Oscar History

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Entries in David Cronenberg (30)


Best Shot: Dead Ringers, Conjoined in Shadow

Hit Me With Your Best Shot happens each Wednesday night and usually spills on over into Thursday morning. Next week (July 17th) we're all looking at the practically perfect "Mary Poppins." This week: David Cronenberg's masterpiece...

Dead Ringers (1988)

For the uninitiated Dead Ringers (1988) is the 'Saga' of 'The Fabulous Mantle Brothers,' twin gynecologists Beverly (Jeremy Irons) and Elliott (Jeremy Irons again) and the 'destructive force' Claire (Genevieve Bujold) that separates them. I've put the air quotes in the synopsis since that's how Elliott, the more theatrical and dominant twin, and the elder by a few minutes, describes the movies from its insides. I don't want to spoil the movie if you haven't yet seen it but if you haven't (*cough* 25 years later) get on that! If you ask me Jeremy Irons deserved the Oscar he wasn't nominated for for this career topping performance(s). 

My earliest favorite movie was The Parent Trap (1961) which I watched on television countless times as a child. Though I realize it's hardly a unique fascination, twins have always done it for me. There's so much to explore and even more to never understand about the possible psychologies of two distinct people who are, genetically, the same person. Though I've seen David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers about four times now I confess that I usually have trouble differentiating Beverly and Elliott. But not this time. Visually, the clarity of their separateness, even though they're loathe to experience it as such, was riveting. Even the old trick of dividing the same actor on two sides of a clearly divided frame doesn't even feel like a sad necessity but the point.

Cronenberg's direction is so assured that you can pick a corker of a shot in virtually every scene as the Best Shot participants have done. Any number of shots will reveal top notch production design (also robbed of Oscar attention) by turning half the spaces into something out of a medical illustration, with intricate lines, weirdly sterile immobility and sleek curves and flat color. But this time through the shot that resonated most was simpler. And I don't even feel like it's cheating that I've chosen twin shots, one of Elliott and one of Beverly, which I've displayed in reverse chronological order. 

These shots are close in proximity in the narrative and each features one of the Mantle Twins reacting to Claire talking to him about the other Mantle Twin. Elliott (up top) is angry that Claire has entered the picture and attempts to intimidate her and seduce her but she won't be cowed. Nevertheless he's too cool and too controlled to lose his composure. The shadow only augments his sinister handsomeness, like a flattering accomplice in seduction and plotting. But Beverly, more emotional and more fluid, who so yearns for separation that he hides Elliot from Claire until this very scene, is also terrified by it. In this simple but brilliant shot he has been found out. Claire has uttered Elliott's name. This shadow neither conceals nor flatters; it merely wipes out his identity. Who is he without Elliott anyway?

For 12 other takes on this movie, please check out the rich array of articles provided by this week's Best Shot club in the visual index


An interview with Nick Davis, on "The Desiring-Image"

Tim here. Just in time for Gay Pride Month, sometime Film Experience contributor and generally terrific film writer Nick Davis had his very first book published, The Desiring-Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema. After having torn through my copy a little bit faster than the densely academic arguments necessarily deserved, I sat down with Nick to chat about some aspects of the book.

(Disclosure: not only are Nick and I friends, I make an appearance in the acknowledgements, as does Nathaniel, our host. But that’s why this isn’t a “review”)

Tim Brayton: Just to clarify: for you and for the book, “queer theory” and “queer cinema” is complementary to, but not necessarily the same as, gay and lesbian cinema.

Nick Davis: Yes. “Queer” both as a scholarly term, and a term that filmmakers are using for their work, is sort of bringing a more political edge to gay or lesbian or bisexual storylines, and doing so in such a way that it’s hard to talk about sexuality without also talking about other forces and other aspects of your social situation that impact who you relate to, how, what you know about yourself, whether you think you have a sexuality, or whether it’s something that changes or goes by another name.

TB: The book is an investigation into queer theory and the writing of Gilles Deleuze, using them to comment on each other. I gather that Deleuze is not somebody who crops up often in queer discussion very much, so what started you on this line of thought?

ND: Probably two moments...

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Moore Maps The Stars For Cronenberg

JA from MNPP here, checking in with some movie news while Nathaniel heads off to fair Nashville - have you been following the progress of David Cronenberg's next film, the one called Map to the Stars? He's been speaking of making this movie, apparently a Hollywood satire of some sort, since way back in 2006. His then-muse Viggo Mortensen was going to star; as time passed it looked like it would be Viggo alongside Cronenberg's now-muse Robert Pattinson, with Rachel Weisz as the female lead. About a month ago Weisz dropped out and we were worried that the movie might not be happening (especially since Cronenberg's trying acting again in Luca Guadagnino's next flick)...

