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Entries in Maps to the Stars (14)

Thursday
Dec032015

Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Julianne Moore's Birthday

Kieran, here taking a brief respite from the holidays (read: Oscar season) to wish a very happy birthday to Julianne Moore. Between her tribute to Todd Haynes at the Gotham Awards and her very funny “Billy on the Street" segment it’s a good week to celebrate the Academy Award-winning actress. Just glancing at her filmography, she’s gifted the world of cinema with so much to be thankful for and she’s surely got a lot more left to give. It’s far too rare that the great actors of any generation also become Oscar winners. Before Still Alice many had assumed it was over for Moore in terms of ever copping the statue. Seeing her ascend the stage to collect her Academy Award earlier this year, it never felt so good to be so wrong.

So, on this, Julianne’s birthday...

Appropriate Ways To Celebrate

1. Relax with some yoga.

 2. Bake a cake. Watch the sifting flour. "Isn't it pretty? It's just like snow."

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Mar012015

Box Office: You Must "Focus"

I kept thinking of Agent Carter's Russian villain whenever I saw the trailer to Focus, because he said "you must focus" every other line in that series while he performed his instant super-hypnosis. Which was ridiculous but the show is really fun. Anyway: Will Smith! The media tour around Focus kept focusing (sorry) on how Will Smith is not concentrating on box office now! and Box Office doesn't define him! so they were obviously prepping for disaster should it happen. But no disaster. He's still bankable even if a $19 million opening isn't what he used to be able to carry off with ease. I wonder if the presence of Margot Robbie helped? Or maybe people don't even realize yet that it's "that hot girl from Wolf of Wall Street".

The other new wide release was the horror film The Lazarus Effect which did over $10 million. 

In news we care more about Julianne Moore entered the top ten for the first time with Still Alice during her Oscar-winning weekend and at $12 million already the Alzheimers drama is turning into quite a little hit for her. As beloved as she is, she's not a box office star so this is a major success --along the lines of a Far From Heaven. Unfortunately her other movie, the David Cronenberg picture Maps to the Stars, tanked in limited release. I'm sure the distributor utterly confused its potential audience by holding it in reserve during those weird intermittent bursts of buzz it had for well over 9 months and then releasing it quietly while everyone was concentrating on her other movie. But she's marvelous in that one, too.

The Irish thriller '71 starring Jack O'Connell and set during 'The Troubles' also opened in very limited release (reviewed) and it's very good so you should see it. 

What did you see this weekend? Or maybe you just stayed in to bingewatch House of Cards?

Tuesday
Jan202015

Top Ten Best Julianne Moore Performances

abstew here for a Tuesday Top Ten. Julianne Moore is known simply as 'God' at The Film Experience. That was Nathaniel's nickname for her even before the site was launched. It's winking hyperbole, sure, but if there's any other actress working today deserving of that moniker, it's this talented redhead who has given us countless transcendent performances for more than 20 years. This past Thursday, Moore earned her 5th career Oscar nomination for her beautiful performance in Still Alice and all signs indicate that this is the year that she will finally take home the gold. Since many are seeing this eventual win as honoring her impressive body of work, I could think of no better time than to look back over Julianne Moore's 10 Previous Best Performances. With such iconic creations as Amber Waves and Cathy Whitaker over the years, Moore's divinity has already been proven, but a golden statue still seems like a worthy offering. All hail, Julianne Moore!   

10. Maps to the Stars (2014)

Director: David Cronenberg
The Role: Havana Segrand, a self-centered, ageing Hollywood actress obsessed with playing her dead movie star mother in a film.
Awards: Cannes Film Festival Best Actress, Golden Globe Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy nomination

Why this Performance: I can't say that I'm a fan of the film as a whole (too many storylines and tonal shifts that seem unfocused and chaotic), but amid the chaos is Moore's livewire, crazy-committed performance. For an actress that has been working as long as Moore has, it can sometimes be difficult to surprise your audience with something they haven't seen before. But with Havana, Moore is able to suppress her natural intelligence and compassion as an actress by playing an actress so unlike her: needy, vapid, dim-witted, and something Moore could never relate to, untalented. In scene after scene we see Moore in unflattering positions (including one on the toilet that I'm sure most Oscar-nominated actors would balk at), but perhaps the most shocking thing about Moore in the film is that even after all these years, there's an excitement in knowing that she can still astonish us.   

