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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd


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Adapting "Guardians" -a screenwriting interview

I especially like that part about how boundaries can be a good thing. Knowing where the plot points have to hit always stops me from wandering aimlessly in my writing. Some may see those thing as cookie cutter but I've always found them inspiring.❞ -Daniel


Beauty vs. Beast

Turner & Hooch - 25th anniversary!


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Entries in Asian cinema (57)


Podcast: Charming Musicians, Frosty Survivors, Talking Apes

It's one-on-one podcast time this week. Nathaniel and Nick discuss two movies they're sympatico on (Begin Again and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and one which halfway divides them (Snowpiercer). 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

00:01 Intro & Scene Stealing
01:30 Begin Again: rough starts, Mark Ruffalo's abrasiveness, Keira Knightley overall excellence, how it compares to Once.
14:00 Why we're not talking Boyhood. Plus the difficulty of grading ambitious movies.
20:00 Snowpiercer: allegory, structure, and the fight over the final cut, Tilda Swinton of course. Plus Bong Joon-ho and Korean cinema.
35:00 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: highlight scenes, amazing imagery, franchise politics, Jason Clarke, and Caesar vs. Koba.
45:00 "Lost Stars" 

What is this picture doing here?
You'll have to listen to find out.


Begin Again Snowpiercer Dawn of...


Cannes Tidbits: Deals, Toons, and Oscar Futures

I haven't organized my thoughts. I'm warning you up front. I am just collecting them like dead leaves and throwing them at you in chunks with links to related articles. I'm doing my meager part to engage with Cannes from my Harlem apartment across the ocean...

After that much maligned Monaco kick-off, not uncommon with festival openers, Cannes competition films have been collecting more fans. Well, not Atom Egoyan's Captive (which was booed) but the others. And frankly no film festival ever wins consensus "that was awesome" reviews anyway. It's part of the ritual this 'it's a terrible year for the fest!' hand-wringing.

Diana chimed in earlier today on the African film Timbuktu and Mike Leigh's artist biopic Mr. Turner which we can safely suspect will win plentiful Oscar talk. There's a ceiling for Leigh films with Oscar but the Academy adores him nonetheless. Since his mainstream breakthrough Secrets and Lies (5 nominations / 0 wins) all but 2 of his pictures have won at least a screenplay nomination with Topsy Turvy and Vera Drake (period pieces like Mr Turner) proving most popular. To date Topsy Turvy is the only Mike Leigh picture to win any Oscar statues and Mike Leigh himself, though a 7 time nominee, is still Oscar-less. That's probably good news for Mr. Turner on both the 'overdue' front and the 'it takes a period piece and a genre they love' (in this case the biopic) truth about awards bodies. If you're interested in Mike Leigh's process (and many are since it's so unusual) there's an article in the LA Times where he explains why they still do the same character creation groundwork for months before shooting even though the actors are playing real people rather than fictional ones. I think Mr Turner is also inspiring some interesting reviews (including this one from David Poland who compares it to the Grand Budapest Hotel of all things) 

More Oscar hopefuls, deals, and animated buzz after the jump...

Click to read more ...


50th anniversary: Mothra vs. Godzilla

Tim here. As the Film Experience’s resident giddy Godzilla fanboy, I’m as excited as anybody else for the increasingly buzzy new movie starring the world’s most famous giant lizard opening in just two weeks. But with 60 years of history, there’s more Godzilla to love than just one more CGI-driven popcorn epic in a sea of them.

I bring this up because on top of all the other Godzilla-related anniversary antics going on right now (including, in several cities, revivals of the series-starting1954 film in its original Japanese version), this week marks the 50th anniversary of what many of us consider to be the best of all the Godzilla sequels: Mothra vs. Godzilla, also known in English as Godzilla vs. the Thing and Godzilla vs. Mothra, because nothing can ever be easy, least of all fantasy movies about people in rubber suits. It was the last film in the series until the 1980s that presented Godzilla as a real, significant threat, and not a lovable anti-hero or out-and-out protagonist; it was also the first movie whose American cut was largely identical to the one seen in Japan. Though it’s still worth watching it in Japanese, and getting the weird mental disconnect between watching a subtitled movie (which typically reads as “classy”) and watching a movie about giant monsters (which… doesn’t).

