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Entries in Directors (142)


Team FYC: Edgar Wright for Best Director

Wright's Feature Filmography: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and The World's EndIn this series Team Experience sounds off (individually) on their favorite fringe awards contenders. Here's Michael Cusumano on Edgar Wright

Four features into his career it is clear that Edgar Wright is building a body of work that will end up ranking with the greats of film comedy. It is time the Academy recognizes this fact (and their aversion to comedy) and honors The World’s End, his best film to date, with a nomination for Best Director. 

Stop and consider everything Wright's latest film accomplishes, all while staying as light and zippy as classic screwball by the likes of Hawks or Sturges. The World’s End is simultaneously a genre spoof, a farce, a biting social satire, a character study, and a moving comedy about middle-aged friendship. And above all else it’s funny. Wright keeps the pace jumping throughout and unlike other directors he never sacrifices the integrity of the material for a gag.

If the fact that Wright deserves it on the merits isn’t enough to sway voters how about nominating him because of the message it sends about the state of comedy in 2013. Look at the top box office comedy hits for the year. It’s an embarrassment. Identity Thief, Hangover, Grown Ups. Even the few bright spots like The Heat or This is the End still exhibit a “Who cares?” attitude about visuals and screenplay structure and are content to lean on the charisma of the stars and coast on the fundamentals. 

Edgar Wright, on the other hand, holds his film to a standard as high as any prestige Oscar bait and he is in control of every element of every frame of this baby. Everyone is rowing in the same direction on The World’s End, from the quicksilver editing to the witty production design to the cast, including stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost whom Wright guides to career-best performances. That is the stuff of which Best Director nominations should be made.

previous fycs



AFI: Colin Farrell, "Harbinger of Hope"

Even if this year's AFI Fest in Los Angeles proves to be entirely frontloaded -- I had such a ball on opening day with the Saving Mr Banks festivities --  the trip will have been worth it. My adventure began with an exclusive pre-screening cocktail party with the Saving Mr Banks team where I met Emma Th-- no, no, she gets her own post... I'm still processing that one! For now two quick tidbits about the men.

The men of SAVING MR BANKS (and Emma Thompson, its star)

Director John Lee Hancock, no longer The Rookie on his fourth picture, was standing tall and proud while we chatted over drinks. I don't mean that metaphorically but literally since he towered over me - so tall! Thoughnot intimidating, I must add, what with his warm smile, and alarmingly good manners. We were interrupted while he was telling a story which is so common at cocktail parties that you think nothing of it as the celebrity is whisked off to meet another well-wisher or member of the press. You certainly never expect to hear the ending of the anecdote but he sought me out later to finish it.

I couldn't resist asking The Blind Side director what he thought of Gravity. "My girl, Sandy!" he blurts out, the grin even grinnier. "I haven't seen it yet!" he adds with a touch of surprise and apology. He'll rectify that as soon as his press schedule for Saving Mr Banks lightens up. Next week, he hopes.

A few minutes later I had a brief chat with Colin Farrell, also in very good spirits but that's probably easy when your movie has Best Picture buzz. He plays the alcoholic father of the author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in flashback, but it's a substantial role since the flashbacks run parallel to the A story of the making of Mary Poppins, a way of illuminating the author's deep personal attachment to her Poppins creations ("they're family") and why she's so hesistant to sell them to Walt Disney. In the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race Farrell is most likely to be overshadowed by Tom Hanks who gets the plum Disney role (or, as Hancock put it an hour later as he introduced his cast at the screening "an icon playing an icon") but I'm personally confident that one day Farrell will get the right role for the Academy to notice his gift (and not just his celebrity). I told him he'd make my list of Hollywood's Most Underappreciated to which he jokingly replied "I'd make my own list of most underappreciated!" 

We ended the conversation reminiscing about his surprise Golden Globe win for In Bruges (2008). I tell him that's one of those rare deserving moments in awards history that pundits and cinephiles like me point too with 'anything is possible!' optimism. "I'M A HARBINGER OF HOPE!" he volleys back.



Updated Oscar Charts - All Categories!

The Oscar Charts are all updated - some new text, ranking shifts, etcetera - so let's discuss!

Who says we have no frontrunner? A million+ articles have clogged the net proclaiming the mysteriousness of this Oscar race but you can tell that something's leading when the knives come out. And the knives do seem to be out for 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's brilliant slavery drama about Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a freeborn black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery where he stayed for a tortuous 12 years. A couple of weeks ago David Poland performed a scathing vivisection of a recent Los Angeles times piece on 12 Years a Slave without anesthesia. The purpose of the article seemed to be taking the film down. Mark Harris recently conveyed some of his problems (respectfully) with the film, but noted that it remains the epicenter of conversation.

