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Entries in Francophile (79)

Wednesday
Oct102012

Million Dollar Marion

Jose here, still reeling from Rust and Bone this past Sunday (going again today in a couple of hours because it's that good). My first reaction after watching it was: wow, Marion Cotillard truly has been trying to prove to us all her Oscar win was no accident.

I am not a fan of La Vie en Rose but year after year I have found myself more astounded by Cotillard's work. She was heartbreaking in Nine and was the only thing in Inception worth anyone's time, but it's in Rust and Bone where she provesonce and for all  that she's one of the most fearless actresses of our time. Most people think she's a shoo-in for a Best Actress nomination but I'm not sure this will be so easy, given that her character isn't likable at all and we know that AMPAS likes to like its leading ladies; even Margaret Thatcher and Aileen Wuornos had redemptive qualities in their movies.

Cotillard's Stephanie doesn't give a damn if someone likes her or not. When we first meet her she's just been beaten by a guy in a club and she just picks herself up and goes home to her boyfriend, whom she resents for asking for an explanation. After a gruesome accident leaves her disabled, she doesn't change her ways; instead she finds herself a f*** buddy (Matthias Schoenaerts) and becomes involved in some shady business. Can you imagine Million Dollar Baby's Maggie Fitzgerald becoming fiercer after her accident? Rust and Bone is surprising in more than one way and its extreme lack of sentimentality will surely leave some perplexed. But Cotillard is phenomenal. There is one particular scene - set to Katy Perry's "Firework" of all things - where she doesn't speak, but communicates so much through her eyes and face that she should be a frontrunner. She is that good. 

Tuesday
Oct092012

12 Word Reviews: Pitch Perfect, Gayby, Frankenweenie...

The screenings are everywhere. It's harder and harder to keep up. Herewith some twelve word reviews of things I've seen recently in order to catch up. Naturally, I cheat (sort of) a couple of times. Twelve words is so few... just you try it!

Gayby (OPENS FRIDAY!)
Best friends from college, gay Matt and straight Jenn, decide to have a baby together... the old fashioned way. Hilarity ensues. Personal lives get confused.


12WR:  Plotty but very funny. Celebrates rather than regurgitates stereotypes. Awesome Showgirls joke! B+
Oscar? Not weighty enough even for Spirit Awards but warm and funny enough to age well on DVD shelves despite the "now" topic. It's best hope for awards is turning itself into a sitcom for the Emmys. I'd totally watch this crowd weekly (and it'd be way better than The New Normal which suffers from Ryan Murphy's now familiar Preachy Bull in Broadly Caricatured China Shop voice)

Pitch Perfect
College freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) joins an acapella group The Bellas. They need to break free of their lame repertoire if they ever hope to win a competition. 
I loved this one while I was watching it and didn't love it in the morning so two reviews...
12 WR (Positive) Weak story, weaker filmmaking; FUN anyway. Key cast shines with great lines. B
12 WR (Negative) Lazily constructed on vastly superior Bring it On template. Funny quick fade. C
Oscar? It's 'Aca-Awkard' to even bring that up. No.

Frankenweenie
Young science-loving Victor resurrects his dead dog Sparky in a Frankenstein like experiment. Once the word gets out the townsfolk lose it.
12 WR: Inventive setpieces, surprises, awesome character design ("Whiskers!") justify expansion of classic short. B/B+
Oscar? It would surprise me if it wasn't nominated for Best Animated Feature and it could also feature into sound categories but the lukewarm response at the box office has me suddenly doubting its frontrunner status.

Our Children
Belgium's Oscar submission! A bicultural family slowly crumbles through dependency and depression.
12 WR: Fascinating thematic subtext undermined by miserabilist March-Toward-Doom structure. Suffocating close-ups. C+
Oscar? I doubt it as its very dour without much in the way of catharsis. But I've been wrong before about this always fascinating category.

Secret Life of Arrietty
Arrietty is a "borrower" a little person living inside a house. Will a new sickly human living in the house expose her and her family?
12 WR: Delicate, lovely, quiet... but too much so! Needs more pizazz. Limited characterizations  B-
Oscar? Ineligible for the Animated Feature race

Saturday
Oct062012

"Malavita" Before Cameras... All Kinds

Malavita, the new Pfeiffer film we've mentioned a couple of times, is starting its PR trek. The plot concept:

Malavita is the story of the Manzonis, a notorious mafia family who gets relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program. While they do their best to fit in, old habits die hard and they soon find themselves handling things the “family” way.

