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Friday
Oct032014

Baywatch: the Film?

Manuel here to bring great news to fans of 90s TV shows and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I know you’re out there!

Not to be outdone in this week’s “craziest Hollywood pitch ideas finally being developed” (coughTetriscough), Paramount has announced that it’s moving forward with its long-gestating Baywatch film adaptation with none other than Johnson himself, he of great box office power when paired with an established brand, in talks to star. May we hope this turns out to be more Charlie’s Angels than Bewitched? More Mission:Impossible than The A-Team? In true 21 Jump Street fashion, it seems they’re going for comedy, as they’ve hired Sean Anders and John Morris, of We are the Millers fame. If the film truly embraces its own kitsch appeal and zeroes in on 90s nostalgia, it might make for an interesting... no, I can't even finish that sentence.


That said, I’m burying the lede because we all know the next bit of news should this movie stop moving forward and actually start, you know, casting and shooting, will be about who will fill in for Pamela Anderson as the requisite bombshell beauty who’ll most likely be described by casting agents and directors alike as “a strong kick-ass” character. 

So, let the name-tossing begin. Who would you cast to don the iconic red swimsuit? Which actress do you think could be the new CJ Parker (or better yet, the new Stephanie Holden)? Or, if we wanna go more the Magic Mike route, who are you hoping will skimp on wearing shirts and join Johnson at the beach?  And yes, amuse me with your left-field choices because the cynic in me knows the same three names will be bandied about soon enough.

Friday
Oct032014

NYFF: Two Days, One Night

Our NYFF coverage continues with Michael Cusumano on Belgium's "Two Days, One Night" starring Marion Cotillard 

The experience of watching the Dardenne brothers latest critically adored Cannes hit, Two Days, One Night, brings home just how conditioned we are to expect our protagonists to be active and fearless. We are not used to heroes that need to be pushed and prodded to stand up for themselves. Our heroes tend to plunge into conflict with nary a second thought. Marion Cotillard’s Sandra is not one of those characters. When Sandra awakes one morning to a phone call informing her that she has lost her job at a company that makes solar panels, her first impulse is to take it lying down. Literally. On an upswing after what we gather is a nasty struggle with depression, Sandra crawls back into bed resigned to let her sickness swallow her whole this time.

It becomes clear that management, in a move brilliant in its craven cowardice, had given Sandra’s coworkers the choice of keeping Sandra or keeping their bonuses. On top of which, whispers were spread that Sandra was going to be let go no matter what, so it’s no surprise when the vote is a lopsided 14 to 2 in favor of firing Sandra and keeping bonuses. When Sandra’s husband and friends compel her to protest the underhanded way this was carried out, her boss allows for a second vote after the weekend, comfortable in the expectation that convincing people to sacrifice their bonuses is a fool's errand.

more...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct032014

NYFF: A Tiger and a Princess (or Two) Walk Into a Cafe...

NYFF continues. Here's Nathaniel with brief takes on three films...

Allow me to break a rule of film criticism. Rather than wag fingers at directors/films and call them "pretentious!" (a common and near-useless criticism for films with ambitions) or "opaque" (a beautiful adjective, less judgmental but still descriptive of the "ummm..." effect), I shall simply admit that sometimes I don't get it. I think we all have these cases, whether it be films/genres or even entire filmographies that are headscratchers to us whilst others drool. Most people are loathe to admit it lest they seem dumb but I don't have time to worry about that. Way too busy for that particular insecurity. Especially with all the room in my schedule I make for the other ones.

I'm pairing these three films (Ming of Harlem, The Princess of France, and Hill of Freedom) for that reason and also because they all have "of" in the title. Deep reasons. Here we go...

MING OF HARLEM 
Ming is a tiger. Harlem is Harlem.

This documentary is about a 400 lb tiger that was once living in a Harlem skyrise not too far from where I live. My cat lives with me in a Harlem skyrise, too, but he's only 11 lbs. The film is part of the "Projection" series at NYFF. That's a potentially less offputting title for a swath of moviegoers than "Views from the Avant Garde" which is what it used to be called. Having seen the picture, I'm not sure I understand what's avante garde about it?

Perhaps it's the lack of talking heads projecting emotions on to animals OR explaining the psychology of the man who housed them until he was sent to prison for doing just that. Perhaps it's the very sparse insertion of local and national news footage from the time of the scandal, of which there is surely a lot more. The movie is, in part, more of a meditative look at two animals; the tiger shared his apartment with a full grown alligator albeit not in the same room...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct032014

Linkside Out

All the news stories we didn't get to and/or articles we like with a wee slant toward the stage this morning... itching to see a show again.

