Conversation became next to impossible. After a quick exchange with Octavia (in very high spirits) we both did a double take of mutual fandom; the hilarious Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, Rachel Getting Married) was squeezing past us saying a string of goodbyes. By the time I was face to face with Viola Davis, utterly gorgeous and much younger looking in person, she was ending a conversation with a time-hogging reporter in which she was trying to work her way around and straight out of a Meryl Streep as Competition' question. (Viola's take: It belittles the work to view it like that.) I was flustered and not uttering coherent sentences when it was my turn for "hello".

Octavia & Viola speaking to the crowd © Nathaniel Rogers

The highlight of the event found Viola and Octavia and the art direction team addressing the crowd (which included André Leon Talley of Vogue fame - a fan of the movie. who knew?!). There was an awkward moment of silence as they lined up as if on stage. Octavia Spencer broke the tension quipping "We've prepared a song for you" and started humming to tune them which sent Viola into peals of laughter. Then they were off, talking about the expectations placed on them, their nerves about the movie -- you never know if people will end up appreciating your work -- and their eventual joy at being a part of the phenomenon, which one executive called "the gift that keeps on giving". (The Help is still in theaters after 17 weeks and the 11th highest grossing film of the year). 

Viola: What we ultimately saw was something that made us so proud. It's something unlike anything else that's out there. [Pause] Just in the hues of the people! [Crowd laughter]
Octavia: [Posing] And the size!

There were two other very funny bits.

First, a guest asked them how they stopped themselves from killing Bryce Dallas Howard on set. "Well, we did beat the crap out of her one night," Viola said, with mock seriousness to more big laughs. But they quickly launched into a heartfelt discussion of how sweet she is in real life and they thought it would be hard to hate her onscreen. Second, another guest dared asked about the negative response from some pockets of the African American community. There was a beat of silence before Viola stepped to the side with a deadpan "Octavia..." handing her the hot potato question. The two actresses are born entertainers off screen as well. Ultimately they said they were proud that the movie had sparked so much discussion and that discussion was important.

As it turns out the Production Designer Mark Ricker and Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo of The Help were seated directly opposite me at lunch and fun to chat with. Rena had done the pilot for Mad Men (I restrained from freaking out about this reveal but damn). To my amusement, they revealed that they knew their way around online Oscar charts (hey, they brought it up, not me!). As a moviegoer you don't often think about the experience of movie crews leaving one set for another but it was  interesting to hear their relief at how much period fun and color they could bring to The Help after all the time spent with grey sterile interiors for You Don't Know Jack. I told them my favorite set was Celia Foote's (Jessica Chastain) house. They stripped that house bare to decorate it for Celia's tastes and said that Jessica was constantly downing soy milkshakes (she's a vegan) to gain curves for the role.

Ms. Chastain was not in attendance but when the waiters came round to ask if we had any dietary restrictions, I spared a thought for Jessica's soy milk and Celia's limited oeuvre in the kitchen.

Related: The Help review | Best Picture | Visual Oscar Categories | Best Supporting Actress | Best Actress

Sunday
Dec042011

Moët BIFA Awards Spread the Movie Wealth

The Stars gathered this evening in London for the Moët British Independent Film Awards which was ruled by one particular Tyrannosaur and also afforded Michael Fassbender his second best actor prize (following the Venice Volpi Cup) for Shame. He needs to keep nabbing these to stay in play for a very competitive Oscar race.

photo via @shamefilm

Photos and a list of winners after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec042011

Interview: Olivia Colman on "Tyrannosaur" and Mumsy Meryl Streep

British actress Olivia Colman speaks softly and with great modesty but perhaps that's wise. Her talent speaks loudly on its own behalf by way of ntroduction. Though British audiences have embraced her comic talent for years now, international audiences are just now getting to know her as a dramatic force. She's utterly devastating as a meek Christian shop owner in the violent drama Tyrannosaur. The film, directed by the actor Paddy Considine (In America), is gathering a small but very vocal fanbase who think Colman really ought to have a Best Actress nomination in her very near future. Later this month, she'll be onscreen again as Carol Thatcher daughter of The Iron Lady, but even if you exited the first movie only to immediately enter the latter, you'll scarcely recognize her from one film to the next.

We spoke briefly on the phone recently about her rising stardom, drama and comedy acting muscles, and having a living legend as a co-star.

