Oscar History

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Entries in W.E. (17)


TIFF: Michelle, Andrea and Felicity in buzzy films.

Paolo here. Day 6 of TIFF brings movies about love and passion crossing borders and oceans or trying to, despite the difficulties. Ladies and gentlemen, bring your handkerchiefs or roll your cynical eyes.

THE LADY (Luc Besson)

Most of you must already know about detained Burmese President-elect Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh), but her unlikely entry into political life happened so long ago that we, especially the younger generations, forget a few facts. First, that she lived in Oxford and bore two boys for her husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis), a professor of Southeast Asian studies and that the reason for her untouchable status in a military dictatorship is her ties to England. Second, that the reason the university intellectuals have chosen her as the figurehead of the Burmese democracy movement is because her father, a general, fought for the same goals after World War II.

The story of her adult life is now adapted to the screen as The Lady directed by Luc Besson. This movie allows Besson to diversify his CV but I personally couldn't avoid looking for his trademarks. Suu is Besson's female heroine, Michael his the Tati-esque old man, and a superstitious general is the campy, quirky villain. Besson keeps the violence to a reverent level this time, even if Suu's father becomes a martyr in the film's first scene. The Lady also has a few montages which chronicle the news of Suu's planned rallies spreading throughout the streets of Rangoon. They went on a bit longer than necessary.

As biopics go, The Lady has a surprsing lack of naturalism. Take this paraphrasal of one of Suu and David's conversations:

'The world reveres you as someone with no negative qualities.'
'I will list my negative qualities right now.'
'Your negative qualities made me fall in love with you.'

But because I like this, I'll call it 'classic English dialogue', pulled off well by Thewliss and especially Yeoh who has perfected a politician-style elegance; in a festival full of misanthropy, characters who are 'too nice' are a welcome change.

W.E. (Madonna)

The title of Madonna's much-discussed new film, is an acronym for the most gossiped marriage in the past century between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy). The couple belong to a story within the story, which is an obsession for  fairytale-stricken Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), who comes close to the couple's property six decades after their exile. Wally is bored of her neglectful husband while befriending a foreign Sotheby's security guard (Oscar Isaac). I'll assume that Madonna took on this story in engender her own so-called feminist perspective, and she brings a sympathetic and sometimes humorous light to the maligned woman. I would have preferred to see a movie based on "Famous Last Words," Timothy Findley's novel about Wallis.

More on what I liked about W.E. and disliked about Like Crazy after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Stars... They're Just Like Us!

They also have to deal with obnoxious people walking backwards or stopping suddenly when everyone else is moving forwards!

This post is brought to you by Nathaniel's hatred of tourists in Times Square where he unfortunately found himself once this weekend. Tourists can magically transform a breezy 8 minute walk to a subway to a 35 minute nightmarish ordeal of erratic human movement. Turning 8 minutes to 35 is a feat as miraculous as feeding thousands with five loaves of bread ...only way less altruistic.

P.S. This amusing gif comes to us via my friend Matt's blog where he runs to Madonna's defense (as he do) about the gleeful takedowns of W.E. in Venice. Matt also shared an incredible video of previously unseen "Vogue" video footage. Lots of blooper-like stuff after the two minute mark. It's always so fun (though rarer than it used to be) to see Madonna laugh at herself / her surroundings.


A Dangerous Method: Frozen Surface, Dangerous Interior

[Editors Note: We have two correspondents from Venice this year. And I feel the need to remind everyone that these opinions do not reflect the opinion of management; Nathaniel is without opinion as he is not in Venice. But he is enjoying reading these reports. Here is Ferdi from Italy, critic for, offering us bite sized opinions again. Enjoy. - Nathaniel]

