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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Oscars (12) (288)

Friday
Oct192012

Interview: On Casting and Politics of Sex with the Director of "The Sessions"

Amir here. TIFF has been over for more than a month but I still have one interview left to share with you. With The Sessions opening in theaters today, it was the perfect time to share my chat with Ben Lewin, the film's director. We touched upon everything from the politics of sex and nudity in Hollywood to the influence of his own experience with polio on building the character of Mark O'Brien. It's a film I encourage everyone to see because it's surprisingly funny and incredibly heartfelt, and features two of the strongest lead performances of the year. (In case you missed these back in September, here's my review of the film and my interview with one of its stars, William H. Macy.)

 

Amir for TFE: I can’t think of a better place to start the interview than nudity.

Ben Lewin: Neither can I!

Amir: Because, in general I’ve been accustomed to seeing certain types of people have sex on screen in Hollywood films and everyone else’s sex life is barely ever shown, as if, you know, people in their 40s or black people don’t have sex. It’s unbelievable and I really appreciate that we get to see something very different here. Was the film always so explicit since the idea was conceived in your head?

Ben: I think if you read Mark O’Brien’s article, there’s no other way. The essence of it was that he was learning the ABCs, what goes where, what do you do, and I think the explicitness is part of revealing his naiveté and how childlike he was when it came to sex. I was only keeping faithful to his original work, which was really what inspired me. Every time I felt like I was losing my way in the script, I’d go back to his text and rediscover what turned me on in the first place. The first thing that struck me when I read it was the frankness. The explicitness doesn’t make it sexier, it just makes it more ordinary.

My point exactly! Everybody at every age does it. You don’t have to look like a star.

I’d never imagined myself going there though...[MORE]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct192012

Gotham Awards: Moonrise on The Loneliest Planet

Michael C. here. The Gotham Awards announced its slate of nominees yesterday. The National Board of Review and the NYFCC are generally considered the starting pistol to Awards Season, but The Gothams slip in a few weeks early with their tiny pool of voters and eclectic mix of nominees. This year's roster is no different: 

 

Best Feature:

  • Bernie (Richard Linklater)
  • The Loneliest Planet (Julia Loktev)
  • The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  • Middle of Nowhere (Ava DuVernay)
  • Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

The Gotham have proved themselves a fair indicator of which titles will end up the year's critical darlings highlighting such past films as A Serious Man, The Hurt Locker and Winter's Bone. Ever since the Best Picture category expanded at least two of the Gotham's five nominees have gone on to Oscar nominations. Last year it was The Descendants and Tree of Life. This year The Master is clearly the big dog in this category, but is it wishful thinking to hope that Moonrise won't be overlooked in the deluge of year end accolades?

As for snubs it is tough to say... [Continue]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct182012

How long can Russell Crowe hold a note?

I had an errant random and one might say spoilery thought involving Les Misérables just the other day. Read no further if you're the type of (possibly very young) person who was like "OMG. ANNE HATHAWAY DIES?!?!?" when people first started talking about the film version en masse...

...

Okay we lost two of you.

...

During Javert's (Russell Crowe) final number "Javert's Suicide", after Jean Valjert (Hugh Jackman) has inadvertently humiliated him by saving his life, he leaps to his death due to his twisted sense of honor -- apparently bayonets aren't so good with the hari kari -- and stage productions have to come up with some suggestive way to show this while the final note of the song falls with him. Whatever he jumps from, even if it's just a few feet off the stage, it's a long way down cuz his note will go on. and on. 

How on earth will they film this, sung live, without it looking and sounding absolutely ridiculous? Anyone want to guess?

 

Monday
Oct152012

NYFF: "Flight" & Denzel's Forthcoming 6th Oscar Nom

Michael C here having safely landed at the closing night of the New York Film Festival.

Nobody could have landed that plane like I did.”

