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Entries in Directors (149)

Friday
Jul312015

Tim's Toons: Auteurs and animation

Tim here. This week brought us the roll-out of the Venice Film Festival lineup, including one animated film, and it's a biggie. Charlie Kaufman's sophomore directorial work and first project of any kind since 2008, Anomalisa, is also his first foray into animation: it's a stop-motion feature for adults, on the same topics of loneliness and frustration that Kaufman has mined for his whole career. In celebration of the Venice announcement, the studio released the first still image from the movie, from which it is possible to draw no conclusions whatsoever.

Kaufman is the latest in a recent trend of established filmmakers dipping their toes into the world of animation. So in his honor, I'd like to share this capsule history of some of his predecessors, who made the jump into a new medium to see what they could do outside of the confines of live-action.

Richard Linklater: Waking Life (2001) & A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Using a brand new form of computer-aided rotoscoping to paint over videotaped footage with bright, unreal colors and subdued realism alike, Waking Life took Linklater's established gift for capturing moments in the lives of a huge ensemble, and amped it up. Instead of the laid-back Austin of Slacker, the setting here is the human subconscious, where the director's characteristic musings on all the little moments that happen in the gaps between plot are transformed into surreal explosions of psychologically loaded imagery. It's a great marriage of form and content, which is less true of A Scanner Darkly, a Philip K. Dick adaptation that's much more consistent and sober in its style, save for a few reality-bending moments. Still, kudos to Linklater for recognizing that a thin veneer of digitally heightened reality would create a more receptive mood for the story's druggy weirdness.

Robert Zemeckis: The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) & A Christmas Carol (2009)

Now that Zemeckis's dream of a perpetual machine of motion-capture films has fizzled out and died- nope, I still can't bring myself to say anything nice about his trilogy of dead-eyed humanoids pantomiming great works of literature, or paying obeisance to their terrifying zombie Santa-god. But we must concede that the films fall squarely in line with Zemeckis's career-wide interest in using the newest tools available (in addition to mo-cap, The Polar Express was the first film in the present 3D era) to find fresh ways into classical storytelling. That technology wasn't up to his ambitions is lamentable, but we can at least defend the films' rich fantasy design and-

Oh God, no, that's still just completely hideous.

Wes Anderson: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

The clearest precursor to Kaufman's new film, Anderson's translation of his shadow-box aesthetic into shaggy, '70s-style stop motion animation netted him a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination and rejuvenated his career: his subsequent return to live action in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel won him better reviews and box-office than he'd had for years. Still, there's nothing quite like seeing his world-building turned towards literal dioramas in which every square centimeter can be designed precisely to order. It's fussy as it gets, but perfectly matched to the intricacy of the caper narrative, and the arch tone with which Roald Dahl's children's classic is brought to life.

Zack Snyder: The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
Copious, unnecessary slow-motion, a preposterous fetish for military grandeur, overblown and idiotic internal mythology, dialogue that strives for weightiness and lands in shallow pomposity. Look, just because somebody's an auteur, that doesn't mean they have to be good at it. But hey, the owls look nice.

Friday
Jul242015

Early "Revenant" Chatter: Or, how Grantland kickstarted Oscar Season way early

David Upton on an unexpectedly early Oscar campaign kickoff - Editor

It’s only July, but this stuff starts earlier every year: barrels are loaded and sights are set on Oscar season. No one has started earlier than the team behind The Revenant. The recent buzzy Grantland piece on the film harks back to a kind of promotion that is somewhat out-of-fashion: long form, detailed reporting that really digs into what the movie might be. By sheer existence, the piece becomes part of the hype machine, now rolling towards the end of the year when The Revenant sees a release on 25th December.

This is prestige movie promotion at its most precise; why else, you might wonder, would anyone want to see a film that sounds so utterly depressing on Christmas Day

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul172015

Teasing "The Revenant"

I ain't afraid to die anymore. I done it already."

We don't yes no maybe so teasers but if we did this would be a YES with the small NO of "can already tell we won't be able to tell all these bearded sweaty fur clad men apart during action sequences and mayb even some closeups" 

Question 
As our Oscar charts have suggested all year we expect this one to go over well but this very gripping teaser makes you wonder: Could Inarittu win Best Director back-to-back? It has only happened once before and that was 74 years ago (John Ford won for Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley). No one has ever won Best Picture back-to-back... though David O. Selznick would have in 1939 (Gone With the Wind) and 1940 (Rebecca) if they had awarded Best Picture to producers back then as they do now. Four men have won Best Cinematography twice consecutively including Emmanuel Lubezki(Gravity & Birdman) and since he's lensing this one in what looks like continuous shots with only natural light, he could conceivably break the record and be the sole most consecutive Oscar winning DP. 

Sunday
Jul052015

Halfway: Oscar Chart Updates - Picture, Director, Visual, Sound

½way mark - part 5 of ?
All this week we're taking stock of what's happened thus far in the film year but also at what's to come... at least as it involves Oscar Charts. They're updated in every category now (save Foreign Film... for which I now start the hard 70+ country research work on backstage).