I love David Cronenberg unconditionally and I know from past experience that his movies are not what they seem at the very first. We have to recognize that they always need more viewings, they are so complex. A Dangerous Method is a beautifully shot period piece. It's wonderfully acted movie especially by Michael Fassbender (heartbreaking) and Viggo Mortensen (Brilliant and should be in the supporting actor race). It's about the relationship between Carl Jung, patient-psychotic Sabina Spielreinand Sigmund Freud. Cronenberg has directed period pieces before (M Butterfly, Spider, Naked Lunch) and he's not new to melodrama either (in many of his movies there's a deep melodramatic soul). The origin of psychoanalysis, which explores what is inside the body and invisible to the eye fits his radical cinematic world perfectly. Still, A Dangerous Method seems the least Cronenberg-esque of his movies. Although the score and the  visuals are stunning -- lighting, sets, costumes, all gorgeous and perfect -- there's something missing here. If this frozen, crystallized surface is marvelous, maybe the inside world must be a dangerous place, crowded with demons: sexual repression, animal instinct, guilt, death, desire. And this is the place where Croneberg wants to go. 

Viggo in Venice © Fabrizio SpinettaFassy as shot by our correspondent Ferdi himself!


The first section is the best, powerful and alarming, with Keira Knightley sadistically used by Cronenberg as a shouting beast; she vomits out all her inner demons in a physical acting style that's sometimes difficult to watch. When the therapy and the love affair take root, everything begins to slow down. The narrative style normalizes and the movie changes into a beautiful restrained drama packed with visual elegance. There are still some moments blessed with the typical, disturbing Cronenberg-touch but my first impression is that the auteur could have gone further and deeper with this material. 


Madonna uses the camera as a little girl who has just received a toy she wants so badly that she forgets to read the instructions. W.E., her second directorial effort, tries to emulate the flourishing visual style of Tom Ford's A Single Man (and even abuses the melodramatic violins of Abel Korzeniowski). It also too closely resembles the narrative structure of Julie & Julia insisting parallelism between two stories: the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and a never convincing contemporary story about a bored and depressed young woman who becomes obsessed with the American adventuress.


Let's be clear: W.E. is not a truly bad movie. Last night Un Eté Brulent by Philipp Garrell, which screened in the official selection, was much more awful. It's just that W.E. is very easy to attack. Abbie Cornish is beautiful to watch although her character is ridiculous and Andrea Riseborough is really very good as Wallis , but W.E. seems only a long commercial spot from start to finish. It's empty, superficial and naive and maybe also a little dishonest. It's all about Madonna's obsession with fashion, beauty, richness, music, and British Royals. That's it.



Venice, Day 3: Keira's Confession, Kate's Challenge, Madonna's Stumble

Manolis, from the Greek site Cinema News, reporting from Venice for The Film Experience.

Madonna and her W.E. cast © the wonderful photographer Fabrizio Spinetta who is sending us great shots for TFE. 
Before today's report some thoughts about Madonna's W.E. which I had the privilege of seeing; there were so many people outside the cinema trying to find a ticket. It was difficult to turn your back to Madonna and her W.E. cast who were sitting on the Balcony behind the audience, but once the lights in the Sala Grande were off, you could focus on the openings shots of her film. 


The movie reminded me a lot of Julie and Julia. It has a similar structure but the bonding between the two Wallis’ (Cornish and Riseborough) is more vague and unfocused than that of Adams and Streep. And let’s face it, a Streep this film doesn't have. Andrea Riseborough has the showiest role, but the film doen’t help us connect her character or her motives, or help ups sympathize with her or even understand what she sacrificed for her relationship with Edward (which was Madonna’s aim as stated in the press conference). The love story of the modern day couple (Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac) proves more interesting than one of the most notorious love stories of all time. 


I think that the biggest mistake that Harvey Weinstein made with W.E. was leaking that it was an Oscar contender. Sure, the film has some chances in Costume Design, Music (a great score by Yann Tiersen and Abel Korzeniowski) and even Make Up (hello, Old Age!) but apart from that not much more. But the script which was co-written by Madonna is unfocused and full of cliches and predictable ‘twists’ . Madonna’s directing style fares slightly better but her visual choices are all over the place. The rich production values help make the viewing pleasant but this is not a serious oscar contender.