That’s the mantra the Denzel Washington’s Captain Whip Whitaker repeats throughout Robert Zemeckis’ Flight to absolve himself of any guilt. He has a strong case to make. Nobody can deny that all ninety-six passengers on his plane would be dead were it not for his brilliant unorthodox piloting after the plane dropped into an uncontrolled dive without warning. But how does that heroism hold up when evidence begins to surface that Whitaker was not only several sheets to the wind that morning but also blasted on coke? Can he be both a national hero and a national disgrace? Does the former negate the latter? Would he have even attempted anything so crazy were he cold sober?

Understandably, Flight’s ad campaign focuses on the breathtaking crash material and on that score Zemeckis doesn’t disappoint. He delivers the most thrilling action sequence since the Dubai Tower scene in last year’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. What mass audiences may be surprised to discover is that the spectacle is only the opening act, the catalyst for a bruising character study. And despite some hiccups along the way it is an effective one. I don’t know screenwriter John Gatnis’s personal history but he has the addiction material down cold.

He's already got two but is a third on the way?I do not speak lightly when I say that this is one of Denzel Washington’s best performances. He elevates the material at every turn with a riveting, nuanced turn that is not the least bit concerned with whether or not we like this guy. Mostly we don't. There is a scene that should lock up Denzel’s sixth Oscar nod (and possibly his third win) where he mercilessly manipulates an attendant from the doomed flight into perjuring herself for his sake. I was going to write that his actions in the scene are shameless but actually it’s the opposite. The look on Whitaker’s eyes suggests the shame is eating him alive. 

Of course the other big headline here is that Flight marks Robert Zemekis’s first live action movie after a twelve-year stint as the premiere director of motion capture films for which the public was not clamoring. Surprisingly, his time away on the Island of Mocap Toys has actually appeared to increase his skill with small-scale human drama. It is tough to recall any dramatic moments from his previous films as powerful as the best moments in Flight. Maybe all those hours spent watching actors in lycra suits emote at ping pong balls on sticks left him hungry for the simple elegance of actors acting on a real live set. 

I would love to report that at all of Flight were as good as its best moments, but the film can't keep out of its own way. The screenplay saddles itself with a creaky subplot involving Whitaker’s relationship with a recovering addict he meets at the hospital (Kelly Reilly, fine in an ill-conceived part) so we can touch on a lot addiction cliches that were not going missed. The film would veer into melodrama more than once were it not for Washington's skill and restraint. On top of this a layer of clunky religious symbolism is piled on with all the subtlety of the plane crash sequence, literally so when the wing of the plane shears the steeple off a church on the way down. It’s almost as the filmmakers were worried they were being too smart for too long, and threw in some broad, obvious strokes so as not to leave the slower viewers behind. There is especially apparent in Flight's reliance on cringingly on-the-nose music cues throughout: John Goodman’s smarmy drug pusher is accompanied by “Sympathy for the Devil”, Washington pours booze down the sink to “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and so on. 

So Flight squanders some its impact with a few hamfisted moves. That is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Denzel's performance alone justifies a trip to the theater, and when you factor in the tiptop supporting cast, the thrilling crash sequence and story that rings true whenever it can find its groove and you’ve got what amounts to a compelling mixed bag. Just don’t expect smooth flying the whole way through. B-


More NYFF
Amour & No Two Strong Foreign Oscar Contenders
Holy Motors Must See Madhouse
Lincoln's Noisy "Secret" Debut
The Bay An Eco Conscious Slither
The Paperboy & the Power of Nicole Kidman's Crotch 
Room 237 The Cult of The Shining's Overlook Hotel  
Bwakaw is a Film Festival's Best Friend
Frances Ha, Dazzling Brooklyn Snapshot
Barbara Cold War Slow Burn
Our Children's Death March 
Hyde Park on Hudson Historical Fluff

Related
Double Oscar Winners Denzel & More

Sunday
Oct142012

Podcast: Lincoln, Pitch Perfect, and the Supporting Actress Oscar

Weeeeee're ba-aaack.