Olivia Colman is a true believer in "Tyrannosaur"

Nathaniel: Have you been able to soak in all of this attention from Tyrannosaur? Your name being on the awards radar here in the US and such?

OLIVIA COLMAN: Not really. it's quite surreal. Because it's not my first job. I'm 37 and i've been working for a long time. So... [long pause]  This job means so much to me that I'm thrilled that people are liking it. That's the best thing about it, that other people are taking it to their hearts as much as we all did.

Nathaniel: Your involvement with Tyrannosaur goes way back. You were also in Paddy Considine's short film "Dog Altogether" about the same characters. Did this feel like a do-over? What was it like going back?

COLMAN: lt felt different. A lot of the scenes from the short were also in the feature and the reshooting of those scenes that we'd done years before were the hardest to film. It's weird because it's like an echo. You can hear yourself. You've already said it but years ago. It felt very different apart from that because we suddenly had a sense of a much longer journey. In the short I didn't know about Hannah's backstory at all. 

Nathaniel: This gave you a chance to dig deeper then?

COLMAN: Yes. It's lovely to get your teeth into it.

Nathaniel: In terms of Hannah's religiosity and her generous nature. How did you approach constructing her? A lot of religious characters in cinema aren't, well, sympathetic like this. 

COLMAN: It was so clear from the page. Paddy had written it so beautifully you just had to do what was written, really.  I knew who she was straightaway. Even if she hadn't been a Christian of good faith, she would still have been a good person. Her faith is sort of her protection and her armor but even without it, I would have known who she was.

Nathaniel: Paddy is such a brilliant actor but he's not in front of the camera for this one. So what it was like being directed by a fellow thespian?

COLMAN: Amazing! It made such a difference. I don't imagine all actors can direct at all. I think probably a lot of them would be terrible but he was so comfortable on that side of the camera. He knew how difficult he found it in front of the camera and he made sure we never felt like that. We always felt safe. He's an extraordinary creature. He would say exactly the right thing to get you to the right place. I've said this before but I think he could get a performance out of a log. He's amazing, just taps in. Everybody wanted to make him proud. And he's a great leader of people. A little thumbs up at the right moment would made someone feel 10 feet tall.

For those of us who don't act, we always assume that sets of intense brutal dramas like this one must be sober or difficult to be on. But maybe it's not like that exactly. 

The "jolly" Tyrannosaur team

[Olivia on working with Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer... AFTER THE JUMP.]

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec042011

Euro Film Award Winners

While American film critics circles orgs and associations prep their year end "best" reveals, let's hop overseas for a moment. The European Film Awards were held in Berlin, Germany yesterday. It was a very good day to be Danish.

Though Mads Mikkelsen (left) is often seen in American and British films he frequently headlines Danish films too and was honored with a world cinema tribute. Lars von Trier, the maddest prince of Denmark since Hamlet, won the top prize for Melancholia. Though von Trier lost Best Director, he lost it to fellow Dane Susanne Bier who recently also won the Oscar (Best Foreign Language Film, In A Better World.) All three were born within a nine year span in Copenhagen!

FILM Melancholia (Lars von Trier)
DOCUMENTARY Pina (Wim Wenders)
ANIMATED FEATURE Chico & Rita (Tono Erranda, Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba)
EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT WORLD CINEMA Mads Mikkelsen
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Stephen Frears
DIRECTOR Susanne Bier, A Better World
ACTRESS Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
ACTOR Colin Firth, The King's Speech
SCREENWRITER Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Kid With The Bike 
EDITOR Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
PRODUCTION DESIGNER Jette Lehmann, Melancholia
CINEMATOGRAPHER Manuel Albert Caro, Melancholia
COMPOSER Ludovic Bource, The Artist
PEOPLE'S CHOICE The King's Speech
SHORT FILM AWARD The Wholly Family (Terry Gilliam)
EUROPEAN DISCOVERY  Oxygen (Hans Van Nuffel)

Stars at the EFA Awards from left to right: Sibel Kekilli & Elyas M'Barek, Ludivine Sagnier, Terry Gilliam, (second row) Moritz Bleibtreu, Sam Riley & Alexandra Maria Lara and Maria De Medeiros

Congratulations to the winners!

