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Venice, Day 3: Keira's Confession, Kate's Challenge, Madonna's Stumble

Manolis, from the Greek site Cinema News, reporting from Venice for The Film Experience.

Madonna and her W.E. cast © the wonderful photographer Fabrizio Spinetta who is sending us great shots for TFE. 
Before today's report some thoughts about Madonna's W.E. which I had the privilege of seeing; there were so many people outside the cinema trying to find a ticket. It was difficult to turn your back to Madonna and her W.E. cast who were sitting on the Balcony behind the audience, but once the lights in the Sala Grande were off, you could focus on the openings shots of her film. 


The movie reminded me a lot of Julie and Julia. It has a similar structure but the bonding between the two Wallis’ (Cornish and Riseborough) is more vague and unfocused than that of Adams and Streep. And let’s face it, a Streep this film doesn't have. Andrea Riseborough has the showiest role, but the film doen’t help us connect her character or her motives, or help ups sympathize with her or even understand what she sacrificed for her relationship with Edward (which was Madonna’s aim as stated in the press conference). The love story of the modern day couple (Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac) proves more interesting than one of the most notorious love stories of all time. 


I think that the biggest mistake that Harvey Weinstein made with W.E. was leaking that it was an Oscar contender. Sure, the film has some chances in Costume Design, Music (a great score by Yann Tiersen and Abel Korzeniowski) and even Make Up (hello, Old Age!) but apart from that not much more. But the script which was co-written by Madonna is unfocused and full of cliches and predictable ‘twists’ . Madonna’s directing style fares slightly better but her visual choices are all over the place. The rich production values help make the viewing pleasant but this is not a serious oscar contender.


A Dangerous Method


This is already the third film of the competition (after The Ides of March and Carnage) that was based on a play. David Cronenberg's new film is drawn from true life events and the relationship of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Fassbender and Mortensen are excellent giving restraint utterly believable performances of these famous figures. Vincent Cassell is also good in a very small role (six minutes?). The Art Direction of the movie may have also been impressive but I couldn't see the scenery; Keira Knightley was chewing on it. Knightley's performance has caused disputes between the critics here. Some are impressed other's believe it's the film’s fatal flaw. Sorry Keira fans, but I am with the ones who did not enjoy her overracting. She cycles through every facial expression known to human kind. Needless to say that a Best Actress Oscar nomination is not out of the question. Sabina is obvious Oscar Bait and people often confuse best acting with most acting. Other strong Oscar prospects include Supporting Actor (Viggo), Adapted Screenplay and Costumes. 
Cronenberg, Knightley, Mortensen, Fassy, Sarah Gadon, Cassel are all in Venice!
I am an actress so of course I'm crazy."
Keira Knightley confessed at the press conference for the film. Other highlights from the press conference included Michael Fassbender's research for the role of Jung which he said was reading "Jung for Children: The Idiot’s handbook" and Mortensen thanking a fan for giving him a mascot doll of his favorite team San Lorenzo. When asked what he learned about psychoanalysis while making the film, David Cronenberg replied "I found out that of all my actors that are here need psychoanalysis."


Mildred Pierce


At the Mildred Pierce press conference Winslet suprised most of the audience when she confessed how difficult the role was.
...without question, my most challenging job since Titanic. Working in a TV series is much more difficult than in a film." 
Tomorrow in Venice: the premieres of ALPS (Giorgos Lanthimos Dogtooth follow up), James Franco’s Sal Mineo biopic, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Al Pacino’s Wild Salome.



Venice: A Second Take on "Carnage"

[Editor's Note: Ferdi, pictured left, is one of our two correspondents in Venice this year. Which affords us the rare pleasure of reading two pieces on the same movie back to back. I hope you're feeling appropriately spoiled since we're getting original photography and everything! Here's another opinion on Carnage. -Nathaniel R.]

Carnage (2011)
80 acid minutes of poison, screams, metaphorical scratches, literal vomits and memorable laughs. God, this movie rocks. Maybe it’s the original stage material which is so funny, clever and so well translated to the screen. Maybe it’s the eye of European mega-auteur Roman Polanski, who has rarely taken a misstep in his career. Maybe it’s just me: I love movies where all the focus is on the actors branch. The fact is I can’t stop thinking of Carnage since this early morning press screening.


