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The BIG EYES Poster

"I didn't even notice the stars at first but that's why I like it. Tag line is clever. I hope Burton gone substance over style (while being stylish) with this one." - Jija

"The art is ugly creepy kitsch... that is, slightly above dogs playing pool and black-velvet Elvis. I have a hard time grasping why we should care who created it..." - Owen

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Entries in Oscars (14) (136)

Tuesday
Oct212014

Top Ten: Best of The Boxtrolls

Because it was so much fun last week, another all top ten tuesday to celebrate our new season as the awards will soon come rushing at us...

People aren't talking about The Boxtrolls enough. It's a true mark against the world's parents that numerous animated mediocrities, The Peabodys, Nutjobs and Rios regularly and considerably outgross inventive Laika's awesome stop-motion films. While it's true that Laika's features have elements of the grotesque or macabre that are tougher sells to nonadventurous families, one only has to look at the perennial universal love for Nightmare Before Christmas to know that people are okay with that once they acclimate.

Which is very much my personal experience with The Boxtrolls. It's less immediately sympathetic than ParaNorman, less hook-laden than The Corpse Bride, less immediately fantastical than Coraline but once you get past the initial shock of the character designs (which has undoubtedly been an obstacle): blotched, deformed, dirty, jagged teeth and so on, the movie grows on you. It's another technical triumph in the service of a story that works on both juvenile and adult levels. Sure, it's not their best film but it's still a singular one in the current animated marketplace.

Since I never reviewed The Boxtrolls, consider this one of those in top ten form and a plea for those of you who haven't seen to correct that. To any awards voters reading who are just beginning to consider the Animated Feature Film category just know that it could be very rich with variety if you choose well this year.

THE BOXTROLL'S GREATEST HITS
after the jump...

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Sunday
Oct192014

Review: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.

 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing." 
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, after-movie conversation over dinner drinks or online other than conversation that attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether

... which is not unusual in Birdman.

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Sunday
Oct192014

Thoughts I Had... The "Big Eyes" Poster

We finally have a poster for Tim Burton's Big Eyes. Herewith some thoughts as they came to me.

• "Visionary Director" would be so much more impressive as a description if it weren't so overused.
• "Big Eyes" could well describe lots of celebrities: Emma Stone, Amanda Seyfried, Marty Feldman*, Heather Graham, Jake Gyllenhaal, Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway, Sailor Moon.
• Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams have Normal-Sized Eyes but that will never be a film title. The only person in this cast with gargantuan eyeballs is Krysten Ritter
The tag line is basic but it does cleverly have a double meaning with the last bit "... and everyone bought it" 
• A lot of people seem to be sure that this one won't be a major Oscar player but apart from test screenings (a notoriously unreliable source of info) no one has seen it so it's one of our mystery movies when it comes to the competition this year.
• The Big Eyes team, cast and crew, has been nominated for 37 Oscars and won 7 (most of those for Waltz & Colleen Atwood). 
• Why do they always make ginger movie stars blondes when the movies take place in the 1950s? There were actually more gingers back then statistically. (And I don't want any "Amy Adams isn't a natural ginger!" backtalk in the comments -don't be literal!)
• It's fun that the screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski get such prominent yellow billing at the bottom. We'll pretend it's a retroactive thank you for Ed Wood (1994) rather than a contractual negotiation! 

*Just wanted to see if you were paying attention

Saturday
Oct182014

Links: Monty, Misty, Michael, More...

Gurus of Gold The new charts. Yes, I need to update the Oscar charts. I'll get started tomorrow!
The Black Maria for his 94th birthday - "Montgomery Clift: The Lost Poet of Omaha"
Serpentine Magazine Pretty Boys & Pathos: The Men of Classic Hollywood
To Be Continued Keith Uhlich on the single takes in American Horror Story, Birdman and Gone Girl
Guardian Scarlett Johansson to star in a live action remake of animated classic Ghost in the Shell 
In Contention let's give Michael Keaton the Oscar

LAFCA will honor Gena Rowlands with their career achievement award this January
CHUD has very mixed feelings on The Book of Life but h-a-t-e-s the soundtrack
The Wrap Actress Misty Upham (Frozen River, August: Osage County) found dead. Initial reports suggest suicide but...
Juliette Lewis (and others who knew her) don't fully believe it and are demanding an investigation
Words & Film thinks St. Vincent is being misrepresented with that dismissive "weepie" brush. But what's wrong with a weepie? 
Deadline Black and White with Kevin Costner & Octavia Spencer to get an Oscar qualifying run
Zap 2 It has a cool feature on three of the freak in American Horror Story: Freakshow 
NPR on Dear White People 

Just 4 Fun
Pointer Pointer another perfect internet time waster
Vulture Anne Rice, Amazon Reviewer 

 

Saturday
Oct182014

Meet the Contenders: Emma Stone "Birdman"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, BIRDMAN which is marvelous as previously noted.

Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Best Supporting Actress

Born: Emily Jean Stone was born November 6, 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Role: Known for his sprawling (and epically depressing) Oscar-nominated films (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful), writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu tries his hand at a more comedic film with Birdman. Don't worry, it may have laugh-out-loud humor, but it's still as satirical, dark, and complex as we would expect from the filmmaker. The film centers on a movie star, Riggan Thomson, most famous for playing a costumed superhero (played by Best Actor contender Michael Keaton) that attempts to revive his career by mounting a play on Broadway. Stone plays his resentful daughter, who was recently released from rehab and now works as her father's personal assistant. She also forms an unlikely bond with the play's egotistical leading man (Best Supporting Actor contender Edward Norton).

Previous Brushes with Oscar and more after the jump...

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Saturday
Oct182014

Foreign Oscar Watch: White God

With London and Chicago Fests ongoing, a few reports from each to cover more Oscar Submissions for Best Foreign Language Film. Here's our London friend David on Hungary's Oscar submission.

Let me start off, if you'll forgive me, by citing that oldest and meanest of acting adages: the one about never working with children or animals. That seems to be in the heads of every adult we see on-screen in White God, for every single one of them, without exception, treats an animal or a child badly in one way or another. Fortunately for the audience, the film is on their side. Violently so; be mean to a dog in White God and you'll be lucky if you don't get your bloody throat ripped out.

After a prelude in which Lili (Zsófia Psotta) is pursued through a deserted city by a hoard of dogs in what can only be described as a scene from the dogocalypse, we flashback to see what brought the poor girl to this point. Her mother's off abroad for three months, so Lili is being unloaded on her father, Daniel (Sandor Zsoter), a much older man whom neither woman seems to have a particularly sparkling relationship with. He certainly doesn't have much time for Lili, and even less for her beloved dog, Hagen; after a visit from the authorities demanding he pay the requisite fees for a mixed-breed dog, Dad abandons Hagen on the side of a road.

Cue the swelling orchestral score as the devoted mutt bounds hopelessly after Lili's weeping face, and we're left wondering if this is a Hungarian remake of Homeward Bound. Before long, an adorably bedraggled canine sidekick latches onto Hagen, and their escapades eluding the dog catchers could have come straight from the annals of Disney animation. The Hungarian streets of White Godare a shade harsher, and just as Daniel's financial restraints have depleted his compassion, so Hagen finds himself in even more degraded climbs, sold to a man looking for a return to the dog fighting ring; 'this one's still got a heart' the man says, before proceeding to grind that puppyish love out of Hagen - now, obviously, named Max - in a brutal training montage that recalls the brilliant confrontational realism of Amores perros.

As Hagen progresses towards realising the eventual canine collective, Lili is making her own journey, a more generic coming of age story where her own engagement with society's dangerous trappings is tested. Tellingly, the film heavily features her role in a school orchestra, and the resulting orchestral score provides the film with some fittingly grandiose accompaniment for the astonishing dog choreography in the film's bravura final act. It's in these last stretches that White God really makes its mark, a genuinely tense, delectably absurd climax that leaves the Hungarian streets cowering. Narrative notes collide with daring exuberance, but writer-director Kornél Mundruczó is careful to include sobering notes of the reality lingering behind the theatrics.

White God screened as part of the 58th BFI London Film Festival.


21 of 83 Oscar Foreign Submissions Reviewed: AfghanistanArgentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, France, Germany, HungaryIceland, Israel, ItalyLatvia, Mauritania, Norway, PolandPortugalSweden, Switzerland and Venezuela and The Foreign Oscar Charts

Thursday
Oct162014

CIFF Foreign Film Oscar Report, Vol. 1: Afghanistan, Italy & Switzerland

Tim here. A week ago today, two things happened: the Academy announced the complete list of submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race, and the 50th Chicago International Film Festival opened. That's put me in a position to see a lot of those submissions firsthand, and this week and next I'll be sharing my quick thoughts on several of the ones that the Film Experience hasn't otherwise looked at.

AFGHANISTAN: A FEW CUBIC METERS OF LOVE
In a grubby part of Tehran, a population of Afghan refugees ekes out a small living and strives to retain their culture and sense of worth while dodging the police. Against this background, a young Afghan woman (Hasiba Ebrahimi) and an Iranian boy (Saed Soheili) fall in love, only to find their relationship threatened when her father decides to flee Iran. So it's yet another Romeo & Juliet riff, although in this case the unexpected context gives it some freshness, and the film does good work balancing its depiction of the hard life of the refugees in an unfriendly place with the romantic plot. Ebrahimi and Soheili also have excellent, unforced chemistry with each other, making for an especially appealing representation of a stock scenario. It's a little minor and not too daring, but it's awfully moving.

Oscar prospects: Stranger things have happened, though central Asia hasn't done all that well here over the years, and the realist style is a little on the chilly side. I suspect it would have to be one of the films swept in by executive decision, and there are bigger-name titles that are much likelier to receive that boost.

Israeli divorce, Italian essay, and Swiss gays after the jump...

Click to read more ...