A Dangerous Method


This is already the third film of the competition (after The Ides of March and Carnage) that was based on a play. David Cronenberg's new film is drawn from true life events and the relationship of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Fassbender and Mortensen are excellent giving restraint utterly believable performances of these famous figures. Vincent Cassell is also good in a very small role (six minutes?). The Art Direction of the movie may have also been impressive but I couldn't see the scenery; Keira Knightley was chewing on it. Knightley's performance has caused disputes between the critics here. Some are impressed other's believe it's the film’s fatal flaw. Sorry Keira fans, but I am with the ones who did not enjoy her overracting. She cycles through every facial expression known to human kind. Needless to say that a Best Actress Oscar nomination is not out of the question. Sabina is obvious Oscar Bait and people often confuse best acting with most acting. Other strong Oscar prospects include Supporting Actor (Viggo), Adapted Screenplay and Costumes. 
Cronenberg, Knightley, Mortensen, Fassy, Sarah Gadon, Cassel are all in Venice!
I am an actress so of course I'm crazy."
Keira Knightley confessed at the press conference for the film. Other highlights from the press conference included Michael Fassbender's research for the role of Jung which he said was reading "Jung for Children: The Idiot’s handbook" and Mortensen thanking a fan for giving him a mascot doll of his favorite team San Lorenzo. When asked what he learned about psychoanalysis while making the film, David Cronenberg replied "I found out that of all my actors that are here need psychoanalysis."


Mildred Pierce


At the Mildred Pierce press conference Winslet suprised most of the audience when she confessed how difficult the role was.
...without question, my most challenging job since Titanic. Working in a TV series is much more difficult than in a film." 
Tomorrow in Venice: the premieres of ALPS (Giorgos Lanthimos Dogtooth follow up), James Franco’s Sal Mineo biopic, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Al Pacino’s Wild Salome.



Oscar Predix Updates: Costumes, Make-Up, Visual F/X, Sound

Have you seen the Vanity Fair gallery of costumes from Madonna's W.E. designed by Arianne Phillips? Will she be Oscar nominated this year? Hmmmm.

James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough modelling the costumes

That's always a tough call given that the costume branch of the Academy sometimes goes their own way entirely, embracing films no one else cares about or have forgotten, and sometimes they just stick with general Oscar buzz or their default choices (Seriously you won't find someone who loves Sandy Powell more than me but that Tempest nomination was ri-dic-u-lous).

Here are my newly updated predictions in the visual categories.

Testify Leo!You'll notice that I've also added J. Edgar to the predicted Make Up Nominees but it wasn't because of this official still of Leonardo DiCaprio. Why then? Well, it was the accompanying text in Entertainment Weekly which read. 

The movie traces Hoover's life from his childhood in Washington, D.C., through his ascent to power in the 1920s, his 50-year reign over the FBI, and his death in 1972 — with Leonardo DiCaprio donning prosthetic makeup to portray the man well into his bulldog-like elderly years.

Prosthetic makeup. Bulldog-like. Elderly. DingDingDing. Though, really before I get to settled on this prediction I need to recall my own words on the Make-Up branch within the Academy. I just copy and paste this every year onto my charts because it never ceases to be true.

About the Make Up Category

Nearly impossible to predict... even up until the last moment. They like werewolf movies except when they don't. They love Rick Baker except when they don't. They admire old age makeup except when they don't. They eliminate films with extensive CGI work except when they don't. They never vote based on awesome period hairpieces and makeup (though that's part of the equation) except when they do. They disapprove of multiple nominations for the same series except when they don't. It's almost as if their membership is entirely dismissed and reformed from scratch each year.

 But back to J. Edgar. I must say that synopsis signals that I have official worry for the movie.  Covering fifty years in someone's life usually means the very traditional kind of biopic. The kind that is all "....and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened", the Greatest Hits Biopics. Those are always the least focused and the most boring kind of biopics. 

Visual Category Prediction Updates
Aural Category Prediction Updates
Unfortunately there's still many films that have not announced their composer so Original Score punditry is still nothingness.

