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Entries in Concussion (4)

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 ...

Sunday
Oct252015

AFI Fest 2015: Predicting this year's 'American Sniper'

Margaret here. The full 2015 AFI Fest lineup has been announced and it's full of must-sees, from Oscar-campaign heavyweights and indie up-and-comers alike.

Many of the season's most buzzy films have already made a splash at Cannes, TIFF and NYFF, and a few of those will be screening here, but AFI Fest will also as in years past be holding world premieres for a few late-breaking contenders. With the first end-of-the-film-year nominations out (Gotham Awards, always early but never predictable) many pundits would have you believe the shortlists are already set, but there may yet be a few wild cards in the mix.

Last year AFI Fest gave us the world-premieres of two eventual Best Picture nominees (Selma and American Sniper), a critical darling that nonetheless escaped Oscar's notice (A Most Violent Year), and an all-around non-starter (The Gambler). This year the festival will premiere By the SeaThe Big Short, and Concussion, as well as The 33 (already released in Latin America but not yet widely screened in English-language markets). Naturally we're very curious to see which of these, if any, will make the kind of impression it will take to break into the conversation and stay there.

The Big Short: a (comedic?) drama about the bursting of the housing credit bubble in the 2000s. Directed by Adam McKay; starring Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Oscar loves when comedic actors get serious. Might similar goodwill extend to a director like Adam McKay, who is most famous for his many absurdist collaborations with Will Ferrell? You'll note that the ensemble cast is chock-full of Oscar nominees with atrocious hairdos-- reminds one of nothing so much as American Hustle, which made a killing on nomination morning 2013.  

By the Sea: a marital drama set at the 1970s French seaside. Written and directed by Angelina Jolie, who is also starring with Brad Pitt. As buzzy as it gets: the world's most famous celebrity couple, acting together for the first time in ten years. Jolie's last directorial effort debuted to very healthy box office and decent reviews-- unspectacular, but more than enough to sustain curiousity for her third film. People seem to really want it to be good, and the below the line team (including The White Ribbon DP Christian Berger and The English Patient composer Gabriel Yared) bring a formidable arsenal of talent to the table. But will a romantic drama that's not also a biopic be able to gain traction with Oscar? 

Concussion: a dramatic thriller about the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu's research on serious brain damage in professional football players and the NFL's efforts to keep him quiet. Written and directed by Peter Landesman, starring Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks. Primed to be a dramatic comeback for Smith, who used to cross back and forth between blockbusters and prestige films much more often. The true story aspect is often irresistable to awards bodies, and it seems that recent-history stories about the investigation of shady dealings by powerful people is a popular theme among this year's Oscar hopefuls (see also TruthSpotlightThe Big Short). But since the trailer dropped, Smith's accent has been the object of many a snide comment-- will we be able to take him and the movie seriously? There are also rumors that pressure from the NFL shaped some of the storytelling, which if true could impact the movie's bite and credibility.

The 33: a true-life drama based on the 2010 Chilean mining catastrophe that trapped 33 miners underground for over two months. Directed by Patricia Riggen, starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips. Not only does it have the true-story advantage, but the subject is an objectively impressive and cinematic human achievement. Binoche and Banderas also both have decades of critical goodwill. The response from critics in Latin America (where it has already opened) suggests that it's something of a broad melodrama, which might not win it die-hard fans among cinephiles but certainly puts it in good company with many Best Picture nominees in years past.

Which of these has the potential to go full American Sniper and sneak into 5-7 nominations? Which do you predict will go the way of The Gambler? And perhaps most importantly: which movies on the AFI Fest slate are you dying to hear more about? Nathaniel, Anne Marie, Kieran and myself will be attending and sharing our thoughts.

Monday
Aug312015

Yes No Maybe So: Concussion

Manuel here to talk about Will Smith's newest film, Concussion, which released its first trailer. The film follows Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith) who discovered CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in two football players who later committed suicides. Based on the GQ article "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas, the film is about Dr. Omalu's attempts at getting the NFL to take his findings seriously; that is, that the concussions suffered by football players may lead to chronic degenerative brain diseases.

You can imagine how that went in real life and how that'll play out in the film itself. The film was written and directed by Peter Landesman (who wrote and directed Parkland). Following our patented trailer evaluation system, let's take a look at Concussion:

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr062015

April Foolish Oscar Predix - Supporting Actors

As is the case every year the supporting categories are incredibly foggy early on. One rarely knows which supporting players have big roles (unless they're co-leads campaigning fraudulently which we should always expect). And then there's the matter of who will steal scenes and who will be reduced to glorified cameos even if their roles sound good on paper.

Will Poulter and Tom Hardy heading to shoot scenes for The Revenant

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this Foolish early punditry: Supporting players, unlike leads, almost never win traction unless their film is also well liked. That adds yet another layer of clouds blocking future vision.

All of which makes April Foolish supporting pictures an exercize in fantasy. But it's fun! The chart is now up for  Best Supporting Actor and to start things off I'm predicting an all newbie lineup. But looking over the general foggy field one could have genuine with high hopes for a couple of respected actors who've never had a real Oscar shot like Tom Hardy and Kyle Chandler, actors who have been mistreated by Oscar like Ralph Fiennes (future cinephiles will be driven mad puzzling how he missed for Grand Budapest Hotel) and Kurt Russell (tell me again how he missed for Silkwood?) and actors who fit right into Things Oscar Does like Seth Rogen (comic gone serious), Bradley Cooper (you like me you really like me) and so on. The chart is big and extensive because it's silly to rule anyone out before most films have begun screening.

Among films with large casts that we suspect are teeming with possibly eventful supporting players but who can really say are Warren Beatty's Untitled Howard Hughes Project, Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight, and the press expose of the Catholic Church scandal drama known as Spotlight

Some of "Spotlight"s key cast members: Keaton, Schreiber, Ruffalo, McAdams, Slattery, James

And that's not all. There's also the head-injury medical sports drama Concussion led by Will Smith, an FBI drama led by Emily Blunt called Sicario, and the all star period literary drama Genius which features Jude Law, Guy Pearce, Dominic West, and others as famous authors. There's also the Hollywood Blacklist drama Trumbo which is headlined by Bryan Cranston but features a lot of other actors as famous showbiz figures

Do you have any suspicions about this field or any wild card predictions?