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DAY FOR NIGHT -another great movie about movies

I'm not sure if I like it more than 8 1/2 or Singing in the Rain, but when the majestic trumpet music plays, it reminds me of why I love cinema in the first place. The actors are terrific in this film as well. However, nothing will top Topsy-Turvy for me about the mystery,repetition, and heartbreak of the artistic process.❞ -Lars

 

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Entries in Directors (106)

Sunday
Apr202014

Easter Podcast: Noah, Under the Skin, Budapest Hotel

SEASON PREMIERE
Ready for another year of the podcast? The gang is back: Nathaniel R, (The Film Experience), Joe Reid (The Wire), Katey Rich (Vanity Fair) and Nick Davis (Nick's Flick Picks) reunite to discuss this unusually robust auteur spring at the movies. 

This week's topics: Darren Aronofsky's peculiar muddy vision for Noah starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly & Emma Watson; Jonathan Glazer (Birth) and Scarlett Johansson's Under the Skin; and Wes Anderson's biggest hit The Grand Budapest Hotel. Did we want to check in and stay?

Under Noah's Skin at the Budapest Hotel
00:00 Noah (story diversion, auteur vision, character work)
18:45 Under the Skin (visual storytelling, interpretation, Scarlett)
29:00 Noah and Under the Skin (in communication)
36:30 The Grand Budapest Hotel (inside & outside friction, accepting Wes, art direction)
44:30 Ralph Fiennes and the movies Oscar buzz
49:00 Other movie recommendations: Le Week-end and Blue Ruin.

You can listen to the podcast at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.me, I Heart Huckabees, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambíen, 

Under Noah's Skin at the Budapest Hotel

Friday
Apr182014

Yes No Maybe So: "Jersey Boys"

From Tommy Lee Jones directing himself and The Swank we turn to another far more accomplished actor-turned-director. Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars in his career from two films (Unforgiven & Million Dollar Baby) but the 83 year old director has had a bit of a rougher run than usual in recent years, critically speaking. He's back with Jersey Boys based on the Broadway jukebox hit about the Four Seasons.

Let's divvy up our reactions to the trailer.

YES
• There will be a lot of music 
• Counterprogramming in the blockbuster realm of summer movies could help with critical reception so that's a smart move.
• Newish handsome actors in plum star-making position (if the movie is good and they ace it)
• Clint went from two-a-year to radio silence for two years. Maybe the time off did him good? This is, the longest break he's ever taking from directing since between The Gauntlet (1977) and Bronco Billy (1980). Maybe the time off will rejuvenate him...

NO

•... because Changeling/Gran Torino (2008), Invictus (2009)  Hereafter (2010) and J. Edgar (2011) were a dire quintet with hard-to-miss quality drops-off between each.
• The moment when Clint Eastwood's name comes up and it's paired with a suddenly plaintiff piano note is almost self-parodic considering his somber repertoire and his unfortunate desire to score all of his own movies. Something must have drawn him to this topic but have he and his chief accomplice (other than himself) Tom Stern smothered the joy from the Four Seasons music?
• People narrating directly to camera like they're still on the stage. Pass me the advil. Or revolver. Insufferable 
• Do we need more film celebrations of goodfellas bro-centric style Jersey? 
• If this is a hit, maybe Clint Eastwood will feel emboldened to remake A Star is Born with Beyoncé as he'd originally hoped. And nobody needs that remade. Again. (Three times would have to be enough right?)

