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Sunday
Oct122014

Birdman Conference & Party: Egos, Creative Challenges and "A Critical Presence"

Choosing Birdman as the closing night film of the 52nd New York Film Festival was a smart move. Premiering in the slot right after it would have been a truly humbling experience for another film. Not that I wish to inflate Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's ego any further.

Iñárritu, Norton, Watts and Amy Ryan at the premiere

In the press conference that immediately followed our screening yesterday he admitted that it's already enormous. "Inquisitor. Tyrant. Dictator" are just three of his names for his own ego and the idea for Birdman was to explore the inner struggle with ego and the creative process. Innaritu says he starts most creative projects thinking  "This is great, fantastic, very genius!" and shortly thereafter has a bipolar switcheroo "You're a stupid asshole. This is a piece of shit, no one would care about it!" He thought this creative struggle would  be a cool thing to dramatize on film though he didn't mean it to be specifically about the ego of actors. He actually thinks they don't have big egos. "Politicans have bigger egos...even my dentist!" he added spontaneously to much laughter in the room. "He's an asshole. He makes me suffer and I pay him."  

Michael Keaton's internal creative struggle takes a slightly different turn "I go through, 'Oh you're the greatest, you're wonderful. And then 20 minutes later... no, you're actually more than that Michael!"

Throughout the conference the actors found ways to keep the mood light and funny. Somehow Naomi Watts became the favorite member of the cast to tease, which was interesting because the actress she plays onscreen is riddled with insecurity. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct112014

YNMS: Tomorrowland, American Sniper, Black Sea

Tonight is the "Closing Night" of the New York Film Festival (Birdman and I'm happy to report that it's wondrous) though there are screenings tomorrow making the title only honorary, really. We'll wrap up soon with Inherent Vice and Birdman thoughts and things we learned at the fest. All the screenings and the first wave of Oscar seeking interviews (coming at'cha soon) have left us seriously behind on the matter of movie trailers / teasers so here are three which you may well have seen already but let's discuss in abbreviated Yes No Maybe So fashion.

TOMORROWLAND
Yes - This does what teasers, hell trailers themselves, should do: intrigues but doesn't give the game away. If only full trailers would follow suit. Come on studios: Help moviegoers rediscover a little something called curiousity. 
No - It's not really fair since he's had a couple of low key years but I'm feeling Clooney fatigue for some reason. Was it the wedding?
Maybe So -According to the vague summaries the story, about a futuristic utopia created by technology, is actually led by Britt Robertson (seen here discovering it via a magic pin) with Clooney in co-lead position as a former whiz kid she enlists to help her get back to this magical place and something something. Like I said: Vague. That's the best kind of pre-release info.

 

AMERICAN SNIPER
Yes - Trailers that are essentially one scene clips with flourishes round the edges to convey a movie are big "yes" moments. This scene, a sniper trying to decide whether to kill a woman or child is properly lose-lose upsetting. 
No - that tagline "the most lethal sniper in US history" paired with "12.25.14" is gross. Thanks for the coal in the stocking, Warner Bros! Merry Christmas to you, too.
Maybe So - It's a Clint Eastwood film. As you know his aesthetic is way too dreary for me to fully enjoy (even the recent musical was dreary!) but this kind of film can get away with dreary and probably should. Don't know about the banal easy juxtaposition of "American family life!" shoved aggressively into this Middle Eastern war zone via all those inserts but I like how mundane Bradley Cooper's voice sounds in this context.

BLACK SEA
Yes - Two obvious things. 1) Submarines and ocean settings in general often make for fine thrillers given the claustrophia or 'all alone in the world' madness. And 2) Jude Law, for all of the unevenness of his career, is always watchable. Isn't it great that "he's a liability" is voiced over our glimpse of Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Place Beyond the Pines)? He's anything but a liability in movies but of course he is just that in context since he's so good at playing shifty/dangerous characters. Scoot McNairy is also in it.
No - A cuisinart presentation of the whole movie, albeit without grotesque spoilers just general spoilers that the men turn against each other. But we kinda figured that with the pitch in the first minute. Still, where is the hook to care about this? Or is it assumed we will through that blaring music and fast-cutting.
Maybe So -  Kevin Macdonald. Is the jury still out on him (The Last King of Scotland, The Eagle, State of Play, How I Live Now) or does everyone just expect a range from *shrug* to 'quite watchable' but never great?

Saturday
Oct112014

Meet the Contenders: J.K. Simmons "Whiplash"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, a hit at Sundance that just played the New York Film Festival.

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher in Whiplash

Best Supporting Actor

Born: Jonathan Kimble Simmons was born January 9, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan

The Role: Writer/Director Damien Chazelle's festival hit first came to attention with its screenplay that was featured on the annual Black List in 2012. The film follows a first year drum major (Miles Teller) at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music that joins the elite Jazz orchestra headed by a sadistic conductor named Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher is well respected and can make or break a young musician's career, although his methods of achieving perfection (violent outbursts, name calling, and physical abuse when he actually throws a chair at Teller) are somewhat unconventional.

