Oscar History

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What did you see this weekend?

"Summer 1993. Just beautiful." - Sarah

"I saw Hereditary and honestly thought it was a masterpiece. Fun that it's so divisive." - Philip H

"The best movie I saw this weekend was on PBS' Man with the Orange Shirt a great romantic gay film" - Jaragon


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Entries in Keep the Lights On (6)


Home Theater: What to watch from your bunker. 

It's your bi-weekly blend of tasty new releases on DVD/Blu-Ray and the ever shifting entrees from streaming services. I'm totally depressed about the state of the world today as we head to another round of catastrophic primaries tomorrow but let's jump right in.


Alvin & Chipmunks 4 - a sure sign of the apocalypse
The Big Short - about the financial apocalypse
Brooklyn - wonderful escape from awfulness of everything
Carol - masterpiece. hope it survives the fires
Grease: Live! -nobody will be doing the handjive in hell
In the Heart of the Sea - we are all Chris Hemsworth, deluding ourselves
Macbeth -that damn spot will never come out, lady!
The Peanuts Movie - tfw you're Charlie Brown
Sisters - the sinkhole is a metaphor
Victor Frankenstein - again?
Game of Thrones S5 - everyone dies
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S1 - that bunker is looking smart right about now.

• Netflix: Zac Efron in Charlie St Cloud, Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne and Daredevil S2 all on March 18th
• Amazon Prime: The Internet's Boyfriend and also Garrett Hedlund in Mojave (March 22nd) and the visceral gripping '71 (March 27th) about The Troubles starring Jack O'Connell. You should see that. 

You know how we do. We've freeze framed each movie somewhere random after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Link Wars Episode IV: A New Blog

MNPP on Keep the Lights On in 250 words or less. Good insights here - love the ending - though JA likes the film more than I do.
Deadline Upcoming 3D conversions of all Star Wars movies cancelled. Thank god. Every day I pray to the movie gods to take the plague of 3D and its conversions away from us!
Two Dollar Cinema heads to The Last Stand on account of a childhood spent with Arnold Schwarzenegger movies
The Film Doctor 10 questions about Silver Linings Playbook


Stale Popcorn takes in Xavier Dolan's Lawrence Anyways. I love Dolan but I'm scared of this one - three hour dramas are hard to pull off. 
Vulture interviews Steven Soderbergh who apparently really is retiring now.
Movie|Line is the upcoming Brad Bird/George Clooney feature Tomorrowland (previously title 1952) about early space travel?
In Contention will Argo be a Driving Miss Daisy or an Apollo 13
The Carpetbagger Mistakes were made on the marketing of Django and The Master 

And did you see Matt Damon talking to Nicole Kidman a few nights back on Jimmy Kimmel Live Jimmy Kimmel Sucks?

Hilarious. Nicole Kidman can steal my utensils any time she'd like. 


Lump of Coal, Anyone? Cinematic Shame (Pt 1)


I plan to get all joyously positive from Christmas Eve through January 9th as I share my take on the Best of the Film Year That Was. But I make no promise about my mood come January 10th...  That's the fateful morning when 6,000 Academy voters play puppet master and yank my fragile psyche about with abandon. But until then... And before the Year End Best of hits, we purge.


I know that people quibble with this word and wish it dead and buried. But that's only because they take it far too seriously. It's a silly adjective but silly is fun. One should always take things for what they're worth. No matter who is using the word "overrated" it only ever means:

Other people are under the mistaken impression that this thing I think is merely okay is really great! They are quite wrong."

Unsatisfying performances, miscasting, bad moves in good films and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...


"Silver Linings" & "Moonrise" Lead Spirit Nominations

Continuing with the trend of star-laden "indies" of reasonable means dominating the once far more independent Spirit Awards, expectant future Best Picture nominee Silver Linings Playbook and Wes Anderson's adorable Oscar longshot Moonrise Kingdom led the pack of nominees with five citations each. In the shoe-stringier side of the equation films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Middle of Nowhere, and Keep the Lights On also made strong showings. Since three mainstream / big studio efforts are expected to dominate the Oscars (that's Les Miz, Argo, & Lincoln if you've been sleeping for a month) this year, no film need worry about the Spirit curse ...wherein you score big here the day before the Oscars only to collapse at the big Hollywood event that you had hopes of also ruling.
Can "Beasts" win the Spirit Award?
Full list of nominees and commentary on each category after the jump

Click to read more ...


12 Word Reviews: Hope Springs, Timothy Green, Premium Rush

 When you get too far behind on film reviewing, you have to condense. It's brief capsule time. Let's catch up on movies we left behind as summer waned. Did you see any of them?

A senior citizen couple seeks marital counselling.
12 WR: Fine performances take intimacy seriously. Near gem but pacing problems, atrocious music.  B
Oscar: Streep always has a shot in Best Actress and she's the film's best hope (sorry) beyond a screenplay longshot but I'm doubtful that this quiet surprisingly nuanced take on marriage and intimacy will survive the louder grabbier Oscar films. Plus when Oscar ignores Meryl, which is admittedly not often, it's almost always when she's playing contemporary and relatively ordinary women (here's proof.)

The story of a troubled 10 year gay relationship beset by sex and drug addictions
12 WR: Intermittently searing. Bruisingly repetitive. Cathartic for filmmaker (undoubtedly) but unshaped; needs dramaturg. C+
Oscar?: Not that kind of movie. 

A childless couple (Jennifer Garner & Joel Edgerton) inadvertently create the perfect child over a teary conversation. A naked boy with leaves on his legs emerges from their garden. Life lessons ensue.
12 WR: Adoption plea framing device = unmitigated disaster. Played with realism it's entirely oogie. D-
Oscar?: As likely as children crawling out of the earth that aren't zombies. 

