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Entries in Best Picture (96)

Monday
Oct272014

Interstellar Mania in 3...2...1

If you've been on the internet at all in the last half hour you're likely to have seen a tidal wave of Interstellar reviews. The embargo broke on Christopher Nolan's first feature after his release from Batman prison today at 11 AM. The film makes it debut in theaters on Friday November 7th in a variety of formats but see it in IMAX 70 MM because it is epically large and immersive that way.

If you've been putting up with The Film Experience for any length of time you'll know that yours truly, Nathaniel, is not the speediest critic. My interest in screaming "first" is practically less than nil which can be a disadvantage online but it's not who I am. Never cared about it. Never will. Time is a flat circle, yadda yadda yadda. My review is forthcoming at some point. It was meant to go up today but I caught a cold so I may surround myself with screenings and kleenex rather than writing. To Be Determined.

Let if suffice to say for the moment that I liked it and it might well be my favorite Nolan since The Prestige (2006) though it should be noted again that I am not at all indicative of public reaction when it comes to the Internet's Chosen One to whom I am relatively cool. I'm still parsing my thoughts on it but I found it endearing in some of the exact same ways that I normally find his films offputting. Go figure and we'll get to that later. The Oscar Prediction charts are fully updated in all categories.

P.S. It seems people are freaking out about the non-spectacular early RT score already. T'was ever thus with Nolan films

Sunday
Oct192014

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.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct072014

138 days til Oscar: That's your Best Picture length!

138 is a magic number. It's the average length, in minutes, of a Best Picture winner. Here are the running times of all winnners from longest to shortest. You'll see that the majority of winners are over 2 hours long which has caused no end of padding in "serious" movies but alas, not enough padding for tender buttocks watching the interminable movies. 

Here are your Best Picture winners from longest film to the shortest.

  1. Gone With the Wind (1939) 238 minutes
    Just two minutes shy of four hours, but worth every second. Lots of Gone With the Wind discussion here. Did you see its recent two day theatrical screening?
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 216 minutes
  3. Ben-Hur (1959) 212 minutes
    Currently in the process of being remade because that's how Hollywood do. Although this film was itself a remake so... we'll let it pass. Still there is no way its signature scene, the chariot race, will be as thrilling with CGI.
    ˆˆˆ over 3½ hours ˆˆˆ
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 201 minutes
  5. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) 200 minutes
  6. Schindler's List (1993) 195 minutes
  7. Titanic (1997) 194 minutes
  8. Gandhi (1982) 191 minutes
  9. The Deer Hunter (1979) 182 minutes
  10. Dances With Wolves (1990) 181 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 3 hours ˆˆˆ

    other long ass movies and how it relates to this year after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF Awards Brunch, Or 'But I Saw So Many Movies!'

Little known factoid: I actually don't like hearing about festival awards IF I attended said festival. Unless I'm on a jury of course. Invariably it makes you feel like a lightweight no matter how many movies you sat through because it's impossible to have seen everything when 100s of films are on offer. I saw 25 films over 8 days of screening or basically 3 a day (since I had to make time for writing / parties / eating / sleeping) and it looks like I saw only one of the films that won a prize at TIFF.

Here are the awards...

the pray-cry mittens come out again! "I would like to thank the Academy for --er, I mean the people of Toronto!"

PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD  -This is the biggie and the only one that people use as any kind of Oscar barometer. It went to the Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game. That's the only award winner that I saw and I liked it, particularly the WW II story at the center. I didn't see it at a public screening though so I couldn't gauge the reaction. Of the public screenings I attended its chief Oscar rival at the fest The Theory of Everything definitely had the biggest freak-out reaction from the crowd. Learning to Drive (with Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley) and St. Vincent (with Bill Murray) were the runners up for this most coveted prize.

TRIVIA MADNESS: The previous 36 winners of this prize have gone on to a collective 122 Oscar nominations and 47 wins... so if The Imitation Game is an average English language performer as far as the winners go it can expect a handful of Oscar nominations.  Of those 36 previous winners, 11 went on to Best Picture nominations with 5 of them winning. 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug272014

Linkman & Emmywoman

First Things First: at Movie City News the "Gurus of Gold" have begun (yes, I'm a part of it again) and as David Poland points out there are seven films that made almost every list: Birdman, Gone Girl, Boyhood, and Unbroken tied at 1st place with Foxcatcher, Selma, and Interstellar just behind themMost pundits are feeling these as Best Picture threats. Look at the whole chart though to see how everything fared. The highest ranking films that were not on my list (we were asked to submit 15 films) are Wild and Inherent Vice

Birdman Flies
Early rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival from The TelegraphVariety and THR and a couple positive but not ecstatic reviews from The Guardian and The Film Stage are up and surely bode well for the film.  I'm holding off on reading them as I want the movie fresh when I see it. But others may want to dive right in.