... but fear no more! Deadline's got word that the goddess Julianne Moore and the, uh, not-goddess John Cusack have now joined the film, and that it will be filming in July (in Toronto, of course). Julianne Moore in a David Cronenberg movie just about makes me wanna click my heels together and perform a dance routine down the street, and is plenty to overcome my, uh, apathy, regarding Cusack. And yes, it does seem that Cusack is replacing Viggo in the picture, so it will be Robert Pattinson and John Cusack as the male leads. I'm sure some of you will not take kindly to that; I personally thought Pattinson was fantastic in Cosmopolis, though.

Also on board is Sarah Gadon - if you've seen anything made with the name "Cronenberg" on it in the past three years, you have seen her. She played Michael Fassbender's wife in A Dangerous Method, and Robert Pattinson's wife in Cosmopolis, and she was the virus-stricken celebrity at the center of David's son Brandon Cronenberg's body-horror piece Antiviral (which I just reviewed the other day). These fellas sure do love them some Sarah Gadon, it seems.


Reader Spotlight: Ferdi

This is Ferdi!

Editors' Note: It's Reader Appreciation Month -- which we'll extend into April since I've been slow to get going. We haven't interviewed readers in two years but here were the previously awesome boys and girls  (I shouldn't say "previously"... I'm sure they're all still awesome. Reading TFE makes you a smarter, funnier, hotter person - Scientific Fact!). New Reader Spotlights coming at you daily for two weeks before the series goes weekly! Hope you enjoy - Nathaniel 

Hi, Ferdi! what's your first movie memory?

FERDI: My first movie memory is in the very early 80's, a re-edition of 101 Dalmatians during the Easter Holidays. I went to the theatre with my parents. I don't think I understood very much of the plot, I was three or four, but I was absolutely thrilled and blown away by Cruella De Vil.

Who chould have known that was the beginning of my fascination with villains, dark ladies, stardom and powerful female characters?

When did you start reading The Film Experience?

FERDI: Back in 2002, I was eager to find everything I could on the web about Far From Heaven, The Hours and my increasing obsession with Julianne Moore and unending love for La Pfeiffer. And I found the best place where I could feed them, I suppose. I just stopped and said: "Oh my God, there's someone else on earth who loves them as much as (or even more than) me!". I'm a faithful reader since then.

Three Favorite Directors? Go!

FERDI: Very tough question. Ask me tomorrow and I will give you different names. But for now I must say: Jane Campion, for her unique feminine eye, the psychological depth of her characters and the mastery in combining form and content like only the greatest director can do; David Cronenberg for his poetics about bodily mutations and his spellbinding variations on horror and melodrama; And Stephen Frears, as my guilty pleasure. I just LOVE how he manages to bring out of his actresses their absolute best -- Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons and Anjelica Huston in The Grifters are two of my personal heroines.

Campion, Cronenberg, and Frears

(Ok you just ask me three names, but if they were five I would have added Martin Scorsese and Todd Haynes.)

I love those answers but since you're Italian, aren't you obligated to say Federico Fellini?

FERDI: Of course I love the classics of Fellini and most of all Visconti, but I didn't grow up watching their movies. When I was a child I used to watch Alfred Hitchcock movies with my father. Then I began to go back to Italian cinema at University but even there I preferred to study Orson Welles and Billy Wilder more than De Sica or Antonioni. I don't think it's a kind of refusal of my inner roots... It's all about personal taste and building cultural references and dreaming and finding your own way to escape. And I found it in the American cinema.

Speaking of Hollywood then, final question. Take one Oscar away from someone, give it to someone else.

FERDI: I know I will sound unoriginal but it's the Halle Berry win for Monster's Ball. That year I would give it to Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge so that Julianne Moore can win the following year.

Previous Readers...



Luca's Body

JA from MNPP here. You know it's an excellent bit of movie news when you can fill in the BLANK in the sentence "I'd been desperately waiting to hear what BLANK was going to do next" with at least five different names involved in said bit of movie news. So... this is an excellent piece of movie news. Variety is reporting that the director of the Tilda-fetish-object I Am Love Luca Guadagnino (first name) is turning Don Delillo's book (second name) The Body Artist into a movie that will star Isabelle Huppert (third name), Denis Lavant (fourth name) and... David Cronenberg (numero cinco). The book was adapted by Guadagnino, and the movie will be called Body Art.

A couple of weird cinephile overlaps to appreciate here - Cronenberg just adapted a Delillo book (and quite well if you ask me) last year with Cosmopolis, which was about a man riding around in a white limosuine and encountering lots of people over the course of a single day, which was also the plot of Holy Motors (though to much different effect), which of course starred... Denis Lavant. And Isabelle Huppert... is Isabelle Huppert. Nuff said. If this will top my favorite David Cronenberg performance (that would be as the doctor who gets impaled upon a giant steel rod in Jason X) we'll have to wait and see.