A money man is chauffered around Manhattan in a limo (read: coffin) seeking a haircut as his fortunes vanish and the world falls into chaos.
12 WR: Forgets to adapt heady prose but actress cameos pop. Pattinson finally vampiric! B
Oscar?: The Academy is deathly allergic to Cronenberg but damn that Howard Shore score is good. 


Roommates (Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller) run a phone sex business which complicates their friendship
12 WR: Weirdly chaste, claustrophobic, over/under art-directed (?!?) but actors obviously enjoying themselves! C+
Oscar?: lolz 

A bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) delivering a package worth a lot of money is hunted by a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) down the crowded streets of Manhattan.
12 WR: Only works as found object: Lost 80s Film. Disposable (even to itself!) D
Oscar?: If they had a stuntman category...


MIFF 4: New Gay Films

Glenn here winding down with the Melbourne Film Festival coverage. For whatever reason, MIFF’s selection of queer films is never particularly large. I wasn’t able to attend the AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague, although I’ve heard it’s a powerful experience, but I did get along to Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On that follows a nine-year relationship between a Danish documentary filmmaker (Thure Lindhardt, Into the Wild) and a lawyer (Zachary Booth, Damages, Dark Horse) in New York City. I know Nathaniel’s not a fan (and I can certainly see why as there are problematic areas), but it’s rare for a “gay film” to find a positive foothold in the critical community so that made it a veritable must see.

There’s a moment when Lindhardt’s Erik passes a graffiti sign that reads “FAKE YOUR BEAUTY”, which is actually a good motto for Keep the Lights On. Sachs has certainly made his film look very nice, a professionalism that is sadly lacking from much gay cinema, but it doesn’t quite cover up the fact that the movie doesn’t have anything particularly new to say – in the end it’s still a domestic drama about two people torn apart by tragedy. The actors, especially Lindhardt walking a tightrope of fey, are wonderful and Sachs has imbued the visuals with a warm New York glow without ever resorting to travelogue sightseeing imagery. The song score by Arthur Russell could nauseate some, but I found the dizzying crooning to be lovely. Meanwhile, the gay sex scenes are refreshingly realistic and open, plus the screenplay by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias thankfully avoids preachy grandstanding about Gay Issues (although an out-of-nowhere AIDS scare is on the nose).

On the flip side… the film is, from my limited readings, based on his own experiences and he has obviously slanted the film in his favour. Lindhardt, as his own stand in, plays a documentarian who wins the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival… was that his own form of intellectual bribery? Keep the Lights On eventually went on to win the same prize earlier this year. Hmmm. Elsewhere, Booth sadly gets too little to do in spite of his characters downward spiral. Likewise, Paprika Steen (we love her!) is underused as Erik’s sister and feels like a superfluous plot strand that the director didn’t know how to fully utilise. 

It’s certainly no Weekend, or even Brotherhood (a Danish gay drama that also starred Lindhardt), but I did find much to like about this film. It arguably should have ended some ten minutes earlier – a trend of any film festival, surely, are independent productions that should have ended ten minutes earlier – and finished on a more ambiguous note, but it does enough interesting work with the clichés of gay life to make it a rewarding watch. (B)

A conservative Iranian taxi driver whose husband is in jail accepts a fare from a woman she finds on the roadside who’s desperate to flee an arranged marriage. What makes Negar Azarbayjani’s delicate Facing Mirrors so interesting is that the cab passenger is actually a pre-op transsexual. It’s a road trip as unconventional as (to be entirely reductive about it) Transamerica, but… well, you know, better. Unburdened by that American film’s stunt casting of a celebrity, Azarbayjani’s film is able to lend both characters depth and genuine worries of the heart and brain without busying the viewer with “Wow! Look at the transformation! Wow!” style thoughts.

The screenplay by Azarbayjani and Fereshteh Taepoor eventually gets bogged down in the preachy “aren’t we all the same?” semantics that I just praised Keep the Lights On for avoiding. Subtlety is hardly this film’s strong suit. However, there’s still a thrill in seeing Iranian filmmakers take on prickly subjects, and the performance of Shayesteh Irani (the incredible Offside) is a powerful one. (B-)

By far the best of the gay cinema on offer was Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari. Traipsing the familiar coming-of-age-while-coming-out path of many before it (like other excellent recent ethnic-centric examples Pariah and Circumstance), this sublime teen drama set amongst an American immigrant community has such an authentic, illuminating quality to it that it proved to be one of my highlights of the entire festival. Starring Fenessa Pineda as a bright young student whose parents see education as a way out of menial labour and Venecia Troncoso as her rebellious, new-girl-in-town friend, Mosquita y Mari is perhaps the finest examinations of real world teenagers I’ve seen since Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park.

Guerrero immediately instils her film with a dazzling sense of place. The sun-drenched surrounds of the Huntington Park area is so lovingly lit that you can feel the sweaty brow of the Californian sun permeate through the screen. The cinematography by Magela Crosignani grabbed me with its constant hazy oasis of a far-off big city promising a better life, as well as the purple and orange sunsets that belie its modest budget (this is just one of many films I noticed end credits for thanking Kickstarter, Pozible, and other fundraising schemes). The music choices, too, are fabulous and mirror the ever-expanding horizons of its core characters. Initially peppering the soundtrack with the stereotypical twang of a guitar and the stroke of a mournful piano, the music eventually encompasses jungle trance, hip-hop, Latin, and synth pop. Just one of the many smart moves by this first-time director. As the screenplay tackles identity within a community that struggles with it, the actors – especially the two leads (hey, they actually look like kids!) – really sell the confusion, elation, flirtation and disappointment. This is an impressive, sweet and sincere gem of a film. (A- / B+)