Anger Making
Yahoo talks to Tyler Perry. The Madea franchise star/director claims he didn't know who David Fincher was when he signed on to Gone Girl and he wouldn't have done it if he knew how "mainstream" he was. What the F'in hell? Yes, Tyler Perry a bastion of "edgy" cinema. He's also been a voting member of the Director's branch of the Academy since 2009 which means he's been asked to judge and vote on Fincher's work twice. Way to be a conscientous voter!

Other Linkage
The Playlist 10 overlooked greats from the 1970s. I gladly support the inclusion of Girlfriends (1978) but I haven't seen the others
HitFix Deborah Ann Woll talks about moving on to Daredevil and the difficulty of leaving True Blood's Jessica behind
Pajiba Ridley Scott is 76 years-old but his plate is super full. How many more films is he planning to make exactly? 
Cinematically Insane will layoffs and monetization at Turner Broadcasting affect TCM? 
My New Plaid Pants Superman takes the ice bucket challenge 
The Dissolve Mike D'Angelo looks back at "Best Actress" of 1989 -- we all know that shoulda been Michelle Pfeiffer but others are discussed, too. 
VF Neil Marshall (The Descent) wants to direct a Black Widow movie. Also talks Game of Thrones

Emmy Hangover
The Nib Liza Donnelly's caricatures from the evening 
Pajiba's liveblog with Courtney Enlow icymi
We Recycle Movie's "lateblog" with Anne Marie and Margaret 
Towleroad icymi it on Emmy night, Billy on the Street's Emmy dash was the most hilarious of few hilarious things that night 
Showtracker wonders if Game of Thrones can rise in Emmy estimation with Breaking Bad moving out of the way 
Salon what the Emmys revealed about the broadcast vs cable war on television 

ICYMI
Vulture Mark Harris has a long read on "The Making of Foxcatcher" - so much Mark Harris to read. (I'm reading "Five Came Back" very slowly because I am learning so much about late 30s/early 40s Hollywood on every page.)
Funny Or Die Mark Duplass and Ted Danson go to couples therapy over Prince's Purple Rain suit

Fun Interview
Assignment X talks to one of our favorite British thespians, Olivia Williams about her new series, films (very briefly), makes fun of her own accent work and this, my favorite part, on her stellar role in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse:

Joss legendarily starts to adapt your character as the series goes on to how you really are, and I started off as sort of a calculating bitch and ended up being rather motherly and a bit of an alcoholic, and I can’t think where he got that from.

Ha!

 

Thursday
Aug212014

Best Shot Collection: Gone With the Wind (Pt. 1)

Seventy-five years ago this December (yes, we'll celebrate again...albeit in a different way) Gone With the Wind premiered. No, that isn't quite right. This epic about a selfish Southern Belle surviving the Civil War and beyond ARRIVED IN STYLE with a three day celebration in Atlanta which reportedly drew one million visitors -- how'd they fit them all into the theater? (Hee). 1939's Best Picture winner arrived with roughly a bajillion times the anticipation that today's blockbusters get because pop culture was far less fragmented back then and everyone was obsessed with it. It would stay in theaters for literally years (the first couple of them at twice the normal ticket price) and become the biggest cinematic smash the world would ever see. To put it into perspective only Star Wars ever came close with The Sound of Music, E.T. and Titanic fighting for a distant third.

To look at something this large for a single defining image is an impossible task (or two images rather since we've split it in half). My favorite recurring visual motif of the film, Scarlett moving against the current of the crowd as befitting her singular tetchy anti-heroine nature and her duties as protagonist just doesn't look magnificent in freeze frames, but my favorite instances are two: First, when war has been declared and she walks up the stairs calmly through a sea of pastel dresses running down them (bless the film's first fired director George Cukor - that's obviously his work!), and second, her selfish exit from the scene of an amputation when she moves from the sweaty interior nightmare of a hospital to the shock of an exterior nightmare of chaos outside in the streets. Other favorite images were too small or atypical. For instance, there's this calming exquisitely lit shot of Mr and Mrs Ashley Wilkes. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug072014

199 Days 'til Oscar...

Not that I'm counting. I don't have one of those alternating colored construction paper link chains on my wall that I rip off every day or anything like I did when I was five while waiting for Santa. No siree. Do not have one of those. But if I did the colors would be gold leaf and red carpet. 

