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Entries in Mike Leigh (16)

Sunday
Mar152015

Box Office: Wild Tales of CG Mice and Mike Leigh's Success

For today's box office charts, since there isn't much news beyond Cinderella's expected but terrific opening, here's two charts. 1) The unavoidable movies and 2) the movies you have to seek out. The quality differential is damn frightening. Every single one of the platform toppers are really good! If only audiences could have better taste... sigh... but it's not all their fault. The studios have trained moviegoers to not seek quality since quality is harder to sell and easy marketing hooks are a far more fail safe option with which to run a business since quality (a tough job) is neither here nor there. And once people stopped seeking quality, it got harder and harder to find even if you were seeking. The story of the dwindling of the American arthouse. Well, that and the fast turn-around to DVD and On Demand.

Erica Rivas in WILD TALES. Her wedding doesn't go as well as CINDERELLA's.

WIDE RELEASE
01 Cinderella $70 NEW Review
02 Run All Night $11 NEW
03 Kingsman: The Secret Service $6.2 (cum. $107.3) Review
04 Focus $5.8 (cum. $44)
05 Chappie $5.8 (cum. $23) Review

PLATFORM RELEASE
01 Wild Tales (68 Theaters) $.2 (cum. $.8) Review
02 '71 (65 Theaters) $.2 (cum. $.3) Review
03 It Follows (4 Theaters) $.1 NEW Review
04 Mr Turner (89 Theaters) $.1 (cum. $3.7) Review & Interview
05 Red Army (58 Theaters) $.07 (cum. $.4)  

Oscar nominated Dick Pope and Mike Leigh on the set of Mr TurnerIt Follows, the latest buzzy horror had the week's best per screen average. More artistically leaning horror films have been on a real roll lately creatively but the public interest hasnt yet been piqued so they haven't peeked. Mr Turner is closing out its run soon but it did well... Mike Leigh movies tend to gross right below that region in the US. The ones that Oscar likes do best which probably isn't a surprise:  Secrets and Lies (5 nominations, all in top 8 categories) grossed roughly quadruple what his films usually gross; Topsy-Turvy (4 nominations... mostly in craft categories and his only film to win Oscars, 2 of them) is his second most popular; Vera Drake (3 Oscar nominations, all in top 8 categories) and Mr Turner (4 Oscar nominations, all in craft categories) grossed slightly more than his usual releases. This explains why SPC is so obsessed with releasing them in December but it's a pity because some of them without obvious Oscar hooks need more time to build. Another Year, I maintain, would have been far more successful if released in the fall because it's quiet and contemporary and its power sneaks up on you. 

TFE Recommends: Do yourself a huge favor (if you haven't yet) and take a group of friends to see Argentina's Oscar nominee Wild Tales. It's so funny and comedies are always best with a group. Super accessibly entertaining too as long as your friends know how to read or can speak Spanish. I'm dying to hear which is your favorite from the six short films within the film. I'm partial to "The strongest" (#3) and "Until death do us part" (#6) but they're all good.

What did you see this weekend? If you saw Cinderella chat about that here. I liked it but I really wanted Lucifer to eat those damn CG mice. 

Saturday
Dec272014

Interview: Timothy Spall on "Mr. Turner" and Fathers and Sons

Mr Turner, Mike Leigh's long gestating dream project about the romantic painter J.M.W. Turner recently hit theaters in limited release but it's buzz began back in the summer when Timothy Spall took home the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his grunted commitment to this fusion of great artist and unsavory man. Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with the Mike Leigh favorite (this is their fifth big-screen collaboration). It'd be impossible to list all the ways in which the man and role are different but the physical strikes you first. Spall has slimmed down considerably since playing what he calls this "toby jug of a man." 

The generous friendly actor, a thousand times more articulate than his current character, talked about the hazards of working with Mike Leigh, and beautiful fathers and son relationships both on screen and off. 

Nathaniel R: I’ve talked to a few actors who’ve worked with Mike Leigh. You always hear about the months of prep work and not knowing how large your role will be. You're the lead this time but is it frustrating to do the work and then just have a small part? 

TIMOTHY SPALL: I think it is. I’ve been in situations where other actors have worked a long long time and because of the way the film is structured they’ve ended up working for three months for one scene. That’s just the way it goes. It is a hazard when you work with Mike Leigh and he doesn’t hide that fact. In all the 33 years that I’ve worked with him, he’s never guaranteed I’d be the center of the piece

Well this one you had a good idea...

Unless he was shooting another film secretly in the evening about Constable.