Meanwhile over at Gurus of Gold, the period drama maintains a solid though not comfortable lead over Gravity. Merely glancing at the Gurus chart shows how crowded and confusing the Best Picture race is at the moment. There is only true(ish) agreement on five pictures (12 Years, Captain Phillips, Gravity, American Hustle, Saving Mr Banks) so perhaps that would be our nominees under the now departed but long running system which gave us only 5 pictures. But beyond that, the rest of the blissfully expansive field looks fairly evenly matched in a heated race for the other 0-5 possible slots. Curiously I am the ONLY pundit not predicting Inside Llewyn Davis which is somehow in sixth place with the Gurus Either I'm very prescient or... (don't finish that sentence, I'm warning you!)

Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"


One final note on this category, in the latest update I dropped Lee Daniel's The Butler -- at first accidentally when I moved Nebraska up (a film that I think stands out neatly from the pack both in temperament, goal, and actual look) -- but then the difficulty of gauging The Weinstein '13 Model was staring me back in the face. The previous and always formidable Oscar champs know how to play the game and they have four major hopefuls in Fruitvale StationPhilomena, August: Osage County, and Lee Daniels' The Butler. But here's the catch: don't all four seem evenly matched at this point in terms of probability? I keep shuffling them around and every ranking looks right. Which movie are they really going to get behind and which will the precursors rally 'round making that choice easier for them (and Oscar voters)? 

Curiously, however the Oscar Best Picture cards fall I do think that Alfonso Cuarón is going to walk away with the Best Director trophy. It's less rare than it used to be to see a split. The Academy loves to see you sweat and not just in the acting categories. They like the directors who are obviously working with large scale complicated tasks and the 'long-time-in-the-making-this-was-so-hard-to-achieve' stories will be crack for some voters. That plus Cuaron is a "warmer" filmmaker than his nearest rival Steve McQueen, who doesn't care if he rocks the boat in conversation. In short, the smart, ballsy, art-world born McQueen is not exactly the shaking hands / kissing babies type. Which is not to say that he's not friendly (he is) but still...

I seem to be one of the only pundits who is bullish about J.C. Chandor getting 1/2 the credit for All is Lost's success . I'll admit it's a risky call that might not pay off at all since that movie appears to be "All Redford! All The Time!" and as such it's helping...

"Bob" Redford become the frontrunner for this statue, albeit not an unbeatable one. It's simplistic to suggest that 'Career Honors' votes will be split with Bruce Dern, dooming them both, because that implies that they're fighting for the same votes and honestly, why would they be? The films... and the stars... are very different creatures with probably very different fanbases.  

On a potentially more divisive note, I'm starting to worry for Chiwetel Ejiofor. That might sound crazy, since he stars in the frontrunning film, but hear me out: Best Actor is very full with big stars / storied actors (McConaughey, Redford, Hanks, Dern) doing what many are calling career best work, while three big stars remain outside that presumptive lineup ready to shake things up if enough people love the films (Bale, DiCaprio, Phoenix) and one former winner could surprise if the film is more popular than we're thinking (Whitaker) which leaves two men only as "newbies" to the competition: Chiwetel and Michael B Jordan the latter of whom clearly has one particular advantage in that "breakthrough" style awards will keep him in the conversation for the whole season, even if that coveted shortlist spot might still be out of reach. This is all a long way of saying that the race is way too crowded (the year's most competitive field, I'd wager) to "lock" anyone up. And what's more this is hardly the first Steve McQueen movie with an Oscar worthy leading man (that'd be all of them, all being Fassbender x 2) but in the end his movies are always viewed as auteur pieces first and foremost. What's more, Oscar's acting branch doesn't have a great history of understanding the special skills of actors who can turn themselves into a vessel for a film's thematic concerns. Ejiofor's role is meaty, sure, but it's also kind of purposefully emptied out -- for much of the film he's silent about himself for survival -- and Oscar likes detailed intricacies of character in their leading actors and actresses. They like a particular kind of achievement and this is another kind. I'm probably worrying for nothing but 12 Years a Slave, however great it is, seems like the kind of masterpiece that could spark weird continued weird backlashes and tiny pockets of "no thank you"s which could cost it key nominations here and there despite how accomplished it is across the board. 

