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The Turning Point (1977)

"This film is like Beaches long lost relative." -Mark

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, this film's 2 Best Actress nods should've gone to 3 Women" - Yavor

"I really loved Tom Skerritt in this. I think he deserved a nomination for Supporting Actor." -Tyler

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Entries in biopics (149)

Friday
Dec112015

Women's Pictures - Dee Rees's Bessie

Considering how often Pariah is called "a critical darling," it's disappointingly shocking that it took another 4 years for Dee Rees's next movie. Bessie is an HBO biopic of singer Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, who rose to prominence in the 1920s and died in a car accident in the mid-1930s. When the movie premiered earlier this year, Angelica Jade Bastién wrote a fabulous personal review of it which I highly suggest you read. As Angelica points out, Rees's sophomore effort is a well-directed film that gets a lot right, even though it falls into a lot of the typical biopic pitfalls.

While the plotline of Bessie's meteoric rise, humbling fall, and return to semi-greatness followed a predictable biopic path, what really struck me about this collaboration between Dee Rees and Queen Latifah was how unapologetically individual it was. Unfortunately, fact-based films about black characters, if they are expected to attract a wider (whiter) audience, incorporate white characters to a large degree. Selma and 12 Years A Slave both have white antagonists who gain a lot of screentime - in the case of 12 Years A Slave, it was enough screentime to net Michael Fassbender an Academy Award Nominations.

In Bessie, blackness and queerness dominate...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov282015

What a Link. What a Lovely Link

BFI Check out the Sight & Sound poll for 2015. Not pleased that The Assassin topped the immeasurably finer twofer of Carol & Mad Max Fury Road but it is what it is. Perennial critical darling peculiarities abound like Blackhat placing about Ex Machina. Oh please. I didn't hate the former like some but one must assume that's solely on Michael Mann's reputation, the way some filmmakers get a competition spot at Cannes simply because they directed something.
HuffPo Reid Ewing from Modern Family talks about body dysmorphia and getting frequent plastic surgery
The Guardian on a Carol gift-wrapping promotion - it breaks my heart that people keep thinking this is a watch it on DVD film. It's SO breathtakingly cinematic. GO TO THE THEATER.
/Film Gremlins may take a page from Jurassic World/Creed and continue the story decades later

 

Coming Soon latest Star Wars The Force Awakens news & rumors if you're into that sort of thing. We made a very conscious choice not to watch anything beyond the teaser or to cover it until ti opens. We want to preserve the mystery and thus the possible joy.
Antagony & Ecstasy reviews the original Star Wars trilogy
MNPP Matt Bomer may play The Last Tycoon for Amazon
Vanity Fair Ryan Gosling may play Neil Armstrong for Damien Chazelle
In Contention how the critic awards can boost players in the Oscar race
/Film there are competing Evel Knievel movies on the way one from (possibly Martin Scorsese) and one from Channing Tatum. Do kids today know who Knievel is?
AV Club Michael B Jordan is up for another Creed movie. The movie is set to make back its budget this Thanksgiving weekend
Serving Cinema in defense of Angelina Jolie's By the Sea
Lip Sync Battle Anthony Mackie "2 Legit 2 Quit" versus Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Rhythm Nation"
New York Times ABC actually cancelled a show! But this is a rare with TV's new ratings math
Towleroad two Brazilian actors share a kiss on live tv to combat homophobia. Our Brazilian readers should tell us if these two are as famous as this article implies.
The Hollywood Reporter has an articles about LGBT cinema losing its edge. That's a topic that can be argued about certainly but Carol is an absolutely terrible example since Todd Haynes hasn't lost one iota of his power or daring and the "frostiness" that people complain about with that movie is hardly pandering, you know.
Kevin O'Keefe skewers the article with one well placed barb.