Or a film about the Academy.

Or about Tina Turner.

Kathleen Turner

One of the Turners. [Laughs]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec162014

Open Thread & Roundtable Madness

I have been comically beset by obstacles this year so even though I'm roughly three weeks behind, I have to laugh a little at the strange stumbles and ouchy falls and just go... okay, well then. This is an interesting view of the floor! (apologiez: Oscar chart editing functions are somewhat on the fritz. trying for workarounds to fix)

Angelina Jolie talking about directing plane crashes and visual effects. Mike Leigh, hilariously also in this shot.

One of the victims of this impossible season for me at least has been THR's roundtables. I literally haven't watched a single one of those sometimes highly enjoyable if aggravating celeb gatherings. Not even the Actress Roundtable! (I'm certain it was its vibe of "The Amy Adams Show: Episode 5"  that killed my will to press play on the only day I had 50 minutes free on weeks ago. Important distinction: Amy Adams the actress is often very exciting to watch. Amy Adams the celebrity is like wallpaper.)

So consider this an open thread in which you can complain about all the Oscar stories we haven't covered this past couple of weeks (the charts WILL be updates tomorrow, damnit) and which exact minutes of these roundtables you would recommend that everyone including your host here must watch RIGHT NOW. The Hollywood Reporters six awards season roundtables to date follow. All five plus hours of them in case you've missed one. Or all six like me.  Along with the videos after the jump are the single questions per roundtable that I am pretending they answered...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct192014

Podcast Leftover Pt. 2

Here's part two of our long delayed festival wrap in which we discuss favorites, celebrity run-ins and hilarious Q&A anecdotes. Enjoy the conversation with Nick Davis, Nathaniel R, and special guests Angelo Muredda and Amir Soltani and continue it in the comments

Discussion includes but is not limited to:

  • It Follows
  • Felicity Jones, Mike Leigh, and Viggo Mortensen
  • Documentary greats from Silvered Water to The Look of Silence
  • Iran's Oscar Submission
  • Directors: Mike Leigh, Peter Strickland, Lav Diaz, Jessica Hausner, and Damian Chazelle

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes tomorrow

Festival Leftovers. Pt 2

Monday
Oct062014

NYFF: Mike Leigh's Exquisite and Frustrating 'Mr. Turner'

NYFF coverage continues with Michael C on Mike Leigh's latest 

When a film like Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner comes along you find yourself wishing you could take back all the “great cinematography” praise you tossed around so cavalierly on other films so that the words can carry more weight now that you really need them. Ideally, so far in 2014, one would have only applied the same praise to Darius Khondji’s work on The Immigrant. OK, yes, Under the Skin’s Daniel Landin also. It’s been an exceptional year.

Not content to merely display his paintings, Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope manage to permeate the air with the aura of J. M.W. Turner’s art. Some of the film’s images produced audible gasps at the screening I attended. The glory of the visuals grant Leigh and company the freedom to dispense with the many of the usual biopic clichés since we understand so much about Turner’s passion just by looking at the screen. Mike Leigh’s latest simulates what it might be like to see the world through the eyes of the great painter. This element alone makes Mr. Turner essential viewing.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct042014

NYFF: Mike Leigh and Dick Pope Begin Oscar Preparations with 'Mr Turner'

It wasn’t just the obvious reasons relating to being a fan of William Turner that made Mike Leigh want to make Mr. Turner. No, what it essentially boiled down to for the British director and his long-gestating passion project was that, essentially, Turner was a clear-cut case of “a Mike Leigh character”. Hearing Leigh describe the famed artist this way actually made me go back and think about the role given that Turner, as portrayed by Timothy Spall in his Cannes-winning performance, hardly comes off as from the same working class terrain of Leigh’s most famous films like Secrets and Lies or Another Year.

I’m still not entirely sure how the statement holds, but the press conference that followed Friday afternoon's screening of Leigh’s lush, gorgeously produced 150-minute biopic did allow for some typically keen insight from the man and his cast and crew who will surely be out there campaigning for the film throughout awards season hoping to crash an already strong roster of British biopics with style and grace typical of a Leigh movie.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep072014

TIFF: Vignettes with Mike Leigh

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Day 2

Day 2 was just magical from start to finish with 3 great movies and 1 solid one. Two of the films you've already read about here in Sweden's stellar Oscar submission Force Majeure and Norway's Out of Nature about one man hiking around in the wilderness on a long weekend. I like to think of the latter as Norway's counterpart to Reese Witherspoon in Wild - which I'll be seeing soon - though I doubt Reese takes her clothes off for a wank and runs around starkers. Day 2 was something of a vignette day since I will remember it primarily as the day I saw Mike Leigh twice and hid from the rain with him (long story - save it for the podcast!), the day I scarfed down melted cheese sandwiches with Nick & Joe in an highly unglamorous take-out setting, and a day of not one but 2 great movies composed of vignettes.