LFF: A Conversation on "Antiviral" and Cronenberg Jr.

Craig here with another LFF report. David & I have a chat about Brandon Cronenberg's striking debut feature Antiviral, showing today at the festival.

Craig: It’s all about celebrity skin in Antiviral as characters indulge in, ahem, the pleasures of the flesh in one form or another. This being the first feature from David Cronenberg’s son Brandon, I perhaps expected a plentiful supply of gratuitous bodily harm. Having no idea prior to seeing the film just what it was about –  all I knew was that it was partially set in a mysterious clinic for the stars – the film came as a minor revelation: not only because, for a debut feature, the filmmaking was of an uncommonly high calibre, but also because the most interesting Cronenberg film this year wasn’t brought to us by the oldest member of the Cronenberg clan. 

David: I always seem to begin these conversations with a caveat: this time, it's that I missed Cosmopolis, though the wild variety of reactions has me eager to get my teeth into it. But in a general sense, I agree on your point: Antiviral certainly has echoes of the David Cronenberg of the 1980s, mixing an obsession with the body and its orifices – even if many of these are false ones created with a needle – with a cool depiction of technology's terrifying possibilities.

Craig: Yes, even if he doesn’t entirely map out his own territory, Cronenberg Jr asserts himself as a director of impeccable style. On the one hand, David’s influence is certainly pronounced, as well it might be, but on the other hand, dare I say it (and I hate to say it), Brandon has made the kind of film I was hoping for from Cronenberg Sr. senior this year.

David: This might just be me and my limited experience of Cronenberg Sr., but Antiviral seems quite crisp and clinical where I recall his father's films as visually darker and emotionally grubbier. Brandon's use of space, particularly, reminded me less of his father's filmography and more of Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty and Todd Haynes' Safe [continue...]

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"Silver Linings" Wins TIFF. Here's What It Means Statistically For Oscar.

The Toronto International Film Festival wraps up today (movies are still being projected, though, even as I type) and the awards are out. Silver Linings Playbook took the Audience Prize, which is usually a good sign for Oscar. 10 of the 34 past winners have gone on to Best Picture nominations with 4 eventually winning the top prize (The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty and Chariots of Fire). That group of 34 films also includes 1 Best Documentary Oscar winner and 9 Best Foreign Language Film nominees (5 of them eventual winners.)  It's not fail safe of course. Last year's winner Where Do We Go Now? looked strong for Oscar foreign play but wasn't nominated and the previous winner's list includes various sixth-slotters like Amélie and Hotel Rwanda which didn't quite make their respective Best Picture lineups. But to make this long story much shorter this is the silver lining for Silver Linings come December; expect big golden things.

Other Winners...

Canadian Feature: Xavier Dolan's transsexual drama Laurence Anyways starring Melvil Poupad.
Canadian Directorial Debut: [TIE] Brandon Cronenberg's (Son Of David!) body horror drama Antiviral and Jason Buxton's teen violence drama Blackbird two chillers from up north.
Canadian Short: Keep a Modest Head by Deco Dawson

Brandon Cronenberg's debut features Sarah Gadon, his dad's current muse (A Dangerous Method / Cosmopolis).

FIPRESCI Prize Special Presentation: François Ozon's In the House which stars Kristin Scott Thomas as the wife of a French teacher (Fabrice Luchini) whose gifted teenage student is writing too intimately about the people in his life.
FIPRESCI Prize Discovery: Mikael Marsiman's Call Girl is based on the true story of a 1970s prostitution ring in Sweden.
Audience Award Documentary: Artifact finds Jared Leto's band "30 Seconds To Mars" battling their record label. More on this one soon.
Audience Award Midnight Madness: Seven Psychopaths from the singular comic talent Martin McDonagh
Asian Film: Sion Sono's Japanese tsunami survival drama The Land of Hope 

THE LAND OF HOPE (The Impossible isn't the only tsunami drama out there)

TIFF hits that lost out included Sarah Polley's reportedly bewitching Stories We Tell and the two runners up to the big People's Choice prize: Ben Affleck's Argo (of which you're already as familiar as you can be without seeing the damn thing) and Eran Riklis' Zaytoun which is a war drama about an Israel fighter pilot (Stephen Dorff) shot down over Lebanon.

TIFF devotee we appreciate most: Amir. 

TIFF virgin we're crazy jealous of: Nick

TIFF fringe dweller who never even made it to Canada: Nathaniel... [sniffle]

For what it's worth expect much more festival coverage for NYFF (coming very soon). Michael Cusumano and I will both hit the fest and share our reactions right here.


Cosmopolis, or: The Absence of Feeling

Hello Readers!

Beau here, detailing my experiences with David Cronenberg's polarizing new feature, Cosmopolis. 

Let's jump right in.

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