What else can I say? You have to sit and watch and have fun. You're taken by the tension of the story without even taking a breath from start to finish. It’s a pitch-perfect arthouse movie, a little, subversive masterpiece about verbal violence and adult hypocrisies; a complex, powerful, crazy kammerspiel that begins, as many of you already know, as a polished comedy of manners and ends as a cruel psychological massacre. 

Christoph and Kate are "best in show" says Ferdi

The pleasure of seeing these incredible actors going so over the top has no price. John C Reilly is surprisingly right for the part, hilarious and totally convincing. Christoph Waltz is once again genius and effortless as in Inglorious Basterds. Maybe the weak link is Jodie Foster who has some great moments that prove she can be very funny but she is too tight and anxious from the very beginning. (She is a great straight-forward physical actress but the part required something more subtle.) In fact, Foster doesn’t really seem to catch the satirical tone of the pochade; she goes more and more hysterical from one scene to the next instead of being multi-dimensional. This is were Kate Winslet excels. She’s the real standout, absolutely exhilarating without even doing too much.

All that said, I don’t see any Oscar play for anyone (Winslet aside, maybe, as supporting actress, but it would be a category fraud, because they all are leads), neither for the movie, which is possible too cynical, dark, weird and beautiful by Academy standards.
Kate Winslet in Venice © Fabrizio Spinetta
Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in Venice © Fabrizio Spinetta



Venice: "Ides" and Oscar, Winslet in "Carnage", Madonna for "W.E."

[Editor's Note: I told you we'd have two correspondents in Venice this year. Doubleplusgood. You've already heard from Ferdi from Italy. Now we have Manolis from Greece. We're very happy to have them both covering the fest this year. Show them comment love. -Nathaniel R.]

Hello Film Experience fans. I’ve been a reader myself for many years and i am happy that this year i have the chance to cover the festival for Nathaniel and for the Greek site Cinema News. English is not my native language but I hope you'll enjoy my coverage. 


DAY 1: Venice at this time of the year is at its finest and busiest. The festival is of course the main attraction but there are many unaware tourists that are wondering what all these people with the badges around their necks are here for.  The event of the day was the opening ceremony of the Festival with the premiere of George Clooney’s The Ides of March. Even though The Ides of March is a political film the atmosphere at the press conference was not heavy at all. Most of the questions were aimed at George Clooney who once more ‘played’ the room as he answered questions with wit and humor. What else could he do when the questions varied from "Is this movie a comment about Dominique Strauss Kahn?" to "Have you ever thought of running for president?". He also joked about the amount of research he did for his character in Ocean’s 11 -- "I spent years researching for this role in Las Vegas" -- and he joked that the right side of the movie's poster was better looking than the left.  


Which side do you prefer?
He also said that Gosling was his first choice for the role and that the production of the film was postponed because after Barack Obama’s win everybody was very hopeful about the future of polictics in the U.S. and the timing wasn’t right for it. 
Of Day One's three other press conferences, the most compelling was the Jury of the Competition Section. This year's president Darren Aronofsky and his jury members were here to discuss how they will pick their winners. Todd Haynes got the most interesting question when asked how partial he could be in judging Kate Winslet’s performance in Carnage so soon after working with her in Mildred Pierce (which is also showing at the festival).


He answered politely and predictably and persuaded nobody. 


I am happy to say that The Ides of March is a very good film, directed with passion and care for detail. However it's the kind of film that everyone likes and respects but nobody is really passionate about. Ryan Gosling is excellent in the lead role and has the audience on his side even when he makes the wrong decisions; he could very well be nominated. One of the difficult things to judge is whether the supporting players will feature in the Oscar race. I would say that Clooney has the best chance in the Supporting Actor category, as he portrays a charismatic character (not an acting stretch, I know) that has faults and is vulnerable. Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are marvelous actors but they don’t do anything we haven’t seen them do before. (Giamatti and Marisa Tomei are in very little of the movie.) Evan Rachel Wood on the other hand has an important role and a lot of screen time and has a good shot at a nomination. If I had to pick the surest nomination that would be in the Adapted Screenplay category since the dialogue is excellent and the the scipt (Written by Clooney and his creative partner Grant Henslov) is the strongest element of the movie.