MAYBE SO
•  Jersey Boys is a traditional biography (with a ♪ beat) and Clint is Clint so traditional forms ever so slightly tweaked (Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby) are exactly what produces his best work.
• There doesn't look to be as much color and joy as one would expect from a pop culture musical but it doesn't look as inky, heavy and self-serious as recent Eastwood flicks and that has to be considered a smart change of pace at this juncture.
• Doesn't look like an Oscar play (not that that couldn't happen) which is something of a surprise.
• It's kind of a relief not to see famous miscast faces or at least it's a treat to get new faces, since the musical is about new stars. John Lloyd Young, playing Frankie Valli, won the Tony on stage. It's been a long time since a Tony winner was afforded the opportunity to transfer with their star-making vehicle. Not that you can't biff it if you stick with the original cast (see: Rent for a "why not to do that") but it doesn't happen enough not to celebrate it when it does. One can only assume that Meryl Streep turned down the role of Frankie Valli.

 

Thursday
Apr172014

Cannes '14 line-up announced

Tim here. It's Christmas morning, everybody: the Cannes Film Festival announced its line-up today for this year's edition, running from May 14-25.

Opening Night
Grace of Monaco (dir. Olivier Dahan; starring Nicole Kidman)

Official Selection
Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)
Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonelo)
Winter's Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg) Yes No Maybe So
Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
The Captive (Atom Egoyan)
Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
The Search (Michel Hazanavicius)
The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones) Yes No Maybe So
Still the Water (Naomi Kawase)
Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
Jimmy's Hall (Ken Loach)
Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller) We Can't Wait
Le Meraviglie (Alice Rohrwacher)
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)
Wild Tales (Damian Szifron)
Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Channing Tatum & Mark Ruffalo as brothers in "Foxcatcher"

Un Certain Regard
Opener - Party Girl (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis)
Jauja (Lisando Alonso)
The Blue Room (Mathieu Amalric)
Misunderstood (Asia Argento)
Titli (Kanu Behl)
Eleanor Rigby (Ned Benson)
Bird People (Pascale Ferran)
Lost River (Ryan Gosling, directorial debut) formerly How to Catch a Monster, We Can't Wait
Amour fou (Jessica Hausner)
Charlies Country (Rolf de Heer)
Snow in Paradise (Andrew Hulme)
A Girl at My Door (July Jung)
Xenia (Panos Koutras)
Run (Philppe Lacôte)
Turist (Ruben Östlund)
Beautiful Youth (Jaime Rosales)
Fantasia (Wang Chao)
The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado)
Away from His Absence (Keren Yedaya)

Above: the first still from Ryan Gosling's LOST RIVER

All told, a nice mix of established auteurs, up-and-comers, and just enough new names that the Festival can't be accused of too much imagination (though the representation of women directors is still pretty grim). For myself, Winter's Sleep (over three hours long!), Leviathan, and Timbuktu leap out as being the films I'm most interested, by directors whose careers I'm excited to keep following; but what films are you all most excited to see?

Wednesday
Apr162014

DiCaprio + Iñárritu = ???

I am not, in any way according to the Internet, a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Never mind that I saw him first and was proselytizing about his gift for at least ten years after seeing the double whammy of This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. Alas, I have no proof of this fact as I was not writing for the internet at the time. But, it is true that I began to sour on him starting with Gangs of New York (2002) the first obvious sign that he was quite fallible indeed and that maybe he needed to be, you know, directed, rather than coddled by the auteurs he blesses with his unusually foolproof bankability. I may be the only person alive who thinks his relationship with Martin Scorsese, The Departed aside, has not been good for developing his once prodigious talent. But at the risk of angering his devout legion again, I feel confident in proposing that he is now in the exact place that his Titanic partner Kate Winslet was in the mid to late Aughts wherein she simply refused to do anything other than try to win statues; prestige piece after prestige piece after prestige piece. Movie stars need more variety than that in their filmography to stay sharp, if you ask me. She won, as many stars of her magnitude did, and so will Leo. And yet, as surely as Kate's fanbase turned on her for "wanting it too badly" and winning for a "lesser" performance, so will they turn on Leo whenever he wins which will undoubtedly be for a lesser performance because that's how 'overdue' Oscars work.

In the meantime he'll just keep trying to win one.

