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Entries in film critics (122)

Monday
Dec012014

NYFCC Loves Legos, Nuns, and Boyhood

The NYFCC (New York Film Critics Circle), one half of the two crucial critics prizes for each film year (the other half being the LAFCA who announce soon) gathered this morning for prize time. Their annual game of combative rounds winnowing their choice down to one (usually) in their categories resulted in big wins for Boyhood and really important gets for two key actors.


PICTURE Boyhood
It could well be a steamroller with critics groups. Unless Selma and Birdman get scrappy
DIRECTOR Richard Linklater, Boyhood
We can safely call him locked up for his first Oscar nomination in this category after two nominations for writing
SCREENPLAY The Grand Budapest Hotel
This is the only category that Wes Anderson has ever had real luck in with awards bodies. Can Budapest find a way to slip into the Best Picture Oscar field and change that?

ACTRESS Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant & Two Days, One Night
An enormously important get for Cotillard who has found it a real struggle to connect with awards bodies since her Oscar win for what ironically is an arguably lesser performance than the ones she's been trotting out regularly lately
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
So pleased that this grounded affecting performance has garnered such praise this year. It's a real treat coming from an actress that hasn't been overused overpraised much in her career.

ACTOR Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
Another enormous "must have" for the preliminary rounds. Spall is up against a super tight Best Actor field and every mention counts towards keeping his name out there. They really should have released this movie earlier. I struggle to understand Sony Pictures Classics preference for late December which often kills "small" films with too little too late push
SUPPORTING ACTOR J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Looks likely  march to the Oscar with no problem. Which is sad for Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and Edward Norton (Birdman) who are both still waiting and both so worthy this year

CINEMATOGRAPHY Darius Khondji, The Immigrant
So underappreciated
ANIMATED FILM The LEGO Movie
Unsurprising and I expect all the flyover state critics prizes to go the same way. The real question as precursor season heats up is which littler film gets some mentions.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM Ida
If Ida dominates this field in the precursors might we see it pop up in one or two additional Oscar categories? Wouldn't that be neat?
DOCUMENTARY Citizenfour
A possible steamroller for the non-fiction prizes
FIRST FEATURE Jennifer Kent, The Babadook
Don't miss our interview with this hot new talent. I told her we were wondering about her future and she said "I'm wondering about my future, too!"

Saturday
Nov152014

Important Dates. Beautiful Shoes.

There's nothing duller than a post consisting of dates culled from press releases so, as you read, please to enjoy this brand new photo of Michelle Pfeiffer.

Her fingernails won't match anything once she takes the shoes off!

She's one of many celebrities involved in the fifth annual Celebrity Shoe Auction. Proceeds go to the Small Steps Project. Since this very very recent photo is proof that she lives, we must again beg her to take another job. Geez, lady. Your kids must've just left for college. Get back to work!)

Important November Dates
19 - SAG Nomination Ballots Sent Out
25 - Spirit Award Nominations 
26 - Golden Globe Nomination Ballots Sent Out, Happy Thanksgiving

Important December Dates
1 - NYFCC Awards
2 - NBR Awards
7 - LAFCA Awards
8 -  OFCS Nominations, Globe & SAG Nomination Ballot Due Date, BFCA Ballots Sent Out
10 - SAG Nominations
11 - Golden Globe Nominations
12 - BFCA Nomination Ballot Due Date
15 - OFCS Winners
16 - Happy Hanukkah for the next week
25 - Merry Christmas, a million movies come out today
29 - Oscar Ballots go out
31 - Happy New Year, Have A Most Violent Year ... er...

I like his signature. Quick all you handwriting analysis experts: GO!