WILD TALES. an amazing Argentinian delightVignette films, like their cousin the omnibus, are tough beasts to pull off because you're essentially asking the audience to reinvest in the movie every 20 minutes or so, as if they've stumbled into a short film festival. They're also bound to feel uneven with some segments much richer than others. But here's two films that pull it off with real aplomb...

Argentina's Wild Tales is directed by Damián Szifrón but produced by TFE's favorite Pedro Almodóvar who I imagine is just thrilled with the results. It seems like a movie he would love what with its colorful characters, amusingly melodramatic and twisty stories, and at least three vivid female characters though it's not as actressy as his movies. Let's just say everyone in this six story movie is ...on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, and not just the women. Wild Tales was a big hit at Cannes earlier this year and it might possibly be Argentina's Oscar submission. It's easy to see why since the title is accurate. You feel like anything could happen primarily because not so very many minutes into the terrific opening vignette, it does. It starts just like any movie might with a beautiful woman being chatted up by a handsome older stranger as their flight takes off. But then they realize they have an acquaintance in common. Another passenger overhears them, interrupts and...

No, I shan't tell you more because this movie is best seen cold as the surprises are half the fun. Let's just say this free-fall into insanity sets the tone for the whole film which plays like a highwire act of dark comedy, violent thrills, and romances gone awry. Of the six segments, of which only one is just "good" (that'd be the one starring Argentinian cinema's Mr Ubiquitous Ricardo Darin), I had two favorites. The third vignette takes place on a long stretch of dusty highway where two men piss each other off while driving. Neither of them can let any affront go. It's a stretch of cinema that should make the majority of the world's action directors ashamed of themselves for not bothering to pack in as many thrills and cleverly choreographed beats into 2 hours that Szifron manages in 20 minutes. The final sequence centering on a wedding reception that goes sour and descends into utter chaos is also pretty damn great, and funny too. Don't read anything more about it and if gets released, jump in. A-

VENICE GOLDEN LION WINNER!
Sweden's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence comes from one of Mike Leigh's favorite directors Roy Andersson. Hence the first Mike Leigh sighting of the day since he came to the show with Mr Turner's primary non-Timothy Spall Oscar contender Marion Bailey. The room was jam-packed with press many of whom were laughing out loud and very frequently which is not all that common in critics screenings, I have to tell you.

A Pigeon... which does indeed include pigeons sitting on branches (albeit mostly offscreen),  bills itself as the final part of a trilogy of what it means to be human. And it starts with three short scenes called "Three Encounters With Death" which are beyond hilarious. I will never forget the ancient little lady hanging tightly on to her purse because she wants to take it with her when she goes. Every scene in the film is its own little continuous shot vignette in which the camera does not move but the things within the frame do, albeit sometimes very slowly. The two most frequently recurring characters are gag salesmen who keep announcing that they're there to help people have fun but are the glummest downers you ever did see, perpetually frowning, failing, frumpy and shuffling as if they're zombies across Andersson's often brilliant mise-en-scène . Not that anyone in the frame looks "alive" per se, since Andersson's figures are nearly all chalky white with a touch of ginger in their hair. The salesmen turned out to be my least favorite running gag in the movie and definitely wore out their welcome a bit though they're super funny at first. My favorite recurring bit was the generic repetitive dialogue heard whenever anyone onscreen answers a telephone. As if all the disconnected oddness weren't perplexing enough, there are three amazing period piece scenes involving warring soldiers, a musical number in a diner, and a slave ship (a very disturbing sequence).

Andersson strikes me a singular director, but there is one comparison point I feel comfortable sharing. I kept thinking of Jacques Tati, because the longer you stare at the sometimes crowded sometimes spare shots, the funnier they become and the bigger their comic payoffs whenever anything changes within the frame you've been visually searching for more things to discover or giggle about. I'm still scratching my head over this film but I'm already kicking myself for having missed Andersson's previous films. Several people have told me that I would love them. They were right and I am a fool for taking so long to get to them. A-

one of many screamingly funny but morbid scenes in "A Pigeon..."

Can you tell that I'm having a great great festival this year?