Katey and Joe attended the sneak Lincoln preview at the NYFF and lived to tell the cel-phone free tale. Nick forces yours truly, Nathaniel, into an aca-awkward confession and the only movie that everyone has seen is Pitch Perfect which is clearly 100% appropriate for an Oscar-focused podcast. Certain to sweep!

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Anna Kendrick being so over it in Pitch Perfect.
  • Sally Field being over the top of it in Lincoln.
  • Helen Hunt being on top of it (John Hawkes) in The Sessions.
  • Nicole Kidman killing it in The Paperboy.
  • Supporting Actress doubling up on it.
  • Elle Fanning giggling through it for Ginger & Rosa
  • Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Molly Ringwald (???) and More!

You can download the podcast on iTunes or listen to it right here. The more the merrier in this conversation so join in in the comments.

Pitch Perfect, Lincoln, Supporting Actress

Saturday
Oct132012

NYFF: "Amour" & "No" Are Worthy Oscar Contenders

The Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film is particularly exciting this year. We have more contenders than ever (71!) and so many strong films that the Academy's always controversial foreign language branch will undoubtedly piss various contingencies off when they announce the finalist list and then the nominees. They could lessen the size of the outcry each year if only their finalist list were 12 films long. It's so strange that they make it small enough (9 films) that those films which miss the nomination are in the minority and, thus, look particularly snubbed... numerically speaking. I've already raved about the Pinoy movie "Bwakaw", and here are two other worthy candidates for this annual honor. Don't miss them if you get a chance to see them

AMOUR (Austria)
“Ladies and Gentlemen, people die. That’s all you need to know.” This line, a recurring catchphrase from aging chanteuse Kiki (Justin Bond) in the now departed Kiki & Herb act, used to make me howl with laughter. It was a perfect punchline, soaked as it was in booze and tragicomic matter-of-factness. People do die. Death is a fact of life but we spend so much time denying it that it often feels completely abstract, an imagined fate rather than an eventual one. But as Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), the elderly woman at the heart of Michael Haneke’s new film reminds us:

Imagination and reality have little in common.”

At first Haneke keeps his customary distance. Were it not for early publicity or the disturbing pre-title sequence that shows us a woman's decomposing body surrounded by flowers, we wouldn't even know who the principle characters were during the post-title opening shot, a crowd watching a piano recital. As in the finale of Haneke's best film (Caché) the director doesn't help you decide where to look; it's your job to find the narrative. But one of the strongest directorial impulses in Amour is Haneke's barely perceptible but undeniably tightening focus on the couple. Each scene seems to bring us closer to Anne and Georges (Jean-Louis Trigninant), a happy well-off couple in their eighties who enjoy literature, cultural events, and visits from their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) and Anne's former student (the pianist Alexandre Tharaud who appears to be playing himself). The first close-ups of note, an utterly captivating shot/reverse shot of the couple as Anne all but vanishes from a conversation in progress, is the bomb dropping...

Michael Haneke with his actors on the set of "Amour"

I don’t want to go on

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct132012

Yes, No, Maybe So: "Zero Dark Thirty"

Time and the finite nature of it is an essential ingredient in all suspense films. So I need to get myself on the clock when it comes to Zero Dark Thirty. I was shocked at how quickly we knew of its existence post Hurt Locker but then... it never seemed to come. It still feels like something off in the very distant future set in the very recent past. But it actually opens in 66 days. Tick tock.

Let's break down the trailer...

YES

  • At the very least it'll make an interesting comparison point to Showtime's "Homeland".
  • Jessica Chastain gets her first high profile lead role!
  • Joel Edgerton
  • That hot soldier with the glow stick
  • I've been with director Kathryn Bigelow since Near Dark and I'm not going anywhere. I tend to love her work. And even when I don't, it's interesting.
  • It looks far more beautiful, visually, than The Hurt Locker... which wasn't really going for beauty but there's so many frameable stills in the trailer and a rangier color palette. In short: I'm glad it's not Hurt Locker 2. As much as I love The Hurt Locker it requires no sequel.

    MORE AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...