Mmmmm, where were we since we last spoke?

Release Date Shuffle
No press release or dropped hint or trailer dates should ever be taken at face value when it comes to release dates. These things change back and forth all the time but, at least for the moment, things are murky on a ton of titles and many of them are actressy: CarolFar From the Madding Crowd, MacBethThe Suffragette and more. And some pictures that were clearly designated as 2015 are obviously finished like Ron Howard's Heart of the Sea starring Chris Hemsworth all slimmed down so who knows what might transpire if a specific studio sees an opening. So let's talk about the stuff that's out already...

The Tiny Idiosyncratic Indies vs.  Large Mainstream Blockbusters
This summer I think you could safely argue that the big winners at the arthouse were the Polish film Ida which grossed more than last year's high profile foreign Oscar winner and Richard Linklater's critically adored 12 years in the making Boyhood. Music Box Films and IFC Films, which released the films, don't have high profile histories at pushing for Oscar nominations the way  Sony Pictures Classics and The Weinstein Co do but they should probably spend the money. If either maneuvers correctly, there will be at least one or two high profile nominations in store. This is why I wonder why more small films with Oscar potential don't try summer releases. If you have the goods and you're "small" it's better to be safely esconced at the top of the mountain when the "big" mainstream prestige films aren't even around and then defend your turf in the fall/winter rather than trying to climb up that insane awards mountain when all the 800 lb gorillas are also scaling it; more often than not they'll knock you right off by simply crushing your chances of enough media coverage for starters.

Whether or not Ida's box office bonanza results in Oscar traction I hope it keeps the lights on at Music Box offices for a long time. To understand just how huge the film has been for them some context: Ida is now second only to the French thriller Tell No One as their top grosser that doesn't star Noomi Rapace and start with the words "The Girl..." Further context: in terms of their recent memory hits Ida has now surpassed the combined grosses of the all star French comedy Potiche and the Rachel Weisz period drama The Deep Blue Sea (which got a little bit of awards traction).

Visual Effects is already a bloody battle. Can Guardians of the Galaxy win the nomination?

Response to this year's blockbusters is a bit harder to read at this early juncture since a) there are so many of them that have been solid doubles or triples but not home runs and b) mainstream blockbusters often need home runs to have voters thinking of them on par with the "serious" pictures. I can't say, for example, that Maleficent (big hit but not entirely respected) or Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy (big hits but Oscar doesn't take superheroes seriously outside of that orphaned billionaire in the batsuit) or Godzilla (divisive hit from ancient B movie franchise) are necessarily going to land tech nods but they'll probably try. The exception to all this 'solid player but not much more' business is surely Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which opened to much coin and such feverish raves you'd think it was a Martin Scorsese picture with Leonardo DiCaprio in an ape mask. But even that one is the 8th film in a 46 year old franchise that has only ever won 3 competitive Oscar nominations and one special Oscar... and 75% of those were from the 1968 original!

That's just one of the man reasons I think it's crazy that people are hoping for an Andy Serkis nomination though I'd be down for him to win a non-competitive special Oscar for pioneering a new subdivision of acting. If you missed the recent Podcast on 1973 the discussion of Linda Blair's performance led to the very relevant 2014 topic on how to judge "collaborative" work. 

I know, I know. You're all like... stop talking. Get to the updated Oscar charts. They're ALL updated, look at me finally updating!

PICTUREDIRECTOR & SCREENPLAYS
VISUAL & SOUND 
ACTRESS & ACTOR
SUPPORTING ACTRESS & SUPPORTING ACTOR
ANIMATED and FOREIGN 

Thoughts? Of course all this will be moot soon when the festivals shake things up with actual buzz rather than hype and some films without release dates securing distribution. We'll start on the foreign submission charts in the next couple of days since Hungary is the first to announce with the Cannes sensation "WHITE GOD" about those rampaging wild dogs.