I've been saying for a long time that a light and breezy comedy (something like Catch Me If You Can) would go a long way towards relaxing him on the screen again and revitalizing his heavy and repetitive acting. And maybe it's churlish of me to assume that The Wolf of Wall Street which wasn't quite his best but was certainly his loosest performance since Catch Me... won't be the trigger for the same kind of rejuvenation. But a newly announced project is killing the dream that it might.

Honest question that isn't meant as snark: Is there any director currently working with a heavier hand than Alejandro González Iñárritu? His best film is Powder Keg (2001) and that's precisely because it's so freaking short at 8 minutes that it only has enough time to be sobering and impressive and exciting without overstaying its welcome and smothering the viewer dead in misery as Amores Perros, Babel, Biutiful and 21 Grams did. Otherwise his films are the epitome of the kind of portentously thematic "prestige" mediocrities that are jerry-rigged to be wildly overpraised by virtue of their importance. His next film, which Leo will lead, is The Revenant and it'sbased on Michael Punke's "The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge" which is about a fur-trapping frontiersman left for dead after a bear attack in 19th century Northern America. It's not the bear he wants revenge on but the party that abandoned him.

Maybe DiCaprio's natural tendency toward furrowed brow depression and Iñarritu's natural tendency towards furrowing our brows with depression will cancel each other out and they'll surprise us with a range of feeling in this grisly period drama? One can dream.

Sunday
Apr132014

Strictly Baz

As you may or may not have heard Baz Luhrmann has been in the news again this week. 2013 was another big year for him with The Great Gatsby exceeding expectations (financially). The buzz on Baz hasn't quieted in this new year. On March 2nd, his wife Catherine Martin won another pair of Oscars to match her Moulin Rouge! statues and new collaborations for the Bazmark spouses are on the way.

First up is the stage musical adaptation of his breakthrough debut hit Strictly Ballroom (1992). The Guardian featured him a few days ago -- the video is more of a commercial for the show really than a true interview but there are clips from the show and Baz statements worth parsing.

I was 29 for the film. In the back of my mind I always thought 'it's got to be a musical'. I thought 'God, I hope I don't end up 40 and I'm doing Strictly Ballroom musical.' And I'm 52. So I think it will always be in my life. I think a bit like a band that had their first hit song. If you aren't playing that hig song at concerts until you have a foot in the grave then probably you're doing something wrong for the audience and probably you're doing something wrong for yourself. So I've just accepted that it's actually a fundamental part of our life and our journey"

The show, which obviously intends a Broadway run given how frequently Baz drops the word "Broadway" while talking about it is playing in Sydney Australia and the reviews for the show have just arrived which are generally positive though it's amusing that the Telegraph and Guardian critics say almost exactly opposite things about how it stacks up to the beloved film version. 

Baz's next film project-- if he actually goes through with it -- is a real surprise. The rumor is he'll direct the big screen version of the ol' TV series Kung Fu. I can't imagine what would attract Luhrmann to this property which is such an about face, even if he does love to genre-hop. But I pray to God, they dump the whole non-Asian conceit that the TV show went with. David Carradine was such a white dude, you know, and nobody needs 21st century narratives about ethnic anything that pretend audiences can only bear to look at white faces. Even if he does decide to do it, we won't see it for years; his films often appear to be on speed but the auteur isn't speedy. What's more he's supposedly also doing a Napoleon miniseries for TV and a TV series about the early days of hip-hop. How many of those do you think will actually come to be? It takes him five or so years to make everything, after all.  

People will surely make jokes about him adding musical numbers to Kung Fu though it's tough to graft those on to memories of that sedate and dusty TV show. But maybe it's not as impossible as it sounds. Every single one of Baz's films yearns to be a musical even though only one of them truly is.  Given that pervasive feeling, it's just bizarre that he hasn't made one since Moulin Rouge! but maybe he knows it's untoppable? Singular sensations are called that for a reason. They're rare and glorious freaks.