Important January Dates
5 - NYFCC Awards Gala
7 - Last day of Globe Voting, ASC Nominees Announced (Cinematographers)
8 - Oscar Ballot Due Date
9 - BAFTA Nominations
11 - Golden Globe Awards
13 - Last day of BFCA voting and DGA Nominations Announced
15 - Oscar Nomination Morning

15 - BFCA Awards ("Critics Choice")
23 - Last day of SAG voting
24 - PGA Awards (Producers) 
25 - SAG Awards (Actors)
30 - ACE Eddie Awards (Editors)
31 - ADG Awards (Art Directors)

Important February Dates
4 - VES Awards (Visual Effects)
6 - Final Oscar Balloting begins
7 - DGA Awards (Directors)
8 - BAFTA Awards
14 - Happy Valentines Day
15 - ASC Awards (Cinematographers), MPSE Awards (Sound Editors)
17 - CDG Awards (Costume Designers)
21 - Spirit Awards
22 - OSCAR NIGHT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Which dates do you most look forward to each year?

Sunday
Nov022014

Podcast: Birdman, Pride and Nightcrawler

In this episode of the podcast, Nathaniel, Nick, Joe and Katey are charmed by Pride's ensemble balancing act and political smarts. Then we're adamantly split on the merits of Birdman and but (mostly) thrilled by its craft wizardry. The acting also impresses with special attention paid to Michael Keaton's closeups, Andrea Riseborough's surprise facility with "fun" and Nick's Edward Norton problem. We wrap up with Nightcrawler's duet between eye-popping Jake Gyllenhaal (who splits opinion) and Rene Russo who deserves more good roles immediately. "Get it bitch!"

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes tomorrow (it generally takes 24 hours to show up there). Continue the conversation in the comments! 

Birdman & Nightcrawler

Thursday
Oct232014

Gotham Nominees: Boyhood vs. Birdman vs. Budapest

The Gotham Awards juried nominations have recently surplanted the ancient NBR as the first real awards nomination/wins of the film year. That it happens in October is more than a little crazy, but what'cha gonna do? The New York centric film prizes, think of it as the Spirit Awards's East Coast Cousin albeit with far fewer prizes will be held on December 1st. Since they only have six categories and four separate juries (composed of critics and programmers), multiple nods aren't as easy to come by as they are at other shows but a handful of films managed it: Boyhood, Birdman, Dear White People, Nightcrawler, and Under the Skin.

BEST FEATURE 

 

  • BIRDMAN
  • BOYHOOD
  • GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
  • LOVE IS STRANGE
  • UNDER THE SKIN

Very happy to see the intensely moving Love is Strange, in constant danger of being undervalued, show up. Especially since it didn't show up anywhere else. 199 films were eligible for these honors.

BEST ACTRESS (they don't have lead or supporting designations)

Big year for GUGU with Belle as breakthrough and a nom for Beyond the Lights

  • PATRICIA ARQUETTE, Boyhood
  • SCARLETT JOHANSSON, Under the Skin
  • GUGU MBATHA-RAW, Beyond the Lights
  • JULIANNE MOORE, Still Alice
  • MIA WASIKOWSKA, Tracks

Given that Still Alice is only getting a qualifying Oscar run and there's no proof that it will even play in NYC by the end of the year (LA is the only required theatrical run) I think it's weird to nominate Julianne Moore at the Gothams, however excellent she is in the picture. I wonder what criteria they use for eligibility?

BEST ACTOR (they don't have lead or supporting designations)

 

  • BILL HADER, The Skeleton Twins
  • ETHAN HAWKE, Boyhood
  • OSCAR ISAAC, A Most Violent Year
  • MICHAEL KEATON, Birdman
  • MILES TELLER, Whiplash

Interesting to see Oscar Isaac show up but not Jessica Chastain when the same nominating committee chose for both categories. 

BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR OR ACTRESS

 

  • RIZ AHMED, Nightcrawler
  • MACON BLAIR, Blue Ruin
  • ELLAR COLTRANE, Boyhood
  • JOEY KING, Wish I Was Here
  • JENNY SLATE, Obvious Child
  • TESSA THOMPSON, Dear White People

Slightly odd choices by the breakthrough committee. I love Boyhood and Nightcrawler but it seems weird to single out Coltrane or Ahmed from either, not only because they aren't the MVPs but because their performances just aren't at the same accomplished level as their co-stars. 

BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR

 

  • ANA LILY AMIRPOUR, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • JAMES WARD BYRKIT, Coherence
  • DAN GILROY, Nightcrawler
  • ELIZA HITTMAN, It Felt Like Love
  • JUSTIN SIMIEN, Dear White People

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • ACTRESS
  • CITIZENFOUR
  • LIFE ITSELF
  • MANAKAMANA
  • POINT AND SHOOT 

I haven't yet seen Life Itself (I know I know) but I increasingly suspect, based on everything I've read about it, that hero worship is really getting in the way. It's not that I don't appreciate Ebert's work or that I don't understand the need to honor him for a special life in this very specialized field. But as with Oscars view of documentary, sometimes subject matter trumps execution in terms of awardage. Critics complain when that happens. Except when it happens to a movie about a film critic ;) I reserve the right to change my mind and consider it very worthy if I see it but I just wanted to point out that this is always a real danger in awardage for all groups, not just Oscar, the effect of subject matter trumping execution. 

Sunday
Oct122014

Birdman Conference & Party: Egos, Creative Challenges and "A Critical Presence"

Choosing Birdman as the closing night film of the 52nd New York Film Festival was a smart move. Premiering in the slot right after it would have been a truly humbling experience for another film. Not that I wish to inflate Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's ego any further.

Iñárritu, Norton, Watts and Amy Ryan at the premiere

In the press conference that immediately followed our screening yesterday he admitted that it's already enormous. "Inquisitor. Tyrant. Dictator" are just three of his names for his own ego and the idea for Birdman was to explore the inner struggle with ego and the creative process. Innaritu says he starts most creative projects thinking  "This is great, fantastic, very genius!" and shortly thereafter has a bipolar switcheroo "You're a stupid asshole. This is a piece of shit, no one would care about it!" He thought this creative struggle would  be a cool thing to dramatize on film though he didn't mean it to be specifically about the ego of actors. He actually thinks they don't have big egos. "Politicans have bigger egos...even my dentist!" he added spontaneously to much laughter in the room. "He's an asshole. He makes me suffer and I pay him."  

Michael Keaton's internal creative struggle takes a slightly different turn "I go through, 'Oh you're the greatest, you're wonderful. And then 20 minutes later... no, you're actually more than that Michael!"

Throughout the conference the actors found ways to keep the mood light and funny. Somehow Naomi Watts became the favorite member of the cast to tease, which was interesting because the actress she plays onscreen is riddled with insecurity. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct032014

NYFF: A Tiger and a Princess (or Two) Walk Into a Cafe...

NYFF continues. Here's Nathaniel with brief takes on three films...

Allow me to break a rule of film criticism. Rather than wag fingers at directors/films and call them "pretentious!" (a common and near-useless criticism for films with ambitions) or "opaque" (a beautiful adjective, less judgmental but still descriptive of the "ummm..." effect), I shall simply admit that sometimes I don't get it. I think we all have these cases, whether it be films/genres or even entire filmographies that are headscratchers to us whilst others drool. Most people are loathe to admit it lest they seem dumb but I don't have time to worry about that. Way too busy for that particular insecurity. Especially with all the room in my schedule I make for the other ones.

I'm pairing these three films (Ming of Harlem, The Princess of France, and Hill of Freedom) for that reason and also because they all have "of" in the title. Deep reasons. Here we go...

MING OF HARLEM 
Ming is a tiger. Harlem is Harlem.

This documentary is about a 400 lb tiger that was once living in a Harlem skyrise not too far from where I live. My cat lives with me in a Harlem skyrise, too, but he's only 11 lbs. The film is part of the "Projection" series at NYFF. That's a potentially less offputting title for a swath of moviegoers than "Views from the Avant Garde" which is what it used to be called. Having seen the picture, I'm not sure I understand what's avante garde about it?

Perhaps it's the lack of talking heads projecting emotions on to animals OR explaining the psychology of the man who housed them until he was sent to prison for doing just that. Perhaps it's the very sparse insertion of local and national news footage from the time of the scandal, of which there is surely a lot more. The movie is, in part, more of a meditative look at two animals; the tiger shared his apartment with a full grown alligator albeit not in the same room...

Click to read more ...

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