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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd 

 

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Yes No Maybe So: CREED, SECRET IN THEIR EYES, STEVE JOBS

CREED "I'm so here for Michael B. Jordan becoming a bona fide movie star. It'll just take the right project to put him in the public consciousness. Creed looks like it could be it." - Kate

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Entries in Emmanuel Lubezki (17)

Sunday
Mar012015

Podcast Finale: The Team Reflects on the 87th Academy Awards

Nick, Katey, Joe and Nathaniel reunite for the podcast season finale. The topic is the Oscars and these are our last words on this year's. The conversation includes but is not limited to:

• Neil Patrick Harris strong opening but then...
• Our choices for MVP from the audience
• Musical numbers - good but too many?
• Who should host next time?
• Power Trio: Canonero, Lubezki & Desplat
• Obsessing over Julianne Moore's speech
• Eddie Redmayne's glee
• Nick's John Travolta prediction
• Which of the nominees will be nominated again quickest?

And of course we play our favorite game of suggesting pairings of actors and directors. 

Juli is a little embarrassed at our obsessing on her 

Please to enjoy and continue the conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes.  

87th Oscars Reviewed

Saturday
Feb142015

Best Cinematography: Can Chivo Do a Back-to-Back?

If Oscar were a beauty pageant (we know it feels like that sometimes but it's not) the previous winner in each category would have to hand over their tiara Oscar to the next winner. In that case let's hope the world's favorite DP is ambidextrous since he is probably passing the statue to... himself.  After years of worthy nominations without winning, the genius DP Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, who won last year for Gravity, could well win again for another virtuoso turn that's also an aesthetic triumph. But how common are back-to-back wins exactly in the cinematography categories? It used to happen on occasion when there were two cinematography categories (black & white, and color) and thus twice the number of winners but once the category was fused in 1967, it's only ever happened once: John Toll did it in the 1990s with Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Still it's hard to imagine Lubezki losing on the 22nd. Budapest surely won't sweep and it's the only other Best Picture nominee in the category. Mr Turner and Ida would make very worthy winners but they seem unlikely for reasons of size, popularity, mood, country of origin. As for Roger Deakins. His nominations each year are becoming Streep-esque. It's not that Unbroken isn't handsome looking but it's hardly one of his tiptop achievements. Deakins still trails the late George J Folsey (Meet Me In St Louis) for most nominations without a win in this category (13/0) but he'll tie him the very next time he's up to bat. If Unbroken had been better loved he could have made a run for it.

The Nominees:

Birdman - Emmanuel Lubezki
Grand Budapest Hotel - Robert Yeoman
Ida - Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal
Mr Turner - Dick Pope
Unbroken - Roger Deakins

Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Birdman or Mr Turner

My ballot for this category 

Tuesday
Jan272015

Sundance Quickies: Dope, Last Days in the Desert, Nasty Baby

Nathaniel reporting from Sundance with three quick takes

DOPE
The biggest sale at Sundance was this no-stars comedy about three geeky high school seniors who are obsessed with 90s hip hops (that's a character detail and joke factory -- not the plot). Malcolm (Shameik Moore joyfully charismatic in the lead role) a Straight A student who dreams of Harvard and his two best friends Jib (Tony Revolori - just as strong as he was in Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons from Transparent in her feature debut) live in "The Bottoms" an impoverished crime-ridden neighborhood. Malcolm gets mixed up with Dom (Rakim Mayers aka A$AP Rocky), a local dope dealer, and soon the three friends are on the run from cops, drug dealers, gang members and continually out of frying pans and into other fires. The film it most reminded me of is Go (1999) for its parade of memorable characters, smart fast comedy, and crime plot but this one is lighter.  Dope has inarguably high energy and fresh laughs for the first hour but, like many comedies, it overstays its welcome as it wants to be taken more seriously in the second half (tightening the second hour before release would be of huge benefit). Regardless, those huge laughs, great racial politics jokes and its endearing central trio could well make it a sleeper smash. B/B+

Funny Coincidence: I saw this directly after The Diary of a Teenage Girl and both movies feature a shot of a horny teenage girl licking a photograph. In this case it's lesbian drummer Diggy licking the 2 Live Crew album cover. Ha!

LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT
In this film, shot in natural light by that DP without peer Emmanuel Lubezki, Ewan McGregor plays Jesus near the end of his 40 day fast and desert wanderings. McGregor also plays the Devil which gives this film the entertaining kick it needs to survive lots of contemplative moments / scenes of Jesus just staring into and walking around the desert thinking about the shit that Sons of God think about.I liked the film's invention of a troubled family Jesus meets (Ciarin Hinds and Tye Sheridan as father/son -- though thankfully their dramatic parallels to Jesus and his  "Daddy" as Satan hilariously calls God are not so neatly correlative as to be obnoxious.) Satan wears a beautiful dangly gold earring (I guess because vanity is evil? Or because they wanted to make fun of one earring wearers?) but otherwise he looks exactly like Jesus. The film is by Rodrigo Garcia, a director I've always wanted to love given his actressexuality -- though weirdly this film is almost entirely male -- but have never been able to because his films tend to be a bit sleepy. This one is smartly reined in at 98 minutes but it does feel a bit slight, exercize-ish, despite the heavy topic. B-/C+

Ewan McGregor revealed in the Q&A afterwards that he did a lot of studying to play Jesus (scriptures, books, etcetera) and none to play Satan ("the devil came naturally"). Hee!

NASTY BABY
Kristen Wiig just keeps on overachieving, doesn't she? After conquering comedy she keeps on impressing in dramatic roles, too. She's got a beautifully authentic rapport with writer/director/star Sebastian Silva (who is most famous for his Golden Globe nominated terrific Chilean film The Maid). Silva and Wiig play Freddy & Polly, best friends who'e been trying to get pregnant for months but it hasn't been working. They enlist Freddy's hesitant boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe in his first feature since 2008's Rachel Getting Married -- he was the guy Rachel married!) to do the sperm donor duty. Meanwhile a crazy neighbor keeps harassing everyone on the street and Freddy struggles to realize his art project "Nasty Baby" in which he wants to explore how disgusting babies of all kinds are by investigating their "gross cuteness" -- it gets a big laugh in context, trust -- and he plans to explore that by rolling around naked making baby sounds? It's a video installation, just go with it. It's all an ultra specific urban slice of life dramedy -- so ultra-specific in fact that I assume this will be a very hard sell for many. Making it even more difficult for potential audiences is the sharp left turn it takes into uncomfortably suspenseful territory toward the end. But despite what will surely be a hard road to find its natural fanbase, I admired it for being so wholly itself... or maybe its two selves. Or its three selves? The end credits are set to the cast doing roller disco for totally inexplicable but delightful effect. And the cast -- including the little seen Mark Margolis (who you'll recognize from Darren Aronofsky's movies) as a protective old gay in the neighborhood -- just felt wonderfully organic. B

Friday
Jan232015

Thoughts I Had...From Leo On the Set of "The Revenant"

abstew here. We might be in the midst of the current Oscar season, but it's never too early to start thinking about...next year already. Now, I can hear you all saying, "Good god, man! The ceremony is still a month away! Can't we at least hand out the statues for 2014 before thinking of 2015?!" Blame these just released pictures from Entertainment Weekly from the set of current Best Director nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu's next film set to come out on Christmas, The Revenant, because they are already screaming, Oscar! The film is based on the novel by Michael Punke and is a grizzly story of revenge! Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1820s Wild West that is left for dead after a bear attack. He miraculously survives but seeks out vengeance on the men that left him for dead. The film is being shot by Oscar-winning Cinematographer (and current nominee for his work in Birdman) Emmanuel Lubezki, who is trying to shoot it all in natural light. How could we not share our thoughts from these first pics?