Guardian on the homophobic charges against the MPAA. That über obnoxious organization has struck again. Pride is the second gay movie this year without sex scenes or nudity to be slapped with an R rating.
/Film The Twilight Saga may well be back after some short films. When I first heard this news I groaned and rolled my eyes but then I read the plan and it's sort of a support young female filmmakers thing so it sounds kind of cool, actually. Pit that Twilight is so obnoxious 
The Playlist ranks all 35 of David Fincher's music videos. I used to be so obsessed with him because of Madonna. It's possible that I already linked this? I don't know. But their rankings are fairly good.


Vulture says it's been an amazing year for animation. We just haven't realized it yet. It's all those hard to find foreign toons, it is
Rope of Silicon is doing a Best Movies series and looks back at David Fincher's Se7en. That would probably be on my 100 movies list, too
Cinephilia and Beyond looks at Bob Fosse's masterpiece (one of 'em) All That Jazz
My New Plaid Pants bookmarked! Jason tells us about a Montgomery Clift documentary that I didn't even know about
Variety Jane Fonda and Viola Davis are charitable people. They look great together at an annual Rape Foundation brunch

Netflix, the Disrupter
New York Times on the Crouching Tiger sequel Netflix / IMAX deal
CHUD Netflix going into the business of Adam Sandler movies 
Variety wonders what Netflix's motives our with their recent feature film announcements 

Imelda Staunton rehearsing. Photo by Johan PerrsonOn Stage and Film Interest
Broadway World Imelda Staunton is in theaters now in Pride (and she's delightful in it) but she's also returning to the stage. She's in rehearsals for that mammoth role of Mama Rose in a London production of Gypsy. See photo left. 
The Hairpin wonderful personal essay on seeing Lindsay Lohan's stage debut in Speed the Plow
NYC Theater Interesting. The Laura Pels Theater on 46th street will be doing a stripped down production of Into the Woods while the movie plays in theaters. December 18th through March 2015
Theater Mania Audra McDonald might do a film musical!!! She's rumored to be involved in the stage to screen transfer of Michael John Lachiusa's Hello Again. If only someone would push his Wild Party musical to the screen
Playbill Ewan MacGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal just made their Broadway debuts in The Real Thing 
Variety Normally movies that become stage musicals are semi-recent hits. But next Spring Broadway will get Doctor Zhivago, once a super-sized smash movie hit from 1965. The song score combines talent from two fine musicals (The Secret Garden and Grey Gardens) so I'm excited.
Theater Mania David Burtka (NPH's other half) will be doing a cabaret show at my favorite cabaret spot directed by Neil Patrick Harris. I imagine this is the type of thing that people will judge harshly just hearing about it like "connections!" but I've seen Burtka in two stage productions and he's very talented

Three hot & short exit videos to wrap

1. We'll start with the best one. Making a Marie Antoinette style dress out of Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette script. Love this.

2. Here's the first teaser for Inside Out, Pixar's 2015 release. And Pixar would like to remind you that they made it and that they made all those other movies you love to. BTW they were made by Pixar and did I mention that Pixar made this?

 

3. Inherent Vice's trailer which you've probably seen. We would have done a Yes No Maybe So on this one except that the New York Film Festival is in full swing which will render it immediately disposable since there'll be a review this weekend. The voiceover in this trailer reminds me of Annaleigh Ashford (from Masters of Sex) but she's not in the movie. I wonder who the voice belongs to?

Thursday
Oct022014

Tim's Toons: Latvia's animated submission to the Best Foreign Language race

Tim here. The cut-off date for countries to choose their official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was October 1, and while the list hasn’t been officially confirmed by the Academy yet (and there’s a good chance of one or two titles falling out), it gives us something to work with.

And, wonder of wonders, there even happens to be an animated feature among this year’s official submissions, something that has only happened around a dozen times in the past (only once of that dozen times did the animated picture make the final nominee list: in 2008, Israel’s submission of Waltz with Bashir made the cut, losing to Japan’s Departures). The film is the semi-fictional Rocks in My Pockets, directed by New York-based Signe Baumane, and I will suggest right off that it has a an unhappily good chance of being disqualified: spoken entirely in English by the filmmaker, and made on a mixture of American and Latvian money, it has all the feel of those movies that the Academy rejects for being insufficiently native to the country making the submission.