The cast has now gone before the lens, not just movie cameras, of multiple kinds. Like...

Photo Ops They aren't wasting any time announcing themselves since the cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Robert DeNiro, and Michelle Pfeiffer are already posing for cameras. This image is from the new Paris Match. The stars gathered for the opening of their director Luc Besson's Cite du Cinema which is the largest studio ever built in France and is hoping to attract more big productions.

Pity that La Pfeiffer is hidden in the fold!

More Malavita photos after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep182012

Foreign Oscar Updates. Will France Finally Win Again?

With France's official announcement that the blockbuster The Intouchables will be their Official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film, is the race already over? Its global tally currently rests at an astounding $364 million dollars, most of that from overseas bank. The film hasn't been ignored in American arthouse theaters exactly but it's $9 million gross and mainstream appeal (it's even in the IMDb top 100) qualifies it as a major arthouse hit but no crossover slam dunk; roughly speaking it's a hit the way last year's foreign film winner, the instant classic A Separation, was or the way Beasts of the Southern Wild is.

French cinema has had a complex intermittently passionate long-distance relationship with Hollywood since cinema began and that is reflected in their Oscar success over the years both in this category and others. France leads all countries in most Foreign Film nominations by a wide margin (36 nominees to Italy's 26) but surprisingly they have not won since the Catherine Deneuve drama Indochine rocked US arthouses twenty years ago. Will this Gallic sort-of variation on Driving Miss Daisy (is that too dismissive?) be a lock for Oscar love or will last year's swerve towards critically prestigious international cinema signal a sea change to new glory days for the category? (Yes, I still have impromptu ecstatic flashbacks to A Separation's win)

OFFICIAL SUBMISSION CHARTS 2012 -- everything in one place as we do: posters, trailers, info. Pass it on.

Current Predictions - Australia, Austria, Denmark, France and Romania 
Albania through Iran - 15 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)
Italy through Venezuala - 16 official submissions (thus far... updates in progress)

Amelie netflix illustration by Tim Hodge (click for original source)A collection of France's biggest Oscar hits if you'd like to catch up with a movie marathon at home... after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug092012

TIFF Lineup: Female Directors & Prestige Adaptations

 Paolo here. We should probably give in and see what this year's Toronto International Film Festival has to offer! Toronto marks the unofficial start of awards season, inflating or deflating much hyped movies and performances. Speaking of which, the locals can experience the star power of actual would be contenders.  Within the space of ten days, TIFF gives its paying audience access to a year's worth of art house cinema - these movies will be trickling out in limited release for at least a year to come.

Fine reasons to be excited but I have more personal reasons, too. 


Reason no. 1 They're bringing back some classics.
They're under the Cinematheque programme, spotlightling restorations like Dial M for Murder in 3D, Loin du Vietnam - a collaborative anti-war project involving a handful on 1960's auteurs like Godard, Agnes Varda, William Klein Alain Resnais and (RIP) Chris Marker. There's also Roberto Rosselini's Stromboli and Roman Polanski's Tess, the latter being an adapation of a Thomas Hardy novel that I've been reading the past month or so. Which brings me to reasons two, three and four... after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jul152012

Review: "Farewell My Queen"

An abridged version of this review originally appeared in my column at Towleroad 

There are numerous reasons why the Marie Antoinette story has fascinated artists and storytellers for centuries now. From the Court's commitment to theatrical flamboyance with a blind eye to the consequent suffering of the masses (modern pop culture echos were seen as recently as The Hunger Games this spring), to the complexity of the Queen's intimate lonely gilded cage tragedy played against the backdrop of a vast messy violent history. One could argue that the now mythic story is super relevant all over again in this era of rampant socioeconomic injustice and the angry gap between the 1 and 99%. 

Benoît Jacquot clues you in early that he means to tell the famous story differently in the just released French import  Farewell My Queen. For one, it's told "backstage" through the stressful lives of the servants. Consider it the French Revolution: Downton Abbey Edition... without Maggie Smith or the jokes.

The German actress Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) plays the troubled big-spending transplanted queen, Léa Seydoux (Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol), the film's actual lead, is her bosomy devoted servant Madame Laborde, and Virginia Ledoyen (8 Women) is the Queen's Object of Affection, the Duchess de Polignac. The French people were so unhappy with this rumored affair that the ostensibly powerless Duchess was fairly high on the list of the 286 heads demanded for the guillotine! [More...]

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