... these categories! I think they're still wildly up in the air and pundits are only in semi-agreement because there are so many ways it could go. I hope the awards strategists and publicists behind really great stuff are noticing the window of opportunity (SHORT) here before things start locking up and they might in notoriously lazy unsatisfying ways. My supporting actor list is still making me nervous. For as much as Brühl won great reviews and is a lead masquerading as supporting (which often helps for non-huge stars) is anyone talking about the film? And as much as Leto won great reviews and has a really showy part, will he appeal to the AMPAS acting branch since he's such a "part timer" as actors go... and too familiar for "DISCOVERY!" excitement? With the ladies I'm testing out what it looks like to predict Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave) and June Squibb (Nebraska) -- mostly because I could see either happening. What'cha think? 



Other Charts... Updated But We'll Dive In Further Soon


Podcast: Blue is the Color Before Midnight

Blue is the Warmest Color, the erotic French drama, has moviegoers and film bloggers talking. Hear what Katey, Joe, Nick and Nathaniel have to say about it in the new podcast (we held the conversation for a week to give more of you a chance to see it). We also revisit the trilogy capping Before Midnight starring screenwriter/actors Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke.

This week's podcast also features affectionate (?) sidebar shoutouts to acclaimed documentary Call Me Kuchu, cranky moviegoers and ushers, Disney's Frozen, John Cassavettes Faces, the Israeli drama Late Marriage, the Ridley Scott classic Thelma & Louise, Sarah Paulson & Queen Latifah, and movie characters we'd like to drop back in on. 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Join in the conversation in the comments.

Supplemental Reading / Listening:
Blue Is...-Nathaniel's review
These Sapphic Superstar tweets ... referenced in the podcast
Operation Kino - Nathaniel guest stars on Katey & Mister Patches's podcast. We're talking Dallas Buyers Club 


Blue is the Podcast's Color


Two (Links) of Every Kind

Empire Darren Aronofsky's Noah is having post-production / test screening trouble. Duh! Like evangelicals would love Black Swan or Requiem or or or 
Huffington Post has a candid interview with Alan Taylor the director of Thor: The Dark World. Apparently there's a shit ton of exposition in the movie. I wish it wasn't locked yet because cut cut cut  

Vulture I would have done so much better on this Brad Pitt Hair Quiz (I scored 11/15) if it was about which girlfriend he was imitating with which red carpet look
EW I was thinking Emile Hirsch was getting a little pudgy recently... now he's putting it to (potentially) good use: he's signed to star in a John Belushi biopic. Guess he'd like to get a little closer to Oscar than he got with Into the Wild

Backstage remembers Penélope Cruz's brilliant career makeover in Volver  
Cinema Blend Noomi Rapace taking on seven roles in sci fi flick What Ever Happened to Monday? This is totally messing with my plans to continue being uninterested in her.

Bests & Worsts
IndieWire stands up for 10 actresses that are running in longshot position for year-end honors
Salon calls The Counselor "The Worst Movie Ever Made"  

Guardian marketing gay films for straight people
Queerty has a two parter on the most realistic gay sex scenes on film

Nicks Flick Picks does his usual "anticipation" post set to diva beats. These are always amazing to return to for updates
My New Plaid Pants wraps up his amazing "13 Snakes of Halloween series. You need to watch them slithe

Today's Visuals
Anne Elizabeth Moore and Gabrielle Gambo investigate dozens of horror movies and discover disturbing gender/racial politics (in comic book form)

Click the photo for "The Truly Scary Politics of Horror Movies"

and Todrick Hall has fun with Disney Villianesses in this Chicago spoof "Spell Block Tango" 


Podcast: Cheetah Tattoos & Broken Sailboats

Nathaniel, Nick and Joe welcome back Katey, who's been in London gazing into Chris Hemsworth's eyes at the Thor junket. We gathered to discuss J.C. Chandor's All is Lost but as per usual, the conversation turned.

Topics include but are not limited to...

  • Gotham Nominations: Blue Caprice & Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Awards Futures for The Butler & Frances Ha
  • The Counselor & Cameron Diaz
  • Actor Retirements from Goldie Hawn to Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Wolf of Wall Street & Release Date Swappage

... and a few leftover feelings from 2012 from Bad Teacher to Django Unchained turn up, too! You can listen at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Join in the conversation in the comments.


supplemental reading: this tweet, this post


All is Lost for the Counselor in Gotham