Another prize for Tilda, eh? If Best Actress weren't so jam-packed this year -- I'll update the two week old charts tomorrow -- I'd be starting to believe that a second Oscar nomination could follow. But whether or not Oscar traction happens, there's definitely a Swintonian Love Wave happening.  Such is the power of momentum. Three consecutive critically lauded star turns in acclaimed challenging films (Julia + I Am Love + We Need To Talk About Kevin) will do that to a girl.

Saturday
Dec032011

Happy 51st Julianne Moore. What's Next? 

In honor of Julianne Moore's birthday today, let's go all list-manic.

Julianne earlier this week in NYC

This morning, realizing it was her birthday, I flashed back to our interview in 2010 and her responses to my feverish fandom "I've seen all your movies"...

My god, you've seen some junk then!" 

So after the jump in her holiness's honor, my rankings of ALL her performances I have seen... some of which I barely remember at this point but what can you do. Plus, the ones I haven't seen. Plus, what's next (2012 could be a big year for her!) Plus questions for you. Plus. Plus. Plus

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec032011

Thoughts On "Shame"

This time of year I am inundated with awards screeners. Studios send them out to awards voters hoping their films will be considered "Best". The disc for SHAME, a haunting NYC-set sexual addiction drama which opened yesterday in select theaters came in a minimalist pure white sleeve with only the title and a barely visible "for your consideration" adorning it. It's as naked as Michael Fassbender's star turn. Though I'd seen the film just two months ago, I popped it in the player hoping to let its riveting images and mesmerizing rhythms wash over me as I wrote a review. Instead the screen stayed black. The depressing message "Skipping Over Damaged Area" was all my DVD player would show me.
If one were to skip past the damaged, in a figurative sense, one would have to skip the entire film...

 

READ THE REST @ TOWLEROAD

Other things to read about "Shame" today...

Aint it Cool has a review which spends one whole paragraph on the "magnificence" of Fassbender's cock (from a straight man -lol) and contains a funny smackdown of the MPAA.
MUBI Ignatiy doesn't much care fo Shame's vagueness about the details.
In Contention lets us know that it won't be eligible for the WGA Screenplay prizes.
Next Movie, in honor of Fassy, looks at the best penis moments in movies. 

P.S. I've written so piecemeal about Shame -- see past posts -- that it's amounted to all of these brief bits without one big substantial review. I'm realizing that this is my habit in general, the dangers of blogging daily with ADD I suppose. I feel I need to build Frankenstein monster parts of all my brief impressions of any given movie into a series of hulking reanimated pieces. Now to wait for the right stormy opportunity and the bolt of inspirational lightning. 


P.P.S. Here's the French poster, airbrushing and shining up one of the film's most haunting images. It's like a motion capture animated version of Shame. Imagine it. Hee.

Are you seeing Shame this weekend? If you've already see it, what did you make of it?

Saturday
Dec032011

Link Hunters

The Guardian Ken Russell was nearly finished with a new screenplay adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, to be made as a risque musical. Will it still be made with a new director?
Nullco Preorder The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack and download a sampler
Rope of Silicon first look at Sam Worthington in Wrath of the Titans and a curious plot synopsis
Thompson on Hollywood talks to one or our favorite craftsmen, production designer Jack Fisk (of Terrence Malick and Mr Sissy Spacek fame.)
24 Frames Hugo steps up as a powerful Oscar contender.

Empire wonders if paranormal romance Smoke and Bone about an angel and a demon that fall in love will be the next big movie franchise? Have any of you read it?
Inside Movies Deliverance actor Bill McKinney has passed away. 
Wipe Your Feet "Watching Melancholia is like..." I love the movie but this is totally LOL. 
Pop Watch tries to imagine Buffy alum Michelle Trachtenberg as Bella Swan. Supposedly, it could have happened.
Hollywood News talks to Will Reiser about 50/50 and the power of Anjelica Huston. 
IndieWire Mike Leigh will head the jury at February's Berlinale. (This year's jury picked Oscar buzzing Iranian film A Separation as the best of the fest. Good luck topping that one!)

Finally, EW has released the first photo of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

I don't want to be bitchy about it since we've seen so little -- the trailer hits next week -- but doesn't it seem like revisionist fairy tale revisions and dark leathery bad-ass costuming are getting a little, shall we say, generic these days? How will this distinguish itself?

And when will Jeremy Renner star in a drama again after all this time spent Bourne Avenging Impossible Missions With Witch Hunters ? Does he want to be Samuel L Jackson that badly? Seems like a waster after his dramatic brilliance in The Hurt Locker.