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Yes Not Maybe So: Bombshell

" I am not liking this trend of portraits of terrible women, like Meghan and Phyliss Schafly, unless it's camp." - Jane

"Miss Charlize is like, "Do I need to remind you guys again who is the baddest bitch around here?." I just can'ttttt! She looks like Megan Kelly's twin -- that makeup work is insanity!!!" - Jono

"if Nicole doesn't wear a bad wig in a it really a must see event?" -Chris

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Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
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Early "Revenant" Chatter: Or, how Grantland kickstarted Oscar Season way early

David Upton on an unexpectedly early Oscar campaign kickoff - Editor

It’s only July, but this stuff starts earlier every year: barrels are loaded and sights are set on Oscar season. No one has started earlier than the team behind The Revenant. The recent buzzy Grantland piece on the film harks back to a kind of promotion that is somewhat out-of-fashion: long form, detailed reporting that really digs into what the movie might be. By sheer existence, the piece becomes part of the hype machine, now rolling towards the end of the year when The Revenant sees a release on 25th December.

This is prestige movie promotion at its most precise; why else, you might wonder, would anyone want to see a film that sounds so utterly depressing on Christmas Day

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Teasing "The Revenant"

I ain't afraid to die anymore. I done it already."

We don't yes no maybe so teasers but if we did this would be a YES with the small NO of "can already tell we won't be able to tell all these bearded sweaty fur clad men apart during action sequences and mayb even some closeups" 

As our Oscar charts have suggested all year we expect this one to go over well but this very gripping teaser makes you wonder: Could Inarittu win Best Director back-to-back? It has only happened twice before and that was several decades back  (John Ford won for Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley (1940/1941) and Joseph L Mankiewicz for A Letter To Three Wives and All About Eve (1949/1950). No one has ever won Best Picture back-to-back... though David O. Selznick would have in 1939 (Gone With the Wind) and 1940 (Rebecca) if they had awarded Best Picture to producers back then as they do now. Four men have won Best Cinematography twice consecutively including Emmanuel Lubezki(Gravity & Birdman) and since he's lensing this one in what looks like continuous shots with only natural light, he could conceivably break the record and be the sole most consecutive Oscar winning DP. 


On Birdman and Suicide

by Sebastian Nebel


What do we talk about when we talk about Birdman?

I guess people latch onto things they can relate to, things they recognize. For a lot of professional reviewers I follow online and elsewhere, that would be how the film portraits their line of work, notably in the form of the theater critic and talk of Twitter, social media, and things 'going viral.'

Others – including, I'm assuming, the filmmakers themselves – see the main focus of the film in the struggle of the artist, the search for meaning and relevance, the divide between supposedly empty blockbuster entertainment and high, respectable art.

I am neither artist nor critic, as much as I like to pretend to be either at times. So while I recognize that Birdman has something to say on these subjects, it's not saying it to me, at least not directly.

We latch onto the things we relate to, we recognize. What I saw in Birdman was a deeply troubled man who finds himself so tortured by depression – in his case personified by a long gone superhero alter ego that serves as constant reminder of the fame, the power, the endless possibilities that the march of time has taken from him – that he desperately clings to a last-ditch effort to revive some of the past's glory, only to find that this, too, does not liberate him from his mental anguish.

During the course of the film, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) engages in a variety of self-harming acts and tries or gets close to trying to take his own life three times, finally achieving the desired result.

We hear of another, possibly first failed suicide attempt in a story he tells his ex-wife (Amy Ryan). It's one of his many cries for help, some cryptic, some explicit, all unheard.

Suicide attempts on screen are not rare, but what I found remarkable was that in Birdman, unlike most films I can think of, trying to kill yourself isn't the turning point, the traumatic abyss you climb your way out of to start the healing process, now with concerned loved ones at your side and no longer inflicted with the wish to end it all.

Riggan's on-stage bullet to the face is greeted with many things, actual concern for his mental state being least among them. His family and friends quickly dismiss looking for a deeper motivation behind the incident, highlighting instead all the ways he finally got what he wanted all along: the play is a hit, he himself has gone viral. The people love him, the critics respect him. Everything worked out fine. It's a happy ending that most movies would gladly indulge in.

But it's a false one, as we and Riggan are reminded of by the reappearance of Birdman in the actor's hospital room.

Because Birdman isn't Riggan's depression. Birdman is the shape that Riggan gives his anxiety, the costume he puts on it, trying to give form to something that's entirely beyond his grasp.

He's not depressed because he's not as famous as he was, because he's grown older, or because he feels unloved and unadmired. These are just the things his depression claims as reasons because they are easy targets.

Real depression has no inherent focus, no singular triggers. Like one of those plasma globes it stretches out its feelers in all directions until it finds a surface to land and concentrate on. Easy targets, usually: feelings of loneliness, of heartbreak and loss, of insecurity and insignificance. But take those away and it will just look for other ones.

This is what Riggan learns in that hospital bathroom. The love of his family, his newly acquired flood of Twitter followers, the positive review in the Times. None of it matters. None of it solves anything.

The only solution Riggan can see is the one he has been coming back to over and over again. And while some or all of his prior attempts may have been deliberately botched because they were intended as cries for help more than definite, final acts, there is no ambiguity this time. He is done with life and done with clinging to the Birdman fantasy he used to disguise his depression with to make it seem like a slightly lesser and therefore possibly solvable problem.