 

 

"Category Fraud" Has Gone Mainstream
I can't remember if I coined the term -- let's just say I did -- but I've been preaching against its evil like an obnoxiously pious mad prophet the entire time I've been Oscar blogging... which is quite a long time now. I've been seeing articles about it everywhere this year including this new one from The Hollywood Reporter. You know how when you love an obscure band and then everyone "discovers" them after the fact and you feel kind of betrayed? That. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad people are paying attention now -- perhaps we reached some sort of peak fraudulence where it became impossible to deny the problem anymore? But I also do not like that articles about this never address the media's own hand in creating this monster. (For this next sentence you'll remember that Nathaniel is playing the role of a mad pious prophet in this story and forgive his superiority complex). Other than The Film Experience practically every awards pundit /  site has actively encouraged this 'all fraud all the time / end justifies the means world we're living in by regularly rationalizing leading roles as supporting in articles and actively encouraging studios and publicists to pursue fraudulent campaigns for "better Oscar chances"

Weekend Watch
Jake Gyllenhaal discussses his progressive upbringing and Brokeback Mountain. I love this. Yes, we'll be celebrating the movie soon for its 10th anniversary in December.

Sir Ian McKellen talks Dame Maggie Smith and Oscar good luck charms from his stage show in Los Angeles last weekend "Women I've Filmed With"

 

Monday
Nov232015

Remember Jesse L Martin's "I'll Cover You"

Ten years ago today the quickly forgotten film version of Rent (2005) premiered in movie theaters. At the time Rent had been a visceral sensation on stage for nearly a decade and was just a few years short of closing its nearly $300 million grossing Broadway run. Let's just say the movie didn't have a prayer of measuring up, even financially, grossing only $31 million worldwide in theaters. Rent (the movie!) was a dubiously near-perfect example of all the things that can go wrong with movie musicals and despite many other films teaching Hollywood the same exact not-all-that-complicated lessons, Hollywood is still having trouble learning.

You nearly always need these three things: visually stylish directors who also understand storytelling within the musical idiom (it's not an easy thing to move from the abstract friendly medium of the stage to the usually literal medium of the cinema); sly confident casting and gifted performers (transferring entire Broadway casts absolutely won't do. And neither will its opposite, replacing them all with "names" whether or not they can sing and dance. Why? Both strategies just reek of insecurity); and, finally, the right blend of zealous passion and merciless intelligence from the filmmaker since musicals are complicated and needy and fragile and they tend to come with a tricky but essential mix of artifice and sincerity. 

Of course Rent had it's own problems apart from failing to meet those three essentials. It is also a story wherein New York City is as much a leading character as Roger, Mark or Mimi. In the abstract friendly environments of the theater, a simple flourish like a fire escape can represent and entire teeming city with millions of stories in it with ease. If you try to fake New York City in the movies without a stylized visual approach, it just going to look cheap and weak.

But for all of its problems Rent (2005) did give us Jesse L Martin singing onscreen and for that we'll always be grateful. I mean, just listen to his superbly emotive instrument.

A couple of years ago Martin was supposed to headline a biopic about Marvin Gaye and though his casting was inspired financing fell through somewhere along the production phase so the movie seems like one of those phantom features now, caught somewhere between development hell and actual existence. Other roles for Martin just haven't satisfied his musical fans. The much missed Smash (RIP) did a lot of things wrong in its two seasons as a network musical but one of its true unforgiveable sins was actually giving Jesse L Martin a job IN A MUSICAL and then denying the audience that voice. (We keep waiting for The Flash to have a meta-human musical episode since a hefty percentage of its principle cast comes with gorgeous pipes and real musical theater cred.)

Did you ever see Rent on stage? If not do you have any strong memories of the movie?

Monday
Nov162015

After Room Comes The Ring

Jason from MNPP here with a bit of exciting news today - Lenny Abrahamson, the director of this year's Oscar hopeful Room, is lining up his next project and it sounds fascinating. Based on the non-fiction book A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith, which was just published this past September (anybody read it?), it'll tell the story of the titular boxer, described by all with words like "gentle" & "innocent," who nonetheless beat his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret into a coma (and death 10 days later) in a televised match after Paret called him "maricón" (Spanish for approximately "faggot") during a live weigh-in.