Best Picture | Best Director 
In these charts you'll see gains for Inside Out and Youth and Sicario after hot responses in Cannes or in theaters and for Suffragette and Steve Jobs which both arguably aced their trailer game, which helped to build perceptions of "forthcoming jewel - see it!". And though the vast bulk of the contenders in Best Director are still white American men, there is at least one woman (Sarah Gavron's Suffragette) and one African American (Ryan Coogler's Creed) and a few foreigners who you can imagine traction for if their film's explode critically or with the media or at the box office.

I've also added George Miller to the director chart -- I don't really see a precedent for an actual nomination, mind you, but it's fun to imagine the director's branch getting ballsy each year and rallying behind someone whose work really impressed in non-Oscar bait projects. And given that this 70 year old schooled just about any action director whose name isn't James Cameron, there's a lot to be impressed by. It's worth noting that his Oscar record is damn weird. He's been honored in four categories in the past, winning the Animated Feature Oscar (Happy Feet) and receiving one nomination each for Best Picture (Babe), Adapted Screenplay (Babe) and Original Screenplay (Lorenzo's Oil) ...but he's never been nominated for Best Director, and essentially he's a director who dabbles in other things. It's kind of like the hilarious statistic that Lars von Trier is only Oscar nominated as a songwriter. Tee hee. 

Visuals | Sound
Though I lost a little faith in In the Heart of the Sea and Bridge of Spies, with buzz on other films growing and in the case of Spies a middling trailer, I didn't drop them for the tech charts per se. As we know the Academy's visual branches are not as prone to think outside the Best Picture box as they once were which is sad for visual artists working on movies (sometimes the individual parts are much greater than the sums). You'll notice thatMad Max Fury Road was also added to a few charts. Given the hallelujah critical chorus that greeted its arrival and the likelihood that a DVD release and top ten lists could result in a reprise of that very same chorus -- we're pretending (at least for the time being) that Oscar voters might consider it despite it being the fourth film in a franchise that they've had no time for.

Immortan George directing Charlize Furiosa

Previously at the Halfway Mark
pt. 1 Oscar Chart Updates - Acting
pt. 2 10 Best Leading Performances
pt. 3 Best & Worst in Animation 
pt. 4 Most Ubiquitous - Alicia Vikander 

Monday
Jun292015

Breaking News: Almodovar Will Produce Asghar Farhadi's Next Film

Amir here, to share really exciting news involving two of The Film Experience’s favourite auteurs.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's next international project has been announced by an Iranian agency and it will be produced by none other than Pedro Almodovar! The as yet untitled film will start shooting in Spain in October 2016 according to Khabar Online

Farhadi’s script for this France-Spain co-production has already been completed. Alexandre Mallet-Guy of Memento Film (which distributed Farhadi’s previous feature The Past) will co-produce the film along with Almodovar. The screenplay is written in English and Spanish and the cast will be comprised of American and Spanish actors. 

Reports suggest that Farhadi, who rose to international fame with About Elly and the Oscar-winning A Separation, intends to film another one of his finished scripts in Iran before travelling to Spain to commence pre-production. The film will be his second feature filmed outside of Iran, following the success of the Paris-set The Past. Almodovar, meanwhile, has his own film to deal with before moving on to Farhadi’s project. He is currently filming Silencio.

Friday
Jun262015

Welcome to the Academy - The Lucky 322

As is their annual tradition now AMPAS has released the list of the names they've offered memberships too. If you're new to the tradition, you'll note in the following list that most of the time a first nomination will results in an invite (but not always) and that generally a few people who weren't nominated but got a lot of buzz the previous season will be invited (hi, David Oyelowo & Gugu Mbatha Raw). Lately the lists have gotten longer and much more surprising too as the Academy attempts to broaden its demographic after years of being dinged for skewing too  'old white and male'

The complete list of 322 potential inductees is below. There's a welcome to the Academy reception in September for those that accept and then the process starts again. The Academy works on a referral basis of sorts so current members can nominated new prospective members and that process (a longer list of names than this - never publicized that I'm aware of) concludes in March each year. Unless they're all "You can't sit with us!" then they end up on this list which comes out in the summer.

So let's look at who was invited.

Multiple Branches
Damien Chazelle (Writer/Director) Whiplash
Malcolm D. Lee (Writer/Director) The Best Man Holiday
Paweł Pawlikowski (Writer/Director) Ida
Abderrahmane Sissako (Writer/Director) Timbuktu
Damian Szifron (Writer/Director) Wild Tales
Andrey Zvyagintsev (Writer/Director) Leviathan
Mathilde Bonnefoy (Documentary/Editing) Citizen Four

Damian Szifron, WILD TALES writer/director

These eight people must decide which of the two branches that invited them they will join. While members can be on more than one branch -- I imagine Warren Beatty, for example, is on a few since he's been nominated in four different categories -- they can't join two in one year. You'll notice that four of the Foreign Language Film nominees are accounted for though weirdly not the director of the Estonian film Tangerines

Actors and Actresses are in the same branch but I've separated them just for fun as befits the Oscar categories and also to point out that they invited way more men than women, more than twice as many! Hey, I thought they were working on the diversity thing! They also invited both men who got crying closeups at the ceremony earlier this year.

315 more people after the jump...

Click to read more ...