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Tuesday
Nov112014

Top Ten: Worthy Performances That Will Win No Awards

Jose here. Every year as the awards race picks up, it seems as if we’re all collectively Lacuna-ed into forgetting all the great performances that came before Oscar narrows them down to twenty that by then, have won or been nominated for dozens of other awards. But what about the performances so “small”, “weird” or “foreign” that stand no chance in hell of competing with the FYC ads in the trades and/or Harvey Weinstein’s Sauron-like powers? We celebrate those performances, right now:

10. Keira Knightley - Begin Again

Sure, The Weinstein Company is behind this one, but even Harvey knows there is no point in trying to get a nod for this low-key, charming musical, especially not when he can get Keira an Oscar for a WWII flick, which makes more sense, right? Her performance here reminded me of Last Night in which she does so much with her eyes, which is something Begin Again director John Carney achieves with everyone in this cast. I’m still shocked that not a single awards body back in 2007 recognized the subdued and lovely performances by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in Once. Why do you think this kind of acting seems so unworthy of awards?

More after the jump...

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Tuesday
Nov112014

Curio: Paris Texas, 30 Years Later

Alexa here with your curio of the week. Wim Wenders' seminal film Paris, Texas was released 30 years ago, and over time it has become one of my all-time favorite films. So this week I thought I'd dig into my old magazine stash and share this 1984 issue of Film Quarterly that I scored at an estate sale awhile back. It includes a fascinating interview with Wenders, who discusses his "American period" and how its past failures (including Hammett) in may ways resulted in his success with Paris, Texas. Here are some selected quotes from the great philosophical meanderer. 

On casting Harry Dean Stanton:

We chose Harry Dean because he...is one of the few adults I know who...has kept the child that's dead in most adults, and certainly a lot of actors, with him. He has an innocence about him, despite a long career and being 58 years old. In Paris, Texas he and Hunter change roles: sometimes you find Travis in the position of the child and his son as he adult.

 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov112014

Tuesday Top Ten: Fictional Pop Culture of 2014

Manuel here bringing a fun list to enjoy the fictional pop culture 2014 has brought us.

I have to admit it; I like my pop culture like I like my ouroboros - constantly eating itself. That is to say, I’m a sucker for meta-fictional drama and particularly enjoy when films, books and TV shows create their own pop cultural world to satirize, comment on and critique (it won’t surprise you that two of my favorite movies, All About Eve and All About My Mother, are twinned images of one another). We’re weeks away from end-of-year Top 10s, but I figured we could begin early by I celebrating the fictional pop culture landscape of 2014.

The criteria? I looked for fictional pop cultural things in the films and TV shows from this past year that I wish were real and we've definitely had plenty to choose from. There was reality TV show Black Face/White Place from Dear White People, “The King in Yellow” (a fictional play embedded in the eponymous novel that featured so prominently in True Detective), the 30 Rock-esque Hammy Bear trilogy from Chris Rock's upcoming Top Five, SNL's amazing-looking The Beygency, not to mention Inside Amy Schumer's spot-on Sorkinean parody The Foodroom. These are, of course, all runners-up to the 10 I've chosen to make up our list. Incomprehensible algebraic equations were designed to rank them all, though I'm eager to hear what I inadvertently missed and/or placed too high. 

TOP TEN FICTIONAL POP CULTURAL ARTIFACTS OF 2014

10. "Everything is Awesome!!!" from The LEGO Movie
You could say the entire film is a pop cultural kaleidoscope as it is both creating a universe dependent on our own pop culture (Wonder Woman! Gandalf! C3PO!) yet populated entirely by beings unaware of it. Unsurprisingly then, this ear worm of a conformist anthem (written by The Lonely Island, they of “D**ck in a Box” fame) was as ubiquitous in the film as it was in everyone’s minds after watching the film. To assure us of its own pop cultural caché, the song was recorded by, implausibly enough, Tegan and Sara! Shoutout to the wonderfully plausible CBS-like sitcom “Where are my pants?” which fits oh so well in this perfectly mundane yet quirky LEGO World.