  • Bearded Mountain Man Leo! With Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson co-starring as well, I expect a lot more burly, manly beards in the film. It may have to be retitled Beards: The Movie! And people keep saying the beard trend has reached its peak...
  • I hate myself for asking, but is this the film that wins Leo an Oscar? We all know Oscar likes to make men wait, but he turned 40 this past year (that's right, Jack Dawson, is all growed up now) and he's already been nominated 4 times previously in the acting categories. How long will they make him wait? And working with Iñárritu, hot off of Birdman seems promising.
  • That coat and hair look pretty gnarly. I guess he doesn't have time for hot shower in his quest. Maybe he wouldn't be so angry if he had time for a nice relaxing bubble bath?
  • I'm kinda loving the fact that both Leo and Kate have revenge themed films coming out at Oscar time. Kate has the Australian-set, 1950s fashion revenge The Dressmaker coming out in the Fall. I would love to see the two of them reunited at awards shows again. Never let go!
  • So his name is Hugh Glass? Doesn't sound very menacing. I wonder if he's related to George...
  • Are we certain this isn't just a still from Cold Mountain?

  • After Birdman showed that not all his films have to be so heavy, I'm guessing from the film's plot and those ominous grey clouds that Iñárritu is back to bleak.
  • As an actressexual, I have to ask - are there are any women in this at all? Iñárritu has previously directed 4 women to Oscar nominations, hopefully there's a nice female role as well. Like a kindly widow played by Natalie Portman that takes him in and...wait, that's Cold Mountain again.
  • It's nice to see that Leo is allowed to work with directors other than Martin Scorsese occasionally.
  • Who is that mystery man that Leo and Alejandro are looking at? They both look leery of him. Perhaps there's a bear in the distance and they are not in the mood to deal with their own potential revenge-type, bear related escapade. [Exit, pursued by a bear]
  • If anything, those trees are giving me a good feeling that Lubezki is gonna have some gorgeous nature shots in this. He's worked with Terrence Malick many times before, so the man definitely knows his way around a dreamy landscape.

Your turn: what do you think of Leo's rugged new look? Is this a 2015 Oscar contender or do you want to seek revenge against me for even asking?

Wednesday
Jan072015

The Cinematography Guild's Nominees 

The American Society of Cinematographers chose the following five films as the best shot of the year. According to Twitter The Imitation Game is the odd man out. It was shot by Oscar Faura who is definitely talented (see The Orphanage and The Impossible) but discussions around this film rarely concern themselves with the quality of its cinematography (which can't really be said for the other nominees here). 

1 of roughly 1,890 amazing shots in Mr Turner

 

 

It does remind slightly of when The King's Speech got that perplexing actual Oscar nomination for Cinematography over at least a dozen (at least it bears repeating) well shot and more inspiring choices from 2010. Of the ASC nominees only Lubezki has previously won an Oscar (for Gravity) and Roger Deakins is of course ever the Bridesmaid, never the Bride (which we used to be able to say about Lubezki). Dick Pope has one previous nomination to his credit (The Illusionsit) 

Assuming the Oscar race is between Lubezki and Deakins, who do you think will win? Do you think this will be the Oscar list and if you don't which film with acclaimed cinematography (no matter what one thinks of each film) sneak in?  Selma? Interstellar? A Most Violent Year? Wild (interview)? Gone Girl? The Homesman? or something else entirely? My write-in vote is Yorick LeSaux's work on Only Lovers Left Alive.

P.S. My final Oscar predictions are coming next week. Obviously I need to rethink my chart - way off there! We're just waiting for Oscar nomination balloting to close up shop (which happens tomorrow evening). 

Sunday
Oct192014

Review: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.

 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing." 
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, after-movie conversation over dinner drinks or online other than conversation that attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether

... which is not unusual in Birdman.

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