Tiny women, giant moths, and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Tribeca: Golden Bear, Black Coal, Thin Ice, Great Movie

The Chinese industrial revolution has been very good for a lot of people. It just so happens that many of them are not the laborers and villagers that personified the nation of one billion people for centuries. It’s perhaps ironic that this capitalist boom has been so good for the nation’s filmmakers – political upheaval being a common factor in many a nation’s cinematic resurgence – and the dichotomy between rich and poor has allowed filmmakers like Black Coal, Thin Ice’s Diao Yi’nan to prosper and foster global recognition. It’s this same reason than Jia Zhangke has risen to the stature that he has, frequently hailed as China’s greatest filmmaker, or certainly on his way to being so, after little more than a decade of festival and arthouse prominence.

The works of Jia Zhangke linger over the proceedings of the Berlin Golden Bear winner Black Coal, Thin Ice. That director’s ability to wrap engaging stories of human loneliness, loss and heartbreak in evocative political contexts and the themes of his home country is what has made him a mainstay on the festival circuit. When reviewing Jia’s last film, the exceptional A Touch of Sin, from the New York Film Festival I called him the “pre-eminent cinematic purveyor of modern day China”, and the noir-inspired anger that permeated that film is there again in Diao Yi’nan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice.

This film, shorter and likely more accessible than Zhangke’s most high profile titles, is imbued with a wicked sense of humor that allows its more dark and gruesome elements to never suffocate the viewer. While the murder investigation that kicks off immediately over the opening credits eventually leads to grotesque discoveries of body parts and personal revelations as well as an act one blood bath shootout in a hair salon, it’s actually much less dour and gruesome as one may expect. That sly humor continues throughout right up to the final sequence, a final sequence that will likely go down as the best film ending of the year with its swirl of fireworks (the film’s original title, Bai ri yan huo, translates as “daylight fireworks”) and comical firemen playing over the climax of a crime story.

The plot of Black Coal, Thin Ice is standard film-noir: there is a body, a boozing detective (Liao Fan), a femme fatale (Gwen Lun-Mei, whose working class looks will temporarily make you forget that in the 1930s she’d be played by someone in the Barbara Stanwyck school of dangerous beauties), a secret, a double-cross, and all sorts of other nastiness. Bathed in gorgeous greys and neon, this is a stunningly attractive movie with several sequences that made my eyes pop in particularly a transition from 1999 to 2004 in an underpass and a snow-covered freeway is novel and beautiful. Cinematographer Dong Jinsong’s work actually reminded me of Bruno Delbonnel’s work on Inside Llewyn Davis and Roger Deakins’ work on Fargo in the way he manipulates the snowy landscapes into a series of dark, yet beautiful tableaus.

Whatever it was that the Chinese censors saw (or, more aptly, didn’t see) in Black Coal, Thin Ice that allowed it the cinema release that Jia Zhangke wasn’t afforded with A Touch of Sin, I’m glad Chinese audiences have been able to watch yet another fine example of their ace film industry. It almost feels like a coup for the Tribeca Film Festival to get the chance to screen Diao’s film so soon after its double win at the Berlinale (it also won Best Actor for Liao) and audiences would be mad to not seek it out. And while you’re at it, make a bleak, but beautiful double feature with A Touch of Sin. They’re two peas in a pod with their mounting tension, impressive use of music and textural imagery to create mood, and refreshingly exciting looks at a modern day China. 


Cannes Watch? The "Return" of Gong Li & Zhang Yimou

Speculating about what might be at Cannes is not something I do so as to prevent the envy but the reunion of director Zhang Yimou with his most beloved muse Gong Li is definitely something to consider. Together they made six international hits, four of them Oscar-nominated (Raise the Red LanternJu DouShanghai Triad, Curse of the Golden Flower), the first two are among the best Chinese films ever made.

Their seventh collaboration just released first stills and a nearly wordless teaser (embedded below).

The film is planning a May premiere at home so Cannes would make sense. The film is based on the novel "The Criminal Lu Yanshi" by Yan Geling about a long term prisoner (Chen Daoming) who, upon release, returns to his wife (Gong Li) who no longer recognizes him. The film also features Miss Chinese Toronto winner (2009) Candy Chang. There's a whole name for young actresses who break through within Zhang Yimou's filmography "Mou girls" (given the global fame of Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi) so she might be one to watch. 

It sounds like the English movie title is yet to be determined, alternately listed as Coming Home, The Homecoming, or Return, depending on where you read about it. Here's the teaser...