To fund the feature length film, Chazelle first made an 18-minute short (an excerpt of the complete script) that was shown at Sundance in 2013, with Simmons as Fletcher, that won the Jury Award in short film. When it came time to make the full-length film, there was talk of re-casting Fletcher with a bigger name (Kevin Spacey, Kevin Kline, and Jeff Daniels were all considered), but Simmons ultimately was able to reprise the role he created. And the film received the Audience Award and top Jury Prize when it premiered at Sundance this past January. 

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct112014

Friendly Reminder: Good Weekend to See a Movie!

But, no, I'm not talking about Dracula Untold or The Judge...

For Everyone:
Paddy Considine humbly requests that you see Pride this weekend! It's no longer an exclusive joy for New Yorkers and California residents. It's moved into several more cities in 19 more states so check your listings and see it. If you still need convincing, read our review and interview with the director (who is bringing the stage hit Matilda the Musical to the screen next).

For the Oscar Watchers:
You'll definitely want to check out Whiplash which can safely expect one nomination for J.K. Simmons in Supporting Actor (even though he's really a lead... same as it ever was) but it's the type of movie that might snowball given the enthusiasm and end up in the big race. (Here's Michael's review)

For the Actress Enthusiasts:
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has finally arrived in its intended Her (Jessica Chastain) and Him (James McAvoy) format. I did not see it as the shorter Them which wasn't well received at the box office. I can't speak to that but in the Her and Him format it intrigued and gained from the repetitions and slight skewing of perspective.

Even then, last fall, I worried about splitting OR fusing them (as they eventually did). As I wrote in my original review... 

As I happened to see it at its premiere with Him preceding Her, this 3 hour movie felt like perfect conjoined fraternal twins, each of 90 minutes in length. I say fraternal since The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him (the one starring James McAvoy with Chastain in a supporting role) and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her (the one starring Jessica Chastain with McAvoy in a supporting role) have very different temperaments, casts, and only share a few scenes... but not, crucially, the same takes of those scenes. We understand the drama wholly only through seeing both sides of it. 

I can't imagine that its safe to surgically sever Him and Her and release them into the wilds of arthouse theaters. And keeping them together but lopping off their limbs (say 20 minutes from both which seems likely) seems like high-risk business for something this delicately wrought and inventively conceived.

Any big movie plans this weekend? I'm off to Birdman at the New York Film Festival.

Friday
Oct102014

Linkman

Empire The London Film Festival has commenced with Benedict Cumberbatch opening the festivities
Kenneth in the (212) Harrison Ford in 1978 
Logolog This one is for the linguistics and trivia nerds: Last week's box office top ten featured the first ever "pangram" -- I didn't know what that was but the article explains it
Film School Rejects will "Vs" movies be the next franchise trend? God help us all 


Guardian claims that The Imitation Game might be the queerest film for the mainstream in ages. I don't want to do that math because, if so, how depressing because it's not all that queer
/Film a Labyrinth sequel in development?
Pajiba Jennifer Garner talks about Ben Affleck's penis on the Ellen show. Hold me. Why, Jennifer, why?
Esquire Gone Girl as the story of Ben Affleck's career. Undeniable connections!
Vulture theorizes on how all the seasons of American Horror Story could be connected. I guess they mean, besides the famous actors?
/Film First images of Margot Robbie and Will Smith in Focus. Hey, do you remember when there was a movie with that title with William H Macy and Laura Dern? Anyone?
Guardian So, you guys, it turns out that that Effie Gray movie starring Emma Thompson and Dakota Fanning does actually exist and its now playing in the UK 
HitFix Sean Durkin of Martha Marcy May Marlene fame will direct a film version of Little House on the Prairie. Bizarre. 

Casting News
The Playlist Léa Seydoux is your next femme fatale Bond girl. YAS! Great choice, 007 team
Variety Gabriel Luna joins Ellen Page in Freeheld
The Playlist Jennifer Jason Leigh takes the largest (only?) female role in Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight

Retweet
I take it you've heard about American Crime Story, a new Ryan Murphy series that will take on true uh... American crime stories.

 

 

True crime instead of the freaky supernatural fiction crime that American Horror Story traffics in, right? I had to have my say on Twitter, you know? Hee

Weekend Watch

 

James Franco's "Making a Scene" a comic mash-up series, fuses Beetlejuice and Batman together. What would Michael Keaton say? Probably "who cares" given his recent comments about the Batman franchise post him.

While we're on the topic of Batman, The LEGO Movie is going to have a solo Batman sequel in 2017. Exactly when do we approach maximum saturation of all things Batman? You'd think it would have been awhile ago. I worry for the the 2020s

Finally
For Towleroad, I wrote up a piece on films of LGBT interest in the big Foreign Film lineup with their trailers and such. Check it out. I'm dying to see Switzerland's The Circle. And I didn't realize until researching this piece that Concrete Night is made by a writer/director pair who are famous lesbians in Finland. How about that?

Stay tuned for more coverage on this category and of course all the others too, right here. Interviews and events are already starting off blog and soon we'll start sharing them. Let's consider Monday/Tuesday the official grand opening of this new awards season here at TFE.

Friday
Oct102014

This is the one...

This is the one I'll be remembered for.