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12 Things we learned from the Oscar noms

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Entries in Ben Foster (15)

Thursday
Jan102019

Interview: Ben Foster on "Leave No Trace" and Acting as Therapy

by Nathaniel R

Ben Foster discussing "Leave No Trace" last summer when it openedWhen I first met Ben Foster he was promoting Rampart (2011), a hard and angry movie about corrupt cops in which the acting was (unsurprisingly) terrific, he would barely speak about himself. Time has mellowed him, or at least made him more lighthearted about his own intensity. He ended our last interview begging for a screen comedy but sadly that project has never materialized. In person he's friendly and thoughtful and funny, never as impenetrable or scary or tragically sad as he has been is in his famous roles. In fact he's a happy new father, having had a daughter with his wife, the actress Laura Prepon, just over a year ago.

We met last month to discuss Debra Granik's award-winning drama Leave No Trace. He plays Will, a former soldier who has shut himself off from society with only his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) for companionship.When Will and Tom are found living in the woods at the beginning of the film, social workers attempt to reintegrate them into society. The daughter immediately adapts but the father is tougher to reach. Leave No Trace is moving and insightful and beautifully acted so that's where we begin as we discuss his career, his early days in acting, and what's next.

Our interview, has been edited for clarity and length...

with Director Debra Granik on set

NATHANIEL: Projects like Leave No Trace live or die based on the chemistry between the leads, so how can you prepare for a two-hander like this. Were you involved in casting? 

BEN FOSTER: I was involved in casting so far as Debra said 'I found someone I really like, and she's in New Zealand, here's the tape'. It was recorded on her phone and I watched like 30 seconds before I was like 'Oh yeah, that's it.'  

Instant approval. That's so cool.

She has a quality --you see it in person and you see it onscreen, she's lit from within. [In awe] She's one of them.

And I assume you trusted Debra a little bit on unknown actors, too, because she's famous for that Jennifer Lawrence discovery...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May012018

YNMS: Leave No Trace

Chris here. Now that the summer movie season has arrived (and earlier than ever) we're on the hunt for counterprogramming wherever we can find it. Enter film festival darling Leave No Trace, a drama about a father and daughter (Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie) struggling to reacclimate to society after living off the grid.

The film is director Debra Granik's narrative follow-up to the Oscar nominated Winter's Bone, which you will recall helped place none other than Jennifer Lawrence on the map. Trace debuted at Sundance and has been hitting regional festivals nonstop ever since, and will get another large platform when it plays Cannes' Directors Fortnight sidebar. That should build a whole bunch of word of mouth before the film arrives on June 29.

From the looks of the trailer, we're promised a film much less grim than how the film comes across on paper. Take a look and we'll break down the Yes No Maybe So...

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Monday
Nov282016

The Furniture: Porches and Nostalgia in Hell or High Water

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Old West has been dead since well before the dawn of cinema, and so the best Westerns are parables of a way of life in decline. Yet despite the history, there are plenty for whom the mythology of the cowboy and the outlaw isn’t extinct. That’s why the Western has lived on, well after the death of even the oldest Americans who could remember those days. It’s also what drives films like Hell or High Water, which use symbols to chronicle the last days of the Old West’s cultural descendants.

It takes place in a nearly empty West Texas, now being picked over by banks. Taylor Sheridan’s script is insistent in its reminders of this context. “No wonder my kids won’t do this shit for a living,” says an anonymous cattle rancher fleeing an encroaching fire. “The days of robbing banks and trying to live to spend the money - long gone,” says an anonymous old man in a burger joint.

This is why the surface tension between the criminal brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) and the aging Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) is a red herring...

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Friday
Nov252016

Acting Chart Updates. Four Questions

Next week everything either begins to change or starts solidifying as the precursors begin. Woohoo, it's awards season! So ALL the Oscar charts were updated this week with the biggest gains this time going to Hell or High Water which wasn't just a momentary pleasure in the summer but a film people are still talking about - witness the Gotham and Spirit acting nods for Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster respectively.

have we been overestimating Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea? If she slips from the shortlist, who rises up?

BEST ACTRESS & BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
These categories are looking the most settled with 5 women in each chugging along smoothly toward the precursor glory. In fact apart from Oscar looking toward its default darlings (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, who both did very fine work this year) it looks like Emma, Annette, Ruth, Isabelle, and Natalie all have reason to be hopeful. The same is true in Supporting Actress where five women (Viola, Naomie, Nicole, Michelle, Greta) have much more heat than others but they'll still have to fend off surging adorables like Molly Shannon in Other People and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures

Q1: If Meryl or Amy place in the leading shortlist, which one of them and who gets the boot?
Q2: If voters promote Viola Davis to lead (where she totally belongs given that Fences is essentially a family/marital drama) who benefits in supporting and who suffers in lead? Imagine the chaos!

How many nods can Hell or High Water manage? We're predicting 5 at the moment.

BEST ACTOR & BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
These two categories are much more volatile because the men haven't generated half as much conversation this year.

Q3: Might we see BOTH Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster in supporting for Hell or High Water since people love that film so much?  A dual nod in Best Supporting Actor hasn't happened since Bugsy in 1991?
Q4: Do you expect something like 2011 when underdogs like Demian Bichir and Gary Oldman rose up to take nominations that people initially assumed would go to Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Fassbender? And if so are Tom Hanks and Ryan Gosling pushed out and for whom?

ALL OSCAR CHARTS ARE UPDATED HERE

Wednesday
Aug242016

Review: Hell or High Water

by Eric Blume

With their new film, director David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Starred Up) and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make one thing abundantly clear: they really, really hate banks.  Hell or High Water is a sort of southwest answer to The Big Short, a tale of rural Texas poor on a Robin Hood mission. 

Sheridan’s script was the winner of the 2012 Black List prize for best unproduced screenplay, a fact which feels surprising during the cliché friendly first half hour.  Brothers Toby and Tanner Howard are characters we’ve seen many times before, with a sibling dynamic that’s not new either.  Tanner (Ben Foster) is the wild bro released from prison, complete with a violent streak and true-blue redneck energy.  Toby (Chris Pine) is the tender brother, a taciturn and emotionally bruised man trying to make things right.  Together, they start robbing small Texas banks to secure money to save the family farm.  As Counterpoint we have two Texas rangers on their case:  Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), for whom this is the last big one before retirement(!), and partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham), the sage Native American sidekick. 

For about the first thirty minutes, you sit in fear that this is all the film will be, a simple chase to the inevitable populated with stock characters. The only hope it has is to somehow deepen.  Fortunately, it does...

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