Thing is Griffith was in fact bisexual, and Abrahamson says that "he never seemed conflicted about his sexuality; indeed he found joy in it." Until he was called out in public, apparently. (Then again, it being 1962 when all this went down I suppose he had his some good reasons for his hesitation.) Anyway this sounds like a top-notch leading role for an actor of color, as well as a stellar entryway into discussions of race and sexuality and masculinity, all mixed up, that don't usually get foregrounded like this. This quote's choice:

"You look at how closely his two worlds intersected,” Abrahamson said. “Just how different are they, when the sport is such a celebration of the male body and the beauty of its athleticism. Go one step further, and inject the tiniest sense of sexuality, and people are up in arms. Griffith himself once said a quote that just floored me. ‘They forgave me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.’ That to me was so powerful and such a crazy contradiction. And it is still relevant today."

Sounds to me like Abrahamson already has a pretty strong grasp on the material; let's all cross our fingers that he can use his current heat to get the film together properly. Who would you cast in the lead? Any suggestions?

Friday
Nov132015

Here Comes A Tennessee Williams Biopic

Recent indie upstart Broad Green has announced they are developing John Lahr's biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh for a biopic on the titular playwright. No talent is attached yet, but the potential is enticing.

Williams, legendary for work such as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, has a life ready for any number of interpretations. Struggling with mental illness at an early age and battling rampant addiction, attracting and creating stars with consistently controversial and revolutionary writing, not to mention temptestous family and love lives - if nothing else, we have a catnip coctail for any actor who could fit the bill.

Could this be heading toward a fluffy, star-filled treatment a la Hitchcock or something more character-focused like Capote? Lahr's book, a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, dives deeply into all aspects of Williams's life, so the adaptation could as easily become a "greatest hits" biopic as is it could focus intensely on a specific aspect of his career.

We rarely get to see the stories of our gay icons and early pioneers told on the big screen. The opportunity is especially exciting here considering how his sexuality impacted his work and pushed the boundaries about what could be talked about on stage and screen. Hopefully true to Williams' place in history, this will be an intriguing one to watch as it develops.

Tennessee Williams and his "Stanley Kowalski" Brando

Related: Much more on Tennessee Williams here

Wednesday
Nov112015

AFI: Will Smith & Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Concussion"

There was a weird and wonderful symmetry last night watching Will Smith talk about his starring role as Dr Bennet Omalu in Concussion in front of the real man and thinking of the character we'd just seen onscreen. It was not the easy symmetry of mimicry, but of spirit. Both men are legends of their respective fields, if you will, and that's the last time we'll compare forensic pathology and movie stardom! More curiously neither man seemed willing to admit that the night's festivities were about him. Will Smith was especially humble about his performance and starstruck by the real man, admitting after Dr Omalu burst out laughing during the Q&A that followed the premiere, that he loved that laugh but couldn't manage to perfect it for the movie. Dr Omalu, in the movie and on stage kept saying that the story wasn't about him but about the science. The writer/director Peter Landisman called the movie version of Omalu a "triangulation" of the two men which is the best description possible of what we were watching on stage, the movie still fresh in the mind.

Concussion centers on Omalu's discovery of CTE, a brain disease brought on by repeated concussive head trauma, and the attempts of the NFL to cover up the physical damage on their players. A string of high profile suicides finally broke down the NFL's attempts at denial and debunking of Omalu's claims. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct132015

8 Best Things About "Steve Jobs" (First Impressions)

True confession: When I read Jason's breathless rave for Steve Jobs from my sick bed last week I was like "calm down, man,  it can't be that good" Cut to one week later me sitting in the theater, as the end credits rolled: "I gotta read that rave again and nod my head vigorously this time!" While I suspect I don't love it quite as much as Jason, it is inarguably one of 2015's must-see picture and we shan't be annoyed at all when it racks up Oscar nominations in January.

The film goes wide on Friday and trust that you'll want to be there. Here are my 8 favorite things about it at first glance... 

Click to read more ...

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