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Monday
Nov102014

Monologue: Cheng Pei-pei in "Lilting"

Andrew here.

Last week’s BIFA nominations saw a mix of expected names and surprises, but the inclusion I was most excited for was the citation of the quiet, lovely performance of Cheng Pei Pei in Lilting. Lilting premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to good reviews but it’s the type of smaller film, one in a dozen each year, that seems destined to be forgotten by the time the year draws to a close. It’s a shame, because even when its story falters slightly Lilting remains a thoughtful, and affecting, piece.

Like a profound monologue Pei-Pei has towards the end of the film. Up to this point in Lilting, Hong Khaou (writer and director) has elongated the crisis of when Junn will find out that her dead son’s friend, Richard, who keeps visiting her at her convalescent home is actually his ex-lover. Though it threatens to lag in the middle, Lilting begins and ends with aplomb. The audience has been wondering just why Richard doesn’t just tell Junn the truth. And, in his final big scene as he explains to Junn, Whishaw is fantastic. And like mother oftentimes do, Junn reveals she already knew Kai was gay and launches into a monologue of her own.

“It’s pathetic for a mother to fight for her own son’s attention. I felt so jealous of you…”

It's not so much a justification for Junn's passive aggression towards Junn, so far but instead an essential glimpse into Junn – a lovely clarification of this heretofore inscrutable woman.

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Monday
Nov102014

Beauty vs Beast: Two Total Bettys

JA from MNPP here, surfing the crimson wave to today's round of "Beauty vs Beast" - today would've been the 37th birthday of Brittany Murphy, you guys. And since we can hardly let that terrible Lifetime movie be the absolute and final word on her legacy (I watched about fifteen minute of that thing and I was all, "As if!") let's step our memories back to happier times, when the skirts were short and the socks were knee-high...

 

It's maybe a stretch to call Tai the villain of Clueless, but she is the antagonist that shakes up Cher's insulated world, so just go with me. And it's not like anybody would vote for Cher's actual nemesis, Designer Imposter Perfume Amber.

You have seven days to negotiate your final grades in the comments!

PREVIOUSLY In celebration of Interstellar's release (here in retrospect I kind of wish I'd waited until I saw the interminable movie first - ugh) we gave last week's competition over to Christopher Nolan's most memorable battle of the comic-book titans, and y'all voted chaos to reign - Heath Ledger's Joker strutted away in a blow-out with over 80% of the vote. Said Daniel Armour:

"If were just talking about The Dark Knight then the Joker. I loved Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman overall but TDK didn't give him as much to do as the other films. Also, Ledger was excellent as The Joker and truly deserved the acclaim - and awards - he got for the film."

Monday
Nov102014

LGBT News Roundup

Hello all, Manuel here with a number of LGBT-related news to kick off your Monday.

- Let’s start with the pretty. Love these images of the Looking boys for their OUT100 spread. The magazine named the HBO series TV show of the year. HBO's been busy hosting their Artists Series where they invited some select lucky few to visit the set, keeping social media abreast of what the boys are up to. Check it out:  #LookingForPatrick #LookingForAgustin #LookingForDom

Oh and look, a teaser trailer for season 2!

Speaking of HBO (1), they’re going ahead on the provocatively titled series Bros Before Hos which centers on a queer black man and well, his brothers. The show is from the team behind Red Tails and, more recently, Dear White People. The show, they state, aims to "reflect the growing diversity of the American experience." You can check out a rough cut of the pitch of the show at the link.

Speaking of HBO (2), did anyone catch Olive Kitteridge last week with the wonderful Frances McDormand? I’ll have to wait a bit since I don’t have that premium channel, but you can catch up with out director Lisa Cholodenko over at Interview in their newest podcast.

- Kiss Me, Kill Me - an Alfred Hitchcock/Agatha Christie-style "Who-done-it" set in a little town called West Hollywood - successfully fulfilled its Kickstarter campaign this past week. This should be great news for those of us who want more Gale Harold, Tom Lenk & RuPaul’s Drag Race's Willam in our lives.

- In more horrific news, screenings of Switzerland’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film, The Circle in Kiev’s Cinema Zhovten theater ended in flames after the theater was set on fire. Proof that while we've come a long way, there's plenty more work to be done.