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Vote on the Euro Film Awards (Plus: Oscar Submits)

While I normally approve not of "people's choice" awards -- that's what box office is for -- I do find the European Film Awards a curious beast worth noting each year. They have variety by way of scattershot film culture, there being no unifying "Hollywood" to control them. This year their People's Choice Awards -- which you can vote on and enter for a chance to win a trip to the awards in Berlin -- offers up an odd collection of Camp Comedy (France's star-laden Potiche), Royalty Porn (The UK's Oscar winner The King's Speech), Meta History (Spain's Even The Rain), Message Movie (Denmark's Oscar Winner In a Better World), Neeson-y Thriller (the international Unknown), Fish Out of Water Comedy (Italy's Welcome to the South), Ensemble Drama (France's star-laden Little White Lies), and even Animated Family Film (Germany's Animals United).

And the Nominees Are...

Go and vote... long as you're not planning to help The King's Speech win yet more statues. Cinema-Gods help us all.

Meanwhile the Oscar Foreign Film submissions continue...

Anne Sewitsky’s debut Happy, Happy (Sykt lykkelig) which we've previously discussed (I heart the trailer) will represent the land of the midnight sun in this year's Oscar race. Previous awards under its belt include the Sundance Festival's World Cinema Jury Prize Dramatic which, if you'll recall, is the same prize that the great Australian feature Animal Kingdom got its first big boost from in 2010. Joachim Trier's Oslo August 31st is the loser in this Oscar scenario but here's hoping that both films get stateside distribution. 

Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse will represent daring Hungary in this year's Oscar race. Hungary nearly always competes for Most Atypical Submitted Film which is bad for their nominatability but great for proof of variety in that odd annual Oscar survey of what's happening in international cinema. This one will need a helping hand from that special committee that Oscar dreamt up to basically force critical darlings on to the nominated shortlist. The new system obviously paid off last year for Greece's Dogtooth. Cinema Underground tells it like so...

Not since Alexander Sokurov’s The Second Circle have I watched a movie that felt so much more like physical endurance than an active intellectual and emotional experience... The Turin Horse is a punishing film.  The people in it are ugly and often cruel.  Their lives are repetitive and arduous.  There is little plot, little action, little change of scenery, but there are plenty of long, long takes in which no words are spoken.   

And that's from a somewhat positive review.

Oscar Foreign Film Pages


Notes From Venice: "The Ides of March"

Editor's Note: Please welcome Ferdi from Italy (pictured below) who has been a Film Experience reader for many years. He's also a critic for LoudVision so please visit them if you speak Italian. We're very happy to have him sending us bite-sized notes from Venice this year for The Film Experience. - Nathaniel R.

Ferdi reporting from the opening day of the 68th Venice Film Festival. 

TFE Correspondent Ferdinando Schiavone shot by Fabrizio Spinetta

The Ides Of March is exactly what we've come to expect from Clooney: a solid, classically made, political contemporary drama. It's got a subtle shakespearian twist, a sharp screenplay and a strong cast. (OK, Evan Rachel Wood is always Evans Rachel Wood but, dammit! she's always good). Ryan Gosling is undoubtedly best in show with a perfectly nuanced character arc. He sparkles most in a couple of tasty scenes with Wood. But poor Marisa Tomei is soooo underused (again!) and Clooney plays a character working up to a big speech in front of a live audience (again!). Nothing new or revolutionary here, but quite everything in the right place.

Hollywood glamour aside, it's quite a shy opening film for a festival this big. (Last year things were very different with the incendiary opener Black Swan.)

Photo via Zimbio

Everyone has been saying that The Ides of March is a good movie (perhaps because it's talking about the right things in a serious way) but where are the emotions? Press reaction at the very first screening ranged from good to tepid, but it took the arrival of the stars at the press conference (all present but for Gosling) before you could feel warmth of unconditional love. How will the public react tonight when it opens the festival?

Editor's Note: Now check out these starry photos that Ferdi sent along from his photographer Fabrizio Spinetta from tonight's big event. 

George Clooney in Venice © Fabrizio Spinetta

Two more fun photos after the jump! 

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