..she'd walk down the street naked."
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..she'd walk down the street naked."
We're still five months and a few days away from Oscar night so is it possible that things are starting to lock up? Ehhhh yes but mostly no. Every year all over the web casual movie fans and awards nuts like to start shouting LOCK as early as May for various things (usually centered around something becoming a massive hit or winning something at Cannes). But that's not really how it works. So here we are in September. A lot can happen in the last three and a half months of the calendar year leading up to the nominations. We've still got a long way to go and, conceivably, brilliant or lazy campaigns and smart or clumsy moves and release date shifts can still change everything... even if things are looking terribly good or just dismal for whomever or whatever. While I don't technically like to call anything or anyone a lock before it's actually opened (and thus eligible) the closest thing we have within the four acting categories are two, both in lead races: Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). They have all the ingredients you could want in a lead push -- the right release dates, the right kinds of roles with the right kinds of hooks, the right level of quality in the actual acting, the right early critical response, the right time in their careers, and a release strategy already carefully mapped out by the right studio.
There are other "likely!" contenders at the moment of course (Still Julianne, holla / Imitation of Benedict: The People's Choice) but I'd argue that Reese & Eddie are the closest to securing nominations.
And I'd argue that the Supporting Actress category is the most volatile where no one is particularly close It's easy to imagine my current predicted lineup being exactly right but it's almost as easy to imagine not one of the five of them making it if the films that still haven't screened or those that could yet gather more power or lose it, happen to shake up this category. Nobody is remotely safe yet. People like to claim that Patricia Arquette is a done deal for Boyhood and though I hope so I don't think so. We're still four months from nominations and pictures praised for being directorial visions are often where you end up with weird blindspots when it comes to the acting branch.
MAJOR UPDATES, MOVEMENT, NEW PLAYERS ON ALL FOUR ACTING CHARTS
Who or what do you think locks up next?
The final TIFF feature review. Whew, 25 films screened and written up. And all by closing night! Please give me a round of applause in the comments. I've never been this successful at managing a festival and comments are the only way I know you're appreciating it.
When we first meet Dr Alice Howland in this fine film adapated from the bestseller by Lisa Genova, she is celebrating her 50th birthday. She's happily married to Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) with three grown children whom she adores though she isn't exactly a perfect mother or wife, at least as defined by your typical movie woman, in which case she'd be inordinately obsessed with her husband and children's particulars. In fact, she almost entirely defines herself by her own career and skills (imagine that!) as a respected linguistics professor. She values articulate communication and higher education and maybe she isn't super imaginative about other forms of expression. In fact, she's downright dismissive about her youngest daughter Lydia's (Kristen Stewart) interest in acting. She gives her a continual hard time about her education and career and is frustratingly absent from all of Lydia's minor triumphs.
Nathaniel's adventures in Toronto. Running on fumes...
Color me surprised that my favorite among the consensus Best Picture hopeful Oscar launches from festival season (the others being Foxcatcher, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything... though I have yet to see Birdman which didn't play here) is Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild, an adaptation of the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. How could a months long solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail be so cinematic? The answer is in its smart mosaic, visual and aural, as Reese hikes through expansive physical and intimate mental terrain. The present and the past converse and overlap consistently in the sound design like fragments of song sung, hummed or played as if remembered - who is singing? and snippets of dialogue the same evocative way.
There's not much to say about the plot, the film's most recent kin being Into the Wild though Wild is the stronger film. Reese Witherspoon reminds us why we were all so excited about her in the first place with effortless star magnetism. She doesn't turn on any megawatt charm or do anything strenuous at all with it other than trust that innate cinematic charisma to walk with her on the trail as film-elevating protective gear. That's gear Cheryl needs because those boots aren't made for walking and good god she's got a lot of baggage, both literal (her comically large backpack) and metaphoric, having let herself completely spiral towards a personal abyss with the death of her mother.
Nathaniel's adventure in Toronto. Days 4 & 5
Two bonafide contenders for the Best Actor Oscar screened on two consecutive days so I can't help but pair them here for you. We'll surely say more about these movies when they open, because they're both looking like awards heavyweights. But, for now, reviews and some Oscar betting.
In the opening voiceover, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) admonishes someone (us?) to "pay attention. I won't repeat myself" but the story is exciting enough that you're sure to pay attention without the lecture. I mean, it's not every day you get to see a movie about a closeted homosexual genius mathematician secret war hero. Imitation Game has three acts but they play concurrently so we're weaving through Alan's adolescence in boarding school, Alan's top-secret war assignment, and Alan in the 1950s under police investigation. Naturally these three acts are related, not just by having the same protagonist, but by the theme of secrecy. How it informs, shapes, and obscures or destroys the things that matter like character, consequence, and emotional health.
The middle story is the most thrilling as Alan races against the clock to break the Enigma Code during WW II. I think the charge from this section of the film comes from the editing, directing, and its beautifully judged ensemble performance. Turing's obsessive intellectual personality is thrown into vivid relief but also sours when its forced into interaction with others, sliding towards closed off, curt and superior. And Benedict maps all this out with great delicacy...
Though the internet seems to increasingly denigrate the importance of punctuation, once upon a time it was vital to our sense of understanding language. Would I Want To Live! have any of the same feverish impact without that exclamation mark at the end of its title? Perhaps. But it signifies the bold stance of this cry for social justice in a millisecond. I mean, just look at this poster! Only Britain's notorious newspaper The Daily Mail has taglines that long these days.
That boldness is a quality more of the film's frenzied marketing than of the film itself; director Robert Wise, whose centennial we're marking this week, excised the closing rhetoric that producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz was insisting upon, sure that if an audience wasn't convinced of the film's social statement by then, a few platitudes wouldn't make a difference. As our series of pieces has and will demonstrate, Wise was an extremely adaptable filmmaker who transcended genre, but he often pursued work that aligned with his anti-establishment politics.
Never more so than here [More...]