You'll notice that Rise of the Planet of the Apes suddenly, well, rises in Sound categories and Visual FX. (Once films start showing themselves these things always change.) In visual effects in particular it's obviously become the instant frontrunner. You know that Andy Serkis's trailblazing motion capture acting will help the FX team win, though the FX team will not help Andy Serkis get recognition. It doesn't go both ways, though I think we can all agree that they make a beautiful team. 



Toronto & Venice Lineups: Full of Contenders & Sleepers

Robert here (of Distant Relatives) with some thoughts on the lineups for the Toronto and Venice International Film Festivals which were announced Wednesday morning. And Oh Canada (and Viva Italia!) are they impressive.

Let's begin with Venice since it's up first.


First up, the many films that will be vying for awards and spots on prestigious top 10 lists at the end of the year. I mention them first because while there's much to anticipate about them all, there's not too much left to say. They've staked their claim and now we must wait for word to start rolling in. So we can see if Roman Polanski's late career semi-resurgence can continue with the impressive cast of Carnage, or whether Steven Soderberg's Contagion can live up to that buzzy trailer. Meanwhile David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method sets out to prove that just because he doesn't make movies with gynelogical tools that look like alien lifeforms anymore, he's still a master of psychosexual pathos. George Clooney's The Ides of March will try to be more than Primary Colors redux and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (from Let the Right One In's Tomas Alfredson) may finally get Gary Oldman some recognition in the form of little statues. And of course Madonna reinvents herself yet again, this time as feature film director with W.E.

Meanwhile I feel like the lineup has reminded me of how many films have fallen under the radar so far this year. Did you know Jonathan Demme has made a post-Katrina documentary entitled I'm Carolyn Parker? Underachiever James Franco has found time to direct a film about Sal Mineo called Sal. Todd Solondz is back at it with the romance Dark Horse, which I'm sure will be more fun for the whole family. Further representing the ladies are Marry Harron who jumps into the vampire fray with The Moth Diaries, Andrea Arnold who gives us a new version of Wuthering Heights, and Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis fame who, with co-director Vincent Paronnaud presents her sophomore effort Chicken With Plums.

If that weren't enough there's Shame, Steve McQueen's follow up to 2008's Hunger which pairs Michael Fassbender with Cary Mulligan. If you liked 2007's sweetly sad The Band's Visit, director Eran Kolirin presents The Exchange. And if you liked last years not-so-sweetly sad Dogtooth, Giorgios Lanthimos is back with Alps. Plus new films from Philippe Garrel, Abel Ferrera, William Friedkin and more. Exhausting. The full list is available for your perusal at The Guardian.


Now on to TIFF, the official unofficial start of award season. Along with some films from Venice that will be here too (The Ides of March, The Dangerous Method, W.E.), we'll get our first look at "Sad Clooney" in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, "Angry Woody" in Oren Moverman's Rampart, and "Mathy Brad" in Bennett Miller's Moneyball. Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs rings the bell on the Glenn Close/Meryl Streep steel cage Oscar match we're all looking forward to and/or feeling conflicted about. Meanwhile Francis Ford Coppola continues the "we hope this one will be his big comeback" era of his career with Twixt.

Of course, Toronto could be comeback central. Fernando Meirelles is premeiring 360 in an attempt to put Blindness out of sight. Lasse Hallstrom is back (actually I can't remember if he went anywhere or if we all stopped paying attention). Anyway if he has his way the title Salmon Fishing in the Yemen will be on all of our lips. Also did you know that Roland Emmerich has apparently grown tired of destroying the world and made a film about Shakespeare called Anonymous... seriously. And his subtler and more stylish French counterpart Luc Besson has maybe put thrillers on hold for The Lady.

The list seemingly never ends, but I must. So I'll finish off with two films you might be anticipating if you enjoyed 2004's My Summer of Love and 2007's Away From Her. Pawel Pawlikoski is back with The Woman in the Fifth and Sarah Polley returns to the director's chair for Take This Waltz. As usual there's still plenty more and The Guardian has that list too.

Once your head has stopped spinning with the promise of a busy end of the year sound off. Which of these are you looking most forward to? Which are you having trouble getting worked up for?