- And lastly, in case you missed it, here's the first official photo of Zachary Quinto and James Franco as a gay couple in Michael. I say "official" because if you've been following those two on Instagram, they've been giving us plenty of behind-the-scenes looks at the film adaptation of the New York Times Magazine article, “My Ex-Gay Best Friend.” Here's how the couple they portray are described in the piece:

“Many young gay men looked up to [Michael]. He and his boyfriend at the time, Ben, who also worked at the magazine [XY], made a handsome pair — but their appeal went deeper. On weekends we would go to raves together, and I would watch as gay boys gravitated toward the couple. Michael and Ben seemed unburdened (by shame, by self-doubt) and unapologetically pursued what the writer Paul Monette called the uniquely gay experience of “flagrant joy.” But unlike some of our friends who rode the flagrant joy train all the way to rehab, Michael and Ben rarely seemed out of control. There was a balance — a wisdom — to their quest for intense, authentic experience. Together they seemed to have figured out how to be young, gay and happy.”

Do Franco & Quinto fit the bill? Are you counting the days until we see Patrick and Dom again? Are you as excited that even as 2014 is shaping up to be a strong and diverse year for LGBT cinema (what with Pride, The Skeleton Twins, 52 Tuesdays, The Normal Heart, Love is Strange, The Circle, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Lilting among others) we already have three fascinating LGBT projects (Michael, Carol, and Freeheld) to look forward to in 2015?

Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

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Sunday
Nov092014

Box Office: Sci-fi Rules the Day

Amir here, reporting to box office duty. Finally, the day cinephiles have been waiting for all year has arrived. America gets the chance to see one of our greatest working directors bring his epic vision to the screen. I speak, of course, of Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery, which opened on one screen to respectable returns. Others were too busy checking out Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. Disney's animated film actually topped the charts – I did not expect it to overcome Nolan's juggernaut, if I'm being honest – but both film finished with more than $50 in the bank. This is an incredibly rare feat: even though it's happened for the third year in a row now, it's only the fourth time that two films open with 50+ numbers. On all three previous occasions, an animated film beat a live action one: Wall-E and Wanted, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Prometheus, and Monsters University and World War Z. All eight films are also more or less science-fiction, which calls for a poll:

 

 

TOP DOZEN
01 BIG HERO 6 $56.2 NEW Tim's Review / Nathaniel's Take
02 INTERSTELLAR $52.1 NEW Michael's Review
03 GONE GIRL $6.1 (cum. $145.4) The Podcast /  Jason's Review
04 OUIJA $6 (cum. $43.4) 
05 ST. VINCENT $5.7 (cum. $27.3) Michael's Review
06 NIGHTCRAWLER $5.5 (cum. $19.7) The PodcastNathaniel's Review 
07 FURY $5.5 (cum. $69.2) Michael's Review
08 JOHN WICK $8 (cum. $27.5) Michael's Review
09 ALEXANDER... VERY BAD DAY $3.4 (cum. $59.2) 
10 
THE BOOK OF LIFE $2.8 (cum. $45.2) Interview
11 BIRDMAN $2.3 (cum. $8) The Podcast Nathaniel's Review
12 THE JUDGE $1.7 (cum. $42.5) 

PLATFORM
01 WHIPLASH $.3 88 locations (cum. $1.5) The Podcast / Michael's Review
02 CITIZEN FOUR $.2 59 locations (cum. $.6) 
03 THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING $.2 NEW 5 locations Nathaniel's Review

Aside from Wiseman's film, the other big limited release of the weekend was The Theory of Everything, which returned really solid numbers on five screens and will roll out next week in search of some Oscar gold. I haven't yet seen any of this weekend's films, but I did catch up with Birdman: Or the Unex... oh, stop this nonsense, which I mostly liked, even though I found it uneven and undermined by a) Lubezki's distracting and confusing cinematography and b) Keaton's incredibly boring performance. For a performance that is similarly meta without forgetting that there is an emotional connection to be made with the material, see: Rourke, Mickey.

What did you see this weekend?