9. Short Cuts (1993)

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov152014

That Movie You Thought Wasn't Coming Out, Is!

December cometh. Cue ominous music.

That special month when US distributors panic and attempts to fulfill all star contract Oscar-eligibility demands by releasing EVERYTHING, often sloppily, for at least a week when another more traditional rollout would probably win the film more attention... especially from audiences who are trying to squeeze in all the holiday biggies and rarely think, "gee, I'd like to see that movie about Jennifer Aniston being depressed and eating pastries at that one screen before it leaves!" (I don't mean to be snarky. I'm not allowed to talk about Cake yet but I liked it.)

There seem to be seven-day eligibility runs planned for Cake, Black and White, The HumblingStill Alice, and Mommy... among others though details are purposefully scarce in some of these cases. These qualifiers or last second films are usually quiet since they aren't intended to be true openings of the film and aren't concerned with box office... UNTIL Oscar nominations hit.

The film that seems to have become the most confused over the past several months about when and where it will open and for how long it will play -- hell whether it exists at all --  is Maps to the Stars. Last we heard they were planning a Golden Globes qualifying run but not an Oscar qualifying run which was surely an internet misunderstanding - a digital game of telephone if you will - since why would you bother with the former if you didn't have eyes on the latter? The current plan is to open properly on February 27th nine months after it spurred a lot of press and won Julianne her first Best Actress prize of 2014. The current Maps release date suggests that they're just waiting to capitalize on God's presumed Oscar win on February 22nd for Still Alice.

Here's what I think of that:

FOUL-MOUTHED RANT

This one week business - part of the great 'hide your movie' phenomenon - is, as I'm often ranting this time of year, very anti-audience. I wonder when distributors will catch up to modern pop culture which likes to share beloved things. And very quickly, too. I think this is one of the lesser discussed reasons why people have turned to television for so much for their cinematic fix; it's instant. They can tweet and tumblr away immediately and everyone can be a part of the conversation if they choose to be.  It doesn't make any sense to premiere a film with big stars or name auteurs, both easy marketing hooks, at a festivals and then wait a year for release and have to promote it all over again. You lose all that revenue opportunity from all the people who wanted to be part of the conversation to begin with, to see what all the fuss was about. A year later when you need media voices to help promote your film by writing about it they've already exhausted the conversation and everyone cares less even the people who haven't seen it. They sometimes feel like they already have because of the months of conversation last year.

In happier less-ranty news I had all but forgotten that the hit play Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks was being screenified and now it's also declared itself a December baby. It will come into the world on December 12th and here's the poster.

Your guess is as good as mine why they modeled the poster after a photoshopped 1990s DVD cover, but the cast is delightful: Gena Rowlands, Cheyenne Jackson, Julian Sands, Jacki Weaver... RITA MORENO.

 

Tuesday
Nov112014

Tuesday Top Ten: Fictional Pop Culture of 2014

Manuel here bringing a fun list to enjoy the fictional pop culture 2014 has brought us.

I have to admit it; I like my pop culture like I like my ouroboros - constantly eating itself. That is to say, I’m a sucker for meta-fictional drama and particularly enjoy when films, books and TV shows create their own pop cultural world to satirize, comment on and critique (it won’t surprise you that two of my favorite movies, All About Eve and All About My Mother, are twinned images of one another). We’re weeks away from end-of-year Top 10s, but I figured we could begin early by I celebrating the fictional pop culture landscape of 2014.