Michael Keaton is not in every single scene of Birdman, but I do believe that we are experiencing things from Riggan's perspective even when he's not present. Scenes between Emma Stone and Edward Norton are at the same time projections of Riggan's fears (his daughter getting involved with the actor) and hopes (her being brought to the realization that maybe he wasn't such a bad father, after all).

Similarly, the scene between Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough is all about their characters needing to define themselves through his approval. It's his vision of how a conversation between them might play out - big kiss at the end and everything - just like many of the film's fantastical scenes are clearly his version of events, not what is actually happening.

And so the last shot of the movie is not the filmmakers telling us that Riggan Thomson really was Birdman all along, flying away into a happy ending.

Instead, we see what Riggan would have wanted to see: his daughter, finally appreciating the pain her father was in, and taking comfort, joy even, in the fact that he found a way out of it.

And that's the real tragedy.

Asking for help is never easy, and it can be devastating when even the people closest to you don't recognize how much pain you are in. Depression is a serious and complicated issue, and thankfully there are trained professionals who know how to recognize and approach it in ways friends and family just can't be expected to.

There is no shame in being depressed or suicidal.

There is no shame in seeking help.


Thoughts I Had...From Leo On the Set of "The Revenant"

abstew here. We might be in the midst of the current Oscar season, but it's never too early to start thinking year already. Now, I can hear you all saying, "Good god, man! The ceremony is still a month away! Can't we at least hand out the statues for 2014 before thinking of 2015?!" Blame these just released pictures from Entertainment Weekly from the set of current Best Director nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu's next film set to come out on Christmas, The Revenant, because they are already screaming, Oscar! The film is based on the novel by Michael Punke and is a grizzly story of revenge! Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1820s Wild West that is left for dead after a bear attack. He miraculously survives but seeks out vengeance on the men that left him for dead. The film is being shot by Oscar-winning Cinematographer (and current nominee for his work in Birdman) Emmanuel Lubezki, who is trying to shoot it all in natural light. How could we not share our thoughts from these first pics?

  • Bearded Mountain Man Leo! With Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson co-starring as well, I expect a lot more burly, manly beards in the film. It may have to be retitled Beards: The Movie! And people keep saying the beard trend has reached its peak...
  • I hate myself for asking, but is this the film that wins Leo an Oscar? We all know Oscar likes to make men wait, but he turned 40 this past year (that's right, Jack Dawson, is all growed up now) and he's already been nominated 4 times previously in the acting categories. How long will they make him wait? And working with Iñárritu, hot off of Birdman seems promising.
  • That coat and hair look pretty gnarly. I guess he doesn't have time for hot shower in his quest. Maybe he wouldn't be so angry if he had time for a nice relaxing bubble bath?
  • I'm kinda loving the fact that both Leo and Kate have revenge themed films coming out at Oscar time. Kate has the Australian-set, 1950s fashion revenge The Dressmaker coming out in the Fall. I would love to see the two of them reunited at awards shows again. Never let go!
  • So his name is Hugh Glass? Doesn't sound very menacing. I wonder if he's related to George...
  • Are we certain this isn't just a still from Cold Mountain?

  • After Birdman showed that not all his films have to be so heavy, I'm guessing from the film's plot and those ominous grey clouds that Iñárritu is back to bleak.
  • As an actressexual, I have to ask - are there are any women in this at all? Iñárritu has previously directed 4 women to Oscar nominations, hopefully there's a nice female role as well. Like a kindly widow played by Natalie Portman that takes him in and...wait, that's Cold Mountain again.
  • It's nice to see that Leo is allowed to work with directors other than Martin Scorsese occasionally.
  • Who is that mystery man that Leo and Alejandro are looking at? They both look leery of him. Perhaps there's a bear in the distance and they are not in the mood to deal with their own potential revenge-type, bear related escapade. [Exit, pursued by a bear]
  • If anything, those trees are giving me a good feeling that Lubezki is gonna have some gorgeous nature shots in this. He's worked with Terrence Malick many times before, so the man definitely knows his way around a dreamy landscape.

Your turn: what do you think of Leo's rugged new look? Is this a 2015 Oscar contender or do you want to seek revenge against me for even asking?


Best (Male) Directors - The Chart!

I wish I had time to sketch Wes Anderson riding to the Oscars on a bicycle made of antique tuba parts (thanks Tina & Amy) but alas. It's nomination day. No time for goofing around.

Manly men and the men who love them and direct them and vote for them to win miniature idols of gold men.

The Best Director chart is now up with details on the nominees and gives you the opportunity to vote for your favorite (the poll will be up until two days before the Oscars). If you fuse all the Best Directors together this year into one über Frankenstein director you get a 6 foot tall white brown-haired American man with some Norwegian/Mexican blood in him who's rapidly approaching his half century mark and who has made about 7 movies in his career all told. (There's no way to fuse these five men's temperaments and styles though... despite being very similar in age, height, and Oscar favor they have very different aesthetics and concerns as filmmakers)

On the new Nominated Directors chart, you'll aso learn how each man got his nomination*. Besides having penises that is. That goes without saying in this category so we left their penises off the chart.

• How much did Birdman's showbiz navel-gazing help Inarritu?
• Which was more important for Linklater: conception or execution?
• How crucial was that spring release to Budapest's overall success?
• And did Morten Tyldum benefit from Oscar's World War II fetish?

Find out on the chart! (More charts to follow)

* for entertainment purposes only you understand. We can't know what lurks in the hearts and minds of voters but we love pretending to!


Review: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.


A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing." 
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, after-movie conversation over dinner drinks or online other than conversation that attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether

... which is not unusual in Birdman.

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