All the more reason for me to sing its praises right now, while it’s still making its nigh-invisible crawl across the U.S. For it’s a pretty special little film, all in all: a personal recollection of Baumane’s history battling depression, nestled into a family history by which she traces how suicidal thoughts and other mentally imbalances have plagued women in her family since Latvia in the days before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Cheery stuff for a cartoon. But one of the best things about Rocks in My Pockets is the way that Baumane brings in a sense of frank humor to discussing terrible subjects, such as the amount of energy she’s put into the way she’d kill herself to avoid making too much mess if her bowels vacated. That’s the series of observations that opens the movie, in fact, setting up some immediate rules for the film to follow: one is that we can expect her to hold absolutely nothing back and refuse completely to hide behind clinical language or euphemisms; two is that she’s not angling for any kind of sympathy or asking to be treated delicately. It’s a film that invites us to dive right in and confront the reality of depression and suicide candidly, but without nervous solemnity.

It helps that the stories Baumane recounts about her family (the film ends with the standard “some characters and incidents were invented” disclaimer, so it’s not absolutely clear how much of this is truth and how much is an interpretive version of truth) are so damn compelling. Most of the film isn’t about Baumane, but her paternal grandmother Anna, whose life as a mother of eight children in Soviet Latvia provides the usual range of anecdotes about the grinding poverty of life in the USSR, so horrifying that it’s almost impossible not to start laughing at the sheer absurd awfulness of it.

And while Baumane’s thick accent ends up forcing her into some weird emphases of words and whole sentences, she’s an enthusiastic, engaging storyteller, relaying even the ugliest stories with briskness and humor, and employing a range of voices to give personality to the various relatives whose lives she relives.

The film’s mixed-media style – papier-mâché sets over which are layered character drawings that have the look of colored pencils, for the most part – pairs neatly with Baumane’s ebullient way of reciting. Weirdly, given the content, Rocks in My Pockets ends up being awfully like a bedtime story: soft figures, lots of bunnies, comic voices, a tendency for the narrator to start laughing at her own punchlines as our cue that it’s okay to laugh, too.

 

And yet for all that, it’s still a really smart, potent discussion about depression. The light style and conversational approach, all making sure that it doesn’t get too grim and confessional, has given Baumane the freedom to share bleak truths without having to dwell on them in anguish. The sketchbook-style artwork allows her to visualize the sensations of depression using visual symbolism and distortions that hammer home the sense of broken perception that comes along with depression. No matter how funny and energetic the film gets, it goes to some really shattering, serious places. Baumane is a terrific memoirist, both honest in her observations and witty in her expression, and while I’d put Rocks in My Pockets as having something like no chance of making it all the way to the Academy’s finalist list, I think that even the little bit of exposure it now has is a wonderful thing it if puts more people in line to watch this insightful and discomfiting psychological portrait.

16 Foreign Oscar Submissions Reviewed To DateArgentinaAustraliaBelgiumBrazilCanadaCuba,FranceGermanyIcelandLatviaMauritaniaNorwayPolandPortugalSweden and Venezuela

Thursday
Oct022014

Another Lead Role for Quvenzhané Wallis

Margaret here to talk about what's new with everyone's favorite collector of puppy purses: Quvenzhané Wallis is on a roll. Her breakout performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild could have easily put her in the pantheon of one-hit wonder child actors, but the way she's been lining up projects makes that look unlikely. Now 11 years old, Little Q is two months out from the release of her first big studio film in the musical Annie which, with the Columbia promotional muscle behind it, might make her a real star. She has also just signed on to star in an adaptation of best-selling middle grade novel "Counting by 7s."

In the Holly Goldberg Sloan story, Quvenzhané will play a 12-year-old genius named Willow Chase who loses her adoptive parents in a car crash and has to push past her grief to find a new community of support. Said Quvenzhané to Deadline:

I am honored to play the role of Willow in 'Counting by 7s'. I love the message behind the story. I am excited to be a part of it and to see it come to life." 

Other upcoming projects for the busy young Oscar-nominee include voice work in an adaptation of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, and Fathers and Daughters, where she will star alongside Jane Fonda, Octavia Spencer, and Russell Crowe.

Even if none of these particular jobs ends up being earth-shattering, this steady work is heartening for those of us rooting for her to grow into a full-fledged acting career. At the very least we're in for some incredibly charming press tours. Is it foolish to hope that there's another Hushpuppy-level performance in her future?

Who'da man?