The criteria? I looked for fictional pop cultural things in the films and TV shows from this past year that I wish were real and we've definitely had plenty to choose from. There was reality TV show Black Face/White Place from Dear White People, “The King in Yellow” (a fictional play embedded in the eponymous novel that featured so prominently in True Detective), the 30 Rock-esque Hammy Bear trilogy from Chris Rock's upcoming Top Five, SNL's amazing-looking The Beygency, not to mention Inside Amy Schumer's spot-on Sorkinean parody The Foodroom. These are, of course, all runners-up to the 10 I've chosen to make up our list. Incomprehensible algebraic equations were designed to rank them all, though I'm eager to hear what I inadvertently missed and/or placed too high. 

TOP TEN FICTIONAL POP CULTURAL ARTIFACTS OF 2014

10. "Everything is Awesome!!!" from The LEGO Movie
You could say the entire film is a pop cultural kaleidoscope as it is both creating a universe dependent on our own pop culture (Wonder Woman! Gandalf! C3PO!) yet populated entirely by beings unaware of it. Unsurprisingly then, this ear worm of a conformist anthem (written by The Lonely Island, they of “D**ck in a Box” fame) was as ubiquitous in the film as it was in everyone’s minds after watching the film. To assure us of its own pop cultural caché, the song was recorded by, implausibly enough, Tegan and Sara! Shoutout to the wonderfully plausible CBS-like sitcom “Where are my pants?” which fits oh so well in this perfectly mundane yet quirky LEGO World.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct292014

'Nightcrawler' and L.A. in the Digital Age

Glenn here to offer a rebuttal to my own work.

 

When I reviewed David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars at the New York Film Festival, I was highly critical of the film’s look. It’s the ugliest film of 2014 so far and will likely remain a recurring staple of my anti-digital rants for some time to come. Fair is fair, however, and lest I get the reputation of somebody who is strictly against digital, I wanted to sing the praises of Robert Elswit’s work on Nightcrawler. Neither a horror film as befitting its Halloween release date, nor a superhero film like many people have thought due to its title. Yet, in spite it this, the film works as both an unsettling work of urban and moral decay and a portrait of a man who, in his own eyes, is a bit of a hero.

Nightcrawler is a film that has a visual point of view, finding interesting compositions to tell a story that in the grand scheme of things is fairly conventional in its narrative beats and structure. It takes the familiar image of Los Angeles and twists it into a city where at night it becomes a muddy-skied haze. This is a film that is both gorgeous to look at and repugnant to the eye at the same time. The Los Angeles of Nightcrawler seethes and creeps and Elswit’s camera shows just what can be achieved with the medium.

Directed by Dan Gilroy - not to be confused with brothers Tony Gilroy (the film's producer and director of Michael Clayton) or John Gilroy (the editor) - it's certainly very much inspired by the form-pushing work of Dion Beebe (Team Film Experience’s Top Ten Greatest Working Cinematographers) and Paul Cameron on Michael Mann’s Collateral. I don't consider this much of an issue given that film had perhaps my favourite cinematography of the '00s, and what’s the point of groundbreaking work in the industry if it can’t be adapted and played with by future filmmakers? In a way it's the same as how another Jake Gyllenhaal film, End of Watch, appropriated the look made famous by found footage horror and supplanted it onto the streets of gangland L.A.

Despite what some people may think, I am very much capable of falling head over heels for digital camerawork. I just appreciate it when filmmakers do something with the format that you otherwise can’t with film. What’s the point of the conversion if not to do something unique that sets it apart? I have no doubt celluloid would have worked amazingly for Gilroy's film, and in fact he did film the daytime sequences on 35mm highlighting how different the two mediums can be. I enjoyed watching that disparity taken advantage of, an aesthetic choice that entirely works for Nightcrawler as it captures Gyllenhaal’s sunken face as he films the aftermath of the city’s violence, pawning his footage to bottom-of-the-barrel TV networks. Leaving my screening and I couldn’t help but think of what Maps to the Stars could’ve been if they’d had anything close to resembling Nightcrawler’s keen sense of craft. That the film is partially about the alarming ease that we can capture the world within which we exist, it makes it incredibly relevant piece of work, too.